Bhutias, who are all Buddhists, are quite distinct from the Lepchas. The
Tibetan Bhutias entered Sikkim by way of Bhutan and settled in higher
altitudes after driving the original inhabitants, the Lepchas into forests
and lower valleys. They converted the indigenous Lepcha people to their
religious faith, established matrimonial relations with them and thereby
paved the way for cultural and social assimilation of the two races. This
gave rise to a new race.
The matrimonial relation between the Tibetan nobles and
Lepcha chiefs or Jongpons gave rise to a new affluent class of Kazis.
The Sherpas are considered to have descen
ded from the Bhutia-Lepcha cross stock. The Bhutias are mostly traders
and Herdsman. But many of them are accustomed to cultivation now-a-days.
The Bhutias are more assertive and industrious than the Lepchas. They
are not fond of isolation as the Lecphas.
The Bhutia social structure is patriarchal. The practice
of polyandry was very common among them. But with the passage of time
and spread of education this practice finds no favour with the young modern
Bhutias now-a-days. Normally, the Bhutias live in a joint family. Polyandry
served to prevent the family from being spilt up and the property from
being divided. There is no caste distinction among the Bhutias. Bhutia
women generally enjoy a great deal of independence and they are treated
as equal; to men. Marriage is normally arranged and settled by the parents.
In the affairs of marriage, maternal uncle and astrologer play an important
role. Both man and woman can seek a divorce. If the matrimonial relation
has to be served, the man or the wife would refer the case to the
village elders. At present the aggrieved parties go to the court of law
also. Traditionally, the parties who apply for separation has to
pay a penalty and the actual expense incurred during marriage.