The Establishment of the Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs
under the Government of Sikkim.
In ancient monarchy system of government in Sikkim, i.e. the period starting from first Chhogyal Phuntshog Namgyal (1604-1670) to the 7th King Sikyong Namgyal (1819-1874), there existed a unique system of assembly called “Lhade –Mide which comprised of the representatives from Sangha or Monastic Community and the representatives from the General Public. The monasteries were then provided with sufficient lands in the form of ChoZhi or ‘Monastic Estate’ for the monastic Community to sustain their religious affairs.
The villages falling under the Monastic Estates paid taxes directly to the monastic authorities known as Duchi of the respective monasteries. 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, it is said that, by the time Chhogyal Thutob’s (9th King) accession in 1874, the British Empire in Asia was the paramount fact and Sikkim was already under the full blast of British diplomacy. King Thutob was then only fourteen while his opposite members in Darjeeling and Calcutta were men of age and experience. Even before the accession of King Thutob, the British were looking for trade marts in Tibet.

Due to unsuccessful attempt of the British for penetrating into Tibet, the relation between King Thutob and British Expeditionary personnel deteriorated. Following which King Thutob was politically detained like prisoner for a long time at Kurseong. At the mean time, the British got an opportunity to interfere into the internal administration of the Darwar for their benefit. However, 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 this opportunity, his highness brought to the notice of the British Viceroy and the higher authorities the question of restoration of administrative powers in Sikkim. Eventually, on their return, James Claude White, the Political Officer of Sikkim handed over the Council and part of the administration to the king, but retained the power to review any transaction. Soon after Claude White’s power had fallen out. Chhogyal Thutob, however, through his learning and experiences during his hard times of life, allocated the responsibility of administration among several ministers and set up a Secretariat in the same year.In the following year, the first English School was set up in Gangtok and his son Sikyong Tulku ( Chotal Namgyal) was admitted to Oxford in London. In 1908 Sikyong Tulku returned and took over the administration of Forest, Monasteries (Gon-Ney Lekhung) and Education. When Sikyong succeeded his father as tenth Consecrated Ruler in February 1914, he strove to make the monasteries alive to their social duties. The monastic Estates, though functioning themselves independently, were brought under the control of the” Gon-Ney Lekhung”. Later, “Gon-Ney Lekhung” was rendered as an English Translation as “Ecclesiastical Affairs Department” and it is continuing until to this day with its prime duties of looking after the welfare of all the faiths throughout the country for harmonious living and co-existence.

S. Gyatso Bhutia

Joint Director

Deptt. of Ecclesiastical Affairs

Government of Sikkim.

Reference: A Concise Chronicle, published by the Royal Wedding Committee,1963.
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