Copyright©John McMeekin

The Namgyal Dynasty


During the middle of the 16th century, the Red Lamas of Tibet introduced Buddhism to this Himalayan State and appointed Phuntsog Namgyal as its ruler. The country continued as a feudatory principality of Tibet until Nepal began to challenge the balance of power in the Himalayas. For nine years, Sikkim defied the Gurkhas. They were routed in 1788 and the Chogyal and his band of followers forced to flee into Tibet. A joint Bhutanese-Tibetan force assisted the Chogyal to re-establish some degree of independence, until a mutiny by Bhutanese troops left him weakened and exposed. The Nepalese returned with a vengeance, forcing the remnants of the army to take refuge in the fort of Gangtok. There they remained until the defeat of Nepal by the forces of the HEIC in 1816 resulted in the restoration of some of the lost territories. Shortly thereafter, Sikkim became a British protectorate. Darjeeling, together with some adjacent tracts, was ceded to British India in 1835 in return for a yearly stipend.

A British resident was appointed to Sikkim in 1889, but he proved singularly unable to maintain good relations with the ruler or his government. Maharaja Thutob Namgyal refused to co-operate and fled to his private estates in Tibet in 1892. After heavy pressure on the Tibetan authorities he was induced to return and then exiled to British India in 1893. He was allowed to return to Sikkim as undisputed ruler in 1895. Thereafter, British intervention in Sikkim's internal affairs was close to nil.

After the termination of British rule on the sub-continent in 1947, a long period of negotiations opened between the new Indian authorities and Sikkim. This culminated in the treaty of 1950, in which, India assumed responsibility for Sikkim's defence, external affairs, communications and other matters, but underscored Sikkim's "international personality". Following a period of disturbances between different ethnic groups during the 1970's, the Indian government of Mrs Gandhi intervened, deposed the Chogyal on 10th April and annexed the country on 16th May 1975. The inhabitants of the former kingdom have always felt that India and her local agents fermented the unrest. The movement for the restoration of the Chogyal and the independence of Sikkim, remains a focus of much political activity within the country to this day.


Or, a lotus azure, seeded gules within an orle of twelve circles touching purpure. Crest: A conch shell argent. Supporters: Dragons gules. Motto: "Om Mani Padma Hum" (Hail to the gem in the lotus or, Salvation is in the jewel lotus). Lambrequins: Or and purpure.

The ruling prince: Muwong Chogyal [Mi-dbang Chos-rgyal-chenpo] Sri Sri Sri Sri Sri (personal name) Namgyal, Denzong Chogyal, i.e. Maharaja and Chogyal of Sikkim, with the style of His Highness.
The consort of the ruling prince: Sri Sri Sri Sri Sri (personal name) Namgyal, the Gyalmo [rgyal-mo] of Sikkim, with the style of Her Highness.
The mother of the ruling prince: Sri Sri Sri Sri Sri (personal name), the Gyalum of Sikkim, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Sri Sri Sri Sri Sri Maharajkumar (personal name) Namgyal.
Younger sons of the ruling prince, and other legitimate male descendants in the male line: Prince (Gyalsey) (personal name) Namgyal.
Daughters of the ruling prince, and other legitimate female descendants in the male line: Princess (Semla) (personal name).

See link below

Male primogeniture, with the right of adoption by the recognised head of the family on the failure of natural male heirs.

Bras-ljongs: the Tibetan name for sikkim.
Chogyal (or Chos-rgyal): 'righteous ruler', the traditional title for the ruler, officially resumed in 1965.
Denzong: 'the valley of rice', or Sikkim.
Dewan: Chief Minister, in general use after 1861.
Dzong: district.
Dzongpana: district head.
Gyalmo (or rgyal-mo): the traditional title for the wife of the ruler, officially resumed in 1965.
Gyalum: title for the dowager of a previous ruler.
Gyalsey (or Gyese): 'king's son', prince.
Kadampa: Tibetan Buddhist sect established by Atisa Dipankara during the 11th century.
Kazi: landlord, aristocrat.
Lama: Tibetan Buddhist priest.
Maharaja: title of the ruler, in general use 1861-1965.
Maharani: title of the wife of the ruler, in general use 1861-1965.
Maharajkumar: title of the Heir Apparent, in general use after 1861-1965.

: 'lord', the usual term of address for a superior, if a prince or nobleman.
Phurpa: devil dagger.

: a personal title, bestowed by the British on junior members of the Royal Family and on certain distinguished statesmen.
Rimpoche: designation for an incarnate Lama.
Semla: 'daughter of our country', princess.
Sidlon: the traditional Sikkimese title for the Chief Minister, officially resumed in 1965 and previously styled Dewan.
Sikkim: from the Tsong word 'sukhim', meaning the new or happy home.

Administration Report of the State of Sikkim. Government of India Press, Calcutta. 1911 - 1934. India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Stephen R. Bunford, Bhutan: House of Wangchuk. Unpublished manuscript.
V.H. Coelho, Sikkim and Bhutan, Delhi, 1971.
Hope Cooke. Time Change, An Autobiography. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1980.
P.R. Rao. India and Sikkim, 1814-1970. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 1972.
Sir Herbert Hope Risley, KCIE. The Gazetteer of Sikkim. Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta, 1894.
Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. List of Chiefs and Leading Families. Government of India Confidential Print. Government Press, Calcutta, 1933. IOR: L/P&S/20/D216. India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Rinchen Dolma Taring. Daughter of Tibet. Wisdom Publications, London, 1986.

Richard Jay Hutto.
John McMeekin.

Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
Juan Jorge Schaffer.
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher  Buyers
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