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Darjeeling Region


Darjeeling District

Darjeeling is the name of a district as well as a town. If you are looking for information on Darjeeling town, you may get it here. This page provides information on the entire district.

The word Darjeeling is synonymous with quality Tea in most of the world. This hilly district in the state of West Bengal produces some of the best quality tea in the world. The district is also famous for its natural beauty and rich ecology. No wonder that some of the most important tourist destinations of North East India are within this district.

The district has four subdivisions named on the four major towns of the region; Kalimpong, Kurseong , Darjeeling and Siliguri subdivisions. Apart from Siliguri the other three sub divisions are in the hills.

Darjeeling Town

The town of Darjeeling is the most famous tourist destination of the region. The other common tourist destinations of the region include Kalimpong, Lava, Lolegaon and Mirik. In the recent past, a number of less visited but equally attractive tourist destinations have come up in the region including Lepchajagat, Latpanchar, Tinchuley etc.

For those interested in adventure, the region offers plenty of opportunities to have your adrenalin pumping. Rafting in the Teesta and a trek to Sandakphu are the most common options. You can also travel to Sandakphu on a mountain bike. Innumerable choices in Trekking, Camping and Mountain Biking beacons adventure lovers to Darjeeling hills.

misty tista

Teesta

The river Tista is one of the main Himalayan Rivers and most important river system in Sikkim and North Bengal originating from the glaciers of Northern Sikkim at an elevation of 8500 m above the mean sea level. The river is fed by the glaciers viz. Zemu, Changame Khanpu, Talung etc.

It is an international river, which flows through the states of Sikkim and West Bengal in the Indian Territory and then to Bangladesh. Apart from its varied landscape Tista forms a diverse ecosystem tista from Peshok roadthroughout its more than 200kms long journey from high mountainous region of Sikkim to the low land of North Bengal. Tista flows freely, fearlessly and ferociously too.

For years Tista has been worshipped as a natural deity by the thousands of inhabitants, who grow and prosper with it. For many people of Sikkim and North Bengal Tista is the livelihood as it provides fertile lands to grow crops, as it provides the base for Rafting, the popular adventure sports in the region, and also river camping. All seems to be changed suddenly with attempts of taming the river by building of a series of dams on Tista for the sake of generating Power.

people archers

People of Darjeeling District

The district is a home to the people of different culture, language, custom and cast. When British first arrived here in 1840, Darjeeling was completely forested and virtually uninhabited. There was a sizeable number of Lepcha and Gurkha people and some Bhutias during that time. By 1857 Darjeeling had a population of 10,000 people. The population increased after 1870s with the immigration of Nepal followed by Tibetian refugee in 1957.

Because of fast development in Darjeeling, people from neighbouring countries like Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and even from Sikkim girl with the childand West Bengal plains started to settle here. The most important community in Darjeeling is Nepalese, which holds the largest population. Apart from them the Lepchas, Bhutias, Sherpa, Newars are important communities having their won language, dress, food and culture.

Most of the people of Darjeeling are follower of Buddhism, which is also known as Lamaism.The Gompa or the monastery is the pivot of the community life of both the Lepchas and Bhutias. However, Hinduism is also practised by a large number of the Nepalese people.

Girl dressed as Nepali

Ethnic Dresses

The diverse ethnic population of Darjeeling has lead to a variety of dresses being worn in the area.

The traditional dress of Nepali community - the major ethnic group of Darjeeling - is Labeda and Surua. This dress has been accepted by all ethnic groups of Nepalese origin and is used as a ceremonial dresses. Labeda is the upper garment for male which is like a jacket and Surua is the lower garment which is like a tight trouser or Indian Payjamas. The male headdresses are of many verity and all are round shape called topi. The traditional dress of Nepali women consists of a parsi (Indian sari) and Misa-la (long-sleeved blouse), Lepcha ArcharyGa (wrapper) and Jani (cloth belt).
However, the modern Nepalese People irrespective of their ethnic affiliations are now wearing western type trouser, jacket, shirts, skirts etc. the traditional dresses are now restricted only in social gathering and festivals.

Apart from Nepali, the Tibetan Bhutia, Sikkimese Bhutia, Bhutanese Bhutia and Lepcha dresses are all basically of Tibetan origin and are the most colourful of their kind in Darjeeling. They consist primarily of a big dressing gown type coat called Bakhhu, which serves both as an upper and lower garment for men and women alike. The Bakhhu is made of wool, silk or velvet with woollen lining inside. The traditional Bhutia head gears consist of woollen and fur caps with projected parts to protect the ears from biting cold.

