Denjong Chogyal

Denjong Chogyal

Denjong Chogyal

According to traditional lore, the Buddhist Kingdom of Sikkim was formally established in 1642 by the saints Namkha Jigme Kunzang Namgyal, Kathog Kuntu Zangpo and Ngadag Sempa Phuntsog Rigdzin at Yuksam conforming to a prophecy of Guru Rinpoche from the 8th century. They consecrated Prince Puntshog, a descendant of Khye Bumsa, as the first Denjong Chogyal and thus founded the House of Namgyal as the royal dynasty of Sikkim. According to Buddhist tradition, the name 'Namgyal' was passed from the master (Lhatsun Namkha Jigme) to his disciple (Prince Puntshog).

Denjong as a variably sovereign kingdom was to last for 333 years, but the tradition of the Chogyal did require neither subjects nor a territory to survive. The title 'Chogyal' (Dharmaraja) includes temporal as well as spiritual power and leadership, the 8th, the 10th and the 12th Chogyal of Sikkim were even Tulkus, recognised reincarnations of a Buddhist master from Kham Dege Palpung.

When Tobgyal Wangchuk Tenzing Namgyal was born on April 1, 1953, he was not implicitly destined to be a prospective Chogyal. Being the second-born of Crown Prince Palden Thondup and his first wife Princess Sangey Dekyi, he was third only in the succesion to the throne. He was noticed as a rather shy boy, which is likeably illustrated with the following reminiscence¹ shared by a former classmate at the University of London:

"He used to accompany a small group of us to the pub at lunchtimes. He was never a big drinker, but used to participate in the banter, and enjoy the company. One day I asked him where he came from - he replied:

- Sikkim - it's a small country in the Himalayas, between Bhutan and Nepal.

I then asked

- So why are you here in London, Wangchuk? 
- Oh, my father thought it would be a good idea for me to get a British education.

My next question was:

- So what does your father do in Sikkim, Wangchuk? 
- Oh, he’s in the government. 
- So what does he do in the...