Sikhim and Bhutan/Chapter 20
BRITISH MISSIONS TO BHUTAN
Bogle, 1774. Hamilton, 1775 and 1777. Turner, 1783. Pemberton, 1838. Eden, 1864. White, 1905. White, 1907.
An account of the first Mission to Bhutan is to he found in the “Narrative of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet, and of Thomas Manning to Lhasa,” edited by Markham, in 1875.
Prior to this narrative, no full account of Bogle’s Mission had been published. An attempt to find adequate materials in the records at Calcutta or at the India Office had failed, but fortunately Bogle’s journals, memoranda, official and private correspondence were carefully preserved by his family in Scotland, and it is on these materials that Markham has based his narrative. It was the lack of these materials in the public offices that led Eden, in his account of the political missions to Bhutan, to say that Bogle does not appear to have been charged with any political functions with regard to Bhutan. Markham’s investigations have proved, on the contrary, that Bogle had a mission to Bhutan, and an important one. The Mission originated in a friendly letter from the Penchen Rimpochi of Tibet, interceding with the East India Company on behalf of Bhutan after the Bhutanese invasion of Cooch Behar, and the primary cause of Bogle’s Mission was Warren Hastings’ desire to take advantage of this opening given him by the Penchen Rimpochi to establish friendly communications with the Government at Lhasa and open a trade with Tibet.
Eden is so far right in saying that Bogle was charged with no political Mission to Bhutan inasmuch as the treaty of 1774 had already been concluded in the April of that year, and Bogle’s appointment letter is dated May 13, 1774, and in that letter no specific Mission to Bhutan is mentioned. Warren Hastings, in his letter to the Court of Directors, informs them that he is taking the opportunity of the Penchen Rimpochi’s letter to employ Bogle to visit the Lama and open intercourse between Tibet and Bengal, and does not mention Bhutan.
The letter of instructions to Bogle also refers entirely to the negotiations with Tibet, though some confusion arises from the employment by Warren Hastings in this letter of the word “Bhutan.” “Having appointed you my Deputy to the Penchen Rimpochi, the Sovereign of Bhutan,” is the opening sentence of the letter, but Warren Hastings has used the word “Bhutan” here and in other places where it is mentioned in the letter for “Bhot,” the native name of Tibet. This explanation of the use of the word “Bhutan” is to be found in Markham’s note, and the context of the letter shows that it is evidently the right one. But the subsequent correspondence between Warren Hastings and Bogle proves that the latter was certainly charged with a friendly message to the Deb Raja, and with the more important duty of opening up trade with that country, and, through it, with Tibet. The main object of his Mission was to open communications and trade with Tibet, but to attain this object he was to gain the Deb Raja’s consent to the passage of traders through Bhutanese territory.
Bogle was the bearer of presents to the Deb Raja, and spent some time at Tashi-cho-jong as the Deb Raja’s guest, and was hospitably and civilly treated.
There must also have been some later written instructions on this point, for in writing to Warren Hastings on October 8, 1774, Bogle acknowledges the receipt of his commands of August 9 through a merchant of Rangpur, and proceeds to say that in several conversations he has made known Warren Hastings’ wish to extend the intercourse between Bengal and the Northern nations, from which Bhutan, as a channel of communications, would naturally benefit, and concludes by requesting, at the solicitation of the Deb Raja, that the annual caravan from Bhutan to Rangpur might meet with assistance and protection. The result of his visit was a very friendly letter from Warren Hastings, dated November 28, 1774, to the “Raja of Bhutan,” acknowledging the kindness and civility shown to Bogle, and enclosing a perwana for the encouragement of any Bhutanese subjects who might “wish to travel with caravans to Rangpur and other districts under the Company’s authority for the purpose of trade.” The perwana states that strict injunctions have been given to the officers of Rangpur and Ghoraghat, in Dinajpur, not to obstruct the passage of these caravans, and to afford them every assistance. This letter was followed by another one from Warren Hastings, dated January 6, 1775, in a similar friendly tone, and promising to take steps to remove some obstructions which had been made locally to the trade in cotton between Bhutan and Bengal, and suggesting that the Deb Raja should send a vakeel to reside in Calcutta to facilitate communication between the two Governments. From the first letter of November 28, 1774, it is also apparent that Warren Hastings intended to have regular articles of trade drawn up between the two countries. A further correspondence took place between Warren Hastings and Bogle after the latter’s return to Tashi-cho-jong from his visit to the Penchen Rimpochi, in Tibet, on the subject of trade negotiations. There is a letter from Warren Hastings to Bogle, dated May 9, 1775, and one from Bogle to Warren Hastings, dated May 25, which evidently crossed one another. Then we have another letter of Bogle’s, of June 9, and his general report of his Mission. From, this correspondence it is proved that Bogle drew up certain trade articles, to which he obtained the Deb Raja’s consent, and submitted them to Warren Hastings. There is no record of these articles having ever been formally signed by the Deb Raja and Bogle, or having received Hastings’ approval, but as Hastings gave Bogle a very free hand to make the best arrangements he could for trade, and as in the case of the Rangpur trade the articles were acted on, it seems most probable that Warren Hastings did approve of them.
It is curious and somewhat confusing to find that in the conduct of these negotiations both Hastings and Bogle apparently overlooked Article 4 of the treaty of 1774, which lays down that “the Bhootans being merchants, shall have the same privilege of trade as formerly without the payment of duties, and their caravans shall be allowed to go to Rangpur annually,” for in Hastings’ letter of May 9, 1775, to Bogle he ignores this clause altogether, and says that, to establish freedom of trade between Bhutan and Bengal, the annual caravans may continue their trade to Rangpur on the customary terms, and “you may even consent to relinquish the tribute or duty which is exacted from the caravans.”
