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Limboo group, aboriginal, trans himalayan Nepal
|Regions with significant populations|
|Limbu (IPA: [yɑkthuŋ pɑ:n]), Limbu script (ᤕᤠᤰᤌᤢᤱ ᤐᤠᤣ)|
|Mundhum, Kirat Mundhum|
The original name of Limbus is Yakthung, Yakthumba or Yakthungba (ᤕᤠᤰᤌᤢᤱ) (IPA: [yakthuŋbɑ]) for males and Limbu females are called “Yakthumma" or "Yakthungma". In Ancient texts believe that "Yakthung" or "Yakthum" is a derivative of Yaksha and some interpret its meaning as the "Yaksha winner". In Limbu language it means "heroes of the hills" (Yak - hills, thung or thum - heroes or mighty warriors), which connotation with ancient Kiratas. Subba is also a title given by the Shah Kings to only Limbu village chiefs. Subba was not an indigenous Yakthung terminology, but now they are almost interchangeable terms.
Their history is stated to be written in a book called Bhongsoli also known as Vanisavali of which copies are kept in some of the most ancient families. There are hundreds of Limbu Clans and Tribes.Each Limbu clans are classified under their Tribe or subnational entity or according to their place of origin.
The Chinese text Po-ou-Yeo-Jing,[which?] translated in 308 AD, refers to the Yi-ti-Sai (barbarians bordering on the north), a name which is an exact equivalent of Kiratas. The Limbus were also one of the earliest inhabitants of Sikkim. Their estimated population of 700,000 is mainly centred in the districts of Sankhuwasabha, Tehrathum, Dhankuta, Taplejung, Morang, Sunsari, Jhapa, Panchthar, Ilam, Kathmandu, Nakhipot, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur in Nepal, These are all within the Mechi and Kosi Zones or "Limbuwan". Portions of the Limbu population are also located in the east and west districts of Sikkim. A smaller number are scattered throughout the cities of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland and in north and south Sikkim, Bhutan, Burma, and others have recently migrated to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, the United States and many other countries.
The unification of Limbuwan kingdoms and Nepal has brought changed on Yakthungs(Limbu) as their hindu caste system given them name to all those living in Limbuwan as Limbu, Subba and ranked them as one of the unenslavable alcohol consuming groups (namasine matwali jaat). Due to the late invaders in Limbuwan, the Limbus have divided into two nationality Nepalese Limbu or Subba and Indian Limbu or Subba.
Accounts with Sirijunga
1. Sun : nam; 2. Moon: la:ba; 3. Star: tanchoˀba; 4. Soil: kham; 5. Water: cwat; 6. Stone: luŋ; 7. Fire: mi; 8. Home: him; 9. Tree: sinŋbuŋ; 10. Mother: mamaˀ; 11. Father: ambo; 12. Path: lam; 13. Flower: phuŋ; 14. Head: thibokpa; 15. Eye: mik; 16. Leg: laŋ; 17. Hand: huk; 18. Eat: cama; 19. Drink: thuŋma; 20. Walk: laŋghekma; 21. Sleep: imma;
Limbus practice many of their own life cycle rituals. They believe that lineage is not transmitted patrilineally. Rather, a woman inherits her mother's gods, and when she marries and lives with her husband she brings with her the deities that will then be recognized as the household deities.
Limbu bury their dead and observe for two-to-three days through practiced death rituals. During death ceremony, they put the head of dead in chares ko thal and coin on forehead. They block the nose, ear and put alcohol on the lips of the dead body. Nikwasamma is a dead ritual done to cleanse the house by Phedangma. Relatives, neighbours and visitors bring money as respect and put offering on the top of the dead body. Sons of dead body shave head and eyebrows to respect the body of the dead. They will be known as the new hier in the family. They buried the dead body covered with white cloth in wooden box. The length of the mourning period varies depending on the gender of the deceased. Weddings, mourning, gift exchanges, and settlement of conflicts involve consumption of alcohol i.e. liquor, especially the Limbu traditional beer popularly known as thee which is also drunk in a container called Tongba. Dancing parties are arranged for visitors to the village. These affairs give the young Limbu girls and boys a chance to meet and enjoy dancing and drinking.
