Showing posts with label sikkim history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sikkim history. Show all posts

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Existence of the Devi lives on at Pandam Garhi Mandir

On May 8, 2020 the Sikkim state cabinet meeting sanctioned different funds through different government departments and among these sanctioned list was an approval and sanction of Rs.6383.00 lakhs (Rupees sixty-three crores and eighty-three lakhs only) for the construction of Pilgrimage Centre with 54 feet high statue of Nishani Kali Devi at Central Pandam, East Sikkim under Civil and Tourism Department.
Definitely this project will help the region grow for the better prospect in tourism. The visitors who look for new destinations will appreciate the natural beauty around the mandir. Rightly, the panoramic beauty of hills across will capture the exquisiteness of the nature. 

I have visited this place four times and this mandir falls on the way to the historic Pandam Garhi ruins. We had always talked about Garhi ruins but stories related to Kali Mandir or the Pandam Garhi Mandir had been limited to oral rendition and followed from one generation to another. These stories are events and collection of anecdotes that had made this Mandir grow stronger from one corner of the state to another and even beyond that. These stories are amazing and shelter self-belief to those who follow Devi and her auspicious presence.
Old folks of Pandam say, they had heard from their elders, Devi used to visit their hills most often and those happenings were much earlier than the stories of Damodar Parrhey’s legend. Those folks do remember the people who had seen Devi or had felt the presence of her. Those villagers had been worshiping Devi Kali since ages and the presence of the temple above the village Karmithang is as old as its first human settlement around that region. Not only have the locals, the worshipers on neighbouring states too have firm belief upon the charishma of the Kali.
I have heard different accounts related to Devi and her surroundings from RP Bhandari, a man on his eight decades of life. Some of the stories had lived-up since ages and few stories were recent ones. In one such incident – a group of men was moving at the forest near the mandir when they came across a small girl. One of them had mistakenly made fun of the girl. Thereafter he got ill and had blood vomiting. Upon knowing that they had annoyed Devi; he and his family went to the mandir that same evening and asked for forgiveness. He recovered from his illness after that.
Kali Devi Mandir - 2005
Another story says, once there was a forest fire. The fire was big and when it was about to approach the mandir premises, all of a sudden there was a rainfall around on the bright sunny day and the fire was put off. Surprisingly, the rain too stopped, added the old man. There are various incidents of people visiting this mandir from far places when their child had speech disorder and getting it recovered. Incidents where people had informed of coming across a tiger at the mandir make the place more mysterious.
RP Bhandari said, he had been visiting the mandir with his grandfather since his childhood and they used to worship the tree out-there. Upon asking why he was worshiping the tree, his grandfather would say, we had been doing this since ages and worshiping this tree would bring fortune to our area and no ill effect would occur, remembers Bhandari. Devi was worshiped in the form of a tree and the idol of Kali kept later, I believe.
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Religious rituals and festivals are regularly performed at the Kali Mandir. Just below the mandir is a small water source that comes out from the muddy walls. The most famous oral narrative among the villagers says, popular warrior from Nepal, Damodar Pahrey with his more popular name Damodar Pande after having war with Sikkim had reached this place of Pandam. He himself was a worshipper of Devi Kali. The land then was very dry and he had mysteriously pushed his finger into the wall and water flowed from it from no-where. Even to this day, the water still flows and had not dried up. It is said he had washed his sword on that water. The story seems hard to believe in this 21st century but these are legends and people talked about it to this day. Damodar Pahrey was a mysterious person, I have read in one of the book he was carried on a counch (sankha) from Kuerseong to Nepal. This was just to relate his mystery. We shall talk about those various flying counch some other day. The chronology of Sikkim history mentions the presence of Nepal army along with Damodar Parhey in 1788-89.
An interesting anecdote shared by Arun Bhandari, son of RP Bhandari, he told me they never had any problem of water whenever they organised Maha Puran at the Devi Mandir. For all those seven to nine days they never had to carry water. But when there was construction works inside the mandir, the source of water would be very less that they had to be carried from nearby sources. 
The historic Pandam Garhi ruin is some 10-15 minutes’ walk from the Kali Devi mandir. We have various accounts claiming to have built the Garhi but nothing is correctly found. My small mind shifts to the discoveries that happened in 2009. During the repairing of the walls and the construction of walking stairs, the workers underneath the shifted rock boulders and muddy debris found cannon balls like round river stones, pottery pieces, a ‘jhatoa’ used for grinding grains, stone tablets written in ranjana lipi, burned blackened charcoal pieces and others. This finding was simply amazing but in the last eleven years nothing has been done about it. The carbon dating of pottery pieces and those burned charcoal could re-write the story of this Garhi. What was the stone tablets doing there? Many questions arise?
There are tales about the war between the armies of Pandam Garhi and the Namthang Garhi. They used to throw cannon balls like stones across each other and it is believed that few busted walls found to this day are said to be by the strength of those stones thrown from Namthang Garhi. Though hard to believe since the distance between the two garhi is far and wide, even more thought provoking is to imagine on the subject of the weapon technology of couple of hundred years back.

