Indrajatra Season 7/17 and the Newars in Sikkim
Some thoughts here and there at random
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
How the time flies these days being in the Black Hill or with the Newars in Sikkim to be once again celebrating the festival of the year for this community to which I belong to write a few lines again to share the joy of Indrajatra. With the day being declared as a public holiday for whole of the state and for all to be blessed thus in being with the Newars who are known more for their outstanding remarkable contributions to take Sikkim to greater heights in the best possible manner from wherever located/posted in whichever little capacity one could contribute his might that often goes noticed but not always. Personally I take 'your achievement is our achievement and your accomplishment is our accomplishment' attitude that makes me proud to be a Newar and attempt presenting myself thus and projecting the Newars in Sikkim in that very spirit and sense of belonging wherever and whenever I happen to be amidst the crowd of our clan, here in own land/motherland or homeland/fatherland or in the land what the rest of the world see and wish to be in the land to fulfill one's dream - the United States of America. Thus when I put the title of my last book titled The Newars World-Wide Connecting the Dots : Sikkim many thought that it would be an account of the Newars world over dedicating their best to the soil wherever they have landed up well keeping in mind their native land Nepal to keep the legacy and glory of the rich customs and traditions celebrating whatever festival they could gather for and celebrate in the weekend that may not always coincide with the date of actual festival. Yet they celebrate with all the minute details and in all the manner possible with whatever they have been doing for generations back home. It would not have been possible from this writer for he has, to be frank enough, not been/seen much of this world yet.For me the world is Sikkim/India, my motherland and the mainland Nepal my fatherland. Here, we have our own way of celebrating that might or might not replicate what the people celebrate there/elsewhere but the essence/spirit is there always. The Newars have ventured out in search of better avenues to prove their entrepreneurship and mettle in almost every nook and corner of the globe. A hint/glimpse of this could be seen/found posted in the social media like Facebook I try to connect with. Otherwise, for me my world is this land blessed with the guardian deity Mount Kanchenjunga nee Khangchendzonga that some friends in neighbouring country Nepal always rue for having been usurped by their Big Brother India this time too when we were proud to get the World Heritage Status for our Khangchendzonga National Park in a unique way for the first time ever to be rich both culturally and naturally too! While we celebrate Indrajatra Buddhists here would be celebrating Pang-lhab-sol. During our school days the festival used to be known and mentioned as a holiday in the Almanac as well, as the Worship of the Snowy Range and we used to go to Tsukhlakhang monastery to see Lama Dance with some of our classfriends performing there. Without getting into any controversy, which is not the purpose of this write-up but to upheld the dignity head held high as I try to look at every morning early with the day break to see the sunrise over the majestic peak. Everybody knows Gangtok do possess it but it was a pleasant surprise for me to see the mighty peak from my room in the Black Hill. For a full view of the mountain range one could always go atop the hill above the Lampokhari. While people travel all the way from all over the world just to have a look of this great mountain to all the places where they could get the best view, here I find myself blessed from the comforts of my home Jaisri located at 10km post on Rhenock-Rongli Highway (as the Google Map gets it for the Reshi-Rongli Road) leading to the Indo-China Border, an alternative route for the border trade whenever the Jawaharlal Nehru Road from Gangtok to Nathula is closed. Latitude 27.18, longitude 88.65 and altitude 1169.52 meters or 3837 feet above sea level to be exact with its geographical location. This trade used to be through the legendary Silk Route from Kalimpong-Algarah-Pedong-Reshi-Rhenock-Aritar-Rongli onwards that now passes through Lingtam-Phadamchen-Dzuluk-Ganek-Lungthu-Gnathang-Kupup-Sherathang and Nathula (Jalepla.) Grateful I bow to our forefathers for rightly finding their new found-land in Sikkim to make their new home that gave the world The Chandra Nursery more than a century ago taking Sikkim to the height unparalleled. No exaggeration whatsoever but a point to take a note of it seriously as many of my readers would too agree that further study is necessary to understand and appreciate what we the Newars have in the legacy that we are yet to reach even after generations so far!
