“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
Lucky are we to have been born in a country blessed with every geographical beauty possible, be it the grand mountains of the Himalayas, deep blue seas of the Arabian and the Indian Ocean, dense forests of Dooars or picturesque backwaters of Kerala. If one happens to live in West Bengal, nothing could be better than a getaway to the Himalayan town of Darjeeling. Also known as the Queen of Hills, this town has attracted many a tourist worldwide over the years.
If we delve deep into the history of Darjeeling, this used to be home to the Lepchas, Bhutiyas and Limbus as a part of Sikkim. Soon after it’s invasion by the Gorkha Army of Nepal, it got annexed to Nepal during the 1790s. After the Anglo-British war in 1815, parts of Nepal were let off to the British including the land between rivers Mechi and Teesta. Later this land was given off to the Chogyal of Sikkim which led to severe tension between Sikkim and Nepal. The then Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck sent two officers in order to resolve the tension. It was then that the officers stayed at “the Goorka station called Dorjeling” and were impressed by it’s potential to develop in a sanatorium. Dr Arthur Campbell, in charge of setting up the sanatorium was also behind setting up of tea estates in this town.
The rich history of this beautiful town is hugely reflected in the people and the architecture. The people are a mix of Lepchas, Bhutiyas and Gorkhas while the architecture has the British history to it. The town has everything, right from bakeries and churches to gymkhanas and stables. The houses are mostly log-houses and the roads are full of horses striding up and down. On the other hand, the presence of Monasteries define the prevalence of Buddhhism and the Bhutiyas. Despite the subtle difference in cultures, Nepali is the universally spoken language among the people.
The vast diversity in the cuisine is extremely striking. On one end there exist English bakeries like Glenary’s while on the other there in an abundance of the local “momo” and “thukpa” joints. Besides the love for diverse food, the people have a great knack for music and football. Besides the vast distinctness of the diverse culture, the people are bound together by a common strand of simplicity. Their hospitable nature is what attracts people worldwide beside the scenic beauty of the hill-station. So whenever you visit the Queen of Hills, be ready to be treated like a King/Queen by the people.
It is true Darjeeling has lost some of it’s charm over the yesteryear, thanks to the well known political unrest, plaguing the region. Frequent rebellions have taken a toll on the tourism industry. However, for all the disturbances in the area, you still tend to lose yourself with one clear glance at the Himalayas or with a sip of the Darjeeling tea at the famed Glenary’s. So, I can safely say that “The Hills Are Still Alive With The Sound Of Music”!