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.
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?