dawn breaks in softly. The sun is cradled in the lap of the
Mountain-God, Kangchhen-dso-nga. He seeps in the gold and scatters it
all over Sikkim -- the land of his worshippers.
not so far away from this interplay of nature and godliness, a prayer
flag looming precariously over a gorge catches a ray of the gold. The
ray teems up with the breeze to sing prayers across the valleys. The
God, Kanchhen-dso-nga stands in his magnificence, seeping in a richer
shade of gold every passing minute ....
is Sikkim. The land whose terrain, people and beings symbolize the
world of Gods. A land deeply entrenched in mystical tradition which
is authenticated by the history of Sikkim. Interestingly, its history
involves no documentation of facts or drawing up of statistical
charts. What exists as the Sikkim past is a rich, dynamic oral
tradition -- those of legends, folk tales and customs.
story behind the crowning of the first king of Sikkim is safe in a
legend. Guru Rimpoche who consolidated and propogated Buddhism in
Tibet prophesized that Buddhism would spread to Sikkim. Lhatsun
Chenpo, the patron saint of Sikkim, was given this task. His initial
attempts at reaching Sikkim were unsuccessful due to there being no
route from Tibet to Sikkim. It was then that he was visited by God
Kanchhen-dso-nga in the form of a wild goose that showed him the
path. His search began for the new King. Criterion, according to the
prophecy, was the first person with the name Phuntsog. During the
search, Lhatsun Chenpo and two other lamas stopped to drink some milk
at a place. It was only afterward when they asked the name of the
milkman that they realized their search had ended. Phuntsog was
crowned the `Great religious King of Sikkim', the first Namgyal.
is deeply imprinted in every aspect of Sikkim. It is both, the land
and the religion, which have acquired a flavour of the other. A
welcome to Sikkim consists of the swinging prayer flags lined all
along the roads. If one is observant enough what can be detected are
little cloth rags tied to trees, in order to ward off evil spirits.
You see, life for the people of Sikkim offers a dimensional variety
no urban life style can offer. There are various kinds of worlds as
symbolized in the Buddhist `wheel of life'. You can tune in to the
Spirit World, the God World, the Human World, or even the Devil
World. Connections exist all around...
the hollow of the trees, depths of the forests, or the snowy summits
"horrific phantoms who appear as black fire breathing dogs,
giants or feathered monsters" exist. Lepchas, the original
inhabitants of Sikkim, believe in these malignant spirits called
Mung. Across religious or ethnic barriers there are appointed priests
who specialize in exorcising these spirits. Lepchas call them
Bongthing. Nepalese have Jhankri and the Limbus have tribal priests
Yebas (male) and Yemas (female).
Buddhism has over the years got deeply integrated with the culture of
this land. The form of Buddhism that is followed incorporates the
teaching of Gautam Buddha with the Tantrik elements. The male energy
is considered to be the method and the female the wisdom, a unison of
both brings about transcendental knowledge which helps break the
cycle of birth and rebirth. The Tantra expresses duality inherent in
all things -- the male and female aspects as well as the pacific and
horrific aspect -- expressed through the two opposite forms of the
same deity, peaceful in one and fiercely terrifying in the other. The
practices consist of chanting of mantras, on mudras and mandalas-
cosmic diagrams charged with potential energy.
I am told by Mr. R.P. Bhutia, an expert from the Research Institute
of Tibetology, automatically comes as a part of learning for the
Tantric Lamas. It is, however, deeply rooted in the Buddhist guidance
which means that its usage is for blessings. He tells me that it is
used for curing sick persons from evil spirits and can even be used
to influence nature. Two years ago in a small village in East Sikkim
there were a large number of unexplainable deaths. Lamas were called
in from Rumtek Monastery situated close by. After performing the
rituals and homs all the demons were washed out of the place,
resulting in no more deaths.
Lamas, continuing the Tantric Buddhist tradition form a part of the
Sikkimese life. Till recently one male member from every Bhutia
family joined the monastery. The social life in Sikkim revolves
around the monastery, what facilitates this is the fact that most of
the lamas are married and live within the community. A anthropology
researcher from France Melanie Everts tells me, "Identification
with the Lamas becomes easier on these grounds. Along with it comes a
respect for their religious and moral guidance or authority."
the times in this perceived land of timelessness are changing.
Tourism is coming in, smuggled goods are pouring in from across the
borders. The youth in towns like Gangtok are desirous of night clubs
and joints to "hang out in". A soft but growing
restlessness can be detected beneath the peaceful pace in these
towns. For them the shangri-la is no longer Sikkim but the world
outside. Even in the Religious colleges or she-das there is a growing
recognition of the need to make money. Few of the students who
graduate in Buddhist Philosophy, astrology or arts want to go on to
practice meditation. Mostly the desire is to get government jobs.
Pragmatic and career oriented all sound like the youth in any other
part of the country, wanting to identify - be it through clothes or
through the choice of movies. A realization seeps in that no land can
ever remain untouched.
the landscape forces you to believe otherwise. The soft spinning of
prayer wheels often practically used for grinding flour; the chants
of `Om mani padme hum', the decoration of the prayer flags ... all
bear a testimony to the reality of this world of Gods.
step into Sikkim and nothing seems unbelievable. As the night sets in
the tall shadows of the trees seem to beckon you into a land that
exists in the realities of illusion. Pathways, rich in their
ruggedness lead you on. All this to the sounds of the Teesta gushing
with ferocity. To the rhythm of the waterfalls, thirsty in their
passion. It becomes only too easy to live -- wanting this land to be
the land of no return.
one is woken up by the sounds of the conch-shells as they guide you
into another day. Sunrise in the East. Another day for the prayer
wheels to send their prayers across heavens. Anther day when the
flags will whisper the holy into the winds. Another day for the
people of this land to go about their daily living protected by the
clouds and surrounded by the mountains of The Creator.