King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
'A daughter of the Empire': Beryl White In India 1901-03

The Sikkim tents

Sikkim tents by Beryl WhiteSikkim tents by Beryl WhiteBeryl White included sketches of the Sikkim encampment in her album. A newspaper cutting that she pasted into the album described it as follows:

‘In the unavoidable absence of the Maharaja of Sikkim through illness his son and heir reached Delhi with several Sikkim nobles in a special train on December 16th; also a representative from Bhutan and some sixty retainers.

The camp is horse shoe shaped, with a round grass centre. On the right entrance are the tents for the guests.

The left side is wholly Tibetan in design and material. A row of tall masts with prayers printed on red, green and blue cloth lead to the entrance of a large courtyard formed of Tibetan cloth, emblazoned with the emblems of good luck, interlaced circles being conspicuous.

The centre of the court yard is occupied by the same signs worked in flowering plants, while the walls are adorned with ancient portraits of saints painted on large banners.

The main room is surmounted by a roof literally covered with conventional signs in which the head and hands of the protecting Sikkim demons are conspicuous, while eight emblems of happiness are worked in colours on four of the front tents and four of the back.

Photograph of the Sikkim tentsPhotograph of the Sikkim tentsThe interior displays a complete Lama altar, with magnificent specimens of ecclesiastical work in gold and silver plate.

On the walls are ancient specimens of embroidered priestly robes, surmounted by unique aprons and carved human bones, with a magnificent deep fringe of deep embroidered silk; while a canopy of silk covers the space where the visitors are received.

Scattered about are quaint swords, handsome rings, enormous trumpets, and various curios. A covered way leads to the dining room, where the Kumar, who talks English, takes his meals with his guests.

The interior is draped plainly in scarlet, but the outside of the tent is also covered with Tibetan insignia. The whole has been designed by and carried out under the immediate supervision of the Kumar. It took some months to complete. Beyond is another smaller Tibetan enclosure for purely business purposes.

This is the first occasion on which a complete Tibetan camp has been seen in the plains of India. The elephant which carried the Kumar is a magnificent tusker, one of the finest in Delhi, while the howdah and trappings are wholly of gold-plate embroidery.’

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