Friday, October 16, 2020

Dussehra: The hour of happiness

Culture is a treasure of a community. Till culture is saved, the community exists. Dushera is one such festival that is worshiped by all the Nepalese Hindu, irrespective of class and creed. It is the most auspicious festival and symbolizes the victory of Goddess Durga or Devi Bhawani over demon Mahisashur.

Legend says, the demon king Mahissasur was a great offender whose tyranny and strain made the gods in heaven reach out for lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu thus created a powerful and a beautiful Devi Bhawani. She had a lion as a vehicle presented by the Himalayas and every god worshiped her as Parbati, Maha Shakti, Mahakali and others. When Mahaisasur came to know about Devi Bhawani, he was astonished by her beauty and desired to marry her.

Devi came to know about the demon's evil thought and invited him to the battlefield. She put on a condition that he would marry him, if he defeats her in the duel. The battle was fought and finally an atrocity of the devil was put to an end. The battle was fought for nine days and reflects the tradition of Navratha and on the tenth day Vijaya dashami, the days of victory with tika (smear of rice, curd and colours) is observed.

Dussehra is a time when men and women are attired in their best clothes. The houses are painted and it is the time for family feast. The festival is also called Dashain in Nepal, Sikkim and its neighbouring nepali speaking region meaning ‘the ten’. 

Navartha is celebrated for nine days, where people pay homage to the goddess. Lessons on Chandi, Durga Kavach and Durga Mahatmya are recited at homes and temples. Navatha starts on Ashwin Sukla, where the idol of Devi Bhawani is established with the idol of Ganesha and Devi Laxmi on right while the idol of Kartik and Devi Bharati is placed on the left side on this day.

Jamara (barley seeds that give green grass) is sowed on top of cow dung, mud and sand is placed in the tappara (small bowl made of leaf) of Newara, banana, etc). This day is also known as Ghatasthapana that symbolizes the start of the festival.

A holy water is collected on a kalash (water vessel) and offered to the Devi; offering her the holy water is believed to gratify her. For the nine days, the head of the family sprinkles the holy water on the seed of Jamara. It is believed that Lord Rama received blessings from Devi Bhawani in the form of Jamara and was victorious against Ravana. Thus Jamara has its part in the tradition of the Hindus.

On each day, Navaratha has different images of Devi Bhawani as; Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandra ghanta, Chashmanda, Rukundamata, Katyayarni, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. The seventh day is known as Saptami and also the day of Phulpati. Till this day actually the Devi had not arrived at the puja ghar, only the religious texts are recited.

It is on this day of Pulphati that the Devi is invited. This day is celebrated with a full merry and large number of devotees gathered and follows the long procession. People in traditional dresses and costumes carry out the flowers and the kalash. Everyone dances all the way through the road chanting religious hymns. While moving along the marketplace they stoop at one place where they assume that the Devi has arrived in their flowers. The flowers are then worshiped; water and rice grains sprinkled. The procession is then taken back and the Devi is placed on the puja ghar.

The eight-day is the Maha Ashtami where animal sacrifice is performed. There is a tradition of giving sacrifice in the name of Mahakali and waking up of the Devi Kaal Ratri.

Aasthami starts the stage for the bhoj, the traditional food meal of the Newars. Now for the last three days of the Aastami, the family members will not use rice for their meal. The bhoj mainly consists of mutton, egg, Soya bean, beaten rice, garlic, zinger, sidra, the local liquor or the curd and others. These food items are served in a banana leaf. The ladies in the family have to give the food to the male members and it is the same when the ladies come for the feast, all in a traditional way. Before the bhoj is performed, sota is given with eggs on the tappara and a cup of curd with the hands crossed such that the person in the receiving end takes the cup in his right hand. At least for three times he needs to lick the egg and drink the curd and each of the three times the curd is added to his cup as is the tradition.

The family members sit at the gundri (mat) on the floor as to their precedence. The younger ones have to bow to the feet of all the seniors in the assembled room and sit in their respective place. The place is first swept at one time without lifting the broom. Then the water is brought in the container along with the bowl to wash out the hand and the mouth. After cleaning up the mouth, the water is sprinkled for three times in order to purify. The custom is also repeated after the end of the Bhoj. After bowing to the seniors the bhoj ends.

This bhoj continues for the next two days. Ashtami is also known as maar ceremony for the tradition of the sacrifice. The animals are sacrificed to please the goddess. The sacrificial goats, hens, and others are first worshiped and tika is put on their forehead. These activities continue till the naumi, the ninth day of the navratha. It is believed that, if the animal is not killed in the one force, the Devi is not pleased.

