Sunday, July 28, 2019

Interview of the week: Singaraj Newar – World War II veteran from Sikkim



He is a 98 years old grandfather. His life is a historic timeline where he had saw the Britishers rule India, had participated at World War II as a soldier of 3/4th Gorkha Rifles, witnessed the Indian Independence, saw Sikkim turn democracy from monarchy. Pau had an opportunity to come across the legend to share his life in his own words. Meet Singraj Newar, a world war veteran from Sang.

1.        Namaste Aja, Please tell us about your parents and your birth place.
Ans: Jojolapa to all. I was born in 1920 in Sang Rabdang Bhansari village to Late Shidhi Raj Pradhan and Late Laxmi Pradhan. I was in my early teen when my father passed away at the age of 55 years. My mother passed away after my retirement. 
2.        How was your childhood?
Ans: I was not fortunate to see a school. My life as a childhood was very difficult. My father passed away leaving five brothers, two sisters and my mother. I was then 13 years old. At my tender age, I had to look after cows at the cow-shed at Burung and Tinek Chisopani. There were 40-50 cows. In the morning we had to collect muhoi and butter and rush to the Sang market and return back with maize-rice, salt and mustard oil. All day long I and my maila daju were herd boys while at the evening we had to gather fodders for the cattles. Sometimes I even had to walk to Gangtok to sell butter. I spend more than ten years of my life in such a way.  
3.        Why did you choose to be an army man?
Ans: My maila daju used to sell butter at Singtam bazaar on ever friday haat. One day, he was told by a plainsman about recruitment of young men in an army. He was told that army men would get a nice salary. My brother after returning from Singtam haat met me and told about his meeting with the plainsmen. The very next day, we handed over the cow-shed responsibility to other and went to meet the plainsman. Me and my daju were barefooted, in a friable half pant and shirt which we had to impress. We met the plainsman and we were taken to Darjeeling where the recruitment was going on. The walk-able route then was through Temi Tarku, Ravangla, Namchi, Jorethang, Bijanbari and it took two days to reach Ghoom, Darjeeling.
Physical fitness test was held at Depa Darra, Ghoom where many of the participants including my maila daju too failed to qualify. Those people was asked to return back home. I was among those selected for the Training Cente at Pathankot. After one month of training, we were directly sent to war at Burma via Assam. We had with us a rifle, bullets and gaiti. My qualification in the army was as a Map Reader 3rd Class.
4.        What experience do you have about the World War II?
Ans: The scene of World War II was very challenging. Bullets flying off so close to your eyes and bombs dropped from the airplane night and day making it worse to survive. I saw many of my unit men die in that war and I too was wounded. One of my enemies’ bullets hit my leg and even to this day I have that scar.
I got enrolled in a 3/4th Gorkha Rifles unit on April 7, 1943 and my salary then was rupees eighteen. There was a strict discipline at the camps. Those army men who had less education or nil were not allowed to ask anything. Once the Commander shouted ‘Go’, we had to march forward and we never knew where we were heading for. For more than a month we travelled at the oceans and were send off to places of Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan.
5.        What are the different medals you have received so far?
Ans: I have received Star Medal (1939-45), Burma Star, War Medal, G.S. Medal with clasp 1945-46 and Independence Medal (1947). After the Indian Independence, some of the Gorkha Unit left for Britain with the Britishers. My Unit was left over in India where I was posted in Jammu and Kashmir borderline for the next seven years.
6.        Did you have other Newar army men in your unit from Sikkim? Can you name few?
Ans: There were Newar friends but today I forgot their names. In my battalion, we had Gurung, Mangar, Rai and Limboo.
7.        How did you spend your life after the retirement from the army?
Ans: I retired from army on September 12, 1958. My age was 36 years then. I was offered job in Sikkim but I decided to do farming. 
8.        Tell us about your family.
Ans: I have five sons (my elder son passed away 14 years back) and three daughters. I had given them good education which I could not get. 
9.        Why had you kept ‘Newar’ as you surname instead of commonly used ‘Pradhan’?
Ans: There is nothing big story behind my name; it was the Britishers who wrote my surname as Newar during the enrolment of my name at the Army Training Centre. We were classified as Hindu-Gorkha and sub class as a Newar.
10.    Any message to the youngsters who wants to join army?
Ans: I would love to see the youngsters joining the army. They get disciplined, have good health and the salary is also good. Joining army is all about making your nation proud. You become a part of a history. And there is no job better than guarding a nation.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

20 days Newa Workshop concluded at Singtam


SINGTAM, JULY 19:  Valediction program on twenty days Newa workshop on Language, Food and Dance ended with joy and enthusiasm. The last day of the program had exhibition of newa food items prepared by the trainees of the workshop. Newa dance and presentation of mementos to the teachers was the other highlight of the day. 


More than twenty six members of newa community from in and around Singtam had registered for the workshop. The program was organised by Newa Bhay Bowneykuti, Singtam.
Laxmi Sakya, Member, Newa Deya Dabu, Tamsipakha, Kathmandu and Yogbir Sakya, Kalimpong were the two teachers for the twenty days long Newa Workshop. Laxmi Sakya taught on preparation of food items while Yogbir Sakya taught newa language.
Distinguished guests present on the occasion included Praveen Pradhan from Rongli Passa, Dr. Sushen Pradhan, Sarad Pradhan and Bikash Pradhan from Sikkim Newa Guthi Youth Affairs, Babita Pradhan, newa teacher from Chujachen SSS and members of Newa Bhay Bowneykuti, Singtam.
The program started with the lightening of a lamp followed by Saraswati Bandana. Binod Pradhan, President, Newa Bhay Bowneykuti, Singtam gave the welcome speech. Report presentation of the workshop was provided by Ajit Pradhan, General Secretary, NBB. Seema Pradhan was the host while Ravi Pradhan gave the vote of thanks. 