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 hostile episode in Sikkim’s 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 along with the physician who was her partner in crime; as such the name of the place was 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. The villagers do agree, raja-rani was found hiding at Garhi and they were caught!
Published in Sikkim Express - 17.05.2020

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.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interview of the week: "My interest on History of my state is........ a sagacity of being a Sikkimese." : Rajen Upadhaya

                     Interview of the week

Meet Rajen Upadhaya, History Lecturer, Namchi Government College. Known among media for his article of bygone days of  Sikkim in nepali newspaper ‘Samay Dainik’, he is also a popular blogger. 

Ø  Tell us about yourself.
I was born on 3rd of December 1981 to Mr. Krishna Prasad Upadhyay and Mrs. Kaushila Devi Upadhyay at Tareythang village in East Sikkim. I attended my basic education at Manpur Dongrong Primary School situated at far flung East Sikkim, thence, run by a village Committee. I did my 12th from Ranipool Sr. Secondary School now known as Brihaspati Parsai Sr. Sec. School. Completed my graduation with Honours in History from Sikkim Govt. College Tadong in 2002 and accomplished my M.A. in History and Archaeology from University of Pune in 2004. Completed M.Phil from Madurai Kamaraj University in 2008 and currently pursuing my PhD from Kumaun University, Nainital, Uttarakhand. The specialization of my Doctoral research is Peasant Resistance in Sikkim during World Wars.

Ø  You are a history lecturer at Namchi Government College, share us your experiences.
I joined Namchi Govt. College as a young lad of 23. I was immature as compare to my seniors who had enough experience in this regard. Though, teaching is a profession of my father therefore, to teach the College student was not a challenging task for me. Yet, due to my age it was quite difficult to handle the students who were of an analogous age. But, I really had a great time with the students of NBU. I have been witnessing a change; I must say a substantial change among those students and the new ones. The former were carefree and blithe whereas, the new ones are very curious to understand something.

Ø  Your interest lies in Sikkim History, any specific reason?
I was a student of Ancient India and I still have a huge love to this branch of my subject. After my MA I began to study this very subject in a much broader manner to pursue PhD. But, as an exigency of time I had to come to Sikkim to work therefore, I could not continue my studies in Ancient India. After spending nearly one year here I thought of going through the History of Sikkim. Initially, I find its history a weird but, later on, I got allured towards it. Well, the specific reason to have my interest on History of my state is the sense of belongingness and a sagacity of being a Sikkimese.
Ø  Which period of Sikkim History attracts you the most and why?
Sikkimese History has many concealed and tacit parts. Its ancient part is totally based on mythology and for a student of History it is definitely a challenging task to remove myths from the reality. Further, our history is greatly attached with the people and their tradition. Therefore, I have chosen a period that has something we called as evidence in a strict historical terminology. The fascinating part of our history for me is resistance of the peasants against the tyrannical feudal set up. My ancestors too belong to this stratum of the Sikkimese society and I had often listened since my childhood about the prevalence of Kalo Bhari, Jharlangi, Theki Bethi, Ghar Lauri, Kuruwa, and other evils. Since those days I had a strong resentment against the feudal system of Sikkim, which I prefer to call as Himalayan Frontier Feudalism. The stipulation for using this term against Sikkimese feudalism is its distinctiveness and idiosyncratic nature from other feudal set ups prevalent in the Indian plains and neighbouring country of Nepal.
Ø  If you are given an opportunity to meet any of the personalities of Sikkim History, whom will you choose and why?
Wish I could go back to their times and meet them. There are many figures of our times of yore that I am always eager to meet, to name them His Highness Palden Thondup Namgyal, Her Highness Hope Cooke Namgyal and Mr. Lal Bahadur Basnett. The core rationale for my curiosity to meet them is for their absolute love towards Sikkim and Sikkimese masses. My love for His Highness is always unbroken for the circumstances he had come across to uphold the sovereignty of his Kingdom. I personally feel that his loyalty towards the sovereignty of the erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom is somewhere mistreated after we became a part of the Union.