The duty is further mentioned in the letter as amounting to Rs. 2000. Neither does Bogle in his articles of trade make any allusion to the fourth article of the treaty, and in the second and third clauses of his articles provides for the free trading of the Bhutanese to Rangpur and other places in Bengal, and for the abolition of the duties on the Rangpur caravan, as if these privileges had not been already secured to the Bhutanese by the treaty. A fair was afterwards established at Rangpur under conditions which were extremely favourable to the Bhutanese. Their expenses were paid by Government, stables erected for their horses and houses for themselves. This fair continued down to 1832, when the grant for its maintenance was withdrawn.
Markham thus sums up the result of Bogle’s Mission:
“Besides the valuable information he collected, Bogle's Mission was very successful in other respects. It laid the foundation of a policy which, had it been steadily, cautiously, though continuously, carried out, would long ere this have secured permanent results. Bogle formed a close friendship with the Teshu Lama (Penchen Rimpochi) and all his kindred. He secured their hearty co-operation and support in the encouragement of trade, and even succeeded, after tedious negotiations, in inducing the Bhutan Government to allow the passage of merchandise through their territory to and from Tibet and Bengal.”
I have enlarged at some length on the nature of this part of Bogle’s Mission to Tibet, as both Pemberton and Eden were in ignorance of the real facts, and therefore failed to recognise the importance of his visit to the Deb Raja. The same misapprehension occurs in Aitcheson’s “Treaties,” where it is stated: “From that time, with the exception of two unsuccessful commercial missions in 1774 and 1783,” &c.
The Mission of 1774 noticed must, of course, have been Bogle’s, and it is not fair to say that it was unsuccessful. The results of his Mission were, in fact, most encouraging at the time, and laid the foundations of what would, but for the subsequent conduct of the Bhutanese and the course events took with Tibet, have developed into a thriving trade between their country and Bengal, while the friendly attitude of Warren Hastings towards the Bhutan Government serves to show up the subsequent misconduct of the Bhutanese in their relations with us in an even more unfavourable light than it has yet appeared.
Bogle left Calcutta with Mr. Hamilton, the surgeon appointed to attend him, in May 1774, and entered Bhutan from Cooch Behar through the Buxa Duar. His route to the capital, Tashi-cho-jong, lay up the Tchin-chhu, or Raidak river, and was made in ten stages, with a computed distance of 152 miles. The route seems to have been a fairly easy one, and though the roads were too steep and rugged for the conveyance of goods except by coolies, Bogie himself was able to ride most of the way. It is interesting to notice that on his way Bogle planted potatoes at his halting-places, which he did at the desire of Warren Hastings, in order to introduce the plant into Bhutan. Between Buxa Duar and Chuka, the sixth stage, he found hut few villages and scanty cultivation, but beyond Chuka and up to the capital the country opened gradually, the mountain-sides were more sloping, and the villages became more frequent. The country here is described as populous and well cultivated, the houses to be built of stones and clay, two or three stories high; there were temples and, on the last two stages, rice-fields. The temperature at Kyapcha was in June 58° in the morning and evening, and 64° in the heat of the day; at Tashi-cho-jong it was 61° in the morning, 68° to 70° at midday. The Bhutanese seem to have been adepts at bridge-making. The commonest kinds were wooden bridges on the cantilever principle, but iron suspension bridges were also met with. Bogle was furnished with a passport from the Deb Raja, and seems to have found no difficulty in getting supplies and coolies. He found the bigari, or forced labour, system prevalent, but says that it is so well established that the people submit to it without a murmur.
Tashi-cho-jong, the capital, is situated in a valley about five miles long and one broad, and is entirely surrounded by high mountains. The river Tchin-chhu “gallops through” the low grounds near it, which are covered with rice and well peopled. Bogle gives detailed and amusing accounts of his reception and stay at the capital, and a description of the palace of the Deb and Dharma Rajas. The palace contained nearly 3000 men and no women, and a tower five or six stories high was allotted to the Dharma Raja. The Dharma Raja apparently kept very much in the background, and Bogle’s visits to him were attended with less ceremony than those to the Deb Raja. Bogle appears to have been quite satisfied with his reception, and mixed freely with the people, joining one day in a game of quoits with the Jongpen of Tashi-cho-jong and his followers. Getting tired of quoits, at which he found himself less dexterous than his entertainers, he went off and shot wild pigeons, and after that had dinner with the Jongpen. This freedom of intercourse and the friendly and cordial manner in which he was entertained by the Deb Raja and members of his court is in strong contrast to the treatment met with by subsequent Missions after Turner’s, and it is perhaps not surprising that Bogle, especially considering his own gentle and amiable disposition, should give us a much more pleasing impression of the Bhutanese than is to be met with elsewhere.
