SIKKIM / DÄMOJONG

 

 

 

HISTORY

 

HERALDRY

 

The National Flag

Sikkim Police

 

 

History

 

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 British East India Company 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.

 

Heraldry

 

An achievement of thoroughly European style, designed by Robert Taylor, was granted to Maharaja Thutob Namgyal (1874-1914) at the occasion of the Durbar at Delhi in 1877.[1]

It was:

 

Arms: Or, a lotus Azure, seeded Gules within an orle of 12 annulets touching Purpure.

Crest: On a helmet to the dexter, lambrequined Or and Purpure, a conch Azure.

Supporters: Dragons Gules.

Motto: OM MANI PADME HUM. (Oh, the jewel of creation is in the Lotus).

 (T. 81)

 

ð See my version in the head of this essay.

 

 

The lotus (padma) is a symbol of hindu origin and has been adopted by buddhism. It is a symbol of purity and a lotus throne is a symbol of the attainment of enlightenment. Generally speaking the lotus is the hindu symbol of the administrative power and is one of the four symbols Vishnu is holding in his hands.

 

The conch shell (sankha) is the symbol of the spoken word. It is also one of the symbols Vishnu has in his hands. In particular the conch shell symbolizes religious power.

 

The dragon (druk) in ancient China symbolized renewal and transformation and it is the symbol of the Chinese Emperor. A couple of dragons mean that the symbol enclosed is Imperial. As such the Chinese sun-emblem supported by two dragons is the emblem of the Imperial Government.

In the achievement of Sikkim it is unclear if the dragons are meant to symbolize Chinese suzereinty or that they have to be interpreted as symbols of the maharaja.

 

The achievement of Sikkim can thus be interpreted as The Imperial (royal) Government of the enlightened religious leader.

On actual government publications appears a small black and white version:

 

 

For the Royal Order of the Jewel of Sikkim, founded in 1972 by Chogyal Chempo Palden Tondup Namgyal (1963-1982), a version of the achievement in red and gold is used, like this:

 

 

 

 

 

The National Flag

 

 

Drawing Roberto Breschi

 

Much less controversial in its artistic result is the national flag as there are only symbols of buddhist design on it. This flag was also adopted in 1877 and has been used until it was changed in 1962. [2]

 

It shows the Dharmacakra or wheel of law which is considered the king of kings and whose message of righteousness is binding even on the greatest monarch. As such the wheel of law represents the ruler.

In its center is a whirling emblem (gakhil) symbolizing ceaseless change and movement.

 

In the upper corners there are a sun and a moon, the symbols of the Empire or nation and of the State.

 

Together they make the well known three conditions of human organisation: The Empire, the State and the Ruler.

 

í

The same scheme is usual in Chinese national heraldry. In China itself the sun and the moon are on the imperial robes of the Emperor, decorated with dragons. In Korea the king or emperor is sitting in front of a screen showing the sun and the moon. In Tibet the achievement of state is accompanied by the sun and the moon in chief. In Nepal the royal lion with banner stands between a sun and a moon. In nearby Bhutan the royal seal is placed before a mountainridge with the sun and the moon above. These examples can be extended by many others.

 

In the field there are the Seven Precious Jewels (rinchen dun) (clockwise): The elephants tusks, the lama’s cap, the king’s earrings, the coral branch, the chime, the queen’s earrings and the ruyi (sceptre)

 

The central patch is surrounded on three sides by the buddhist “Fire of Consciousness”.

 

The flag of 1877 was abolished in 1962 and a new flag was adopted of a much simplified form. This only shows the Dharmacakra on a white field within a red bordure. In 1975, after the liquidation of the kingdom, this flag was forbidden.

 

 

 

Sikkim Police

 

 

The emblem of the Sikkim Police shows the dharmacakra within a garland and crested with the national Asoka capital. On a listel below is the title of the service: SIKKIM POLICE.

 

© Hubert de Vries 2009-08-01



[1] Taylor, Robert M.A. Cantab Bengal Civil Service. The Princely Armory. Being a display of the arms of the ruling chiefs of India prepared for the Imperial Assembly held at Delhi on the 1st day of January 1877. Printed for the Government of India at the Government Central Printing Office, 8 Hastings Street, Calcutta 1902.

[2]  See also the essay of Mario Fabretto in Vexilla Italica, 61, 2006. And: McMeekin, John: The Maharajas Flag Book  (Arms and Flags of the Indian states). There has also been a discussion on internet.