Sikkim’s Bal Bahadur Rai: For whom art is passion

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Rajen Upadhyay

It is said that each acts of an individual is an art and such acts of human always have some artistic values. The human history has witnessed such behaviours of human society from time immemorial. The arts and objet d’art of Indus valley Civilization, Egyptian Civilization, Chinese Civilization and even before it, the anonymous and indecipherable arts of the Stone Age has rendered us some important information for the study of human history. Therefore, art in human society exists since the evolutionary period and has played an important role in expressing hidden feelings of an individual or in many cases the feelings of a whole society. This is also a story related to an artist, or in a truer sense a watercolourist of Sikkim, who has been able to stand himself on a distinct platform of the whole artist fraternity.

Bal Bahadur Rai, popularly known as B.B. Rai was born on 4th May 1950 at Tinzir Busty, Namchi in South Sikkim. He was the youngest son of late Jaharman and late Ashalacchi Rai. Mr. Rai got his elementary education at Namchi under the guidance of the important pillar of Sikkimese Nepali literature Late Agam Singh Tamang “Apatan”. In 1959, Mr. Rai got stipend from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India and went to Birla Vidhya Mandir Nainital for his further education. For his outstanding performance in Matriculation in 1966, the Uttar Pradesh Government had provided him scholarship for his further studies but, he could not continue his studies due to some personal circumstances. After accomplishing his matriculation from Birla Vidhya Mandir, Mr. Rai came back to Sikkim and completed his B.Sc. from Darjeeling Govt. College and started his service to the state as a teacher.

During his stay at Nainital, the eminent figure of Indian Cine world Danny Denzongpa used to be his senior. It is from Mr. Rai, I have been able to secure much information about our own Danny. While asking about his inclination towards painting, Mr. Rai tells me that he used to make various arts on the Biskun (food grain kept in a courtyard for drying purpose) and was fond of his eldest brother late Kabirman Rai, who also used to be an artist of repute. The only question when should I be a good artist used to reign the infant mind of Mr. Rai. His childhood task was to look after the Biskun, where he got plenty of time to spend in making sketches of various characters.

Thus, a Sikkimese artist grew up at the courtyard making various sketches on Biskun. His talent is noticeable in Vatayan, a monthly magazine of Tilak House of Birla Vidhya Mandir Nainital. This magazine was published by the Tilak House of the school on the occasion of 107th Birth Anneversary of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in July 1963. As a student of Class VII, Mr. Rai made a beautiful sketch of Lokmanya Tilak in the front page of the said magazine. His proficiency of art as a young artist is clearly manifested in the sketch of Lokmanya.

Mr. Rai, continued his passion of painting even after his service and has received many awards and certificates both from the state and central art academies. One of his paintings was among the fifth best paintings in an exhibition BRUSH STROKE hosted by Sikkim Academy in 2005. He exhibited his paintings in various places and has been able to receive approbation from the visitors throughout the country. He is also the founding President of Indradhanush Chitrakala Sanstha and is also associated with various art forums of the state and of the nation. He was also awarded as the Best Painter on the eve of State Day by the Government of Sikkim in 2007.

Apart from a watercolourist, Mr. Rai is also a versatile singer. Though, he has not recorded any song so far, but has some remarkable experiences about his singing. During the visit of Shree Panch Maharajadhiraj Mahendra Bir Vikram Shah Dev, the former king of Nepal to Birla Vidhya Mandir, Nainital in 1965, Mr. Rai sang a Nepali song Swadeshko Mayale aaja Mero Man Rulayo.

The lyric of this song was penned by his ideal teacher Late Agam Singh Tamang “Apatan”. His Majesty the king of Nepal got poignant after listening to this song performed by Mr. Rai. There were many other fellows from the mainland of India who were also in the group to sing the Nepali song in the respect of His Majesty the King of Nepal. From his talks it appears that the students of Sikkim at Birla Vidhya Mandir used to be excessively talented.

After getting voluntary retirement as a Joint Director Planning and Development, Government of Sikkim, Mr. Rai has dedicated himself in painting. His favourite is oil painting but his brush has touched all the other rivulet of paintings as well. His portrait of Smoking Devkota is indeed the best of its kind and also a new imagination of him. Similarly, the painting of Jesus, in which Mr. Rai has featured the corpse of Jesus, is taking out from the Cross by his followers. I have seen many paintings of Lord Jesus that also includes the Last Supper, but, this painting by Mr. Rai is a new and novel for me. Likewise, the painting featuring last Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal and his Queen Hope Cooke of Sikkim is a beautiful creation of Mr. Bal Bahadur Rai.

Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal with Hope Cooke

Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal with Hope Cooke

Here I am reminding the famous saying of Bal Krishna Sama, the eminent writer of Nepali literature “Hey Ishwar, yedi pratibha garibko Jhopadi mai janmincha bhane malai aajha dukha dey”… Oh God!! If a calibre only borns in the hut of a poor; make me broke.

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:

School days drawings of Sikkim’s Bollywood celebrity Danny
Jaharman Rai: The unsung Hero of Sikkimese History
The journey of political consciousness in Sikkim
Constitution of Sikkim State Congress 1947
National Song of Independent Sikkim



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