The Garden Party at the Gangtok Residency in 1890
An Excerpt from “Sikkim and Bhutan” by J. Claude White, the first Political Officer of Sikkim
My first garden party would have seemed very quaint to European eyes. I had invited the Maharaja and Maharani, with the members of Council, and all Kazis and headmen with their wives and families. A goodly crowd assembled about four hours before the appointed time and lined the road just outside the Residency grounds, sitting about on the grassy edges until they were told they might come in, determined not to be late. Most of them had never seen, much less tasted European sweets or cakes, and when tea-time came they simply cleaned the tables of everything, and what they could not eat they carried away in the front of their voluminous coats. They emptied the sugar basins, and even took the spoons and liqueur glasses, and it all took place so quietly while my wife and I were with the Maharaja and Maharani and more important guests in another tent, I hardly realised what was going on.
The spoons and glasses, which I think they wanted as mementos of the good time they had had, were returned, on the Phodong Lama and Shoe Dewan remonstrating, and they departed very happily, declaring they had highly enjoyed their entertainment, and that all their heads were going round, a polite way of saying I had not stinted the drinks. They were always a very cheerful crowd and very pleasant to deal with, though indolent and improvident.
After my house was finished, nothing pleased them more than to be allowed to wander round the rooms, especially the bedrooms. They never touched anything, but liked to see how we lived and what European furniture was like.
Almost every market day little bands of women dressed in their best clothes would arrive with a few eggs or a pat of butter to make their salaams to my wife and a request that they might be allowed to go over the house, and their progress was marked with exclamations and gurgles of laughter at the strange ways of Sahib-log.
While the house was building, the Maharani came several times to see how it was getting on, and told me I had built the walls much too thin and it would never stand. In their own houses and monasteries the walls are very thick, from 3 feet to 4 feet 6 inches, and have always a small camber. However, later on I had the best of the argument when, in the earthquake of 1897, the Palace, notwithstanding its thick walls, collapsed entirely and had to be rebuilt, while the Residency, though badly cracked, remained standing.
Some old Sikkimese Laws and Customs (Excerpted from the book “A Gazetteer of Sikhim” by H.H. Risley, 1894. These laws and customs are of course no longer prevalent)Marriage Customs of the Sikhimese If the eldest brother takes a wife, she is common to all his brothers. If the second brother takes a wife, she is common to all the brothers younger than himself. The eldest brother is not allowed to cohabit with the wives of the younger brothers. Should there be children in the first case, the children are named after the eldest brother, whom they call father. In case 2, after the second brother, &c.Three brothers can marry three sisters, and all the wives are common, but this case is not very often seen. In such a case the children of the eldest girl belong to the eldest brother, & c., if they each bear children. Should one or more not bear children, then the children are apportioned by arrangement. Two men not related can have one wife in common, but this arrangement is unusual. A man occasionally lends his wife to a friend, but the custom is not general and uncommon.
If a girl becomes pregnant before marriage and afterwards marries the father of the child, the child is considered legitimate, but the man is fined a bull or its equivalent, which go to her relatives. Should the man by whom the girl was made pregnant not marry her, and should she afterwards marry another, the child remains with the woman’s brothers or relatives. A woman is not considered dishonoured by having a child before marriage.
Taking another’s wife or adultery.
The old law runs that if any one takes a Raja’s or Lama’s wife, he may be banished, have his hands cut off, or his penis cut off. He may also have to pay a weight in gold equal to his penis and testicles. For violating woman of different position 3 oz. of gold have to be paid to the woman’s relations and 4 gold srang to the Government, besides many things in kind.
For violation of a woman of the same position, 2 or 3 gold srang and several kinds of articles have to be paid. If the woman goes of her own accord to the man, he has only to pay 1 gold srang and three kinds of articles.
P. T. NAMGYAL – THE LAST KING OF SIKKIM
(An Excerpt from Sikkim Coronation Souvenir)
Miwang Chogyal Chempo Palden Thondup Namgyal, Twelfth Consecrated Chogyal of Sikkim, was born at Gangtok on 22nd May 1923. The Chogyal Chempo was the second son of the late illustrious Chogyal Sir Tashi Namgyal. The Chogyal started his schooling at Saint Joseph’s Convent, Kalimpong, at the age of six. In 1935 he continued his studies at Saint Joseph’s College, Darjeeling, and completed his studies at Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, in 1941. He could not study further because of the untimely demise of Prince Paljor, the heir apparent, who was then serving as an officer in the Royal India Air Force.
As the heir-apparent, Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal underwent the Indian Civil Service training course at Dehra Dun in 1942 and thereafter returned to his country. The young Crown Prince started taking an active interest in the administration of his country.
In August 1950 he married Sangey Deki, daugther of Yapshi Phodrant of Tibet. Sangey Deki died in June, 1957. In March, 1963 he married Miss Hope Cooke of the United States of America. The Chogyal had three issues from the first wife – Tenzing, Wangchuk and Yangchen. From the American wife- Palden and Hope.
After the death of his father, Palden was crowned as the Twelfth Chogyal of Sikkim on 4th April 1965. The Evening Standard dated 5th April 1965 had this to say about the Coronation A King was crowned in the bright sunshine this morning in the Himalayan land of Sikkim where there are giant butterflies and pandas and four hundred different species of wild orchid – a day chosen by the astrologers as “entirely favourable.”
The Mahayana Buddhist ceremony at the splendid pagoda-type Royal Chapel was remarkable. The chapel, every inch decorated with pointed carving and tassels and cylindrical banners hanging from the ceiling, was packed with a strange cross section of the world and cameramen were flashing and whirling and jostling. Monks and Lamas in their tall red hoods grouped round the Chogyal, were deep in their religious rites and quite unaware of the commotion.
The King mounted his golden throne, covered with 13 cushions signifying 13 stages of perfection at the auspicious hour. He sat cross-legged and serene in his golden brocade robes, lined with red satin and embrodiered with lotus flowers, while he was presented with innumerable objects (symbolising moral virtue, compassion, altruism, stability and power) and listened to the rhythmic chanting of the lamas and monks. Speeches in English and Sikkimese followed the ceremonial taking of tea. The King read a speech from the throne in English thanking the people for their loyalty, remembering his father with reverence and thanking India for her kindness.
All the ceremonies were presided over by Sikkim’s spirits, who live on the summit of the Kanchendzonga, whose snowy peak smiled through the window facing the throne.
Sikkim became an integral part of India in May 1975 following which Palden Thondup Namgyal no longer remained the Maharaja: the three hundred year old monarchy thus came to an end. A few years later he became estranged with his wife Hope. In 1977 his eldest son Tenzing died in a car accident. Palden Thondup Namgyal died of cancer in 1982 – a dejected man. His son Prince Wanchuk presently stays in the “Palace”.