Sikkim Newar Guthi - A Retrospect
So Far So Good
who has been associated with the Sikkim Newar Guthi right since its inception as
the friend, philosopher and guide in different capacities throughout and
as a mentor and inspiration to many like this author.
Wish he could preview this article too like many till recent past but for his health which
he and his wife Shanti Pradhan may recover fast and live a long life together to motivate us all.
It was way back in 1982 that the clarion call was given by us (this author with Ganesh Kumar Pradhan, Hare Ram Pradhan and Dhan Bahadur Shrestha among many friends and well-wishers like K. B. Pradhan*of Hotel New Kwality, Shiva Pradhan*of the Gangtok Weekly, L. N. Pradhan* and Rudra Mani Pradhan of Universal Publishers and Printers, our own Rachna) through an inland letter dated May 27. The message read, “Realizing the need to protect and promote literatue, tradition and culture of us Newars in Sikkim we felt it necessary to initiate an organization under the name of 'Sikkim Newar Guthi'. When some of our friends consulted families in Gangtok and its vicinity we realised that this is the demand of the time.”as mentioned by Dr. Bal Gopal Shrestha in his book The Newars of Sikkim : Reinventing Language, Culture, and Identity in the Diaspora - the first ever scholarly work based on research studies done in 2004 and published in 2015. Not only here in the capital but from different parts of Sikkim and from all quarters, there was a good response to the proposal that we the Newars should also come together and have a state-wide body to look into the affairs.
The concept of having a Guthi was, otherwise, nothing new for the Newars in Sikkim as they had one at Rhenock alias the Black Hill since the days of yore. Taksari Chandrabir Newar and his brother Taksari Laxmidas Newar made Sikkim their new-found home on the invitation of the power that time. Sri 3 Dhaneshwar Shivalaya Mahadev Mandir established by him to knit the society together at Rhenock Bazar continued to be the venue to share whim and woes of the people. “The Newa Guthi used to sing devotional songs from religious scriptures like Geet Govindam and Dash Avatar in Nepali and Newar languages once in a week....” Dr. Shanti Chettri wrote in the paper titled Sikkimma Sahityako Sfuran ra Pragati for the Madan Samman Vakhyanmala submitted on the occasion of her being awarded Madan Samman at Varanasi in 2016. Further, Taksari sons Rai Saheb Ratna Bahadur Pradhan and Babu Durga Shamsher Pradhan carried forward activities broadened under the Chandra Dramatic Club much before the Apatan Sahitya Parishad (1950) till the advent of Ramlila era around same time. Rathyatra used to be observed on Janmashtami much later also while Gai Jatra (the only place outside the homeland Kathmandu valley) still continues with great fervour and renewed zeal every year in memory of family members departed during the year past.
Such was the impact of the clarion call that the message ramified the whole of Sikkim entirely when it was thought prudent enough for the then government to go all against it swung into action. The year 1994 saw the change of the government which was well aware of the aspirations of the people and that such a demand could no longer be ignored and kept in abeyance any more. The fire ignited in 1982 was still in embers smouldering somewhere within as some of the Newars reportedly assembled at the residence of Daya Prasad Pradhan* at Tadong to come up with a Newa Guthi with his family members in 1993. With the new government set in, it was deemed fit to move a proposal (by some senior retired bureaucrats so that it might not be scuttled and to save our service holders being victimized in whatsoever manner) in order to have a proper body under the name and style of Sikkim Newar Guthi same as the one propounded in 1982. Accordingly, the proposal submitted to the Government was finally approved in November 1994 vide Registration No. 689/LR/94. Mohan Pratap Pradhan* was the founder-president with Keshab Chandra Pradhan as vice-president, Govind Prasad Pradhan as general secretary and Bhim Singh Pradhan* as treasurer. Bhim Raj Pradhan* the then Law Secretary to the Government of Sikkim assisted by his deputy secretary Bijoy Pratap Pradhan did the onerous task of drafting the Constituion of SNG. The yeomen task done by sowing the seed of SNG conceived in 1982 by us - also acknowledged by Daya Prasad in his book - an important aspect in the annals of the Newars in Sikkim but is, unfortunately, missing from the pages of its history. It had taken 12 long years to sprout and germinate subsequently leading to the formation of SNG at last!
The long journey since inception would be dealt in all details with rare pictures in the forthcoming monograph. However, some of the issues that might not be considered of much relevance but as a backlog from the past era, are worth introspection arriving thus far :
- Census of the Newar population here is one of the dreams yet to be fulfilled which might not be very difficult compiling with the social media and modern technology available.
- Constitution of the SNG could be brought out in Nepali and possibly in Newar Bhasha as well.
- Tribal Status to the Newars in Sikkim should be coming through in the days ahead considering all the efforts put forward by the SNG in overall interest of the society.
