Te-ongsi Sirijunga Xin Thebe

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The Limbu Martyr Sirijunga [1]
Born12 December 1704
Kalej Khola in Hee-Martam, Seal of Sikkim greyscale.pngWest Sikkim (Now state of Sikkim in India)
Cause of deathTied to a tree, shot by numerous poisoned arrows, clubbed to death by Tibetan Lamas[2] or Bhutias soldiers[3]

Te-ongsi Sirijunga Xin Thebe Limbu was an 18th-century Limbu scholar, educator, historian, linguist, leader, and philosopher of Limbuwan and Sikkim. He was formally known as Sirichongba and even more popularly known as "Sirijunga."


Sirijunga was born in Tellok kuchintar (Yangwarok area) in Limbuwan in 1704. His real name was Rupi haang. The (Haang or Subba) part of the name is a common Limbu term indicating a family of high or royal origin. Sirijunga had accepted his Lepcha nickname by claiming to be the incarnation of a legendary 9th-century historical figure called "Sirijonga haang". It has been widely believed that it was this legendary historical figure who preserved and revived the ancient Limbu script, but many now feel that the Sirijonga haang legend was most likely created by the 18th-century Sirijunga himself, with the intention of making the Limbu and Lepcha people more ready to believe and follow his teachings.


Sirijunga Xin Thebe researched and taught the Limbu script language and religion of the Limbu's in various part of Limbuwan and Sikkim, India. Sirijunga revived the old Limbu script. With the use of his newly revived script, he collected, composed and copied huge amounts of Limbu literature pertaining to history and cultural traditions. He travelled extensively through remote regions, attempting to amass sources of Limbu knowledge and culture. Eventually, he began going from village to village, publicising his findings and establishing centres of Limbu learning. In doing all of this, Sirijunga laid the foundation for a Limbu ethnic revival, and contributed significantly to the resistance against Tibetan Buddhist cultural domination. Sirijunga preached that acquiring broad cultural knowledge and experience was the key to the revival and enrichment of a community. In an attempt to trace the sources of his culture, he at first studied with local Tibetan Buddhist lamas, who at the time were the only means of connecting to a learned tradition in the region.

Sirijunga was also witness to the influx of the Hindu-based Khas culture from the western hill districts of today's Nepal. As such, along with his preliminary studies under the local lamas, he also practiced reading and writing in contemporary Khas, now known as Nepali. In order to better understand the dynamics at play in the region and to gather support for his movement, Sirijunga traveled far and wide to establish contact with rulers and powerful personalities. In one of these travels, it seems that he had either contacted or met King Jayaprakash Malla of Kathmandu. This multi-lingual and multi-cultural exposure to Buddhist and Hindu standards enabled Sirijunga to grasp the fundamentals of both the region's dominant cultures. During Sirijunga's life, the Bhutanese and Sikkimese quest for greater control over the eastern Himalaya led to many wars between Limbu and Sikkimese Bhutia (Bhutia indicating Tibetan origin) authorities. In due time, the lamas of Sikkim were able to extend their monastic centres in the northern areas of the part of Limbuwan that now lies in Nepal. After some time, this cultural encroachment enabled the Bhutia rulers to repeatedly subdue and take control of the entire Limbuwan territory.

The root of this state of conflict can be seen to lie in the politics of culture and knowledge at play in the region. Sikkimese Tibetan rulers and Buddhist spiritual leaders were able to subjugate the entire far-eastern Kirat region by means of their hold over the established learned traditions and the systematic spiritual culture of Buddhism. It was the realisation of this that led Sirijunga to emphasise the necessity of a peaceful, knowledge-based movement.

Sirijunga's contribution in spreading Limbu script, Limbu language, Mundhum and literature is immense. The Postal Services Department, Nepal Philatelic Bureau, Kathmandu has issued a postal ticket in his name in the Personalities Series.


In present-day terms, Sirijanga's ethnic movement can be said to be one of Limbu empowerment through education. Sirijanga's movement came to represent a significant threat, in particular to the Sikkimese Bhutia rulers and their spiritual gurus. His writings and teachings through the Limbu alphabet and literary texts he collected attracted significant numbers of Limbu's and Lepchas, and led to the start of an ethnic awakening. Sirijunga was able to establish centres of Limbu cultural and religious learning in many places throughout the eastern Himalayan hills. The Sikkimese authorities felt threatened. Sirijunga was killed in Martam, Hee-Bermiok in West Sikkim in 1741 after being tied to a tree and shot at with arrows. The Limbu learning centres that he established were thus destroyed and Sirijunga's disciples murdered or brutally suppressed by the Bhutias for defying their insistence to convert the Limbu's to Buddhism and also for the growth of the Limbu language and script that Sirijunga had taught. The place where Sirijunga was killed has a become a shrine to all people (irrespective of class, creed, and religion) from Sikkim and Nepal.[4]


  1. ^ Kirat History and Culture By Imanshing Chemjong, Amar Nembang, 15 Apr 2014
  2. ^ Kirat History and Culture By Imanshing Chemjong, Amar Nembang, 15 Apr 2014
  3. ^ Gorkhas and Gorkhaland, Front Cover By Barun Roy , 25 Dec 2012 - Darjeeling (India : District) - 504 pages, P.70
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2011-01-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)