The Existence and Role of Traditional Institutions in the Sikkim Democratic Polity: An in-depth research.
The following research has been solely done on basis of facts found through secondary data available in the books, journals and government documents. The article tries to find the present significance of the three traditional institutions which has been existing from the time of the monarchical era in Sikkim and also makes an attempt to understand the roots and find how are these traditional institutions are able to cope with the democratic form of governance.
“The world being transitory and death inevitable for all living beings the time for my own departure has come, but weep not, for twelve years after my departure, from the a lotus blossom in the Dhankosha lake in the north-western direction of the country of Urgen there will be born one who will be much wiser and more spiritually powerful then myself” Guru Padmahsamvaba
Guru Padmahsamvaba or Guru Rinpoche, known as the second incarnation of Buddha is worshiped by the Tibetans as their Guru. Apparently, his birth was prophesied by Gautama Buddha himself. Eight years after the birth of Guru Padmahsamvaba in a bed of lotus blossoms, signifying the purest birth form, means he was immune to illness and death. For these reasons, he was accepted as the second Buddha. Every tenth day of fifth month of Tibetan calendar is significant day as this day is marked as the great guru day and Tibetans call it “TSE-CHU” which means the tenth day, in that day pujas are organised mostly in all the Gonpas (monasteries) in remembrance of Guru Padmahsamvaba as well as for peace and prosperity of the people and the world.
The history of Buddhism in Sikkim had been traced back to 8th Century, when Guru Padmahsamvaba supposedly discovered the sacred hidden land in the Himalayas and called it “BayulDemojong” which means a land full of treasures. Up on his arrival at Sikkim, he visited many places, and during the time he spent in Sikkim, he meditated in the caves and blessed people. Apparently when he left Sikkim, he also left five treasurers – Gold, Silver, Medicines, rare spiritual writings somewhere on the base of Kanchenjunga, the protecting deity of Sikkim. The myth goes like this. In order to protect the treasures from the evil hands, Guru Padmahsamvaba turned the demons into goddess of medicine, god of land, god of water and bounded them under the oath. According to the oath they were also supposed to take the responsibility of taking care of the well-being of Sikkim by providing rainfall whenever it was needed and protect the harvest, fertile the soils and prevent wars and so on. Guru Padmahsamvaba advised the people to worship these local deities regularly in order to prevent all sorts of natural disasters
Historical records show that the Bhutias from Tibet began to migrate to Sikkim since the beginning of the 14th century; however, the migration, perhaps, would have started earlier than that. Tibetans were aware of this land of rice since long time and the pastoral people from Tibet crossed the borders of Sikkim, which was not demarcated those days, since ages. According to a popular version, the religious strife between the Yellow Hat- sect (Gelukpas) and the Red Hat-sect (Nyngmapas) in Tibet forced many followers of Red Hat-Sect to flee from Tibet to Sikkim. However, Buddhism started spreading in Sikkim in the mid-17th century when the Namgyal Dynasty was established in Yuksom, in West Sikkim in 1642. The coronation of the first king, Phuntsok Namgyal, was carried out under the auspicious presence of three Lamas-- Lama LatsunChempo, Lama Katong Rigzin Khempo, and Lama Nga-Dag SempaChempo. The king was recognised and blessed by Dalai lama from Tibet and sent presents to him. That way Tibet recognised Sikkimese King as the temporal leader of the State and the spiritual leader being Dali Lama. Eventually, the Mahayana Buddhism became the state religion of Sikkim.
The major development of Buddhism in Sikkim began after the crowning of the first king of Sikkim Phuntsok Namgyal. The Sikkim State followed Tibetan system of land and administration. The first ever Gonpa was constructed in the year 1701 by Lama LatsunChenpo named it as Dubdi Gonpa in West Sikkim, which is still one of the most scared monasteries in Sikkim. Tensung Namgyal (1644-1700) completed the Pemayangtse monastery which is the most important monastery in Sikkim and the head Lama of this monastery used to have a big say in the matters of the State. This was followed by Sangha Choling Gonpa and Pema Pemiongchi Gonpa in 1705, Tashiding Gonpa in 1716. Under the patronage of the Chogyals, number of Monasteries and Gompas increased and Mahayana Buddhism spread over among the Lepchas, which was the indigenous community in Sikkim and they followed shamanism.
