Dzumsa:- An Inimitable organism of Lachung

Lachung village during Summer Pic:
Lachung, situated in the northern district of Sikkim is a beautiful village, secluded from the chaotic city lifestyles has its own exclusivity. Lachung is at an elevation of about 9,600 ft or 3,000 m and at the confluence of the Lachen River and Lachung Rivers, tributaries of the River Teesta. The word Lachung means "small pass". There was a period when this place was not opened to the tourists due to its traditional and customary importance. But, in the recent period, Lachung has been made available to them to explore the culture and custom of the indigenous. It will not be wrong to argue that, Lachung, the place of mystic mountains is a de-facto Shangri-La. Before the annexation of Tibet in 1950, Lachung was a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet, after which it was closed down. Lachung has been described as the "most picturesque village of Sikkim" by British explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker  in his famous work, The Himalayan Journal. 

Lachung Pipon with his Horse Pic:Dr. Alice S. Kandell 1971 May
Lachung Pipon with Children Pic:Dr. Alice S Kandell 1971 May
Approximating its exquisiteness, the village has atypical hamlet institution known as Dzumsa. Dzumsa is a traditional administrative body of the villages of Lachen and Lachung  in North Sikkim. It is a self-government system where a headman, known as the 'Pipon', is elected and the community where all the disputes are settled in a democratic manner. The system of governance is traditional and follows the tribal social organizational position which is entirely different, unique and to some extent more democratic than the Panchayati Raj institution prevalent in other districts of Sikkim. The traditional village level organisation consists of the elders of every household of the village including women and Lamas. It resembles some features of the village governance prevalent in the Vedic Age known as Sabha and Samiti. Two persons are elected from amongst the members of the Dzumsa as the Pipons. They are assisted in their daily affairs by the Lamas known as Chutimpas. The Pipons have wide powers and functions in accordance with the customary laws. The Dzumsa conferred verdict for all the cases including major ones in the villages of Lachen and Lachung. It is important to mention here that, the term of the office of Dzumsa is fixed for one year and after accomplishing its term the office has to be dissolved and a fresh election is to be conducted for the smoother functioning of the village institution.
Gyel Pe Letsen Chobgyal is a Committee comprised of eighteen senior members of Lachung Valley including five monastery representatives.  The committee takes charges after the completion of the term of the elected Pipons. They remained active and execute most of the duties, earlier executed by the elected Pipons until the new Pipon is elected. This system of self-governance was established during the first half of the 19th century in order to provide structure and solidity for societies and their activities. Even after the merger of Sikkim with India the traditional system of Dzumsa is still prevalent in North Sikkim.

Tax Receipts of Feudal Sikkim collected at Chota Singtam

A tax receipt of 1922
A tax receipt after the abolition of Kazi and Thikadarism
Document plays a vital role for the construction of History; devoid of it, history tastes more story than a factual account. While undertaking field survey, I had been able to gather few documents related to the monarchical Sikkim which are not only rare but are atypical in their own ways. These peasant related documents are not available in any of the collections or in achieve of the State of Sikkim. The documents posted here belong to one Nar Dhoj Limboo of Rabitar Namchi, whose family was shifted to Chota Singtam in East Sikkim during pre Second World War period. These days the family of the said person is residing at the same village of Chota Singtam where Nar Dhoj Limboo found asylum against the recurrent feudal pressure. The once exiled family of Namchi has preserved many documents related to the feudal Sikkim that provide a broader space for the peasants’ history of Sikkim to dwell in. The oldest document which is maintained by the family of Mr. Harka Bahadur Limboo aka Khukurey Bajey of Chota Singtam, East Sikkim belonged to the year 1922. This document is a tax receipt paid by his father Nar Dhoj to the Mandal Kul Bahadur Chettri of Sadam Ilakha on 31st December 1922. Likewise, one can notice such proof of payments of the subsequent years till 1936 before they got shifted to Chota Singtam. The striking features of such receipts are the utilization of personal seals of the Thikadars by the village Mandals instead of the Lal Mohur or Royal Seals. The position and status of the Thikadars and the Kazis in the feudalistic Sikkim are evident from the use of such personal Seals. The Thikadar of Sadam Ilakha used to be a Nepali, who was a Newar by caste. Therefore, their seals bear an icon of a half moon (Ardha Chandra) and Nepali remark of Shree. But, there is a gradual change in the use of such seals. In a receipt issued by Mandal Wangdu Lepcha of Sadam village to the same person on 31st December 1932 bears mark of a rubber round seal that inscribes Moti Chand Pradhan, Turuk Ilakha Sikkim. Again, some of the receipts of the 50’s and 60’s have the earlier features.

A receipt of the membership fee of Sikkim State Congress
Tax receipt of 1933 (post World War I and Pre World War II)
The most important document maintained by Mr. Harka Bahadur Limboo is indeed the membership certificate of the Sikkim National Congress. The membership fee to the earliest peasant organization of Sikkim was made by a person named Man Bahadur Limboo, possibly, one of the brothers of Nar Dhoj Limboo. The receipt confirms that the latter made a payment of 50 Paise (Aath Anna) to secure membership of the said organization. It also bears signature of the Joint Secretary of the Sikkim State Congress (probably of Namchi District) Mr. Kali Prasad Rai. Further, many receipts of Kuts and Adhia methods of revenue assessment are also preserved by him.

