State : West Bangal
Straddling a ridge at 2134m and surrounded by a tea plantations,
Darjeeling has been a popular hill station since the British established
it as an R&R centre for their troops in mid-1800s. People come
here now, as they did then, to escape the heat, humidity and hassle
of the north Indian plain. You get an indication of how popular
Darjeeling is from the 70 or so hotels recognised by the tourist
office and the scores of others which don't come up to its requirements.
Here you will find yourself surrounded by mountain people from all
over the eastern Himalaya who have come to work, to trade or - in
the case of the Tibetans - as refugees.
Outside of the monsoon season (June to September), the views over
the mountains to the snowy peaks of Kanchenjunga and down to the
swollen rivers in the valleys are magnificent. Darjeeling is a fascinating
place where you can see Buddhist monasteries, visit a tea plantation
and see how the tea is processed, go for a ride on the chairlift,
spend days hunting for bargains in colourful markets and handicrafts
shops, or go trekking to high-altitude spots for closer views of
Kanchenjunga. Like many places in the Himalaya, half the fun is
in getting there and Darjeeling has the unique attraction of its
famous toy train . This miniature train loops and switchbacks its
way up the steep mountainsides from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling.
Until the beginning of the 18th century the whole of the area between
the present borders of Sikkim and the plains of Bengal, including
Darjeeling and Kalimpong, belonged to the rajas of Sikkim. In 1706
they lost Kalimpong to the Bhutanese, and control of the remainder
was wrested from them by the Gurkhas who invaded Sikkim in 1780,
following consolidation of the latter's rule in Nepal.
These annexations by the Gurkhas, however, brought them into conflict
with the British East India Company. A series of wars were fought
between the two parties, eventually leading to the defeat of the
Gurkhas and the ceding of all the land they had taken from the Sikkimese
to the East India Company. Part of this territory was restored to
the rajas of Sikkim and the country's sovereignty guaranteed by
the British in return for British control over any disputes which
arose with neighbouring states.
One such dispute in 1828 led to the dispatch of two British officers
to this area, and it was during their fact-finding tour that they
spent some time at Darjeeling (then called Dorje Ling - Place of
the Thunderbolt - after the lama who founded the monastery which
once stood on Observatory Hill). The officers were quick to appreciate
Darjeeling's value as a site for a sanatorium and hill station,
and as the key to a pass into Nepal and Tibet. The officers' observations
were reported to the authorities in Kolkata and a pretext was eventually
found to pressure the raja into granting the site to the British
in return for an annual stipend of Rs3000 (raised to Rs6000 in 1846).
Place to See
The highest spot in the area at 2590m, Tiger Hill is near Ghoom,
about 11km from Darjeeling. The hill is famous for its magnificent
dawn views over Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks.
On a clear day even Mount Everest is visible. Every day a large
convoy of battered Land Rovers leaves Darjeeling at 4.30am, which
means that in the smaller lodges you get woken up at this time every
day, whether you like it or not. It can be very cold and very crowded
at the top but coffee is available. There is a view tower. Halfway
down the hill a temple priest causes a massive traffic jam by anointing
the steering wheel of each vehicle for the return trip. Many take
the jeep one way and then walk back - a very pleasant two hour trip.
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.
Bhutia Busty Gompa
Not far from Chowrasta is this colourful monastery, with Kanchenjunga
providing a spectacular backdrop. Originally a branch of the Nyingmapa
sect's Phodang Monastery in Sikkim, it was transferred to Darjeeling
in 1879. The shrine here originally stood on Observatory Hill. There's
library of Buddhist texts upstairs which houses the original copy
of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The most conspicuous Hindu temple in Darjeeling, this is just below
the railway station and is modelled on the famous Pashupatinath
Temple in Kathmandu
Lloyds Botanical Garden
Below the bus and taxi stand near the market, these gardens contain
a representative collection of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids.
The hothouses are well worth a visit.
Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway
At north point, about 3 km north of the town, is India's oldest
passenger ropeway. It is 5 km long and connects Darjeeling with
Singla bazaar on the little Ranjeet river at the bottom of the valley.
How to Reach
: The nearest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra
about 94-96 kms away from Darjeeling. There are direct flight connections
with Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati.
: The closest Railway Station is New Jalpaiguri
(NJP) about 88 kms away from Darjeeling. It has direct railway connections
with Calcutta, Delhi, Guwahati, Varanasi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai,
Jaipur and other major cities of India.
: Darjeeling is connected to Sikkim, Nepal,
Bhutan and all of its surrounding hills. The major access to Darjeeling
is via Siliguri, which is connected to all the major cities Gangtok
119 km, Guwahati 590 km, Kolkata 759 km, Kathmandu, Nepal 677 km,
Sikkim 120 km.