Darjeeling: West Bengal’s Indian Hill Station

I think there isn’t any doubt that all of us must have something in common growing up, in our Geography books; and that is the mention of “Darjeeling” as the Queen of Hills. Being very famous from the Colonial times for its extravaganza natural beauty, the toy train and Darjeeling Tea ; Darjeeling’s popularity travels along the lengths and breadths of the world.

The term ” Darjeeling ” is taken from the word “Dorje” (a Tibetan word) and “Ling” meaning land. The combined word “Darjeeling” means “Talk to Each Other”

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/west-bengal/story/darjeeling-toy-train-ride-becomes-costlier-960915-2017-02-15

HISTORY

  • The hilly regions in and around Darjeeling was controlled by Sikkim till the 19th century; mostly including the ethnic settlements of Kirati and Lepcha people.
  • Several wars and conflicts had taken place initially between the Sikkim and Nepali fronts. The Nepali Gurkhas finally invaded the terrain in the 1780’s.Till 1816, British Sikkim came under Nepal.
  • Back in late 17th century,when Treaty of Sugauli took place between the East india Company and the Gurkha King, Darjeeling was given to Sikkim under Colonial British India.
  • It remained more like a leasehold land rather than completely ruled by them.
  • In 1816,the Anglo-Nepalese War broke out leading to the Gurkha’s defeat after which “Treaty of Sugauli” took place.One-thrid of the annexted territories were now given to British East India Company. Britain being its smart-diplomatic self; it let Sikkim have its sovereignity but the actual reigning was done by Britishers only.
  • Around early 1829,two officers were sent the terrain(Ontoo Dara) to resolve issues between Sikkim and Nepal borders. While the two officers were going to the place;they stayed at an old station called “Dorjeling” that time and were taken aback by the possibilities of a sanatorium there for their soldiers and a good recreational palce for the elite citizens of British India.
  • Lloyd,the then officer; communicated this idea to the government , of acquiring the region and converting it to a sanatorium just after four months of the visit.
  • Later Dr.Chapman(a surgeon) was sent along with General Lloyd to survey and explore the sparsely populated.After they returned back, Bentick agreed to acquire the hilly terrain so that it could serve the Britisher’s purpose of military outpost,trading hub,sanatorium.

On 1st February 1835, the lease was taken from Sikkim’s Chogyal kingdom and British India started regulating Darjeeling from then.The road connecting the plains to the hill station was constructed in 1839.

CULTURE

The culture of Darjeeling has been vibrant always with a lot of festivals being celebrated from different ethnic groups altogether. Even though Buddhists and Nepali Hindus have different languages and culture but they live together very happily. Bhutias, Lepchas, Tibetans, Yolmos have been part of here for long. Its vibrancy can already be reflected in the fact how pagodas, temples, churches co-exist so beautiful. Mustc has always been important to the Darjeeling culture and the natives are quiet proof about the kind of background this city beholds.

Now lets quickly dive into the two main aspects for which the “Queen of Hills” is extremely famous all over the world-

->The Darjeeling Tea

THE TEA HISTORY

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In the year 1841,Campbell brought Chinese tea seeds and at his residence at Beechwood, Darjeeling; he started cultivating tea more like a hit and trial thing but soon after it turned out well that even other Britishers started doing the same thing. Soon, in the areas in and around, tea plantations and estates took a boom along with which came the commercialisation of Tea cultivation. The Tea Estates were sold to Indian businesses after independence and Indian government started regulating the area. The consumers of Darjeeling Tea were now all over India and also the World.Its unique aroma and quality,it became extremely popular day by day in the European regions as well.Till date,87 Tea Estates of Darjeeling are  recognised by “The Tea Board of India.They cover an area of 17,500 hectares of land.

>DARJEELING TOURISM

Darjeeling has been known for being the ultimate tourist destination ever since its inception.Initially, the elite class of the British India were its residents. For affluent Indians also,Darjeeling served like a good tourist place during summers.Slowly, the hilly charm and the colonial architecture began prevalent and famous all over.

How to reach here?

The nearest Railway station here is the New Jalpaiguri or the NJP Station and the nearest airport is Bagdogra. Both of them are part of the same town “Siliguri”. Public taxis and private cars are readily available from Siliguri, at any time of the day. It takes roughly around 2.5 to 3 hours to reach Darjeeling. When travelled by the famous TOY TRAINS,it takes about 7 hours. The 7 hours include going through every little hill station and the mountains that come along the way.

Places to Explore!

