ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gods' Own Lepchas

Dzongu, the reserve in north Sikkim close to the Kanchenjunga, is meant to protect and preserve the cultural heritage and tradition of the Lepchas.

Against the background of the setting sun, I sat with Kachyo, my Lepcha friend, and his family in the kitchen-cum-dining/living space of their wooden house. Darkness, the uninvited guest, entered the room while the earthen stove burned incessantly, making the room warm and cosy. By then we had forgotten the four-hour long journey through bumpy roads from Gangtok to Dzongu, the Lepcha reserve at Passingdang hamlet in north Sikkim that falls inside the Kanchenjunga biosphere. This reserve is meant to protect and preserve the cultural heritage and tradition of this community, who have lived for many centuries away from the onslaught of “modernity”. The Lepchas still live inspiringly close to nature.

Kachyo’s sister-in-law, Tashi Kipu Lepcha was busy preparing dinner. Her round face looked more beautiful in the reflected light of burning firewood. She and the children – their own as well as adopted ones – had picked the vegetables from the kitchen garden. Through the window I could see snake gourds and bitter gourds on vines, and plenty of maize, the staple food. A lone tree stood with bowed head laden with green, unripe oranges. Kachyo said the fruits would ripen in a month. The aroma of cooking whet our appetites, reminding us we had had nothing since breakfast.

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