Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pandam Garhi surfaces stone inscription

A stone tablet found at Pandam Garhi

Pandam Garhi is one such place that had always fascinated me. Several stories stay behind the backdrop of its origin that had been drawing interest among the common man since ages. I had heard few war narrative related to the Pandam Garhi (fort) and Teen Jhurrey fort where the armies from opposite camp used to throw round river stone towards each other. This age old method of throwing stone are more of legends webbed in stories transferred from one generation to another. I am told that people discovered rusted arrows, cannon balls and a ‘jhatoa’ used for grinding grains and other objects in recent years by the cattle grazers and by people moving to the jungle in search of woods.

But this summer the discovery that was found underneath the shifted rock boulders and muddy debris of Pandam Garhi have excited the local people out there. Stone tablets, pottery pieces and few other bits and pieces of history related to the region were found by the locals at the recent renovation of the legendary Pandam Garhi wall. Two inscribed stone tablets were found that could not be deciphered by the locals. Also found from the site were broken pieces of pottery materials and more than half a dozen round river stone used for throwing at the enemies. Above all one more interesting item was found underneath the stones, the local people had collected few burned blackened charcoal pieces.

The legendary ruined wall at Pandam is 16 km up-hill climb from Rangpo. Never in the pages of a history book do we come across its talk about when it was build or how it was constructed at the top of the hill. Over the years many theories had evolved regarding its origin. Some theorists associate the fort with some Lepcha legends while there are few who disagree to it and have their own adage. They make us believe it was one of the Chogyals who constructed it to stop the approaching Bhutanese army from entering Sikkim. The last theory to add up already baffled and made controversial says it was one of Gurkha General from Nepal who constructed the fort along with the Kalika Mandir also called Nishani Mandir just below it. With each theory making questions over my mind I decided to have my second trek to the Pandam Garhi. I had with me few friends, some canned foods, few bottles of water, few photographs from my last visit and lots of excitement to carry my instinct towards the steep valley climb.

I do not know how other feels about the origin of the name “Pandam” but what I had learnt about the naming of this place is related to one of the most contentious episode in Sikkim royal history. Pende Ongmu, the half-sister of Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal, the third Chogyal of Sikkim had successfully deliberated the murder of the Chogyal at Rabdanste and had gone hiding. She is believed to have been found at the fort of Pandam as such the name of the place is called Pendem after Pende Ongmu who was later taken to Namchi where she was put to death. The more popular name Pandam of today could be the angelized name of Pendem.