In July 1774 Bogle received a letter from the Penchen Rimpochi desiring him to return to Calcutta instead of proceeding to Tibet. The excuse of which we have so often heard since in our dealings with Tibet—namely, the necessity of obtaining the consent of China to his journey—was put forward. The Deb Raja followed suit by endeavouring to persuade Bogle to return. Bogle thought that the obstacle to his journey originated with the Deb Raja, but it seems just as likely that the Deb Raja was merely carrying out the wishes of the Penchen Rimpochi. Eventually these difficulties were overcome, and he left Tashi-cho-jong on October 13, 1774, with Hamilton. The route taken was viâ Paro to Phari-jong, in the Chumbi Valley, which, after a visit to the Paro Penlop, was reached by the Mission on October 23. It would be outside the province of this note to follow Bogle in his journey in Tibet, though his account of it is full of interest. It will be sufficient to say that though he was forbidden to visit Lhasa he spent some time at Tashi Lhunpo, made great friends with the Penchen Rimpochi, and fully enlisted his sympathies with Warren Hastings’ plans. Bogle left Tashi Lhunpo on April 7, 1775, and on May 8 reached Tashi-cho-jong, and apparently stayed there for about a month to carry out his trade negotiations with the Deb Raja before returning to Bengal. The temper of the Deb Raja does not seem to have been so cordial as at the time of Bogle’s first visit, but “after many tiresome conferences and further negotiations, in which the Penchen Rimpochi’s people assisted,” Bogle was able to obtain the Deb Raja’s consent to his articles of trade. He failed, however, to obtain permission for English or European traders to enter the Deb Raja’s dominions, and it was evidently on this point chiefly that the conferences were “tiresome” and ultimately “fruitless.” The other difficulty he had to face was that freedom of trade in Bhutan would affect the Deb Raja’s personal profits from the monopoly he enjoyed.
Bogle's Impression of the Country.—Bogle, as before noticed, carried away a much more pleasing impression of the country than any of his successors after Turner, except myself. Indeed, he gives us a picture of good government and Arcadian simplicity. It must be admitted, however, that the educated Bhutanese whom one meets outside their country, though rough in manners, are pleasant and agreeable, and that they were, as a people, never so black as they were painted by Eden, who had very good reasons for only seeing the worst side of their character. A brief account of Bogle’s impressions will be interesting, as they coincide very much with the opinion formed by me during my Mission of 1906, and serve to show that the very unfavourable judgment passed upon them by Eden was hardly a true one, and was caused very much by his own treatment. Bogle found the government of Bhutan to be based on a theocracy which, while retaining a nominal, and to some extent a real, supremacy in the affairs of the country, had entrusted the administration of all temporal matters to a body of laymen. This body retained the election of the Deb Raja, the head of the temporal power, and his deposition in its own hands, made him accountable to itself for the conduct of affairs, and without its consent the Deb Raja could undertake no measure of importance in the management of the State. As to the exact constitution of this theocracy, Bogle is not very clear, but he probably means that it was made up of the priests and heads of the monasteries under the Dharma Raja.
He divides the inhabitants into three classes—the priests, the servants or officers of Government, and the landholders and husbandmen.
The priests were formed from the body of the people, were received at an early age, and when admitted into orders took oaths of chastity. The second class comprehended the ministers and governors of provinces, tax-collectors, and ail their train of dependents. They were not prohibited from marrying, yet, finding it a bar to their preferment, seldom entered that state. Like the priests, they were taken from families in the country. They were bred up in the palaces under the patronage of some man in office, by whom they were fed and clothed, but received no wages. They seldom arrived at places of trust or consequence till far advanced in life, and passed through all the gradations of service. It was no uncommon thing to see a minister as expert in mending a shoe or making a tunic as in settling the business of the nation. The landholders and husbandmen, though by far the most numerous class, and “that which gives birth to the other two,” were entirely excluded from any share in the administration. Bogle evidently means that the members of the agricultural class have no chance of entering public life unless they are caught up early in childhood and trained in the households of men in office. He is not very clear in his definition of the position of the lamas. “The lamas,” he says, “are first in rank, and nominally first in power. They enjoy a joint authority, and in all their deliberations are assisted by the clergy. The lamas, though nominally superior in government, yet, as they owe their appointment to the priests, are tutored by them from their earliest infancy, and deriving all their knowledge of public affairs from them, are entirely under their management. The right of electing the Deb Raja is vested in the superiors of their order jointly with the lamas. . . .” “Their sacred profession, so far from disqualifying them from the conduct of civil affairs, is the means of advancing them to it. They are often appointed to the government of provinces, employed as ministers, or entrusted with other offices of the first consideration in the State.” Turner found that the governing class was educated in the monasteries. The distinction which Bogle intended to draw between the priests and the lamas was probably that the lamas were those who, having received a religious or semireligious training in the monasteries, elected afterwards to enter the secular posts of Government, retaining at the same time a close connection with the religious side of the national life, especially in the matter of celibacy. They were represented by the Deb Raja, his governors, ministers, and councillors, in contradistinction to the priesthood, who, with the Dharma Raja as its head, concerned itself primarily with the religious administration of the country. The institution of caste was unknown, and in the absence of any sort of hereditary distinction any one might rise to the highest office.
The appointment to offices, the collection and management of the revenue, the command and direction of the military force, and the power of life and death were vested in the Deb Raja.
The provincial governors were entrusted with very ample jurisdiction. The policing of the country, the levying of taxes, and the administration of justice were committed to them. Complaints against them were seldom preferred or attended to, and their judgments were revised by the “Chief” only in capital cases or others of great consequence. They were not continued long in one station. They lived in a large palace surrounded by priests and officers, and their duties were an epitome of the court of the “Chief.”
