Saturday, February 28, 2009

Another feather in the raven crown of ‘Small but Beautiful’ Sikkim 14 tourism awards in one decade, 25 percent increase in tourism flow



GANGTOK, February 27: ‘Small but Beautiful’ Sikkim has not only bagged yet another tourism award but this Himalayan State has also cemented its position as a most sought after destination in the nation.
This actuality is reflected strongly in the phenomenal growth in terms of tourism flow to Sikkim in 2008 and another national tourism award from Ministry of Tourism that was given on February 24.
The award, national tourism award 2007-08 as the Best State for tourism related programmes was received by the State tourism secretary SBS Bhadauria from Union Home minister P Chidambaram in the presence of Union Tourism minister Ambika Soni at the awards function held in New Delhi.

Speaking to media here today, Mr. Bhadauria said that this was the 14th major award won by Sikkim in the field of tourism in the last decade due to the dedication and enthusiasm of the State government which had been instrumental in achieving the goals.
“The award proves Sikkim has been firmly placed in the global tourism scene and we have created our own brand called Sikkim”, said the tourism secretary. He said that it was a proud moment for the State with the unyielding zeal and dedication of all stakeholders and the firm support of the government. We hope to achieve as the best tourism destination in the country, he added.
It is to be mentioned here that Sikkim has bagged the best tourism performing State in the North east region for six consecutive years in the past from the MoT.
Recently Sikkim have also bagged the best eco-tourism destination, most picturesque destination, best community based tourism, emerging tourism state, best tourism State for adventure from reputed organizations at the national level.
The tourism secretary said that around 4.5 lakh domestic tourists and 23,000 foreign tourists visited the State in 2008. He said this was about 25 per cent increase from that of the previous year. In the previous year, around 3.8 domestic tourists and 18,000 foreigners had visited Sikkim.
Despite the bandhs and the disturbances in the neighbouring regions, this was a record for the state, Mr. Bhadauria said. He also said that as per the analysis, the quality of tourism had also increased manifolds and there was now ‘no off-season’ with visitors coming to the State throughout the year.
The tourism secretary claimed that Sikkim today was the most sought after destination for domestic as well as foreign tourists coming to the country and had made significant presence in the tourism map. The destinations and infrastructure have been developed to a great extent within a short period of time making Sikkim greatly attractive to the visitors, he added.
Mr. Bhadauria informed that a State tourism policy was in the final stages of preparation and the final policy would be put forward to the government in the first quarter of the coming fiscal year. The draft tourism policy would comprise of a normal tourism policy for the State and a separate tourism policy for village tourism.
“The tourism in the state is moving and progressing in a cautious manner so that there are no ills associated, the tourism secretary said.
Speaking on the carrying capacity and adequate infrastructure, Mr. Bhadauria spelled out that the carrying capacity depended on management. “The tour operators, hoteliers as well as the various committees, involved in the promotion of tourism in the state as well as all stakeholders have put in a lot of effort to make this possible. They are working on long term eco-friendly developments which are sustainable, have minimum effect on the fragile eco system”, he said.
Mr. Bhaduaria said the government was coming up with more infrastructures, create trained man power and improve services to provide quality tourism. He said the capacity building programmes and motivation were being carried out to encourage the sector further.

Mandir bell depict Rongli story

The historic bell (the new mandir is in the back ground)

