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HIMALAYAN REVIEW Singtam Sakha: Towards new horizons-I

Sunday, Aug 30, 2020 14:00 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Aug 30, 2020 07:35 [IST]

HIMALAYAN REVIEW Singtam Sakha: Towards new horizons-I

ShitalSrisyog Pradhan

IndraJatra celebration over the years had brought every Newar family of Sikkim under one roof. It was that one-day entire Newar population within the state anxiously awaits. But this year the Covid-19 pandemic had different plan for everyone. This August 31, we have the IndraJatra but it will be silently observed without the red-black-white coloured masses of devotees.

Sikkim Newar Guthi completed its 25th year of its formation last year and on this big occasion; I wish to share the history of my home town Singtam’sNewa Sakha, its origin and stories so far. The term 'Singtam Sakha' started in early 90s and over the years it has its own narrative. Blessed by Goddess Kumari and God Indra, the Newars of Singtam are among the emerging Sakhas who holds promises to make the Newars of Sikkim, a proud family.

The establishments of Singtam bazaar dates back to late 1880s and with each decade passing by the people of Singtam had collectively come together in all the social causes with other communities to build up a better society. The initial years of BhanuJayanti celebrations, Independence Day celebrations, Saga Dawa celebrations and others had equal numbers of Newar participations. Despite no proper organisation, the Newars of Singtam had been performing their respective rituals in full Newar tradition.

With the coming up of Sikkim Newar Guthi in the early 90s, the newar communities of Singtam to felt a need of forming an organisation thus Singtam Newar Guthi was born. Late Dil Bahadur Pradhan was the first President of the Singtam organisation while Subhash Pradhan was made Secretary.  Meetings and discussions about the development of the newar society were held behind the four walls. An old folk says, those Newars thou lesser in population than started the practice of visiting the funerals among the Newar community in groups which still exists to this day. Giving helping hands during the marriage ceremony be it Ihi was also done by those pioneer thoughts.

With the wheel of a clock passing-by, the year 2009 proved to be significant one for the Newars of Singtam. A meeting of was held on December 21, 2009 at Bihari Dharamsala at Singtam. The committee formed on that day decided to re-name the organisation as Singtam Newar KalyanSangathan. One of the many resolutions passed in the meeting included; presence and involvement of the Newari women from Singtam in the organisation. TB Pradhan was nominated the President.

Singtam Newar KalyanSangathan did the first in the state when they felicitated five Singtam Nagar Panchayats on June 6th, 2010. The function also marked the first cultural presentation of the famed Lakhey Dance of Newar community performed at Singtam by Bikash Pradhan. The Sangathan made their presence at the Annual General Meeting cum Election of the Executive body of Sikkim NewaGuthi (September 11th, 2010) held at Gangtok. The new team of central guthi were congratulated. Sangathan's President assured full support in any sort of programme organized by central committee for the development of Newar society.

There was a meeting held in early 2011 whereas it was decided to buy utensils and chairs at the name of Sangathan that would be used by the members of the organisation. Collection was made; few members of SKNS travelled to Siliguri and bought the items, a room was hired to keep the utensils.

Newars of Singtam participated in large numbers at the India Jatra 2011 held at Gangtok. Since then, the Newars of Singtam had been actively participating and contributing at the IndraJatras held at different part of Sikkim. At the same event held at Sikkim Government College Auditorium, Tadong, seven Newar personalities was felicitated on that evening. Among one of them was me, felicitated for my contribution towards Sikkim Heritage through my blog Proud to be a Sikkimese. 

In between the years, Singtam Newar KalyanSangathan continued with their social activities. They collected the sum of Rs 20,500 for Santa Bahadhur Pradhan, resident of Bardang, towards his medical treatment of throat cancer. SKNS again came forward for the medical contribution of a Lepcha lady, Incharge of Lee Al then. The sum of Rs 10,000 was contributed.

With the expansion of Zones among the Sikkim Newar Guthi, a meeting was held at Singtam that was attended by the Executive members of Sikkim Newar Guthi, TB Pradhan was elected the first President of Rangpo - Singtam Zone (September 5, 2013). Mohan Pradhan ‘Neeraj’ was nominated the President of Singtam Newar KalyanSangathan. In the same meeting, SNKS placed a proposal to the Central Body to celebrate the IndraJatra 2013 at Singtam.

In 2013 (June 25), the members of SNKS attended the Annual General Meeting cum Election of the Executive body of Sikkim NewaGuthi at ChintanBhawan, Gangtok. They congratulated Rohit Kumar Pradhan for being elected President for the third term.

The biggest news for the Newars of Singtam came on August 2014; the central committee accepted the proposal of SKNS for organizing IndraJatra 2014 at Singtam. The red letter day September 8, 2014, Singtam took an honour to receive Goddess Kumari other than Gangtok for the first time. State Level IndraJatra Celebration held at Singtam marked a historic moment. The IndraJatra event was organized by Sikkim Newar Guthi and hosted by IndraJatra Celebration Committee 2014, Singtam.

The festivity was held in two phases; the morning (the ritual) session and the noon (cultural) session. SomnathPoudhyal, then Area MLA cum Minister, Food Security & Agriculture &AHVS was the Chief Guest of the morning session that included IndraRathPoojan and KumariJatra. The puja was performed by ParampujiyaGuruji Shri ShriSuryabirTuladhar from SwayambuMandir, Gangtok. Thousands of Newars from different corner of the state had visited Singtam, the venue of the event.

The afternoon session started with the arrival of Ugen T Gyatso, then Minister Tourism and Aviation, who also was the Chief Guest of the cultural event. Highlight of the second session was the release of ‘NEWA’, a documentary on Newar Language and Culture. The documentary was made by Badhaichha Creation, Singtam; jointly directed by Shital Pradhan (me) and Praveen Pradhan. Various cultural programmes were performed by the participants from different corner of the state and beyond.

The tragic April 2015 Nepal Earthquake happened, here too SNKS acted prominently and being a good neighbour collected the sum of Rs 1,28,601. A team was led by TB Pradhan, Binod Pradhan and others visited the earthquake site along with essential goods and handed over the items along with financial help to the concerned officials. Donation towards Rongli Monastery was also done few months later the same year.

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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