How cognizant are we to preserve our Heritage?


 We cannot live by History, we cannot ignore it either. It seems that Sikkimese populace will never appreciate this saying. The heritage of our state is always neglected by our people who are acquainted to live in the modern acquisitive world. They have almost forgotten the fact that our roots are somehow connected to our past and we need to preserve them to keep our glory alive. It is the tale of a Foundation of an almost forgotten figure of Sikkimese politics Late Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa, who once had single handedly driven the entire politics of Sikkim. He was not only the first Chief Minister of Democratic Sikkim but can also be regarded as the father of Democracy in Sikkim.
The L.D Kazi Foundation at Gangtok
In the heart of the Capital City and in between the fresh and stunning edifices there lies an old House related to this founding father of Democracy. Situated on the back side of the very famous Bansilal Petrol Pump at the busiest place of Gangtok, the structure is at its brink of decay. In an old signboard it is written as L.D. KAZI FOUNDATION and is locked since a long period. Though, it is situated in the heart of Gangtok none of the enlightened eyes have ever bothered to speak something about this old structure.  It is to be mentioned here that this structure is probably the only part of a set in Sikkim allied to Late Kazi Lhendup Dorjee.
I have seen this construction since my childhood at the very same condition and even today while coming to Namchi I do have a glimpse or twice to this old House. I do not have much information about the year of its construction and about its proprietor, but, I definitely can say that it is related to the First Chief Minister of Sikkim and is totally in an abandon condition. We consider tourism sector as the major source of income in our state and accordingly it has played a vital role for strengthening our State’s economy.  But, what kind of impression the structure is leaving among the eyes of the tourists is another topic for discussion. A place that is associated with the Father of Democracy in Sikkim has now become a rest house for the immigrant Nepali coolies, who are spending their leisure time in listening Lok Dohori on their cell phones.    
Once I have posted a similar article entitled PARADISE LOST on my blog and that too was associated with the conservation of monuments in Sikkim. I should consider myself as the luckiest fellow that I had been able to take some pictures of Rani Khola Bridge at Ranipool. Now a day, the said bridge has been dismantled and nobody objected to this act as they all are adapted in living with the present. In the case of L.D Kazi Foundation too, I am very much sure that this structure will be demolished in a near future and it will be replaced by some modern edifices.
Nepali Coolies in front of the Foundation
The main reason for the abandonment of a place with such historical importance is that our people have developed an attitude of “Nothing is there in Dead Past”. Further, the youths are always busy in gaining political favors from their concerned Political Parties. Similarly, the unemployed people with higher degrees are waiting for their fortunes and the most enlightened section of the society, i.e. the bureaucrats have parallel themselves with the Terminators and finally, the villagers who have nothing to do with this. Under such a situation where people are busy in their own way, places like L D Kazi Foundation, Rani Khola Bridge, Rorathang Mining, Lingtam Dak Bungalow have probably meet an untimed downfall.  
 Being a student and a lover of History, I would like to plea the State Government and the Department to take some strong measures to protect such places. If the Foundation is a private property then the related Department for the conservation of such monuments should provide financial support for its renovation and if it is directly associated with the Department and if the said Department cannot handle these monuments, they should hand them over to some other higher authorities to protect and preserve them. If they will not be protected in time, then our history in the coming years will be almost analogous to those of Jawara tribes of Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Nar Bahadur Bhandari- The Second Chief Minister of Sikkim


Mr. N. B Bhandari being Sworn in as the Chief Minister for  Second time
 in 1985 by then Governor S. K Bhatnagar.  