Among the non-governing class of the population, nearly every one was a landholder or husbandman. There were few mechanics, and hardly any distinction of profession. Every family was acquainted with the most useful arts, and contained within itself almost all the necessaries of life. Even clothes, a considerable article in so rude a climate, were generally the produce of the husbandman’s industry. He bartered the fruits of his industry in Tibet for wool, which was spun, dyed, and woven by the females of the family, and what remained was taken to Rangpur and exchanged for hogs, salt fish, coarse linen, dyes, spices, and broadcloth. This class “live at home, cultivate their lands, pay taxes, serve in the wars, and beget children, who succeed to honours to which they themselves could never aspire.”
The regular army consisted of six hundred men in pay, but all lands in Bhutan were held by military service, and every man in the country was a soldier when called upon. The taxes were moderate in themselves, and rendered still less oppressive by the simple manner of collecting them. Every family, according to its substance, was rated at a particular sum, which was often received in produce, and thus the country was unencumbered with any heavy expense for tax-gatherers. At the same time Bogle mentions the significant fact that the officers of Government received no salaries. The expenses of government, therefore, were small, and the principal drains on the public treasury were an annual payment to the Penchen Rimpochi and the support of the priests.
With regard to the general character of the people, Bogle writes:
“The simplicity of their manners, their slight intercourse with strangers and strong sense of religion preserve the Bhutanese from many vices to which more polished nations are addicted. They are strangers to falsehood and ingratitude. Theft and every other species of dishonesty to which the lust of money gives birth are little known. Murder is uncommon, and in general is the effect of anger, and not covetousness. The celibacy of a large part of the people, however, is naturally productive of many irregularities, and the coldness of the climate inclines them to an excessive use of spirituous liquor. The more I see of the Bhutanese the more I am pleased with them. The common people are good-humoured, downright, and, I think, thoroughly trusty. The statesmen have some of the art which belongs to their profession. They are the best built race of men I ever saw, many of them very handsome, with complexions as fair as the French.”
In its relations with Tibet Bogle seems to have found Bhutan a dependent Power; but the Tibetan authority over the country could not have been very strong if the Deb Raja was able to exclude Tibetan traders from his country, as appears to have been the case.
The trade of the country was almost entirely in the hands of the Deb Raja, his ministers and governors, who held the monopoly of it both with Bengal and Tibet. The exports to Bengal were chiefly ponies, musk, cow-tails, coarse red blankets, and striped woollen cloths half a yard wide. The imports were chiefly broadcloth, spices, dyes, Malda cloth, coarse linen, hogs, and salt fish. The great trade with Bengal was carried on by means of the annual caravans to Rangpur, from which the Government of Bengal received about Rs. 2000 by way of duty, and there was also trade with Dinajpur. The great obstacle which Bogle found in inducing the Deb Raja to allow open trade through Bhutan into Tibet was the monopoly of it which the Raja enjoyed along with his ministers, and the profits of which, he was afraid, the admission of foreign merchants would lessen. This disinclination to admit foreign traders was not confined to traders from Bengal only; even the merchants of Tibet were not allowed to purchase goods in Bhutan beyond exchanging salt and wool for rice.
The following were the articles of trade drawn up by Bogle with the Deb Raja:
“Whereas the trade between Bengal and Tibet was formerly considerable, and all Hindu and Mussalman merchants were allowed to trade into Nepal, which was the centre of communication between the two countries, and whereas from the wars and oppressions in Nepal the merchants have of late years been unable to travel in that country, the Governor as well as the Deb Raja, united in friendship, being desirous of removing these obstacles so that merchants may carry on their trade free and secure as formerly, have agreed on the following articles:
“That the Bhutanese shall enjoy the privilege of trading to Bengal as formerly, and shall be allowed to proceed either themselves or by their gomasthas to all places in Bengal for the purpose of trading and selling their horses free from duty or hindrance.
“That the duty hitherto exacted at Rangpur from the Bhutan caravans be abolished.
“That the Deb Raja shall allow all Hindu and Mussalman merchants freely to pass and repass through his country between Bengal and Tibet.
“That no English or European merchants shall enter the Deb Raja’s dominions.
“That the exclusive trade in sandal, indigo, skins, tobacco, betel-nut, and pan shall remain with the Bhutanese, and that the merchants be prohibited from importing the same into the Deb Raja’s dominions, and that the Governor shah, confirm this in regard to indigo by an order to Rangpur.”
Captain Turner, in the report of his Mission in 1783, alludes to this “treaty” of Bogle’s, and says the Deb Raja acknowledged its validity and that there was every prospect of its provisions being kept, and in February 1786 Purangir Gosain, the Company’s agent in Tibet, reported that many merchants had found their way from Bengal to Tashi Lhunpo through Bhutan.
Soon after Bogle’s return to Calcutta in June 1775, Warren Hastings determined to prosecute the intercourse which had been so happily opened with Bhutan, and in November 1775 appointed Hamilton, who had been Bogle’s companion, to a second Mission to the Deb Raja. Hamilton reached the frontier in January 1776, and was invited by the Deb Raja to proceed to Poonakha. He endeavoured to enter Bhutan by the Lakhi Duar to Paro, but obstacles appear to have been raised to his doing this, and he eventually followed Bogle’s route by the Buxa Duar. He reached Poonakha on April 6, 1776, and Tashi-cho-jong in the May of that year. The chief object of Hamilton’s mission was to decide on the claims of the Deb Raja to the districts of Ambari Falakata and Julpaish, and he came to the conclusion that equity demanded their restoration. He also reported that if restitution were made the Deb Raja would probably be induced to fulfil his agreement with Bogle and only levy moderate transit duties on merchandise. It is not improbable that, as Eden remarks, this concession was made to the Deb Raja more in the interest of Warren Hastings’ policy than on the intrinsic merits of the case, as there can be no doubt that the claims of the Bhutan Government to the Falakata and Julpaish districts were quite untenable.
