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About iman singh chemjong

Date Monday, December 25th 2006, 11:56 PM Icon 59 Date 0

Iman Singh Chemjong (January 1, 1904 – ?, 1975) was a Limbu historian, writer, linguist, lexicographer, folklorist and philosopher. He devoted his entire life to studying and documenting various facets of Kirati tradition and culture at a time when such activities were frowned upon and even punished by the Nepalese ruling elite as subversive and "anti-national". Chemjong's research into, and publication of, a vibrant Kiranti history and culture exposed the lie of the Nepalese official doctrine that sought to present Nepal as a Hindu cultural monolith devoid of alternative narratives.

Born in Renkebung village of Darjeeling District, West Bengal, India, Chemjong received his education at St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. In 1928, he completed Certificate level and was about to enroll for a Bachelor degree when his father, Megbar Singh Chemjong, died. Chemjong junior had to put his academic aspirations on hold.

Early influences
Traditionally, Limbus observed a religion called Mundum centred around animistic rituals and practices. However, due to sustained campaigns of various Hindu rulers to assimilate Limbus into the Hindu mainstream, many Limbus adopted Hindu names and started to participate in Hindu worships and festivals.

To their credit, Limbus never really severed their tie to their rich religion and culture that stretched back to pre-history. Alongside Hindu goddesses Durga and Laxmi, Limbus continued to worship their own supreme god Ningmaphuma. One such devoted Limbu worshipper was Chemjong's own mother, Devapu Hangma. Since Limbu Mundum religion is a rich cornucopia of oral traditions encompassing Kirati theology, mythology, history, genealogy, culture and traditions, having a devout mother gave Chemjong a distinct advantage.

A turning point in Chemjong's life came in 1924, when the legendary Limbu activist Lalshore Sendang visited Kalimpong, Darjeeling, and met Limbu elders and activists. Chemjong was one of the many Limbu youths who learned the Limbu Sirijonga script from Sendang and attended his talks on Limbu religion and culture.

Works
Chemjong researched Limbu language and culture in Limbuwan, i.e. East Nepal, and also in the neighbouring hill areas of Darjeeling in West Bengal and Assam, India, and also in Sikkim, then an indendent Himalayan kingdom. In his own life time, he published the following works:

Kirat Itihas 1948
Kirat Sahityako Itihas 1955
Kirat Folklore 1961
Kirat Mundhum 1961
Limboo-Nepali-English Dictionary 1961
Kirat Mundhum Khahun 1965
Kirat History and Culture 1967
Kirat Darshanko Saransh 1969
Lepcha-Nepali-English Dictionary 1969
Bijayapurko Itihas 1974
The Kirat Grammar in Limbu Language
Recognition
In a gesture that went against the grain of prevailing state ideology, King Tribhuvan invited Chemjong to join Nepal's Tribhuvan University in the capacity of "Limbu expert" in 1961. For years until his death, Chemjong headed a one-man Limbu research team at then Nepal's only university.

Today, the Limbu community spread across mid and eastern Nepal, West Bengal, Assam, Sikkim and Bhutan revere Chemjong as a hero for almost single-handedly researching and documenting various aspects of Limbu and Kirati life at a time when these sorts of activities were neither encouraged nor fashionable. Various functions are held each year to commemorate Chemjong's invaluable contributions.



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