I first wrote about this Rongli Shivalaya Mandir bell during 2003 but even to this date the mere thinking of that bell fascinates me. I never had imagined that a small article would have such impact that the old mandir was dismantled and new mandir was set which is still awaiting its completion. More than five years later when I again decided to re-write about an article on this bell I just wanted to have a first look of that antique metal piece. But this time around I was awaiting more mystery about the whereabouts of the bell. I still recall when the century old Shivalaya Mandir at the heart of the Rongli bazaar was dismantled for the renovation in 2004. The relics were kept in Rongli Police Station for safety.
This time around it was me and my cousin brother Praveen looking for that historic bell but to our surprise the personals at the Rongli Police Station was rather surprised to know that such valuable materials was actually kept at their custody. They too were interested to hear about the story of the Rongli Bazaar inscribed at a mandir bell and helped us search at their office but it was not found. They had never heard about such bell and the policemen attending on the duty had joined the Rongli Police Station only after 2004, much later than the time when the mandir properties were kept.
We were too surprised on not finding those materials and also had a talked that the New Mandir Committee might had taken back those things and kept at another secure place. It was rather more than couple of hours later to everyone’s surprise we came to know that the century old Mandir Bell was being hanged at the corner of the Hanuman Mandir at the heart of the Rongli Bazaar. Even the Mandir Committee members had forgotten about it.
When I took that metal piece on my hand I could feel the breeze of air of that era when the inscription was being under done. Still after more than five years since I last saw it, the faded blue oil paint was partly found scattered around the bell making the inscribed words bit indistinct for reading.
Let me take back to an article I wrote in a weekly newspaper “Weekend Review” published from Gangtok written in 2003 about the century old mandir at Rongli which created an impact as such the renovation and beautification of the new mandir got under.
“How often we come across, hearing of a story of a place being depicted in a bell! But this hold true at Rongli, a two-hour drive from Rangpo via Rhenock. It was Chattra Narshingh Shakyansh who in the year 1970 in one of the issue of Sikkim’s first Newsmagazine ‘Kanchenjunga’ first told the story of the then small Rongli bazaar inscribed on the bell of a century old Shivalaya mandir at Rongli. With time and development, the small hamlet changed but still today even after 30 years of the publishing of the article, the bell can still be found at the Rongli Shivalaya. This year saw another development in Rongli bazaar the old mandir was demolished and the new construction of the mandir has been set up and if there is one thing that holds its breath even now are the bell and its inscription. 
Bell hanged at old Rongli Shivalaya Mandir (2003)
The inscriptions written in Nepali say that: “Rongli was a dense forest in the early days, which had a small path that lead far to Tibet. The fierce environment of the forest, the moving of the wild animals even in daylight and the rage of the ever-flowing river made the people name this place Rongli-Chu or simply Rongli or Rangel. It was in the year 1896 that a handful of Nepali and Bhutia group of people were granted an order to clear off the forest and establish a bazaar by the then Chogyal (King) Sir Thutob Namgyal. Bhim Narshingh Shakyansh was the first to construct a house and open a small shop. In 1901, a Shivling was established for religious activities and in 1917 on September 29 a temple was constructed where statue of lord Ganesha was also worshiped. There are numerous other idols inside as well.
After the British sent an expedition led by Col. Younghusband to Lhasa via Jelepla in 1903, a trade route through Rongli developed and led to many more people settle there and open shops. The youngest son of Bhim Narshingh Shakyansh, Amrit Narshingh Shakyansh along with the Rhenock Kazi Sonam Dadul and few other senior citizens were granted permission from the Sikkim government to organize a weekly haat on Sunday, which still meets every week. Selling food of mules was the chief source of money at the time when the trade route through Rongli to Jelepla functioned. Apart from these cardamoms and potatoes were also in great demand.
In August 18, 1939 Rongli bazaar witnessed its first ever landslide, which was followed by a much larger and devastating one on October 4, 1968. The landslide of 1968 changed the entire landscape of Rongli bazaar. The rocks, trees and mud entered the bazaar and the government haat ghar. Later the rocks were blasted into pieces and bulldozers were used to clear up the space that now houses the present Rongli bazaar. The death toll reached 12; bodies of eight women and four children were found. But till date the family of washer man is missing. All this is inscribed in the bell of the mandir.
It has been long time more than a century that the small path through the jungle of Rongli Chu was used as the route to Chumbi Valley. Areas of Rongli more prominent being in Gnathong, which in 1888 saw the defeat of the Tibetans, had many wars fought between the British and Tibet. The ruin forts and the war memorial are the witness that these army men had traveled through the thick fearsome jungle of Rongli to raise the British flag a landmark in history.”
I sometimes wonder did we do justice to the works of those people who had shaped the outlook of Rongli Bazaar to its present?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sikkim University's VC meets President

The Vice Chancellor, Sikkim University, Prof Mahendra P Lama met with the President of India, Shrimati Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, who is also the Visitor of Sikkim University.

