People of Darjeeling
The Lepchas and Rongpas (people from the lower elevations) were the original inhabitants of the Darjeeling Hills. They are Tibeto Burman in appearance although their origin is obscure. The higher population of the people in the Hills are The Gorkhas. They are industrious, enterprising and speak several languages/dialects. They join the British and Indian army as a career. They are short with oriental features of Nepalese origin and are known for their bravery just like their cousins from Nepal who are well known the world over, and several of them have been decorated with the Victoria Cross – the highest award of United Kingdom. The Gurkha’s Khukuri is a well-known weapon. Amongst the Nepalese population of Darjeeling is also the Sherpas. They are renowned for their courage, surefooted and skills in high altitude. They have made immeasurable contributions in mountaineering in the Himalayas. The other ethnic groups are The Newars, Tibetans, Bhutias, Sikkimese Bhutia, Dukpas, and Bengalis.
Nepali Folk dances
The Nepalese have a rich folk culture. The hills and valleys are a treasure house of songs and dances of the hill folk. They are a very musical lot with a lyrical, rhythmic mind and heart that doesn’t hesitate to break into a song and dance when the moment to celebrate arises. The environment they live in which consists of the Majestic Himalayan Peaks, lush green hills, forests, and valleys seem to have influenced their religion, culture which includes folk songs and dances significantly. The two major religions of Hinduism and Buddhism appear to have shaped the Nepali culture of its vibrant folk songs and dances to live side by side.
The Nepalese folk songs and dances are influenced by ancient cave paintings, religious rites, and devotional songs. An Early form of dances and folk songs were attributed to the god, goddesses, and deities of both Hindu and Buddhist religions. These songs and dances were impressions of sacred dances that were performed to appease the deities and to ward off evil spirits.
The dominant languages in Darjeeling are Nepali, Hindi, Bengali, and English. Bengali is the state language of the plains. Refugees and some other tribal people speak Tibetan.
Hinduism, Buddhism Christianity and to some extent some Islam, remain the predominant religions of Darjeeling.
Food and Drinks
You can pamper your taste buds with the exotic but homely food and discover a mosaic of culture delicacies while satiating your gastronomical needs.
Whether it is the ubiquitous momo or thukpa whose fabled taste has transcended across the Himalayas along with the migrant Tibetans or the dishes that has lemongrass from south-east Asia, Darjeeling has the best to offer you.
Momo is meat dumplings, which are either steamed or pan-fried or deep-fried and is accompanied by a bowl of clear soup and achaar (spicy sauce). One can also order for vegetable momo in where cabbage and other vegetables replace the meat.
Tibetan noodle soup consisting of mixed with egg/meat, vegetables.
Shyaphalay is Tibetan bread that is stuffed with meat and deep-fried. It is served with a spicy sauce to dip in.
This potato dish is an adaptation of the Indian recipe, and now the residents of Darjeeling can't live without.
This tea is made from a tea leaves brick, salt, and butter and churned to mix it all well. Well made butter tea can taste like soup.
Tongba is made from fermented millet that is put inside a bamboo. Hot water is poured into the bamboo container, and the liquid is sipped through a bamboo straw after a few minutes. It is a favorite amongst many during the cold winter evenings.
The major festivals celebrated in by the people of Darjeeling are Durga Puja, Deepavali, Saraswati Puja, and Shivaratri. The houses are decorated with lights, and the spirits are high during the Deepavali festival. It lasts for several days that consist of a day each to observe/worship crows, dogs, cows, and ox followed by Laxmi (goddess of wealth) Puja along with bhailo, deusi (a form of Carolling). Groups of people go house to house perform songs and dances from a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how important the owner of the house is in the community. The owners of the home place a tray of delicacies along with money to thank the performers and the performers thank and wish the best to the hosts.
The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate New Year in January while the Tibetan, Sherpas and other Buddhists celebrate their lunar new year with masked dances at the monasteries. The festival falls between February and March. The Tibetans celebrate His Holiness, The Dalai Lama's birthday with much fanfare in mid-June annually.
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