The Charismatic Figure of Sikkim- Maharaja Sidkeong Namgyal

Sidkeong Trulku  Xth Maharaja of Sikkim Pic. Source Sikkim Archives
Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal the tenth consecrated ruler of Sikkim was born in 1879 and was the eldest son and heir of Maharaja Sri Panch Sir Thutob Namgyal. After attending traditional (monastic) schooling he was admitted to St. Paul's School, Darjeeling and at Pembroke College, Oxford. Sidkeong was admitted to Oxford in 1906 (the year that witnessed the commencement of a modern school at Gangtok) and during his two years’ stay in England he distinguished himself in the corporate life of the Oxford University. After accomplishing his education from Oxford he returned to his realm in 1908.
After his return, Sidkeong was assigned the charge of Forest, Monasteries and Schools which were regarded as the three important departments. During the last phase of Maharaja Sri Panch Sir Thotub Namgyal, Sidkyong show evidence of his proficiency about the state administration. It can be said that the young lad had single handedly ran the administration of Sikkim in lieu of his father Sir Thotub Namgyal who was unable to execute the duty of a king due to poor eye sight. As an heir apparent, Sidkeong made two important covenants. One was the abolition of imprisonment as a penalty for defaults of debts and the other was the record in the Council Proceedings of the ban on settlements of plainsmen.   
After the death of Maharaja Sri Panch Sir Thotub Namgyal, Sidkeong succeeded him on 10th February 1914. His contact with the Western deliberation and conviction made him a secular and liberal in his deeds. Further, Sidkeong became the first bystander from Sikkim to perceive the rapid development in the west. Possibly, he might have also desired to have a similar arrangement in his Kingdom as well. It is reflected from the access of his sister Chuni Wangmo to a modern school. On the contrary of sending the Buddhist children to monastic educational institute Sidkeong sent his sister to attend modern educational institute that itself is possibly the best illustration about his liberalism.
Being greatly engulfed in the Western ideas Sidkeong made an unsuccessful attempt to liquidate landlordism in Sikkim. This idea of the enlightened Maharaja has made him distinct from all his predecessors. In fact, it was the culmination of the western education that he received at Oxford. The lucid philosophy of Europe and America had now made Sidkeong a champion of the peasants back in his kingdom. He possibly had a superior dream to provide a better avenue of income to that brow beaten nucleus of production. But, the cogent idea of him created stern enemies among a large number of landlords. Further, his resilience of independence and forward personality strained relations with the British Political Officer Sir Charles Bell. Amid to all the qualities of an excellent ruler, the reign of Sidkeong Trulku Namgyal did not last long.
In the winters of 1914, this young and open-minded Maharaja had an attack of Jaundice. A British Physician from Calcutta (now Kolkata) was called to the palace to take care of him. “While somewhat indisposed, a British Physician from Bengal administered a heavy transfusion of brandy and put him under a number of blankets; at the same time a fire was kept beneath the bed. Death came in the hour. Thus, ended prematurely a promising career in most suspicious circumstances”   (Sikkim-A Concise Chronicle P 22) But, even in such a short period of ten months, Maharaja Sidkeyong Namgyal has tried to execute a commendable job for the betterment of his subjects. As any other charming characters of History he also had to battle with the adversaries which were prevalent within his administration. Thus, the most charismatic figure of the Sikkimese history had to meet an untimed bereavement at the young age of 35.
A part from a good son and a great ruler, Sidkeong was a polyglot as well. He was well versed in many languages like Chinese, English, Hindi, Nepali, Lepcha and Tibetan. It is to be noted here that in 1903 Sidkeong led the Sikkimese representatives at the Delhi Durbar of Lord Curzon which eventually broke the political isolation of the Himalayan Kingdom. In 1911, Shree Panch Maharaj Kumar Sidkeong Trulku Namgyal was conferred the covetous Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) by the British Indian Government. In 1913, he was granted the honorary title of Lieutenant. After his accession to the throne of Sikkim in 1914 he take pleasure in the title of Lieutenant His Highness Shree Panch Sidkeong Trulku Namgyal, Maharaja Chogyal of Sikkim, CIE.  