According to the Administrative Report of the state of Sikkim 1914-15(page no. 2) it has been mentioned that “The late Maharaja Sidkeong Namgyal personally demarcated the boundaries of each monastery in the presence of the surveyor, who mapped the land of each monastery in the presence of lamas.”
Sikkim was a Buddhist state until 1975 when Sikkim became a part of the Union of India. During the monarchy, Tibetans Lamas were invited to the Sikkim monasteries to impart education to Lamas here. Also, Sikkimese Lamas visited Tibet for their further scriptural and spiritual education.
To impart scriptural and spiritual education to the Lamas, a monastic school was established at Enchey, Gangtok in 1909 by Thutob Namgyal. As the abode of the spiritual power, monasteries and monks played a major role on the lives of the common people. They also influenced the administration of the State; the Chogyals consulted Lamas on personal matters as well as administrative matters. Even they needed the consent of the Lamas for their marriages.
The last Chogyal in Sikkim PaldenThendup Namgyal succeeded his father Tashi Namgyal as the 12th king in 1965. His rule witnessed the most chaotic situations and the capital witnessed huge demonstrations for responsible democratic government in the early 1970s. Finally, this was ended in 1975 when the democratically elected government had replaced the monarchy. This ended the 333 years long Dynasty of Chogyals. Sikkim became the 22nd State of the Indian Union on 16 May 1975. The Indian Constitution was amended to accommodate the special status of Sikkim. 35th Amendment of the Indian Constitution in 1975 provided special provisions to Sikkim in article 371F. According to this provisions Sikkim was to have Legislative Assembly with not less than 30 members and the existing laws, practices and customs were to be continued. Sikkim was the only State under the Union of India that reserved a seat for Monks in the State Legislative Assembly. The lone Sangha representative is elected by an electoral college of registered monks of various monasteries in Sikkim.
The democratic Sikkim decided to continue the traditional village bodies’- Dzumsas- in Lachen and Lachung in North Sikkim. The Sikkim Panchayat Act which was passed in conformity with the 73rd Constitution Amendment, in April 1993 (the amendment recognised the self-government as constitutional bodies) recognised these bodies as part of local body arrangements. Yet another important institution that was kept alive was the Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs which was formed around 1920s. Prior to that, the Maharaja Kumar was in charge of the monasteries in Sikkim. This department looked after the monasteries providing aid to those monasteries which did not have estates under them. Four big monasteries -- Pemiongchi, Ralong,.Phensang, Phodong, Rumtek -- have landed property under them and that took care of the maintenance and other expenses of these monasteries. However, at present, this department is responsible for the religious institutions of all faiths.
The Administrative Report of the state of Sikkim 1914-15(page no. 2) had mention about a report written by His Highness the Maharaja about the running of monasteries in Sikkim. Excerpts are reproduced below.
- All Sikkim monasteries were under the direct supervision of my late brother on whose death Chipa lama was deputed to do the work. The monasteries of phodong, labrang, new monasteries of Lachen and monasteries of Tsen-thangs, Telung, Lingtam, Rumtek, Katok, Ralong, Doling, Yangyang, Pemayangtse, Sangha-Choling, Msli, Kedcho-Peri, Dupdy, Sinon, Tashiding, Guru-Lakhang and Shar-choPalpu were inspected by the lamas were also instructed in proper management of the monasteries
- The To-lung monastery is in a bad condition. Funds have been allotted by the State for its reconstruction this year. So far, the wooden materials have been collected and the work will start from the 8th month of Tibetan current year.
- The monastery of Sinon needs to be wholly reconstructed but owing to the want of funds the work cannot be taken in hand. However, with the contribution of Rs. 500/ which was given from my late father’s funeral expenditure, the middle story will soon be repaired.
- Three images have been modelled for the Tashiding Guru-Lakhang out of my late brother’s funeral’s expenditure and the monastery itself has been dismantled and is being reconstructed. The lower story is now finished and the work of the upper dotty is in hand.
- The monastery of Yangyang was also in bad condition. The new monastery which is now about to be finished has been reconstructed out of the fund of Rs. 1300 contributed from the following: -
- My late father Rs 100
- My late brother Rs 700
- Rai BdrUgyan Gyatso Rs 500
- Six Tibetan painters have been sent to Ralong Monastery to paint the upper and lower stories of the monasteries
- The Enchay monastery was dismantled, the foundation of the new building has been laid and masonry work is well in hand.
