Ya?lang: An Intangible Limbu Cultural Heritage

By Limbu, Ramesh Kumar | Contributions to Nepalese Studies, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Ya?lang: An Intangible Limbu Cultural Heritage


Limbu, Ramesh Kumar, Contributions to Nepalese Studies


Limbu Folksong and dance

   Male youth:
   Se:kmuri andang phek-kelle-ga
   Aiyakko ambi hek-kelle-ga
   Nangsekwa tha-ang adhappi-aa
   Sendhugen ka?ee abappi-aa (2)

   Female youth:

   Yangsanu kundhe yengmara-aa
   Sendhugen ka?ee semmara-aa
   Hukchole nipma khasengha-ga
   Ka?ee-ga semma ta?jengha-ga (3)

      (Palam: 1-3)

Such and the similar many other oral folksongs are sung and dances are performed in the community of Limbu Kirantis, the inhabitants of eastern part of Nepal namely, Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam, Sankhuwasabha, Tehrathum, Dhankuta, Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts known as farther Kirat or Limbuwan, as well as Kathmandu valley, and Sikkim, Darjeeling and Assam of India and Bhutan and Union of Myanmar. Moreover, this kind of song locally known as palam is sung and the dance namely ya?lang (4) (paddy dance) is performed also in many other places of the world where the people of this community have reached. The song which is sung concomitantly with ya?lang is called palam.

The Limbu is an indigenous ethnic group of historical Kirant dynasty of Mongoloid family. They speak Limbu language that has characteristics of pronominalization and fails under the rubric of Tibeto-Burman Himalayan language of Sino-Tibet family of languages. Limbu language is also one among the Tibeto-Burman languages which has its own written script known as Srijanga. Limbus are rich in tradition, culture and literature as they have distinctive types of folklores, primitive customs, myths, folksongs and folkdances based on oral tradition, and ya?lang or paddy dance is one of them. The ya?lang, a traditional Limbu folkdance, essentially consists of the genre of dancing and singing that both go in unison. It is a duet performance and therefore, the participation of female and male youths is a must, an absence of any one of them may not be implied it as aya?lang. It is usually performed in getting together of guests/youths, on marriage ceremonies, death rituals, festivals, or in the fair, marketplace and in other special celebrations and occasions. Such folksongs and folkdances, performed in the community, have great value and significance for they help demonstrate socio-cultural and historical heritages as well as depict tradition, culture, behavior and life styles of the people.

Among Limbu folksongs, palam and sarek (khyali) are primarily recreational songs. They can be sung at any place and on any occasion. Even though, they are categorized under recreational kind of songs they also provide us with a lot of past information, ongoing activities, and upcoming plans and aspirations. The youths while dancing ya?lang exchange wide varieties of subjects like feelings of love and affection, experiences of pain and pleasure and so on through exceptionally melodious and heart-rending tune of palam, a folk song literally known as "a course of holding talks". Palam is a versed folksong traditionally sung only during ya?lang performance. The palam, as in the view of Nar Bahadur Yanghang (1995), "is a ya?lang song, a medium to exchange feelings of love and affection, includes major elements of Limbu folk culture." Another poetic song called Sarek or khyali is an esteemed short-tuned and a versed tete-a-tete expressed in the dialogic form. It is also called panthak (debate) or panchang (discuss), and used while getting mutual introduction, before beginning the ya?lang and bidding farewell especially between male and female. It is also exchanged between male and male or female and female too. Besides, other kinds of Limbu cultural and ritual songs like hakpare samlo (esteemed versed song), namdatte kesam-samlo (wedding song), thakptham-samlo (new home-entry song), mingwan-samlo (naming ritual song), mering-samlo (separation song), tamkye-samlo (agriculture song), tumyanghang-samlo (gentlemen song), angekwa sammet-samlo (cradle song), sewa-samlo (devotion song), etc. are crooned only during their own specific occasions and at particular locations. …

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