Damsang Fort


Lepchas were the custodians of entire Sikkim towards the middle of the 17th century.

Then Namgyals from Tibet established a dynastic rule over Sikkim from 1646. Sikkim’s border included Chumbi valley and parts of western Bhutan n the east, southward up to Titaliyaand the bIhar Bengla border and the whole of present day Darjeeling & Kalimpong districts and the west Limbuan.

Bhutan attacked Sikkim in 1706. Though Bhutan returned areas to the west of Teesta to Sikkim later, Kalimpong was retained by Bhutan forever.

British India then ceded Kalimpong from Bhutan in 1865.

It is probable that DAMSANG FORT was witness to the skirmishes that ensued in all the episodes of 1646, 1706 and 1865.


Bengal District Gazeteers, Darjeeling, 1907, 1st Reprint (2001), Govt of West Bengal, S.S. O’Malley

The Gazetteer of Sikkim, 1928, 1st reprint (1993), Low Price Publications, H H Risley

SIKKIM – A Short Political History, 1974, S Chsnd & Co (pvt) Ltd., Lal Bahadur Basnet

Sikkim Ko Rajnetic Itihas, July 1984, Subba Prakashan, Dev. Area, Gtk, Dharnidhar Dahal

Sikkim : Hijo dekhi Aajasamma, Dec. 1996, Ankura Prakashan, Tulsiram Sharma, ‘Kashyap’




1642-1705 =  under Namgyal dynasty of Sikkim = 63 years

1706-1865 = under Bhutan = 159 years

1865-1947 = under British (East India Company) = 82 years


1642: Sikkim went into the hands of Tibetan King forever

How did it happen?

Two sects of Buddhists in Tibet, Mahayana and Vajrayana frequently fought against each other during 15th and 16th centuries until Mahayana group became victorious at the close of the 16th century. The Vajrayana group started moving out of Tibet and Khye Bhumsa, the prince of Kham in Eastern Tibet, fled and settled down in Chumba valley. He bested the Lepcha king Hebbon panu there and declared to Thekung Tek, the venerated Elder among the Lepchas, his wish to be the king in Sikkim. According to Lepcha tradition only unmarried but able persons wereentitled to the throne. Hence Khye Bhumsa’s son Minop Rab was suggested by the people to take the responsibility. In due course, however, three influential Lamas convinced the Lepchas in consecrating Khe Bhumsa’s great grandson Phuntsog Namgyal the King in 1646. The throne became hereditary from then onward under the Tibetans and the Lepcha system of electing King was relegated to the background forever. Politically, Sikkim expanded its borders under Phuntsog Namgyal, which included Chumbi valley and parts of western Bhutan in the eat, southward up to Titaliya on the Bihar – Bengal border and included the whole of present Darjeeling & Kalimpong districts and to the west Limbuan (home of the Limbus) now in Nepal. Towards the south – west a small territory inhabited by the Mangars, under a Mangar chieftain, also recognised Sikkim ruler. The Capital of Sikkim was established in Yoksam itself. Phuntsog Namgyal, on the advice of the Lamas, divided the entire territory of Sikkim into 12 dzongs (or districts), each under a Lepcha dzongpen or district chief (more appropriately governor)


1706 : Kalimpong was lost to Bhutan forever

How did this happen?

On his deathPhuntsig Namgyal was succeeded by his sonTensung Namgyal in 1670, who shifted the capital from Yoksam to Rabdantse. He married three wives : 1st was Bhutanese, 2nd Tibetan and 3rd a Limboo. Tensung Namgyal died on 1700. The Tibetan wife’s child Chador Namgyal (only 14 years old then) was declared successor instead of the Bhutanese wife’s child,Pedi Wangmo, who was senior. This arrangement was not to Bhutanese queen’s liking and she asked help from Deb Raja of Bhutan against this injustice. Bhutan attacked Sikkim and captured Rabdantse (the capital) sweeping a huge area towards the east of the capotal and bringing it under its control. The child king, Chador Namgyal, was takensafely to Tibet by a commander named Yugthing Geshe. At the behest of the Dalai Lama, however, the other part in the south of Sikkim was lost to the Bhutanese forever (1706). [Chakdor Namgyal was murdered by a Tibetan physician through blood letting at the behest of Pedi Wangmo in Ralong Hot Springs in 1716, where he had gone for treatment].

Small skirmishes continued with Bhutan even after this many a time. Till at the time of Gyarmed Namgyal (Chador’s successor) it was agreed to have Rhenock as the border between the two countries (1752). One of the skirmishes is related with a minister in the king’s palace who did not see eye to eye with the king. He colluded with Bhutan to attack Sikkim but Bhutan lost. The minister the took shelter under Bhutan and under its tutelage oversaw the affairs of Kalimpong from Damsang fort.


1865: Kalimpong was lost to British East India Company

How did it happen?

Bhutan often used to cause trouble in the areas in Duar and surrounding region, which irritated the British. In 1815 British East India Company sent Baboo Kishan Kant Bose to negotiate certain issues. In 1837-38 Captain R. Boileau Pemberton took a mission to Bhutan to conclude a treaty but failed. In 1863 Sir Ashley Eden sent a mission to conclude a treaty of peace and friendship with Bhutan but failed. Britain again sent a peace mission to Bhutan in early 1864, in the wake of the recent conclusion of a civil war there, under Ashley Eden. Bhutan rejected the peace and friendship treaty it offered. Britain declared war in November 1864. The British initially suffered a humiliating defeat at Deothang but they recaptured the fort, known at the time as Dewangiri, at Deothang and dismantled it in an attempt to compensate. The Duar War (1864-1865) lasted only five months. The Treaty of Sinchula was signed on November 11, 1865 under which Bhutan ceded territories in the Assam Duars and Bengal Duars, as well as the 83 km2 of territory of Dewangiri in South-eastern Bhutan (which included Kalimpong), in return for an annual subside of 50,000 rupees. The Treaty of Sinchula stood until 1910, when Bhutan and British India signed the Treaty of Punakha, effective until 1947.

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