The people residing along the Teesta and Rangeet are familiar with the folklores of the two rivers. Two star crossed lovers fighting all odds in an effort to be together. The stories had a lot of minute variations according to multiple sources. Folk tales have a way of putting things in perspective but they also lack uniformity and result in multiple versions of the same tale. Hence, the disclaimer : This folk story might be different than the one you have heard/read. It is a mere collection of all the folk stories about the two river spirts: Rongeet and Rongnyu.
The Rongs (modern day Lepchas) were the inhabitants of the banks of Teesta and Rangeet and most parts of Sikkim and this is their most popular folk story. Even the name “Rongeet”(now known as Rangeet) means “the origin of Rongs” and “Rongnyu” (now known as Teesta) means “respected Rong lady”. According to lore, Goddess “Itbu-moo” created the world and everything in it that has life including the two rivers in love in Mayellyang (referred to as ancient Sikkim). Rongeet and Rongnyu were lovers but they feared that their relationship might not be accepted by the world which led them to elope. They planned to meet at “Pozok” (now known as Peshok) which meant “forest lands”. Two river spirits had never left the lap of “Kongchen Kongchlo” (Mt. Khangchendzonga) and they needed to be guided to reach “Pozol”. So, they decided to take help from separate beings.
Rongeet had given his word to Rongnyu that he would reach Pozok before Rongnyu and would be waiting to receive her when she arrived because it would be rude to make his lover wait. Rongeet took the help of a bird named “Tut-fo” figuring that it would help him to traverse the hills much faster than Rongnyu who took the help of a serpent named “Paril-bu”. But to Rongeet’s dismay, “Tut-fo” became hungry and tired mid-flight and would occasionally wander around looking for food while the serpent “Paril-bu” maintained a constant speed and course for Rongnyu leading to which, when Rongeet reached “Pozok”, he found that Rongnyu was already waiting for him. He asked with shock “This-see-tha?” (which means ‘when did you get here?’) and hence the name of Rongnyu was forever changed and adulterated to the present name, “Teesta”. Feeling an immense amount of self-loathing and disgust as he failed to keep his word and made Rongnyu wait for him, He began to flow back to the Himalayas in a violent manner causing calamity to the valleys around him. Rongnyu now followed him to calm him down adding to further destruction as the water in the rivers rose higher.
Meanwhile, people living in the valley ran to take shelter towards Mayellyang. Tundong Lho (now known as Tendong), a hill near Damthang in South Sikkim was the only safe spot for all animals and humans to take shelter from the deluge beneath. In a state of panic, the people of the valley all prayed to goddess Itbu-moo. On hearing the prayers of her people, Itbu-moo herself descended on top of the hill in the form “Kahomfo”, the partridge and she sprinkled the offering of mongbree (millets or grains) made to her and requested Rongeet to stop his actions and return back to Rongnyu. Rongeet immediately realised the destruction his fury had caused and returned back to meet Rongnyu in Pozok; reunited under the blessing of Itbu-moo. The Tendong hill forever became a place of worship among the Lepcha community.
It is also said that as a sign of respect and love, the muddy dark water of Rongnyu flows under the lighter, greener water of the Rongeet. However, the distinction of the colours has changed drastically owing to the rampant pollution and building of dams that have reduced these rivers to shells of their former selves. But the spirits of two lovers and the folklores will live on for generations to come. Teesta-Rangeet has been the greatest love story among two celestial spirits taking the form of two rivers that this region has seen or heard. Weddings in the region are blessed by the elders and it is prayed for their relationship to be like that of Teesta-Rangeet.