- Dra-yagGomchen of Sakyong named Trashi- Gyentshen , has been placed at Tashiding and is instruction seven lamas of the Pemiongchi monastery. He also giving instructions to some other lamas in temporal good counsels and spiritual practical instructions as well.
- Two senior boys of Bhutia Boarding School, who have renounced the world, along with two lamas of Rumtek monastery, were sent up to Tsor-Pung monastery in Tibet to receive instructions in Buddhism.
At present the Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs look after all the religious places-the monasteries, temples and mosque and other sacred places in Sikkim. The department provides fund to conduct ceremonies and celebrations and also provide for renovation and reconstruction of places of worships.
The Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs: History and Functions
The history of the department goes back to the time of Chogyal Dynasty. The beginning could be traced in the formation of a body called LHADE-MIDE during the period of the first Chogyal of Sikkim Phuntsok Namgyal, It was a general assembly comprised of the representatives from Sangha or Monastic Community and few the representatives from the General Public, mostly noblemen. Since the first ever monastery was built in Sikkim was Dupdi at west district, the rulers had taken care of the running of the monasteries. Some big monasteries were provided with estates in form of ChoZi or ‘Monastic Estate’ and others were allotted grant –in aid to run the practices and the rituals.
The main function of the LHADE-MIDE was to collect taxes from the villages falling under the Monastic Estates in the form of Duchi. However, with the passage of time, the then Ruler as well as the people confronted with new revolutionary traits of the modern thinking and strategies that were taking their roots across the world. If we recall the historical facts, since the year 1817, the presence of the British felt in Sikkim. They were looking for trade route to Tibet from North Bengal and Sikkim, a country which maintained close relations with Tibet became very handy t the British. The British could manipulate some of the Kazis and Dewan of Sikkim and able to control the Chogyal Thutob’s (9th King- accession in 1874). Apart from gaining Darjeeling from Sikkim, the British also could build a road to Tibet through Sikkim to initiate their trade.
As time passed by and in the year 1905, the Royal families were invited with other dignitaries like H.H. Panchen Lama and King of Bhutan to meet the British heir apparent (Prince of Wales) and his consort at Calcutta. Taking the opportunity H.H Penchen lama visited the viceroy and asked to restore the administrative powers of Sikkim. Soon after the return of the H.H Penchenlama the then political officer of Sikkim James Claude handed the administrative powers of Sikkim to the Chogyal Thutob Namgyal.
The noted reformation of the monasteries had taken place during the shortest rule of the Oxford read (The first person in the ruling house to go to West for studies) Sidkeong Tulku, son of Chogyal Thutob. He died under mysterious circumstances after an unsuccessful modernization drive during his ten month’s tenure in 1914. In 1908, Sidkeong Tulku returned from England and took over the administration of Forest, Monasteries (Gon-Ney Lekhung) and Education.
In the year 1911 Sidkeong Tulku succeeded his father and became the 10th Chogyal of Sikkim, Chogyal Sidkeong tried to reform the monasteries by organising their social duties. The monasteries were functioning independently and the King brought them under an institution so that they could work as a one institution and named it as “Gon-Ney Lekhung” which Later in the year 1929, Gon-Ney-Lekhung was translated into English as Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs
Monasteries has been deeply rooted in the socio-economic culture of Sikkim, Pemayangtse monastery, Tashiding Monastery, Ralang Monastery, Rumtek (old) Monastery, PhodongMonastary, Phensang Monastery are the six main Monasteries of Sikkim since the time of Chogyal’s. These monasteries have large areas of land which also covers some parts of the reserved forest land. Prior to 1975 the revenue collected from these areas were directly collected by the monasteries and were used for the renovation and maintenance of the monastery. Apart from the land revenue, at times as and when it was required, the ruling houses provided grants to these monasteries.
Functions of the Department
The department’s primary function is to look after the functioning and restoration of monasteries as well as temples. In the present day the department looks after approximately 360 Hindu mandirs and 342 monasteries.
The minister in charge of the department is Shri Sonam lama who himself is a representative of Sangha seat followed by S.T Tamang as the Secretary in-charge of the department.
