Setting up of Community Centres of the Lepcha Tribe of Darjeeling District.
The Lepchas are the original inhabitants of the Darjeeling District. They have their own distinct culture, language, script, religion to which they adhere to even today.
Due to historical causes the homeland of the Lepchas have been ravaged by unprecedented religious, cultural and demographic changes within the last few hundred years. The Community has been the victim of the terrible onslaught of these pronounced debilitating forces.
This has resulted in the cultural domination of the people firstly in the form of religion through whose subtle ways the very nature, thinking and traditional ways were gradually moulded away into distinctively divergent directions. The first onslaught was through Buddhism which was foreign to the Lepchas. It was brought about by the contact with the aggressive Buddhists of Tibetan origin who came to wield power in their homeland. This process continued unabated with full vigour for over two centuries. The protracted religious domination culminated in the conversion of large numbers to which there are today a great number of adherents.
The second and the third onslaughts came together with the advent of the East India Company. The second onslaught was the British- engineered migration of large masses of people of foreign origin who were brought in and settled for manual work in the exploitative plantations and now made home. The entire demographic pattern was disturbed. Culturally the new set of hardy and agile settlers brought with them their own language and culture and swamped the hill country and quickly took deep root. The British also took away the Lepcha land for commercial exploitation and new settlements, uprooting centuries-old local Lepcha villages and homes.
Along with the British came their own particular set of religion and culture. The effects of which were quite pronounced on the Lepchas, meeker by nature, than on the other communities. Over a period of time the Lepchas started embracing the new religion and mores of the foreigners. In this scenario and the frenetic pace of the period the rich traditional Lepcha life was all but smothered.
The Government of West Bengal has appreciated the community’s problems of existence and magnanimously formed the Lepcha Development Board that has been given the wide mandate to develop its Culture, language, traditions, education and general development of the community with financial assistance.
The WBMLLDB has decided to undertake the first small steps of this humongous task of setting right what have been undone and lost over the centuries. One of the measures is the setting up of the Cultural Centres in various places in the District that will serve as cultural revival nodes. The Centres shall come up in twenty such places where the Lepcha people will congregate everyday for all social and cultural purposes which have been deprived them all along. The Centres shall serve as places where every aspect of the traditional Lepcha way of life shall be regenerated and put into practise. It shall form a platform for meaningful discussion on various aspects of Lepcha life, customs and practices, where research and study will be given scope. It will also act as learning centre where practical classes will be given in lifestyle adjustments in adverse communal settings. The rich cultural and traditional ways that have fallen by the wayside will be brought back and disseminated through these centres. It will be the crucible where Lepcha ethnicity will be distilled.