The Bhutia are ethnic Tibetans
Tibetan people
The Tibetan people are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet, which is mostly in the People's Republic of China. They number 5.4 million and are the 10th largest ethnic group in the country. Significant Tibetan minorities also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan...

 who speak Sikkimese
Sikkimese may refer to:* Of or related to Sikkim* Sikkimese language* Sikkimese people...

, a Tibetan dialect fairly mutually intelligible to standard Tibetan
Standard Tibetan
Standard Tibetan is the most widely used spoken form of the Tibetan languages. It is based on the speech of Lhasa, an Ü-Tsang dialect belonging to the Central Tibetan languages. For this reason, Standard Tibetan is often called Central Tibetan...

. In 2001, the Bhutia numbered around 70,300. Bhutia here refers to Sikkimese Tibetans; in contrast, the Bhotiya
The Bhotiya are groups of ethno-linguistically Tibetan people living in the trans-Himalayan region that divides India from the People's Republic of China, and were originally a hill tribe. Their name, Bhotiya, derives from the word Bod , which is the Classical Tibetan name for Tibet...

 are a larger family of related Tibetan peoples in northern Nepal of which the Bhutia are one member group.


The language spoken by the Bhutias in Sikkim is Sikkimese
Sikkimese language
The Sikkimese language, also called Sikkimese Tibetan, Bhutia, Dranjongke , Dranjoke, Denjongka, Denzongpeke, and Denzongke, belongs to the Southern Tibetan language family. It is spoken by the Bhutia nationality in Sikkim...

, which is 85% intelligible with either Tibetan or Dzongkha, the language of Bhutan, although in recent times Nepali
Nepali language
Nepali or Nepalese is a language in the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family.It is the official language and de facto lingua franca of Nepal and is also spoken in Bhutan, parts of India and parts of Myanmar...

 is more widely spoken. Most Bhutias practice the Nyingmapa school, followed by the Kagyupa school of Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, Bhutan, and India . It is the state religion of Bhutan...

. The Bhutias are spread out over Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

, and in the northern West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

, especially in the towns of Kalimpong and Darjeeling.


The ancestors of the Bhutia migrated from Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 to Sikkim
Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

, Darjeeling, Kalimpong other parts of modern-day India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

 some time around 6th century. They migrated through the different passes ("La" in Tibetan means "hill") in the Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

. Geographical denotations in the name of Bhutias' last names is common. In Northern Sikkim for example, where the Bhutias are the majority inhabitants, they are known as the Lachenpas or Lachungpas, meaning inhabitants of Lachen or Lachung respectively.

Bhutia aristocrats were called Kazis after similar land lord titles in neighboring regions, especially in modern day Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

. This feudal system was an integral part of Chogyal
The Chogyal were the monarchs of the former kingdoms of Sikkim and Ladakh, which were ruled by separate branches of the Namgyal family. The Chogyal, or divine ruler, was the absolute potentate of Sikkim from 1642 to 1975, when its monarchy was abrogated and its people voted to make Sikkim India's...

 monarchy prior to 1975, when Sikkim was an independent monarchy; the ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Sikkim before the mid-1970s plebiscite was the Bhutia Namgyal
Namgyal, a Tibetan deity, has been a personal name in several countries; see :*Namgyal dynasty, rulers in Sikkim*Namgyal dynasty of Ladakh, rulers in Ladakh* Namgyal Institute of Tibetology...

 dynasty. Among the Bhutias, the Lachenpas and Lachungpas have their own traditional legal system called the “Dzumsa” which means the meeting place of the people The Dzumsa is headed by the village headman known as the Piponof North Sikkim
North Sikkim
North Sikkim is a district of the Indian state of Sikkim. Its district headquarters is Mangan. It is the seventh least populous district in the country .-Geography:The district is the largest of the four districts of Sikkim....

 have been given full protection by the state government by deeming a status of Panchayat ward and the Pipon, a status of Panchayat head.


The traditional outfit of Bhutias is called a bakhu (similar to the Tibetan chuba
A chuba is a long sheepskin coat made of thick Tibetan wool worn by many of the nomadic peoples of high altitude in the cold mountains of Tibet....

, but sleeveless) which is a loose cloak type garment that is fastened at the neck on one side and near the waist with a silk/cotton belt. Male members array the bakhu with a loose trouser. The womenfolk don the bakhu with a silken full sleeve blouse called honju; a loose gown type garment fastened near the waist, tight with a belt. In the front portion a loose sheet of multi-coloured woollen cloth with exotic geometric designs is tied. This is called the pangden and is a symbol of a married woman. This traditional outfit is complemented by embroidered leather boots by both men and women. Bhutia women enjoy a much higher status than their counterparts from other communities. Both women and men have a special weakness for gold in its purest form and, traditional jewellery is mostly made of 24 carats (100%) gold.


In Sikkim, the Bhutias are mostly employed in the Government Sector, in agriculture, and increasingly in the business arena as well. In the district of Darjeeling, Bhutias are often employed in government and commerce. Bhutias practise intermarriage within their clan
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a...

s and follow a very hierarchical system of bride and groom selection. Clan discrimination is widespread and marriage outside the community is looked down upon.


A traditional Bhutia house is called a "khim" and is usually rectangular.

The Bhutias have a stone structure outside the house which is used for burning incense. It is called "sangbum." "Sang" means incense and "bum" means vase; the shape of the structure is like a vase. It is used for burning sang, a sacred offering to the deities. The deities are offered scented dried leaves/stalks of rhododendron anthopogon, juniperus recurva, rhododendron setosum or incense sticks made of pine.


Bhutias traditionally eat rice with animal fat fried vegetables or meat usually pork, and beef, and occasionally mutton or chicken. Other well known foods are momo
Momo (food)
Momo is a type of pastry native to Nepal as well as among the Tibetans. It is similar to the Mongolian buuz or the Chinese jiaozi.The Tibetan word momo is a loanword from the Chinese mómo .-Production:...

- steamed meat dumplings, and the Thukpa- noodle in broth. The Losar
Losar is the Tibetan word for "new year." lo holds the semantic field "year, age"; sar holds the semantic field "new, fresh". Losar is the most important holiday in Tibet....

 and Loosong are two among many festivals celebrated by the Bhutia community. Almost all Bhutia festivals/holidays hold religious Buddhist significance.

Chhaang or chang is a Tibetan/Sherpa/Limbu/Newari alcoholic beverage also popular in parts of eastern Himalayas.-Geographical prevalence:...

 is the favourite drink of the Bhutias, and increasingly of other communities coexisting with the Bhutias as well. It is made of fermented barley or millets, and is served in a bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 container called the Tongba. Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

 with milk and sugar, and butter tea is also served in religious or social occasions.

Prominent Bhutias

Famous people of the Bhutia tribe are Bollywood
Bollywood is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai , Maharashtra, India. The term is often incorrectly used to refer to the whole of Indian cinema; it is only a part of the total Indian film industry, which includes other production centers producing...

 star Danny Denzongpa
Danny Denzongpa
Tshering Phintso Denzongpa , widely known by his acting name "Danny" Denzongpa, is an Indian actor of Sikkimese ancestry working in Bollywood films....

 and India's former national football
Football (soccer)
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball...

 team captain Baichung Bhutia
Baichung Bhutia
Baichung Bhutia is an ex Indian footballer. He is currently contracted by the club he owns, United Sikkim. He is considered to be the torchbearer of Indian football in the international arena. He plays for United Sikkim FC. He is often nicknamed the Sikkimese Sniper because of his shooting skills...

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