The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 20 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sikkim’s oldest monastery wants out of ASI

- Monks fed up with seeking permission from Calcutta to perform regular rituals

Gangtok, June 19: The monks of Sikkim’s oldest monastery have written to the National Minority Commission seeking its de-affiliation from the Archaeological Survey of India because its regulations allegedly come in the way of worship.

The monks at Dubdi monastery, built in 1701, said they need permission from the ASI for every ritual or repair work within 300m of the monastery area.

“Even the regular ceremonies in the monastery are hampered because a letter seeking permission for puja has to be written to the ASI office in Calcutta. No puja can be performed until the ASI gives permission. It is a time-consuming and tedious process,” said Tsewang Bhutia, the vice-president of Dubdi Norbugang Kathog Sungkyob Committee.

The committee submitted the memorandum to K.K. Daruwal, a member of the minority commission on June 15.

Bhutia said the monastery had not been able to organise the Gutor Cham (a traditional dance) during the Buddhist festival of Loosong as the ASI had not given the permission.

Dubdi is spread over five acres. The monastery and the Norbugang Chodten, a stupa close to the monastery — both in West Sikkim — were brought under the ASI’s administration in 1984. The monks want the stupa also to be de-affiliated.

Norbugang Chodten is 2km from Dubdi and is significant because the first king of Sikkim, Phuntshog Namgyal, was crowned here.

“Earlier, the area under the ASI control was limited to a 100m radius around the monastery. Now it has been extended to 300m, even the local settlements and the private holdings are under the ASI’s jurisdiction,” Bhutia said.

The renovation of the two structures — the monastery and the stupa — two months after the September 18, 2011, earthquake also earned criticism from the monks. They said the ASI had been carrying out renovation without keeping the traditional Sikkimese architecture.

‘The ASI officials are replacing the traditional paintings without keeping in mind their original form. The monastery is a sacred place but the officials work while listening to music on their mobile phones, which goes against the sanctity of the place,” said a monk.

The monastery committee has also decided to take up the matter with Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling on the matter. An official at ASI in Calcutta said during the visit of the director-general of the ASI to West Sikkim in January, a meeting was held that was attended by the chief secretary and the district collectorate.

“During the meeting there was a public demand of de-affiliation. The letter should come from the Sikkim government. The matter will then be referred to the committee headed by director-general of the ASI and the final approval would be given by the ministry of culture. It is a time-taking process, ” said superintending archaeologist Tapan Jyoti Baidya from Calcutta.