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Thursday, February 22, 2018
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People


 
The present population of Sikkim is primarily composed of different  races or ethnic groups. They are the Lepchas, the Bhutia, the Nepali and the plainsmen. These different ethnic groups have their distinct languages and cultural pattern. This cultural diversity of the ethnic groups who have no common racial backgrounds has become the central point of socio-economic and political problems in Sikkim. Over centuries, the narrow fertile valleys of the inner Himalayas and the rugged hill tracts of the greater Himalayas have been settled by the Tibeto-Burmese, Tibeto-Mongoloid and Indo-Aryan races who have adjusted themselves to the rigorous climate of this state. Thus Sikkim has become a state of multi-racial inhabitants. The oldest inhabitants are the Rongs or Lepchas who migrated via Assam to this mountain state. Next came the Khampas from the Tibetan  province of Kham, they are now commonly known as Bhutias. The Limbus who are considered by some as belonging to Lhasa gotra are believed  to have migrated from Shigatse, Penam, Norpu, Giangtse etc of the Tsong province of Tibet. These Limbus and other Magar, Rai, Gurung, Murmi etc are allied races and in fact belong to the Kirati sub-cultural stock of the Nepali race who migrated to Sikkim from Nepal in the west.

English is the official language of Sikkim. The Lingua-franca is however Nepalese. It closely resembles Hindi. The Lepcha language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family. The languages of the Bhutias, Limbu, Murmi, Magar, Khamba and Mewar also belongs to it.

High priority has been given to education. Education is free upto the primary school level. While in the higher  classes the fee is nominal, for girls education is free up to class XI.

In Sikkim, inter-marriage among these higher castes is not uncommon. Traditionally a Gurkha can possess any number of wives. A wife taken through formal ceremonial marriage is called a 'Behaite 'while others are called 'Lihaites'. But this practice is now on the wane. Divorce is permissible. Both man and wife can refer any plea for divorce to the village elders who decide it.


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