Prince Jigdal Tsewang Namgyal, popularly known as “Prince George-La”, the youngest son of the Late Chogyal Tashi Namgyal, was cremated here at Lukshyama, the royal cremation grounds above Gangtok near Hanuman Tok, on 05 November. The late Prince was the last surviving son of Chogyal Tashi Namgyal. In that sense, even though the Prince did not lead a very public life, his passing away was deeply mourned as it marked the closure of an era, the end of a generation. He passed away aged 86 on 30 October at his home in Development Area.
A large number of well wishers, friends, relatives and lay Sikkimese including Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, the Chief Secretary, Cabinet Ministers, MLAs [from both, the ruling as well as Opposition parties], and government officials turned out to pay their last respects to the Late Prince. The Government had declared a state holiday on the day of the funeral to make it convenient for people to attend the funeral and also in mourning. Businesses remained closed in Gangtok and some other towns as a mark of respect for the departed Prince, with even banks joining Sikkim in mourning and remaining closed on 05 November.
The Kubur procession was taken out from Tashi Gartsel, Development Area, at 8:30 in the morning. The Kubur was covered with seven signs of Chakravartin emperor, a privilege reserved for male members of the Sikkimese royalty. Also draping the kubur was the Sikkim Flag. The Serbang, traditional monastic procession, was led by Pemayangtse monks.
The funeral procession proceeded on foot till White Hall where it made a brief halt for offering of Solchang Changyu rituals and then the Kubur was transported in a vehicle to Lukshyama. At White Hall, the Chief Minister, accompanied by his Cabinet colleagues and senior government officials joined the procession and accompanied it to Lukshyama.
Before the cremation, a special puja was conducted at the four corners of Lukshyama by monks from Pemayangtse Monastery along with those from Enchey Monastery, Chorten Dhodup and Zurmang Monastery [Lingdum], led by the 90-year-old Dorjee Lopen of Pemayangtse.
People turned up in large numbers to offer their last respects to the late prince on his final journey. Condolence messages came in from political parties, social and business associations and other organisations, with condolence meetings organised even in Namchi for those who could not travel to Gangtok for the funeral. Business establishments remained closed in Gangtok on the day of the funeral as a mark of respect for the departed soul. Some other bazaars, like Dikchu for instance, also shut down in mourning on Wednesday.
The Sikkim Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Old Settlers of Sikkim were especially emphatic in their condolence messages. Both held condolence meetings and observed two minute silence in the memory of the departed prince, and both organisations also took the opportunity to pay rich tribute to the Namgyal dynasty to which Prince JT Namgyal belonged. “Members recalled the golden era of the Chogyal’s regime,” a Sikkim Chamber of Commerce press release informed, while an AOSS communiqué stated, “Several members recalled the golden time of the Namgyal Dynasty,” adding, “We are indebted to the Namgyal Dynasty for giving us respect, affection and full security during their regime.”
The passing away of the last son of Chogyal Tashi Namgyal clearly triggered a strong emotional response in Sikkim, noticeable as much in the strong turnout for the funeral as in other expressions like the high number of Sikkimese, following a chain appeal, changing the profile picture of their online avatars to the Sikkim flag on the day of the funeral.