Indrajatra and Newar Language in Sikkim
Some Proposals and Possibilities
Good or bad, Sikkim Newar Guthi was brought back to Gangtok in the year 2010 and many felt relief to the ultimate happened for the better. In the following year Indrajatra was declared as a public holiday by the Government of Sikkim most probably for being a community based state festival. It was a milestone and a challenge as well. That year prominent litterateurs like Lakshman Rajbanshi, Raja Shakya and whole bunch were here invited to participate in solidarity celebrating Indrajatra. Similalry, a host of Newah academicians were in the capital participating in the seminar held on the Newah language, culture and traditions in 2014. Various events were organized from time to time but newly introduced Indrajatra is established as the most popular annual festival. Some wise reminded us that why the Newars are celebrating the day when the pages of history show it as their Black Day. In reply I had written an article published in local newsdailies that we take Indrajatra as the day to unite together and show our solidarity rather than that of our defeat. Now this is not only a challenge to convert it into a source of inspiration and possibilities besides being that of introspection for all of us. Indrajatra has, therefore, been organized not only in Sikkim but in different parts of the world wherever the Newars have migrated and settled down making it a day to express unity and solidarity. This number in increasing day by day. Indrajatra has also given us the opportunity to showcase and display the rich Newar language, religion, art, culture, cuisine, custom, traditions, etc. Thus protecting, preserving and promoting them through our grit and determination to put it before our society, state and country but at the international level as well successfully. As a result, today we find that the Newar community rather civilization is now well known for its civilized social traditions and heritage the world over. This practice is continued further as more and more such celebrations have been organized over the recent years the world over. Added to the list is one being held for the first time ever this year in Baltimore, Maryland on the initiative of no other than the World Newah Organization President Season Shrestha and others like-minded settled there forming a large chunk of population in America. Theyhave plans to celebrate elaborately exact in the manner held back home in Kathmandu.
Year 1982 it was the concept of Sikkim Newar Guthi was propounded by this writer and his like-minded friends Ganesh Kumar Pradhan, Hare Ram Pradhan and Dhan Bahadur Shrestha. Timely proposal that was welcomed by one and all from here, there and everywhere directly or indirectly and prominent among them to name a few, I remember here L. N. Pradhan* and Mitra Kumar Pradhan* besides Shiva Pradhan (Gangtok Publications), Rudra Mani Pradhan (Universal Printers), K. B. Pradhan (Kwality Hotel, Kwality Stationaries and Producer of first Bollywood Film from Sikkim with his actor-son 'Romeo in Sikkim') and Rachna Books Family. In spite of it being a difficult time, their financial support, however small it might be in the present day context, helped us a lot to put across the message to the cross section of the Newar society not only in Sikkim but outside as well. This clarion call carried by the Inland letter sparked a tiny flame of hope somewhere inside our hearts feeling that we were not alone who had been nurturing such an idea within. Faded over time the memory is still lingering in our mind fresh. Timely proposal but not yet ripe for such a thing to happen in the prevailing political scenario in Sikkim.
because you want to say something,
because you have something to say.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Newar Language: Election 1994 saw the change in government that brought along the much needed recognition of the Newar language along with six others viz., Rai, Gurung, Maga, Sherpa, Tamang and Bhujel at par with the existing four official languages of Sikkim, i.e. Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha and Limbu vide Extra-Ordinary Gazette Notification No. 5 LD 90 dated April 3, 1995. Here our language is mentioned as Newari which is not proper and it is taken as deragotory. Very much like we do not say the language spoken by the Magar, Gurung, Bhujel or Tamang as Magari, Gurungi.Bhujeli or Tamangi, Newar language is not what is mentioned therein. This discrepancy, therefore, must be dispensed with at an earliest and the correct word Newar should be used instead. This error is brought to the notice of the officials of the Sikkim Newar Guthi, who should check the Notification once. If found so, submit a memorandum bringing it to the notice of the authority with a request for such a rectification in the said Notification. It is an humble urge from the language experts and conscious Newah fraternity the world over and on my own behalf as well. Sikkim is well aware of the incorrect terminology as Facebook Page The Newar Community operated from here has the message 'It is not NEWARI, please STOP using this word' boldly displayed for their cover photo, Perhaps they too are unaware of the mistake in the said Notification. Otherwise, teaching of the Newar language in government schools in Sikkim has widely been acclaimed the world over particularly in the mainland Nepal. Five thousand copies our Newa: Varna Lipi ra Bhasha Parichaya in 1996 and 2001 editions had already reached to the interested readers also in Nepal.
