GANGTOK UNDER THE NAMGYAL DYNASTY
Gangtok, the present-day capital of Sikkim, is perched on a ridge of the Middle Himalayan Range of the Eastern Himalaya Mountain. The name Gangtok, however, is an amalgam of two Sikkimese words, wherein Gang means ‘aptly enough’ and Tok meaning ‘hilltop’, it concertedly connotes ‘aptly enough hilltop’ . Further, the other literary meaning of Gangtok is a ‘hillock cut out to make flat land’.
It was established in 1642 by three Tibetan Lamas namely; Lha-tsun Nam-Kha Jig-med, Khathog Kuntu bZangpo and mNag-bDag Sem-pa Phun-tsong Ringzing by consecrating Phuntsog Namgyal as the first ruler of the dynasty with the title of chogyal at Yuksom . The origin and development of Gangtok is closely related and intertwined with the history and development of Sikkim, right from its inception as an independent kingdom in the distant past, being ruled by the Namgyal Dynasty for 333 years, to its merger with the Union of India, its function as the fourth capital of the kingdom and then as the capital of the newly formed 22nd state of India.
The social, economic and political conditions of Gangtok during the Namgyal Dynasty is significant in different aspects. Mainly, as various scholars have taken up the study of various aspects of the modern and colonial history of Gangtok and Sikkim, however, they all have overlooked the historical significance of Sikkim under the Namgyal Rulers. Furthermore, the principal and focal objective of the assignment itself is to examine and trace the evolution of the society, economy and the political conditions of Sikkim from pastoralism to agriculture, trade and commerce through a change in technology from the year 1640 to 1890.
This assignment, ” Gangtok Under The Namgyal Dynasty (1640-1890)”, is an attempt to reveal those facts which were unknown before and to bring to light the various social and economic reforms and changes in the society under the chogyals till the advent of the British administration. This work is further focused on possession of land holdings, taxation, income, wages, trade and commerce, agricultural system, educational system, religious structure, society, social stratification and social changes.
I. POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE NAMGYAL MONARCHY
When we regard historical evolution of political institutions as well as the administrative policy of a region, cognising and deciphering the significance of ethnicity, class and politics in the bona fide perspective is immensely crucial. as these are what have moulded the inter-ethnic relationships and have assisted in shaping the political institutions in the state. When we regarded objectively in terms of the historical antecedents, there exist three major communities; the Lepchas, the Bhutias and the Nepalese, which can be generally accepted as the three cardinal ethnic groups, which upon being coupled with the subjective self-ascribed awareness of separateness and recognition by others as a distinctive group, these are what mould the inter-ethnic relationships and have assisted in shaping the political institutions in the state, highlighting its impact on the different phases of history.
The history of political development in Gangtok may be divided into four phases:
(i)The Pre-Monarchy Era;
(ii) The Period of Theocratic-Monarchy;
(iii) The Feudal Era and,
(iv) The Dawn of Modernity.
(i) The Pre-Monarchy Era:
The history of the pre-monarchy era, in the absence of any written scripts and languages of the indigenous people, is of one which is shrouded in anonymity and obscurity. It is stated that the Lepchas, who were regarded as the aboriginal inhabitants, lived alongside the Limbus and Magar tribes much before the establishment of the Bhutia kingdom. In the Limbu tradition, all of these tribes, ruled by their tribal chiefs, were included in the Kirati stock.
The Lepchas had an administrative organization headed by a Lepcha ‘Turve’, that is, Punu (the King). After three more successors, however, due to the frequent encounters with the ‘Kirats'(Rias and Limbus), the Lepcha Kingship came to an end with Tubh Athak Punu as the last Lepcha chieftain. In the thirteenth century with his demise, a new era ushered in where the throne was usurped by the Tibetans. During this period, the Lepchas had developed legends about their ancestry to recognize places and objects marking the formative years of the cultural evolution of Lepchas. The ancient Lepcha book ‘Chunakh- Akhen’ gives the reference of Lepcha Punu back to 330 to 320 B.C.