Traditional Dresses of Sikkim - Bakhu and Other Sikkim Dresses

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The clothing of Sikkim shows this diversity and exemplifies the social and cultural lives of the three main resident communities - the Lepchas, Bhutias and the Nepalis. People from other states like Biharis, Bengalis, Marwaris, Punjabis and South-Indians have also settled here and they follow their own traditional items of clothing. Let's find out about the types of traditional dresses of Sikkim worn by the different communities:

6 Sikkim Traditional Dresses 

1. Bhutia Tribe - Bakhu/Kho

The traditional dress of the people of Sikkim and Bhutias is the Bakhu (according to the Nepalese dialect) or Kho (according to the Bhutia dialect). Worn by men and women alike, Bakhu is very similar to the Tibetan Chuba, except that it is sleeveless. It is a loose cloak-like garb that is tied at the neck and tightened around the waist by a belt made of silk or cotton. The Bakhu has found modifications over the years. Women nowadays pair it with a pair of jeans to add a western twist to the look. Shawls popularly known as Majetro and classy blouse designs like Chaubandi Cholo and Tharo Cholo are also in fashion. 

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Kho/ Bakhu (Source)

2. Thokro-Dum 

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The traditional Thokro-Dum of Lepcha community (Source)

The Thokro-Dum is the primary outfit for the Lepcha community members. Usually, the Lepcha bread makers sport this. It consists of a white pyjama stretching up to the calves, almost resembling a karate player's outfit. Yenthatse, a Lepcha shirt and Shambo, an embroidered cap are paired with it. A multicoloured, hand-woven cloth called the Dumpra is pinned at one shoulder and held in place by a waistband. The short length of the pyjama indicates that the men have originated from or lived long in marshy land. The texture of the material is rough and long-lasting, suitable for a hard day of toiling in the field. Many times, traditional cone-shaped bamboo and rattan hats are also worn. The Thyaktuk and its types are intricately woven hats true to their roots buried deep in history and authenticity. These hats are normally made from fine canes from bamboos, straws and leaves apart from Anok Thakytuk which is made from fine velvet cloth. It was used as a traditional headgear of royal soldiers during the regime of the Chogyal dynasty. Even today, this headgear is a must during marriage ceremonies or religious festivals.

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Traditional Lepcha hat is woven with fine strips of bamboo

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Anok Thyaktyuk for cultural and social ceremonies (Source)

3. Dumvum 

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Lepcha women in the traditional Dumvum (Source)
The traditional attire of Lepcha women involves a sari-like garment known as Dumvum or Dumyam. It is an ankle-length outfit, silky and smooth binding comfort and culture together. Underneath, a loose-fitting blouse in a contrasting colour is worn known as Tago. To complete the look, a type of belt called the Nyamrek and Taro, a cap is worn. A scarf called Gorey is often used to cover the head.
There is an interesting distinction between the costumes of Lepcha men and women. While the calf-length bottom of the Thokro-Dum indicates their life in marshy land, the flowy Dumvum suggests that they are dry-land inhabitants. While the male costume is coarse, made for the rugged nature of their labour in the fields and forests, the female costume is a lighter, softer material rendering the outfit graceful and feminine.

4. Shuruval

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Traditional Nepalese couple, with the man wearing the Shuruval
The Nepalese men of Sikkim wear this outfit. A long double-breasted garment flows below the waist along with a trouser. The churidar (bottom) is called Shuruval and the pyjama (shirt) is known as Daura. Askot, a waistcoat and Patuki, a belt is worn to complement the Shuruval. They also carry the Khukri - a heavy weapon carried in a leather case known as Daab. 

5. Pharia

sikkim dresses, dresses of sikkim
A Sikkimese Maruni (Nepalese) belle
Augmenting the grace of Nepalese women, the traditional attire called Pharia is available in a variety of different hues. Like in the case of the Bhutias, a long, loose blouse fastened on four sides is worn, standing true to its name, Chaubandi Cholo. For extra coverage, the upper body is wrapped elegantly with a piece of cloth that comes in beautiful prints, known as Hembari. Majetro shawl is also used by them. In addition to the Pharia, Nepalese women wear a piece of colourful cloth suspended from head to waist while dancing. It is called Pachauri.
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Folk dancers sporting the Pachauri on their heads

6. Wedding Attire

Bhutia Couple Source
Especially when wedding bells toll in the land of the eastern Himalayas, the bride is usually adorned by the ethnically royal Bakhu made from the finest of silks. A similarly designed outfit is also donned by the groom. The only distinctive addition to the outfit is loose trousers.  Men and women alike, wear leather boots adding to the grandeur and gaiety. And when it comes to accessorizing, the purest forms of gold are used as jewellery exhibiting simplicity and tastefulness simultaneously.

3 Types of Traditional Jewellery Worn by Different Tribes

1. Lepchas

During festivities and other occasions, women can be spotted wearing traditional jewellery like the Namchok (ear-ring), Lyak (necklace) and Gyar (bracelet). Mostly, gold and silver are used in their making.
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A Lepcha woman wearing the Namchok

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Traditional tribal necklace

2. Bhutias

Bhutia women accessorize themselves with jewellery known as - Yencho (earring), Khao (necklace), Phiru (pearl ornament), Diu (gold bangle), Khalli (thick silver-coated anklets) and Joko (ring). They are known to have an affinity for gold, especially the pure 24-carat gold. They essentially prefer pure, heavy gold ornaments.
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Bhutia woman with heavy gold jewellery (Source)

3. Nepalese Ornaments

The ornaments that give a gaudy appearance to the Nepalese women are Sir-Bandi or tiara, i.e., a jewelled head-ornament, Kantha, a necklace, Naugeri, a pearl-necklace, Charanihari, again a necklace, Tilhari, a green bead with an elongated gold pendant attired mainly by married women, Bulaki, a nose-ring, Dungri, a nose-pin, Gadwari, an earring, a silver Chura, a bracelet, and Kalli, a thick, substantial, silver anklet, just like the Bhutias.

The outfits and jewellery worn by the Sikkimese are a perfect blend of tradition, diversity, comfort, and not to mention, beauty. They perfectly suit the earthliness and tranquillity that Sikkim carries in its air. If you happen to be in Sikkim, make sure that you try them on yourself. Only then the culture will truly make itself felt.

This post was published by Manisha Panda

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FAQs on Sikkim

What is the traditional dress of Sikkim?


What do men wear in Sikkim?

Aside from the fact that it is sleeveless, Bakhu resembles the Tibetan Chuba, which is worn by both men and women. This appears to be a loose cloak-like garment that is tied and tightened around the neck and waist with the help of a silk or cotton belt.

What is a Lepcha dress called in Sikkim?

The traditional dress of Lepcha men is dumpra (also dumprá; Lepcha for "male dress"). It is made of a multicoloured hand-woven cloth that is pinned at one shoulder and held in place by a waistband called a gyatomu and is typically worn over a white shirt and trousers.

What is the long skirt worn by women in sikkim called?

Women in Sikkim wear a full-sleeved blouse called tago and a skirt called domdyan, as well as head scarves.

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