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History of Sikkim
Much of the history of Sikkim is veiled by legends of antiquity and myths. However, its majestic peaks, its rushing rivers and tropical forests have played important role in shaping the history of Sikkim. But it is an established fact that the earliest inhabitants of the land were the Lepcha. The Lepcha were food gathering people who claimed they came from Mayel Lyang, a legendary kingdom on the slopes of Khangchendzonga. They called themselves, Rong Pa literally meaning ravine folk or the Mutanchi, meaning the beloved people of the mother earth.

It is said that the Namgyals were Tibetans and belonged to the Minyak house of Kham region of eastern Tibet. In the first half of the fifteenth century a prince of Minyak dynasty went on a pilgrimage towards west along with his five sons. They visited the then under construction monastery of Sakya. They found the lamas struggling unsuccessfully to erect four giant pillars in the main hall. One of the sons of the Minyak prince accomplished the Herculean task of lifting the pillars and setting them in proper place. This remarkable feat earned him the title of Khey Bumsa, the one who possesses the strength of one lakh persons. He was offered the hand of Sakya hierarch daughter in marriage and was insisted upon to settle down there. He accepted the offer and settled down with his wife at Phari in the Chumbi valley. This place became the nucleus of the later Kingdom of Sikkim in the first decade of the 16th century.

The legend goes that Khey Bumsa couple could not have children for many years, so they were advised to seek the blessings of Thekong Tek the Lepcha king who was said to have possessed prophetic powers. Khey Bumsa went to the king Thekong Tek, prostrated before him, and offered him the gifts and explained the reason of his visit. Thekong Tek prophesised that they will, not only get one child but three children and one of their descendents would be the ruler of Denzong. In time the prophecy came true. Three sons were born to Khey Bumsa. He felt highly obliged to the Lepcha king. A great and deep friendship grew between the Lepchas and the new comers. Khey Bumsa and the Lepcha chief Thekong Tek swore blood brotherhood and signed the same in blood at Kabi Longstok. To this day the pact is celebrated in Sikkim. The story symbolically rationalizes the alliance between the traditional Lepcha-Bhutia ruling elite in Sikkim.
Mipon Rab, the youngest son of the Khey Bumsa, moved to Sikkim from Chumbi and became a local chieftain and his son, Guru Tashi moved to Gangtok. Tashi’s son was Jowas Apha, whose son was Guru Tenzing and Tenzing’s son was Phuntsog Namgyal, the first Chogyal of Sikkim.

Phuntsog Namgyal’s crowning is charged with all the vivid fantasy and miraculous phenomenon that is befitting to so important an occasion. Back in the 8th century, the legendary Buddhist monk Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche prophesied that Sikkim would be overrun by Buddhism. This prophecy came to pass in the 17th century, when the great Lama Lhatsun Chempo decided that he must go and “open the northern gate of Bayul Demazong”. He led his disciples to the mountain wall, beyond which lay Sikkim but could find no way to cross the mountain until a vision of Khangchendzonga showed him the way.

When Lhatsun Chempo entered the new country from the north, he found two other lamas, Sempa Chempo and Rigzing Chempo coming from the west and south. They met at Yoksam, meaning place of the three wise ones and began a debate on the desirability of having a temporal and religious head to rule over Sikkim. Two of the lamas furthered their own claims but the third lama reminded them of the prophecy of Guru Padmasambhava that a man coming from east and Phuntsog by name would rule Sikkim. Messengers were sent to seek Phuntsog. Near Gangtok the desired young man was found and was duly crowned Chogyal or Great Religious King. He was given one of Lhatsun Chempo’s (the Lama who told about prophecy) names, Namgyal, and the title of Chogyal. This happened in year 1642.

Phuntsog Namgyal is credited not only with the political consolidation of Sikkim, but also with the establishment of monasteries and encouraging the spread of Buddhism by proclaiming it the State religion. The concept of Kingship in Sikkim was charged, thus, with religious leadership. He divided the kingdom into 12 Dzongs and appointed twelve Dzongpens and Kazis to help him administer the kingdom. These were drawn from leading Lepcha and Bhutia families, and had the status of local Governors.
The kingdom was many times in its size today. In the north it reached Thangla near Phari {Tibet}, in the East Tagongla near Paro {Bhutan}, in the South Titalia near the borders of Bengal and Bihar and in the West Tamar Chorten {Tamur River, Nepal}. In the eighteenth century Sikkim lost considerable territories first to Bhutan and then to Nepal due to internal feuds and foreign aggressions. The Gorkha expansionism under Raja Prithvi Narayan Shah led to loss of all Lepcha and Tsong lands in what was then Western Sikkim. There were border disputes with Tibet also. In 1817 and in 1834-35 territories constituting Darjeeling district and southern borders were acquired by the British East India Company. In 1880s Sikkim's rights to Chumbi Valley were surrendered to China by British India. The Namgyal dynasty ruled over Sikkim as hereditary kings for about 332 years.

Court intrigues, conspiracies and attempts against the monarch were not uncommon in those troubled centuries of Sikkim’s history. Equally serious were threats from outside. Time and again hordes of warlike Bhutanese surged in from the east, while in the second half of the eighteenth century the Gorkhas of Nepal mounted repeated incursions from the west. Sikkim was like corn caught between two millstones, its population forced into a desperate two pronged war. The British, who were exploring a trade route to Tibet, had no intention of allowing the rampage. After the Treaty of Sugauli, Sikkim acquired the protectorate status. Sikkim joined India as an associate State in 1975 in accordance with its people aspiration for a democratic form of government, and later attained full Statehood within the Indian Union. With the merger, the age of monarchy came to an end.

In spite of the fact that Sikkim comprises of a multi ethnic society, it is perhaps the most peaceful State of the Indian Union and an excellent example of communal harmony and human relations, a feature much lacking in India’s pluralistic society. In general, strikes, terrorism, violence, lock-outs, unrest and anti-social activities are unheard of in Sikkim. Unity of the people, good governance, excellent committed administration and proper thought control of the masses by seasoned politicians make the beautiful State of Sikkim a paradise on the face of the earth.


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