The information about the family of Nar Dhoj Limboo and the documents were acquired during field survey on 21st January 2012

Nga Dak Monastery once a Palace of Pende Ongmoo

Nga-Dak Monastery at Namchi

Nga Dak Monastery is situated 2 Kms above Namchi that offers substantiation about the early Namgyals in a most voluminous manner. It was primarily constructed as a palace for the most disastrous Princess of Sikkim Pende Ongmo (Pendi Wangmoo) by King Chagdor Namgyal (Tensung Namgyal?) in or around 1700 AD. This edifice has tolerated two major jolts in the recent years and amidst nudges, the structure is yet standing and updating the times of yore of the early Sikkim in general and the Namgyals in particular. Nga Dak is a Tibetan word that corresponds to “promise”. Apart from abhorrence, the monastery also symbolises a struggle for supremacy between Princess Pende Ongmoo and Chagdor Namgyal that took place in the 2nd decade of the 18th century. 

King Chagdor Namgyal succeeded his father Tensung Namgyal at the age of 14 in 1700 AD. Soon after his succession, trouble arose between him and his half sister Pendi Ongmoo, who claimed that she was entitled to the throne. Pendi Ongmoo, whose mother was a Bhutanese, approached her maternal relatives for help and invited Bhutanese force to attack Sikkim to evict her brother. As a sequel to this, the Bhutanese attacked Rhabdentse, the then Capital of Sikkim and the areas adjoining to the Capital remained under Bhutanese for more than seven years. The young King was rescued by Yugthing Teshi, a loyal Councillor who took him to Lhasa via Elam and Walong in Nepal. The King remained in Tibet for eight years leaving everything rampant in his Kingdom.

Room where Pende Ongmoo was executed 
Chagdor returned to Sikkim accompanied by a Tibetan named Jigmed Pao and began to consolidate his position in Sikkim by driving out the Bhutanese elements from Sikkimese territories. Under the guidance of Lama Jigmed Pao, Chagdor accomplished the construction of Pemiongchi monastery, one of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Sikkim. The monastery consisted of 108 monks including the Raja himself who was an ardent Buddhist. The most significant works of Chagdor Namgyal include Changa-Yig, a book on monastic discipline, Rong-Chham, a religious dance in the honour of the Takpoo or war like demons and he is also credited of the designing of Lepcha alphabets.

An old wooden printing system preserved at Nga Dag 
Pendi Ongmoo, the King’s half sister however, was not solaced and the anomaly between them continued and culminated into a crisis. She conspired with a Tibetan physician to kill the King and to secure her position on the Sikkimese throne. During a visit to Ralong hot spring in 1717, Pende Ongmoo insisted the physician to open the main artery of the King which eventually caused the death of Chagdor Namgyal. After the death of the King, a force was sent to Namchi to execute the princess. The doctor was granted a fierce death by the Sikkimese ministers. Likewise Pende Ongmoo was put to death with a silk scarf inside a room of the Nga Dak palace.The place is also known as Pende Lhaptse and it needs a serious attention of the concerned officials for its preservation. 

Democracy Through Traditional Practices- Study on Pang Lhabsol

Ugen Bhutia
Deepmoni Gogoi
From times immemorial, perhaps after the birth of so called “Gods and religion” human civilization has fought and is still fighting with each other to show their faith towards their God and religion. This included escalation of one’s faith and domination and exploitation of others. However, adoption of democracy in most of the countries gave birth to the hope of peaceful settlements of conflicting issues. India has adapted and turned out to be the largest democracy in spite of its multidimensional ethnic diversity for building peace in its diverse socio-cultural structure. But, the reality remains different. Today, despite of many policies and programs, thousands of intellectual debates, India suffers from ethnic conflicts and cultural imbalance. This is  mainly due to lack of awareness of the grass root level problems and lack of proper plans for integration and deprivation of participation of different cultures together, which could have improved the status of democracy in the nation.
Statue of Unity: Lepcha King Thi kong Tek and Khey Bumsa
Among the North-Eastern states of the country, Sikkim in particular, can be a model for integrated democratic principle, cultural peace and assimilative attitude through its unique cultural practices. Sikkim through its cultural practices proves that the ideology of democracy should not be learnt from theories and academic writings alone. Rather motto of democracy “of the people, by the people, for the people” is inherent in our own rich heritage and age-old cultural traditions
 Among all the festivals celebrated in Sikkim Pang Lhabsol is a festival observed by the various indigenous communities of the state. It has been traditionally an event which depicts the loving nature of all the people who take part in it and thereby helps in the harmonious development of the state.
Similar to the other parts of the country, Sikkim too is a culturally diverse state. Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalese are it indigenous communities who are different from each other on every aspects of their life like language, food habits, clothing etc. But despite these differences all the three communities come together to celebrate the festival which is originally a Buddhist festival. As Lepchas and Bhutias belong to the Buddhist community, the participation of Nepalese in the event highlights the growing consciousness about being the Sikkimese and has turned this festival into state festival. It is the most unique festival celebrated in Sikkim, it is held on the 15th day of the seventh month according to lunar calendar that usually falls on the end of August or the month of September.
Once independent and ruled by a Bhutia King, Sikkim today is 22nd state of Indian Union. With the total area of 2,818 square miles or 7,096 square kilometres, it shares its boundaries with Nepal on the west and Bhutan in the East and China in the North.
Lepchas are considered to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim. On the other hand Bhutias migrated to Sikkim much before 16th century from Tibet followed by Nepalese from Nepal. After the merger with India in 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of Indian Union and democracy flowed into the region.