Mr. Nar Bahadur Bhandari was born on 5th October 1940 at Malbasey Village, Soreng in West Sikkim. Born into a peasant family of late Balaram Bhandari, and Late Chandra Maya Bhandari, Mr. N. B Bhandari was the youngest child. Amid to the poverty of his family, he had his early education at Soreng and accomplished his High School from Namchi. After completing his high School he went to St. Joseph College Darjeeling to complete his Graduation. As a student he took keen interest in Students’ and youths’ welfare and engaged himself in various social and literary activities.
He joined Sikkim Government Service as a teacher at Soreng School and later taught at Chakhung School, Rongli Junior High School, Namchi Senior Secondary School and finally at West Point School, Gangtok. After the protest movement of 1973 (that curtailed the unlimited powers of the Royal House) Mr. Bhandari resigned from his service and joined politics. He along with a few like minded associates like late Durga Prasad Rajalim of Namchi then formed the United Independent Front and became its General Secretary. The main agenda of the party was to protect Sikkim from becoming an integral part of the Indian Union.
The United Independent Front Party of Mr. Bhandari contested the General Election of 1974 which was held on the basis of Universal Adult Franchise for the first time in the democratic history of Sikkim. His party was badly defeated in this election. The year 1975, brought a new era in the history of Sikkim. An independent Himalayan Kingdom ruled by an independent monarch became an integral part of Indian Union. A new Sikkim was born on 16th May 1975 converting the Subjects of Sikkim Chogyal into the citizens of India. Mr. Bhandari along with his associates greatly opposed the decision made by the Sikkim Assembly to amalgamate Sikkim into India. Even after the merger, he was opposing the decision made by the Sikkim Assembly to merge Sikkim. Under this alleged reason, he was arrested under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and was sent to Behrampur Jail by Kazi Lhendup Dorjee’s Government. He spent one year at Behrampur Jail from 1976 to 1977 and after his release, he formed Sikkim Janata Parishad in October 1977.
The Sikkim Janata Parishad took part in the General Election of 1979 and won 16 seats out of 32. With the support of an independent Sangha (Monastic) MLA, Rev. Lachen Gomchen Rimpoche formed his first Government. In May 1984, his Government was dismissed allegedly on ground of corruption charges even having support of the majority in the Assembly. After the dismissal of his Government, Mr. Bhandari formed Sikkim Sangram Parishad and successfully fought the Lok Sabha Election of December 1984. In March 1985, his party contested the Assembly Election under his leadership and came out as victorious by winning 30 out of 32 seats. With this overwhelming victory he became the Chief Minister of Sikkim for the Second time. After becoming the Chief Minister, Mr. Bhandari resigned from his Seat in the Lok Sabha which later went to his wife Mrs. Dil Kumari Bhandari uncontested. His Sikkim Sangram Parishad Party returned to power again in the election of 1989 with a clean sweep. In May 1994, the Government headed by Mr. Nar Bahadur Bhandari lost a vote of confidence in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly which led to his resignation from the Government.
Mr. Bhandari with the 32 MLAs of 1989 Election 
This teacher turned politician was deeply interested in reading and writing. He has many publications to his credit that includes the very famous Hamro Pukar (Our Voice) (1963) which was the first complete Nepali literary journal edited by a natural Sikkimese. Further, Mr. Bhandari also edited Aaja Ko Sikkim (Today’s Sikkim) a bi-weekly and a Nepali literary journal Archana (1973). He has also written Tuhuro ka Bichar Haru (Thoughts of an Orphan) 1988 another remarkable literary work of him is Nar Bahadur Bhandari ka Kehi Rachana Haru (Few Writings of Nar Bahadur Bhandari). For a long time he was the President of Bharatiya Nepali Rastriya Parishad which played an imperative part for the inclusion of Nepali Language in the VIII Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Apart from a literary figure and politician, Mr. Bhandari is a keen lover of sports particularly Football, Volleyball and Badminton and he is one of the best orators in Nepali speaking world. Due to his indefatigable efforts Nepali language received Constitutional Recognition on 20th August 1992. Even today at the age of 71, Mr. Bhandari is still active in the politics of Sikkim.



