There are three tribes residing in harmony in Sikkim called Lepcha, Bhutia, and Nepali. All of these tribes have traditions and folklore of their own. The tradition of passing down the folktales from one generation to the next is both universal and something which is essential for the survival of a culture. The stories of the Abominable Snowman or a Yeti are prevalent all across. Yetis are considered to be the protectors of nature and the deities residing in the mountains.
One such tale is ‘The story of Jyamphi Moong, a Yeti’, which is narrated by the Lepcha tribe of Sikkim.
Atek was a herdsman who liked playing the Puntaong Palit, a Sikkimese flute. The flute has a melancholy sound to it and one day, it attracted a female Yeti. Female yetis are considered to be more ferocious than male yetis, who are known to be gentle giants. Now the female yeti, called Jyamphi Moong, appeared and listened to Atek plays his flute, and every time he put his flute down, she would pick it up and hand it back to him indicating that she wanted him to continue. At dawn, the yeti would leave. This went on for a few nights and Atek grew tired of playing the flute every night without rest and living in fear for his life.
One day, Atek noticed that the yeti would imitate him playing the flute but could not because of the lack of skills. So he had an idea, one night, he covered himself up in butter. The yeti came again like all nights and noticed that Atek was rubbing himself with butter. He would play the flute, and in intervals, massage himself with butter. The yeti noticed this and did the same. Then Atek roasted his skin in the fire and yeti did the same. The yeti, being covered in fur, caught fire and ran away, never to return.
The Lepcha tribe believes that due to this incident, yetis live in inaccessible high Himalayan mountains.
There are many such stories that one can learn while spending some time with the local people of a region. NotOnMap’s Lum community village is a settlement of the Lepcha tribe in the north of Sikkim. Entry to this village required special permission since it is a reserve for the community. However, the community is very warm and welcoming. One can sit and interact with the locals and hear more about such tales and traditions passed down through the generations.