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CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAMME (14th March - 20th March, 2019) - 2018-19

A cultural exchange programme between Directorate of Primary Education (Samagra Siksha Abhiyan, H.R.D.D., Sikkim) and Aditi Mahavidyalaya, University of Delhi was organised under EK BHARAT SHRESHTA BHARAT initiative. A team of 21 students and 5 teachers started their journey to this 100% organic and divine place on 14th march 2019 and deboarded at New Jalpaiguri on 15th march. We first stopped at and explored Jorethang and more of west Sikkim later. Pelling was a major halt of our trip and the beginning of our itinerary on 16 March. There we studied Sangachoeli, a famous skywalk in West Sikkim. This skywalk in Pelling  is a transparent footbridge leading to a137 feet high statue  Chenrezig. The very same day we explored Sangachoeli monastery. This monastery is as old as 1701 AD and one of the most important gompas in Sikkim.

Next day, on 17 March 2019, we went to Khecheopalri lake.  It is sacred for both Buddhist and Hindus and believed to be a wish-fulfilling lake. No vehicles are allowed near the lake to save it from pollution. There are strict rules about not throwing plastic bags, waste and paper. There are also rules against feeding oily things to fish, which exist in the lake in thousands. On the same evening, the entire troop visited a rural school in Yuksom. The work culture, discipline, hospitality and sincerity of the performers, teachers and the principal was great cultural learning for us. Our hosts had waited for us till 5.30 in the evening. We were scheduled to meet them at 2 but couldn’t reach due to slow movement due to minor landslips in the hills. It was noted that though most students had to go homes in the nearby villages by walking across mountains and had no conveyance still they waited patiently for us.  Their non-complaining attitude and presence of many girls- performers showed us a different kind of culture. The security of girls and ladies struck as a most pleasant surprise to our students. The students of Government Senior Secondary School presented one folk dance, one group dance based on Hindi film music and a traditional solo dance too... The school did not have mikes and the comperes spokes loudly.  As for refreshments, traditional black tea and dry poha with gravy were served – most courteously and smilingly. The hospitality of the school personnel touched our souls. We experienced the vast culture of Sikkim in their traditional folk dances and songs.

Thereafter, the N.S.S. volunteers and cultural performers of Aditi Mahavidyalaya gave three performances – one Punjabi Bhangra, one Hindi group dance and one solo Bharat Natyam performance and thus showcased the dance performances of various states.

On 17th March 2019, we trekked through the rural areas of Yuksom, visited the throne and the coronation site of the first king of Sikkim that had happened in 1642 (387 years ago). The Deputy Directors of Samagra Siksha Abhiyan, Mr. Pakhi Ram Dulal and  Mr. Narayan Mishra were kind enough to accompany us and explained the cultural characteristics of the people’s lives and familiarised us with the traditions, culture and geography of the area.  They showed us the tree under which the king had sat for the ceremony. The troupe was also told about the multiple life systems, plant clusters and orchids that had made their home on that ancient tree. The tree was worshipped by the locals.

All through the trek, we were shown the local rhododendron trees that were in full bloom. Rhododendron trees were used for making medicines, squashes, syrups and wine. We were strictly told in compliance with the environmental preservation culture of Sikkim that no flowers can be plucked and we could eat flowers that had fallen by the side. Some of us ate the sour and pleasant flowers and enjoyed the taste of organic, healthy and empowering food. Under the tree, we found the artistic, imaginary and reverential rendering of the powerful kings, their dresses, their expressions and their weapons etc. There were similar images of kings that followed the first king. We learnt that the culture of monarchy had dominated Sikkim till a very late time.

 On 18th March 2019 the troupe travelled to Ravangla, all along enjoying the mountain streams, little waterfalls, valleys, fog, mist and an occasional forest fire. Our senses were mesmerized. In Ravangla we visited the Buddha Park, which is technically not a monastery but a park showcasing the life and times of Buddha. The walls of this park show the birth, the marriage, the disillusionment of Buddha, the famous corpse scene, the renunciation of the throne and Buddha’s recourse to meditation and pursuit of enlightenment for the welfare of humankind. The park had sprawling green laws, huge fountains,  hundreds of stairs and sky-scraping  Buddha statue, dominating the blue skies. The moment twilight set in, the lights around the statue went on giving it a divine appearance. This scene would stay etched in our memories. It is also known as tatha- gatha shthal in South Sikkim.

     On the subsequent day, on 18th March 2019 we visited Padmanabham Temple in Namchi. This is one of the oldest temples there. It is the 600 hundred-year-old shrine of Anant Padmanabham Swami. This visit was made extremely thrilling with a ride to the Rock garden through trolleys moving along the ropeway over a deep valley. In the Rock Garden the students learned about almost a hundred plants, about the instruction to not to touch them and or a single leaf or a bud. This strict culture for the respect of plants is learning that all students have carried back to North India.  Students also enjoyed their ride to rock garden through trolleys on the ropeway.

And the evening of the same day the troupe had an experience of the religious zeal and purity of the Sikkim culture via their visit to Char Dham. This architecturally stunning complex of twelve replicas of twelve famous Shivlings and with a huge statue of Lord Shiva and Nandi was beautiful in many ways. The discipline of the religious heads showed a big departure from practices in many north Indian temples. There were absolute hygiene, cleanliness and lack of any demands for donations. This Char Dham, also called, Siddheshwaram Dham, is a replica of Jaganath, Badrinath, Kedarnath and Rameshwaram.  This is the only place which brings the Char Dham under one roof at Solophok, Namchi (South Sikkim).

On 19th March 2019, the second last day of our Programme, we visited White Hall Flower Exhibition Centre in Gangtok. In this small but beautifully landscaped space, we photographed and learnt about rare, healthy and prize-winning orchids. There were flowers of various sizes and hues. Soon after, the troupe visited the Tashi viewpoint. It offered an opportunity to get a clear and unobstructed vision of the eternal great Kanchenjunga mountain ranges. The Tashi viewpoint offers a panoramic view of Sikkim. Soon we are able to savour the local foods of Sikkim and ate local organic preparations. Rice is the staple food. Local bitter leaves, local vegetables are popular. Meat dishes are widely eaten.  In Gangtok, M.G market is a modern market complex which also has handcrafted products of Sikkim like bamboo and straw along with clothing, fruits and vegetables. 

The students noticed that lots of trade and shops were manned by women. The women left the shop late at night and worked fearlessly. The men and women produced medicines and wines not only in factories but also informally by fermenting local millets and organic products.

    The last day, 20th March  2019, our final destination of the trip was the Changu Lake which is the glacial lake in the East Sikkim 40 km for the capital Gangtok. It is located at an elevation of 3753 meters. However, incessant snowfall forced to climb back from midway. Still, we left with everlasting memories of snow.  The last dinner at the H.R.D.D. Guest House was proceeded by the distribution of traditional and elegant silk khadas and mementoes to all students. Gifts were given to all. The Director, the CEO and the Deputy Directors spoke extensively about how India could be strengthened and states could benefit from each other. The youth were advised to stay away from excessive use of social media and destructive habits. The teachers accompanying the troupe presented gifts to all the hosts and gave speeches of thanks and extended counselling and technical support on behalf of the Principal Dr. Mamta Sharma.

The train delay of the next delay too was enjoyable learning. How could we go wrong when we had songs to sing, diaries to fill in and so much to cherish and reflect upon. The train food was awful as compared to the dinner Aditi Mahavidyalaya had hosted there on 19 March.

Each one of us had an unbelievable experience that thrilled our minds and refreshed the souls.


Posted By : Aditi  |   Posted On : 28-04-2020  |  At : 05:50:57