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The Chogyal ("Dharma Kings", Tibetan: ཆོས་རྒྱལ, Wylie: chos rgyal, Sanskrit: धर्मराज) were the monarchs of the former kingdoms of Sikkim and Ladakh in present-day India, which were ruled by separate branches of the Namgyal dynasty. The Chogyal was the absolute monarch of Sikkim from 1642 to 1975, when the monarchy was abolished and its people voted in a referendum to make Sikkim India's 22nd state.

Chogyal of Sikkim
Seal of Sikkim.svg
Palden Thondup Namgyal.jpg
Palden Thondup Namgyal
First monarchPhuntsog Namgyal
Last monarchPalden Thondup Namgyal
Abolition16 May 1975
ResidenceGangtok, Sikkim
Pretender(s)Wangchuk Namgyal

King of BhutanEdit

Painting of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal

In Bhutan, Raja "Dharma King" or "Religious King" is a title which was also conferred upon a special class of temporal and spiritual rulers. In Bhutan, the Chogyal were given the respectful title Zhabdrung. In this context, the Chogyal was a recognised reincarnation (or succession of reincarnations) of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the 17th century Tibetan-born founder of Bhutan. A position of supreme importance, the Bhutanese Chogyal was above both the highest monastic authority, the Je Khenpo, and the highest temporal ruler, the Deb Raja or Druk Desi.[1] There were two main lines of Zhabdrung incarnations in Bhutan.


Statue of Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche

From 1642 to 1975, Sikkim was ruled by the Namgyal Monarchy (also called the Chogyal Monarchy), founded by the fifth-generation descendants of Guru Tashi, a prince of the Minyak House who came to Sikkim from the Kham district of Tibet.[2] Chogyal means 'righteous ruler', and was the title conferred upon Sikkim's Buddhist kings during the reign of the Namgyal Monarchy.[3]

The reign of the Chogyal was foretold by the patron saint of Sikkim, Guru Rinpoche. The 8th-century saint had predicted the rule of the kings when he arrived in the state. In 1642, Chogyal Phuntsog Namgyal was crowned as Sikkim's first ruler in Yuksom. The crowning of the king was a great event and he was crowned by three revered lamas who arrived there from three different directions, namely the north, west, and south.

List of Chogyals of Sikkim (1642–1975)Edit

No. Reign Portrait Chogyal
1 1642–1670   Phuntsog Namgyal
Ascended the throne and was consecrated as the first Chogyal of Sikkim. Made the capital in Yuksom.
2 1670–1700   Tensung Namgyal
Shifted capital to Rabdentse from Yuksom.
3 1700–1717   Chakdor Namgyal
His half-sister Pendiongmu tried to dethrone Chakdor, who fled to Lhasa, but was reinstated as king with the help of Tibetans.
4 1717–1733   Gyurmed Namgyal
Sikkim was attacked by Nepalis.
5 1733–1780   Phuntsog Namgyal II
Nepalis raided Rabdentse, the then capital of Sikkim.
6 1780–1793   Tenzing Namgyal
Chogyal fled to Tibet, and later died there in exile.
7 1793–1863   Tsugphud Namgyal
The longest-reigning Chogyal of Sikkim. Shifted the capital from Rabdentse to Tumlong. Treaty of Titalia in 1817 between Sikkim and British India was signed in which territories lost to Nepal were appropriated to Sikkim. Darjeeling was gifted to British India in 1835. Two Britons, Dr. Archibald Campbell and Dr. Joseph Dalton Hooker were captured by the Sikkimese in 1849. Hostilities between British India and Sikkim continued and led to a treaty signed, in which Darjeeling was ceded to the British Raj.
8 1863–1874   Sidkeong Namgyal
9 1874–1914   Thutob Namgyal
John Claude White appointed as the first political officer in Sikkim in 1889. Capital shifted from Tumlong to Gangtok in 1894.
10 1914   Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal
The shortest-reigning Chogyal of Sikkim, ruled from 10 February to 5 December 1914. Died of heart failure, aged 35, in most suspicious circumstances.
11 1914–1963   Tashi Namgyal
Treaty between India and Sikkim was signed in 1950, giving India suzerainty over Sikkim.
12 1963–1975   Palden Thondup Namgyal
The last Chogyal of Sikkim. The country became a state of India, following the 1975 referendum.

The son from the first marriage of Palden Thondup Namgyal, Wangchuk Namgyal (born 1 April 1953), was named the 13th Chogyal after his father's death on 29 January 1982, but the position no longer confers any official authority.

Royal FlagEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Norbu, Namkhai (1988, 2000). The Crystal and the Way of Light: The Teachings of Namkhai Norbu. (Snow Lion Publications) pg.20 and Notes.
  2. ^ States and Territories of India series. Online: [1] (accessed: 14 May 2008)
  3. ^ Buyers, Christopher (2002). The Namgyal Dynasty: Brief History. Online [2] (accessed: 14 May 2008).

External linksEdit