 Background of Pang Lhabsol
The history of Pang Lhabsol goes back to 13th century when a prince of Kham Minyak House (China occupied Tibet), while on pilgrimage in Tibet, performed a miraculous feat of raising the main pillar of Sakya Monastery single handed which work otherwise was possible to be executed by one hundred thousand people. He was, therefore, given the title of Khye-Bum-Sa meaning ‘the strength of one lakh men’ by Sakya Lama and was also offered Jomo Guru, daughter of Sakya Lama for marriage, which Khye-Bum-Sa accepted. Soon newlywed couple settled at Phari in Chumbi Valley (now part of China occupied Tibet).  As the couple had no child, they consulted the religious authorities for their blessings for child so as to maintain the continuity of their hierarchy. After deep consultation, the religious authorities were able to see the prophecy that the lepcha seer in the land lying southwards would be able to give the boon of children. Pursuing this prophesy, khye Bumsa proceeded southwards of Tibet and passing through Yakla reached the present Lingchom area by sheer fulfilment of supernatural events. There Khye Bhumsa met a hoary headed couple engaged in cultivation and he enquired about the Lepcha seer of them. The couple lead the strangers towards a small hut like cave Phyak- Tse below Phiongong at present Rong-pa, they saw the hoary headed man wearing his native apparel and sitting on a raised throne. He was Thekong Tek, Lepcha Chief of Sikkim.
After Khye Bumsa stated the purpose of his visit, Lepcha chief blessed him a son. Soon after their return, couple had a son and they again visited Lepcha Chief to express their thanks. It was then that the Thekong Tek insisted for oath of Blood Brotherhood between him and Khye Bumsa.
On a raw hide of animal sat Thekong Tek and Khye Bumsa with the intestine of the animal tied around them and blood splattered all around. The swearing of the oath of Blood Brotherhood took place under the witness of Khanchendzonga. To perpetuate the treaty and its objective of unity, peace and harmony amongst the future generation of the land, a symbolic stone was erected as per tradition with blood splattered over it. The place where the oath was taken is presently known as ‘kabi Longtsok’ in North Sikkim. ‘Kabi’ meaning our blood, ‘long’ meaning stone and ‘Tsok’ meaning erect in Lepcha. Altogether meaning ‘the erect stone with our blood which is an oath sworn’.
  It is this oath or the treaty of blood brotherhood that today is celebrated as Pang Lhabsol meaning “worship of the guardian deities” in Sikkim. It has been celebrated from the time of Chogyal (king) Chakdor Namgyal (early 17th century), in commemoration of this treaty.
This inherited ritual is performed by invoking the deities and paying tribute to them. Holy Khanchendzonga which is still believed to be the protector of the land is one of them. In earlier occasion Lepcha Boongthing (priest) who were believed to be empowered with transcendental powers and good enchanter, were assigned to perform these rituals. Performance of this ritual indicates that the promise of ancestors has been maintained by their progeny.
Pang Lhabsol and Democracy-
Sikkim does not appear to have a long history of conflicts among different communities. Though there are some evidence of cultural exchange and inter-community marriage among the members of the three major communities in the past. During Chogyal (king) era, Pang Lhabsol was celebrated as the brotherhood treaty between the two communities i.e. Lepcha and Bhutia.the recent involvement of the Nepalis in the festival has escalated the communal harmony. The equal participation of all the major communities in the state highlights their inherent interest for the festival.The festival though originally observed by the Lepchas and the Bhutias , but  in course of time the Nepalese also started observing this the other communities the Nepalese too observersed each and every ritual sincerely.  Being so engrossed in this festival we find the Nepalese assimilating with the other communities.
the President of the Pang-Lhabsol organizing Committee Mr T.Lachungpa on the occasion of erecting the Statue of Unity in 1996, stated in a press meet  that “the people from all communities got together for the celebration and Pang Lhabsol’s real significance was understood by all”. He further added that “the significance of the occasion is that the Sikkimese has never come together in such numbers and with so much enthusiasm to celebrate a festival unique to Sikkim. I’m not saying that we should not participate in other functions and programmes, in fact, we should do so with equal enthusiasm, but we should also ensure that this particular occasion is celebrated in a bigger and grander fashion in the years to come. There is no platform other than this when all Sikkimese can come together as a single unit and celebrate their unity” the words of such a noble person who gave his heart out for the commencement of the inauguration of the ‘statue of unity’ still remains true. Even after 16 years, Pang Lhabsol is the only festival which reminds people to be united, irrespective to their religion, caste or community and integrates them at one place to celebrate a single festival.
It will be erroneous to say that there is completely no conflict between these communities in the state. After merging with Indian Union in 1975, cultural-ethnical politics has emerged and has been sustained and proliferated. The merger with India brought democracy in the region followed by the growth in caste and community consciousness among different groups and sub-groups which has led to mushrooming of several caste/community organizations with claims and demands of their own. The Lepcha organizations like Rangjyong Mutanchi RongOng Shejum (Sikkim lepcha Youth Association) for example demands for fifty percent reservation in the State Assembly, education and public employment, legal protection of their land, separate delimitation etc. Bhutia organizations like Survival Sikkimese and Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee emphasize for restoration of rights and privileges of community which they had been enjoying earlier. On the other hand, the Nepali organization like Gorkha Apex Committee has demanded for equal treatment at par with the Lepchas and Bhutia, and extension of “creamy layer” concept to exclude members of royal families and Kazis from the Tribal list. However, the situation is not out of control and none of these associations has till date shown any sign of disturbing the peace of the state. And many people in Sikkim believe that the reason for being  peaceful and harmonious state is due to observing festivals like Pang Lhabsol which sustains the light of brotherhood, peace and harmony in the minds and hearts of the Sikkimese. And they are seen to acquire  moral virtues like tolerance, patience and brotherhood. Inspite of the plurality of the Sikkimese community the innocence and purity of Sikkimese people helps them to integrate and live harmoniously.