As Visitor of the University, the President of India may from time to time, appoint one or more persons to review the work and progress of the University, including Colleges and Institutions maintained by it and to submit a report thereon.

The various appointments to the highest offices of the University, like that of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor are made by the President of India in her capacity as the Visitor of the University.

The Vice Chancellor in his meeting with Madame Patel, the President of India briefed her about the progress made by Sikkim University in these 19 months of its existence.

The President was deeply impressed by the progress made by the University and expressed her deep appreciation. She showed great interest in the affairs of the various Colleges and enquired about the students and faculty members, of both the affiliated Colleges as well as the Post Graduate Programmes being run by Sikkim University.

Shrimati Pratibha Singh Patil took this opportunity to send her best wishes to the students and teachers of Sikkim University.

Have you ever seen a boy with two head?

Such is the miracle of world that i came across a boy in a Mela at Pulbazaar (Bijanbari), Darjeeling who had two head joined to his single body. I paid him ten rupees to watch him, he was the highlight of the fair...(04.02.2009)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zaluk Yeti Search Photo Feature


The valley where the animal man was spotted

Nar Bhadhur Sunar (eye witness)

The team we had L.T Bhutia, Swarup Rai,Nar Bhadhur Sunar, Pranay Pradhan, Beren Gurung and Praveen Pradhan (Well i was the photographer here)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yeti sighted at Zaluk, Sikkim in 2004


I was at Zaluk last friday, the day most of the couples across the globe was busy celebrating Valentine Day. More or less an exciting adventure was awaiting us when we came to know that there was a Yeti sighting at this remote place in 2004 on the month of April. Zaluk is a small place where the population is below 300 and the world famous Changu Lake is an hour and half drive from Rongli Bazaar.

We were five member team myself, Praveen, Rocky, Swarup and Beren. The video above is a short interview i took where the prime eye witness Nar Bhadhur Sunar confirms that he along with other 10 labourers and a GREF Officer had came across a Yeti in the April of 2004 while going for the daily work. Sunar a farmer now was a working as a baidar then. They were on a vehicle and the "animal man" as he called was on the other side of the road along the Valley walking on two feets along the bushes of pareng ( a bamboo variety). The distance between them was around 200 to 250 metre. They saw the back portion of the animal for over half an hour and suddenly it vanished around the bushes.

It was noted that for over few days the army helicopter did had a vain search over that particular region but nothing more could be known. Such incident was not known till then and also not heard after that but the people of Zaluk also has confirmed that on particular times they do hear of strange voices coming from the nearby valley.

Well the people who saw it claims it to be a "Sokpa" as Yeti is better called in this part of land. For them that animal was not a bear as it is commonly found in that region and they could identity with it. Another interesting part of the story is that after few days of the incident the villagers did found a foot steps on the marshy land near the over flowing water that were measured something like "from an elbow joint to a finger tip" long.

Nar Bhadhur Sunar told a water pipes was recovered by the villagers along the bushes inside the forest that was crushed and thrown away from the water source that no man or any other animal could do it. We talked with Jeena Chettri, daughter of Nar Bhadhur Sunar who added that the animal was dragging his feet as such they could not realized whether the animal had its feet the opposite side as it is normally believed. The "thing" had black hair covered all over the body and the length of the hair was as such it looked as if a women had let free her hair, told Jeena in her own words. Those GREF workers whistled and made sound to that animal that it hurried inside the bushes, she added.

Well it is too early to say that the animal man those people claimed was not the mysterious Yeti that the whole world is searching for. I had gone through the wrinkled face and the piercing eye of the man who was in his mid sixties and do believe in his word that the thing he saw along with his daughter and his fellow workers was a Yeti. I do believe him that he could differentiate a bear from an animal they had never seen before that they believed look more like a human.

Do you know them?

Ok...this was an interesting photograph i found in Corbis website can you say who are they?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thanks Uli, for AC3PT informations.....