Kwati Punhi: It was the generosity of the state government that Sikkim has been enjoying Indrajatra declared as a public holiday since 2011. The Newars are famous to have many festivals to celebrate every month/full moon and one such festival is the Gunhu Punhi or Kwati Punhi. This festival coincides with the Pang-lhab-sol or known in our school days as the Worship of the Snowy Range and Raksha Bandhan, both a Government Holiday in Sikkim. Gunhu Punhi or Kwati Punhi could be accommodated in the List of Gazetted Holidays as yet another Newar Festival included therein. This would not only be a great honour to our much popular food known as Kwanti in this part of the country but yet another kind gesture of the benevolent government. Educationist Dr. Paras Mani Pradhan had brought our a book with the title Kwanti, a collection of essays including one on Kwanti in 1950s. As Secretary in charge of the Information and Public Relations Department and ex-officio Editor-in-Chief of the Sikkim Herald, an article highlighting the significance of this favourite Newar cuisine was penned/brought out in theyear 1995. Kwati is combination of two words in Newar language 'Kwa' means hot and 'ti' means soup, Kwati is, as such, a hot soup relished during the rainny season to boost the sagging spirit due to damp hard days of paddy plantation. Punhi is the fullmoon day of the month culminating. Gunhu, again, is the nine different kind of pulses when mixed together form a delicious nourishing hot beverage. Likened to different communities in our society if united together would bring in much desired overall development to strengthen the message Unity in Diversity we often hear since our early days. My article was then well received. If the Government is considerate enough to include Kwati Punhi as a public holiday, it would also help boost their image as the benevolent body promoting communal harmony yet again!
Incredible India: It was with the kind gesture of the Government that provided a generous grant-in-aid to the Sikkim Newar Guthi for purchase of a land in Turung near Namthang. Steps are taken to make appropriate use of the land thus purchased. Priority with the Guthi at the moment is our dream project Newar Bhavan in the vicinity of thecapital. This would not have been possible if there was similar funding by the Government. Such generousity have made possible the annual Indrajatra Festival a regular feature besides many other events and activities the Guthi takes up involving all the section of the community state-wide. Over the years after holding Indrajatra at different places rural and urban, it has now been found that the capital Gangtok is the best place to hold the Indrajatra in such a magnitude considering different aspects involved in successfully holding the Festival. It could now safely be concluded that if Gangtok has the honour to host the Indrajatra, it is just matter of time and every chance is there that it could be vieing with the rest not only in the state but in the country as a whole to find a slot to be included in the list of tourist map of Tourism India as a part of Indredible India that we all in Sikkim could boast of bringing in much needed revenue to the State as well. As we find from the Programme for this year's three-day long State-Level Indrajatra 2018 Festival with an array of Traditional Dance and Music performed by the Newars, Grand Finale of Open Talent Hunt, Newar Folk Dance, Ethno Achar Competition besides Art and Culture, Photography, Painting, Handicraft and Food Stall Competitions apart from the regular main features like Puja-Shagun-Rathyatra venue Bhanu Udyan. Cultural Programmes with Awards Giving and Felicitation to be closing ceremony held at the Manan Bhavan. Another much looked forward event, however, not found mentioned in the Programme is the Popularity Contest to select Bhaju Sikkim 2018 and Maiju Sikkim 2018 based on the maximum number of scores based on Likes (each 1 point) and Shares (each 2 points) on Facebook page of the Sikkim Newar Guthi Youth Affairs. Official Organ of the Guthi 'Pau' is also being launched this time. These amply show that Indrajatra could be a right claimant to represent Sikkim and reach that destination Incredible India. This possibility is not a fragment of this author's healthy imagination but also expectation of many wellwishers, who are aware of and have observed the evolution of Indrajatra Sikkim Festival as a tourist attraction in Sikkim over these years. It is just a matter of time for all of us, hopefully!
Before I end,this must be an opportunity to remember fondly our ancestors who brought us all on this world. Grateful we should be to those who made Sikkim Newar Guthi a possibility and took us thus far. First of all the Founder-President Mohan Pratap Pradhan and his efficient team that saw us through the teething initial stage. By the time we were with his successor Keshav Chandra Pradhan as the President who continues to be source of inspiration and advice not only in his capacity as the Chairman of the Central Advisory Committee of the Sikkim Newar Guthi Sikkim but to many in a wide range of subjects he is well conversant with. Govind Prasad Pradhan, who was General Secretary in the first committe, was Vice President with him and he too keeps in touch with various developments taking place. Bhim Raj Pradhan,the longest serving Law Secretary was instrumental in framing the draft Constitutionof the Sikkim Newar Guthi much needed for the registration with the Government. His deputy Bijoy Pratap Pradhan rendered necessary assistance in drafting the document. Bhim Singh or B. S. Pradhan* was the first General Secretary in the Guthi who took all the cudgels to visit Newar families in different parts of Sikkim explaining the aims and objectives to form early network of the functionaries in districts. He along with Baikunth Raj Shrestha* from Rongli had participated as Sikkim delegates in a Newar function in Kathmandu. He developed misunderstanding due to the language he did not know while his friend hogged the show with the advantage he had. Madan Kumar Pradhan, who had fetched a role in the Hindi movie shot in Sikkim starring Devanand, Vyjayantimala and Ashok Kumar, was Treasurer in the second committee. It was after the tenure of Arun Kumar Pradhan* as President that Khagendra Pradhan took over and thought it fit to shift the headquarters outside Gangtok.