One of the main objectives of democracy is the development of a participatory way of life dedicated to the liberation of the potentialities of its members and requires processes by which different cultures and groups within a given culture, and individuals divided by innumerable other differences can co-operate to solve problems. Pang lhabsol is a festival which ensures participation equally by the members of the society belonging to various ethnic communities in Sikkim. This festival acts as a thread that binds the people of Sikkim with a single identity of a nation.
-          1996- Souvenir- Inauguration of Statue of Unity.
-          1998- Souvenir- Celebration of Pang Lhabsol as day of brotherhood.
-          1996- Sikkim Observer-National Hill Weekly.
-           2011- Sikkim-Ethnicity And Political Dynamics
-          Democracy as Culture-Deweyan Pragmatism in a globalising world-
Edited by Sor-Hoon Tan & John Whalen-Bridge, Published-2008                                                                                                   

This paper was presented at a National Seminar on "Democracy and Diversity in North-East India" at Guwahati university by Ugen Bhutia and Deepmoni Gogoi (Sikkim University).

Trilochan Pokhrel- The forgotten Gandhian of Sikkim

For the first time when I heard his name I was in III Standard. It was in a Nepali book called Kathamala there was a collected story about Gandhi Pokhrel. My toddler mind did not know who this person was and what was his contribution for Indian independence? As an average student I might have mugged up his name many times to write a proper answer about him during our annual assessment. I still can remember the sentence written in the book “Purba Sikkim Tareythang ka Gandhi Pokhrel....” (Gandhi Pokhrel from Tareythang East Sikkim). This was the only knowledge we have gained about the great Gandhian Soul of Sikkim Late Shree Trilochan Pokhrel a.k.a Gandhi Pokhrel or Bande Pokhrel.
Late Trilochan Pokhrel- The Forgotten Gandhian of Sikkim
Late Gandhi Pokhrel was born at Tareythang Busty in Eastern Sikkim possibly in the last decade of 19th Century (We do not have any evidence to assert his year of birth). During his youth he was greatly influenced by the movements of Mahatma Gandhi which were based on the fundamental principles of non violence. We do not have much information about his involvements in the earlier movements of Mahatma Gandhi like Non Co-operation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement. But, we can firmly claim his involvement in the famous Bharat Chhodo Aandolan (Quit India Movement) of 1942 from his contemporaries. His contemporaries inform us about his stay with Gandhiji at Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat and Sarvodaya Ashram in Bihar. During his stay with Gandhiji he used to spin the Charkha, rendered his service for the Ashrams and assisted the Mahatma in his daily affairs. Late Trilochan Pokhrel had an immense faith in the teachings of simple life by Mahatma Gandhi which is manifested on the picture posted with this post. His contemporaries inform us that he used to visit his native village very infrequently in the costumes of the naked fakir Gandhi. Akin to Gandhiji he too wear a piece of cotton Dhoti, with a pair of Khadau (an Indian slipper made up of wood). Hence, they began to call him Gandhi Pokhrel. Further, few legends are still alive in the village of Tareythang about late Trilochan Pokhrel. It is said that he used to say Bande Mataram while greeting his elders at the village. Therefore, they began to refer him as Bande Pokhrel. Still there is a piece of land at the said village which once belong to this Gandhian known as Pokhrel Bari (Land of Pokhrel). But, he never used to stay at his home for a long time. Few elders of this village claim about their meeting with this Gandhian soul of Sikkim. In one of the stories I have heard about his involvement in propagating the concept of Swadeshi of Mahatma Gandhi among the Sikkimese peasantry. During his leisure he used to go to Rongli Bazar and sit there a side with his charkha (spinning wheel) to make cotton threads. Somebody told us that during Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to Sikkim in 1957 he had come to his native place and used to talk about the enigmatic Indian Prime Minister in a voluminous manner. Perhaps this was his last visit to his native land and possibly he is the lone Sikkimese to take part in the Indian Struggle for independence.
Mr. Tara Prasad Bhattarai of Tareythang Pic: Binod Bhattarai
While inquiring about his descendants we were told that all his family members were migrated to Assam long time back. Hence, we could not gather much information about his other part of life. The only person from whom we can secure good information about late Pokhrel is Mr. Tara Prasad Bhattarai of Kapurpatey village. This retired teacher has still preserved few sources related to him. He has maintained one of his photographs and an envelop which he received 43 years ago from Bihar. The said envelop was posted from Purnia in Bihar which contains the death confirmation of this Sikkimese Gandhian which read thus “Expired on 27-1-69 at Prakritik Chikitsalaya, Ranipatra, P.O Ranipatra District Purunia Bihar at 9 AM”.
I am greatly thankful to Mr. Binod Bhattarai Research Scholar in Sociology Pondicherry University for sharing this photograph and additional information about this Gandhian Sikkimese. Further information about Late Trilochan Pokhrel the Sikkimese Gandhian soul shall be updated in the blog. 