The traditional dress of the Limbus are mekhli and taga.
Dhaka is the traditional fabric of the Limbus which are made by weaving it in geometric patterns in a handloom. The art of making dhaka is taught by one generation to another. You will always see a Limbu man clad in dhaka topi (hat) and scarf, and a Limbu lady in dhaka saree, mekhli, blouse and shawl.
In the olden days, the Limbus were skilled in silk farming. The Kiratis were also known as silk traders. According to JB Subba and Iman Xin Chemjong, the Kirat is a corrupt form of kereta, silkworm.
Limbu women are famed for their use of gold jewellery and put by them on a daily basis with pride. Aside from samyang IPA: [sɑmyɑŋ] (gold), they use yuppa (silver), luung IPA: [luŋ](glass stones), ponche (coral/amber), and mudhin (turquoise). Most Limbu ornaments are nature inspired. Nowadays, traditional Limbu ornaments are used by different ethnic groups and can be found in other parts of Nepal. This is due to the sold by different jewelry shops often referring Nepali. As many other global indigenous people, they are shamanistic and worship nature.
This form of clothing was worn until Nepal forced "one religion, one dress, one language" policy which is why many Limbus in Nepal wear the traditional Nepalese dress, chaubandi cholo and daura sural. The Yakthung of Sikkim still wear traditional Limbu clothing. Many efforts are being made by groups such as Yakthung Chumlung to raise awareness on the cultural dress and heritage.
The Limbu people have their own flag. The blue represents the bodies of water and the sky, the white represents air and peace, and the red represents the earth and pure blood of the Limbu people. The sun in the centre represents various Limbu spiritual practices and everyday living. The use and recognition of the flag ended in the eighteenth century during the Gorkha invasion. Limbuwan organisations use the flag in Limbuwan laaje IPA: [la:jeˀ] areas.
The Limbus traditionally practiced subsistence farming. Rice and maize comprised their principal crops. Although there is an abundance of arable land, productivity is greatly limited by insufficient technology. Excess crops are often traded for food that cannot be grown in the region. Limbu Women weave Dhaka fabric cloth on their traditional small hand looms made from bamboo and wood.
A sizable number of Limbu youths are enlisted in the Nepalese army, British and Indian Gurkha regiments.
Limbus generally marry within their own community. A Limbu will not be allowed to marry their own clans for up to 7 generations back to ensure that they are not related. Cross-cousin marriage is not allowed in Limbu culture. Marriage between a man and the widow of his elder brother can take place if they mutually agree. Marriage between a man and a woman outside the clan is also possible either by arrangement or by mutual consent of the man and woman in question. It is conventionally said that the customs and traditions of Limbus were established in the distant past by Sawa Yethang IPA: [sawa yethaŋ] (council of eight kings). The marriages are mostly arranged by parents or they can also result when a man elopes with a woman. Asking for a woman's hand is an important ceremony. In that system, the woman can ask for anything, including an amount of gold, silver, etc. This confirms to the woman's family that the man is financially secure enough to keep their daughter happy. A few days after the wedding, the man's family members have to visit the woman's house with a piglet and some alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, depending upon the financial standard of his house. The most important ceremonies of a Limbu wedding take place in the groom's house rather than the bride's because the bride has to stay with her husband. There are two special dances in this ceremony, one is called "yalakma" or dhan nach in Nepali (rice harvest dance) and "Kelangma" IPA: [ke la:ŋma] or Chyabrung IPA: [cyɑbruŋ] in Nepali. The Yalakma IPA: [yɑˀlɑ:kmɑ] is characterized by men and women dancing in a slow circle, whereas the Kelangma IPA: [ke lɑ:ŋmɑ] consists of complex footwork synchronized with the beat of the drums. Anyone can join the dance, which can last for many hours. The Yalakma IPA: [yɑˀlɑ:kmɑ] can also be a celebration of the harvest season or other social occasions.
