Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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?