With immense joy and a sense of fulfilment, I inaugurated ‘Chenrezig Shingkham Riwo Potala’ today at Sanghachoeling in Pelling, West Sikkim and dedicated it to the people of Sikkim, especially to the Buddhists of Sikkim and the world. The inauguration of this gigantic statue marks a significant day for all of us and will be written in golden letters in the annals of history of Sikkim.

It is of great significance that the consecration of this sacred statue was done on the auspicious occasion of ‘Lhabab Duechen’ yesterday with the blessings of three holy Rinpochees of the State- His Holiness Do-droupchen Rinpoche, His Eminence Lachung Rinpochee and His Eminence Gonjang Rinpoche.

The statue of Chenrezig is over 135 feet tall and has been built at a cost of Rs. 69.99 crore. This magnificent premise houses reception block, skywalk, interpretation courtyard and water serpent body including ample space for shopping complex and a cafeteria. Today, I sanctioned in principle other amenities and works to be taken up as second phase works in the next financial year, such as site levelling, protective walls, landscaping, beautification works, construction of a meditation centre, traditional main gate, butter lamp offering house, connecting footpath, dance courtyard, compound fencing, drainage, fire fighting system etc.

Some of the other highlights of my address are:-

1. The statue of Chenrezig completes the construction of ‘Cho-lung-Trul-sum’ or the holy Buddhist trinity of the Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava and Chenrezig. Sikkim has truly become a ‘cheosam’ (altar) and ‘dewachen ki shingkham’ (heavenly paradise) replete with the statues of Lord Buddha at Tathagata Tsal, Rabongla, Guru Padmasambhava at Samdruptse and Chenrezig at Sanghachoeling. Our people must understand its true meaning and value it. The people of Sikkim have to protect and maintain this sacred place by taking its ownership and responsibility. It must be remembered that the three aforementioned holy statues have been constructed solely for religious purpose so as to institutionalise Buddhism in Sikkim, promote Sikkim as a Buddhist pilgrimage destination, offer respects to the revered ‘Lamas’ and Monks, and also for the people to follow their religion with increased faith and devotion.

2. I spoke at length about the rich history of Sikkim. I recalled as to how Chogyal Phuntsog Namgyal was blessed and declared king by the ‘Three Lamas’ and Sikkim as a country. The 12 Chogyals after Phuntsog Namgyal served Sikkim for almost 332 years and made Sikkim an exceptional country. Had the Chogyals not served and protected Sikkim for so long, our State would not have been what it is today. Sikkim could have ended up becoming just a small part of either Nepal or Bhutan. With utmost humility, I remembered and paid tribute to the ‘Three Lamas’, our 12 Chogyals, and our forefathers who worked labouriously and contributed towards the welfare of Sikkim. It is all due to their contributions that today Sikkim is the 22nd State and the most progressive State in India.

3. I shared that the State Government has been working tirelessly for 24 years to promote and strengthen Buddhism in Sikkim by fulfilling each and every need and requirement of the Buddhist community in the State to ensure that the religion thrives and prospers. We have implemented policies like declaration of State holiday on Guru Rinpoche’s birthday, ban on ‘serbang’ for lay persons, construction of monastic schools across the State, recruitment of monastic teachers, establishment of Buddhist University, etc.

4. I urged the people to free themselves from colonised mindset. Our people should accept truth and reality with a positive attitude. With over 96.72% literacy rate, it is difficult for everyone to get government jobs. It is for this reason that our youth need to equip themselves with requisite skills and opt for new age professions. They can take up organic agriculture, horticulture and engage themselves in other agro-based activities for gainful employment. They can even take up value addition, marketing and packaging of organic produce and benefit themselves. Our youth should be responsible and avail of the vast opportunities created by the Government. With startup scheme of the Government, they can take up business ventures on their own. It is time that the younger generation come forward with innovative ideas and realise the opportunities that lie to be explored as the first fully organic state. The world looks upon us as the pioneer and the leader of this eco-friendly agriculture. So, our youth must prepare themselves to be capable enough to provide leadership to build an organic world.

Earlier in the morning, I laid the foundation stone for the construction of Passenger Ropeway from Pelling to Sanghachoeling.