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Darjeeling is a Himalayan town in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is internationally renowned as a tourist destination, along with for its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the headquarters of Darjeeling district. The town is located in the Mahabharat Range or Lesser Himalaya at an average elevation of 6,710 ft (2,050 m).
History of Darjeeling:
The history of Darjeeling is intertwined with that of Bengal, Sikkim and Nepal. Until the early 19th century, the hilly area around Darjeeling was historically controlled by the kingdom of Sikkim, while the plains around Siliguri were intermittently occupied by the kingdom of Nepal,with settlement consisting of a few Villages of Lepcha & Kirati people. It is also known that Nepal once expanded its kingdom till Teesta River. In 1828, a delegation of British East India Company officials on its way to Nepal-Sikkim border stayed in Darjeeling and decided that the region was a suitable site for a sanatorium for British soldiers. The company negotiated a lease of the area west of the Mahananda River from the Chogyal of Sikkim in 1835. In 1849, the British East India Company (BEIC) director Arthur Campbell and the explorer and botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker were imprisoned in the region by the Sikkim Chogyal. The East India Company sent a force to free them. Continued friction between the BEIC and the Sikkim authorities resulted in the annexation of 640 square miles (1,700 km2) of territory in 1850. In 1864, the Bhutanese rulers and the British signed the Treaty of Sinchula that ceded the passes leading through the hills and Kalimpong to the British. The continuing discord between Sikkim and the British resulted in a war, culminating in the signing of a treaty and the annexation by the British of the area east of the Teesta River in 1865. By 1866, Darjeeling district had assumed its current shape and size, covering an area of 1,234 square miles (3,200 km2).
During the British Raj, Darjeeling's temperate climate led to its development as a hill station for British residents seeking to escape the summer heat of the plains, and its becoming the informal summer capital of the Bengal Presidency in 1840, a practice that was formalised after 1864.
Socio-economic problems of the region that had not been addressed during British rule continued to linger and were reflected in a representation made to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1947,which highlighted the issues of regional autonomy and Nepali nationality in Darjeeling and adjacent areas.After the independence of India in 1947, Darjeeling was merged with the state of West Bengal. A separate district of Darjeeling was established consisting of the hill towns of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and some parts of the Terai region. While the hill population included mainly of ethnic Nepalis who had migrated there during British rule, the plains harboured a large ethnic Bengali population who were refugees from the Partition of India.A cautious and non-receptive response by the West Bengal government to most demands of the ethnic Nepali population led to increased calls, in the 1950s and 1960s, for Darjeeling's autonomy and for the recognition of the Nepali language; the state government acceded to the latter demand in 1961.
Geography of Darjeeling:
Darjeeling is the main town of the Sadar subdivision and also the headquarters of the district. It is located at an average elevation of 6,710 ft (2,050 m)in the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region on the Darjeeling-Jalapahar range that originates in the south from Ghum. The range is Y-shaped with the base resting at Katapahar and Jalapahar and two arms diverging north of the Observatory Hill. The north-eastern arm dips suddenly and ends in the Lebong spur, while the north-western arm passes through North Point and ends in the valley near Tukver Tea Estate.The hills are nestled within higher peaks and the snow-clad Himalayan ranges tower over the town in the distance. Nepal's Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest peak, 8,598 m (28,209 ft) high, is the most prominent mountain visible. In days clear of clouds,Nepal's Mount Everest, 29,035 ft (8,850 m) high, can be seen.
The hills of Darjeeling are part of the Mahabharat Range or Lesser Himalaya. The soil is chiefly composed of sandstone and conglomerate formations, which are the solidified and upheaved detritus of the great range of Himalaya. However, the soil is often poorly consolidated (the permeable sediments of the region do not retain
water between rains) and is not considered suitable for agriculture. The area has steep slopes and loose topsoil, leading to frequent landslides during the monsoons. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the town falls under seismic zone-IV, (on a scale of I to V, in order of increasing proneness to earthquakes) near the convergent boundary of the Indian and the Eurasian tectonic plates and is subject to frequent earthquakes.
Climate of Darjeeling:
Darjeeling's temperate climate (Koppen Cwb) has five distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter, and the monsoons. The annual mean maximum temperature is 14.9 °C (58.8 °F) while the mean minimum temperature is 8.9 °C (48.0 °F), with monthly mean temperatures range from 5–17 °C (41–63 °F). The lowest temperature recorded was -5 °C (23.0 °F) on 11 February 1905. The average annual precipitation is 309.2 cm (121.7 in), with an average of 126 days of rain in a year.The highest rainfall occurs in July.The heavy and concentrated rainfall that is experienced in the region, aggravated by deforestation and haphazard planning, often causes devastating landslides, leading to loss of life and property.In recent years, global warming has had adverse effects on Darjeeling's climate,resulting in periods of drought followed by floods, and an increasing incidence of pest attacks on tea plantations.
