Monday, 6 July 2015

DARJEELING ; THE CALL OF NATURE

Living on this beautiful earth, everybody has the zeal to explore it to the fullest. The lap of nature, the beauty, when the early sun rays kisses the mountain peaks, the silvery water flows, making its way over and under the rocks, the trekking experiences, with mountains at one side and rocky paths with flowing rivers on other side, will make your tour a perfect natural experience. And you can be served with all these in none other but, Darjeeling.
Darjeeling is a town in Indian state of West Bengal, making the state proud for its qualities, which nature has bestowed upon her. It is located in Mahabharat Range or lesser Himalaya at an elevation of 7,100 ft. Darjeeling is famous for its tea industry and Himalayan railway. The tea Industry is life of Darjeeling. It has not only helped to attract tourists but, also helped India in making a place into the world tea market. The soil, the climatic condition, the sloping hills make Darjeeling a perfect place for this type of tea plantation, which can’t be found in any part of the world. The tea plantation, tea gardens is just what the tourists don’t want to miss. Then, the Himalayan Railway is another heritage which is the proud of Darjeeling. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. The tracks lay down between the hilly sites, rocky paths, so skilfully, makes it eye catching and eagerness in the heart grows to feel the beauty and miracle which nature shows here among the thousands of people. The town, Darjeeling, is the headquarter of Darjeeling district, which has partial autonomous status within the state of West Bengal. Many buildings of British architecture can be found here. Apart from this, the Tibetan influence is very noticeable in the monasteries. Darjeeling has many British style public schools which attract many students from India and neighboring countries. The geographical, historical, and diverse culture which exists in Darjeeling makes it a unique tourist destination. The varied culture offers the tourists with an opportunity to visit the temples, churches which are dew drops on the leaves, when they appear behind the mist, between the blue hills and green grass lands.
Knowing the history of the place before visiting, makes the tour much more realistic and brings a pure sense. It was around 19th century when the hilly areas of Darjeeling was controlled by kingdom of Sikkim, while the plains around Siliguri were occupied by the kingdom of Nepal. The Chogyal of Sikkim engaged with war against Gorkhas of Nepal. History has witnessed wars among several groups. Later, the British decided to build sanatorium here, for their soldiers. Darjeeling was at that time also an attracted place for everyone. And her beauty and natural climate made her an important hub. During the British Raj, Darjeeling’s temperate climate led to its development as a hill station for the British residents seeking to escape the summer heat of the plains. Arthur Campbell and Lieutenant Robert Napier were responsible for establishing a hill station here. This attracted immigrants to cultivate slopes and stimulate trades and this led to increase in the population of Darjeeling. At that time, first road was set up, a military depot was built, and the town became a municipality. At this time, many changes took place, commercial cultivation in the district began, Darjeeling became formal summer capital of Bengal Presidency, construction of schools and welfare centers for the British residents started, laying the foundation of Darjeeling as a centre of education. The history of Darjeeling contributes much, in what we see today Darjeeling as.
The specialty which you will get in Darjeeling is the diverse and varied culture, which exists among the masses. In which ever part you reside, visiting to Darjeeling not only gives you an idea about any single culture but, it is about many cultures. By visiting Darjeeling you get an opportunity to hear languages such as, Nepali, Hindi, Bengali and English. Religions such as, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity are prevalent. Along with all these wonders, you will also get an opportunity to taste variety of dishes. I am sure that by all this dishes, your taste buds will be pleased. Some of the dishes are, Momo, Thupkas, Shaphalay, Aludum, Tibetan Tea, Tongba. As Darjeeling is resided by wide variety of people, it also makes a ground for celebrating diverse kind of festivals. Durga Puja, Diwali, Saraswati Puja and Shivratri etc. The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate the New Year in January, while the Tibetans have their Devil Dances to celebrate their New Year in their monasteries from the last week of February to March. The snake or dragon dances curl though the streets, as there in the Chinese tradition. In mid-June, processions celebrate the birthday of his Holiness, The Dalai Lama. The tourists visiting here will not only witness the spectacular sight of nature but, the diversity which still exists in such a magnitude will make the experience incredible.

