‘How dare you insult me in front of all these gentlemen?’, thundered Pedi Wangmo, trembling with rage that was building up within her for the insult she had just received from her half-brother, Chagdor, who was years younger than she. All the ministers and courtiers giggling mildly immediately became grave, stung as they were by Pedi Wangmo’s sudden outburst.
‘And you don’t consider it a mortal insult upon me, my dear sister,’ replied Chagdor, regaining his composure, ‘to try to usurp the throne of which I’m the rightful heir?’
Every pore of Pedi Wangmo’s body revolted at Chagdor’s retort. She was disgusted by the blatant disregard for the right of primogeniture, which robbed her of the throne that she thought was hers, and against patriarchy that favoured Chagdor, a boy of mere 15 years, as the third Chogyal, despite she being the first born.
“You will pay dearly for this, dear brother. Very dearly.”, drawled Pedi Wangmo, as if struggling to utter every word, and without waiting for Chagdor’s reply, she stormed out of the palace.
Back in her boudoir, Pedi Wangmo sat contemplating, as if lost in deep meditation. She wanted to avenge the insult heaped upon her by Chagdor and by the court intrigues that deprived her of the right of ascension to Sikkim’s throne.
The bitter rage building up within her took complete possession of Pedi Wangmo. “I know how to swat a fly aside, brother dear.” Pedi Wangmo smiled inscrutably. She tiptoed to the door and bolt it shut, and then sat at her writing table.
After staring at the blank sheet of paper for a long while, she heaved a deep sigh, and began writing, “Your Highness Depa Tsangpa, the most benevolent and just king of Bhutan…”
Ngawang Tshering, “The Deb Raja” of Bhutan smiled mysteriously as he read the letter from Sikkim’s princess Pedi Wangmo. “A fickle idea from a feckless princess.”, he thought, and his eyes shone brightly. He clapped and a guard immediately appeared, with his head bowed reverentially.
“Send for Ngawang Thinle and Dewan Phenlai immediately.”, he shouted the order. When two of his ablest Generals, Ngawang Thinle and Dewan Phenlai entered the room with their heads bowed, he ordered them to seat. He told his Generals about the letter from Pedi Wangmo, that, among other things, explained the weakness of Sikkim’s Chogyal who was barely fifteen years old.
“I’ve decided to send you two with a contingent of our army to Sikkim. Your mission is to assassinate Chagdor Namgyal and install Pedi Wangmo on Sikkim’s throne.”, said Ngawang Tshering. “Your Highness,”, Dewan Phenlai spoke, with his head bowed low, “pardon my audacity, but what will Bhutan gain from such a risky mission?” Ngawang Tshering guffawed, and placing his hand on Dewan Phenlai’s shoulder, he said, “If we can enthrone Pedi Wangmo, we can dethrone her, too. Thus, she will be a Bhutanese Minister ruling Sikkim – under my orders.”
Quite oblivious of a murderous conspiracy being hatched to assassinate him, Chagdor was strolling in the palace garden. Rabdentse Palace appeared majestic in the setting sun. The slanting rays streaking in through the trees beautifully adorned the modest palace. Chagdor was strolling to the far end of the palace garden when he heard a man shriek loudly in pain. He halted in his tracks, turned around and rushed inside the palace.
The assault had begun. The Bhutanese army could be seen, not very far, swarming towards the palace. A palace guard shot by an arrow on his chest lay writhing in pain at the gate. Other guards darted towards the palace gate to ward off the attack, but they appeared vastly outnumbered. The seize of the Rabdentse palace looked imminent.
Chagdor Namgyal stood in his room trembling with fear, for, he was still a boy of fifteen, too innocent to fully comprehend such bloody intrigues. He rushed to the window and peeked outside. The palace guards, though holding the gate valiantly, were being shot down by the arrows fired by the Bhutanese army that mercilessly rained on them. Dead bodies were piling at the gate. The Bhutanese army had come very close to the palace gate. A stray arrow whizzed past him, bringing him out of his trance.
A voice came from outside his room, “Your Highness, please come quickly.” Chagdor darted out. One of his loyal ministers, Yugthing, was waiting at the anteroom, bathed in perspiration. “We have to hurry, Your Highness. Your sister’s threat was real.”, said Yugthing as if to himself. Chagdor gritted his teeth. Yugthing had learned of the plot to assassinate the Chogyal and with other loyal ministers, he planned to smuggle the Chogyal to Tibet. Meanwhile, the Bhutanese army had reached the palace gate and was in the process of surrounding the palace. Yugthing and Chagdor quietly slipped out of the palace still valiantly defended by the remaining guards.
As they were racing towards Ilam, they were met by a couple of loyal guards in the jungle who carried some provisions for the trying journey that lay ahead. Yugthing feared that the Bhutanese army might be lying in ambush, and they trundled on with utmost alarm. Chagdor was still groggy. Pedi Wangmo’s threat was ringing in his ear – “You’ll pay dearly for this, dear brother. Very dearly.” “I shall return soon and I shall make you pay dearly for this, Pedi Wangmo!”, Chagdor said to himself, clenched his fist and quickened his pace, outpacing Yugthing who watched Chagdor walk past him in amazement.
Author’s Note: Sikkim’s history is very interesting – with all the intrigues inevitable in monarchy or any form of government for that matter. History told as-a-matter-of-factly appears quite bland unless one is interested in the subject. There are also gaps in history about which we can only hypothesise for want of written records and other evidences.
How about “fictionalising” history, retelling them, filling gaps and adding meat to the bare bones, but without actually distorting it? Well, I just tried ‘fictionalising’ a section of Sikkim’s history about conflict between the third Chogyal Chagdor Namgyal and his half sister, Pedi Wangmo.
This is NOT reinterpretation of Sikkim’s history and must not be treated as such. I’ve tried filling the historical gaps with my own imagination which must not be construed as my attempt to distort history. Anyone who’s read Sikkim’s history will be able to tell where history ends and fiction begins. I’d be happy to answer questions regarding why I imagined the historical figures the way I did.