Indrajatra 2022 Sikkim
Special - 2
Being with Sikkim Newar Guthi at Rhenock
There is no reason to fear the wind."
Our first attempt to meet each other about a month ago could not materialise due to some miscommunication the previous evening, when Sikkim Newar Guthi Team 2021 had arrived here at Rhenock after a hectic but presumably very successful Nepal Visit, we were longing for the day. They were at Rachna Books and we here waiting. They had utilised their gathering there that evening to have an emergent meeting then and there to deliberate further on their plans to go ahead with the Sikkim Newar Guthi. Perhaps this made our meeting more anxiously looked forward as my three-week-long sojourn at Gangtok could not be of any help either. It was beyond one's perception as to what they were up to but the best, as we all know, wait and watch. Whatever happens, it happens for some good reasons as we do believe in the time factor that governs our stellar constellation brings us such a fate – for the better!
“Aside from the example of Rhenock,
the absence of traditional Newar guthis in Sikkim is striking.
In this regard not only in Sikkim but also in other parts of India ...”
It is a glad welcome from this Author to the Sikkim Newar Guthi once again to Rhenock and to present before the avid readers this writeup on the subject close to his heart from the place where he belongs and that saw the first Nepalese settlement in Sikkim. Sikkim Newar Guthi has presently honoured befittingly two dedicated known faces from Rhenock Newar Guthi in their Central Executive Committee as members in their Team 2021, besides the General Secretary, contributing their best in the past so well.
The landmark year in the annals of the history of the Newars in Sikkim ever since their advent here at Rhenock to make this Himalayan Kingdom their home and hearth since the 19th century. Fast fading out from many's memories even, has also been the day May 27 the year of its inception in 1982. It was when this Author propounded a State-level Guthi under the name and style of Sikkim Newar Guthi 40 years ago after a series of deliberations and consultations with his friends, well-wishers and family members. Otherwise, the concept of a Guthi is nothing new for the people here at Rhenock as we had one since the days of yore and its replication throughout the State was the dream nurtured. It was Taksari Chandravir Pradhan, who on his arrival in 1867 here faced the hostile environment added by thick jungles infested with animals and insects of all kinds to get the name of the place Rhe-nock, the Black Hill. Opposition from a section of the other community here followed some skirmishes, led ultimately to the 1880 Agreement that paved the path to the first Nepalese settlement in Sikkim, recorded as “Henceforth the Newari traders began to live and carry on their business at Rhenock without much difficulty.” A report of 1885 mentions of “There is a considerable copper mine in Sikkim near Rhenock, which is leased to, and worked by a well-known Nepali trader of Darjeeling, and he was the parent of the new coinage...” This is just to set rest various claims to the title Taksari, which once a former Chief Minister enquired this Author, him to be assured of the origin of the title as such. In course of time mining trade expanded and 'the parent' asked some close relatives to join the business in partnership sharing its profit in fractions that led to such a claim from them as Taksari as well!
Founder-President of the Sikkim Newar Guthi, Mohan Pratap Pradhan* belonged to this place. He was the younger son of Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan, co-Founder of The Chandra Nursery (established 1910) that brought not only world fame and glory to the family and the Kingdom of Sikkim but also the Vicereine Lady Linlithgow visiting here on December 12, 1940. Besides being the First Chief Secretary to the Government of Sikkim, he was also the First State Council Member like his father Rai Saheb and to have chaired the House once while the Chogyal was away, from the Nepalese community. He was succeeded by his first cousin Keshab Chandra Pradhan, who too was a scion of the illustrious Taksari Chandravir Family at Pacheykhani. Volumes could be written and more could be dug out from the pages of history covered by the dust of time over the turn of the Millenium – materials worth and enough for some doctoral thesis based on research work. Centenary figure C. D. Rai* mentioned in the 1980s, “The Illustrious Taksari Pradhan Family of Sikkim” which gave eight Rai Saheb during the Chogyal Regime. The honourification Rai Saheb used to be much coveted and a rare decoration given by the British to a person in recognition of the outstanding contributions to the development of this Himalayan Kingdom and the region. Apart from mining activities to gain the title Taksari or the person who minted the first-ever and the last coins for Sikkim Maharaja, was also the person who introduced a terraced agricultural system and thereafter revenue system to add to the State Exchequer much needed funds very similar to the system back home in mainland Nepal. Further, Taksari Chandravir Pradhan and Rai Saheb Hari Prasad Pradhan were only two in the list of 12 whom Dr. Paras Mani Pradhan mentioned in consideration of invaluable services rendered to the Himalayan Region since the days of yore.