The ninth day is the main puja. It is on this day that the chandi recitation comes to the end. On this day the Bhimsen puja is performed. A goat and a cock are sacrificed in order to please the kul devta. It is also believed if one could please the Bhimsen one can attain eternity. The head of the goat and the cock is offered to the feet of the idol. That person who doesn’t follow the sacrificing of the animals they offer the flowers and the fruits.

After naumi, it is the vijaya dashami. This day is the actual dasian, the Nepali people observe. Everyone celebrates the victory of goddess Durga. On this day the elder puts the tika made of the smear of the rice grains, curd and the colours on the forehead of the young ones and blesses them for eternity. A sacred string (kokha) of red and white is tied on their neck, where red colour symbolises victory and the white colour the purity. The jamara is placed behind the ear of the young ones.

Different Nepali communities have their own way of celebrating the occasion but the deep-rooted perception for all remains the same. The last of the five days are celebrated as the victory over evil.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Rongli Premier League 2020 update (12.10.20)


In the first match South Regu defeated Rongli West with five goals to three. The next match saw Rongli East defeat Kopchey FC. Amar Rai and Karan Singh were the Chief Guest and the Special Guest.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Rongli Premier League 2020 football kicks off

RONGLI, 10TH OCTOBER 2020: The first match of Rongli Premier League 2020 football was played between Rongli FC and Sungdung that was won by Rongli FC. In the second match Rongli United defeated Chujachen. The Premier League is organised by Chujachen Sports Academy, Rongli.


GL Bhutia, President of Chujachen Sports Academy was the Chief Guest of the day. Speaking on the inaugural programme of Rongli Premier League 2020 football, GL Bhutia shared the motive behind organising this RPL was to overcome the stress of Corona, to fight against corona with the help of sports, encourage the players to keep physically and mentally fit along with to provide platform to the young players.


He on the behalf of Chujachen Sports Academy has thanked the Chief Minister of Sikkim as well as the Government of India for the relaxation in terms of sporting activities. President, Chujachen Sports Academy thanked Mrs. Krishna Kumari Rai (Golay), wife of Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim for providing hand sanitizers and face masks to every player during matches.


He also thanked SDM, Rongli Sub-Division for issuing permission to organise Rongli Premier League 2020 football along with different departments, and the general public for supporting RPL to make it a grand success. Eight teams have participated in the league to be played every Saturday and Sunday, reads the press release.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Everest legend Mallory and his Sikkim connection- ii

In-terms of Sikkim’s perspective, the first three  Everest Expeditions hold special significance for a person by the name of Gyalzen Kazi, who was a landlord but played an important role during the expeditions. Gyalzen Kazi was the interpreter for the 1921 Everest Expedition as well as on the 1922 and 1924 Expeditions. It is well said that Gyalzen Kazi and Karma Paul, another interpreter from Darjeeling, had a significant role at the Everest Expeditions. Gyalzen Kazi was known more for his role as interpreter but to my findings he was the first mountain explorer of Sikkim.

Another interesting finding that came to me was the page of the Aritar Dak Bungalow Visitor Book that has the name of five mountaineers of the 1922 Mt Everest Expedition. Charles G. Bruce, Edward "Teddy" F. Norton, Dr Arthur Wakefield, C. John Morris and C. Geoffrey Bruce had signed at the visitor book during their stay at the Dak Bungalow on July 29 and 30, 1922. Though I felt a little sad not to find Mallory’s name on the book nevertheless those five names were enough to rub my excited heart. Charles G. Bruce was the Expedition leader with a Brigadier rank while Morris and Geoffrey Bruce were responsible for translation and organizational tasks. Norton and Wakefield were mountaineers with medical backgrounds.  

Apart from these people there were eight other expedition members in the 1922 ascent to Mt Everest. Though it had been mentioned in different accounts that the first three Mt Everest Expedition teams (1921, 1922 and 1924) did stay at Aritar Dak Bungalow but I have not come across the 1921 and 1924 records on the Visitor Book.

Coming back to Mallory, ever since his dead body with his face down on the snow had been recovered the assumptions of whether the two missing mountaineers reached their ultimate goal had been running high. Although it was Hillary and Tenzing who took the crown of being the first mountaineers to successfully return back after reaching the summit after 30 years of Mallory’s sudden disappearance.  

Everest has deep secrets under its calm silence and in between there are stories that keep on popping whether they reached the top.  Mallory had a photograph of his wife and he had promised to her that he would click the photograph of himself with his wife’s photograph at the summit. When the search team found the body they failed to recover the photograph from the pocket of his cloth. Some believe the photograph might have been left at the summit.  The camera which the duo had been carrying is still to be recovered and no one knows if it is found in near future we might witness the lost moment of human heroics. 

