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Lepchas Celebrate Lho Rum Faat at Tendong Monastery in South Sikkim

Lho Rum Faat is one of the most ancient and significant festivals celebrated by the Lepcha people in Sikkim. The celebrations mark the auspicious occasion when ancestors of Lepcha tribe were saved by the holy Tendong Hill from a great deluge lasting 40 days and 40 nights. While the festival is celebrated with great fanfare throughout the state, the prime venue happens to be at Namchi, the home to this sacred hill in the South of Sikkim. A trek commencing from Ravangla up to the Tendong Hill is the prime highlight of this beautiful festival and which makes as a great draw for trekkers and adventure enthusiasts too who specially travel here from parts of the nation to not only satiate their adrenaline desires but, also to soak themselves in cultural and mythological essence of the local tribal communities.

This year despite Covid19 Pandemic, Lepchas from different parts of Sikkim gathered at Tendong Monastery, Tendong hill yesterday to observe and celebrate Lho Rum Fat. Tendong hill is considered a sacred place for the Lepchas. 

According to the legend, the rivers Rangnyoo and Rangeet were secret lovers. When their affair was exposed, they decided to move away from their current path and travel towards the plains. As they did not know they way, they chose to seek the help of a bird and a snake. River Rangeet (male) was guided by the bird (tut fo) and Rangnyoo (female) was guided by the snake (paril bu).

It was decided that they would meet at a common place. The respective journeys took different paths and the river Rangeet arrived late at the decided point of meeting as he was guided by a bird, whereas river Rangnyoo reached early.

The fact that he arrived after his lover hurt his ego, as him being the male was supposed to arrive first. In a moment of rage, Rangeet decided to return back to the Himalayas, causing a deluge that submerged most of the land mass around. 

In order to escape this wrath and survive the heavy rains that accompanied the flooding for 40 days and nights, the Lepchas climbed Mt. Tendong. And since they could not carry many things while fleeing, the womenfolk only had chi (fermented millet alcoholic beverage) which they offered to the Gods in prayer.

The water eventually subsided and thus normalcy was restored.  Every year since then, members of the Lepcha community climb Mt. Tendong to make offerings of chi, flowers, vegetables and fruits and pray at the top of the mountain in the first week of August. They pray their Gods to protect and save mankind and all the people of the region.

The Government of Sikkim has acknowledged Tendong Hill as a prayer offering place of the aborginal Lepchas. In 1997, Sikkim government declared August 8 as ‘Tendong Lho Rum Faat’ and as a state holiday.  Tendong Hill is located about 6 kilometers from Damthang, South Sikkim. Lepchas from different parts of Sikkim representing the 10 clans arrive here every year to offer their prayers and pay their respects to their Gods. 

Ongden Tshering Lepcha, ex-MP (2006-2012) who was a part of the prayer ceremony said, “In our Lepcha tribe we have 10 sub caste also known as ‘dus lepcha’ (Ten lepchas) who worship mountains, their guardian deity,  and back when there was a huge disaster in our land, these ten lepchas gathered here and prayed, as a result of which we were saved from the flood. And that tradition still exists among us, and on this auspicious day, we 10 lepchas  have gathered here to pray so that the on going pandemic ends soon as possible and the world becomes a safe place for everyone.”

By Vaidyanath Nishant

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