Well Uli i am sure without you my article on late Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal and his adventure with Ham radio was not possible. So when i get it printed on this monthly magazine from Gangtok i dedicate this article to you. I shall ever remain grateful for the help you provided to me along with those numerous scans. I also thank Rajesh Verma for his inputs on being the only post merger Hams from Sikkim. This article is published in the February issue of Talk Sikkim monthly magazine printed and published from Gangtok.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sikkim’s Jiwan Mishra bags silver medal in Special World Winter Games


Jiwan Mishra, one of the participants in the Special World Winter Games from India has bagged a silver medal in Alpine Skiing under male category.
The 16-year-old hailing from Maney Dara in South Sikkim was one of the six participants from India.
The sport event was held at Bosio, IDHAO, USA from February 9. He was accompanied by his brother Kapil Mishra and his teacher RP Dhakal.
Jiwan, who is studying in Class VI, suffers from mild mental retardation.
Expressing happiness on the achievement of Jiwan Mishra, the area director of
Special Olympic Bharat, Sikkim Chapter Dr BP Dhakal said, we are really proud of Jiwan as he has not only brought laurels for the state but also for the country. He managed to bring silver medal despite little training on Alpine Skiing at Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh.
“Nirmal Dahal (the gold medallist) and Jiwan Mishra are a beacon of hope for many physically challenged children,” he said. It may be noted here Nirmal Dahal from Sikkim had bagged gold medal in the Special Olympic held in China last year.
Special Olympic Bharat, Sikkim Chapter has planned a rousing welcome to the silver medallist on February 20 at Rangpo, Dr Dhakal added.

Turning back the clock of Singtam-2

Singtam Bazaar at late-80s


Singtam at the moment is the busiest town among the four districts and its Friday haat one of the most popular in the entire state. But eight decades back the story wasn’t the same as these days. Those days it was the small siru bazaar of Sirubari (Sirwani) that was well known. People would never mind walking all three days to reach to this place to collect siru. This was the period when bazaar at Singtam was little heard off. But all of a sudden under mysterious circumstances the then popular Siru bazaar came to a halt and today stands an isolated Sirwani that helplessly gape up at vehicles passing by!

Jay Dhamala in his book “Sikkim koh Ithihas” speaks about of a place called Shichuthang that was visible from the Bermoik Kazi kothi. The name Shichuthang is present day Singtam, marked the writer. It is familiar that on a clear weather Bermoik Kazi kothi is noticed from this town but it must also be mentioned that the other little known bazaar of Manglay (now also called Sainotar) some 14 km from Singtam towards Timi Tarku is also called Shichuthang. Si means forest, chu means water and thang means scattered explains the writer describing the anatomy of the name of Singtam.

Tracing back the meaning of the name Singtam; in other way it is also believed to be a Lepcha word which means “collection of logs”. Singtam’s Lal Bazaar the present haat ghar was more of a sand depository and wild bears moving freely across the river banks had been witnessed by many folks. The river Teesta would carry out logs and deposit at the river banks. The logs were collected in huge extent such that it was sold to other place of necessity. Thus came the name Singtam i.e. collection of logs. “Kanchenjunga” magazine published from Gangtok in the early 1960s in one of its issue carried an article on Taksaari Chandrabir Pradhan, the same man behind the introduction of Sikkim’s coin system. It said it was Taksaari Chandrabir Pradhan who got the royal order from the Chogyal to cut down the jungles and set up a dweller at Singtam. He further went up to establish Rangpo and Pakyong too.

The earliest mention of the name of Singtam is found in 1888 Lepcha-Bhutia Grammar book where the town of Singtam was among the ten popular places in Sikkim. A travel book published in early 1940s mention Singtam to be a small river-side town with a Post Office. What was more fascinating was the fact that it was not the present business capital of Singtam that was sought-after marketplace more than half a decades ago but a little heard of Sirubari now angelized Sirwani that was more popular than Singtam and people far across the remote corner of the state would walk down to Sirubari to buy or say exchange “siru” with their belongings.

