The Charismatic Figure of Sikkim: Maharaja Sidkeong Namgyal

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Rajen Upadhyay

Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal, the 10th consecrated ruler of Sikkim was born in 1879. He was the eldest son and heir of Maharaja Sri Panch Sir Thutob Namgyal. After attending traditional (monastic) schooling he was admitted to St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling and at Pembroke College, Oxford. Sidkeong was admitted to Oxford in 1906, the year that witnessed the commencement of a modern school at Gangtok. During his two years’ stay in England he distinguished himself in the corporate life of the Oxford University.

(Sidkeong Trulku  Xth Maharaja of Sikkim. Pic. Credit: Sikkim Archives)

After accomplishing his education from Oxford he returned to his realm in 1908. After his return, Sidkeong was assigned the charge of forest, monasteries and schools which were regarded as the three important departments.

During the last few years of Maharaja Sri Panch Sir Thotub Namgyal, Sidkyong showed great competence in executing the state administration. The young lad single handedly ran the administration of Sikkim when his father Sir Thotub Namgyal was unable to execute the duty of a king due to poor eye sight.

As heir apparent, Sidkeong made two important covenants. One was the abolition of imprisonment as a penalty for defaults of debts. The other was the record in the Council Proceedings of the ban on settlements of plainsmen.

After the death of Maharaja Sri Panch Sir Thotub Namgyal, Sidkeong succeeded him on 10th of February 1914.

Sidkeong’s contact with the Western deliberation and conviction made him a secular and liberal in his deeds. Further, Sidkeong became the first bystander from Sikkim to perceive the rapid development in the west.

Possibly, he might have also desired to have a similar arrangement in his Kingdom as well. It is reflected from the access his sister Chuni Wangmo had to a modern school. In place of sending her to monastic educational institute, Sidkeong sent his sister to attend modern educational institute that itself is possibly the best illustration about his liberalism.

Being greatly engulfed in the Western ideas Sidkeong made an unsuccessful attempt to liquidate landlordism in Sikkim. This idea of the enlightened Maharaja has made him distinct from all his predecessors. In fact, it was the culmination of the western education that he received at Oxford. The lucid philosophy of Europe and America had now made Sidkeong a champion of the peasants back in his kingdom. He possibly had a superior dream to provide better avenues of income to that brow beaten nucleus of production. But, the cogent idea of him created stern enemies among a large number of landlords.

Further, his resilience for independence and forward-looking personality strained relations with the British Political Officer Sir Charles Bell. Amid all the qualities of an excellent ruler, the reign of Sidkeong Trulku Namgyal did not last long.

In the winters of 1914, this young and open-minded Maharaja had an attack of Jaundice. A British Physician from Calcutta (now Kolkata) was called to the palace to take care of him. “While somewhat indisposed, a British Physician from Bengal administered a heavy transfusion of brandy and put him under a number of blankets; at the same time a fire was kept beneath the bed. Death came in the hour. Thus, ended prematurely a promising career in most suspicious circumstances” (Sikkim-A Concise Chronicle P 22).

Even in such a short period of ten months, Maharaja Sidkeyong Namgyal tried for the betterment of his subjects. As any other charming characters of History he also had to battle with the adversaries which were prevalent within his administration. Thus, the most charismatic figure of the Sikkimese history had to meet an untimed bereavement at the young age of 35.

Apart from a good son and a great ruler, Sidkeong was a polyglot as well. He was well versed in many languages like Chinese, English, Hindi, Nepali, Lepcha and Tibetan.

In 1903 it was Sidkeong who led the Sikkimese representatives at the Delhi Durbar of Lord Curzon which eventually broke the political isolation of the Himalayan Kingdom. In 1911, Shree Panch Maharaj Kumar Sidkeong Trulku Namgyal was conferred the coveted Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) by the British Indian Government. In 1913, he was granted the honorary title of Lieutenant. After his accession to the throne of Sikkim in 1914 he took pleasure in the title of Lieutenant His Highness Shree Panch Sidkeong Trulku Namgyal, Maharaja Chogyal of Sikkim, CIE.

The above post has been published on Rajen Upadhyaya’s blog

About the author:

Rajen Upadhyay from Namchi, Sikkim is an Assistant Professor of History in the Namchi Government College. A passionate reader and sports enthusiast Rajen is working to revive the History of Sikkim. You can read his blog sikkim-historyhunter

Read other posts by Rajen Upadhyaya:

Sikkim at the Delhi Durbar of 1903
Frederick Williamson- Sikkim’s Photographer ICS
Lease Deed between Pathing Kazi Thondok and Kazi Nandalall
How cognizant are we to preserve our heritage of Sikkim?
Nar Bahadur Bhandari: 2nd CM of Sikkim



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