Economy of Darjeeling:
The two most significant contributors to Darjeeling's economy are tourism and the tea industry. Darjeeling tea, due to the unique agro-climatic conditions of Darjeeling, has a distinctive natural flavour, is internationally reputed and recognised as a geographical indicator.Darjeeling produces 7% of India's tea output, approximately 9,000,000 kilograms (20,000,000 lb) every year.The tea industry has faced competition in recent years from tea produced in other parts of India as well as other countries like Nepal.Widespread concerns about labour disputes, worker layoffs and closing of estates have affected investment and production.Several tea estates are being run on a workers' cooperative model, while others are being planned for conversion into tourist resorts. More than 60% of workers in the tea gardens are women.Besides tea, the most widely cultivated crops include maize, millets, paddy, cardamom, potato and ginger.
Darjeeling had become an important tourist destination as early as 1860.It is reported to be the only location in eastern India that witnesses large numbers of foreign tourists.It is also a popular filming destination for Bollywood and Bengali cinema. Satyajit Ray shot his film Kanchenjungha (1962) here, and his Feluda series story, Darjeeling Jomjomaat was also set in the town. Bollywood movies Aradhana (1969), and more recently Main Hoon Na (2004) have been filmed here.Tourist inflow into Darjeeling has been affected by the political instability in the region, and agitations in the 1980s and 2000s have hit the tourism industry hard.
Darjeeling can be reached by the 88 km (55 mi) long Darjeeling Himalayan Railway from New Jalpaiguri, or by National Highway 55, from Siliguri, 77 km (48 mi) away.The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a 60 cm (24 in) narrow-gauge railway that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 for being "an outstanding example of the influence of an innovative transportation system on the social and
economic development of a multi-cultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world", becoming only the second railway in the world to have this honour. Bus services and hired vehicles connect Darjeeling with Siliguri and Darjeeling has road connections with Bagdogra, Gangtok and Kathmandu and the neighbouring towns of Kurseong and Kalimpong. However, road and railway communications often get disrupted in the monsoons because of landslides. The nearest airport is in Bagdogra, located 90 km (56 mi) from Darjeeling. Within the town, people usually traverse by walking. Residents also use bicycles, two-wheelers and hired taxis for travelling short distances. The Darjeeling Ropeway, functional since 1968, was closed in 2003 after an accident killed four tourists.It was proposed to be reopened in 2007, but remained closed as of November 2009 due to absence of patronage as a result of the development of the road network in the region.
Culture of Darjeeling:
Apart from the major religious festivals of Dashain (Durga puja),Tihar (Diwali) and Christmas the diverse ethnic populace of the town celebrates several local festivals. The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate new year in January, while Tibetans celebrate their new year, Losar, in February–March. The birthday of the Dalai Lama is celebrated in mid-June with processions.Darjeeling Carnival, initiated by a civil society movement known as The Darjeeling Initiative, is a ten day carnival held every year during the winter with portrayal of the Darjeeling Hill's musical and cultural heritage as its central theme.
A popular food in Darjeeling is the Tibetan momo, a steamed dumpling containing meat cooked in a doughy wrapping and served with clear soup and achar. A form of Tibetan noodle called thukpa, served in soup form is also popular. Other commonly eaten dishes include alu dum, a potato preparation, and shaphalay, Tibetan bread stuffed with meat. Fermented foods and beverages are consumed by a large percentage of the population.Fermented foods include preparations of soyabean, bamboo shoots, milk and Sel roti, which is made from rice.Tea is the most popular beverage, the Tibetan version is also drunk.Alcoholic beverages include Tongba, Jnaard and Chhaang, variations of a local beer made from fermenting finger millet.
Tourist Attractions in Darjeeling:
Called Sakya Monastery, the monastery in Ghoom is located 8 km from Darjeeling. Sakya monastery is a historic as well as significant monastery of the Shakya Order. The original monastery was built during the early twentieth century.
The monastery can accommodate around sixty monks. The statue of Maithreya Buddha (meaning "The Coming Buddha), which is 4.57 meter high, of this monastery is of interest here. The monastery also preserves some of the rarest Buddhist anuscripts.
The highest spot in the area (2590m) is Tiger Hill, 11 kms from Darjeeling near Ghoom. The hill affords glorious dawn views over Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks. Close by is Senchal Lake which, at a height of 2448m, supplies Darjeeling with its domestic water. It is a particularly scenic area and popular as a picnic spot with Indian holiday-makers.
