An old Lepcha ritual honoring “Mother Nature” and its bounties was one of the focus points of a celebration called Muk Zek Ding Rum Faat in Pangthang, Sikkim, on February 23. A news story about the celebration published on the 26th used the gendered term for nature.

A Lepcha girl selling nuts at a street market in Darjeeling in 1928
A Lepcha girl selling nuts at a street market in Darjeeling in 1928 (Photographer unknown in Wikimedia, in the public domain)

The Sikkim Lepcha Youth Association, which organized the event, indicated that celebrating nature is a critical part of Lepcha tradition. Participants offer prayers for the sprouting of vegetation by Mother Nature. A press release from the SLYA, quoted by the reporter, listed the three bongthings (high priests) who performed the rituals.

The program began with the dedication of a stone pillar, referred to as a Lungchok, in honor of the celebration. Then the bongthings offered prayers to nature to preserve a clean world free of disease and to bless the world with bounty. Then, devotees lined up to gain blessings from the bongthings for a better future.

A Lepcha man
A Lepcha man (Photo by Ernst Schäfer in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

The celebration included speeches about nature and poems recited by students from the Lepcha Department of the Sikkim University. One speaker, T. N. Densapa, congratulated the SLYA for organizing the event. Apparently, the speaker has money for he offered support for future programs such as this. He urged attendees at the celebration, most of whom are students, to continue preserving and promoting the heritage and culture of the Lepchas.

Sonam Dubden Lepcha, who was formerly the chair of the Lepcha Primitive Tribe Board, echoed the same thoughts.  He praised the SLYA for successfully organizing the celebration and for promoting the heritage and culture of the Lepcha people.