Rabdentse under seize

SANTOSH SUBBA

“I won’t let these marauders lay their filthy hands on the palace till I’m breathing.”, *Yungthing Arub said to himself as he dashed towards the right-most part of the rampart, bending low to avoid stray arrows flying freely about him. He was praying under his breath for the safety of the Chogyal and his father. 

He quickly secured himself behind a raised parapet, deftly positioned his strong bow with a practised left hand, and fired one arrow after the other, and missed not a single target. The Bhutanese army couldn’t see from where the arrows were coming. They started dropping dead, one by one. 

Yungthing Arub was firing arrows as if in a trance, like a programmed robot. He snapped out from his trance only when his right hand failed to find any arrow. His quiver had exhausted.

The sight of the palace guards being butchered mercilessly by the numerically superior Bhutanese army was unbearable for him. He trembled with roaring rage, threw down his bow and quiver, pulled out both his ‘Bamfok’ from their sheaths, and charged towards the rampaging Bhutanese army. 

He deftly dodged a lance hurled at him, and with sublime agility decapitated the lance thrower. He charged forward, wielding both of his ‘Bamfok’ like a man possessed. He ran deeper inside the swarm of the hostile army.

‘I want him alive!’, shouted Ngawang Thinle, one of the Generals, at the Bhutanese army who was about to strike Yungthing Arub from behind. As Yungthing Arub turned towards the source of the command, he received a blinding blow on his head with the hilt of *patang. 

He fell on the bloodied ground. The image of the Rabdentse palace in smoke flickered before him, and the painful moans of dying and wounded palace guards grew fainter. He blacked out.

~~~

As soon as Chagdor Namgyal and Yunghing Yeshe crossed *Walung and entered Tibetan territory, Chagdor threw himself on the ground, clutching his head with both his hands. 

“Your Highness, we can’t risk resting. We may be pursued.”, Yungthing said gently. Chagdor got up, and picking up his pace, he asked, “What must have happened to the palace?” Yungthing thought for a while at this question. His son Arub’s face flashed into his mind. He felt as if something sharp pricked his heart. “Arub and others will defend the palace. Even if they fail, with their valour, they will save Sikkim’s honour.”, Yungthing choked as he said this. 

After walking for hours on end, they came upon a clear spring, and decided to rest for a while. Chagdor and Yungthing were engrossed in eating millet bread when they heard twigs cracking close by, and footsteps approaching them. Both threw their bread and rose with a start. Yungthing drew out his sword while Chagdor stood behind him and craned his neck in the direction of the footsteps. 

Two Lamas emerged from behind the thicket. Both heaved a sigh of immense relief. Yungthing hurriedly sheathed his sword and they both bowed reverentially before the approaching Lamas. Both the Lamas, Lama Jigme Pao and Lama Kanchen Rolpai Dorji accompanied the Chogyal and Yungthing to Tibet.

They were received well by the Tibetan government. The Chogyal was put under the care of the sixth Dalai Lama. 

~~~

Yungthing Arub opened his eyes. His body was aching all over, and the jabbing pain in the head was insufferable. He was in a dingy dungeon. His hands and legs were chained. With some struggle, he sat up.

The door creaked open and two guards entered the cell, and stood with their heads bowed. The Raja Deb of Bhutan, Ngawang Tshering sauntered in, clad in rich silken brocade of maroon hue. A guard walked in carrying his throne-like chair, while other guards crowded outside. 

Ngawang Tshering sat on the chair, cross-legged, and scowled at Yungthing Arub. “So, you helped Chagdor escape, and invited your death?”, he growled, moving his hand on his sword. Seeing Yungthing Arub unmoved, he said more menacingly, “I had you sent here to Bhutan so that I can peel your skin alive.” Yungthing Arub showed no emotion, least of all, fear. 

Ngawang Tshering was beside himself with rage at this cold rebuff by the helpless captive. He drew out his sword, raised it aloft, and readying it to bring down on Yungthing Arub’s neck, he asked, derisively – “Any last wishes?” Yungthing Arub closed his eyes.

~~~

Meanwhile, in Tibet, the Chogyal immersed himself in the study of Buddhism, Tibetan literature and astrology, and excelled in them. He was appointed as royal astrologer to the sixth Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Tsangyang Gyatso. All the time, Chagdor Namgyal was burning with impatience that grew stronger every day to return to Sikkim and avenge the wrongs done him. 

A temporary lull settled in his mind when he fell in love with Lho Ghyelma and married her. She gave birth to Gyurmed Namgyal, and he doted on him. When the Tibetan and Chinese government gave him fiefs in central Tibet, he was again seized by the desire to win back his kingdom and restore his honour.

At long last, the Tibetan government sent a delegation to the government of Bhutan, and chastised Bhutan, stating that “Tibet was father, Bhutan the mother and Sikkim the child”. This settled the conflict. Bhutan, fearing a two-pronged attack from powerful Tibet and Sikkim, acquiesced to Tibet’s terms of conciliation. 

After the forced rapprochement, the Bhutanese army withdrew from Sikkim and the Chogyal, followed by a Kutchap (Tibetan representative) and the Lama Jigme Pao, started for Sikkim. 

When the Chogyal’s entourage reached Sikkim, the Chogyal was warmly welcomed by the very Bhutanese forces that had seized the palace. Chagdor Namgyal immediately busied himself in driving out the remainder of the Bhutanese forces from Sikkim. He was distressed by the loss of Damsong, Daling and Jongsa which was heavily fortified by Bhutan. 

Pedi Wangmo’s face flashed into his mind and an uncontrollable loathing for her overcame him. He gritted his teeth, clenched his fists and rushed out of the palace.

~~~

“Welcome home, brother dear.”, Pedi Wangmo smiled venomously, playing with her tresses. “You won’t be as lucky this time.”, she said to herself and calmly paced about her room, deep in thought. She then walked to her writing table and sat thinking. 

“Can I trust him? Will he be able to pull this off?”, she closed her eyes as she said this to herself, and sat motionless, as if in meditation, for a long while. She opened her eyes with start, took out her pen and began writing – “Dear doctor…”

She sealed the envelope, and dangling it before her eyes, she hissed, “This is your death warrant, Chagdor Namgyal. You’ve usurped the throne that is rightfully mine. I will ascend to it stepping on your dead body!” Pedi Wangmo laughed hysterically. Her eyes were bloodshot.

Santosh Subba is a bibliophile to the core with an eye for politics. He loves staring at the incoming call till it disconnects.


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.

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