AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE by Kavishvi Pahwa
Around 1,200 individuals streamed bowing and rubbing their heads in front of their new Chogyal three times. They put before him, no matter how bad or ragged they were, white scarves worth Rs 7 each. There was a glimmer of familial empathy with brothers and sisters as their eyes touched. The recognition of the people was meaningful to Tenzing and he stood calmly on his “throne” to greet them as they flooded in. As he settled himself into his new position” the confusion and sorrow apparent at the funeral of Palden Thondup Namgyal were quickly replaced with a silent faith and assurance.
The past of Sikkim is full of fascinating tales of ups and downs, of strong and weak leaders, and of a bloody war between many races. It is commonly believed in Sikkim that the House of Namgyal, the former ruling family of the kingdom, has a curse. No physically flawless human could ever rule the former empire, contrary to urban myth. The new Chogyal has a minor impediment to voice. Even he is not the first in the succession line. In 1941, his elder brother,’ the legitimate heir,’ was killed in Karachi as an RAF pilot. There was also a marked physical defect in the previous Chogyal of Sikkim, Sir Tashi Namgyal: he was almost blind in one eye.
Image by @mahalaya_journeys, Instagram
It is up to the people to accept and acknowledge me as the new Chogyal, and you can see the support I have been shown by the people. – Wangchuk Tenzing Namgyal
While his temporarily elected predecessors stress the authority to govern that is translated as the right to abuse, moral and spiritual leadership is the priority of the Chogyal. Knowing that one’s own ego is the most formidable opponent to conquer, he is an undisturbed practitioner and custodian of the teachings that formed the foundation for the creation of a distinctive Sikkimese identity.34 years ago, Chogyal Wangchuk Namgyal, dismissed his coronation as an “unnecessary state ceremony”.
Once crowned monarch, he now lives the reclusive life of a monk. Wangchuk Namgyal has preferred to slip into monasteries, caves and resultant oblivion despite being the scion of the Chogyal dynasty. In at least some of his previous subjects and mockery by those opposed to the former royalty, Namgyal still evokes awe. Monarchists also wonder about his whereabouts and well-being. In Gangtok, the laid-back capital of the state,’ where is he’ and how is he’ are common subjects of conversations behind closed doors of many households.