If speculations are to be believed, the presence of snow goggles found on Mallory’s pant pockets throw a different perspective of the event. It could be that they were returning after achieving the summit after sunset when the snow goggles are not needed. Irvine’s snow axe had also been recovered. These theories related to George Mallory had made him a legend and we are still awaiting more findings that could end the speculations to its final nail. Irrespective of all these, the efforts of George Mallory needs to be appreciated. It was his fantasy and ‘only him’ that made the thought of reaching the summit of Mt Everest fascinating and appealing to all.

Published in Sikkim Express - 11.10.2020


Monday, October 05, 2020

Shantinagar observes birth anniversary of NB Bhandari

 Felicitates Journalist Sanjay Agarwal and Educationist KB Chettri

Singtam, October 5: The 79th birth anniversary of NB Bhandari, former Chief Minister of Sikkim was observed by members of Shantinagar Gaon Sudhar Samiti, Singtam. A short felicitation program and distribution of certificates and mementos of Nepali Bhasa Diwas was presented. Sanjay Agarwal and KB Chettri were the Chief Guest and the Guest of Honour of the program. Dr. Bhumika Dulal was the Special Guest.

The program started by observing two minute silence on the passing away of Dr. AH Khan, Advisor of SGSS. Dr. Khan was a popular physician and known to all for his simplicity.  He was a sportsperson and had shown his skill in cricket and badminton. The photo frame of Shri NB Bhandari was offered khada and lighting of lamp was done by the Chief Guest. Krishna Chettri, President SGSS in his welcome speech talked about the importance of the day. He also spoke about the postponement of the Gandhi Jayanti program due to the sudden demise of Dr. AH Khan, Advisor of the Samiti. 

The highlight of the short program was the felicitation of Sanjay Agarwal, senior journalist and KB Chettri, Principal Singtam SSS. Six Nepali poets who had participated at the online nepali poem recitation exhibition on the occasion of Nepali Bhasa Diwas were presented with certificates and mementoes. It was the first time in context with Sikkim that Nepali Bhasa Diwas was observed through virtual media. The poets were - Surya Kharel, Nishant Dulal, Anand Chettri, Lokesh Mukhia, Ayushman Chettri and Padam Parajuli.

Dr. Bhumika Dulal, residence of Shantinagar was presented with a Letter of Appreciation for her completion of MBBS degree. She is the first medical doctor from Shantinagar. In her short speech, she thanked SGSS for the encouragement and seeked blessing for her future endeavours. Sanjay Agarwal, the Chief Guest speaking on the occasion appreciated the efforts of members of SGSS during the Covid 19 scenario. He appealed to every individual to work together for the development of society. KB Chettri, Principal, Singtam SSS spoked about the progress of Singtam SSS over the last few years. Sanjay Agarwal also presented 100 sanitizers, gloves and masks to SGSS. Shital Pradhan was the host of the day while Dhiraj Pradhan gave the vote of thanks.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Everest legend Mallory and his Sikkim connection - i

As the old saying goes by, legend never dies. George Mallory and his teammate Sandy Irvine while trying for his third attempt to conquer the mighty Mt Everest went missing when they were just a few hundred meters below the summit. The year then was 1924 and it was 75 years later a search team was lucky enough to recover the missing body of legendary Mallory with his badge struck on his weathered cloth. 

This story of George Herbert Leigh Mallory had always fascinated my little fantasy. My excitation knew no boundary when I came to read that Mallory on three separate Mt Everest Expeditions (1921, 1922 and 1924) had passed through the valley of Sikkim on their way to Mt Everest from the north side of Tibet since the route through Nepal was closed for western foreigners. Failure of the 1921 and 1922 Everest Expedition did not deter him.

He once replied to a reporter ‘because it is there’ when asked why he wanted to scale Everest. The phrase went on to be a record book as one of the popular phrases and people around the world takes inspiration from his words when they think of climbing Mt. Everest. Interestingly Mallory was the only person to have participated in all the three Mt.Everest Expeditions,the pioneering effort to reach the highest mountain peak of the world.

Like the earlier Everest Expeditions, the 1924 British Everest Expedition team too had arrived in Darjeeling and in two separate groups passed through the land of Sikkim via Kalimpong – Pedong to Rongli. One of the groups halted at Rongli Dak Bunglow while the second group rested at Ari Dak Bunglow (now popularly known as Aritar Dak bungalow. 

Rongli being my birth place and to watch the photographs (Collection of Benthley Benthem) of Mallory and his fellow members taking bath on Rongli river was a joy beyond any words. More than 80 years later, it seems hard to recognize the river bank but I feel proud the route was part of the legend. The other classic photographs of the 1924 Everest Expedition team taken at Lingtam, Phadamchen, Kopup and Gnatong  are precious enough to be kept for archives. 