Glimpse of Royal Weeding of Sikkim


A guest drinking CHANG, a millet beer served in bamboo mugs, at a reception organized by the groom's sisters after the wedding.

The Royal couple being greeted by the Commoners

Hope Cooke dancing with her stepson Tenzing Namgyal


Photographer Marilyn Silverstone at wedding of Crown Prince of Sikkim

The Royal Weeding in its process

Sikkimese Bhutia dancers at the wedding festivities


Tsuklakhang Royal Palace. March 20th, 1963. Guests arriving at the wedding with gifts.


Hope Cooke being prepared for the marriage ceremony

The Royal Couple 

Tsuklakhang Royal Palace. The Maharaja Tashi Namgyal (70), head of State of Sikkim, sits on a 5 foot throne during the wedding.

Tsuklakhang Royal Palace. Reception held after the wedding. A young Sikkimese serving traditional beverages.



 Late Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal with his American Gyalmo Hope Cooke on the Wedding Day



March 18th, 1963. The day before her wedding, Hope Cooke tries on the replica of her wedding dress, which is made out of a golden tissue, in "Mokye" (Sikkimese)




Photographer Marilyn Silverstone in Sikkimese Traditional costume at wedding of the King of Sikkim.

US Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith at the wedding reception. 1963.



Royal Palace of Tsuklakhang. The American Ambassador, Kenneth Galbraith (left), being welcomed by the Maharaja Tashi Namgyal.


All the photographs were taken by Marilyn Silverstone on the day of Royal Weeding on 20th of March 1963. For more information visit http://www.magnumphotos.com. These pictures abide copyright of Marilyn Silverstone.

The Sikkimese Coinage and Turuk Kothi



Turuk Kothi standing with the same pride since ages.
Mr. Hridayendra Pradhan 7th descendant of Lacchmi Das Pradhan .


The Newars have played an imperative role to strengthen the Sikkimese economy during the 19th and 20th century. It is a knowing fact that, after receiving permission from the Sikkimpati Maharaja they started to mint coins in the name of the Sikkimese rulers. Those coins were known as Dheba Paisa and Cheptey Paisa. The picture in today’s post also belongs to the same Newars who are credited for the creation of the Sikkimese coins.It may be mentioned here that the coins of Nepal were in circulation in Tibet and Bhutan before the rise of the Gurkhas in 1768. We do not however, know whether these coins were also in circulation in those days. But, the practice of receiving the Tibetan or Indian coins had never been objected to by the rulers of Sikkim; rather they used to accept revenues in these coins from the people residing in the border areas. (Aspect of Cultural History of Sikkim- Studies in Coinage, Pranab Kumar Bhattacharyya P.25)
Leaving aside the doubtful meanings of the terms Srang and Zho mentioned in the Old Sikkimese Law Book, the minting of the coins of Sikkim seems to have been started by the Newar tradesmen headed by Lacchmi Das Pradhan who were originally given contract for extacting copper from the mines. They were all known as Taksari meaning ‘owner of minting houses’. (ibidP.35)
                                                                                  