Darjeeling tea, famously known as the champagne of teas, is generally regarded as the World's best tea, fetching the highest prices at auction. The Darjeeling tea gardens are beautifully located, and the bungalows of the managers pretty without exception. The tea gardens are worth visiting, to observe the way tea is manufactured. Tea estate managers, "the planters" as they are called, are known for their hospitality. Even there is a high demand for organic darjeeling tea
The oldest site in Darjeeling is the Observatory Hill, locally called as Makal-Babu-Ko-Thaan. The Hill has a fascinating story to it.According to legend, Lord Indra's scepter (Dorje), emblematic of his thunderbolt, is believed to have fallen at the place (ling) where the Observatory Hill now stands. Darjeeling thus derives its name from the Tibetan words 'Dorje' and 'ling'.
A Red Hat Buddhist Monastery called Dorje Ling, or 'place of the Thunderbolt' once stood at this very spot. A temple of Mahakala now stands here and the hill is thus popular with both Buddhist as well as Hindu worshippers.
Darjeeling is the place of picturesque beauty and ultimate tranquility for the visitors. Tourists from all across the world visit the place for the scenic beauty.
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling was established in the 14 th August, 1958. The main objective of the zoo is to preserve the endangered species of animals. The zoo is situated at an elevation of about 2133.5 meters. The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling is also dedicated towards conserving several endangered varieties of Himalayan fauna.
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park at Darjeeling houses a number of endangered species named Red Panda, Tibetan Wolf, the Siberian Tiger and Snow Leopard. Captive breeding programs are undertaken in order to preserve the Red Panda. The Himalayan Black bear is an old resident of the zoo. The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling is a well-known center for captive breeding, with great care taken by the authorities during the entire breeding and raising process.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) was established in Darjeeling, as a step to organize the growing craze in the filed of mountaineering, after the ascent of Tenzing Norgay on Mt. Everest.This institute was founded in 1954, at the personal initiative of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. The institute was initially located at Roy Villa, on Lebong Cart Road. It was shifted to current location, on the western spur of Jawahar Parbat, in 1958 and today, it stands perched at an altitude of 6,800 ft. The first principal of this institute was Late Major N.D. Jayal and its first Director for Field Training was the legendary mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay.
Happy Valley Tea Estate is a tea cultivation ground in Darjeeling district, West Bengal. The estate was established in the year 1854 by David Wilson, an Englishman, who had named the garden Wilson Tea Estate and by 1860 had started cultivation of tea. In 1903, Happy Valley Tea Estate was taken over by an Indian, Tarapada Banerjee, an aristocrat from Hooghly. In 1929, Tarapada Banerjee bought the Windsor tea estate and merged another nearby estate and gave the name Happy Valley tea estate.
At 8598m, this is the world's third highest mountain. From Darjeeling, the best uninterrupted views of it are from Bhan Bhakta Sarani. The name Kanchenjunga is derived from the Tibetan Khang (snow), chen (big), dzong (fortress or treasury) nga (five) - big five peaked snow fortress, or big five peaked treasury of the snow.
Chowrasta in Darjeeling is a spread around a large, open and asphalted area, surrounded with shops, small and big restaurants, cafeterias and pony stables. Chowrasta at Darjeeling is situated at a good height from the low lying areas and offers breath takingly beautiful views of the mountains. People can take leisurely horse rides here and take a few rounds of the Darjeeling Chowrasta.
Best Time to Visit Darjeeling
The best time to visit Darjeeling is from March-May or September-November. The rains which start by May end are heavy downpours making living conditions cold and dreary. In winter there is a drastic fall in temperature from the summer's 15 to 25 degrees centigrade to 2 to 10 degrees in winter.
How to Reach Darjeeling
For air transport to Darjeeling the nearest airport is at Bagdogra.There are regular flights that connect Bagdogra with Kolkata. For train transport the railhead at Siliguri is the nearest to Darjeeling. You may even enjoy the toy train that runs from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri to Darjeeling. The nearest bus station to
Darjeeling is at Siliguri.
- Apsara Hotel
- Broadway Hotel
- Fairmont Hotel
- Garuda Hotel
- Hotel Karmi Farm Holidays
- Hotel Pineridge
- Hotel Darjeeling Tourist Lodge
- Hotel Classic Guest House
- Seven Seventeen Hotel
- Shambhu Hotel
- Sunflower Hotel
- Hotel Mayfair Darjeeling
- Hotel Swiss
- Hotel Elgin
- Lunar Hotel
- Mohit Hotel
- Hotel Viceroy Darjeeling
- Hotel Sterling Resort Darjeeling
Heritage Hotels in Darjeeling:
- Hotel Windamere
- Hotel Dekeling Resort
- Hotel Fortune Resort Central Darjeeling