Birkha Bahadur Muringla, Padma Shri laureate, passed away on Wednesday, June 8, in the afternoon at New STNM Hospital in Sikkim at the age of 80 years. He was a revered writer known for his contribution to resurrecting the Limbu language and culture across Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan.
Muringla was awarded the fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri, in 2017 by the government for his immense contribution to preserving the Limbu language.
Born Among The Limbu Tribe
Muringla was born on April 13, 1943, in Lingchom village in Sikkim and belonged to a sub-community of the Limbu tribe. The Limbus were an ancient tribe from the Kham region in Tibet. During the 18th century, they found themselves neglected with the rise of Gorkha power in Nepal.
The pressure from Bhutia in Sikkim left them without any capacity in the region. The language of Limbus had to survive underground for over a century.
In 1914, the Limbus suppression and ban on their native language were removed, according to Sikkim Project, an organisation working on promoting Sikkimese people and their land.
Contribution To Limbu Culture
Through Muringla's constant efforts, interest was resurrected for the Limbu language in Sikkim, Darjeeling, Nepal, Bhutan, etc. He used to look after his family's farm while teaching night classes in the Limbu language with students of different ages. The lessons transformed into a discussion on Limbu culture and its history.
As a language that had been banned for centuries, they believed it should be recognised just like Bhutia, Lepcha, Nepali and English, which used to be taught in Sikkim schools. They felt that Limbu was also an original culture of Sikkim and should consider the Limbu people's interests.
Muringla was also recognised for designing the Limbu script not just for letterpresses but in 1992 and 2000; he redesigned the Limbu script for computers.
He collaborated with the Sikkimese state government to write primary and college textbooks. He translated texts from other languages on subjects - health, agriculture, family, philosophy, and culture. He even developed a Nepali-English-Limbu dictionary as well as a Hindi-Limbu one.