Peek Into the Past With This Formerly Banned Documentary on Sikkim

Peek Into the Past With This Formerly Banned Documentary on Sikkim

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Sikkim is a documentary film about the once-sovereign country of Sikkim. The movie, directed by filmmaking legend Satyajit Ray, was banned by the Government of India when Sikkim became a state under India in 1975.

The Ministry of External Affairs lifted the ban in 2010.

The movie is a brief glimpse into the lives of the Sikkimese. Commissioned by the then king of Sikkim, the movie was released in 1971, when Sikkim's sovereignty was at threat from both India and China.

Bordered by Mount Everest and the Kanchenjunga mountains, 90 percent of Sikkim's local population lives in its villages. Only 70 miles from north to south, and 40 miles from east to west, Sikkim is small in size, the documentary explains.

The natives of Sikkim were primarily the Lepcha tribe. However, the documentary adds that over time, other communities from nearby locations came and made Sikkim their home.

While Sikkim's official religion was Buddhism, a large number of Hindu migrants from nearby Tibet made Sikkim their home.

Cardamom constitutes one of Sikkim's largest exports. Oranges are another export. Farming is determined by the nature of the terrain. Wheat, barley and potatoes are grown in the higher altitudes while the lower terrace farms house corn (maize) and rice.

“What holds up the automobile, rarely holds up the mountain folk.”

The 1971 documentary explains that the Lachung and Lachen Valleys have only opened up to outside influences after the seventies, following the laying of jeep-able roads.

The documentary adds how every week, the citizens of Sikkim make their way down the mountains to the marketplace to buy and sell goods.

The documentary offers a rare chance to understand a culture and way of life that stands the risk of being lost forever with the onwards march of time.

As the documentary draws to an end, the viewer understands that its purpose is simply to document life as it existed in Sikkim. It offers no comment, it passes no judgment, and there’s little in the way of dramatic story development.

But, despite these factors, the documentary lends itself to easy viewing, making its 53-minute duration seem like it passed unnoticed.

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