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'A daughter of the Empire': Beryl White In India 1901-03

Tibet arrives at Delhi

Sikkim delegation at the Delhi DurbarSikkim delegation at the Delhi DurbarThe ruler of Sikkim, the semi-autonomous Himalayan kingdom, received an invitation to the Durbar. The Sikkim delegation transported a small piece of Tibet to the heart of India.

John Claude White gives the following account of the Durbar and the preparations it entailed.

‘In 1902 Sikhim was aroused from its sleepy existence by an invitation from Government that His Excellency the Viceroy would send an invitation to the Maharaja to be present at the Imperial Durbar to be held at Delhi on January 1, 1903, to celebrate the accession of His Majesty the King-Emperor.

The Maharaja accepted the invitation, but at the last moment deputed his son and heir, Sidkyong Tulku, the Maharaj-Kumar, to be his representative. For many months we were busily engaged in preparations for the function.

Ruling chiefs were allotted camping grounds, but that was all, and only in the case of minor personages was anything done at all. Most native States of course possess carriages and horses, elephants, furniture, tents and camp equipage of every kind, and it was merely a case of having these things transported to Delhi.

View of 'Jamma Musjid' fortView of 'Jamma Musjid' fortBut in addition to being so far away, Sikhim possessed none of them, consequently they all had to be procured, and at the same time, with the small yearly revenue, it was necessary to exercise the greatest care to keep the expenditure down to the lowest possible sum.

Our reception tents were delightfully picturesque and unusual, made after Tibetan fashion with an elaborate design in appliqué cloth of many colours on the roofs, while the sides were decorated with the eight lucky signs: The Wheel of Life; the Conch Shell, or Trumpet of Victory; the Umbrella; the Victorious Banner; the Golden Fish; the Lucky Diagram; the Lotus; and the Vase: so constantly reproduced in Buddhist ornamentation.

The Kumar took this entirely into his own hands, drew out the designs, selected the colouring, and superintended the whole of the details of the manufacture with the best possible results.

The camp attracted many visitors, amongst them Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught.

In the absence of the Maharaja, the Maharaj-Kumar was allowed to represent his father and was accorded his salute of fifteen guns, Cavalry escort, and military guard on the camp.

He also took his place in all the great State functions, riding an extremely fine elephant lent for the occasion by the Betiah Raj, in the Chiefs’ Procession, beside the Mahraja of Cooch Behar, and presenting his address to the King-Emperor through the Viceroy at the great Durbar.

The speech was very characteristic and may interest my readers: ‘May His Majesty King Edward VII, from the time of occupation of this Golden Throne, exercise power over all these worlds; may be live for thousands of cycles and ever sustain all living creatures in joy and happiness.’

It was the Kumar’s first attempt at playing host to a number of European guests, and he did it very nicely with Mrs. White’s help, looking carefully after the comfort of the eight or ten guests staying in the camp and always delighted to welcome people to lunch or dinner. He was most appreciative of any assistance we could give him, and constantly said he would have been quite unable to carry out any of his arrangements alone.’

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