LEPCHA, the name of the aboriginal inhabitants of Sikkim (g.v.). A peace-loving people, the Lepchas have been repeatedly conquered by surrounding hill-tribes, and their ancient patriarchal customs are dying out. The total number of speakers of Lepcha, or Rong, in all India in 1901, was only 19,291. Their rich and beautiful language has been preserved from extinction by the efforts of General Mainwaring and others; but their literature was almost entirely destroyed by the Tibetans, and their traditions are being rapidly forgotten. Once free and independent, they are now the poorest people in Sikkim, and it is from them that the coolie class is drawn. They are above all things woodmen, knowing the ways of beasts and birds, and possessing an extensive zoological and botanical nomenclature of their own.
See Florence Donaldson, Lepcha Land (1900).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)