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.