My first reaction when I saw the very historical (!) site which recorded the presence of pot pieces, it was nothing than a sheer stance that for me looked more of a common village field found in most part of hilly regions. There was nothing extraordinary I was looking for beside its rich fable. Next to this field is a burial place and I was told most of the bodies buried under the burials belonged to the Newar community. What was more interesting was the rare instance that Hindu Newars by no means lay to rest their families underground, as far as my little knowledge is concerned. Some of the pieces of that pottery are displayed at the Museum of Sonam Tshering Lepcha, a Lepcha artifact collector at Kalimpong. In one of his interview published in weekly Weekend Review from Gangtok in 2002, he assumed this to be 3,600 years old. This grandpa having crossed more than seven decades of his life span holds some rare artifacts of Lepchas prime periods and among one of his prized processions is few fragments of pots he collected from Daramdin way back in 1975. Also found in his museum is the mock-up of the pottery ladder.
According to the article ‘The lake-and–ladder story‘ published in A Stranger’s Note & Other Essays, it had been mentioned about the naming of the place Daramdin which goes as Da (lake) ram (obliterate) din (remove); the Lepcha turned then lake into the present land and constructed a ladder on it. It had been mentioned after the visit of Sonam Tshering Lepcha at Daramdin, the scientists from Sikkim and India had brought large quantities of pot pieces that were quite different from the one collected by Sonam Tshering Lepcha himself. Later on it became apparent that the pots collected by those people were from the graveyard!
In the text from Puratatva, a bulletin of the Indian Archeological Society, in its piece of writing on “Prehistoric Exploration in Sikkim”, the team of Prehistory Branch of Archeological Survey of India, Nagpur during their two month long exploration in Sikkim in 1980 had reported of finding couple of dozens of Neolithic Tools in regions of Dzongu, Mangan, Singhik, Dikchu and nearby areas including the Pakyong. The report said the pottery was significantly absent in the sites explored. They further wrote “in such landscape one does not expect proper earth for the manufacture of pottery. Neither could a kiln be possibly made here. Before the coming of aluminum or brass utensils, the people used to have their vessels made of wood. They did even boil their food in these wooden vessels by plastering the necessary parts with mud.”
This ladder incident finds mentions in a collection of folk tales of Lepcha published in 1981 that included some new pages of information that was never heard before. It is said that it took twelve years for the Lepcha people to construct the tower that was on an accordable height. Finally when the tower fell off due to mix-up of proper pronunciation, it was believed that the huge tower fell on the opposite hills of the Daramdin forming three valleys of hills towards the now Darjeeling jurisdiction. Such that the three valleys got their name from it, those hills were Maney Bhanzyang, Kaizalay Bhanzyang and Reling Bhanzyang!
I would like to conclude my fascinating story of the ladder incident of Daramdin from the tale that I found it very interesting about the naming of the Daramdin. The book I had been following is A.K.Fonning’s Lepcha-My Vanishing Tribe, I find this book very informative and loved the way it had been written. The book says that it was the Nembangu clan of Lepcha tribe that had supposedly constructed the earthen tower and the particular spot was earlier known as “Kado-Rom-Dyen” meaning “we ourselves smashed it down”. With bygone days the first two alphabets of the first word from Kado-Rom-Dyen got lost and thus we found the new and the most famous names in Sikkim folk lore…it was Do-Rom-Dyen.
My skeptic mind is still looking out for more generous explanation of certain queries. It do drive me to a thought is it not possible that those kumalay had different settlements in this part of land and the pieces recovered were the distorted pot pieces left by them. It really makes me think there should be some carbon-14 dating of the materials that are assumed to belong to the graveyard pots too, is it not that over the years we were collecting those graveyard pot pieces and maintaining it to be of the mythic Daramdin Earthen Tower!
It is hard to decide whether the incident had actually happened to this part of Sikkim but the fact remains that whether or not the story had any authenticity, the ladder story of Daramdin shall always stay close to Lepcha people and to Sikkim. To some extent old Lepcha folks had that wild imagination and romanticism that they borrowed the story (if) from other source to boast their kids. If the story seemed borrowed, what about the fragments still found at the fields of Daramdin?