Sikkim is the smallest state of the Indian Union but the distinct culture of Sikkim has earned it a special position in the country. The state is located in the hills of Himalaya and the people here are known for their colorful ways of life.
Sikkimese New Year celebration is therefore a grand spectacle to behold. The people of Sikkim are predominantly Buddhist and a strong influence of Buddhism can be seen in their traditions. As a result, Sikkimese celebrations are observed according to the Tibetan calendar.
The Sikkimese New Year, Losoong, falls in the month of December according to the Gregorian calendar and it coincides with the beginning of the harvesting season in the hilly state. People during this time celebrate the ending of the last harvest season and pray for better crop in the coming days.
Earlier, the celebration of Lossong was limited only among the Bhutias. It was then adopted by the Lepchas – the dominating tribal race of the state. Gradually, it turned into the greatest festival of Sikkim and now is known as the Sikkimese New Year. Lossong is now celebrated with equal fervor by the Bhutias, Lepchas, Nepalis, Sikkimese and other tribes of the state.
Many of the traditions followed in Sikkimese New Year are influenced by Losar, the Tibetan New Year. The biggest attraction of the Sikkimese New Year celebration is ‘cham’ dance, which is also influenced by the Tibetan culture. The biggest ‘cham’ dance events are organized in monasteries like the Tsuklakhang Palace, Phodong and Rumtek Monastery. These events attract tourists from all corners of the world.
The dancers are often trained in monasteries and are lamas. The dancers will dress up as Sikkimese Gods to enact their parts. Since lamas remain the main performers, the dance form is also known as the ‘lama dance’. The ‘cham’ dance is said to be an act of exorcism to ward off the evil from the valley. Colorful flags and festoons are hung which are also said to protect the Sikkimese people from evil and bring in good omen.
During this time, Sikkimese are known to prepare special foods at their houses. ‘Guthuk’ is a special noodle made of grains and cheese. Special breads are prepared and items like chili, sugar, salt, wool, and coal are hidden inside those. The item that you find inside the bread is said to foretell about your nature, like the person who finds chili inside his bread is believed to be talkative, while finding salt and sugar will mean you’re a nice person at heart. Consuming domestically made liquor ‘chhaang’ is also an important part of the celebration.
The New Year celebration is initiated by Bongthing, the lepcha priest and Mun, by offering the special oblation of alcohol, “Chi Fut”, to the deity. During the midnight, burning of the effigy of the demon king, Laso Mung Punu, is an important part of the celebration. This is said to destroy badness among people and ward off evil spirits.
Archery competitions take place in various parts of the state. Various other sports and dancing fairs are also organized to commemorate the day.
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