In 1642, the fifth generation descendant of Guru Tashi, Phuntsog Namgyal was consecrated as the first Denjong Gyalpo or the Chogyal (king) of Sikkim by Lhatsun Chhenpo, Nga-dag Lama and Kathhog Lama, three great Lamas who came from the north, west and south to Yuksom Norbugang in West Sikkim.In 1791 Chinese Qing Dynasty establishes control over Sikkim.
With the arrival of the British in neighbouring India, Sikkim allied itself with them as they had a common enemy – the Gorkha Kingdom of Nepal. The infuriated Nepalese attacked Sikkim with vengeance, over-running most of the region including the Terai. This prompted the British East India Company to attack Nepal resulting in the Anglo-Nepalese War, which began in 1814. Treaties signed between British and Nepal – the Sugauli Treaty and Sikkim and British India – Treaty of Titalia, returned the territory annexed by the Nepalese to Sikkim in 1817.
Meanwhile, the British were looking for a route to establish trading links with Tibet. An offshoot of the ancient Silk Road through Sikkim meant that the kingdom was ideal as a transit route. A secondary reason for the establishment of links was to quell the growing Russian influence in Tibet in the context of The Great Game. However ties between Sikkim and India grew sour with the taxation of the area of Morang by the British. An internal disturbance, which began in 1825, gave the British the opportunity to secure the 1835 cession of Darjeeling to British Sikkim in view of its perceived advantages as a sanitorium. Unhappy with this development, Sikkim’s Dewan often frustrated the cessation by denying aid to the British in capturing escaped criminals and offering amnesty for escaped slaves. As compensation for the loss, the British Government paid the Sikkim Raja Rs. 3,000 from 1841 onwards, a sum that was later increased to Rs. 12,000.
In 1888 war in Sikkim broke out between the British and Tibetans (Tibet was part of the Qing dynasty during this time).By the Treaty of Calcutta (1890), China weakened by the Opium Wars recognizes British suzerainty over Sikkim.
Sikkim had retained guarantees of independence from Britain when it became independent, and such guarantees were transferred to the Indian government when it gained independence in 1947. A popular vote for Sikkim to join the Indian Union failed and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. A state council was established in 1953 to allow for constitutional government for the Chogyal, which was sustained until 1973.
Things were going well in the early years after independence as the then king Tashi Namgyal favored closer links with India and advocated land reform and free elections. This allowed various political parties, representing different ethnic groups, to come up. One of them was Sikkim Praja Mandal formed by Kazi Lhendup Dorjee, who went on to become the president of Sikkim State Congress in 1953. Dorjee later met Pandit Nehru in 1954, the Indian Prime Minister promised to give assistance for the progress and economic welfare of the Sikkimese populace and assured Government of India’s support towards political reform in Sikkim.
In 1962 India-China war , China claimed Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim as parts of Tibet and was successful in occupying the whole of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin in J&K. Even though India lost the war, China left Arunachal Pradesh due to international pressure but still claimed the two territories including Sikkim.
Regional political parties in Sikkim joined to form the Sikkim National Congress (SNC) to represent all ethnic groups and oppose the monarchy.The old ruler Tashi Namgyal died in 1963 after suffering from cancer. The last hereditary ruler, the Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal, ascended to the throne in 1965.The chogyal, was viewed by India as politically dangerous, especially after his wife, the American socialite Hope Cooke, published a journal article advocating a return of certain former Sikkimese properties.The chogyal, was viewed by India as politically dangerous, especially after his wife, the American socialite Hope Cooke, published a journal article advocating a return of certain former Sikkimese properties. Newly crowned King Palden Thondup Namgyal of Sikkim had married Hope Cooke, a twenty-two-year-old socialite from New York. Aspiring to become the queen, she started taking the message of Sikkimese independence to the youth, which led to rumors that she was a CIA agent.This led to a power tussle between Hope Cooke and Elisa-Maria Standford who was Lhendup Dorjee’s Belgian wife. The power struggle between the monarchy and SNC was seen as a pseudo-war between the two women.In 1973 Hope Cooke left for New York as her marriage with the king broke down .
SNC demanded better representation of the Nepalese (who had always complained of discrimination, perceived or otherwise, by the Buddhist royalty and and elite), who formed a majority of the population, and garnered their support. Also, India’s assistance to Bangladesh’s independence movement helped in painting a favorable picture of India. King Thondup Namgyal was already very unpopular among the masses.
In the same year, riots started at the front of the palace which led to a formal request of protection and help from India.
In 1975 The Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament for Sikkim to become a state of India. In April of that year, the Indian Army took over the city of Gangtok and disarmed the Chogyal’s palace guards. Thereafter, a referendum was held in which 97.5 per cent of voters supported abolishing the monarchy, effectively approving union with India. On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, the monarchy was abolished and Kazi Lhendup Dorji became the first chief minister of the state.