Prior to the present U-turning around Bhanu Park the original direct route was from the now left little short-cut leading through the narrow stairways of the King George Academy that would meet at the road below PWD office. The road then was very stiff much similar to the one leading the Denzong Cinema Hall to the M.G Marg. Much like the taut road at Gangtok that was in latter years converted to long stairs; the road at Singtam was stretched with a U-turning along the Bhanu Park.

I have often found people of Singtam get surprised by the hill of sands that are found below the forest office next to Goskhan dara. It clearly point forward that the present day Singtam River that flows from Ranipool had its earliest route from the main market road! I was once told, the entrance gate of the then Malaria Hospital at old Hospital Colony (now Shantinagar) was inaugurated by the Chogyal Tashi Namgyal in mid 50s. More than fifty years later now there rest only the dilapidated gate racing with the pace of time. Often I had heard people discussing to break down the gate because their trucks and other vehicles could not pass through it. I would say how many such structures are their inside Sikkim that are associated with the Chogyal dynasty?

Turning back the clock of Singtam-1

Singtam from Google Earth


This is the updated version of the earlier article i wrote about the early days of Singtam...

When I first read a short bio-graphy of Danny Denzongpa in one of the national bollyhood magazine a decade back where he had mentioned he saw a bus for a very first time at Singtam Town, I was very glad to read the name of my hometown. I never found anyone writing about this place that gave Sikkim its first Nepali novelist in Late Ganga Kaptan. Singtam was once a popular centre of oranges and equally for its weekly Friday haat, but today limited to one of the hottest places of Sikkim. Being brought up at the small town of Singtam it was understandable that I would come up with its early history someday. I had heard old folks talk about those pre-merger days in the early 70s when the gathered crowd in Singtam blocked the road near Bhanu Park and stopped on the run Crown Prince in his motor vehicle forcing him back to Gangtok. During that instant the pro-merger activists were caught, made captive and kept at Thakurbari mandir! The town of Singtam also find mentioned in world postal airmail history when in 1935 a series of eight Rocket Mail firing was conducted over the Singtam River. 

To its geographical reach the town of Singtam is located at 27.15° N 88.38° E and has an average elevation of 1396 meters (4580 feet). I still have fresh memories of bullock carts visiting this town till late 80s before I had stepped in the teens. Late evening there used to be rows of bullock carts in front of the today’s Om Himalayan Medical shop. The playgrounds that I have had enjoyed playing crickets are now shopping complexes. Well to some extent we can read out that Singtam too is following the growing demands of the socio-economy changes.

From a small inns bazaar to a business town, the few things that remain frozen in time in Singtam are the old British period Iron Bridge; build in 1929 by Burn and Company Limited, Bridge Builders, Howrah as it is clearly written in its name plate hanging atop of the front and the back side of the bridge and the only motarable tunnel of Sikkim at Toppakhani. When I look at the age old mango trees grown along the road side leading to Singtam Bazaar from the old Iron Bridge it makes me feel nostalgic. I could feel the thoughts of the people who had planted it. We were taught in schools if you want to be remembered for a long time sow a tree, true to its word, those people who first sowed the mango seed were the first to have thought to beautify this then small time river-side inhabitants. These trees are no doubt heritage trees. Reason for giving added emphasis on these trees in this topic is to bring forth my personal views that there are/were talks that all those trees around Singtam Bazaar would be cut down to spread out the size of town and help beautify the town. These heritage trees are part of Singtam history and had make out many ups and downs to its present existence. Destroying those trees means juddering up the past existence of most happening town of the state. I had read in the pages of old Kanchenjunga magazine, in the early 1960s when there was political unrest between India and China in Nathula frontier, for every Indian Army entering and leaving Singtam was distributed free oranges juice at this very particular old bridge.