Bhutia Boys

Food of Darjeeling

Rice is the staple food for all people irrespective of their cast and religion in Darjeeling. Apart from that a large quantity of maize and millet are grown in the terraced slopes in the hills. Millet locally called as marrua is the third important food, which is used by poorer section of people. Millet corn is usually turned into flour, from which bread is prepared. Among green vegetables, squashes, beans, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots are grown in plenty in the hill areas and are supplied to different parts of the states. Mushrooms are very popular in the hill people and the bamboo shoots are known for its delicacy.

Among the meat pork is mostly consumed in the Darjeeling hills especially by the tribal people. Beef, Chicken and Mutton are also consumed by the large number of people. Dried meat and fish is also taken by the hill people.

Drink: There is hardly any taboo against drinking among the Nepalese, Lepchas and Bhutias. Spirituous liquors have traditional uses among all hill people. Among the drinks most popular is the millet beer called Tungba. Rice beer known as Jar is also very popular.

bhutanese people talking amongst themselves

Languages

Darjeeling being a land of polyglot population has several numbers of languages and dialects. Apart form different languages several branches of Indo-Aryan family, several dialects of Austric and Dravidian families are spoken both in the hills and in the plains. However, the dialects and languages falling under the Tibeto-Burman branch of Sino-Tibetan speech family are of great importance because of its dialectal variation.

According to the Census of 1961, as many as 119 mother tongue groups were enumerated in Darjeeling district. Among them 16 languages could not be classified by the Linguistic Survey of India.

In Darjeeling hills Nepali speakers under Indo-Aryan language family form the largest group. More that 75% people speak in this language especially in three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district namely Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong sub division. While Hindi and Bengali under the same language family form the major group in Siliguri sub-division in the plains.

kanchenjungaAmong the various branches of Tibeto-Burman language family, there are Lepcha, Tibetan, Sherpa and Bhutia languages having their own linguistic identity. Whereas, the Tamang, Mongar, Limbu, Newars are some of the major dialects falling under the same category. However, these dialects are rapidly loosing their identity because of the influence of Nepali language.

Beside the Tibetan, Bhutia and Sherpa of Tibeto-Burman language family there are speakers of the Sino-Tibetan Speech family i.e.. Garwali, Ladakhi etc of North Himalayan regions.
Of the Indo-Aryan speech family, Nepali belongs to Himalayan group, Bengali to the Eastern group and Hindi to the western and central group.

Because of colonial influence a large number of people in Modern Darjeeling district can speak English, which has been officially recognised by the government of India. English is largely used in different official work and also is a popular medium in schools.

Source : The District Gazetteers of Darjeeling, Govt of West Bengal has been instrumental for making this page

a tea factory

Tea Gardens of Darjeeling District

The credit for the fame and fortune of Darjeeling Tea goes to these gardens that are spread mostly in Darjeeling and Kurseong sub-division. About 42000 to 49000 acres are utilised for the production of the tea in the area.

Dr. Campbell established the first tea garden in the year 1852. Within the next 14 years there were 39 gardens and the total production of those gardens were about 21000 kilograms. A recent study revealed that there are 86 gardens producing the famous Darjeeling tea. The total production is about 11 millions kilograms.

traditional tea plucking

Importance
The economy of the region is depended upon three 'T's meaning Tea, Tourism and Timber. Thus there is a great importance of the tea industry in the local economy. Tea is a labour intensive product and it requires a large number of workers during the plucking season.

The workers usually live in the tea garden. They are provided with perquisites such as medical benefits, educational benefits. The total money value o the tea production is about 7.5 million dollars and it is much more than the revenue from the tourism industry.

Most famous Tea Gardens:
tea gardenSome of the important gardens of the region include
Ambootia: This tea garden is spread over an area of 966.76 hectares. The quality of the tea from this garden is cherished all over the world.
Castleton: The Castleton Tea Estate is situated in an area of 170.96 hectares at height of 980 to 2300 metres. This garden produces about 35,000 kilograms of tea.
Goomtee: This tea garden is serving the tea industry since 1956. The tea prepared from here has a special place in the industry.
Happy Valley: Happy Valley is the tea estate from where the most costly tea of Darjeeling is produced. The Banarjee family of Howrah established the garden in the year 1903. In 1929 the area of the Happy Valley was increased when the neighbouring Windsor tea garden was merged into it.
Another gardenMargaret's Hope: The Estate is situated in Kurseong. The altitude of this tea garden is between 100 metres to 1970 metres and it has a plantation area of 361 hectares. The production of this garden is about 155000 kilograms.
Makaibari: The Banarjee's established this tea estate in 1859. This is the only family run tea estate of Darjeeling. Located at an altitude of about 3500 metres, this tea garden won the award of 'Best Tasting Tea' in UK. Out of the total area of 673 hectares the plantation area if about 250 hectares. This tea garden is also a safe place of different types of insects, butterflies, birds and animals.
Jungpana: The Jungpana Tea Estate is now under the possession of the Kejriwal family for the last five decades. The estate is situated at an average altitude of 3500 ft. This tea garden imports tea to the foreign countries like UK, Japan and other Continental Countries. The ideal environment for the plantation of tea is found in this tea garden and that is why this tea garden is considered as the best example of the finest Darjeeling Tea.

