Darjeeling will be an enchanting experience for anyone who visits the place. The excitement starts as soon as one leaves the plains and takes the uphill road to this beautiful hill resort in West Bengal. On either side there are eye-soothing sights of the flora of Darjeeling-brilliant red rhododendrons, charming white magnolias, majestic pines and lush green tea bushes covering the entire hill slope. And when you reach the summit the view is mesmerizing -rushing streams, gasping gorges and shimmering lakes all around and reflecting the azure blue of the sky, a rare moment when the hill and the valley seems to merge and become one.
History of Darjeeling
The name Darjeeling is thought to be a derivation of 'Dorjeeling' meaning the place of the Dorjee, the majestic thunderbolt of the Lamaist religion. In fact, the famous Buddhist Monastery standing at the top of the Observatory hill was known by this name. The district was the part of the dominions of the Raja of Sikkim up to the beginning of the 18th century.
In 1817, the East India Company struggled with Himalayan States on behalf of Raja of Sikkim. The Raja of Sikkim restored the country between Mechi and the Tista rivers. This was the result of the Treaty of Titaliya of 1817. Ten years after the treaty, disputes on the Sikkim-Nepal frontiers arose and the then Governor General sent two Officers viz. Captain Lloyd and Mr. Grant. They recommended the present place of Darjeeling as a site for a sanatorium. The Governor General then deputed Captain Herbert, the Deputy Surveyor General to examine the country. The court of Directors approved the project. General Lloyd was directed to start negotiations with Raja of Sikkim and he succeeded in obtaining the execution of a deed grant by the Raja of Sikkim on 1st February, 1835.
This was an unconditional cession of what was then a worthless uninhabited mountain; but in 1841 the government granted the Raja an allowance of Rs. 3,000 as compensation, and raised the grant to Rs. 6,000 in 1846.
1839 was the most important year in the history of Darjeeling, the year the road which connected the hill station with the plains 'its life line' was built. Right from the start it had been pointed out by the planners. No road-No Darjeeling, and 1839 was the critical year when the decision was finally taken to go ahead with the plans.
The District was in the Rajshahi sub-division till October, 1905 and as a sequence of Bengal partition in 1905, the district was transferred to the Rajshahi division in March, 1912. The district was formerly a Non-Regulation district, that is, Acts and Regulations did not come into force in the district in line with rest of the country unless they were extended to it. Darjeeling had no representation in the Legislative Council. It was excluded and declared a backward tract. In 1935, the district was made partially excluded area by act.
The freedom movement in the district was much tempered by its moderate political ideology. One outstanding incident connected with the "terrorist movement" was the attempt on the life of Sir John Anderson, the Governor of Bengal, on May 8, 1934 by Bengali terrorists. The district with the rest of India attained independence as part of India in August 1947. According to the Constitution of India, the district no longer enjoys special privileges and all statutes, except the Bengal Tenancy act in certain of its particulars, apply to it.
Geography of Darjeeling
With an area of 1,200 sq. miles, the district is shaped like an irregular triangle; the southern region contains the Terrai, a marshy low-lying area at an average height of 100 meters above sea level: the apex is formed by the Phalut ridge where Nepal meets India. The eastern frontier lies along the river Tista and the Rangeet, beyond is Rishi-la and Bhutan. The lower region of the labyrinthine hilly forest-clad ridges has been cleared for cultivation of the world famous Darjeeling tea. Staring with and area of only14, 000 acres in 1872, it had risen to 7, 87,000 by 1956. The town itself, laid out by Lord Napier of Royal Engineer, is at an altitude of 2134 miles.
Darjeeling is nested in the heart of the lesser
Himalayan mountain range. Surrounded by thick jungles and at the
doorsteps of the snowy landscape of the greater Himalayas,
Darjeeling has incredible natural beauty.
Tourist attractions of Darjeeling
Some of the famous attractions of Darjeeling include:
Tiger hills is the highest point in the area which provides the most exotic view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. From this place the other peaks of the Eastern Himalayas can be seen. On a clear day the sight of Mt.Everest is just enthralling.
About 8 kms from Darjeeling is the Dhoom Gompa. Here a very beautiful statue of the Maitrayie Buddha (prospective Buddha) is established. The Monastery has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts.
This railway loop is an interesting example of engineering. At this loop the toy train takes a very unique turn. This loop is just five kilometer from the main town of Darjeeling. This place also has a very good market where you can buy the purses, bags and other decorative items made by the local women at very reasonable price.
Happy Valley Estate
Here the tea from the gardens is processed. One can spent a few hours here. Entry is only allowed to persons who have permission from any officer of the estate.
Natural History Museum
The museum has a collection of over 4300 specimen. Established in 1903, this natural history museum packs in its folds a rich collection of fauna found in the Himalayas and in Bengal. Among the attractions are included the estuarine crocodiles. This unique museum also has a good collection of butterflies. The mineral forms of various stones are displayed in a very attractive manner in the museum.
A scenic place near the tiger hills. This place has popularly come up as a picnic spot among the tourists. The lake supplies drinking water to the town of Darjeeling.
From Darjeeling one can have the best, uninterrupted view of the world’s third highest peak. Bhan Bhakta Sarani provides one of the enthralling views of these snow capped peaks. The Chowrasta also gives you a good sight to the Kanchenjunga peak.
This point provides one of the breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga peaks. This place is also very sacred for the Hindus and the Buddhists as there are temples and the monasteries at this place. The Kali temple is decorated with the colourful flags. Be aware of the monkey groups as some these are very aggressive.
Bhutia Busty Gompa
With the back drop of the Kanchenjunga range stands a monastery called the Bhutia Busty Gompa. This monastery was shifted from the observatory hills to the present place. The Gompa is a branch of the Nyingmapa sect's Phodang Monastery in Sikkim. The monastery is not far from the chowrasta and is very tastefully decorated. It also has a library which has a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Snow Leopard Breeding Programme
Nowadays the zoologists and the environmental scientists are trying to protect the endangered species by breeding them in captivity. Following this trend is Kiran Moktan who has devoted his life in breeding program of snow leopards. The snow leopards are not known to have bred in captivity but in this center thanks to the efforts of Kiran Moktan these animals have given birth in captivity. Snow leopards are animals that have to be kept in large enclosures. Visitors are allowed in the center but they have to watch the animals in utter silence.
This place is worth a visit for its exotic and exclusive collection of a variety of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids. The gardens also have a green house.
Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center
In 1959 was established a center for the refuges who had fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama after the Chinese invasion. This self helped center has been developed as workshop for the manufacture of handicrafts. The fine and superb carpets, woolens, woodcarvings and leather work form this center has been very popular among the tourists. The money collected after the sale of the products goes to the Tibetans who work here. The varieties Tibetan Curios on sale also attract the visitors in a big way. This center has established it self in the International scenario as place for hard work, self esteem and truth.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute & Museums
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is on the West Jawahar road. The institute runs courses for training mountaineers as well as has the very good collection of mountaineering equipments which have been used in various mountaineering expeditions and other wise. Specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna are also kept here. The record of attempts made to conquer Mt. Everest has been kept in the Mt.Everest Museum. The institute also screens short films on mountaineering.
Another tourist attraction in Darjeeling has been the ropeway. This was the first ropeway in India. It connects the North point (7000 ft) to the Singla Bazaar (800 ft). The rope covers a distance of 8 kms in 45 minutes. The ropeway is exciting and unique for any one visiting Darjeeling.
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