In July 1777 Hamilton was sent on a third Mission, to congratulate the new Deb Raja on his accession.
The fourth Mission, under Captain Turner, took place in 1783. In 1779 it was arranged, on the invitation of the Penchen Rimpochi, that Bogle should meet him in Pekin. Unfortunately, both the Lama and Bogle died before this project could be carried into effect. Not long afterwards intelligence reached Calcutta that the reincarnation of the late Penchen Rimpochi had taken place, and Warren Hastings proposed to the Board of Directors to take advantage of this auspicious event and send a second deputation to Tibet. Turner was selected for this service, and nominated on January 9, 1783, and soon afterwards left Calcutta on his Mission, accompanied by Lieutenant Samuel Davis as draftsman and surveyor, and Mr. Robert Saunders as surgeon. He entered the hills by the Buxa Duar, and followed almost exactly the same route as Bogle to Tashi-cho-jong. During his stay in Bhutan with the Deb Raja Turner was witness to a small civil war occasioned by the rebellion of Angdu-phodang, which was ultimately quelled by the Deb Raja. The fighting, he said, on both sides gave him a very poor idea of the “military accomplishments” of the Bhutanese, and though several engagements took place between the opposing parties very few on either side were killed or wounded. He attributes this display of martial weakness more to want of discipline than to actual lack of courage. The principal weapon in use was the bow and arrow, and Turner says the arrows were sometimes poisoned. A few of the soldiers were armed with very unserviceable matchlocks. Turner considers the Bhutanese to be expert swordsmen, in which he differs widely from Macgregor’s account of his experience in the Bhutan war nearly a hundred years later. Before leaving Bhutan, Turner visited Wandipore, or Angdu-phodang, and Poonakha, and ultimately entered Tibet by the Paro and Phari routes. Turner does not add much to the knowledge of the country acquired by Bogle, and says little or nothing about its political institutions. He describes the Deb Raja as a popular and prudent administrator, and seems to have experienced great kindness and hospitality at his hands. The Deb, he says, was an “intelligent man, possessed with a versatility of genius and spirit of inquiry” and fond of mechanics, and derived great amusement from Turner’s electric battery. The Raja “would never venture to draw even a spark himself, but would occasionally call in parties to be electrified, and much enjoy the foolish figure they made on the sensation of a shock.” The Raja also possessed a knowledge of medicine equal to any of the physicians in his dominions, and was interested in experimenting with English drugs on himself and his Court doctor. This interest, however, waned after an overdose of ipecacuanha. At Poonakha, the summer residence of the Court, there was a fruit garden of oranges, lemons, pomegranates, peaches, apples, and walnuts. Very excellent turnips were grown, but the potatoes planted by Bogle had failed. The flower garden contained hollyhocks, sunflowers, African marigolds, nasturtiums, poppies, larkspurs, and roses. At one entertainment he describes Turner had strawberries for tea, and a bull-fight closed the day’s amusements. He found the monasteries the educational centres of the country. Boys were taken from the villages and educated there, and in families containing more than four boys it was obligatory to dedicate one of them to the order. The monastery was the channel to public office, and, in fact, nearly all the Government officials were chosen from men who had been trained in one. Marriage was an obstacle to any rise in rank, and but few of the official class were married; and this practice of celibacy, common to the priestly and governing classes—to the one from motives of religion, and to the other from motives of self-interest—formed a natural bar to the increase of population.
Neither from the narrative of his Mission nor from his report of it to Warren Hastings can it be gathered that Turner was charged with any particular political business in Bhutan, but Eden says that it appears from the proceedings of the Collector of Rangpur of June 11, 1789, that he was instructed to cede to Bhutan the district of Falakata, as the result, it may be presumed, of Hamilton’s report. The only matter of any political interest, so far as Bhutan is concerned, to be found in his report, dated March 2, 1784, of the results of his Mission is the following opinion he records about trade relations with Bhutan:
“The regulations for carrying on the commerce of the Company through the dominions of Bhutan by means of the agency of native merchants were settled by the treaty entered into by Mr. Bogle in the year 1775. The Deb Raja having acknowledged to me the validity of that treaty, it became unnecessary to enter into another, since no new privileges and immunities appear to be requisite until the commerce can be established on a different footing with respect to the views and interests of the Raja of Bhutan, by whose concurrence alone the proposed commercial intercourse with Tibet can be made to flourish. I should be sorry to suggest a doubt of its ever receiving a check from any conduct in that Government of a hostile tendency.”
There can be no doubt in the mind of any reader of the accounts of Bogle’s and Turner’s Missions that both these officers were well received and treated, and that the general disposition of the Bhutan Government towards the Company was cordial and friendly, and Turner’s confidence that the Bhutan Government meant to fulfil its engagements was not a foolishly misplaced one at the time, as Eden would seem to imply. Hastings actually succeeded in establishing Purangir Gosain as a diplomatic agent at the Tibetan Court, and Indian merchants had commenced by the year 1786 to pass freely through Bhutan into Tibet. Thus so far it must be acknowledged that Bogle’s Mission was successful, and that the Bhutan Government did fulfil its engagements. Unfortunately the Nepal war with Tibet, which broke out in 1792, destroyed all these bright prospects. The Tibetans and the Chinese Government suspected that we were covertly assisting the Nepalese. We lost their confidence, and the Tibetan passes were closed to natives of India, most probably through Chinese influence. Thus the chief object of Bogle’s negotiation was defeated, while so far as the further development of trade with Bhutan itself was concerned, what had been gained was lost by the series of frontier disputes which took place between the Company and the Bhutan Government, and the consequent rupture of the friendly feeling between the two Governments which had been established by Bogle’s and Turner’s Missions.