Even the construction of the Toppakhani tunnel was carried around the same time when this Iron Bridge was put up. I have an interesting account of the Toppakhani tunnel though never recorded in the pages of history but followed from one generation to other. During the first day of the construction of the Toppakhani tunnel in the late 1920s the labourers working at the site had killed a snake most probably a cobra. Call it a mere coincidence that from the very next day the small inn bazaar of Singtam was surrounded with the mysterious disease still remembered by the old folks as “kalo zoro”. Even to this day when those old folks recall that period they say Singtam was a desolated town and a popular phrase related to that endemic was the talk of the state, they would say “even the crows would not stay at Singtam”. The first contractor of the Toppakhani was a Bihari by caste who fled Sikkim after the incident while the latter construction was completed under Palaram Sardar in 1930s. I was told there used to be a song written on Palaram Sardar which I hope someday I shall collect it.

I was brushing up with the old records of the Annual Administration report for the year 1923-24 I was surprised to find a name of one accused Chimi Bhutia from Singtam, who had gone hiding after comiting theft in Sikkim. Those days the cases were under extraction between British India and Sikkim, Chimi Bhutia was caught and handed over to the Sikkim Durbar for trail. The accused was sentenced to six months rigorous imprisonment, thus making him on record the first culprit from Singtam.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Opposition parties in Sikkim unites

United Democratic Front (UDF) is the name of the new party formed on February 15 that has the Opposition parties in Sikkim joining hand together for the forthcoming election. The parties include Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee (SPCC), Sikkim BJP unit, Sikkim State CPIM Committee, Sikkim Himali Rajya Parishad (SHRP) and Sikkim Gorkha Pratantrik Party (SGPP).

pic: Sikkim Express

Monday, February 16, 2009

KAPIL THAPA with Kapil Thapa Fan Club at Delhi

KAPIL THAPA with Kapil Thapa Fan Club at Delhi

Pictured shared by Bishal Rai 'Kirath'


'History repeats itself once as a Tragedy and Second Time as a Farce"

The ultimate re-union of Gorkhas once again in a quest for an identity was dealt with severe torture, hard work, dedication and perseverance.

The integration of Gorkhas dates back to 1835 AD but time and again it failed as a result of catechism.

Thus! in an age of realization an age of Mc Donald and Coke drove all our young Gorkhas into a world of Modernization and of-course into the threshold of a corporate world. By virtue of being a Gorkhas we live as Gorkhas world-wide.

The world of Gorkhas was never invaded neither it was conquered and in future no will date of doing so. Alexander 'The Great' failed, Napoleon III had a signatory agreement, Hitler had all the praises and Joseph Stalin paid the homage not forgetting the British were always in good relation with the Gorkhas.

In the history books Afghanistan, was under the Gorkha control, China was, Burma was the whole of world was, but today when the euphoria of the after-math of Indian- Idol creeps in. The Gorkhas must unite once again. No one will come for unification but as a whole the community must stand by the side of, the Gorkhas.

Kapil Thapa the 'Gorkha' army men will rule and will have to win. We are the conquerors and we will rule again this time once again in the form of a melancholic tune so soothing in the heart of a million Gorkhas world wide. Gorkhas Came! Gorkhas Saw! and the Gorkhas will conquer once again.

Furthermore, to mobilize the cause – Kapil Fan Club, Delhi was formed on Maghay Sangrati, January 14, 2009.

The executive body members are:

Y.K. Shrestha, President

Robert Tamang, Vice President

Deep Lama, Secretary,

Vishal Kirat Rai, Media and Publicity

Nelson Pradhan, Co-ordinator

Kamal Prahdan, Co-ordinator

The Executive body has requested people from every walk of life to support the generous cause.

Also, Kapil Fan Club, Delhi would like to thank Ms. Jyoti Thapa Mani, for her support.

For further details : please contact :

Cold Desert from North Sikkim

Photographed by Subhash Ranjan

Photographer's note

"On my way to Gurudongmar lake the land beyond Thangu, North Sikkim became absolutely desolate with beginning of the Himalayan rain-shadow zone of cold desert that merges with Tibetan plateau. The mountains were painted heavenly with the beautiful tones of colors reaching the altitude of almost 20,000 to 25,000 feet ASL. Surprisingly I could see snow on one the side of the peaks only with local yak population grazing in the open pastures located on the steep slopes.

I present you this peerless landscape for strange biodiversity India carries with its topography."