Chogyal

Chogyal

The Chogyal were the monarchs of the former kingdom of Sikkim. The Chogyal or divine ruler was the absolute potentate of the nation from 1642 to 1975, when the monarchy was abrogated and the people voted to make Sikkim India's 22nd state.

However, Chogyal meaning "Dharma Raja" or "Religious King" is a title which was also conferred upon a special class of temporal and spiritual rulers.

In Bhutan the Chogyal were also known as the Dharmaraja, or Kings of Dharma. In this context, the Chogyal was a recognized reincarnation (or succession of reincarnations) of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the 17th Century Tibetan-born founder of Bhutan. A position of supreme importance, the Bhutanese Chogyal was above both the highest monastic authority, the Je Khempo, and the highest temporal ruler, the Deb or Desi. The Tibetan Dzogchen teacher Namkhai Norbu holds this title as a recognized reincarnation of Ngawang Namgyel. The remainder of this article deals with the Chogyal of Sikkim.

From 1642 to 1975, Sikkim was ruled by the Namgyal Monarchy (also called the Chogyal Monarchy), founded by the fifth-generation descendants of Guru Tashi, a prince of the Mi-nyak House who came to Sikkim from the Kham district of Tibet. Chogyal means 'righteous ruler,' and was the title conferred upon Sikkim's Buddhist kings during the reign of the Namgyal Monarchy.

The reign of the Chogyal was foretold by the patron saint of Sikkim, Guru Rinpoche. The 8th century saint had predicted the rule of the kings when he arrived in the state. In 1642, Chogyal Phuntsog Namgyal was crowned as Sikkim's first ruler in Yuksom. The crowning of the king was a great event and he was crowned by three revered lamas who arrived there from three different directions, namely the north, west and south.

Chogyals of Sikkim
SNO Year Ruler Events during reign
1 1642 Phuntsog Namgyal Ascended the throne and was consecrated as the first Chogyal of Sikkim. Made the capital Yuksom.
2 1670 Tensung Namgyal Shifted capital to Rabdanste from Yuksam
3 1700 Chakdor Namgyal His half-sister Pendiongmu tried to dethrone Chakdor, who fled to Lhasa, but was reinstated as king with the help of Tibetans.
4 1717 Gyurmed Namgyal Sikkim was attacked by Nepalese.
5 1733 Phuntsog Namgyal II Nepalese raided Rabdanste, the then capital of Sikkim
6 1780 Tenzing Namgyal Chogyal fled to Tibet, and later died there in exile.
7 1793 Tsugphud Namgyal Shifted the capital from Rabanste to Tumlong. Treaty of Titalia in 1817 between Sikkim and British India was signed in which territories lost to Nepal were appropriated to Sikkim. Darjeeling was gifted to British India in 1835. Two Britons, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Hooker were captured by the Sikkimese in 1849. Hostilities between British India and Sikkim continued and led to a treaty signed, in which Darjeeling was ceded to British India.
8 1863 Sidkeong Namgyal -
9 1874 Thutob Namgyal Claude White appointed as the first political officer of Sikkim in 1889. Capital shifted from Tumlong to Gangtok in 1894.
10 1914 Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal -
11 1914 Tashi Namgyal Treaty between India and Sikkim was signed in 1950 giving India suzerainty over Sikkim.
12 1963 Palden Thondup Namgyal Forced to abdicate after illness and a plebiscite. Married Hope Cooke, a US citizen. Died in 1982.
13 1982 Wangchuk Namgyal Claimant to the throne has no official authority

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