The Padma Shri-award winning Birkha Bahadur Muringla, who was a promoter of Yakthung Limbu language and Sirijunga script, passed away on June 8. He was 79.
Born in Lingchom village in the Indian state of Sikkim, Muringla’s ancestors were natives of Taplejung in eastern Nepal. As a young boy, he attended a school established by his father, Lal Man Nugo, and later Tashi Namgyal Higher Secondary School in Gangtok, before moving to Darjeeling for further studies in 1959.
Muringla developed an interest in Yakthung script at a young age when he met historian and linguist Iman Singh Chemjong in 1952. He read Tum Yakthung Ningwaphu Sapla and Tum Yakthung Nisshigek Sapla, books related to the Limbu script, co-authored by Chemjong, Padam Singh Subba and Bahadur Limbu.
His passion for the language of his people was evident, as he used to write letters to his brothers and parents in Sirijunga script. When he was in grade 11, Muringla finally got to reconnect with Chemjong by way of a letter. What started as a letter to a literary hero from his admirer soon evolved into a lifelong friendship.
In 1975, Muringla was appointed as a manuscript writer of Limbu language. He later joined the Sikkim government’s Department of Education, where he would revise and fine-tune the Limbu script.
Muringla’s interest was not limited to researching and revising the language. He was also passionate about teaching the Limbu language to the people. While working at the department, he wrote a book to teach Limbu script to children. As there was no printing press at the time, he crafted hand-written books for the children of primary and secondary levels.
In 1979, Muringla was promoted as textbook officer, a post that he held for more than a decade during which time he developed courses in Limbu language from primary up to college level. He retired as the joint director of the Department of Education in 2005.
Muringla also developed the Limbu comic series based on the stories of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Chandra Shekhar Azad, and Deshbandu Chittaranjan Das. Plus, he contributed to the writing of a Limbu-Nepali-English dictionary, and designing Limbu script for letterpress as well as for computers.
In 2017, the Indian government awarded Muringla with the Padma Shri for his contribution to the development and promotion of Limbu language and script.
He died following a brain hemorrhage at New Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital in Gangtok, Sikkim.
Birth: 13 April 1943, Lingchom, Sikkim
Death: 8 June 2022, Gangtok, Sikkim