a very old picture of darjeeling

History of Darjeeling Region

The present district of Darjeeling is a creation of the nineteenth century by the accidental involvement of the British Indian Government in the affairs of neighbouring Himalayan states. Under the Titalaya Treaty of 1817 the Raja of Sikkim was bound to refer to the arbitration of the British Government all disputes between his subjects and those of the neighbouring states. After ten years some disputes between Nepal and Sikkim frontier arose and according to the treaty the same was referred to the Governor general of India. In order to deal with the dispute the Governor General sent Captain Lloyd and Mr. Grant, who reached Darjeeling for the first time in 1828. Darjeeling was at that time a large village.

The toy train in a archived picutreMr. Grant and Mr. Lloyd were very impressed with the environment and geographical location of the town. They immediately recommended to Lord William Bentinck, the Governor General, the advantage of the location of Darjeeling for making it a sanatorium. Accordingly the General sent Captain Herbert, the Deputy Survey General with Mr. Grant to examine the place and approved the project.

A series of negotiations with the King of Sikkim for the accessioning of the uninhabited mountain land to British India got started. Finally, on 1st February 1835 the King of Sikkim by an execution of Deed of Grant unconditionally handed over the land to the British Government.

Old darjeelingSoon the exploration and investigation began to develop the site as a sanatorium. General Lloyd was appointed as a Local Agent to deal with application for land, which began to pour in from residents of Calcutta. In 1840 a road was made from Pankhabari. Nearly 30 privet houses and a hotel were erected in Darjeeling. The rest of the land was however under forests.

By 1849 Dr. Campbell of Indian Medical Service, through constant process turned the inaccessible track of forest land into an excellent sanatorium and improved the communication system. Several European buildings, Churches and bazaar and hospital were built. A simple system of administration of justice was also introduced. Also started an experimental cultivation of tea, coffee and various European fruits.

St. pauls school, the gothic architecture of darjeelingThe rapid growth of Darjeeling arose the jealousy of Sikkim Rajah who raised some rebellion against the British force. In 1850 a punitive expedition was sent to the frontier on the North Bank of Rangit River. As a result of the expedition a portion of land of Terai was annexed to the British territory of Darjeeling. There were few Sikkimese raids during 1860s, as a result of which Dr. Campbell with a small force crossed Rammam River and made a treaty with the Rajah of Sikkim in 1861. This Treaty put an end of all frontier trouble with Sikkim and with annexation of Kalimpong in 1866 the Darjeeling District reached in its present form.

After the independence of India in 1947, Darjeeling remained a part of West Bengal. From 1986, a powerful agitation began in the Darjeeling hills seeking an independent state in the Indian Union. The agitation ended with the establishment of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council under the Chairmanship of Mr. Subash Ghissing and has been given considerable autonomy in administrative matters.

Another set of agitation lead by Bimal Gurung led GJM party between 2008 and 2011 resulted in formation of Gorkhaland Territorial Council (GTA) in 2011. This was an epoch in the History of Darjeeling.

Source : Information is based on West Bengal District Gazetteers, Darjeeling, Govt. of West Bengal.

gorkha girl in festival

Festivals

The diverse culture of Darjeeling has given birth to different festivals. Theses festivals provides visitors with an unique opportunity to understand the local people and their culture.
Most Hindu and Tibetan festivals do not have a fixed date as they mostly follow the lunar calendar. But the month is more or less the same in every year.

January

Maghe Sankranti
In the middle of the month the Nepalese celebrate the first day of the month 'Magh'. They eat 'Tarool' which is the bulb of different edible species and which is collectively known as 'Yam'.

Cham
The end of the year according to the Tibetan Calendar falls towards the end of January. A festival to forestall the evils of the previous year from coming to the new year is organised known as cham. The 'Cham' is a Tibetan mask dance and is held in the monasteries of Darjeeling as well as Sikkim. The best place to see Cham is from Thupten Sangag Choling Monastery or Dali Monastery near Darjeeling.

Cho Nga Chopa
This is another celebration of the Tibetans. According to legend this help increase the merit and devotion of the future generation to the disciples of Lord Buddha.

February -

Losar
Losar is the Tibetan New Year. In this New Year celebration the Tibetans celebrate by buying new clothes and eating specially cooked 'Momo'. The dance is one of the main attractions of the festival.

