In 1865, Buxa Duars was one of the 18 Duars that Bhutan ceded to the British government for an annual fee.
Better known as Pasakha, the Duar was situated in the extreme southern borders on the Duar plains. It skirted the lower Himalayan ranges of West Bengal and played an important role in the political and economic history of our country.
The British appointed a Bhutan Agent. In Bhutan, this agent was known as the Pasa Kutshab. We first hear of him in 1910 from British records, “A request from Pem Dorji, the Bhutan Agent at Buxa Duar, to supply him with house accommodation was refused”.
Eight years later, in 1918, Pem Dorji “resigned his appointment with effect from the 6th March 1918. The resignation was accepted and the post has been allowed to remain vacant while the question of continuing to keep a Bhutan Agent at Buxa is considered”.
The post was vacant for two years and, “on 10th March 1920, with the approval of the government of India in the Foreign and Political Department, Sonam Tsering has been appointed as the temporary Bhutan Agent at Buxa”. Four years later, “in 1924, Ugyen Tsering replaces Sonam Tsering as the Bhutan Agent.”
So far, no information on the two Bhutan Agents has surfaced. However, information on the last Bhutan Agent has recently surfaced. On a recent visit to Kalimpong, Ashi Kesang W Wangchuck stumbled across Legden Bhutia (1946-) the grandson of Ugyen Tsering who provided lot of information.
Ugyen married Sangey Om (1889-1965). Although she settled in Darjeeling in a village called Takda, she was born in Bhutan, Dhop Shari village. They had a son Thinley Lhuendup Wangdi (1918-2009) and a daughter Choni Dolma (1923-1988). Legden is the son of Thinley.
According to Legden, his grandfather was born in 1889 in Yangtokha village in Haa. While he is not sure when his grandfather moved to India, he knows that he died in Kalimpong in 1965.
From documents, Ugyen Tsering’s father was Phip Dozhi but there is no mention of his mother.
Ugyen was one of the first teachers to teach in Bhutan. In 1912, he passed the 2nd standard examination after spending four years in the Guru training school , Kalimpong. “He has, after examination, proved himself, in the opinion of the undersigned, competent to teach in Lower Primary Schools under the new scheme of Vernacular Education.”
Subsequently, in 1913 he passed the “Middle English examination for one year from the same institute and was certified to teach in upper primary schools”.
Around 1914, he helped set up the first primary school in Bhutan. He was also the private tutor to his Majesty Jigme Wangchuck (1905-1952).
At the First King’s Court
According to Legden’s recollection, while tutoring the crown prince in Bumthang, the first King Ugyen Wangchuck (1862-1926) presented a statue of Green Tara to his grandfather.
Legden said that his grandmother used to tell him stories of how the first king spent a lot of time in his prayer room and recited ‘Dom nishu chichi,’ or the mantra of 21 Tara everyday. According to the story, when the king presented Uygen the brass statue, he advised him to do the same which he did till his last day.
Sangey Om spent several years in Bumthang with her husband. She met the first king on many occasion. She describes him as a religious man. According to her stories, the king would often invite her husband and her for ‘Nueney’ and for religious discourses.
In addition to the statue, our king awarded Ugyen Tsering the coronation silver medal, a patang and dozum for his distinguished services.
When the crown prince became the second king, he requested the British government the appointment of his teacher as the Pasakha Kutshab. “At the request of His Highness the Maharaja of Bhutan His Majesty, and with the concurrence of the Government of India, Ugyen Tshering was appointed the Bhutan Agent at Buxa in place of Sonam Tsering, whose appointment to the post was temporary.”
Ugyen Tsering served as the Kutshab for 30 years (1924 to 1954). Although he was appointed as the Kutshab in 1924, in 1933, the second king issued a kasho (decree) appointing him as the Pasa Kutshab.
As the Pasa Kutshab, from various documents, Ugyen maintained an amicable social relationship with the local community. He also managed to maintain a good liaison with the local government agencies. In 1935 he accompanied the second king to Kolkata.
In 1954, the Pasa Kutshab became seriously ill. He was suffering from boil on his neck. From oral records, our second king wanted to post him as the Chukha Penlop but Ugyen was not able to take up the assignment on health ground. That year, he was brought to Kalimpong for treatment and died soon after.
The Buxa Duars were known for its forest cover and hot and humid climate infested with malaria and wild animals. It was an unhealthy place to live but a save haven for criminals.
For example, in November 1911 Raja Ugyen Dorje applied for the extradition of one Gasep Bhutia in the service of His Highness the Maharaja of Bhutan on a charge of stabbing with a dagger his musical instructor. The accused had absconded to Buxa.
The Buxa Duar was the elephant country and often elephants were caught and sold; Bhutan received a portion of the revenue. “A joint elephant mahal was operated in the reserved forest of Buxa Division. The Divisional forest of Buxa Division. The Divisional Officer, Buxa Duar, paid a sum of Rs 7,963/4/5 to the Bhutan Durbar as their share of the receipts from Khedda operations. One of the main functions of the Kutshab was the collection of taxes and provide general assistance.
The grandson of the last Pasa Kutshab lives in Kalimpong, India. He has inherited all his grandfather’s documents including the kasho of appointment of Pasa Kutshab. He also has two informal letters written in Hindi by the 2nd King to his grandfather dated1946 and 1950. In his collection, Legden has the silver medal and several artifact’s, including the Green Tara Statue given by the first king.
1. Annual Report on the relations between the British Government and Bhutan during the year 1910-1911.
2. Annual Report on the relations between the British Government and Bhutan for the year, 1917-18
3. Annual Report on the relations between the British Government and Bhutan for the year, 1919-20
5. Guru Training Certificate, Dated 25th March,1912, Darjeeling
6. Guru Training Certificate, Dated 4th May, 1913, Darjeeling
7. Bhutia, Legden (grandson) 2015, Email.
8. Annual Report on the relations between the British Government and Bhutan for theyear 1924-25
9. Some letters of appreciations/certificate handed by the local administration in 1929 and outgoing Heads of the British India Army Command in Buxa Duars in 1936 and the Police in 1951
10. Bhutia, Legden (2015) Email
11. Annual Report on the relations between the British Government and Bhutan for the year 1911-12.