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Existence of the Devi lives on at PandamGarhiMandir

Sunday, May 17, 2020 16:45 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, May 17, 2020 11:10 [IST]

Existence of the Devi lives on at PandamGarhiMandir


On May 8, 2020 the Sikkim state cabinet meeting sanctioned different funds through different government departments and among these sanctioned list was an approval and sanction of Rs.6383.00 lakhs (Rupees sixty-three crores and eighty-three lakhs only) for the construction of Pilgrimage Centre with 54 feet high statue of Nishani Kali Devi at Central Pandam, East Sikkim under Civil and Tourism Department.

Definitely this project will help the region grow for the better prospect in tourism. The visitors who look for new destinations will appreciate the natural beauty around the mandir. Rightly, the panoramic beauty of hills across will capture the exquisiteness of the nature.

I have visited this place four times and this mandir falls on the way to the historic PandamGarhi ruins. We had always talked about Garhi ruins but stories related to Kali Mandir or the PandamGarhiMandir had been limited to oral rendition and followed from one generation to another. These stories are events and collection of anecdotes that had made this Mandir grow stronger from one corner of the state to another and even beyond that. These stories are amazing and shelter self-belief to those who follow Devi and her auspicious presence.

Old folks of Pandam say, they had heard from their elders, Devi used to visit their hills most often and those happenings were much earlier than the stories of DamodarParrhey’s legend. Those folks do remember the people who had seen Devi or had felt the presence of her. Those villagers had been worshiping Devi Kali since ages and the presence of the temple above the village Karmithang is as old as its first human settlement around that region. Not only have the locals, the worshipers on neighbouring states too have firm belief upon the charishma of the Kali.

I have heard different accounts related to Devi and her surroundings from RP Bhandari, a man on his eight decades of life. Some of the stories had lived-up since ages and few stories were recent ones. In one such incident – a group of men was moving at the forest near the mandir when they came across a small girl. One of them had mistakenly made fun of the girl. Thereafter he got ill and had blood vomiting. Upon knowing that they had annoyed Devi; he and his family went to the mandir that same evening and asked for forgiveness. He recovered from his illness after that.

Another story says, once there was a forest fire. The fire was big and when it was about to approach the mandir premises, all of a sudden there was a rainfall around on the bright sunny day and the fire was put off. Surprisingly, the rain too stopped, added the old man. There are various incidents of people visiting this mandir from far places when their child had speech disorder and getting it recovered. Incidents where people had informed of coming across a tiger at the mandir make the place more mysterious.

RP Bhandari said, he had been visiting the mandir with his grandfather since his childhood and they used to worship the tree out-there. Upon asking why he was worshiping the tree, his grandfather would say, we had been doing this since ages and worshiping this tree would bring fortune to our area and no ill effect would occur, remembers Bhandari. Devi was worshipped in the form of a tree and the idol of Kali kept later, I believe.

Religious rituals and festivals are regularly performed at the Kali Mandir. Just below the mandir is a small water source that comes out from the muddy walls. The most famous oral narrative among the villagers says, popular warrior from Nepal, DamodarPahrey with his more popular name DamodarPande after having war with Sikkim had reached this place of Pandam. He himself was a worshipper of Devi Kali. The land then was very dry and he had mysteriously pushed his finger into the wall and water flowed from it from no-where. Even to this day, the water still flows and had not dried up. It is said he had washed his sword on that water. The story seems hard to believe in this 21st century but these are legends and people talked about it to this day. DamodarPahrey was a mysterious person, I have read in one of the book he was carried on a counch (sankha) from Kuerseong to Nepal. This was just to relate his mystery. We shall talk about those various flying counch some other day. The chronology of Sikkim history mentions the presence of Nepal army along with DamodarParhey in 1788-89.

An interesting anecdote shared by Arun Bhandari, son of RP Bhandari, he told me they never had any problem of water whenever they organised MahaPuran at the Devi Mandir. For all those seven to nine days they never had to carry water. But when there was construction works inside the mandir, the source of water would be very less that they had to be carried from nearby sources.

The historic PandamGarhi ruin is some 10-15 minutes’ walk from the Kali Devi mandir. We have various accounts claiming to have built the Garhi but nothing is correctly found. My small mind shifts to the discoveries that happened in 2009. During the repairing of the walls and the construction of walking stairs, the workers underneath the shifted rock boulders and muddy debris found cannon balls like round river stones, pottery pieces, a ‘jhatoa’ used for grinding grains, stone tablets written in ranjanalipi, burned blackened charcoal pieces and others. This finding was simply amazing but in the last eleven years nothing has been done about it. The carbon dating of pottery pieces and those burned charcoal could re-write the story of this Garhi. What was the stone tablets doing there? Many questions arise?

There are tales about the war between the armies of PandamGarhi and the NamthangGarhi. They used to throw cannon balls like stones across each other and it is believed that few busted walls found to this day are said to be by the strength of those stones thrown from NamthangGarhi. Though hard to believe since the distance between the two garhi is far and wide, even more thought provoking is to imagine on the subject of the weapon technology of couple of hundred years back.

I do not know how other feels about the origin of the name “Pandam” but what I had learnt about the naming of this place is related to one of the most hostile episode in Sikkim’s royal history. PendeOngmu, the half-sister of Chogyal ChakdorNamgyal, the third Chogyal of Sikkim had successfully deliberated the murder of the Chogyal at Rabdanste and had gone hiding. She is believed to have been found at the fort of Pandam along with the physician who was her partner in crime; as such the name of the place was called Pendem after PendeOngmu who was later taken to Namchi where she was put to death. The more popular name Pandam of today could be the angelized name of Pendem. The villagers do agree, raja-rani was found hiding at Garhi and they were caught!


Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi