Monday, September 16, 2013

Revisiting Dalapchand - Second Part

The legend of Lampokhari and an unknown burial at Aritar

I find myself fortunate that my effort of giving out information of bygone days of our state through this column gets appreciated. I have always considered myself to be a story teller rather than a history digger. I am just a medium through which these stories, anecdotes and essays are shared for the readers to know more about our state of Sikkim. I firmly believe more I share more I hear in return. To add to my last week article on “Revisiting Dalapchand”, today I share an interesting stories of a legend of Lampokhari, thou not recorded in papers but passed on from one generations to another.
BB Rai, my former staff at Dalapchand SS had narrated me couple of interesting stories that he had heard from old folks. It was during time when the place of Dalapchand was occupied by the Britishers after 1888 Sikkim Expedition, the water of Lampokhari was dried up by the British men. The huge landmass was then used to collect rations for the British soldiers and villagers nearby that were dropped from the helicopter. Interestingly nearby to this lake is a place ‘Ration Goan” that is called by the same name even to this day. I looked at the meaning of ration on a dictionary and I found out that it says, “A fixed allowance of food, provisions, etc., especially a statutory one for civilians in time of scarcity or soldiers in time of war”.
Another legend I heard from him was about the story of two huge snakes that used to be found at the lake. It was the British soldiers that had shot down one of the snakes and the other one flew off from the lake creating a massive sound never to be seen thereafter. Thereafter an unknown disease spread out at the place and those British men who shot the snake also died in mysterious circumstances few days later. Some of the British men was buried in a grave-yard at Aritar (which is still found to this date but very little is known about those persons beneath the graves.) while it is also said that another such unknown burial related to the British men who killed the snake at Lampokhari is found near Pedong (West Bengal).

The story seemed an interesting one and I could relate this story with a paragraph from the book “Among the Himalayas” written by LA Waddell (1899). Laurence Austine Waddell was a multifaceted British explorer who had travelled across the Himalayas in 1890s and his account had been published in his book that is well read. Waddell writes about a small hamlet whose meaning in English meant “The Great Flat Stone” (i am told Dalapchand means flat stone and the stone is found even to this date)  was a trader’s halting place.
He points out that the barracks on his visit to that place was left abandoned few weeks back due to the outbreak of bad epidemic of fatal fever that had claimed lives. Waddell was informed by his Tibetan porter about the revenge of the sylvan deities (spirit that lives in or frequents the woods) and the water sprites (nymphs that inhabits or haunts a body of water) for an immoral action committed by the soldiery. 
Other oral - story related to the unknown burial at Aritar say, the burials of four dead bodies are believed to be of soldiers of the British contingent representing the “1904 British expedition to Tibet” led by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Edward Young husband that had entered Tibet via Aritar (Old Silk Route). It is believed that the four soldiers were injured during the massacre and brought to the Health Camp at Aritar Dak Bungalow, where they latter died. A century later, the present burial site was re-constructed into cemetery by the Aritar Panchayat in due honour to those four unknown Britishers.
There are four graves but old folk do talk that there could be a possibility of more people buried under it. It is hard to explain actually what had happened then but the two stories have something in common that sounds very fascinating. I wonder I too feel strange that if the graveyard belongs to those British men that had actually killed the holy snake, will the grave lying by the roadside receive the same attention and curiosity that they are getting right now.