The chief object of the fifth Mission, under Pemberton, was to enable the Government to enter into direct communication with the Bhutan Durbar, as it had become evident that the frontier officers of Bhutan had repeatedly withheld from the Durbar complaints addressed to it by Government on the subject of frontier aggressions. Accordingly, after the Bhutanese aggressions of 1836 had been repelled the Dharma and Deb Rajas were informed that it was the intention of Government to despatch an envoy to their capital. The replies to this communication, which was dated April 6, 1837, evinced a desire on the part of the Deb to postpone the Mission, and he had to be informed that Government was determined on the Mission and intended to send their envoy after the rainy season was over.
The conduct of the Mission was entrusted to Pemberton, with Ensign Blake as assistant and in command of the escort and Dr. Griffiths as botanist and in medical charge. The escort was to consist of fifty men from the Assam Seebundy Corps, but owing to the difficulty in supplying rations for this number only twenty-five men were taken.
Pemberton, being anxious to obtain information concerning Eastern Bhutan, determined to enter Bhutan by the Banksa Duar instead of following Bogle’s and Turner’s route by Buxa. This determination produced a good deal of obstruction on the part of the Bhutanese. Pemberton was detained for some time at Dum Duma, on the frontier, waiting for letters from the Dewangiri Raja, and again at Dewangiri after he had reached it, and every attempt was made to induce him to return to the frontier and proceed by Buxa Duar to Poonakha. This, however, he managed to avoid doing, and was eventually conducted through the Tongsa Penlop’s country to the confines of Bhutan and Tibet, and thence by a westerly route to Poonakha. He had intended to return to Goalpara by the Cheerung route, but permission to do this was refused, and he was compelled to take the Buxa route back to India. The number of days occupied in travelling from Dewangiri to Poonakha was twenty-six, but owing to the unsettled state of the country and the difficulty of obtaining porters the actual number of days occupied on the journey was sixty-eight, and Poonakha was not reached till April 1. During his stay at Poonakha a rebellion broke out, the object of which was to dethrone the Deb Raja. Both Turner on the previous and Eden on the subsequent Mission came in for a civil war. The Mission was in its progress through the country received everywhere with marked distinction, was waited upon by the Subahs of the districts through which it passed, and was properly treated at Poonakha. Pemberton, however, did not succeed in obtaining the consent of the Durbar to the treaty he was instructed to proffer, and he was refused permission to proceed to Tibet. The Durbar even refused to forward a letter to Lhasa. The movements of the members of the Mission were closely watched, and intercourse by the villagers on the route with the Mission was so closely prohibited that it was with the utmost difficulty that any information was obtained about the country. The draft treaty which Pemberton submitted to the Bhutan Government was extremely moderate in its terms. It provided for the same privilege of freely trading in Bhutan by the subjects of the British-Indian Government that the Bhutanese already enjoyed in India; for the mutual surrender of criminals and runaway raiyats; for the more punctual payment of the Bhutan tribute for the Duars, and its payment in cash instead of in kind, and for power for the British-Indian Government to take possession of any Duar the tribute of which should fall into arrears, and hold the same till the arrears were paid off; for decisive measures by the Deb Raja to stop aggressions by the Dewangiri Raja and other of his subjects on the frontier; for the settlement of boundaries and the appointment of a Bhutanese agent at Gauhati and Rangpur. After many protracted discussions, the Deb and Dharma Rajas and other members of the council, except the Tongsa Penlop, were ready to sign the treaty, but owing to the opposition of the Tongsa Penlop, who divided the supreme power in the country with the Paro Penlop, and whose interests were affected by the arrangements for the punctual payment of the tribute for the Assam Duars, the Bhutan Government refused its consent.
But though the Mission was politically a failure, Pemberton, in spite of the difficulties thrown in his way, succeeded in drawing up an admirable report on the country and its internal government.
In 1862 it was finally determined to send a sixth Mission into Bhutan, by the most convenient route, without waiting any longer for the consent of the Bhutan Durbar. Eden was selected by the Government of India, and received his instructions in Colonel Durand’s letter. No. 493, dated August 11, 1863.
In these instructions the Government of India set forth the necessity, which had arisen from the repeated outrages of the Bhutanese within our territories and those of Sikhim and Cooch Behar, of revising and improving the relations between the British Government and Bhutan, and their determination to send Eden to the Court of Bhutan for the purpose. Eden was to explain “clearly and distinctly, but in a friendly and conciliatory spirit,” to the Bhutan Government the reasons which rendered it necessary for the British Government to occupy Ambari Falakata and withhold its revenues, and that the occupation would continue only so long as the Bhutan Government refused to comply with our just demands and restore the captives and property which had been carried off from British territory, Sikhim, and Cooch Behar, but that if the Bhutan Government manifested a desire to do substantial justice the district would be held in pledge for their future good conduct, and a sum equal to one-third of its net revenues would be paid to them, in the same manner as is done with the Assam Duars.