Old Photographs from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Tibet

Bhutias of Darjeeling in 1860's Pic Courtesy Old Indian Photos

Gangtok Residency Pic: Charles Alfred Bell

Chumbi Valley Utensils Pic: C.A Bell

Nepalese in Lhasa Pic: C.A Bell

C A Bell with the Tibetans in Lhasa 

Sky Burial in Tibet Pic: C A Bell
Namchi Bazar in the 70's

Last Sikkimese Queen Hope Cooke with her son Prince Palden
Mr. N.B Bhandari the Second Chief Minister of Sikkim in the 70's

Mr. N B Bhandari  in the 80's
Note: The pictures posted above are collected from various websites and social networking sites. 

Government Senior Secondary School Ranipool- A Story of its Establishment

Ranipool School at Ghatttey Hill  in the 60's

Since my school days I was always curious to know about the founder of the school from where I got into the world of knowledge and acquaintance. It was indeed a slumbered historical sense that was at its initial stage which forced me to know much about the founder of my school. I also had a big question on my infant mind why my school was entitled as Ghattey School? Few people informed me that before the establishment of a school at the earlier site there used to be a Pani Ghatta (Grinding machine that runs with water power) and the place was thence known as Ghattey Dara (Ghattey Hill). Hence after the commencement of a Primary School at the Ghattey Hill the school got its name as Ghattey School. Few others informed me that the school was founded by a person from Namli called Brihaspati Parsai. This was the only knowledge that I had been able to acquire about Government Senior Secondary School Ranipool before I accomplished my Twelfth Standard.

Teachers' and Students' in the 60's
Late Brihaspati Parsai collecting funds for the School 
To acquire more knowledge about Government Sr. Sec. School Ranipool I decided to meet the descendents of the founder of my School during my fieldwork. I met Mr. N. B Parsai one of the sons of Late Brihaspati Parsai from whom I had been able to extract many unheard and unknown facts about the establishment of the said school. According to him the founder of Ghattey School Late Brihaspati Parsai had never seen any schools in his childhood. During the construction of NH 31A he worked there as a labour and later became an A Class contractor. In 1944 as a contractor he took up the task of “Cutting off Land” where he had to suffer a heavy loss. The Officer of Public Works Department Fakir Chand Jali (who was also the First Overseer and First Chief Engineer of Sikkim) told him that he incurred loss owing to his lack of knowledge in English language. That incident was a turning point for the foundation of Ranipool School. Immediately after this event Late Parsai with the help of a supervisor started a school in 1945 at Labours’ Quarter. Later Brihaspati Parsai asked a piece of land from one Langadey (Limp) Kazi for the construction of a school. The Kazi was kind enough to donate a piece of land to start a school at Ghattey Dara. Thus, the foundation of Ranipool School was laid with the efforts of an illiterate at the Ghattey Hill.
Mr. N. B Parsai has given me additional information about the first teachers of this school. According to him, Late Jayadev Sharma of Rumtek and Damber Gurung were the first teachers to serve Ranipool School. He further updated me that the school was once visited by Maharajkumar Sahib Palden Thondup Namgyal. “It was in the summer of 1946 a Wyllian Jeep came to the school compound and a gentleman in a royal costume came out of it. We did not pay much heed to know about him as we were busy in playing. The gentleman looked us for a while and moved into the office. Within a minute Jaydev Sir came out and introduced him as Maharajkumar Sahib. Maharajkumar Sahib Palden Thondup Namgyal encouraged our teachers to impart good education to the children. It was indeed a great moment for all the students to get a glimpse of the Maharajkumar Sahib at our School Compound”.
Welcoming the dignitaries during an event in the 60's 
Late Brihaspati Parsai had a deep lament that he could not study therefore; he had a determined thought that the children of peasants would be suppressed until they do not get education. Hence, with the intention of educating everybody he raised donation to run the Ghattey Hillock School. For several years he himself paid the salary for the teachers and other staff. Later the Royal Palace turned the Ghattey Hill School into a government aided institution and began to provide a grant of Rs. 30/- per month. But, the sanctioned amount from the Royal Sikkim Government was not enough to run a full fledged school. Therefore, late Brihaspati Parsai moved from door to door asking for donation for the salary of the teachers.All the students of today’s Brihaspati Parsai Memorial Senior Secondary School are greatly indebted to its illiterate founder who had an extreme faith in educating the masses for a colossal change.