There is a body of management in the monastery known as Duchi; basically Duchi was a group of lamas headed by Dorje Lopen (head lama), Uzet (prayer leader) and Chotimpa( disciplinary administrator) under the control of Ecclesiastical Affairs department government of Sikkim.
In the present context, they are not allowed to collect revenue from the monastic estates but the department shares 50% of the revenue collected from the concerned estate to the monastery. Besides major monasteries, there are many monasteries and Gompas and the department take care of them by providing annual funds as well as supporting the renovation as and when it was felt necessary. The lamas of these monasteries are enrolled in the voters list and they elect the Sangha Representative in the State Legislative Assembly.
As per government notification No. 22/HOME/2004 dated 03/03/04 the Ecclesiastical Affairs department is responsible to look after the following matters:
- Ecclesiastical affairs
- Monasteries, shrines and temples.
- Payment of subsides and aids to religious institutions.
- Reconstruction of old Monasteries and Chortens in Sikkim.
- Sacred Hot springs, Temples, caves and places of pilgrimages in Sikkim.
- Prohibition against taking lives or killing of animals during auspicious days.
- General control and supervision over Nyingma ShedaDrupda.
- Promotion of religious studies including arts
- Control and supervision over Monastic schools including traditional arts schools.
- Grant of permission to collect donations for religious activities/performances
- Controls and management of Sikkim’s religious centres at Darjeeling\, Bodhgaya, and Sarnath.
- Auditing internal accounts of Monasteries and Temples.
- Supervision over the traditionally marinated ceremonies and festivals.
- Public service-Statutory of the services with which the Department is concerned.Other functions are:The Christian marriage solemnization licence to the pastor or the Christian Priests in Sikkim issued by Ecclesiastical Affairs Department in terms of the Christian marriage Act of 1872 which stands extended to Sikkim since 1931.It is the duty of Ecclesiastical Affairs Department to arrange and co-ordinate the performance of prayers by all faiths namely: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Christian and Muslim jointly as and when required during state functions of national importance.(Source: Ecclesiastical affairs in Sikkim, Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, Sikkim, India, 2006 page no. 19 & 20).The Ecclesiastical Affairs Department controls over the external affairs of the Monasteries, Temples and all other religious institutions. However, the department refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of any of the religious institutions, specially the matters relating to the religious norms and practices.There are many seasonal religious festivals and pujas in Sikkim like: Seasonal hot spring at KhandoSangpuk, Tashiding Bumchu Ceremony and many more, in this regard the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department grants funds and looks after the proper management. The seasonal Hot spring at KhadoSangphuk is one of the sacred caves blessed by the Guru Rimpoche. This cave is situated in the bank of Rangeet River. It is believed that the water is holy and it cures many diseases. It not only attracts people from Sikkim but also people from Nepal, Bhutan and other countries. They travel to KhandoSangphuk every year during the season which begin from mid- November and end in March. The Department takes care of the accommodation and sanitary arrangement of the pilgrims. Temporary toilets and hut shelters are built for the devotees every season and the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department also ensure basic necessity like electricity, drinking water is met. During the off season the department allots a chowkidar (watchman) to look after the compound from any breaches.According to a Notification no. 473/E.A. dated 14/2/1959; people were not allowed to kill (or sacrifice) any living creatures in the compound of the cave and the hot spring. The defaulters are warned with Rs 500 fine and imprisoned for 3 months.Similarly, in the Tashiding Bumchu ceremony is held in the Tashiding monastery every year. This annual festival is held during the ChortulDawa the 1st – 15th days of the first month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar which normally falls in the month of March. The main activity during the festival is the distribution of holy water from sacred vase to the devotees. The festival has its own beliefs. According to a Sikkimese Scholar Late Rinzin N. Dokhampa, “the holy vase was brought to Sikkim from Tibet where Guru Rimpoche personally blessed it while giving emancipation to ChoegyalTrisongDuetsen, Prince MurabTsenpo, KhadroYesheTsogyal and LochenVerostana.” The vase is known to be made of five precious material (Rinchenna-naga).Later on, Terton Choekyi GyalpoGarwangRigzenShigpo Lingpa discovered the vase and gave it to TetronTagshamchen who in turn handed it over to NgdangSempachenpoPhuntshogRinzin to be kept at Dragkar Tashiding. Under the royal patronage of the first Chogyal Phuntsok Namgyal, the then NgadagSempaChenpo blessed the vase by reciting 1300 million syllabus of ‘OM MANE PADME Hun’ by meditating upon the ThugjeChempoKhorwaledrol or the liberalisation form this samsara by meditating upon avolokitesvara” BodhgayaSarnath(Source; Sikkim Express, Tuesday, February 11, 2020).Darjeeling Dotshuk Gonpa, Ghing Gonpa
- Dotsuk Gonpa, Ghing Gonpa, are the gonpas belonging to government of Sikkim in Darjeeling and at present these Gonpas are looked after by the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department. The Dotsuk Gonpa was constructed at around 1878 as a branch of Phodong Gonpa of north Sikkim and till date the gonpa belongs to Sikkim government. Annual aids and funds are provided to the gonpa for renovation. A monastic school is also aided by the government of Sikkim. Ghinggonpa is located at Lebong. This monastery is historic as the ninth chogyal Thutob Namgyal was forced to stay there in confinement by the British. This gonpa is a branch of Pemayangtse gonpa. The then lieutenant governor of Bengal gave a land measuring 19 acres to the lamas of Pemayangtse and since then it is under the custody of the Ecclesiastical Affairs department government of Sikkim and financial aids are given for the renovation to the gonpa by the department.
