Chhang: The Beer of the Himalayas



Local tipples or alcoholic brews are common across India but one of the most popular and widespread one has to be the Chhang. Widely consumed across the Himalayan settlements from Tibet, to Nepal and Sikkim, the millet based Chhang has an interesting local legend behind it.


The millet-based Chhang has an interesting local legend behind it

The local Lepcha community of Sikkim calls the drink Chi and offers it to their deities during most of their religious ceremonies. Legend has it that a local Lepcha family sent a cockroach to steal yeast to ferment Changg from Matli Mu, the Goddess of earthquakes & wine. Angered by this act, she cursed that anyone who drinks Changg will yearn for more. The prophecy holds good, even today…

<i>Chhang</i> is often served as a welcome drink in the areas where it is consumed
Chhang is often served as a welcome drink in the areas where it is consumed|Wikimedia Commons

So what’s the recipe for Chhang? The drink is made from finger millets, which are boiled, dried into cakes and fermented for a couple of months. The fermented grains are served in a bamboo jar which is filled up to the brim. It is consumed by adding warm water into it from time to time, making the drink perfect in harsh winters! Chhang  tastes like ale and warms up the body.



Chhang is made from finger millets, which are processed and then fermented for a few months
Chhang is made from finger millets, which are processed and then fermented for a few months|Pema Rinzing Lepcha

Its no wonder then that the drink is so popular across the Himalayan states


Legend has it that a local Lepcha family sent a cockroach to steal yeast for Changg from Matli Mu

In Nepal, Chhang is known as 'Tongba' among the Limbu people of eastern Nepal. The Limbu’s are a community of Tibetan origin, who share a lot of customs and traditions with the communities in Sikkim and Bhutan, including the tradition of offering this fermented beverage as a welcome drink. In Ladakh, Chhang is an indispensable part of the wedding festivities, and is offered to wedding guests. In Spiti valley, it is also given as an offerings to the gods

Chhang - is not just the favourite brew but it has also been an indispensable part of everyday life  across a vast swathe from Ladakh to the North to Arunachal Pradesh in the East for centuries. No wonder it is the 'Beer of the Himalayas’ - one with the mountains, where the millets grow!



 Tongba chowk in Nepal
Tongba chowk in Nepal|Wikimedia Commons

Did You Know

There is a Tongba chowk or square named after the drink in Dhankuta in Nepal, with a larger-than-life statue of the bamboo mug and straw it’s served in!

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