For we the Newars in Sikkim the festival of Indrajatra is not only the reason to assert our unique identity and rejoice with the recognition of the Newar language as one of the official languages of the State but also to acknowledge it and thank the Government. Each Indrajatra should have been the day to introspect and review the progress during the past year vis-a-vis how we fared so far since the recognition as per the Extraordinary Gazette No. 5/LD/90 dated April 3, 1995. It is more than two decades for the Newars in Sikkim to come under one banner of the Sikkim Newar Guthi as well, though propounded way back in 1982, not unchallenged under the garb and guise of some Sangthan that ultimately overtook it for a decade or so. Such was the impact that they have, as if, not been able to come out of its shackles. That phase too passed off for good or bad, which is not the intention of this write-up nor any one bothered to take into an account of it. It is the seventh year for Indrajatra brought into the capital with one year taken out to Singtam to make the festivities happen out for a change making it inclusive/common giving an opportunity once again to organize it outside. Though we had Lakhey Naach, Dhimay Baja and all here at Rhenock in good old days as Hari Bhansari too recollects from his childhood days, it could not be ascertained if Indrajatra was already here in good old days. I remember the year of its inception very well since it was the year when our Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi had organized the Sahasra Chandra Darshanam/Maharatharohan or Jankwa of our Founder/Buba Jai Shanker Lall Shresta* for over three days with felicitations unprecedented and unparalleled so far. Many believe it to be the first ever social/cultural extravaganza held outside the capital in such a grand scale in association with Rhenock Newar Guthi and Sikkim Newar Guthi. Such was the impact that led many to believe that it inspired bringing in Indrajatra introduced here in Sikkim later that year. It might have gone miles away spreading the message far and wide of the recognition and efforts to make the language being taught in more than so many number of schools. So much so, at one stage people in the mainland thought that in case some culture and tradition somehow unfortunately lost there in Nepal, they would not have to go very far off. They would rather find them well preserved in the hills and vales of their neighbouring state of Sikkim. They were also ready to provide all possible support for having a Museum in Sikkim but we have our own limitations. Similarly, they wanted to bring the popular Nhu Dan Bintuna motor-cycle rally all the way from Kathmandu to Gangtok in solidarity with the people here but Sikkim being a different place/country well realized, it was not advisable as that would mar rather than make anything good towards our cordial relations.
The way the Newars like elsewhere have come up preserving, promoting and practising the Newar way of life not only the custom and tradition including the rituals besides the language, we feel sometimes, coming so far, lagging far behind. Distance was not something that kept them unattached but they were more rooted to their motherland in true sense as they all belonged and were proud of. For us we have left the native land long time ago and some might even not accept that we have come all the way here but were already here since pre-historic days. It is neither the intention of this article nor that of my book recent book The Newars World-Wide Connecting the Dots : Sikkim to contradict their valued opinion and I personally very much respect their learned view. It is for the scholars and institutions to come forward and do the research to find and establish the facts whatever not covered therein. The book, as our avid readers might have found, was to mark and celebrate 150 years of the Newars in Sikkim that had passed just un-noticed/un-realized and how the shine was fast in the wane. Everybody knows how we the Newars were in the helm of affairs not very long ago and it was during the record tenure of this Government that there were as many as ... Secretaries and Head of Department manning it ?! Oh, I forget the count, could any of my learned readers or the officials in the Sikkim Newar Guthi would come forward to provide me the exact figures to keep the records correct and updated to the memory of our young generation. Another data we need badly is about ourselves,the Newars in Sikkim compiled into a Directory after a long due census. This author himself was once holding as many as three or was it four departments concurrently and even the concerned department has no count of the Raj Bhavan I was posted twice though these might not be that significant to most of the public or their servants drawing their salaries from the exchequer and now many old haggard like me subsisting with the pension therefrom. Even my humble contributions to the society there might hold no good to recognize the epoch-making changes that the news-bulletin Sikkim Herald had in four decades of its existence with some facials done to other language editions besides a new edition for the Newar language this Newar could do best there or wherever he served thereafter. Reminiscing the old days many moments sweet and sour that wander in my mind coming back to the Black Hill to bring forward / document life common and people in general here with one thing only in mind - to bring in record how our forefathers contributed to the great cause from this part of the Himalayas to take the tiny Kingdom to such a height next only to that of the mighty Mount Kanchenjunga