The tenure of Keshab Chandra Pradhan was most significant and best remembered for the historic programme held in 1997. As a part of the year-long celebrations of the 50 Years of India's Independence i.e., Golden Jubilee, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Heritage headed by Jaisri Pradhan as Secretary Government of Sikkim had invited a cultural troupe from Nepal. Newah Icon Padmaratna Tuladhar had headed the Nepal Bhasha Mankah Khala with Nareshbir Shakya. In spite of inclement weather peoplefrom remote parts of Sikkim braved the cold and enjoyed the cultural extravaganza performed in that Newar Cultural Evening held on 13 and 14 December. Its memory is still cherished and treasured making the collage brought out for the 1998 calendar by Karunaguthi to be the cover photo of our Group Page Newars in Sikkim. The role of a mouth piece in reaching the message of the organization to the masses emphasized and agreed by the Founder President, this writer had brought out an special 6th issue of the Newa: with pictures of this Programme and widely distributed in Nepal as well. It unfortunately was the last issue under the circumstances its editor had to undergo following its publication. Time and space do not allowme to elaborate the matter. By this time we had already started Newar edition of the Sikkim Herald for the first time ever with support from Bindumati Pradhan as my joint secretary.
Karuna Guthi had the rare privilege to have two of its popular publications launched by Nyahluwa Padma Ratna Tuladhar, It was in New Year's Day 2011 that Newah Bhaye Learner written by Daya Ratna Shakya was launched during a function held under the auspices of Nepal Vibhut Shankhdhar Sirpa Samiti at Madhyapur Thimi, Nagadesh in the presence of distinguished guests and promnent Newah litterateurs. Similarly, my own The Newars Worldwide – Connecting the Dots” Sikkim that had been launched by the Nepalese Ambassador Dr. Arjun Kumar Karki and Nyahluwa Malla K. Sunder during the Second World Newah Organization Convention at Baltimore, Maryland USA was launched by Padma Ratna Tuladhar in presence of former Nepalese Ambassador to Russia Prof. Hiranyalal Shrestha, Nareshbir Shakya and a gliteratti of Newah personalities. Both Padma ratna and Nareshbir was felicitated perhaps for the first time ever in recogntion of their major contribution towards Newar cause coming all the way to Sikkim two decades ago. The function was held in association with Elonhan Publications in the premises of Asha Safu Kuthi. In both the occasions, the function was well conducted by Sarad Kasa:. Dr. Shrestha had presented the book there while it was Prof. Diwaker Pradhan from Banaras Hindu University in the Book Preview held earlier at Rachna Books, Gangtok. Book was launched by our Nhyaluwa (Pathfinder) Keshab Chandra Pradhan in presence of the legislator Bikram Pradhan as guest of honour, blessed by three senior ladies of our family Muma, Thulo Maiju and Sanu Maiju and witnessed by distinguished guests to make who is who in the capital. Dr. Pratap Chandra Pradhan, Dean of the Sikkim University had spoken on the Newars while former Director of the State Administration and Acccounts Institute Ganesh Kumar Pradhan and social worker R. K. Pradhan* from Rhenock had expressed their opinion on the Newars in Sikkim. It would not perhaps be out of context to mention here that this book is procured by The Library of Congress, Washington D. C.
Last month in Bhadra Kathmandu witnessed a month-long celebrations of Jyajanko or Maharatharohan to mark 77 years 7 months attained by Nhyaluwa Padma Ratna Tuladhar, Felicitation by different organizations in various fora was accorded to him for his outstanding contributions in every field – right from journalism, literature, human right, right of the indegenous people, to politics though he never attached himself with any political outfit in the country. Concluding function was the ceremonial Bhimratharohan or procession from his Lazimpat residence to the Rashtriya Naachghar where a civic reception awaited the couple. A delegation of the Sikkim Newar Guthi was there to offer him Felicitaion wishing him good health and long life on behalf of the Newar community of Sikkim in view of the cultural relations established between the two ever since he visited Sikkim with the cultural troupe on the occasion of Golden Jubilee of Indi's Independence in 1997. The bond is stillmaintained cordially till this day and would be continued in future as well.
This celebration reminded me of the Sahasra Chandra Darshanam or Maharatharohan commonly known as Jankwa held in honour of our father Jai Shanker Lall Shresta on the occasion of sighting a thousand moons. i.e., 83 years and 4 months. Three-day long celebration was held by Karuna devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi in association with Rhenock Newar Guthi and Sikkim Newar Guthi at Rhenock way back in May 2000. Here also space constraint stop me from going further. Some people are of the opinion that it was this magnificent celebration that might have inspired Indrajatra celebration in Sikkim introduced later that year!
Any way all is well and wish you all a prosperous year ahead. Happy Indrajatra!
Disclaimer: This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. Here in this article a sincere attempt has been made to present the origin of Indrajtra in Sikkim with an update on the Newars in Sikkim briefly. Some names (asterisk* for those no more), quotes, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.