Dak Bunglows or Rest Houses run by the Government somes are the only accommodation available in the remote areas of the state. They were mostly built in a period spaning the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century during the British era for the convenience of touring officers and therefore are seeped in history.
The rooms have high ceilings, creaky wooden floors and a musty smell all harking back to a bygone era.
The oldest of these Dak Bunglows is at Aritar near Rhenock. Airtar also happens to be the place where the Police Station was established in 1897. In 1997 when I was with the Sikkim Police, I was assigned the task of publishing the Centenary Souvenir and stayed at Aritar Dak Bunglow for a few days in connection with my research work. I stumbled upon this very old visitor book.
It had a entry dated 1896 by Claude White first Political officer which states that “as the Chowkidar was absent I had to gain access by removing the window pane of the bathroom” Another interesting entry is when the Chinese High Commissionar wrongly entered the Arrival Date as 10/8/1907 and departure as 9/8/1907 which prompted a guest to comment ” The Chinaman leaves before he gets here”
In 1930 a Britisher convinced the Maharajah to try out a rather crazy experiment: delivering letters (mail) by gun-powder powered rockets. The envelopes of the mail had word “Rocket Gram ” “Sikkim Darbar Service”stamped on it. Attempts were made delivering mail by rockets to Ranka, and Saramsa from the Palace ground. Mercifully the experiment perhaps failed as the rockets could not deliver the mail with precision otherwise we would have these projectiles whizzing around Sikkim.
Chogyal Palden Thondup Namggyal like his father was also interested in technology. He was a radio ham. Ham radio is a hobby in which a person can communicate with fellow hams all over the world on wireless. It is a hobby which is like penfriendship: only in this you do more talking than writing. Hams are alloted a call sign by the Government. Palden Thondup Namgyal’s call sign was AC3PT where the first 3 characters designate the country which in this case was Sikkim and the other characters identify the individual. Since he was the only ham in Sikkim and also a king hams all across the world considered it a privilege to talk to him and looked forward to receiving a QSL card which is nothign but postcard as a proof that contact was made. However sadly the equipment was confiscated by the Indian army during the political upheavel in 1973.Post merger the author of this book was the first radio ham in Sikkim with a call sign VU2RVM and was training budding radio hams.
Prince Sidekong Tulku got a part of his education at Oxford. He wanted to implement many reforms. This is part of a copy of the letter that he wrote to Political Officer Camb Bell voicing his concern about the drunkards in the town and suggesting that …’people found drunk in the Bazar or on the thoroughfare be prosecuted and fined……….’ Sidekong Tulku succeeded the throne in 1914 but unfortunately died the same year
All Departments and units were required to submit a report of their activities annually to the Secretary to the Maharaja which was then compiled and forwarded to the Political Officer.
A part of the report submitted in 1939 by the missionary school , Scottish Universities’ Mission, at Temi is reproduced here. The parcel address has been given as Gielle Khola in the letterhead. A narrow gauge railway line existed till Gielle Khola near Tista till 1951 when it was washed away by floods.
Fakir Chand Jali was the first Chief Engineer of Sikkim and built roads, bridges, buildings and power stations in Sikkim. He was conferred the title of Rai Bahadur Sahib. He came to Sikkim in 1911 as a draughtsman and rose to the rank of Chief Engineer.On the next page is a sketch of Gangtok town that he drew in 1919.
The letterhead of Jetmull & Bhojraj who established a bank at the Ridge Road at Gangtok in 1899. Jetmul and Bhojraj were Marwari businessmen. A market called Sudder Bazar existed till the early nineteen twenties on the Ridge, then called the Cart Raod, before it shifted to present day M.G. Marg.