The books written on the accounts of these mountaineers had mentioned the jungle of Sikkim as a greenhouse with rich  and beautiful bio-diversities. From the bank of Rongli Chu they had moved to Sedongchen (now Phadamchen) and later reached Gnatong some 12,000 feet for a night halt. The mountaineers saw the scattered stone huts at Gnatong and wrote about the hamlet as ‘filthy, dry and bleak’ and ‘a most depressing place’ with its existence solely made up from the fact it was the only British outpost at the Sikkim - Tibet frontier. Here Mallory wrote “Goodbye beautiful wooded Sikkim and welcome – God knows what ! we will see.” And they entered Jelep La, the gateway of Tibet.
Published in Sikkim Express - 04.10.2020  

Friday, October 02, 2020

Sikkim Cricket Association Selection Trials for BCCI Season 2020-21


Gangtok, September 29th 2020: The selection trials for the Sikkim Cricket team in all categories commenced on the 22nd September 2020 in all the four Districts.

Even though there is some uncertainty as far as the 2020-21 Domestic Cricket season is concerned due to the ongoing pandemic that has gripped the entire nation. Sikkim Cricket Association has taken up the challenge and successfully conducted the 1st round of the selection trials in all four Districts whilst strictly adhering to the SOP issued by the Health & Family Welfare Department, Govt. of Sikkim.

“On behalf of the SICA family, I am extremely grateful and impressed by the dedication and resolve shown by the Executives, Observers, support staff and office staff to reach the venue for the trials/selections of SICA teams and the District bodies for helping SICA organize the event. The pandemic, weather, the lockdown and road conditions have not deterred your call of duty. I also appreciate the players to have reached the venue despite all odds and this motivates us more to work for you” said the President (SICA) Mr Lobzang G. Tenzing.

The final stages of selection of the shortlisted players from all the four districts are being conducted at Sikkim Cricket Ground at Mining, Rangpo from the 29th September to the 3rd October 2020. Selected players from this stage of selection will go on to be categorized as a probable’s for the Sikkim team that will be representing Sikkim in various categories of National Tournaments. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Two amazing tales of Pasting Village

Sikkim is a mystical land; with its own rich heritage and culture. Discovering its legend mixed with magical phenomena had always been my passion; to share stories that are unknown to people around makes me a happy man. I have tried to visit places that have mystery woven on its footsteps.

I was at Pasting, a small village, near Rongli with 50-55 houses in the forest region when at that time the white chaamp flower was at its full bloom. My grandfather (Aja) had his cardamom field at Pasting and it was that season when he used to stay at the village in his small hut like home. It was me, my father, Kancha Kaka and Kanchi Nini on our first visit to Pasting. 

There was a drive till the small bridge near Lingtam. Thereafter, the walk of my life made the jungle stride across the deep woods with leeches hanging around my shoes. I could see Nini screaming out when one of the leeches entered into her shoe that did make the rest of us laugh. We could hear the birds singing, the strange sounds of insects and the unknown fear of the jungle within us.

In an hour, we reached a small hut made by Aja in the middle of the forest for his few days staying during the cardamom seasons a few years back.  After taking a rest, Aja (grandfather) took four of us to show the cardamom field. It was strange till that day no one had ever visited the whole cardamom field apart from Aja. The field was really big. The flowering buds of cardamom plants had started to bloom. He showed us varieties of diseases that affected the cardamom plant. He seemed to be like a cardamom expert. Aja narrated there was a time when the very field would yield 14 to 16 maund of cardamom but this time around one has to satisfy with two to three sacks. All we did was; silently look at his face. 

While moving across the forest Aja wanted to show us something we had never heard of.  He showed us a huge rock split into two parts. He told us that once that rock was a single piece but a couple of decades back at noon a huge bang was heard and something flew into the air from the middle of the rock that had the rocks into two pieces. Later on the villagers nearby said that the ‘thing’ looked like a Sankha (counch). It was a fascinating one; I have heard several stories of flying sankha that burst from the rocks in other parts of Sikkim and nearby regions. One legend even says a few centuries back, one of the army generals from Nepal was flown in a flying sankha couch to Kathmandu from Darjeeling regions. 

After some climbing to the hills, he showed us a big rock and told us that he would let us have a surprise. As he went near, I hurriedly followed him. He cleared the spider webs and weeds from a small hole and pointed to it and said this is our Devithan (worshiping place). He then pointed to the marks at the rock and said this is a footprint of Shivji! I asked Lord Shiva! He looked at me and said yes!

Since centuries people have been worshiping this “foot mark” during purnay and aaushi. He went on to say time immemorial there was a fight between Shiva and a demon. Lord Shiva had stepped at the stone and leaped, so this is his footmark. I looked with a curiosity and asked how you knew it. He told me he had heard from his father.

With curiosity and excitement playing inside me; I did not doubt his words. We all know we have such stories in different corners of our state. We made it back to the house of our grandfather. After staying back for some time, we bid farewell to Aja and made our journey back home.