Rorathang Copper Mine from where the Taksaris extracted Copper to mint  Coins
Situated 17 Kms away from the South District Head Quarter Namchi the Turuk Kothi has many unique features. The most important among them is that it belongs to the first minter of Sikkim Lacchmi Das Pradhan. This edifice was constructed by him probably after receiving a Land Patta to extract copper from different parts of Sikkim. The historical records of Sikkim provide information that the first Patta to the Nepalese was issued in 1868. Therefore, it is obvious that the Kothi was constructed after receiving the royal order to get a Patta in the name of Lacchmi Das Newar. In this sense, this edifice can be regarded as the oldest construction of Sikkim constructed for the residential purpose. Further, Lacchmi Das was also responsible for bringing the Nepali settlers from Nepal to Sikkim to cultivate the unproductive and barren lands of Sikkim.
Another historical importance of this house is that it had served as a District Head Quarter for many years. The earlier Taksaries later became the Rai Sahibs and served the Sikkimese monarchs as their subordinates. During a brief talk, Hridayendra Pradhan, a 7th descendent of Lachhmi Das Pradhan told me that the edifice also used to have a Settlement House then known as Kuccheri to settle the disputes among the subjects residing in their Estate. Further, the house also had a prison to punish the culprits. But, unfortunately due to the lack of maintenance the Settlement House and Kuccheri were demolished few years back.
The most amazing aspect of the Kothi is that even after the lapse of nearly 142 years, the descendents of Lacchmi Das Pradhan are living in the same house which was constructed by their dynamic ancestor. The present resident of the Kothi, Mr. Hridayendra Pradhan informed me that all the Sikkimese coins which were circulated during the 19th century were minted at the very same spot. For the minting of such coins they used to extract copper from Pacheykhani in East Sikkim and were brought to Turuk to accomplish the task of minting. On the obverse of Doley Paisa (a denomination of Rupee also known as Dheba Paisa or sometimes Dooba Paisa) they struck Shri Shri Shri Sikkim Sarkar in Nepali to give a distinct outlook from the Nepali coins.  
But the coinage of Sikkim had a short life as it was unable to circulate itself in the Gurkha dominion of Nepal due the hurdles imposed on Sikkimese coins by them. To remove such restrictions the Newar traders of Sikkim made their representation to the Prime Minister of Nepal. But, all their efforts went futile as the Nepalese authorities rejected the petition of Newari traders on the ground that “The present pice (Paisa) coin of Sikkim issued to be lesser in weight then that of Nepal.”(ibid pp28-29)
The decision of the Nepali Government proved akin to a last nail on the coffin to the Sikkimese coinage. Though, the dream of the Newari traders to mint a distinct coin for Sikkim had an untimed demise, they occupied reputed chairs under Sikkimese monarchy to execute their services to the Sikkimese Crown and its Subjects.



Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa- First Democratic Chief Minister of Sikkim


