Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sanga Choling, lamas and khadas….the confusion continues

There has always been a debate about the oldest monastery in Sikkim and I come across certain general knowledge books based on Sikkim depicting Dubdi as the oldest.  I do not know how far I am correct but the mother of all books on Sikkim History, The Gazetteer of Sikhim written by HH Rishley and published from Calcutta in 1894 writes Sanga Chelling (meaning The place of secret spells) Monastery near Pelling was build in 1697. While Dubdi (meaning The Hermit's cell) Monastery near Yuksom was build in 1701.

I believe in case of Sanga Choling and Dubdi issue, it was in later years that the original Sanga Choling monastery got burned and was reconstructed in 1965. The confusion started here when most of the writers wrote their work as Dubdi was the first monastery of Sikkim. When an actual building is removed (here burned) as in case of Sanga Choling how correct are we to replace its original construction years. The State Government of Sikkim is trying their best to preserve the cultural heritage of Sikkim in protecting and preserving the ancient Sikkim but are we thinking about the Chumbi Palace that was once part of Sikkim but now in Tibet.

Interesting narration finds place inside the book written by Rishley more than a century back that defines the differences of what we call it gompas or mere a monastery.  HH Rishley writes there are three types of so-called monasteries in and around Sikkim, that includes the rock caves hermitage, the gompa are found in remote and solitary places while the latter so-called gompas are merely temples with one or more priests engaged in ministering to the religious wants of the villagers. To a layman every person wearing a red and yellow robe is a “lama” which is entirely wrong. I too did the same mistake. It was later on I was told that in a monastic compounds three different types of people resides. They include students and scholars that are usually referred as monks or the ‘trapas’ and their teachers the “Lamas”.  Similarly head lama or the senior lama is called the “Rinpopche”.

There is another confusion among us I do like to have a small talk. I have often witnessed the mistake we usually do when we use the khadas. It was during my Weekend Review days we used to have long discussions on different topics related to culture and traditions of Sikkim. In one of the sessions we talked about the khadas. The khadas are usually of two types the printed one and the non printed one. We were than told that the printed khadas were offered on happy festive occasion i.e. on marriage, birthday, greetings and others while the non printed khadas on non festive. I do not know how correct I am but I do believe that offering of the khadas does vary from places to places, peoples to peoples and customs to customs.