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Barmiok [Burmiok, Bermiok], Jedrung Karma Palden Chogyal
'Barmiak Lama'. the List of Curios cataloguer
Barmiok [Burmiok, Bermiok] Jedrung Karma Palden Chogyal (1871 - 1942) was an important monastic figure in Sikkimese society in the early 20th century. He is known within the museum's archive as 'Barmiak Lama' due to Charles Bell's reliance on the Lama for information relating to many of the religious objects in Bell's collection. This information was transferred verbatim to the List of Curios, with the Lama cited as the source. Barmiok Lama was also the source for several manuscripts and objects in Bell's collection.
Bell tells us in his diary, Vol 5, Dec 1912, 'In Christmas week 1912 the Barmiak Lama came to explain the meaning of those of my Tibetan curios, wh[ich] were concerned w.[ith] religion. He is first among the Sikkim Lamas for learning and bears a high reputation among the learned lamas of Tibet. He came to the house for the first time, while my wife was seeing to the brushing of our Lhasa terriers Sengtu and Dolma and with the kindly forethought so characteristic of our Sikkim folk, presented her w.[ith] a scarf of greeting and a Sikkim cloth. It was interesting to notice the quiet humility of this devout priest, it was no less interesting to see the respect w.[ith] wh.[ich] our servants regarded him and how all hastened to perform little services for him. He is renowned for his piety no less than for his learning and holds himself aloof from all political intrigue and from invitations of others to wield similar power in the State'.
He travelled to Calcutta with the Dalai Lama's entourage (which included Sidkyong Tulku) in 1910 and appears to have officiated at Tashi Namgyal's coronation on 16th May 1916. He was seen as a valuable addition to the Sikkimese establishment, something which was recognised by the British as well as the Sikkimese. From 1908, until at least 1913, he was granted an allowance of Rs. 500/- per year for his religious services to the Chogyal and to the general population.
He was known as 'Barmiak Lama' as his family was from Barmiok, in Sikkim. He was actually the Simick Rechen. Simick being the name of a village and monastery in South Sikkim, and Rechen (the great one with knotted hair) is another term for a naljorpa. There were four Rechens in Sikkim, all belonging to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Simick Rechen was the head lama of Simick monastery. The three other Rechen lineages have been lost.
Barmiok Lama was the first head lama of Simick monastery. Although he was a Nyingmapa lama by reincarnation, his family were Kargyurpas and followers of the Karmapa. Thus, he became a disciple of the 15th Karmapa and went to study at the Karma-Kargyur head monastery in Tibet (Tsurphu). From there, he went to Derge in Kham where he stayed for some 10-12 years. He was well versed in both, the traditions of the Nyingma and Kargyur lineages.
He was also head lama of Ralang Monastery, the chief lama of Ralang always being appointed from the Barmiok family by tradition.
After his return to Sikkim, he was appointed Chief Lama of Sikkim, and is noted to be acting as an Inspector of Monasteries in Sikkim, by the British by 1920. He died of heart failure in April 1942.
He was the son of Barmiok Athing Tenzing Wangyal and half-brother of Barmiak Athing Tashi Dadul Densapa (1902-1988). His mother was the first wife of Tenzing Wangyal, a lady of the Sang Kazi family (they had one daughter and one son: the Barmiok Lama). In a second marriage, Tenzing Wangyal married his first wife’s sister (two daughters), and in a fourth, her niece. From the niece, Barmiok Athing Tashi Dadul was born. This is why there is a big age difference between Barmiok Lama and his half-brother Tashi Dadul. Tenzing Wangyal also married a Tibetan woman from the family of Maharani Yeshe Dolma in a third marriage. He had a daughter from this Tibetan lady who married Rhenock Athing and was the mother of Yap Tse Ten Tashi.
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