It is very kind of the Governor of Sikkim, Sri Shriniwas Patil and the First Lady Smt. Rajanidevi Patil to extend their warm greetings to the people of Sikkim and to the Newar community in particular, on the auspicious occasion of Indrajatra. We are humbled by such a kind gesture and reciprocate with all fellow citizens and may this occasion of worship shower blessings, protection and harmony amongst all sections of the society at large.
We are grateful to the Chief Minister and Government of Sikkim for according the status of the State language to our Newar language at par with other languages in 1995 and for its development over the years and also for declaring Indrajatra as a public holiday throughout Sikkim in 2011. We take every opportunity to acknowledge and thank him.
Here, I would also like to take the opportunity to reproduce and share a recent post by Newah Mhasika (Knowing the Newars) on Facebook: “We Newas are the civilized people who have been pragmatically elebrating various festivals and ceremonies since ancient times. Among those festivals that are celebrated throughout the year, 'Indra Ya Punhi' is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Kathmandu. In due course of time, this festival became known as 'Yenya Punhi' and 'Indra Jatra'. The words 'Ya' or 'Jatra' comes from the Sanskrit word 'Yatra'.
It is believed that this festival was commenced by the Lichchavi King GunaKam Dev. Whereas the credit for adding various chariot processions and other elements in this festival goes to Malla King Jaya Prakash Malla. This festival begins with erecting of the 'Yoshin' outside the old Palace of Hanuman Dhoka, and ends with its bringing down. During this festival, the head/mask of 'Aju Dyo' or 'Akash Bhairav' is displayed and worshipped along with the statue of Indra, the King of gods. The dances of Sawa Bhakku, Lakhey, Mahakali, Pulu Kisi, Devi, etc. are performed throughout this festival. The procession called 'Upaku' in the memory of the dead ones is also observed. Similarly many events such as Dashavatar performance, Dakini dance are also observed. The displays and offerings of 'Samay Baji' are done at various places in Kathmandu. (Text courtesy: Mark Shrestha, Arun Shrestha vuzu)
This festival is celebrated by all castes and creeds, and various guthis of Newa community of Kathmandu, by taking their respective assigned responsibilities, and by helping each other to successfully organizing and conclude the festival as a joint effort. Thus, this event is not just a festival, but an occasion and symbol to strengthen the religious and cultural harmony of Newa community at large.”
The same source reminds us of this Indrajatra Day as the day when we the Newars lost our kingdoms to Prithwi Narayan Shah some centuries ago. My friends may be interested to know more on this aspect: “Fall of the Newah Kingdoms – Some Excerpts from a German Account of Hidden History of Nepal - An account by Austrian journalist, Dr. Hans Georg Behr in his book titled “Nepal Geschenk der Götter (Nepal Gifts of the Gods)” written in German reveals an unknown part of our history how the Newah Kingdoms fallen to Gurkhas. The account by Dr. Behr, who was born in Vienna, Austria but lives in Hamburg, Germany, translated into English by Chakana Nepahmi and a Nepal Bhasa version by Binod Saymi “Ala” have brought these untold episodes of the history into light recently. Either many of our historians were not aware of the episodes or reluctant to convey to us the events what led to the fall of Newah kingdoms in the Nepal Mandala in the 18th century. The account therein contradicts the conventional account of unification story of Nepal.” Source: The Newah Hamburg, Germany
If a secret history of books could be written, and the author’s private thoughts and meanings noted down alongside of his story, how many insipid volumes would become interesting, and dull tales excite the readers! - William Makepeace Thackeray
Being invited amidst a hostile environment, our ancestors established themselves in Sikkim making it their new home. They sacrificed their language and even our culture to the altar of Identity to such an extent that they lost their voice as if their tongue has been snatched out and now we cannot speak for ourselves when time demands and occasion comes. Now, the same Identity gained through generations is not only challenged but also found lost in the more of political bewilderment simply because we are in miniscule to have our voices heard. We need not mention here our dedicated service to the society in various fields here in the larger interest of the State and country as such.