Students and Teachers with new furniture on the day of becoming a Govt. aided school
Recent picture of Brihaspati Parsai Memorial School 
Respecting the contributions of Late Brihaspati Parsai to impart modern education among the peasantry of Sikkim the Sikkim Government has changed the name of Government Sr. Secondary School Ranipool as Brihaspati Parsai Memorial Senior Secondary School. For the encouragement among the students the Parsai family of Namli is providing a scholarship of Rs. 10,000/- each every year for the best two students of the school founded by their grandpa late Brihaspati Parsai.

Brihaspati Parsai- The Peasant Leader of Sikkim

Late Brihaspati Parsai addressing peasants at Rangpo during Satyagraha
Late Brihaspati Parsai a.k.a Parsai Bajey was born on 30th June 1899 at Karkaley Pipaley village of Mechi district of Nepal. At the age of seven he lost his father Tikaram Parsai and two of his brothers due to chickenpox. In frustration, his mother decided to leave their original place and took 10 years old Brihaspati to the plains of Jhapa in Nepal. There young Brihaspati lost his mother due to malaria and became a total orphan. After hiding the corpse of his mother at a forest at a place called Chandragadi in Jhapa district, the young lad moved further east and reached Silagadi (now the place is known as Siliguri). He stayed at Silagadi for a year and thought of entering Sikkim. Coincidentally, he met a bullock carts’ caravan moving towards Sikkim and by pursuing it he reached lower Martam (32 Number the place is also called Middle Camp). It was at Martam the orphan met Chandrasingh Bhansari a Thikadar (Contractor) of Martam Estate who took him home and gave him the task of shepherd. Impressed by his truthfulness and diligence, the Thikadar gave one of his daughters Chulmaya in marriage to Brihaspati. After his marriage he bought a piece of land at Namli, a village near Ranipool and began to live a life of a householder.
Late Parsai (sitting) with L.D Kazi (Right to him)
After the conclusion of First World War Sikkimese peasants also began to witness little development in their Kingdom. It was during this period the construction of auto able road from Siliguri to Gangtok commenced which is now known as NH 31 A. Brihaspati also began to work as a coolie in the construction process, and then he became a supervisor and finally a contractor. He was a founder member of Sikkim State Congress and also an educational enthusiast who had played a vital role for the foundation of Ranipool School at Ghattey Hill. His contributions and efforts for the foundation of said school will soon be updated in the blog. After the formation of Sikkim State Congress on 7th December 1947 late Parsai unconditionally threw him in politics. He became the Publicity Secretary of the newly founded Sikkim State Congress and began to raise his voice against the vices of feudalism like Kalobhari, Jharlangi, Theki Bethi, Kuruwa and Ghar-Lauri. In the beginning, the Central Office of Sikkim State Congress was raised at Rangpo. Due to his witty and mocking speech against the exploitation he was arrested during Satyagraha of 1949 at Rangpo and was put behind the bars for 62 days.
Parsai leading a procession at Singtam in 1961
Late Parsai played a vital role for the elimination of parity system from Sikkim. During agitation of 1973, he led a procession to the Sikkim Palace which was thence asking for one man one vote. The Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal coming out of the palace questioned late Parsai “What do you want?” He answered “We want the King, we do not want the Councillors, and we need Ministry, not one man six votes but one man one vote”. It is to be noted here that the greatest cause for dissatisfaction of the peasants during the agitation of 1973 was the notorious Parity System in Sikkim.
People gathered at Alley Ground Namchi to listened to Late Parsai
During my field work I got an opportunity to meet one of his sons Mr. N. B Parsai an ex- teacher who also has a greater involvement for the development of Ghattey Hill School. He has informed me that his father was a person who always believed in the theory of Karma enunciated by the Upanishads. It is because of this philosophy of Upanishad he had been able to contribute a greater part of his life for the liberation of the Sikkimese subjects from the clutches of Kazism and Thikadarism. Many of his contemporaries have informed me that he was a brawny politician who used to speak as if he has nothing to loose in this world. Most of such contemporaries were inspired by his flamboyant speech consequently they joined late Parsai to uproot the evils of forced labour from Sikkim.  This stalwart of Sikkimese politics died at the age of 80 on the evening of 9th June 1979 at his residence at Namli in East Sikkim. 

