The central zone, the lands of the Lepchas, roughly covers
the area from the junction of the river Teesta and the Lachung river
to the junction of the Teesta and the Dikehee rivers.
The Rong-pas, who are known as the Lepchas are the original inhabitants
of Sikkim. Earlier it was believed that, the tribe was a very ancient
colony from southern Tibet. Their physical characteristics showed them
to be a member of the Mongolian race. But later, it was supposed that
they had come from the east, from the direction of Assam and Burma. The
Lepchas are markedly Mongolian in features and differ from
the Tibetans. It is also said that the Lepchas have similarity with the
tribes of Hangarang in the North West Frontier Province and with the mountain
tribes of the Laree area in Ladakh. Others content that the Lepchas
and the Khasias of Khasias of Khasi -Jaintai area are two different branches
of the same ethnic group. Though, at one time, the Lepchas had blood relation
only with the Limbus at present no restriction is maintained
in establishing matrimonial relations with other tribes. The
Lepchas have no caste distinction, but they believe that they belong to
either of the five classes of Syang-Den, Mu, Ling-SingMu, Himu, Karthak
Mu and Thikung Syalang. There are certain other classes based on the places
Polyandry was prevalent among the Lepchas in the past.
Marriage of wards is normally negotiated by the parents and after fulfilling
certain condition, the marriage is publicly celebrated with much feasting.
The Lepchas are primarily animists. They acknowledge the existence of
god and the bad spirits and do a lot to appease the bad one. Every class
has a priest doctor, who is in fact an exorcist. The priest doctors may
be either male or female. The male one is called bon and the female one
is called generally monn. The Lepchas have their own language which
according to Mainwaring is the oldest of all the hill dialects. It is
contended that the language they speak is of the Tibeto-Burmese family.
The Lepchas are very intelligent, amiable and always
cheerful. They are very modest, extremely hospitable people. They
love sports and games and are sociable. They are innocent and good humoured.
They are peace-loving people who avoid quarrels.