The two teachers were offered khadas by LN Pradhan, Advisor, NBB while Binod Pradhan, President, NBB presented the mementos. On the occasion, Anmol Pradhan was presented with 100% Attendance Award. Newa dance was presented by Aadarsh Pradhan, Reshma Pradhan and Tanishka Pradhan. The trainee students from the food learning class exhibited food items prepared by themselves and explained the recipe before the gathered crowd. The food items displayed included Yomari, methi ko jhol, methi aachar, womari, chatamari, choila veg, choila non veg, chicken aachar, egg curry, alu dam, mata aachar, selmari, safu micha and others.

Laxmi Sakya in her speech thanked the members of NBB for their efforts in learning and preserving the Newa Culture. She further said, geographically divided but we share the same culture and that makes our relationship very strong. Yogbir Sakya, Chief Guest of the day too appreciated the efforts of the Newars of Singtam. Language in his word, he said is for the coming generation. Preservation of language and culture makes a community strong and united.


Bikash Pradhan, Coordinator, Newa Language, HRDD and member Sikkim Newa Guthi Youth Affairs said the members of Newa Bhay Bowneykuti, Singtam is preparing to be a complete Newa package. Last winter one month long Newa writing and speaking classes was done and this summer the organisation had moved on with food and dance. This shows a growth and confidence in the group, he further added. Rongli PASSA is the other newa organisation from Rongli that had recently concluded Newa Food learning classes.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

205th Bhanu Jayanti celebrated at Shantinagar

Singtam, July 13 : Ramayan Path, poem recitations and cultural program was the highlight of the 205th Bhanu Jayanti Celebration held at Shantinagar, Singtam. The couple of hour long program was organised by Shantinagar Gaon Sudhar Samiti.
 




The program started with the lightening of lamp and offering of khadas at the wooden frame of Bhanu Bhakta by the guests and members of SGSS. KN Dulal, guest of honour of the day,  a social worker and one of the few individuals who started the celebration of Bhanu Jayanti at Singtam was felicitated on the occasion. Dr. Dwarika Niroula, Chief Guest of the day was also honoured on the occasion. Other distinguished guests included Head Lama of Shantinagar Monastery, KB Chettri, Binod Pradhan, Laxmi Shakya, Deepa Chettri and members of SGSS.

Krishna Chettri, President SGSS gave a welcome speech while Mahesh Dahal was the host of the day. Members of Shantinagar Sai Samiti performed saraswati bandana to start the program. Aditi Pokhrel recited phrases from one of the chapter of Ramayan while Anushka Shankar, Nisu Dulal, Mahesh Dahal and Shital Pradhan recited Nepali poem. Tanishka Pradhan performed a dance on a Nepali folk song. Bhanu Pokhrel played flute and sarangi to entertain the gathered crowds.

Dr. Niroula, Chief Guest in his speech appreciated the efforts of SGSS for organising such event. He further spoked about importance of Nepali language and culture.  Sishir Pradhan, General Secretary SGSS gave the vote of thanks.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Sukunda: Newa`s five elements

(Information by Dipak Shrestha)

Sukunda is a typically traditional Nepali oil lamp made of brass. The front part of this lamp shows a tiny icon of Ganesha, the god of luck and success. In its front is a tiny cup of fixed in the shape of Yoni to put the wick in it. Fixed on the back of the lamp is a fascinating loop handle designed with a five headed serpent (sometimes a mythical dragon or makara) raising head in a very watchful attitude. A small spoon with a nagakanya on top- is generally used for replenishing the oil from the reservoir.The artistic work on this unique oil lamp reflects the remote past of a very famous Buddhist legend. 
The Legend
Long time ago Kathmandu valley was a large lake inhabited by nagas(snakes). In the middle of the lake was a beautifully blooming thousand petalled lotus flame. When Buddhisattwa Mahamanjushree heard all about this, he rushed to the valley all the way from China to pay homage to the flame. The entire valley rang up with the thundering strike of his magic sword on the southern hill of the lake, which drained the entire water from the lake leaving the valley floor open to all. The most famous Buddhist stupa of Nepal locally known as Swayambhubatha is believed to have originated from the same legendary lotus flame. The cut where the water drained out is now known as Kwaina. (Kwaina Ganesh).
It is interesting to note that the word Sukunda, means a beautiful lake in Newari language. The Sukunda story in many ways sounds like an artistic fact in fiction. It is said that the oil reservoir of Sukunda represents the legendary lake and its wide open mouth represents the full-blown thousand petalled lotus and the cup attached to it in which the lamp is lighted the self existent divine lotus flame. The snake hood over the Sukunda and the snake spoon half dipped in its oil reservoir symbolize the nagas (snakes), original inhabitants of the legendary lake. The Yoni lamp cup symbolizes Swayambhu Jyotir-linga meaning the self-existent divine light. The lamp lighted in this yoni-cup symbolizes the great union of Shiva(Swayambhu) and Shakti and Lord Ganesh in front represents great guru who is there to teach one and all about the supreme acts of God and his changeless inner nature. This is one of the reasons why Lord Ganesha is entitled to receive the first worship by his devotees before they begin any ceremony. No socio-religious ceremony in Nepal, big or small, ever starts until Sukunda is lighted and set up at the ceremonial spot.