Trade in the Pre-Independent scenario- Sikkim and Darjeeling

The photograph in the inset is once again a long preserved historical document (courtesy the Das Studio Darjeeling) which is shared with me by Mr. Dweep Subba, a student of B.A. III semester of Namchi Government College. This is a photograph of a Sikkimese Carpet Seller probably of 1910's taken at Darjeeling. The person in the photograph is a typical Bhutia or Tibetan as his dress suggests. These traders used to bring carpets from Darjeeling to Sikkim and then they used to send it to Tibet. The British provincial Estate of Darjeeling had then been the centre of trade and commerce of the places like Kalimpong, Kurseong, Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal. Tradesmen from Nepal, Bhutan and many other neighbouring places used to come to Darjeeling to attend the Sunday HAAT (Market) to have their trade dealings. This is to be cited here that they used the Silk Route which connected Kalimpong with Tibet via Sikkim for their trading purpose. The background of the photograph shows one portion of Darjeeling which seems to be comparatively developed in the then scenario. The posters and hoardings written in English suggest that Darjeeling was a pioneering place to amalgamate with the English language. The photograph itself is a testimony to the fact that technological instruments like camera, electricity, and, of course, the system of photo developing marked the advancement of Darjeeling in comparision to other adjacent places.

The Bridge over the Rungeet- The Life-line of Sikkim and neighbouring British Provinces.

This photograph of the old bridge has been shared with me by my student Dweep Subba of B. A. IIIrd Semester (Eng. Hons). The Picture was taken by Das Studio, Darjeeling in the 1880's. The bridge was a life line towards Sikkim during those days. It is to be noted here that Colmon Macauley has also talked about the existence of a similar kind of bridge over River Rungeet between the Kingdom of Sikkim and British province of Darjeeling while he was going to Tibet for a trade mission. Probably this might be the bridge which Macauley had crossed while heading towards Sikkim in the 80's of the 19th century. The bridge was made up of bamboos. It became the main way of transportation of the British when they caught hold of the politics of Sikkim. Probably, via this way only the British came to Sikkim to stabilise the political upheavels poised by the then Sikkimese monarchy. This bridge played a vital role in the treaty of 1861 between Government of Sikkim and British India if it is the same bridge which has been referred upon. In the photograph, we can see a couple of Britishers along with one or two local who might have been the porters to carry their loads towards Sikkim. Certainly, the bridge bears a historical value in the context of Independent Sikkim and its relation with the British India. Das Studio, Darjeeling obviously deserves special sense of gratitude for having preserved such an important photograph and we are greatly indebted to the owners.

Passport to Tibet.....

This Old Passport belongs to Mr. A.D. Moddie of Nainital which is still preserved by him as a sovenir at his Bhim Tal residence Savera. The mandatory options in the passport has been written in three languages viz English, Hindi and Tibetan. This Passport was issued to Mr. Moddie by the Indian Government on 15th September 1957 and it was valid upto 15th of March 1958. On the left side of the passport the detail about the visitor's stay in Tibet is mentioned in all the three above stated languages. From the rubber stamp visible on the passport it can be noticed that before entering Tibet the Passport had to be varified at PANDRA MILE Checkpost.

Old picture of Lama Anden(North Sikkim)

This picture of Lama Anden (North Sikkim) was taken by Mr. A.D. Moddie in 1946 when he scaled the peak for the first time. He was attracted by Sikkim due to his deep interest in the Himalayas. Besides a mountainer Mr. Moddie is a Historian, a Civil Servant, a Coloumnist and a Humanist from the heart. During his conversation with me at his residence, Savera located in Nainital, he described about the road conditions of Sikkim in those days. He also stressed upon the transportation as well as communication problems of those days of his remembrance. He told me that in the later phases of development, the places, the waysides and the households   near the roads got developed and township came into existence.

Old and New Nathu-La…..How different it is now….

This photograph of old Nathu-La was taken by Mr. A.D. Moddie in 1957 when he went to Gyantze in Tibet as an Indian trader. The telegraph post for Tibet installed by the British Indian Government can be seen clearly in the picture. A white stripe behind the telegraph post is the Ghorey Sadak (Horse Road) to Tibet. The snow clad land seen in the picture is Sikkim and the land on which the Ghorey Sadak is visible is Tibet.

The New Picture of Nathu-La is also shared to me by Moddie Shaab(as Mr. A.D. Moddie is popularly known in Nainital).

The first Indian to scale Lama Anden (A mountain peak in North Sikkim)

The first Indian to scale Lama Anden a mountain lays left of Lachung is Mr. A.D. Moddie who is also the first batch IAS of independent India. He scaled this peak in North Sikkim in 1946. Recruited in 1948, Mr. Moddie served as an IAS officer in Bihar’s Madhubani district and later resigned and joined Hindustan Liver. I met Mr. Moddie at his Bhim Tal Cottage at Nainital which once belonged to Col. John who was assigned with the charge of administration of the Kumaun and Garwahl region by the British Government. Mr. Moddie bought the house from Mr. Elgin, the last British Officer of the region in the 60’s of the last century. When I reached at his cottage an old man of 90’s opened the door. He still has the very same charm on his face which he used to have 60 years back. I greeted him and our course of interaction about Sikkim started. Mr. Moddie has shared with me some of his great experiences at Gangtok while going to Lhasa as an Indian trader. He told me that Gangtok was then a small town with few houses at present days M.G. Marg. About the least bothered attitude of the then Indians towards the trans-Himalaya in his book Witnesses to our Times he has written the following lines:-

“No one then bothered about the Trans-Himalayan Central Asia. In due course, after a discussion with Harishwar Dayal (then Indian Political Officer to Sikkim) I found myself posted as a trade agent to Gyantze in Tibet……… I think I got my posting on the strength of two earlier treks and a climb on Lama Anden in Sikkim- all I could show of my meager expertise of Central Asia. But my imagination was full of the old Shangri La, the Silk Route, the early Everest story and the earlier Pundits of the survey of India”.

Regarding the perplex situation that he had to face at Gangtok he writes:-

“As there were only two ways, a trader’s or a pilgrim’s permit, I opted for the former. I wrote to our agent in Gangtok, Sikkim, to arrange a mule and a muleteer for me; I would walk. When I arrived in Gangtok and enquired about the mule arrangement, the Agent prevaricated. He shyly disclosed he had arranged twenty mules. He was taking advantage of a sahib-type, who also knew the Political Officer, Gangtok, to send his mules train in, for greater security, under my leadership. When I met Apa Pant, the P.O. for my permit in English, Hindi and Tibetan, I thought I would amuse him with the story of one mule becoming twenty. Apa Pant saw no humor in it. In serious official style, he advised me to take all twenty mules saying, “One mule no status, twenty mules status”.

Apart from the information which he has written in his book Mr. Moddie shared few valuable information about his meeting with the then Maharaja of Sikkim late Sir Tashi Namgyal. He told me that the late Maharaja was a pious person who had nothing to do with politics and who always kept himself busy in religious paintings. Mr. Moddie still has a great love towards the Himalayas and Sikkim has a special place at his heart. When I asked to take few pictures of him he preferred to take them under the pictures of Sikkim which he had taken during his visit.