- Sarnath is situated at Uttar Pradesh and the importance of this site being where Buddha gave his first teaching on four noble truths to his first five disciples. Sikkim has a plot measuring 1.75 acres purchased in the year 1971 from a private party named Vishnu Kitima which aimed to provide accommodation for the pilgrims from the Sikkim. At present, this is looked after by the Ecclesiastical department government of Sikkim. So far there is no such infrastructure built in the land. “Recently in the month of February 2020 Hon’ble minister in charge of Ecclesiastical Affairs department Shri Sonam lama (also the acting Sangha MLA) visited the land and indicated that the Government of Sikkim will develop infrastructure in Sarnath”.
- Bodhgaya is a place situated at Bihar. This is an important pilgrimage as this was the place where Buddha got enlightened. Devotees from Sikkim visit this place during the KargueMenlom. In the year 1965 the Sikkim government leased 2 acres of land from the Bihar government on yearly rental payment of Rs. 2000.00 and this land is under the custody of the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department now. In this land a Temple cum Guest house is constructed by the Building and Housing Department Sikkim through Late N.T Ladakhi as the contractor in which the fund was provided by the Department of Cultural affairs Sikkim. Later in the year under the leadership of the then Chief Minister of Sikkim Shri P.K Chamling a building was built in the year 2002. The main reason behind the construction of building was that when the devotees of Sikkim visit the place during the pujas and ceremonies, they could be avail the accommodation facilities there. The booking for the rooms are done at Gangtok under the charge of joint secretary of Ecclesiastical Affairs department.There are 16 double bedded rooms, 6 apartments, 2 dormitory in the leased land of Sikkim at Bodhgaya.
- The Ecclesiastical Affairs department also looks after the religious centre outside of Sikkim which belongs to the Government of Sikkim namely Bodhgaya, Sarnath, , Darjeeling (Dotsuk Gonpa, Ghing Gonpa).
- Bhumchu is conducted under the strict supervision of the Ecclesiastical Affairs department as during the opening and closing of the sacred vase there has to be an official representative from the Ecclesiastical department present. Devotees from all over the places come to the 15 days of ceremony. The department ensure the stay and the pleasant running of the ceremony. They also enforce strict security check to prevent any mishaps. In this contrast in the most recent Bhumchu Festival in the year 2020 as due to current pandemic, the needed precautions were taken by the department like screening of every individual entering the monastery premises and maintenance of social distance and so on. Hence the effort of the department was successful and there was no such situation of panic among the devotees. The department also gives financial support of Rs. 30000 to the monastery during Bhumchu.
- (Source: Ecclesiastical affairs in Sikkim, Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, Sikkim, India, 2006 page no.27).
- “Ecclesiastical Affairs Department also takes the responsibility of ensuring fine weather conditions or to stop rain during every important state functions by requesting a Learned Lama who has the spiritual power to control the force of nature. The fact is well known to all in Sikkim and is officially acknowledged as one of the special duties of the Ecclesiastical Affairs Department. For instance, for important state functions of National occasions like Republic day and the Independence day, Home department officially writes to Ecclesiastical Affairs Department requesting to stop the rain. A khadda and money is also sent with the letter, to be offered to Lama concerned, as per tradition. The practice so far proved 100% successful.”