Cheif Minister Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa being sworn
in  as the First Chief Minister of Democratic Sikkim by Governor
B.B Lal on 16th May 1975.
The political upheavals of 1940s precipitated into protest movement of 1973 that finally led to the merger of Sikkim into India in 1975. As the political era from 1919 up to 1947 is referred as Gandhian era in the Modern Indian History, the period of 30 years i.e from 1945 up to 1975 can be regarded as Kazian era in the Democratic History of Sikkim. It is because from 1945, late L.D. Kazi single handedly guided the democratic movement of Sikkim till its merger.
Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa was born at Pakyong, East Sikkim in the ancient and noble Khangsarpa family in 1904. As a pious Buddhist he entered the Rumtek monastery at the age of 6 years. His uncle Tshurfuk Lama Rabden Dorjee was the then Head Lama of the famous Rumtek Monastry and young Lhendup became his disciple. During his visit, Sidkeyong Namgyal the then Maharaja of Sikkim took a great liking to the young monk Lhendup and took him to Gangtok, where he placed him in a Tibetan School. At the age of 16 Kazi Lhendup returned to Rumtek monastery and underwent strict training of Lamaism for two years. Thereafter, on accomplishment of his training he succeeded as the Head Lama of Rumtek Monastery and its estates on the retirement of Lama Ugen Tenzing. Kazi Lhendup remained as Head Lama at Rumtek monastery for 8 years, and then left the monastery to work with his brother Kazi Phag Tshering, who founded the Young Mens’ Buddhist Association at Darjeeling. The two Kazi brothers founded a large number of schools in West Sikkim and were instrumental in bringing about a number of social and other reforms.
The 40’s of the last century witnessed a heralding change world wide. A person with the feeling of service to mankind, Kazi Lhendup founded a Political Organization known as Rajya Praja Mandal at his native place at Chakhung in West Sikkim. In 1947 the amalgamation of the three petty political organizations of Sikkim Rajya Praja Mandal, Rajya Praja Sammelan and Praja Sudhar Samaj took place. On 7th December 1947 they held a joint meeting at today’s Palzor Stadium (then Polo Ground) and decided to form a compact body to combat lawless feudalism. The huge gathering of 7th December 1947 led to the birth of first ever political Party of Sikkim known as Sikkim State Congress. Tashi Tshering also popularly known as Tashi Babu of Gangtok was the elected President of Sikkim State Congress.
In 1953, Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa (people of his native place fondly called him Kancha Kazi) became the President of Sikkim State Congress and held that post till 1958. During his President ship he led a delegation to Delhi in 1954 to call on the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Sikkimese had been fighting for political and economic reforms and these were discussed by the delegation with Pandit Nehru, who was deeply impressed by the sincerity of Kazi Lhendup Dorjee. The Indian Prime Minister promised to give assistance for the progress and economic welfare of the Sikkimese populace and assured Government of India’s support towards political reform in Sikkim.
After the foundation of the Sikkim State Congress (which was a pro-peasant party) the pro feudalists founded another political party in 1948 to curb the rising tide of democratic ideas. The new political party was known as Sikkim National Party and it was basically patronized by the palace. The Sikkim State Congress had branded this party as the “party of palace”. Kazi Lhendup Dorjee realizing the futility of the communal approach in the political scenario of Sikkim, and having dear to his heart the welfare of the people, decided to form another party, called the Sikkim National Congress in 1960. His main approach was to form a non-communal party which could give the Sikkimese peace, prosperity and progress. Contesting on this platform his party secured 8 seats out of 18 in the third General Elections of Sikkim in 1963. Kazi Lhendup Dorjee formed the opposition in the Sikkim Council and tried to bring about a feeling of communal harmony.
In the General Election of 1970, Kazi Lhendup Dorjee was appointed as an Executive Councillor and was allotted the portfolio of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and Transport Authority. He, after being realized that Sikkim was an agricultural country, tried to bring about certain reforms to reorganize the economic conditions of the farmers. He was however, removed from the Executive Councillor in 1972. It is to be noted here that the Late Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa had his second wife from Belgium. Her name was Kazini Eliza Maria (also known as Kazini Sahiba of Chakhung) who also had played a vital role in guiding and assisting Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa in his day to day affairs. She was an influential woman who used to do most of the paper works of the party of Kazi from their cozy bungalow at Kalimpong. The General Election of 1973, the last general election based on the notorious parity formulae, did not satisfy the Sikkim National Congress. This led to an agitation in April 1973which ultimately led to the merger of two influential political parties of Sikkim the Janata Congress and Sikkim National Congress giving birth to Sikkim Congress.
In the elections of 1974, Sikkim Congress secured 31 out of 32 seats in the Sikkim Assembly and formed its government based in principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. He became the first Chief Minister elected according to the credence of Democracy. The Sikkim Congress delegates used to attend the annual session of the Indian National Congress. After the merger of Sikkim in 1975 the political party of Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa was also merged with the Indian National Congress at Kamagatamaru Nagar in Chandigarh.
Kazi Lhendup Dorjee with the Chogyal of Sikkim
to sign the Government of Sikkim Act 1974
Personally Kazi Lhendup Dorjee Khangsarpa and Kazini Eliza Maria lost everything -- perhaps not really everything -- because the people of Sikkim still remember him with fondness. The father of democracy in Sikkim was even not allowed to enter Sikkim as he lost the election in 1979 due to some political reasons. The memorable Kazi expired on July 29, 2007. He did not live for personal gains; he lived for the people of Sikkim. “By merging Sikkim with India Kazi Lendhup Dorji Khansarpa of Chakung brought new prosperity to the people of Sikkim, restored their rights and gave India a jewel in the crown studded with the silvery Kanchenjunga”. (M. K Dhar, If not for Him Sikkim would not be a part of India)