- A framed photograph of the founder-president Mohan Pratap Pradhan was provided through Pradyhummna Shrestha to the then president SNG for use in their office but not well taken - neither returned nor acknowledged even. Our gesture was to show by example with a view to inculcate the decency of remembering the past presidents in appreciation of their contribution, whatsoever. (Photo of Late Mohan Pratap Pradhan is handed over to Shri R. K. Pradhanthe President of SNG - Pradyhummna Shrestha, Editor)
- (Note : This is the topic Bhaju R. K.Pradhan never misses to raise whenever we meet. We will give due attention to this point and display photograph of Bhaju Mohan Pratap Pradhan and other Presidents when we will have proper office room in Newar Bhavan - Dilu Kumar Pradhan, President)
For the first time in the annal of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, the House of 32 members is without one from the Newar community (like some others) while in the past it was at times represented by two legislators. Bikram Pradhan from Aritar representing Chujachen constituency in the prevous government worked in tandem with the SNG.
Years of perseverance, dedication, performance and lustre gathered, the decade has been keeping good stride to surge ahead successfully to get both the pieces of land registered in the name of SNG. Construction of the ambitious Newar Bhavan in the vicinity of the capital has good progress with third floor slab cast. It was the venue for celebrating Indrajatra this year in a low key but to get their efforts well-noticed on this eventful day. Great event in the years since its inception 25 Years ago, however, is to happen on 8th and 9th November. So far so good. A milestone reached but many more to go. In order to show and prove their mettle SNG is geared up for celebrating the Silver Jubilee in a befitting manner grandiose.
A line in tribute is deserved here in fond memory with gratitude to our forefathers who made Sikkim their new home that we should be proud of being borne and brought up here that many are envious of us. Darjeeling-borne and educated Prof. Gopi Narayan Pradhan*, who dedicated his whole life to the cause of education and literature at Shillong in the North East, had such an opinion when we met there on 20 June 2005. It was good gesture that the present SNG president Dilu Kumar Maske Pradhan led delegation could join several others in Kathmandu to felicitate Nhyaluwa / Pathfinder Padma Ratna Tuladhar* the 'harbinger of cultural rennaisance' in Sikkim on the occasion of his Bhimratharohan Jankwa that was celebrated for a month in 2018. Shortly thereafter, the doyen breathe his last - our tribute to the departed soul and to all our contemporaries associated with SNG or not whom we lost in recent years. Our tribute also to the braveheart martyrs Hav. Padam Bahadur Shrestha and Rfn. Gamil Kumar Shrestha of the Indian Army from Golaghat Assam, who laid down their life at Tanghdar in PoK's Neelum Valley sector of L-o-C defending the country on 20 October 2019. My work go in vain if a line in appreciation is not dedicated here to thank all the past and present office bearers – living and those no more - for carrying forward the legacy so far to hand over to the new generation well aware and attuned to the need of the hour.
SNG Youth Affairs, which performed well last year and is organizing three-day Silver Jubilee celebrations. Best is yet to come and above all, SNG has a well-motivated youth force including likes of Reshu Pradhan and Dr. Sushen Pradhan to surge ahead preserving our culture, customs, traditions, rituals including arts, history, language and heritage at the best possible way in times to come as we believe the future of all these much depend on the young generation and could be safe in their hands alone. Let us all join our hands together in solidarity to take on the challenges ahead upkeeping the ideals, holding our morale high, without resting upon the laurels of the past nor being bogged down by the setbacks of the previous decade but taking the glory to greater heights striving to excell each day passing by!
On this auspicious occasion of the 25 Years of the SNG and in behalf of the Newars in Sikkim, we extend our Himalayan Greetings to our all friends and wellwishers wishing the fellow Newars the world over a very happy Nhu Dan Nepal Samvat 1140 ! May the New Year augur well to everybody and our compatriots have a brilliant new era ahead of peace, prosperity, good health and accomplishment of whatever dreamt of - with mutual understanding/trust, contributing our best together and individually as well - excelling in every sphere we tread upon to make Sikkim shine brilliantly as a jewel in the crown of the mother India like our ancestors did all here to make us proud of!! Subhay/ Thank you.
Camp : Chester Springs, Philadelphia U.S.A. 21 October 2019
Disclaimer: This is the author's personal account to record from memory the journey called life often on detour here and there to reach this far. Views expressed herein, therefore, are his own and need not match with that of any organization or individual. Some names (asterisk* for those no more), quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with with no malice whatsoever intended. Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
“Rajiva Shanker Shresta, a retired ace bureaucrat, is a prolific writer-cum-walking encyclopaedia as far as Sikkim is concerned. His monumental book Sikkim : Three Decades towards Democracy – Evolution of Legislative System (2005) is much referred book. Very active member of Sikkim Newa Guthi in its nascent stage is now deeply associated with World Newah Organization (WNO) based in USA. His annual sojourn to see his daughter and family has brought him in close contact with the persons that matter in WNO and is instrumental to make Newars of Sikkim better known world-wide. Truly he is virtual undeclared Ambassador-at-large...” Keshab Chandra Pradhan in his Memoir The Life and Times of A Plantsman in the Sikkim Himalayas (Revised and Updated 2018)