March

Chotrul Duechen
This Tibetan Celebration is held for the offerings to the God.

Chaite Dasai
This is a typical Nepali Festival. This is the celebration of pray to the 'Devi' for the victory of the good. They take coloured rice with curd in their forehead as 'Tika'. The tike represents the blessings from the elders of the house.

April

Buddha Jayanti
This fest is very important for the people living in Darjeeling as many of them are Buddhists. This is the birth anniversary of Buddha. On this occasion the local monasteries organize procession led by the Lamas (Tibetan Monks). This gorgeous procession comprises of Buddhist holy books.

Sansari Puja
According to the Nepalese mythology 'Devi' is the goddess of the world and the puja is organised to keep her satisfied and stop outbreak of diseases like measles, small pox etc.

May

Saga Dawa
This is a typical Tibetan Festival. It is celebrated at the beginning of May.

Parinirvana
It is believed that at the age of thirty-five Buddha was enlightened at Bodhgaya on this very day. The Buddhists celebrate this occasion as Buddha's Parinirvana.

June

Asar ko Pandra
This is the fifteenth day of the Nepali month Asar. They take curd and chewra on this special occasion. It is believed that Devi Parvati gave Lord Shiva the same food on this day and eating this will help devotees in getting deliverance.

July

Dzam Ling Chi Sang
This festival is held on the first week of July. It is the local Deties' Day.

Chokhor Duchen
The Tibetan mythology tells that after seven weeks of Buddha's enlightenment, Lord Indra and Lord Brahma told him to turn the Wheel of Dharma and as per their suggestions Buddha did so at Sarnath and he learned the 'Four Noble Truth'.

Sawane Sankranti
This is the first day of the Nepali month Sawan. They celebrate this day to keep calm the 'Devi' for saving themselves from scabies.

August

Tendong Lho Rumfat
The celebration starts on 8th August. The Lepchas believe that their ancestors went the top of the Tendong Mountain after the hard climbing of 40 days and 40 nights. So they pray for the mountain.

Newar's Kwati Purne
This festival is celebrated in the month of Bhadau. On this event the people eat special dishes made from sprouted legumes.

Purnima Festival
The Purnima (Full Moon) is the most festive season of the Nepalese. In this time Jhankris (Witch Doctors) presents the cultural dancing dressed in their cultural dresses and taking the traditional musical instruments. This is their process to welcome the god and goddesses.

September

Kushe Aushi
The Nepali Hindu's celebrate this on the beginning of September. The Hindu Mythology says that there are four things in which Lord Bishnu stays and those are the Saligram, Tulsi plant, Pipal Tree and the Kush grass. On this day the priest gives everyone the kush grass so as the lord Bishnu stays in all the houses.

Teez
This festival is for the married women. On this occasion women are seen singing and dancing in bright red fariya (Nepali Sarees).

October

Jamare Aunshi
This is the greatest festival for the Nepalese. This festival starts with the arrival of the new moon and continues for fifteen days. Shrada or the homage to the dead ancestors is the main portion of this festival.

Nepali Durga Puja
Durga Puja is the main religious festival of the state West Bengal. The Nepali Durga Puja is also very famous. This festival runs for nine days. This is a must see festival for the tourists.

Tika
After the completion of the Durga Puja, on the tenth day the elders give blessings to their younger and the also give them prasad of Shakti Puja. This ritual comes to an end on the full moon day.

Tshechu
Here is the chance to see the traditional Tibetan Dance. This festival is the tribute to Guru Padmasambhava who brought the Buddhism in Tibet. In the Tibetan Monasteries the dance can be seen.

Lhabab Duechen
This is the last festival of October and it is celebrated by the Tibetans to remember the descent of Lord Buddha.

November

Tihar or Teohar
: In this festival the crow represents the messenger of Yama, the lord of death; dog represents the guardian of Yama; the Gai or cow is treated as Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. All these creatures are worshipped in this festival. The Nepalese gambles on this day, which is customary. In the evening people celebrate this festival with lights and firecrackers.

December

Nambum
This is the festival for the Lepchas. They celebrate 15 days to memorise the victory over the Lhaso Mung Pung after 12 years of battle. They make an image of the demon with the rice and after the prayer throw it out from the house. From the next day they celebrate the Namboom by eating good foods, wearing good dresses and dancing.

Batasia Loop Kanchenjunga from Tiger Hill Darjeeling Town Botanical Garden
Tiger Hill watch tower View from Tiger Hill Buddhist Temple at Darjeeling Darjeeling Toy Train
Kalimpong Town Kurseong Town Siliguri Town Mirik Town
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