As often said by some, there was a time when our ancestors were a power to reckon with and we accept it with all humility to acknowledge that such a position was earned by sheer grit, determination, foresight and sacrifice to make a name for themselves due to their loyalty to the power that be in the greater interest of the State and country. Around eight Newar ancestors have been honoured and decorated with the rare title of Rai Saheb by the British Raj in the era bygone. We the Newars thus find ourselves in a very envious position and some do not hesitate to blame our ancestors even today for what they lack in themselves. We pity them but not at the cost of our reputation hard earned by our deceased ancestors. Every one cannot be borne as Taksari brothers Laxmidas Pradhan and Chandrabir Pradhan nor can they be a Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan to have established the world-famous Chandra Nursery (established in 1910) or a Rai Saheb Bhim Bahadur Pradhan, Rai Saheb Hari Das Pradhan and his son Rai Saheb Bal Krishna alias Babu Ram Pradhan and more recently Rai Saheb Hari Prasad Pradhan. With him the name and fame spread far and wide as he was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Nepal invited by the then King Tribhuvan. The legal fraternity owes him for most of the developments in the field there. His uncle Rai Saheb Lambodar Pradhan’s son Moti Chand Pradhan the first matriculate and law graduate from the Hills was a doyen in his own right and many may have forgotten his contributions in the field of education, literature, culture and even in the Nepali language movement. Another father-son duo was Rai Saheb Tulsi Das Pradhan and Rai Saheb Madan Kumar Pradhan whose contributions extended beyond the territory of Sikkim to Kalimpong. The flower business synonymous with this place is also began from here. We can also mention here the contribution made by Taksari Chandravir Maskey of Pakyong and their descendants, the most prominent being Kashi Raj Pradhan who outshone others during his age.
So, no attempt to tarnish our ancestors’ names could be ignored in the present day context. This reminds me of our young generation who have made a name for themselves through their zeal and entrepreneurship viz. Tripti’s, Rachna Books, Mist Tree, Domestique, Square, Rahul’s, Home Depot cum Nettles and Ferns and Orange Valley Resorts that come to my mind readily as they are truly showing the way for Newars to plunge into business and trading activities which they are known for.
That is why, we would like to say to our distractors that great personalities like Taksari Chandrabir Pradhan or like Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan or Rai Saheb Hari Prasad Pradhan are born once in a generation/century. We do not claim recognition but care to recognise the outstanding contributions made by us in the past and even today.
So dedicated we are still today, I have come across an effort was made by a student to study for her M.Phil. Thesis titled “Diachronic Study of the Mining Activity in Sikkim with Special Reference to the Taksari Newars of Rhenock” way back in 1997 in the North Bengal University. Time has come for the Newars in Sikkim to rise to the occasion and initiate some serious studies and deep research on the “Contributions of the Newars in Sikkim”. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Sikkim would not have been what it is today but for the sheer grit, determination and foresight of our forefathers. The day will come when the history would be re-written. A quote would be more apt here, “If history records good things of good men, the thoughtful hearer is encouraged to imitate what is good.” (The Venerable Bede, AD 673-735)
Time is now or never but let us celebrate the Indrajatra the best way and it could be in the manner the Ganapati Utsav has taken shape over the years introduced by the great patriot and social reformist Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Pune that has now spread all over the country for ‘The bond that festival creates keeps social harmony intact’ as media reports.
It should be in the fitness of things that the concept and historical background of Indra Jatra Festival is narrated in every school after the assembly in the morning throughout the State a few days before the holiday as every child should know what is the Festival or occasion for which they got the holiday-rather chutti. That should be the case for every Government holiday whether Barahimzong, Losar/Sonam Losar, Saga Dawa, Drukpa Tsheshi, Trungkar Tshechu, Tendong Lho Rum Faat, Lhabab Deuchen, Teyongsi Srijunga, Sawan Tongnam Barahimzong, Tamu Lhochar etc. All our children do know today is Pang Lhabsol and Bhanu Jayanti. Thanks to their very capable organizers with lots of imagination. Food for thought for the departments of Information and Public Relations and Education in particular and each and every community in general to ponder over. This knowledge will truly bring unity and better understanding amidst diversity of our ethnicity at a time when there is at times tendency to break apart.
There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet.