6. Unearthing the Narratives of the Róngkups of Sikkim: From Vernacular Alternatives to Institutionalised Beliefs

Vernacular Knowledge - Contesting Authority, Expressing Beliefs - Ülo Valk

Reep P. Lepcha [+-]
Nar Bahadur Bhandari Government College, Sikkim
Reep Pandi Lepcha was awarded a SYLFF (Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund) doctoral fellowship at Jadavpur University, India, in 2014. Reep has carried out archival work at the Kern Institute (Leiden University) and was a visiting fellow at the University of Tartu, Estonia in 2016. She secured the Dora Plus fellowship from the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, the University of Tartu in 2017. Reep’s doctoral dissertation focuses on examining the narratives of the Róngkups/Lepchas who are indigenous to Sikkim. She applies a self-reflexive approach to understanding indigenous knowledge systems while exploring their vernacular context. Currently, Reep is a faculty at the Department of English, Nar Bahadur Bhandari Government College, Sikkim.


This chapter explores the narratives of the Róngkups who are autochthonous to Sikkim. The Róngkups have relied on oral transmission of their cultural and religious values, as is the practice with most indigenous communities. Today, Sikkim’s population is ethnically diverse, as a result of which the indigenous Róngkups have become a minority and stand marginalised. I plan to deliberate on the narratives in circulation among the Róngkups that register many of these cultural exchanges and influences. In addition, there are several narratives that have gained importance over time owing to existing historiographical tendencies that portray some factions of ethnic communities in a better light compared to the rest. These narratives on being endorsed by the state edge into institutionalised beliefs and practices that are celebrated with much fanfare in the state. Further, the nuanced indigenous narratives are gradually overshadowed and end up losing their narrative space, and with it a means of asserting their vernacular beliefs, cultural values, and identity. In the wake of such observations, I feel it was necessary to examine versions of the indigenous narratives through an emic lens. I will be applying a self-reflexive approach to traverse the layers of meaning-making and identity assertion currently in practice.

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Lepcha, Reep. 6. Unearthing the Narratives of the Róngkups of Sikkim: From Vernacular Alternatives to Institutionalised Beliefs. Vernacular Knowledge - Contesting Authority, Expressing Beliefs. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2022. ISBN 9781781792377. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=43352. Date accessed: 27 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43352. Oct 2022

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