Ø  Sikkim is a home of Neolithic tools, how old is it?
There are many views concerning the accessibility of the Neolithic tools in Sikkim. Very few researchers have chosen this slice of History for their studies. Scholars like Dr. N.R Banerji and Dr. Janaklal Sharma have accomplished a major task regarding the antiquity of the Neolithic tools they had been able to discover at various sites in Sikkim. Though, their task is a ground-breaking in this matter yet, we cannot ascertain the antiquity of other Neolithic tools until we undertake a major research.

Ø  What is our say about the earliest community that set foot on the land of Sikkim?
It is a common conviction that the Lepchas are the aboriginals of Sikkim and historians, anthropologists, and sociologists have various hypotheses to prove their statements correct. From the studies it is also evident that the Lepchas are the earliest settlers of Sikkim. But, we need to understand which part of Sikkim we are talking about? If we have to believe on the accounts of Henry Francis Buchannan which talks about the extension of Sikkimese frontiers till Islampur and Malda of modern West Bengal in the South and Chumbi valley in the North, in this case, one cannot overrule the idea of the settlement of other tribes along with the Lepchas in Sikkim. Likewise, before the Namgyals, Sikkim did not have a defined area, and there are many evidences of the inhabitation of the tribes like Limboos and Magars in the western part of present Sikkim. Hence, it is quite a tough task for a student of Sikkim History to ascertain the aboriginals of Sikkim in an absolute manner. But, whatever other assumptions may be, for me, the Lepchas are the original inhabitants of Sikkim.   

Ø  Your blog on Sikkim is highly appreciated, how do you see life as a blogger?

Firstly, I would like to thank you for your appreciation about my blog. As a research scholar I had to browse many sites for the collection of articles and other related stuffs. Once I came across with your blog “Proud to be a Sikkimese”, before that, I was unknown about blogging world. My brother insisted me to write and publish some of my articles on a blog. His ideas had greatly inspired me as my students were running short of information in Sikkim History due to its inclusion in their syllabus. Therefore, with a view of providing them little information about the yester years of Sikkim I began to work on my blog “Sikkim: A Look Back View”. I feel good while sharing information on the blog and feels good that it is appreciated.

Ø  Sikkim is today known for its tourism sector. How do you see it in the next twenty years?
The efforts of the State Government for promoting tourism in Sikkim deserve applause. Government is putting all its efforts to make Sikkim a known name in the map of the world by adding new avenues to this sector. Yet, as a student of History, I would like to insist on the Government to turn its attention towards preserving heritage of the forgotten Kingdom which had a distinct history as compare to its neighbouring Kingdoms. If that can be done, Sikkim would be able to drag more tourists that could not only lead to economic prosperity but also gives a better boulevard for all those foreign scholars who are curious to peep the past of Sikkim.

Ø  Your words of advice to the young Sikkimese generations.
Today’s generation is very much like chalk and cheese than what we have come across in our teen age. The ingenuity of our young generation is heavily spoiled by forwarded messages on mobiles and by cyber-centric way of life. Apart from this, there is another section which can be regarded as the vulnerable section of our society who has its inclination towards consumption of drugs. Hence, my advices to them are Say no to drugs and cultivate the habit of study.  

Monday, July 01, 2013

JC White: Father of modern Sikkim - i

I had heard from old folks that there used to be a statue of JC White at the exact place where Jawaharlal Nehru’s statues is present today at Ridge Park near White Hall, Gangtok. Later on during early 70s the statue was removed and replaced with the statue of the first Prime Minister of India. Thereafter JC White’s statue had gone missing until it was again found and kept at Smile Land, near Ranipool. My fantasy with JC White grew with each passing days and I just wanted to know more about his persona. 

John Claude White, a British engineer was send to Sikkim in 1887 and he had handled the situation at the Sikkim–Tibet front peacefully. A year later he was again send to Sikkim as an Assistant Political Officer with British Expeditionary Force. With the defeat of the Tibetans during the 1888-89 conflicts, the power of control towards the small Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim came under British rule. A new post of Political Officer of Sikkim was created, thus making John Claude White, an Administrative head of the land of Sikkim. Prior to his visit to Sikkim, the small Himalayan kingdom lacked many basic modern government arrangements. He was supposed to make a development and make possible stays for the British men to whom Sikkim was of great important with its considered location. In order to stake authority over the State of Sikkim, the then Chogyal was exiled from Gangtok making White the overall In-charge of the State. 
White in his book Sikkim and Bhutan: 21 Years on the North East Frontier 1887-1908 writes, “one of the first things to be done after his arrival in Sikkim was to build a house, the site for which was found in the midst of the jungles around Gangtok”. White’s residence then called Residency (now Raj Bhawan) was completed after 18 months of hard work and difficulties. Here too lies an interesting story that Residency was build higher than the Chogyal’s Palace, could be to show a higher influence White had over Thutob Namgyal, the then Chogyal of Sikkim. The Residency when completed was a major attraction for the Sikkimese people and people would request White to visit their house and wander around. It was this home Anna Balikci–Denzongpa in her article “The British Residency in the Himalayan State of Sikkim: A heritage building restored to its former glory published in Bulletin of Tibetology mentions Sir Basil Gould, Political Officer wrote in his memoirs “The Jewel in the Lotus” as the most attractive middle sized in the whole of India. She further writes, “White is well remembered in Sikkim for having established an administration along with a simple form of law and justice. He built roads, bridges and bunglows, as well as the first schools and hospital. Sikkim prior to late 18th century was hunters and food gatherers writes JR Subba in his book Evaluation of Man and the Modern Society in Sikkim. 
It was only after the last decade of 1890s that JC White initiated the settlement of its own people and the Nepalese people from Nepal to increase the food production of the Sikkim State. Those settlers cleared the forests for food production and even raised state funds from taxation. Those people were also used as manual labours for trade. The British policy of settlement was opposed by the closed ones of the Chogyal but White and his men promoted the settlement. He believed in permanent settlement of the population which could help the state of Sikkim raise revenues. 
Towards the end of the 1890s, Political Officer for Sikkim wrote in his diary about the fantastic goods trade outcome in the trade through Sikkim to Tibet for the British India. The diary extract of the 16th January 1898 states, "The trade for December is very good, amounting to Rs 3, 41,290. This includes a consignment of Gold worth Rs. 16,800- the finest that has been sent in for some years." In Hong Tran’s Chogyal’s Sikkim: Tax, Land & Clan Policies Political Officer it is mentioned JC White with his British’s Land Resettlement Program marked the turning point for land ownership in Sikkim. White had carried out the land settlement without the prior concern of the Chogyal who was then detained in Kalimpong. It was the Chogyal’s koshag (council of 12 Lhopo representatives) with whom White had brought into his plan. 
The outcome of the Britsh Land Settlement showed monasteries would not have any owned lands as stated in past royal deeds of grants. The monasteries were only authorized to “receive gifts and donations of certain villages or blocks, over which they were given religious authority”. The monasteries “did not possess much land”. 

Along with the Nepalese, the merchants from India were also invited to Sikkim to do trading. Messrs Dulichand Sri Lall of Gangtok came to Sikkim in 1887 at the request of the then Political Officer JC White Esqr, C.I.E (Sikkim State Archives, Land Revenue, file 48, Enquiry about debts in Sikkim, 27/v/1912) { Lamas, Shamans and Ancestors: Village Religion in Sikkim- Anna Balikci}

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hope Cooke on Sikkim

Whow!! was the first word that came from my heart. Watching Hope Cooke speak was not more than a dream come true. Being a student of Sikkim History, my passion to know more about my state grows with me with each passing days. Today i am more than happy to see our former Gyalmo speak on our Sikkim. I might be among the first few to have seen this video, so far 14 views has been recorded. Hope my readers too like this video from You Tube.

