British War Memorial, Nathang, Sikkim Silk Route
British War Memorial
Nathang (Gnathang), Sikkim Silk Route
The Silk Road or Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China to the Mediterranean Sea. [Source: Wikipedia]
The original silk route connected China with Mediterranean and past north of the Himalayas, but there were several other routes, which connected the Indian subcontinent with the main silk route. One such route passed through North Bengal and East Sikkim and entered Tibet via Nathu La or Jelep La.
But the history of the Silk Route (also known as the Old Silk Route) in East Sikkim, is not restricted to the silk trade only. The high altitude rugged mountains was also the battleground between the Tibetans and the British in 1888. A memorial stands at Nathang (also called Gnathang) in memory of the British soldiers, who were killed in the battle.
Also in 1903 – 04 this route was used by Francis Younghusband to invade Tibet and move on wards to Lasha. This was also the route, which George Mallory and his fellow mountaineers took, during the Mount Everest expeditions of 1921, 22 and 24.
Today the memorial at Nathang (Gnathang) still stands and I visited the memorial, in September 2016, as part of The Birding Trail of East Sikkim (a separate post will be coming up in my blog soon) organized by Wandervogel Adventures.
In the mid 1880s the Britishers started building roads in Sikkim and this was viewed with suspension by Tibet. In 1886 the Tibetans attacked Sikkim via the Jelep La and captured Lingtu just below the pass.
In May 1888 the Tibetans attacked Nathang (Gnathang) but were driven away. Alarmed with the attack of Sikkim by the Tibetans the Britishers send a reinforcement in September 1888 and the Tibetans were forced out of Lingtu. The Britishers stayed back in the remote outpost till 1895.
The Memorial was erected in 1909 but sadly the marble plaques have recently been replaced by granite plaques. Photos from the blog Proud to be a Sikkimies shot in 2009 shows the original cracked marble plaques.
Today the complex consists of two memorials with shinning new granite plaques and fifteen graves. The epitaphs of the graves have long vanished but a original marble plaque from one of the memorials can still be seen.
One of the plaques mentions about a soldier dying on Pemberingo Pass, but in recent maps we find no mention of Pemberingo Pass in the region. So has the pass been renamed, hope my esteemed blog readers can come up with a answer.
- The Silk Route can only be done on a hired vehicle and can accommodate a max of 8 person per vehicle. Cost amounts to about Rs 3800 per day inclusive of drivers expenses.
- Home stays are available en route and costs amounts to about Rs 1000 per head per day and includes all four meals.
- A permit is required so please carry a photo identity and a copy of passport size photo. The hotels will do all the necessary arrangements.
- For Silk Route Package booking contact: Wondervogel Adventures, 1/ 2 C Ballygunge Place East, Kolkata – 700 019, Ph: 91 33 65484337, M: 91 9007009063, 91 9007009061, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com , Website: www.wandervogeladventures.com
- Moushmi di, Siddhartha and Soven of Wondervogel Adventures for the wonderful birding trip of East Sikkim
- Soumyajit and Joydeb of Nikon India for the all the photography tips and for the usage of 300 mm f4 prime lens
- Dilip Raj Pradhan and Gopal Pradhan for the warm hospitality in Rongli and Zuluk respectively
- Last but not least my fellow birding trip participants for accepting a non birder, like me, with open arms!