- Waqf Act has not been extended to Sikkim so far and there is no declared Waqf property in Sikkim. However, Ecclesiastical Affairs Department takes care of this need limited Muslim community in the state.
- Other specified duties of the department
The Dzumsas and Sangha Seat: Two specific Features of the Sikkim Democracy
The Dzumsa system
“Every society requires some kind of political framework to ensure its continued existence.” -Sophie Bourdet-Sabatier
“Human beings are nasty and brutish in nature” according to Aristotle and in order to secure ones rights and liberty a political involvement is must. With regard to this, political institutions have existed in the human society since ages and continue to exist. In India, during the ancient times the monarch held all the powers of the government and however, villages had their owny system , in the ancient period the kings used to be one of the main political superiors and in change in time the people started demanding a political institutions which could be flexible enough to give them all the rights and equality in a society. Hence democracy took birth and till date it is one of the most accepted way of governing the political institutions for the people, the traditional institutions and local government were decentralised and are replaced with modern democratic institutions. In recent decades these types of traditional institutions and local self-governing institutions have been threatened by the national governments and their decentralisation politics.
There are some survivors of traditional institutions who manged to adapt themselves with the changing nature of government.
Dzumsa system of self-governing is one of the survivors of the traditional local government which is practised in two villages of Sikkim namely Lachen and Lachung. These two villages are in the northern part of Sikkim located at about fifty kilometres away from the Chinese international border. The word Dzumsa means” a gathering place” Dzumsa was established in the late 19th century by the then chogyal of Sikkim. Dzumsa was a means through which the chogyals used to delegate their authority in the village of Lachen and Lachung. In the 1970s the Indian government introduced ‘panchayat’ \system of local government but this new type of local body was not imposed in the villages of Lachen and Lachung .The Sikkim Panchayat Act which was passed in conformity with the 73rd Constitution Amendment, in April 1993 (the amendment recognised the self-government as constitutional bodies) recognised these bodies as part of local body arrangements.and till date it funtions as a traditional local governing body in Lachen and Lachung.
The dzumsa is a general council of Lachenpa villagers which are designated by the people for a period of 1 year to look after the socio and political affairs of the village.
Structure of the Dzumsa in case of Lachen
The dzumsa is composed of two Pipons, six Gembos,twoTsipos and two Gyapons
The two Pipons are the village chiefs and head of the dzomsa before they were generally nominated by the elder people of the village, since 1979 they are no longer nominated but are elected by the general village council.
The six Gembos “responsible people” are elected by the and the main function of the Gembos is to advise and assist the Pipons to make decisions in regard to village affairs.
The two Tsipos originally were the accountant during the time of the chogyals they used to collect taxs and hand it over to the chogyal directly but now they have now lost their functions instead they calculate the fines collected from the village offenders and looks after the books.
The two Gyapons are the assistants of the two Pipons during any type of village meeting the duty of calling the local people and organising the meetings are designated to them.
Election of Pipon
The election of Pipon takes place every year, in the era of the chogyal dynasty Pipons were elected by the group of elderly and trusted people known as Themmi and it lasted till the merger into Indian territory after which the general public was also allowed to vote
In order to contest in an election of Pipon one should be above 40 years of age with a good communication skill and having a good family background.
The functions of the dzumsa
The dzumsa has no written book of functions, as it was established for bringing up a set of relation with all the people together by organising activities shared by the whole social group however in the recent times they have started keeping records in forms of minutes of meeting which is commonly referred as Tapchen.
The dzumsa has a large number of functions and responsibility in Lachen. The judicial law is very strict in nature before the setting up of the police station in Lachen the dzumsa had power to arrest any offenders and give them punishment including crimes like murder, domestic violence but now they only interfere into minor offence such as composing fines for not attending a dzumsa meeting , not contributing in a monastic functions, attending cham in state of drunkenness and so on. At the end of every year the collected fines are summed up by the Tsipos the accountant and are kept as the common fund.
During the monarchical era the Pipon used to collect grazing tax and land taxes annually and collected taxes were handed over to the chogyal even today the Pipons collect some taxes from the government.