Inquiry was to be made into any acts of specific aggression complained of by the Bhutanese, arrangements made for the mutual rendition of criminals, for the reference to the British Government for settlement of any dispute between Bhutan and the States of Sikhim and Cooch Behar. The subjects of keeping a British agent in Bhutan and of free commerce between the two countries were to be approached if it seemed advisable, but negotiations on these points were to be entirely subordinated to the main political objects of the Mission. All available information about Bhutan was to be obtained.
The above demands were entered in a draft treaty, and Eden was further instructed that if the Bhutan Government refused to do substantial justice and to accede to the main principles stipulated on he was to withdraw from the country and inform the Bhutan Government that Ambari Falakata would be permanently annexed, and in the event of further aggressions the British Government would take such steps as might be necessary to secure the safety of their own and the Sikhim and Cooch Behar territories.
Dr. Simpson was appointed to the medical charge of the Mission. The Mission was to proceed by Darjeeling, and in the beginning of November Eden arrived there to arrange his preparations. He could get no reply from the Dharma and Deb Rajas to the announcement of his intention of entering Bhutan, and it turned out that the country was then undergoing one of its periodical rebellions. The Deb Raja had been unseated by the Poonakha Jongpen and Tongsa Penlop, and compelled to take refuge in the Jong of Simtoka. The Paro Penlop was the only powerful chief who remained faithful to his cause. The insurgent party set up a sham Deb Raja to receive the Mission, but at the time it reached Poonakha there was in fact no settled Government in the country. The Government of India, however, thought that as the rebellion had been successful and a substantive Government apparently established the Mission should proceed.
This state of things accounted for the constant obstacles and interruptions which the Mission met with on its journey. It started on December 4, and Chebu Lama accompanied it as a sort of intermediary. On the 11th the Mission reached Dalingkote, and was detained there till the 29th. It had great difficulty in procuring provisions; many of the coolies, seeing the questionable manner in which the Jongpen received the Mission, ran away; the Deb sent evasive answers to Eden’s letters; every attempt was made to detain the Mission indefinitely, and when Eden finally moved on on the 29th he was compelled, for want of transport, to leave most of his tents, stores, and baggage behind and nearly half his escort. At Sipchu further obstruction and difficulties in obtaining transport were experienced, and he had to consider whether to move on with a further diminished escort or to return. In view of the orders he had received from Government at Darjeeling, and its evident desire that the Mission should push on, and thinking that it was unlikely that the Bhutan Government would dare to treat a British envoy with insult or violence, Eden determined to proceed, taking with him only fifteen Sikhs and ten Seebundy sappers, and leaving the rest of his escort, all his heavy baggage, his assistant, Mr. Power, and the commissariat sergeant, moonshi, native doctor, and all the camp-followers that could be spared behind.
Sipchu was left on February 2, the ascent of the pass from Saigon commenced on the 3rd, and the party halted for the night in the snow at an elevation of 8798 feet. The next day the pass was crossed at 10,000 feet, and the descent to Donga-chhu-chhu (8595 feet) made through snow with much difficulty. The party halted the next day on the banks of the Am-mo-chhu, and Eden draws attention in his narrative to the advantage of a route into Tibet through Bhutan up this valley. The next halt was made at Sangbay, and there further obstruction was met with.
The Jongpen refused all help, as he had received no orders to allow the Mission to pass. A good many of the coolies were found to be frost-bitten. Eden had to abandon all idea of bringing on the escort he had left behind, and sent orders to Mr. Power to return to Darjeeling, taking back all the party and stores left at Sipchu and all the escort left at Dalingkote, except a guard of five Seebundys over the stores, which were placed in charge of the Jongpen. At Shay-bee, the next halting-place, the Mission was met by some Zinkaffs from the Durbar, who gave out that they had been ordered to turn the Mission back. On Eden sending for them, it turned out that they had no letters from the Durbar for him, but two to the Jongpen of Dalingkote, which they showed. One letter was full of professions of friendship for the British Government, and instructed the Jongpen to settle any dispute Eden might have with him about the frontier, but said not a word about the Mission being allowed to go forward or being turned back. The other was a most violent and intemperate production, threatening the Jongpen with loss of life for having permitted the Mission to cross the frontier, and ordering him to pay a fine of Rs. 70 to each of the Zinkaffs, and to entice Eden to return, but if he could not get rid of him, to send him on by the Samchee and Dongna road. The Zinkaffs tried to get Eden to go back to get on to this route, but as he was already only two days from Samchee, and to retrace his steps would have meant a journey of fifteen days, he declined, and left Shay-bee on February 10 for Paro. The Mission had first to cross the Saigon-la Pass (12,150 feet), and camp in snow at 11,800 feet. Though the thermometer registered 13° none of the natives, Sikhs or Bengalis, suffered from the cold. After descending into the Hah Valley the Mission was delayed in crossing the next pass on its route, the Che-la (12,490 feet), by the heavy snow. On the 19th Eden, hearing that messengers from the Durbar were on their way to stop him, determined to make the effort, though the snow was not really in a proper state for the attempt. The march was nearly ending in disaster. The snow was soft, and varying from three to eight feet in depth; men, horses, and mules were constantly sinking in it; and when the top of the pass was reached at six o’clock in the evening it was found that the descent was even more difficult on account of the snow. Evening came on while the party were still on the pass, and to have halted there for the night would have meant the death of every man in the camp, as there was no going to