The Limbus follow the social rules and regulation of Mundhum oral 'scripture' and a religious book. The high god of the Limbu is called Tagera Ningwaphumang IPA: [niŋwɑˀphu:mɑŋ], which may be translated simply as "Supreme Body of Knowledge". Their God Tagera Ningwaphuma is described as a forceful power the creator of life on earth. In earthly form, Tagera Ningwaphuma is worship as the goddess Yuma Sammang IPA: [yumɒˀ] and her male counterpart Theba Sammang. The deity Yuma IPA: [yumɒˀ] (literally: "Grandmother" or "Mother Earth") known as "Yuma Samyo" or "Niwaphuma" is the most important and popular among some Limbus and is worshiped in all occasions. Yuma IPA: [yumɒˀ]is the mother of all the Limbus, therefore one regards his or her mother as a goddess. They also have many different classes of ritual specialists, of which "Phedangma IPA: [phɛdɑŋmɑ]", "Yema/Yeba" IPA: [yɛma/yɛba], and "Shamba" are some. Their religion is enshrined in the evergreen Cynodondactylon (Dubo) grass. Traditionally, the Limbu bury their dead, but due to the influence from other Hindus, cremation is becoming more popular. Limbu people also have their own clergy, such as Phedangma IPA: [phɛdaŋmɑ], Samba, Yeba (male) Yeba-Yema IPA: [yɛba/yɛma] (female).But now most of the Limbu people follow Kirat religion also.As of the changing time some of the Limbu people are Christian and Hindu also but it is believed that their main religion is Mundhum. A very different reformist tradition was established by the Limbu guru Phalgunanda, who established the 'Satyahang' religion.
Limbus residing in Sikkim, Darjeeling, Assam, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma have their own identity because of a strong belief in "Yumawad". Yumawad is a type of religious scripture which has been kept alive by their religious leaders and handed down verbally from generation to generation. Some of the retellings of Yumawad are also included in Limbu traditional music with social stories, dreams, and everyday life. There has been a rich tradition of Limbus singing their folk songs. Their folk songs can be divided into the following groups:
The traditional ritual are done according to the tribes and clans. Some tribes won't eat chicken or pork or mutton while some tribes have different way in celebrating war dance ritual.
Alcohol is significantly and religiously important to the Limbu culture. Limbus usually made their traditional dish from homegrown domesticated livestock meats like beef, lamb, mutton, poultry, pork, fish and yak over factory farming. They are also domesticated for religious purpose. In general, they consume dhal bhat tarkari with pickle. Dhal (beans soup), bhat (rice), tarkari (curry) with meat and different kinds of achar(pickle). Limbu people always use Phedza to prepare meats. Famous Limbu cuisines are
There are some taboos while eating the foods. They use a variety of plants and herbs for medicine. Limbus always welcome their guests with foods, Tongba (traditional beverage millet beer), Rakshi (traditional alcoholic beverage), Lassi (yoghurt milk drink ), water and homemade fruit juices.
Limbu musical instruments include the following:
For the Limbu people, Archery has always been considered as the main traditional sport. Archery often involves religious demonstrations and rituals. Historically, Limbu cavalry archers were the important when resisting invasions before the pre-Nepal era. The word Limbu itself came from the word Lim-pfungh which in translation means "Shooting-Arrows" or "Act of archery".
There are legends about the beginning of the Limbuwan Gorkha war. In these legends, a Gorkha Military General met a Yakthung IPA: [yɑkthuŋ] hunter in a forest. When the General asked the hunter about his presence and what he was doing, the Yakthung IPA: [yɑkthuŋ] hunter replied "Lim-pfungh". The Gorkha army later experienced the fierceness from the Yakthung IPA: [yɑkthuŋ]-Tribes' horseback archers for years during the Gorkha-Limbu war. Thus, the name "Limbu" was recorded on the papers of the Gorkhas to describe the Yakthung IPA: [yɑkthuŋ] people. However, after the success of Gorkha invasion, horse breeding and keeping declined swiftly in Limbu territories.
Bare-hand Wrestling has also been practised among the Limbu men during festivals. This was also used to settle personal matters after a festive drinking in which the losing wrestler would have to pay the winner by buying him a drink or inviting him to his house for a drink of traditional tongba IPA: [tɔ:ŋbɑ]. na:nchiŋma is the term for wrestling in Yakthung-pan IPA: [yɑkthuŋ pɑ:n].
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