Dzumsa is also commonly known for the medium through which the locals are connected to the monastic affairs and rituals, during the time of any functions or religious event the dzumsa takes the full responsibility to organise it including making of butter lamps and feeding the monks.
The dzumsa also plays a vital role during a traumatic events such as death or natural disaster during the monarchical era it was mandatory for all the household to bring a bundle of wood for the house of the diseased, the size of the wood was checked by the Gyapons by a bamboo ring however after the merger new set of rules were implemented and the older ones were abolished. For instance, it was decided that only 15 people would accompany the diseased family to help for the cremation, every house hold contributes a suitable amount of money to help the diseased family.
Later in the year 2002 it was also decided that no meat and alcohol would be consumed at the funerals.
The dzumsa also organises collective works such as plantation drive and cleaning of Gonpa surrounding and in this activity one member from every household has to participate if they fail to do so then the defaulters are penalised.
The dzumsa also has economic functions and carries out traditional activities in a systematic way as they set harvesting date for every level of the valley so that every valley gets enough time to repair its fence and to protect the crops from the animals the people roam and guard the fields.
The grazing rules are also set by the dzumsa as it gives a certain date to graze the animals in order to re growth of the grass they determines the altitudes for grazing according to the season.
The Sangha Seat
The sangha seat has its historical origin back to the time period of chogyals, the state of Sikkim was once under the kingdom of chogyals who was a religious king who was influenced by the Mahayana set of Buddhism. The pollical administration back then was influenced by religion as all the laws were formulated and implemented through the teaching of the lord buddha. The kingdom of Sikkim took birth in the year 1642 when the crowning of the first chogyal Phuntsok Namgyal took -place. During the 333 years of rule the total of 12 chogyals ruled Sikkim and contributed many religious structures to Sikkim. Such as monasteries and prayer halls. Sangha seat is one of those religious outcomes of the monarchical era which is still protected by the government of India under Article 371(f).
The department of Ecclesiastical clams that during the time of the 7th chogyal Sidkeong Namgyal of Sikkim there existed a unique assembly known as LHADE-MIDE this assembly consisted of sangha representatives from various monasteries along with representatives from the general public. The main function of this council was to give funds to monasteries so that they could perform their monastic rituals. The sangha also played a role of collecting taxes in form of Duchi from the monastic estates which were given to major monasteries at the monarchical era
In the year 1975 Sikkim was merged as a 22nd state under Indian territory and that gave a end to historic monarchy but the ancient traditional institutions like the Dzumsas and the sangha was kept alive and was protected under the Article 371 (f) of the Indian constitution which gave Sangha a state legislative seat without any constitutional boundaries for the safeguard of the indigenous people of Sikkim. There are 51 registered monasteries in the state which elects the Sangha MLA.
In the year 1993 one of the politician belonging to Nepali section of Sikkim filed a petition for scraping the reservation of Sangha seat and the 12 assembly constituencies for the minority Bhutia Lepcha (BL) community which was registered by supreme court of India as R.C. Poudyal vs The Union of India on 10th February 1993 however he lost the case in the same year itself.
The sangha seat is one of a socio-political institution which has been able to adapt itself in a modern developing political system.
The current Sangha MLA of Sikkim is Sonam lama who won the Sikkim legislative election 2019 defeating his opponent by 126 votes. He is also the current Minister for Ecclesiastical department government of Sikkim
Sikkim is a tiny state with approximately 7 lakhs population which is in the north-eastern part of India sharing its international border with the Republic of China and Nepal and its state boader with the West Bengal. Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis are the main religious community in the state.
Sikkim is a only the state of India where traditional institutions are given place in a secular country, Sikkim marks its historical origin back to the 8th century when Guru Padmasambhava discovered the sacred land of Sikkim. In the year 1642 AD the meet of 3 lamas from the Tibet at Yuksum lead to crowning of the first chogyal of Sikkim known as Phuntsok Namgyal, the kingdom of Sikkim was ruled by the chogyals for 333 years and in the year 1975 Sikkim merged with India as a 22nd state with an special provision under Article 371 (f) of the Indian constitution. The end of monarchy and beginning of new democratic political governance was started.
The traditional institutions like sangha and the Dzumsas were the pillars of monarchical era back then but these institutions were not abolished and hence it adapted it according to changing time and become one of the most significant institutions in Sikkim’s political system.