Sikkim at the Delhi Durbar of 1903

Photograph of one of the Sikkim tents at the Delhi Durbar in 1903. 
The earlier Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim was a secluded one until it made her contacts with the British East India Company. The Anglo- Gurkha war has provided her a bigger platform to maintain a cordial relation with the British. Though, she pleased the East India Company by transferring the Hilly tracts (that also includes plains of south of Teesta) of Darjeeling in 1935, she was frequently victimized by the mercantile policies of the Company. The whole reign of Maharaja Sir Thotub Namgyal can be regarded as a period of “Dissatisfaction” in Anglo-Sikkim Relations. The appointment of Political Officer in Sikkim was indeed a new measure taken up by the British Indian Government to maintain a status-quo at the buffer zone; on the contrary, it led the British Indian Government to have an Upper Hand in the Administration of Sikkim. She was kept in a ‘Political Seclusion’ by the British Political Officer, who designated himself as the de-facto ruler of the Kingdom.
It can be said that Sikkim had broken its political slumber only after attending the Delhi Durbar of 1903. The Durbar was an event organized by the then Viceroy of India Lord Curzon, (1898-1905). The main motive for the grand ceremony was to celebrate the coronation of newly crowned King Edward VII who was declared Emperor of India on New Year’s Day, 1903.
The programme of events lasted over 10 days. It began with the grand opening procession on 29th December, where the Viceroy, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, other British VIPs and Indian Princes paraded through the streets of Delhi on elephants.
Sikkim tents at the Delhi Durbar, 1903. A Sketch of  Beryl White
The ruler of Sikkim, Sir Thotub Namgyal was also invited in the event to attend the Grand Celebration. The Maharaja contentedly accepted the invitation, and deputed his son and successor, Sidkyong Trulku, the Maharaj-Kumar, to be his representative. The native Ruling chiefs were allotted camping sites along with the others Sikkim also got a place to build its camp to be the witness of the huge Extravaganza. The whole of India was then delighted; Sikkim also got a chance to be a part of it.
The Sikkimese tents were delightfully picturesque and unusual, made after Tibetan fashion with an elaborate design in appliqué cloth of many colours on the roofs, while the sides were decorated with the eight lucky signs: The Wheel of Life; the Conch Shell, or Trumpet of Victory; the Umbrella; the Victorious Banner; the Golden Fish; the Lucky Diagram; the Lotus; and the Vase: so constantly reproduced in Buddhist ornamentation. The camp attracted many visitors, amongst them Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. In the absence of the Maharaja, the Maharaj-Kumar was allowed to represent his father and was accorded his salute of fifteen guns, Cavalry escort, and military guard on the camp. He also took his place in all the great State functions, riding an extremely fine elephant lent for the occasion by the Betiah Raj, in the Chiefs’ Procession, beside the Mahraja of Cooch Behar, and presenting his address to the King-Emperor through the Viceroy at the great Durbar.
The speech of Maharaj Kumar Sidkyong Trulku was very distinguishing  : ‘May His Majesty King Edward VII, from the time of occupation of this Golden Throne, exercise power over all these worlds; may be live for thousands of cycles and ever sustain all living creatures in joy and happiness.’ 
It was the Kumar’s first attempt at playing host to a number of European guests, and he did it very nicely with Mrs. White’s help, looking carefully after the comfort of the eight or ten guests staying in the camp and always delighted to welcome people to lunch or dinner. He was most appreciative of any assistance we could give him, and constantly said he would have been quite unable to carry out any of his arrangements alone.’
The Sikkimese representatives headed by the heir apparent to the throne Sidgyong Trulku reached Delhi to attend the celebration on December 16th 1902 in a special train. It is to be noted here that the delegation had to board itself from the Siliguri Junction to reach Delhi. They were also accompanied by the Bhutanese representatives. According to Beryl White who also prepares a sketch of the Sikkimese Tents during the event-The Sikkimese camp is horse shoe shaped, with a round grass centre. On the right entrance are the tents for the guests. The left side is wholly Tibetan in design and material. A row of tall masts with prayers printed on red, green and blue cloth lead to the entrance of a large courtyard formed of Tibetan cloth, emblazoned with the emblems of good luck, interlaced circles being conspicuous. 
The centre of the court yard is occupied by the same signs worked in flowering plants, while the walls are adorned with ancient portraits of saints painted on large banners.
The main room is surmounted by a roof literally covered with conventional signs in which the head and hands of the protecting Sikkim demons are conspicuous, while eight emblems of happiness are worked in colours on four of the front tents and four of the back. 
 The interior displays a complete Lama altar, with magnificent specimens of ecclesiastical work in gold and silver plate.
On the walls are ancient specimens of embroidered priestly robes, surmounted by unique aprons and carved human bones, with a magnificent deep fringe of deep embroidered silk; while a canopy of silk covers the space where the visitors are received.
Scattered about are quaint swords, handsome rings, enormous trumpets, and various curios. A covered way leads to the dining room, where the Kumar, who talks English, takes his meals with his guests.
The interior is draped plainly in scarlet, but the outside of the tent is also covered with Tibetan insignia. The whole has been designed by and carried out under the immediate supervision of the Kumar. It took some months to complete. Beyond is another smaller Tibetan enclosure for purely business purposes. 
This is the first occasion on which a complete Tibetan camp has been seen in the plains of India. The elephant which carried the Kumar is a magnificent tusker, one of the finest in Delhi, while the howdah and trappings are wholly of gold-plate embroidery.’ 

 Information about the events in the Delhi Durbar of 1903 and Photographs are taken from