Lepcha in India






Largest Religion

Main Language


Introduction / History

The Lepcha live in the thick forests of southwestern Bhutan. Bhutan is the world's only Buddhist kingdom. This small nation is situated in the Himalayan Mountains between India and Tibet. Because of the violent Himalayan thunderstorms, Bhutan is also known as Druk-Yul, the "Land of the Thunder Dragon."

Sikkim, which lies to the east of Bhutan, is the original homeland of the Lepcha. In Bhutan, they dwell mostly in the valleys and low hills in the southwest, where there is a shortage of good farm land. Immigrants, such as the Lepcha, are banned from living in the central inner Himalayan region, and this has produced considerable resentment. Although the Lepcha have been granted citizenship in Bhutan, they suffer tremendous discrimination.

Today, most Lepcha have adopted the language and lifestyle of the Nepalese. They speak their own Lepcha dialects rather than the Tibetan dialects spoken in Bhutan. Illiteracy is common among them

What Are Their Lives Like?

Lepcha communities lie in deep, remote valleys. Mountainous forests and rice fields in the valleys provide much of their livelihood. Most farmers practice the "slash and burn" method of cultivation, although some have settled permanently in large forest clearings.

Village communities and extended families are a part of the culture that only the remote Lepcha continue to practice. These Lepcha generally live in scattered communities, but sometimes they build settlements of two or three houses huddled together in heavily forested areas near their fields. Their houses are made of finely woven bamboo strips and have thatched roofs.

In addition to farming, the Lepcha also specialize in carpentry, spinning, and weaving. There is no division of labor based on sex. A man may spin and a woman may weave, or vice versa. Men and women work side by side in the fields. Rural citizens of Bhutan pay little or no taxes. However, they are required to work without pay on local projects.

The basic domestic unit of the Lepcha changes over time. Households often begin as nuclear families, with a man, his wife, and children living together. When the sons marry, their brides come into the home, and the family becomes an extended one. As the son's children grow, he builds his own house, usually next to the home of his parents.

The Lepcha are gentle and live peacefully with almost no murders or thefts. They believe that aggression destroys the community, and all quarrels are handled immediately.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The majority of the Lepcha consider themselves Buddhists. However, they practice two major religious philosophies: Lamaism, derived from Buddhism, and Mun, a folk religion. Though they are contradictory in nature, these beliefs are practiced simultaneously.

The Mun religion involves a special relationship with a family spirit. Animal sacrifices and direct communication are said to both appease the spirit and ward off evil spirits that may cause disease or disaster. The Yeti ("abominable snowman"), who is believed to live within the glacial regions of the Himalayas, is worshipped as the god of the hunt, owner of all mountain game, and lord of all forest creatures.

For Lamaists, making animal sacrifices is a terrible sin. Their philosophy is founded on reincarnation (continuous cycle of death and rebirth), and they believe that their works in this life will either reward or punish them in their next life.

What Are Their Needs?

Water pollution is one of the most significant environmental problems in Bhutan, and most of the people in rural areas do not have pure water. In addition, most of the population lives without the benefit of electricity. Bhutan did not open its doors to tourism until 1974, and continues to limit the number of tourists that may visit per year. There is still a ban on satellite television in an attempt to protect what the monarchy calls a "fragile culture." The repressive Buddhist government does not want exposure to Westerners or other religions. Fervent intercession is the key to seeing Bhutan opened to the Gospel.

Prayer Points

* Ask the Lord to send Christian doctors and teachers to share the love of Jesus with the Lepcha of Bhutan.
* Pray that Christian radio broadcasts and evangelical literature will be made available to the Lepcha.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Lepcha who will boldly proclaim the Gospel.
* Pray that God will give the Lepcha believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Lepcha.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Lepcha
People Name in Country Lepcha
Population in India 94,000
World Population 100,000
Countries 3
Progress Scale 2.1
Least-Reached No
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Lap-cha, Lapche, Mutanchi, Mutanchi Rongkup, Nunpa, Rong, Rongke, Rongkup
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster South Himalaya
People Name General Lepcha
Ethnic Code MSY50j
People ID 13041
Country India
Region South Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country The majority live in the Dzongu District of the north Indian state of Sikkim and the Darjeeling District of West Bengal. Smaller numbers live in the valleys of south-west Bhutan, while approximately 2,000 more inhabit the Ilam District of Mechi Zone in eastern Nepal..   Source:  Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004
Total States on file:  5  (up to 20 largest shown)
Sikkim (52,000) West Bengal (41,000) Tripura (200) Arunachal Pradesh (30)
Andaman and Nicobar (10)
Total States on file:  5  (up to 20 largest shown)
Sikkim (52,000) West Bengal (41,000)
Tripura (200) Arunachal Pradesh (30)
Andaman and Nicobar (10)
Languages & Dialects on file:  28  (up to 20 largest shown)
Lepcha (60,000) Nepali (29,000) Sherpa (1,100) Limbu (400)
Hindi (400) Bengali (300) Naga, Liangmai (200) Byangsi (100)
Tibetan, Central (100) Santhali (70) Kok Borok (40) Kurux (30)
Meitei (30) English (30) Deori (20) Mizo (10)
Marma Anal Garo Mising
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Lepcha 60,000 Nepali 29,000
Sherpa 1,100 Limbu 400
Hindi 400 Bengali 300
Naga, Liangmai 200 Byangsi 100
Tibetan, Central 100 Santhali 70
Kok Borok 40 Kurux 30
Meitei 30 English 30
Deori 20 Mizo 10
Marma 10 Anal 0
Garo 0 Mising 0
For Primary Language: Lepcha

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1845-1989)
New Testament Yes   (1989)
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Jesus Film: view in Lepcha Film / Video
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
World Missionary Press Booklets Text / Printed Matter
Primary Religion: Buddhism

Major Religion Percent
61.06 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
19.17 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
19.48 %
0.03 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.25 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Omid / Joshua Project / Global Mapping Intl  
Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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