An Old Hukkah found at Chota Singtam

The Old Hukkah
This winter I was busy with my fieldwork that gave me an opportunity to visit many villages and meet various people who had observed the reign of independent monarchs of our state.  It was indeed a great experience for me to be there with the peasants who in the course of  their contribution to the state are yet unknown to the history of Sikkim. I am talking here about those folks who are always in majority and  have constantly made compromises for their survival and also have for eternity proven to be a backbone of a state’s economy by paying taxes. In lieu of their contribution in the form of tax, rents and free services they were cheated and were treated not better than a slave. Amid to their involvements to the state these peasants are  not only ignored by the authorities but are sometimes even disregarded by the enlightened eyes of the historians and researchers. Hence, being a grandson of a peasant, I thought of writing a history of this “out-of-the-way” segment of the erstwhile Sikkimese society.

It used to be covered while smoking
While doing my survey I met many peasants who carried the most hatred Kalobhari, Jharlangi and worked in the fields of Kazi, Thikadars and Mandals as Bethi Khetala (a free service for three days in the field of Mandals and Kazis during cultivation). Their narration about the injustice they had faced has made me even stronger to write about them. They were just innocent, naive and childlike and due to their worrying nature they were severely exploited by the Kazis and other feudal machineries.
There used to be a pipe at the end which is now destroyed
Tax Receipt of Birdhoj Limboo paid on 31 Dec 1922
Apart from my questionnaire, I have discussed with them in some other topics and also got other information about their day to day affaires. Interestingly, few people have shown me some antiques and documents related to their times of yore. The picture of today’s post is an old and a broken  Hukkah (a untensil made up of brass to smoke tobacco mostly used in Northern India and Nepal) used by a person called Birdhoj Limboo of Namchi Rabitar somewhere in the first decade of 20th century. Later his family got migrate to Chota Singtam in East Sikkim and are at present living there. Presently, this Hukkah is being preserved by one of his grandsons Harka Bahadur Limboo who is now 85. According to him, this Hukkah originally belonged to his great grandpa who brought it from Nepal. It is to be noted here that the use of such items were marked as the symbol of prosperity in the earlier Nepali society. If we have to believe Harka Bahadur, then its year of origin  goes back to 1870’s or 80’s. Now in almost broken condition this Hukkah is still bringing smiles on the face of Harka Bahadur who is keeping it with innermost respect as a souvenir of his ancestors.

Paljor Namgyal- The Pilot Prince of Sikkim

Prince Paljor Namgyal, the first and the only Pilot prince of Sikkim was born on 26thNovember, 1921 at the Royal Palace, Gangtok to the Eleventh Maharaja of Sikkim, Sir Tashi Namgyal, K.C.I.E, K.C.S.I. and Maharani Kunzang Dechen. His original name was Kunzang Choley and he was the eldest son of the Eleventh Royal Couple of Sikkim. In 1930, he was sent along with his younger brother, Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal and their sister Princess Pema Tsedeun to St. Joseph’s Convent, Kalimpong. Prince Palzor Namgyal was further educated at St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling and St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling.
The Crown Prince, Paljor Namgyal was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Indian Air Force and based at Ambala. He served in World War II in 1940-41. As a true ally of the British Indian Government, Sikkim had greatly served in providing manpower in the said world war. It is to be noted here that many Sikkimese family had also send their children to fight against the English foes and few of them had been able to receive the esteemed Victoria Cross. But, most wretchedly, Paljor Namgyal was killed in active service after he crash landed in flight near Peshawar, on 20thDecember, 1941. He was merely 20 years old then. Regarding the death of the Crown Prince of Sikkim the Bharat Rakshak an official website of Indian Air Force has published this information “On 8th December, war was declared with Japan and the Squadron was ordered to the Burma front on 14th December. The Squadron returned to Peshawar two days later.  As there was a shortage of air gunners, volunteers were called from among the fitters, riggers and other ground crew members. The airmen volunteered almost to a man. They were trained on a fast track basis in less than a fortnight. The Squadron suffered its first casualty on the Lysander on 20th December 1941, when Pilot Officer Paljor Namgyal, who at that time was the crown prince of the Kingdom of Sikkim, undershot trying to land at Peshawar. The aircraft R1989 hit a bund and overturned - killing the pilot and seriously wounding the observer”.
The tragic death of the Sikkimese Prince has also been mentioned by PVS Jagan Mohan in his book ‘The Westland Lysander in Indian Air force Service’ in the following manner “The squadron suffered its first casualty on the Lysander on 20th December 1941, when Pilot Officer C Dhairyam, with Pilot Officer Paljor Namgyal as his passenger undershoot trying to land at Peshawar. The Air craft R1989 hit a bund and overturned - killing the pilot and seriously wounding the pilot. Palzor Namgyal was the Crown Prince of Sikkim and his death was a major blow to the people of the small Himalayan Kingdom(P14).
As an Air Pilot Prince Paljor Pic:
Most unfortunately, we have very little credentials about the pilot prince Paljor Namgyal. Few photographs that include his portrait in the Air force uniform are the only source to write something about him. During my fieldwork, I have been able to get a bit of unwritten information about the late Crown Prince of Sikkim. Few old Sikkimese, especially those who have seen him during their lifetime, have an immense respect and love for Paljor Namgyal. An old person Mr. Harka Bahadur Subba of Chota Singtam along with few old people has informed me that the Prince was a placid and a kind person. Once while hunting Prince Paljor reached to a house of an old Lepcha lady at Nandok in East Sikkim. She was unaware about his gigantic position and she offered Dhero (meal prepared from millet mostly consumed by the poor peasants during feudalistic Sikkim) to him for his dinner. He inquired about the poverty of the old lady and came to know about the forceful collection of Dhurikhajana and the prevalence of Kalobhari, Jharlangi and Theki bethi as forced labor. After spending a night at the home of the old lady the prince recoiled to his palace and informed his father Maharaja Tashi Namgyal about the utter poverty of their subjects and insisted him for the immediate removal of the forced labour and Dhurikhajana. Before the king could do anything in this regard, the Kazis and other feudal elements misguided the king to send his eldest son to join the Royal Air Force and was finally killed in an air crash.
Photo Frederick Williamson Prince Paljor Namgyal standing in front of C. E Dudley Pic: Digital Himalayas

