Mountain ranges, flower valleys, mirror like flowing rivers, dense and lush green forests; how much mother nature has given to us. I am a nature lover and I love to explore these natural landscapes. I have visited places like Nainital, Mussorie, Manali, Shimla, etc. several times and now I have a dream to visit another mesmerizing hill station of ‘Darjeeling’.
LOCATION AND CULTURE
Darjeeling is a city located in the northern part of West Bengal. The official language of Darjeeling is Bengali and Nepali.
Darjeeling is famous for its ethnicity, rich, unique and diverse culture. Lepchas or Rongpa (the ravine folks) were the original inhabitants of Darjeeling hills. There are bulk populations of Indian Gorkhas who speak Nepali. There are majority of population consisits of Bengalis, Biharis, Marwaris and Adivasis in plain areas.
There are festivals of Darjeeling carnival, Sakela, songs ‘Deusi and Bhailani’ which portrayed the rich musical and cultural heritage of Darjeeling Hills.
This place got its name from Dar-jyu-Lang means abode of the Gods. It was the place of worship.
Darjeeling was originally a part of the kingdom of Sikkim before being invaded by the Gorkhas. By 1816, the whole of the region known as British Sikkim belonged to Nepal.
In 1841, a person called Dr. Campbell brought Chinese tea seeds and started growing tea on an experimental basis in Darjeeling. After the successful experiment several tea estates started opening commercially. In 1850, Darjeeling was established as Municipality. British elites, Maharaja of princely states visited Darjeeling every summer and the town continued to grow as a tourist destination. After that Darjeeling become to known as “Queen of the Hills”. In 1947, after the independence of India, Darjeeling was merged with the state of West Bengal.
Although the whole Darjeeling is beautiful with mesmerizing tourist spots and here I would like to highlight some of them.
- DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAYS
It is a famous toy train of Darjeeling. This 2 feet narrow guage train runs between Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling which almost cover 88 kilometer long distance. It covers pleasing mountain views, local shops. It was declared as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992.
- TIGER HILL
It is located at the altitude of 2590 meters. It gives splendid sights of sunrise and we can see the peaks of Kanchenjunga illuminate before the sun is seen at lower elevations. The magnificent view of snowcapped mountains attracts tourist from all over the country.
- TEA PLANTATION
There are over 80 tea plantations in Darjeeling. Tea gardens are crucial to the tourist’s agenda. Darjeeling is famous for its tea cultivation for almost 200 years and its tea is famous all around the world. The fragrance of shrubs and lush green wonderlands draw the attention of passerby.
The famous Happy Valley Tea Estate allows tourist to view of producing and processing tea in the factory. Glenburn Tea Estate, Makaibari Tea Estate, Happy Valley tea estate, Gomtee tea Estate are some of the tea estates that are famous in Darjeeling for tea cultivation.
- Monasteries in Darjeeling
There are monasteries spread across the city and all of them have their own relevance. Among them, Ghoom monastery, Bhutia Busty monasteries are famous. These monasteries provide a beautiful view for sightseeing and various shops for marketing. Some of the monasteries are oldest and adds to its magnificence.
- HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINEERING INSTITUTE
It is one of the best mountaineering institutes in the world. It was established in 1954 with the purpose of encouraging the interest of people in the sport of mountaineering. It is also a famous tourist site as it attracts tourists of its picturesque setting in the hill station. It provides a magnificent view of Kanchenjunga and Tiger hill.
- BATASIA LOOP
It is one of the picturesque train routes of Darjeeling. It is a lush green toy train pathway. Batasia loop is a natural beauty with a wonderful sight to behold. Located on the Hill Cart Road, we can enjoy panoramic view of Darjeeling.
It is the heart of Darjeeling. Here people witnesses social, cultural, educational and political activities. There are coffee shops, restaurants, and tea and snack stalls, pony ride to spend leisure time.
- RIVER RAFTING IN TEESTA
It is one of the best places in Darjeeling for adventure lovers. Professional trainers are provided for activity and everyone should try this if when in Darjeeling.
- SINGALILA NATIONAL PARK
It is a reserved forest area and is located at the altitude of 7900 feet. It is the highest altitude park in West Bengal.
Tourist used to travel with jeep in order to explore the park. Sandakphu and Phalut is the trekking route and is best trekking place for adventure lovers.
- CITY SHOPPING
Darjeeling is famous for traditional arts, crafts and handmade items like pendants of gems, paintings called ‘Thankas’ which depicts stories of Buddhists religion and culture. Nehru road is famous and a perfect spot for tourists. Chowk Bazaar has all kinds of stuff like clothes, decorative items and mouthwatering dishes. Tea leaves are the famous stuff among tourists. There are about fifty varieties of tea leaves available in the market of Darjeeling.
FAMOUS CUISINES OF DARJEELING
There are lots of mouthwatering foods in Darjeeling and some of them are inspired from neighboring Nepali dishes. Here I am highlighting some famous dishes or cuisines if Darjeeling.
- NINGURO WITH CHURPI
It is made from a local fiddlehead fern and churpi (cheese)
It is prepared from fermentation of leafy vegetables and is found in every household of Gorkhas.
It is consider as one of the best street foods in Darjeeling which is prepared of Moong beans and served with red chili sauce.
It gained significance in the province of Darjeeling. Thukpa are noodles in meat soup with stewed meat and veggies.
OPTIONS TO REACH DARJEELING
There are several ways to reach Darjeeling and I am discussing some of the ways:
- By Train – First we have to take a train up to New Jalpaiguri which is 88 kilometers away from Darjeeling. After that we can take jeep or taxi from New Jalpaiguri to reach Darjeeling in 3 hours approximately. Buses and taxis are also available at Siliguri and it takes about 2.5 hours to reach Darjeeling. We can also take toy train from New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri in order to enjoy scenic beauty on mountain route and it takes about 7 hours to reach Darjeeling.
- By Air – We can also fly down to Bagdogra which is the nearest airport to Darjeeling (94km from Darjeeling). After that we can hire taxis to reach Darjeeling in 3 hours.
I am really excited that if I get a chance to visit my dream destination ‘Darjeeling’ then I will definitely explore all the tourist spots and I would also like to explore the rich culture and traditions of this magnificent place.
India is a diverse country in terms of ethnicity and I feel proud that we Indians share so many diverse and rich culture and values.
In my views, everyone who can afford travelling must visit and explore new places, so they can experience and learn from variety of culture, traditions, customs and values.
Author Bio : Humera Kharoon, participant of International Essay Competition, March, 2019.