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History of Sikkim

The first known people to occupy Sikkim are the Lepcha and anything before that is obscure. Their cultural traits such as dress and family norms show close affinity with the Khasi of Meghalaya, and linguistically, they have a lot in common with the Tangkul Naga of Northern Manipur.

AD 1200’s
Guru Tashi, a Tibetan prince had a divine vision to go south and seek his fortune in ‘Denzong, the valley of rice’. As directed, he heads in the southern direction with is family that includes five sons. During their wanderings, they enter a Sakya kingdom where the construction of a monastery is being held back with the workers’ inability to erect the pillars. The eldest son of Guru Tashi helps in raising the pillars single-handedly and thereon comes to be known as Khye Bumsa, meaning, ‘the superior of ten thousand’. The Sakya king offers his daughters hand in marriage to Khye Bumsa, and the couple settle in the Chumbi Valley.

AD 1300’s
Khye Bumsa’s wife is barren and the couple are advised to seek help from the Lepcha priest king, Thekong Tek who rules (Sikkim) the area south of the Chumbi. Having received the blessings of Thekong Tek, Bumsa’s wife is able to bear three sons, and out of gratitude he visits the grand old sage several times more nurturing an amicable relationship between them. Ironically, Thekong Tek himself is without an offspring to inherit his kingdom. It is said that he allowed Khye Bumsa to rule after his death following a covenant of blood brotherhood between them at Kabi Lungchok, on a solemn oath that he would not discriminate his newly acquired Lepcha subjects. It is a fact that most among Khye Bumsa’s nobility each took a Lepcha spouse to attest the pledge.

AD 1600’s
Events of the persecution of the Nyingmapa sect in Tibet lead to their fleeing the country and taking refuge in places like Sikkim and Bhutan. In 1642 Phuntsog Namgyal, the grandson of Khye Bumsa is consecrated as the first Chogyal in Yuksam by Rimpoche Lhatsun Chempo, the founder of the Nyingmapa order in Sikkim. Sikkim’s territory then included the Chumbi Valley in the north, up to Ha Dzong in Bhutan, as far as the Arun River in Nepal, and much of the Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal.

AD 1700’s
Bhutanese and Nepalese forces frequently attack Sikkim. In 1706, she loses Kalimpong and all territories east of it to Bhutan. In latter years, the grandson of King Prithivi Narayan Shah of Nepal occupies much of Sikkim’s western flank.

AD 1817
The intervention by British India following their war with Nepal, and the signing of the Treaty of Titaliya between British India and Sikkim restores some of the Nepalese occupied territory though not all.

AD 1828
British Commercial Resident of Malda, J. W. Grant, and Captain Lloyd visit the Darjeeling area in a matter concerning a dispute between Nepal and Sikkim. Quick to notice the position of Darjeeling as a prospective hill resort and an outpost for trade with Tibet, they forward the proposal to their government.

AD 1835
Darjeeling is leased from the Sikkim Raja for a fee of Rs. 3,000 per annum.

AD 1850 - 1900
Darjeeling becomes famous in the Raj as a hill station and a sanatorium. Trade with Tibet develops and tea estates flourish all around its hilly slopes. In 1865 Kalimpong is ceded by the British Indian Empire from Bhutan, and vies with Sikkim and Darjeeling as a Tibetan trading post.

AD 1889
1889: Claude White becomes the Political Officer in Sikkim with a task to keep a tight rein on the activities of the Sikkim Raja and his
ministers. Soon after, a number of intriguing incidents occur. Two
heirs apparent to the throne of Sikkim die in mysterious circumstances, leaving the throne in the hands of princes second-in-line, who by royal decree had actually been groomed for monkhood.

AD 1914
Oxford educated Sidkeong Tulku, the 10th Chogyal ascends to the throne introducing administrative and political reforms but his rule is short-lived. He dies within a year of enthronement. His succeeded by his brother, Tashi Namgyal.

AD 1930 -1950’s
Pilot Officer Crown Prince Paljor Namgyal takes up bomber duty in the Royal Indian Air Force and is killed in action during World War II, while on the home front some disgruntled Sikkimese start a peoples movement to do away with the feudal system and are successful. The king takes refuge in the Political Officer’s residency and asks to be reinstated to his throne. Conceding to certain demands of the P.O., Sir Tashi Namgyal’s throne is restored and the 30-day republic annulled. In 1949, the Indian government installs a Dewan from its side to serve as the state’s chief administrative officer.

AD 1962
China attacks India. There is a massive build-up of Indian troops inside Sikkim.

AD 1963
Crown Prince Palden Thondup Namgyal marries American debutante Hope Cooke in a spectacular fairytale-like ceremony covered by Time/Life and National Geographic capturing world attention for a moment.

AD 1965
Death of Sir Tashi Namgyal. Palden and Hope succeed to the throne as Chogyal and Gyalmo.

AD 1973
Lhendup Dorji Kazi, a former Sikkim Council member leads a peoples-agitation against the monarchy making demands for a one-man one-vote system. To maintain parity between the Bhutia-Lepcha minority (25%) and the Nepalese majority (75%), a single Bhutia-Lepcha vote was equivalent to six Nepali votes. The palace administration collapses paving way for Sikkim’s merger to the Indian Union and for Kazi Lhendup Dorji to becomes it’s first Chief Minister.

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