Kalimpong, Dec. 18: The ruins of the Damsangdri fort above Pudung will provide the backdrop to part of the 275th birth anniversary celebrations of legendary Lepcha King Pano Gaeboo Achyok on Wednesday.
The highlight of this year’s festivity will be the sheraboo (literally meaning hunter). As the name suggests, it is a dance performed by the Lepchas before they embark on hunting expeditions, or while rejoicing after a big catch.
“About nine or 10 of us will perform the dance. The idea is to inspire youngsters to preserve our traditional dances in their true form,” said Azuk Tamsangmoo, chief adviser to Rongoung Prongnun, an youth organisation of the Lepcha community.
About 5,000 Lepchas, including 500 delegates from neighbouring Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan, are expected to take part in the birth anniversary celebrations of the king.
It was during Pano Gaeboo Achyok’s reign that the Lepcha kingdom of Mayellyang extended from Bhutan in the east to Ilam (Nepal) in the west and from Sikkim to the northern tips of present day Bangladesh.
“He was instrumental in uniting the Lepcha people, which is why we observe his birthday on December 20 on such a grand scale every year,” said Lyangsong Tamsang, president of Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association, the organisers of the celebrations.
Tamsang, who is compiling Lepcha folklore, songs and poems as part of Northeast Tribal Literature Project, said the main objective of the programme is to bring “Lepchas of different religious and political hues together to celebrate the rich tradition and culture”.
While the celebrations will begin in Damsangdri, it will shift to the Lepcha boys’ hostel-cum-museum at Lower Bom Bustee later.
“We have scheduled the programme in such a manner so as to enable the people to return home on time to welcome the Lepcha New Year with their families, as is the tradition,” said Tamsangmoo.
The New Year of the Lepchas, who follow the lunar calendar, falls on December 21.