Death of philanthropist, painter, former legislator Thukchuk Lachungpa –
Gangtok: Thukchuk Lahunga, one of the big names in Sikkim, breathed his last on Wednesday in a Delhi hospital.
Former legislator under the Sikkim Sangram Parishad government of the late Nar Bahadur Bhandari from 1984 to 1989, Lachungpa had been Minister of Forests. The 73-year-old had stayed away from politics for the past 20 years, yet was popular for his philanthropy.
Lachungpa, originally from Lachung in North Sikkim, studied at Tashi Namgyal Academy in the 1960s and then joined Kumudini Homes in Kalimpong, West Bengal. Since his childhood, Lachungpa has shown a keen interest in painting. His passion takes him to Thailand to learn Thangka painting, popular throughout Asia. He was also a gold medalist in painting in the Asian arts circuit. Although he earned the distinction of being the first Sikkimese to sell his works of art internationally, his strength in art was not limited to Thangka painting.
In the late 1970s, he ventured into politics, while initially being associated with the Rising Sun Party of RC Poudyal (Jhulke Ghaam). But in 1984, Lachungpa, along with veteran politician KN Upreti, joined the Sikkim Sangram Parishad led by Bhandari and was a former lawmaker.
Lachungpa remained in politics even after the fall of Sangram Parishad, remaining mainly associated with the Sikkim Congress until the late 1990s. After his exit from politics, Lachungpa undertook many construction projects as a contractor, enough to qualify him as a builder in the Himalayan state. One of his high-profile housing projects called Rey near Gangtok, which is still incomplete, has been the subject of much debate over the past decade.
It is highly regarded for the promotion of the Pang Lhabsol festival in Sikkim, which according to history was symbolic of the unity and brotherhood of Bhutia Lepcha in Sikkim. He then built a statue depicting Pang Lhabsol and Unity in the heart of Gangtok at the entry point of MG Marg’s Tibet Road. The same project was developed later, the statue covered with a pagoda-shaped structure that still stands today at the entrance of MG Marg.
Over the years, Lachungpa has donned many hats, be it his pursuit of the development of art and culture in the state or much later as a yoga guru, teaching people yoga every morning. , either in his own residence or at Bhutia Lepcha House on Tibet Road.
Lachungpa is also remembered for his philanthropy – any public event in Sikkim, especially MG Marg, would also benefit from the financial support of the former lawmaker.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has helped many people in need with his charity. However, earlier this year, the prominent Sikkim citizen contracted the COVID virus, extending his stay for several months at both the STNM Hospital in Gangtok as well as a private nursing home in Siliguri. Rumors of his death were already circulating at the time. However, he survived the virus and was taken home to Gangtok where he spent many months before being taken for a check-up in Delhi due to his continuing health issues.
“In Thukchuk Lachungpa, Sikkim lost a great philanthropist, a prominent citizen, someone who spoke for the unity of the people on a personal level and even for the promotion of the different cultures of Sikkim,” KN Upreti explained.
Many senior Sikkim journalists also recalled that at a time when freedom of the press had been restricted over the past decade, with the previous government imposing an embargo on a few newspapers, Lachungpa declared himself in favor by allowing the distribution of these newspapers from its own building at MG Marg.
He is survived by his 5 wives and 8 children. His body is to be brought back to Sikkim for the final rites.
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