Along with all these, sometimes nature plays havoc. 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. But, in spite of all these havoc, Darjeeling proves to be a heaven with all this multi-qualities with diverse human beings residing in the same place. The economy of Darjeeling is mostly contributed by tourism and the tea industry. The internationally reputed and recognized tea of Darjeeling is produced approximately 9,000,000 Kilograms every year and is 7% of India’s tea output. Beside the tea the most widely cultivated crops include maize, millets, paddy, cardamom, potato and ginger. And the next important thing in Darjeeling is tourism; it is the only location in eastern India that witnesses large numbers of foreign tourists. It is also popular film destination of Tollywood, as well as, Bollywood. The recently produced movie Baarfi of bollywood was also shot here. The toy train of Darjeeling is very famous among the tourists. It is among the few steam engines which are still being operated in India. The handicraft industry in Darjeeling is equally famous. The winter clothes are often purchased by the visitors. The economy of Darjeeling aggravates the zeal of visiting the place and to feel the greenery of the land, the shower of the mists, the touch of the sunrise coming, after touching the peak of the hills, which will make the tour just amazing.
After getting the description of the heavenly place, Darjeeling, you might be anxious to have a visit to Darjeeling. But, hold your breath, Darjeeling is not only about these but, it has many more spectacular sites for you. Among the major tourist attraction, Tiger Hill stands at the first in the queue. Tiger Hill is the summit of Ghoom, the highest railway station in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. And when the sun kisses the peak of Tiger Hill, you may faint after seeing the beauty the nature has bestowed, your love for nature may increase at a double rate. But, then also you have to hold your breath, because, Darjeeling has many more things for you. Visit Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. It is a 67.56 acre zoo. It is the largest high altitude zoo in India.
Then comes Batasia Loop. It is a spiral railway created to lower the gradient of ascent of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. And when you are spell bound after seeing all these, then comes, Peace Pagoda. It is one of the Peace Pagodas designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds to unite them in their search for world peace. Mirik is just another example of Darjeeling’s nature. Mirik is a picturesque tourist spot nestled in the serene hills of Darjeeling. The name ‘Mirik’ has a interesting history. There is a Lepcha word Mir-Yok meaning “place burnt by fire”. Now coming to the villages of Darjeeling, we have, Samsing in the Malbazar subdivision of Jalpaiguri district, Suntalekhola in the Darjeeling distirct. There is a Bhutia Busty Monastery, which is a Buddhist monastery located in Tongsong. It belongs to the Red Sect of Buddhist Lamas. Kangchenjunga is the one which no tourist wants to miss. Their are some interesting myths about it. It is said that the area around Kagchenjunga is home to a mountain demon. A British geologist spotted a bipedal creature which he asked the locals about, who referred to it as the Demon. Then comes the Rock Garden, which you must visit to go more close to the nature. It is at Chunnu Summer Falls and Ganga Maya Park. It is situated about 10 Kilometres from Darjeeling. While travelling to the Rock Garden along the hill cart road, one has to turn right, well before reaching Ghum. The road descends rapidly into the valley. With sharp bends all the way, there are scenic views at many points. Tea gardens dot the hill slopes. And like these, there are many such places which have the capability of making you amazed and will take you to a another world.
After reading all these, I am sure, that if you are a nature lover and want to lie on the lap of the nature and enjoy the peaks of hills, the softness of mists, you are going to visit Darjeeling again and again. You can take the help of travel agencies, so that your process becomes simpler and you can efficiently enjoy the love for the nature. Or, if you have the zeal to enjoy nature all alone and to have an individual experience of all things, then you can visit all alone to the heaven in West Bengal. Darjeeling can be reached by the 88km long Darjeeling Himalayan Railway from New Jalpaiguri, or by National Highway 55, from Siliguri, 77km. Bus services and hired vehicles connect Darjeeling with Siliguri and Darjeeling has road connection with Bagdogra, Gangtok and Kathmandu and the neighbouring towns of Kurseong and Kalimpong. However, road and railway communication often get disrupted in the monsoon because of landslides. The nearest airport is Bagdora Airport, located 90km from Darjeeling. Within the town people usually transverse by walking. Two wheelers and taxis are available for travelling short distances. The Darjeeling rope way which was closed in 2003, finally opened again in February 2012. Now you may think, when should you visit Darjeeling? Depends on what and how you want to enjoy the nature. Most visitors target the glorious and spectacular kanchenjunga in a temperate weather. Many others like to feel the soothing winter in the hills and the occasional snow fall. Many even love the monsoon and play of the mists. And some lovers just want to feel the hills when there are no one, all alone, wants the hug of the nature.
I am sure that you are now ready to pack your bag, literally. The nature is calling you. The mountains are waiting, the momos and thupkas are just awesome for your taste buds, the toy train, the paradise, the tea gardens, the beautiful serene is what the life needs, to know its real meaning. The nature truly shows herself in Darjeeling. She shows the beauty which she can provide for your deserted heart. Set your minds, my friends and get ready, you have received the “call of the nature”.
--by Arghya Samaddar
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