When the Sikkim Tibet war broke out in 1888, the British sent John Claude White as Assistant Political
Officer with the expeditionary force. In 1889, he was offered the post of Political Officer of Sikkim.
Though J.Claude White was a Civil Engineer employed with the Public Works Department, he was so enamoured
with Sikkim that he accepted the post unhesitatingly.
It was White who built what is today the Raj Bhavan at Gangtok. He gives a vivid account of how he personally selected the site, why it appealed to him and his travails in building it in his memoirs first published in 1909.
White retired in October 1908. The Residency he built was a lasting legacy he left behind. After White, all the incumbents of the post of Political Officer Sikkim,
Bhutan and Tibet based in Gangtok enjoyed the comforts of the English villa-like Residency he had built. They were: Sir Charles Bell, Major W.L. Campbell, Lt. Colonel W.F. O’Conner,
Major F.M. Bailey, Major J.L.R. Weir, Frederick Williamson, Sir Basil Gould and Anthony J.Hopkinson.(three officers – David McDonald, Capt. R.K.M. Battye and H.Richardson – also
temporarily held the post) .
Sir A.J. Hopkinson was the last British Political Officer of Sikkim. When India gained independence from British rule in1947, the Residency became the residence of the Indian Political Officer, locally referred to as ‘Burra Kothi’. A span of 86 years i.e. 1889-1975 (Claude White to Gurbachan Singh) lay between the first P.O’s appointment and the withdrawal of the last.
Residency and Local People
White’s completed Residency was a revelation, an object of much curiosity for the Sikkimese hitherto not exposed to such a house. They would often call on the Whites and request permission to wander around the house; to see how the Whites lived and what European furniture was like. The Residency had bay windows and a round dining table. This really fired the imagination of the local Sikkimese Kazis who also incorporated bay windows and copied the round table for their own residences.
From Residency to Raj Bhavan
In 1975, the institution of the Chogyal was abolished and Sikkim was formally inducted into the Indian Union as her 22nd State. For having made this culmination possible, Shri B.B. Lal was made Governor of Sikkim on 18th May, 1975 the very day that the amending Bill received the President’s assent. This marked the conversion of Residency into Raj Bhavan.
In its previous designation as India House or “Baara Khoti”, it had been rated as one of the India’s best Ambassadorial residences-it would now qualify as India’s most attractive Raj Bhavan. Sited well above the town and insulated from the noise and fumes of the bazaar, the classic gabled structure lends into the greenery and trees of the landscape and looks on the entire Kanchendzonga range.
The area of the compound is at approximately 75 acres consisting of lawn and garden as well as kitchen garden and fruit orchids. Several incumbents since then ( Sarva Shri H.J.H. Taleyar Khan, K. Prabhakar Rao, B.N. Singh, T.V. Rajeshwar, S.K. Bhatnagar, R.H. Thailiani, P. Shiv Shankar, K.V. Ragunath Reddy, Chaudhary Randhir Singh, Kidar Nath Sahani, R.S. Gavai, V. Rama Rao, Sudarshan Agarwal) have held the post of Governor of Sikkim and resided at the Raj Bhavan. White’s Residency has stood a silent spectator for over a hundred years as the winds of change blew over Sikkim’s political landscape