This Tribute by C. D. Rai was in his Op-Ed column for the Gangtok Times news-weekly edited and published by him in the 1980s. Years later this Author had the opportunity to know from him if a copy of this particular issue of the paper could be available. He had asked me to come over to his place and it was available in the file. He, however, could not make it due to his annual sojourns visiting daughter Rachna in the USA those days. It would a befitting tribute to write a line in tribute to him, who advised this Author not to collect donations for the newly-started Nav Jivan Sandhya Club at Kutchery here in 1963 without permission from the District Collectorate that restricted the drive to book collection for the library. A decade later he as the Secretary of Sikkim Public Works Department, was again the kind soul to come out of the ongoing meeting with the Chief Secretary T. S. Gyaltshen* for the allotment of Government quarters in the newly constructed Eight-Unit Building to ask for a fresh copy from him working there as Under Secretary (Accounts) in the Home Department, as his application was missing from the file with the list of applicants.
It is worthwhile to mention here that for the first time a change in the pattern was brought with the younger generation taking over Sikkim Newar Guthi with the Team 2021 in December last. In Nepal also Newa Dey Daboo has a popular face in Pavitra Vajracharya while Kathmandu Municipal Corporation has too and its Deputy Mayor Sunita Dangol, a former Miss Nepal also known for her Calli-Jatra promoting/popularising Ranjana scripts with Anil Sthapit, Pabitra Kasa and others since the Covid-19 Pandemic, is the Newah Youth Icon declared by the World Newah Organization recently. A welcome trend also to march into the Second Decade of the Newah People 2021 – 2030 as the World Newah Organization also stepped into with Sanyukta Shrestha of the United Kingdom elected unanimously to head it in the Fourth World Newah Convention New York from July 5-7, 2022. The date 6th March 2022 also gets the Proclamation as the World Newah Convention Day from the Mayor of New York City for the “long made invaluable contributions during the Covid-19 Pandemic”. This Author was also relieved from its Advisory Board, the rare honour he was bestowed with for the record term since the inception of the umbrella organization for his relentless services to the Newah Cause – the only one Newar from outside mainland Nepal - so well-recognised at the international level to remain grateful to the fellow Newah fraternity world over forever!
It would not be out of context but worthwhile to record here that the Black Hill Rhenock came into world prominence in the year when perhaps the first-ever and only photograph of Taksari Chandravir Pradhan with Rhenock Kazi was taken in the heart of the Rhenock Bazar in September 1893 by J. A. Louis to include in his book The Gates of Thibet Calcutta 1894. (3) If the Sikkim Newar Guthi has any plans like dedicating a day to this heritage place for the reasons aplenty in their Annual Calendar, it should be 14th April, the day an agreement was signed in the year 1880 at Tumlong the then capital of Sikkim. It was through the intervention and in presence of the Deputy Commissioner of Darjeeling A. W. Paul between the two communities in the year 1872 after years of skirmishes over supremacy since they came to Sikkim invited. The photograph reflects how Taksari Chandrabir Pradhan could win over their enemies as Louis writes in his book “an indication of the good understanding which now exists between the Bhootyas and the Nepalese.” This friendship grew tactfully winning the hearts over the years of the historic event of signing the agreement by bonding well with mutual trust and understanding resulting in the sworn blood brothership – mit lagaunu between the two to live peacefully like the one earlier signed in between the indigenous tribes Lepcha and Bhutia community at Kabi Lungchok in Sikkim.
This earliest and most historic picture from Rhenock adorns the cover of the Author's The Newars World~Wide – Connecting the Dots : Sikkim (2016). This book was launched in a grand function during the Second World Newah Convention in Baltimore USA by the Nepal Ambassador Dr. Arjun K. Karki and Nhyaluwa Malla K. Sunder. The very next day by the Newah Icon Padma Ratna Tuladhar* in presence of the former Diplomat and Foreign Relations Expert Dr. Hiranya Lal Shrestha and a glitterati of Newah personalities of Nepal at Asha Safu Kuthi, Kathmandu. Earlier, the Newars in Sikkim had gathered at Rachna Books for a warm send-off by none other than Keshab Chandra Pradhan in the grand Preview function blessed by the three elderly ladies of his Family, Muma, Thulo Maiju and Sanu Maiju, and graced by Shanti Maiju and all the prominent figures including the Area M.L.A. Bikram Pradhan.
(To be continued next Sunday)