Since its establishment in 1958, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology has sponsored and promoted research on the religion, history, language, art and culture of the people of the Tibetan cultural area including Sikkim. The NIT’s library holds one of the largest collection of Tibetan works in the world outside Tibet and a museum of Tibetan iconography and religious art. It has published the Bulletin of Tibetology since 1964 and numerous books over the years.
The site on which the institute was established was gifted by the late Chogyal (king) of Sikkim Sir Tashi Namgyal. The foundation stone of the institute was laid by the 14th Dalai Lama on the 10th of February 1957 and the institute was declared open by the late Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the 1st of October 1958. The building of the institute is an imposing monument and a splendid example of Sikkimese architecture.
In the summer of 2002, the NIT undertook to expand the institute, restructure its research wing and open its doors to international collaboration. This is being done through the creation of new research programs, lectures, seminars, fellowship programs, publications and collaboration with foreign scholars. The institute is actively promoting Buddhist Himalayan and Tibetan Studies, including its sub-field of Sikkimese Studies, and establishing itself as a dynamic research centre in the Eastern Himalayas.
Among its new research programs, the NIT’s Research Officers have undertaken a project to document the social history of Sikkim’s monasteries and digitize their textual holdings. The Visual Sikkim project undertook to locate, digitalize and document old and rare photographs of Sikkim, both in India and abroad. The Institute now houses the best photographic archive on Sikkim from which three historic photo exhibitions have been realised. The NIT has also established a visual anthropology project in order to produce an enduring digital record of Sikkim’s vanishing Buddhist cultures. A linguistic survey of the State is also under way.
The NIT has undergone a general expansion of its infrastructure and facilities. The construction of a new building which houses a library, study rooms, a conference hall, studios and an administrative wing was inaugurated by the Governor of Sikkim, His Excellency Balmiki Prasad Singh in October 2008 as part of the Institute’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations.
As part of the same celebrations, an international conference was held at the Institute from 1-5 October 2008 on the theme ‘Buddhist Himalaya: Studies in Religion, History and Culture.’ The conference was attended by a large number of national and international scholars from 16 different countries of which 72 presented papers.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Department of Information Technology, Government of India has funded a project for the digitization of the Institute’s entire collection of Tibetan manuscripts which is to be launched in the Digital Library of India website. As part of this project, two DVDs were launched by His Excellency, the Vice-President of India in 2009. The first DVD is a collection of sound recordings of monastic hymns from the monasteries of Sikkim and the second is a video recording of Sikkimese monastic mask dances.
(Courtesy: Sikkim Mail)