Maharajkumar jyudo hunuhunthyo bhaney ta Sikkim aarkai hunthyo had the Maharajkumar been alive Sikkim could have been different” was their remark on the untimed demise of the late crown prince Paljor Namgyal.

Sikkim: Through the lens of Dr. Alice S Kandell

Boy playing with Kite Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell
Dr. Alice Kandell hiding behind a Sikkimese soldier to  take a photograph of a Chinese soldier along the Nathu-La Pass

Khyentse Rinponche Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell 

Lepcha Man and Woman standing near Singhik Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Lepcha man in traditional bamboo hat and woven clothing  holding knife in Singhik Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell 

Lepcha women in traditional clothing in Singhik Pic Dr.Alice Kandell

Mt. Kanchenjunga, third highest mountain in the world Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Nepalese family outside of clay home Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell 

People herding yaks along a mountain path to higher grazing land Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Person crossing river on a wooden bridge Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell

Prince Palden (Second from Left) making silly faces with friends Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Rumtek Monastery seen from across courtyard Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Selling Rice in Gangtok Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Singlay Lama & grandchildren sit in haystack near Singhik Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell 

Suspension Bridge over River Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Two Men secure wood logs on Yak's back Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell

Dr. Alice S. Kandell, of New York City, New York, is a child psychologist formerly affiliated with Mt. Sinai Hospital. Additionally, Dr. Kandell is an author and professional photographer, having published books on subjects ranging from Mountaintop Kingdom: Sikkim to children's books such as Max the Music Maker and Ben's ABC Day. Dr. Kandell is also Vice President of the Board of the International League for Human Rights and President of the International Vocal Arts Institute, whose faculty is affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera. She also performs in non-singing roles with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She received her Doctorate in Child Psychology from Harvard University.
Dr. Alice S. Kandell first visited Sikkim in 1965 to attend the coronation ceremony where Hope Cooke, a close friend from Sarah Lawrence College, became the first American-born queen. The Chogyal (king) Palden Thondup Namgyal asked Dr. Kandell to use photography to document the indigenous cultures of Sikkim and to show how he and Hope were improving education and local businesses. With this special access, Dr. Kandell created a visual encyclopedia of Sikkimese life as it was before India absorbed the kingdom.
Dr. Kandell returned to Sikkim many times, while also completing her doctorate degree in child psychology at Harvard University and establishing her career in New York City. Growing political struggles between India and Sikkim brought the photography project to a close in the early 1970s. During a final trip in 1979, she photographed the wedding of Princess Yangchen Dolma.

Her collection grew to more than 15,000 color slides and black-and-white photographs taken while traveling extensively through a country the size of Delaware. Dr. Kandell went high in the mountains to meet farmers and traders who allowed her to photograph their families and homes. She attended Buddhist religious ceremonies, captivated by the music, masks, and dances. She captured formal and informal scenes with the royal family in Gangtok as well as artisans with their crafts, children in schools, and the remarkable landscape.
Two books published in 1971 feature these photographs-- Mountaintop Kingdom: Sikkim (with text by Charlotte Salisbury) and a book for children called Sikkim: The Hidden Kingdom. Dr. Kandell also wrote and illustrated articles about Sikkim forRedbookHolidayScholastic, and The Saturday Evening Post.

During an exhibit of Sikkim photographs at the Camera Club of New York in 1971, Dr. Kandell said, "I tried to use my camera to communicate the warmth and openness of the people of Sikkim. I wanted to capture the beauty that is everywhere." A second exhibition was held at the Asia Society in New York, sponsored by the International Center of Photography, in 1975.
Inspired by her experience in Sikkim, Dr. Kandell went on to assemble a major collection of Budhhist art and religious objects. This Tibetan shrine with original paintings, sculpture, and furniture is now at the Smithsonian Institution. She also retained her connections to the Sikkimese people. In 2010, Hope Cooke joined Dr. Kandell at the Library of Congress to describe their work in Sikkim. The webcast from this program, "A Tour of the Lost Kingdom: Sikkim," can be viewed online.

Note: The details about Dr. Alice S Kandell are collected from ‘Biography of the Photographer’ that is available on the website of Library of Congress