Observed by the Limboo Community in Sikkim, Teyongsi Sirijunga Sawan Tongnam, marks the birth anniversary of the famous 18th century scholar Teyongsi Sirijunga, who is greatly remembered for his legendary role as a revivalist of the Limboo’s age old traditional legacy in the state. The festival is one of the most significant for these native tribes, who celebrate it every year with great zeal and passion. Various cultural programs and award ceremonies felicitating some great personalities for their contribution towards the literary, social and cultural development of the Limboo ethnic group, are few of the integral highpoints of the celebrations.
Limboos are one of the three original native tribes of Sikkim along with Lepchas and Bhutias. They have their own language script and follow their own religion called Yumaism that mainly focusses on nature worshipping with supreme deities being revered of mountain and river gods. It is believed that during the times when Buddhism was being introduced in Sikkim, many of the Limboos abandoned their existing faith in the concept of Animism and Yumaism. Realizing their declining belief, Teyongsi Sirijunga in early 18th century started working towards revival and strengthening their faith back in “Yuma Samyo” by once again teaching their own religion, language and script in different parts of West Sikkim. As a result, Limboos who had adopted Buddhism during that time, stopped going to the monasteries, which agitated the ‘Ta-Tshang’ Lamas of the Pemoyongtse Monastery, leading to Sirijunga and some of his disciples’ assassination in 1741. Their sacrifice created a great awakening in Limboo community who then afterwards, were not much affected by the growing Buddhism faith in the region. And then on, as a homage to this great Limboo legend, Teyongsi Sirijunga Sawan Tongnam, started to be celebrated every year.
Teyongsi Sirijunga Sawan Tongnam is celebrated every year on the full moon day of the harvesting month of “Mangsir” according to Bikram Samwat, the official Nepali Calendar.
The month coincides with November-December timeframe as per the Gregorian calendar. The full-day long celebrations commence with traditional puja ceremony, followed by Limboo folk dances and musical presentations. The main venue for the festival is “Yuma Mangkhim” (worship place for Limboos) located at Hee-Bermiok, ancient home for Teyongsi Sirijunga, in West Sikkim.
A small prayer, offering reverence to Limboo deities and gods by the Limboo priests on the day of Teyongsi Sirijunga Sawan Tongnam makes for the biggest highlight of the festival. People dressed in their traditional attires head to “Yuma Mangkhim”, the most sacred place of worship for Limboos, in West Sikkim. Once the prayers and religious rituals are over, people immerse themselves in a festive mood by engaging in folk dances and music. On the spot contests, award ceremonies and a beautiful spread of traditional Limboo food makes for some yet another interesting highlights of the day.