Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Visit to the Ruined Royal Palace at Tumlong

My outlook towards the Heritage Management Seminar-3
Visit to the Ruined Royal Palace at Tumlong 

The second day of the Two Days Seminar on Strategy for Heritage Management for Sikkim organised by the Cultural Department gave us an opportunity to visit the ruined Royal Palace at Tumlong. I had earlier been to that place couple of years back but still I believed I should go to it since I had few questions in my mind after I had seen an old sketch from a European Journal while surfing at internet on Tumlong. The sketch provided the scene of the Palace from a distant place where a road with two chorten on its upper side is shown while a single chorten lower than the road along with few huts like dwelling place and few people around was clearly framed of that period of ancient Sikkim. It is believed that when Campbell and Hooker were captured they were kept in those hut-like.

I talked about the Tumlong sketch with few of the officials during our short meetings. The only reply I could get from one gentleman was the authenticity of the sketch has a place of debate since the location of the place was sketched by the brother of Hooker who had never visited the place but drew it from his imagination put in the picture by his brother. But somewhere within myself I was not satisfied.

It was also in my mind while on the way that last year during the renovation work there were findings of few war-related objects from the ruins that had added some exciting tidings. Found at the premises of palace ruins was cannon balls, musket balls and an iron gear. These objects could probably be looked upon as a new era of warfare that was brought to the Himalayan land of Sikkim by the British. These materials are presently under the preservation of Archives Department, Gangtok.

As Rabdenste Palace was repeatedly attacked by the Nepal royal army, Tshudpud Namgyal, the than Chogyal of Sikkim shifted his capital from Rabdenste to Tumlong in 1793. Tumlong was the capital of Sikkim till 1884 when Chogyal Thutob Namgyal shifted his capital to present day Gangtok.

A significant breakthrough was also made at the renovation works with the rediscovering of the actual floor beneath the wreckage. According to the people working out there it was informed that the original floor of the Palace was of mud and huge coats of mud had been under covered from different chamber of the wrecked house.

Sir Richard Temple in his Oriental Experience writes: “Darjeeling originally belonged to the Rajah of the native State of Sikkim, and was annexed to the British dominions by reason of his misconduct in imprisoning for several days Dr. Campbell, the British Superintendent of Darjeeling, and Dr. Hooker, the Director of Kew Gardens. In punishment for that offence, this district was taken from him and added to British India.”  It should be noted that this takeover of the lands of Darjeeling happened when Tumlong was still the capital of Sikkim. 

Temple in his account about the Palace at Tumlong fancies it to be a comparatively humble and a picturesque dwelling, situated on a hill, about 5000 feet high which was more of a Winter Palace. He explains during the summer when the rains descend, the king lives in the valley of Chumbi with the permission of the Grand Lama of Tibet. Since Chumbi had a climate not affected by the rainy season; but during the winter he lived at his ‘little palace’ of Tumlong. 

This “little palace” of Tumlong, which now has scattered rubbles all over the places, marks an attempt from the Cultural Department who are making efforts to renovate it. I immediately hurried my exciting feet to the other side of the hill top in search of ‘that road’ (as in the sketch I had seen) that was on the lower side of the hill just below the Royal Palace. But over the last couple of centuries, the road I was looking had vanished and with new topographical positions and the cardamom fields, it was near impossible to compare the two picture of the place. 

But at the end of the day when there were talks between the Government officials and the locals my heart beat grew louder when those people told about the presence of three chorten two on one side and other one below the ruined palace hills. I could not stop myself from smiling; I wished there could be some excavation at this site and who knows we might unfold some hidden facts about our past.