the right or the left. There was nothing for it but to drive the coolies on, and by eleven o’clock, after progressing at the rate of a quarter of a mile an hour, the Mission was fortunate enough to reach a forest where the coolies could bivouac. Eden, however, with some of the coolies, pushed on, and reached the nearest village at one o’clock in the morning, after having marched through deep snow continuously for fifteen hours without food. Luckily the weather had been clear, with a bright moon. The next morning the Mission was met by the Zinkaffs who had been sent to turn it back. They delivered a most impertinent message, saying that they had been sent to go back with Eden to the frontier “to rearrange with him the frontier boundaries and to receive charge again of the resumed Assam Duars”; after this had been done our further demands were to be inquired into, and if these Zinkaffs “considered it necessary” the Mission was to be allowed to go on to Poonakha. Eden said he would do nothing of the kind, but would either proceed to Poonakha or return to Darjeeling and report to his Government that the Bhutan Durbar declined to receive him. Then the Zinkaffs begged him to proceed. The letter they delivered from the Deb Raja was of the usual evasive character, declaring that the Deb never declined to receive the Mission, but that it would be better to investigate complaints on the frontier. As the letter contained no definite refusal to receive the Mission, Eden determined to push on, and reached Paro on February 22. Here again the Mission was detained, and its reception was at first unfriendly. The ex-Penlop, an old man, informed Eden that he was far from acknowledging the power of the present Deb, and that he had only suspended hostilities on the side of the ex-Deb on account of the approach of the Mission. The real power, he said, just then rested with the Tongsa Penlop, and the Dharma and Deb Rajas and councillors were mere puppets in his hands. Finally the old Penlop and his adopted son, the young Penlop, became quite friendly, and after the Mission had been sixteen days at Paro without any communication having been received from the Deb Raja the old Penlop advised Eden to proceed, gave him guides, and promised to arrange to send on his letters.
At the next stage more messengers arrived from the Durbar, and the same efforts were made as before to induce the Mission to return, with the same result. At Simtoka the Mission found the ex-Deb in retirement. He declined to receive a visit from Chebu Lama, on the grounds that any member of the Mission holding any communication with him might excite the suspicion of the Durbar against it, which was considerate of him. After crossing the Dokyong-la Pass (10,019 feet) the Poonakha Valley came in view, and on March 15 the Mission reached Poonakha. There the party were met by a messenger to say that they must not approach by the road which passed under the palace gates, and they were sent to their camping-ground by a route so precipitous that they had great difficulty in making the descent. The subsequent ill-treatment of the Mission, and how Eden was forced under compulsion to sign an agreement to surrender the Assam Duars, how the Mission narrowly escaped from worse treatment by forced night-marches from Poonakha to Paro, were reported confidentially to Government, and the details are not supplied in his general report. They are to be found in Rennie’s “History of the Bhutan War.” The opposition to the Mission was entirely directed by the then Tongsa Penlop, father of Sir Ugyen, who was no doubt actuated by his desire to get back the Assam Duars, which were part of his chiefship, and the annexation of which had affected his personal interests even more closely than those of the Durbar. Judging by subsequent events, it would have been wiser, no doubt, for Eden to have returned to Darjeeling instead of pushing his way to Poonakha. He had received quite enough opposition before crossing the Cho-la Pass, certainly by the time he had reached Paro, to justify his doing so. The Government of India would have had sufficient cause to annex the Duars, as they eventually did, and the indignities to the Mission would have been spared. At the same time, one cannot help admiring the courage with which Eden faced the difficulties in his way, his determination to leave the Bhutan Government no loophole by which they could evade the responsibility of the Mission not reaching them, and the patience with which he endeavoured to gain from the Durbar the terms he had been sent to obtain.
The Mission left Poonakha on March 29, and returned to Darjeeling through Paro, where it stayed one day on April 2. The same day the insurrection broke out again.
On the termination of the Tibet Mission, and to mark the approval of the British Government of the friendly attitude of the Bhutanese and the assistance rendered by the Tongsa Penlop in bringing about a friendly settlement, the King-Emperor, in 1905, was pleased to confer on Ugyen Wang-chuk a Knight Commandership of the Indian Empire. I was in consequence deputed by the Government of India to present the insignia of the order to the Tongsa at Poonakha.
The Mission was accompanied by Major Rennick and Mr. Paul, and an escort of the 40th Pathans. The route followed was from Gangtak viâ Chumbi, Hah, Paro, and Tashi-cho-jong to Poonakha.
This Mission was accorded a warm, even enthusiastic, welcome, and succeeded in establishing relations of the most friendly character with the Bhutanese, who not many years before were bitterly hostile towards the British Government. After the ceremony at Poonakha, the Mission, at the invitation of Sir Ugyen, visited Tongsa and Bya-gha, where they were most hospitably entertained by the Tongsa Penlop. The Mission returned from Tashi-cho-jong viâ Lingshi and Tibet.
In 1907 I was deputed on my second Mission to Poonakha, to be present, as the representative of the Government of India, at the installation of Sir Ugyen Wang-chuk as Hereditary Maharaja of Bhutan.
I was accompanied by Major Rennick, Captain Hyslop, and Mr. Campbell, the escort being provided by the 62nd Punjabis.
The route followed was from Gangtak viâ Chumbi, Phari, over the Temu-la to Paro, and thence by the former route to Poonakha.
Nothing could have been more cordial than my reception. The members of the Mission divided at Poonakha. I returned viâ Paro to the Hah Valley, and thence down the Dongna-chhu to the Duars, Mr. Campbell returning with the escort to Chumbi, and Major Rennick and Captain Hyslop returning viâ Buxa.