The Lepchas are the biggest lovers of nature on the face of this earth and their festivals are also connected to nature and its greenery. The Zikding Rum Faat festival, held during February-March period every year, reinforces the Lepcha belief that a balanced ecology and environment is integral for the survival of the human race.
Held in the triangular, mountainous region of Dzongu in North Sikkim, Muk Zikding Rum Faat is one of Sikkim's many colourful festivals but its special focus on celebrating nature and expressing gratitude for ecological balance that helps sustain life makes it a unique part of Sikkim's fascinating cultural landscape.
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The word ‘Muk’ means greenery while ‘Zikding’ stands for sprouting of vegetation. The Lepchas offer prayers to ‘Rum’, the almighty God. The festival marks the beginning of the season characterized by sprouting of vegetation, trees and shrubs and also the mating season of animals and birds.
The Lepchas believe themselves to be the natural descendants of the mountains who, unlike other tribes, did not settle in the mountains after escaping natural disasters. The Lepchas are worshippers of Mother Nature, with the rivers, lakes, trees and waterfalls being sacred to them while Mt Khangchendzonga is their mother protector.
During the festival, a local healer known as Boongthing offers special prayers to Rum for timely rain, sunshine, clean air and water to save the world from natural calamities like flood, landslide and famine. Usually, he is accompanied by a Lepcha priestess known as the Mun, who also prays to Rum to maintain the harmony of cycles and replenish natural bounties.
The altar is decorated with medicinal plants; cereals, fruits and flowers while a stone pillar called Longchaok is erected near the altar. Numerous local games are played during the seven daylong festival including Dhuko Thuck, which involves throwing flattened stones, thahut—a jumping competition; and Chongay, a game of archery. Songs and dance performances are also held and the celebrations culminate with a grand feast.
Know Before You Go
Being a Lepcha reserve, Dzongu is a restricted zone for anyone who is not a Lepcha by ethnicity. Apart from domestic and foreign tourists, the non-Lepcha people of Sikkim are also required to get a permit to visit Dzongu. The permits can be easily obtained a few days in advance from the DC Office at Mangan.
If you can’t come to Sikkim yourself, you can send scanned copies of a passport size photograph and copies of either your DL or Voter’s ID (Aadhar Card won’t do) to your travel agent or homestay owner, who will obtain the permit for you. The permit fee is Rs 150 per person.
Where to Stay and EatDzongu is free from the chaos of the usual hotel streets. There are only homestays run by the Lepchas who inhabit its villages. Of the 30-odd villages, only a few offer lodging facilities. Most homestays are located in the villages of Ting Vong, Kusong, Passingdang, Sakyong, Lingthem and Rukum. Most of these accommodations are simple extensions of Lepcha Family homes. Almost all of them have separate washrooms outside the main structure of the homestay, as the Lepchas don’t prefer attached toilets.
Find our detailed guide to Dzongu here.