 The video is produced by Yale University and released on You Tube on June 14, 2013.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Press photo of the King of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal (1971)

Press photo of the King of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, with his Queen Hope Cooke arriving in London. Dated July 1, 1971.---EBAY
Royal Family of Sikkim always fascinates me , it is these photographs that makes me feel closer to my Sikkim. I usually surf around an auction site that sometime gives me a glimpse of my king and my people.  The above photograph was taken in 1971 when Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal and his Gyalmo had arrived at London. The peculiar rarity of this photograph is the way the late Chogyal have grown his beard. Very less photographs is available with the Chogyal having a beard which was prominent in the latter years of his life.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

I do have fond memories of Burung School

I had never thought that someday my passion about understanding Sikkim would have followers and well-wishers across the globe. Just before writing this article I had received an email from Volker from France wondering about my fascination for bringing out things about Sikkim no one ever had given a thought. I was looking for an information with him regarding a person named Robert Godet, a Frenchman who was a writer, photographer, an adventure lover and a family friend to the Royal family of Sikkim who had made several flights to Sikkim in his own small two-seater airplane in the 50s, probably making him the first person to fly across the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim. 
Sometimes my friends call me a wanderer; since I visit different places looking for lost pieces of Sikkim’s past. Sometimes it’s the oral documentation while on few other occasions it’s the materials I get around that keeps me silent. Since last one decade I had been at Singtam, my hometown and doing my own research on Sikkim History but this time around I have moved to a new place with a hope that my work would get a new charter of life and I could continue do what I am expected the most by my readers.

Last week was an eventful one for me; I got my transferred from Burung Primary School now Burung JHS to my new destination Upper Dalapchand Secondary School and in between I had my first television interview aired at Nayuma TV. I am happy to be at Dalapchand, a half hour drive from Rongli Bazaar the place that is the home of Sikkim’s first Post Office, now forgotten in wheel of time.

Just the day I joined at Upper Dalapchand SS, I was told by my new staffs that the name Dalapchand means a flat rock where the travelers heading for Tibet prior since late 1880s would stop to take a rest and to my surprise I could see that rock from the school balcony. I could not hide my smile when I was shown a small path that led to the bamboo bushes and I was told that it was a mule path that had stopped after 1960s.  I feel I am at home and I am sure I shall enjoy my staying out here. But I too cannot forget my staying at Burung, my first posting as a primary school teacher.

After spending six initial years of my teaching life at Burung JHS as a primary teacher I had my share of experience at Burung. It is now more of a memory to be part of Burung School family where I have learnt about different walks of life. I have many unforgettable moments with my students and with my fellow staffs in my staying at Burung. We were eight staffs; Headmaster NT Bhutia followed by other teachers Uttam Shivakoti, Kamal Sharma, M B Tamang, Ganga Hamal, Savitra Dahal, Indira Rizaal and myself.

Among the teaching staffs I am thankful for Burung for giving me an opportunity to come across a friend like Indira Rizaal. She was always a source of encouragement for my work and would read every published article of mine and she did not hesitate to ask if she did not understand anything.  

Still fresh in my mind is making my students participate at State level dancing competition at Nachyo Babari. Those students who had never been to Gangtok and their cultural performances that were limited to school functions performed in front of celebrities like Uttam Pradhan, Kamal Rai and Pema Tsedun and with a packed audience at SDF Bhawan. Thou we did not make any further progress but the joy of my dancer student were enough to make me happy and I felt myself that I have succeeded. I did arrange educational tours for students to Gangtok and Science Centre, Namli in successive years. 

From much memorable moments I have is the football tournament I took my school students at Chuja School and we lost handsomely with nine goals to nil. Our school did not have any playground but I have seen those boys playing football at roads nearby. I wanted them to participate and have fun; I always believe it is important to participate while a win or a loss is always part of a game. 

I have always lived my life at the smile and joy of my students and I am happy I was one of their close friends, someone with whom they did not hesitate to speak off their minds.