1.PEACE PAGODA

self captured image
self-captured image
  • Built with an idea to unite people from all religions and castes with the only motive of Peace.
  • Built under the guidance of the Buddhist monk from Japan, Nichidatsu Fujii;Peace Pagodas like this are built as shrines to “World Peace”.
  • This Stupa’s construction began in 1972 and it opened for public in 1992.

2.DARJEELING ROPEWAY

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https://northbengaltourism.com/darjeeling-ropeway/
https://northbengaltourism.com/darjeeling-ropeway/
  • The beautiful panaromic view of Darjeeling can be enjoyed on the Darjeeling Ropeway.
  • Built in 1968,as the first cable car in India,it is also known as the Rangeet Valley Passenger Car since it is built around the river Rangeet.
  • Starting from an area called Singamari and travelling till Tukvar,it takes about 30-40 mins for a to and fro 5 km ride.
  • Tourists can take a halt for sometimes at Tukvar and enjoy the cool breeze around along with the local waiwai and hot-steamed momos; then according to convenience again get going for their return to Singamari.
  • It is one beautiful experience, when in Darjeeling.

3.St.Andrew’s Church,Darjeeling

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While strolling around the Mall Road; “The Positive Wall” will draw everyone’s attention towards this beautiful mall.St. Andrews Church’s stones were first laid in the year 1843 but rebuilt properly in the year 1873. It was named after a patron saint from Scotland. Among the initial congregation were the tea planters who were residing in Darjeeling and Scottish soldiers.In fact, the man known to have found Darjeeling- Lt.Gen George Lloyd’s name is displayed the most prominent within the church.This place can definitely be visited for prayer offerings or just recreational visits.

4.MahaKaal Mandir

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self-captured
  • Located right behind the Chowrasta,and with thousands of prayer flags in and out of the temple; this is a must visit for both leisure enthusiast and pilgrims.
  • Although the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple outshines in every way because both the Buddish idols and Hindu lingams are kept side by side ; and the same place where a Buddhist monk and Hindu priest perform rituals and prayers together.
  • Inside the complex also, there are shrines and temples dedicated to Gods.

5.Botanical Garden

https://www.makemytrip.com/travel-
  • Situated just below the Eden Sanatorium   covering an area of about 40 acres; this place draws a lot of attraction round the year.
  • It was built in the year 1878.
  • It is home to a variety of flowers; few of which are not found anywhere easilyIt has hundred’s of specimen of flora spread over a wide region.
  • Even industries or botany enthusiasts find major interest here.

6.Chowrasta Vibes

https://www.makemytrip.com/travel-guide/This Victoria Era public square in situated right at the heart of this lovely hill station.

This Victoria Era public square in situated right at the heart of this lovely hill station.

  • In the 18th centuryy,this place used to be an assembly place for both visitors and residnets.
  • Now,it can be used for a good halt, for leisure activity or to just move about. If we go to the place right now, you can take a little horse ride too.
  • You will find photographers waiting to click your touristy vibe picture. There are very beautiful vintage and timeless shops and restaurants around.

7.A walk around Mall Road

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Originally built so that the Britishers could enjoy the road strolls along this mountain walkaway leisurely and take a clear view of Darjeeling.Also known as the Bhanubhakta Sarani; it is like a round circular walkway with benches along the way where you can see people having a good time .Technically,it is a 20 min walk excluding the time taken for sightseeing on the way.

8.Breakfast at Glenary’s

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https://www.tripoto.com/darjeeling/trips/five-best-cafes

Existing since the colonial times and run by the Edward family;this place has always been a major landmark in Darjeeling.The moment anyone says Darjeeling breakfast, Glenary’s is the first name that comes to mind.Although it has other options too; the building has a first floor that offers a restaurant while the major attractions remains the cafe and the bakery on the ground floor.

Two native cuisines

  1. Mimi Aaloo Dum-
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One favorite anytime snack is the Aaloo Mimi. Although something which might seem very simple otherwise- a combination of aaloo dum and packet-waiwai  kind noodles;but to have it on top of the hill with your friends around; is a must when in town.

     2.Darjeeling Momos

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Although in today’s time; momos have become common everywhere but there is some other vibe when you have it in its own native place.With the stunning view of the hills,the hot steamed momos served is like the hug in a chilled weather.

To be honest,in my personal opinion there is nothing like Darjeeling’s vibe in the entire north-east . The way commuting to the place is so easy via a toy train or any local taxi makes it more comfortable.The beautiful small little hill-stations,the mesmerizing view; that comes on the way to Darjeeling, everything is so surreal to take back so many memories with you.If you want to sit in Nature’s Lap, this place is for you.

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