The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tamangs defy Ghisingh identity whip

Darjeeling, Feb. 5: The Tamang community today turned out in huge numbers to celebrate Lochar ' on the lines of Losar, the Tibetan New Year ' across the hills despite Subash Ghisingh's 'threat of dire consequences'.

Ghisingh considers the celebration of Lochar (Tamang New Year) a tendency to lean towards Tibetan culture and tradition. According to the GNLF leader, the Tamangs would lose their 'identity' if they tried to replicate the Tibetan culture.

Though All India Tamang Buddhist Association and International Tamang Council refused to react to Ghisingh's tirade against the community, Lochar was an indication of the Tamangs' determination to preserve their 'identity'.

'We are Buddhists but this does not mean that we are trying to be Tibetans. We have our own culture, tradition and attire', said M.S. Bomzom, president of International Tamang Council.

Ghisingh had insisted that Lochar ' usually a weeklong festival which began on January 30 this year ' was alien to Tamang culture and had more to do with Tibetan identity. However, many Tamang residents of the town today, while arguing their case, said the dress that they wear is a case in point. It was accepted recently, after 'much research', and is completely different from the bhakhu (traditional dress of the Tibetans), they claimed.

'Our dress is different from the Tibetans. We wear tagi (headgear), hangri (shirt), khanyanja (coat) and shurlung (pant) which are different from what the Tibetans wear. This is not a replica of the Tibetan dress,' said a member of the Tamang community.

The Tamangs had repeatedly maintained in the past that they are trying to preserve their identity, which is on the verge of getting lost with the 'Hinduisation' of the entire Gorkha community. Over the years, many Tamangs have also disowned Hindu traditions and culture.

The Tamangs are predominantly Buddhists but they maintain that it is wrong to equate Buddhists with Tibetans. Also the Tibetans celebrate Losar, and not Lochar, which is observed on a different date.

Sources maintain that the Tamangs have not taken kindly to Ghisingh's criticism of Lochar. It is learnt that many Tamangs discussed the issue informally at the celebrations held in Kurseong yesterday.

Though the office bearers of the association and council refused to become a part of the controversy, members who had gathered for Lochar in Darjeeling were also seen discussing the issue at length.

Sources maintain that similar community celebrations to mark the Tamang New Year '2842 ' was also held in Kalimpong, Rangbull and Rangli-Rangliot areas of the hills today.

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