Darjeeling - General Infomation

Location

27 Deg. 13 Min. N to 26 Deg. 27 Min. N Latitude
88 Deg. 53 Min. E to 87 Deg. 59 Min. E Longitude

Area

3,149 Square Km.

Altitude (Darjeeling Town)

6710 Feet.

Temperature (Darjeeling Town)

Annual Mean Max. Temperature 14.9 Degree Celsius.
Annual Mean Min. Temperature 8.9 Degree Celsius

Rainfall (Darjeeling Town)

Average Annual Rainfall : 3092 MM.

Best Season for Visit

March to mid June & October to December.

Important Roads

Siliguri-Mirik -Ghum -60 kms.
Sevak-Tista bridge –Kalimpong -60 kms.
Tista Bazar to Darjeeling -25 kms.
Sukna- Pankhabari-Kurseong -25 kms.
Siliguri Darjeeling NH 55 -76 kms.

Clothing required

Light woollens and tropicals in summer (umbrellas and raincoats are useful) and heavy woollens in winter.

Language spoken

Hindi, Nepali / Gorkha, Bengali, Tibetan and English.

Nearest Railway Station

Darjeeling (Meter Gauge) & New Jalpaiguri Station (Broad Gauge)

Nearest Airport

Bagdogra

Air :-

The nearest airport (Bagdogra) is 90km away.

Bus :-

Most of the buses from Darjeeling leave from the Darjeeling Bust Stand (Hill Cart Rd). Darjeeling is connected by road with Silliguri, Sikkim and Nepal.

Rail :-

New Jalpaiguri/Silliguri is the railhead for all trains other than the narrow-gauge toy train. Computerised Reservation for major trains out of New Jalpaiguri can be made at the Darjeeling railway station (the toy train terminus).

Maghe Sankrati:

It is the Nepali’s winter festival celebrated during Makhar Shankranti which falls on the first day Magh of Bikrama Sambat (mid of January). This is considered to be the coldest day of the year so people look forward to the coming of warmer weather, better health and prosperity. It is celebrated by eating yam and the elders blessing the younger ones by putting a small piece of yam on their foreheads.

Losar or Lhosar:

It is the Tibetan New Year. It is celebrated for 15 days with the main celebrations happening within the first three days. Tibetans celebrate it with new clothes and good food. The eve of Losar is marked by the Chaam (Tibetan Costume and Mask Dance) in most monasteries to ward off the negativity of the Old Year. On this day, the Dali Monastery performs a special Chakrasambhara (Mandala) prayer with a colorful Mandala. The 15th day of Losar sees special religious ceremony called the Cho-Nga Cho-pa where monks create large butter sculptures and light hundreds of butter lamps to dispel darkness in the world. The next Losar falls between January 27 and 29, 2009

Chaite Dasain:

This festival is considered to be the original dasain of the Nepalis. However, this festival has lost its relevance in present times.

Ram Nawami:

This Hindu festival marks the birth of Lord Rama who was the son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama is revered by the Hindus and is considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu.

Shrawan Sankranti:

This is the first day of the Nepali month Sawan or Shrawan. People pray to the ‘devi’ (young goddess) to eradicate scabies and other skin diseases.

Chokhor Duchen:

This festival commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon and the teaching of the Four Noble Truths.

Naag Panchami:

The literal translation is Naag meaning ’serpent’ and ‘Panchami’ can be traced to the word ‘paanch’ meaning ‘five’. It falls on the 5th day after the full moon. On this day, priests visit Hindu households offering a special prayer and sticking a picture of snakes with Lord Vishnu at the door as a symbol of protection.

Teez or Teej:

The festival of Teez or Teej is celebrated by Chettri and Brahmin castes of Nepali women. The married women fast to honor of Lord Shiva for health and vitality of their husbands. Unmarried women fast to get a good husband in the future.

Pamper your taste buds with the exotic but homely food and discover a mosaic of culture while satiating your gastronomical needs.
Whether it is the ubiquitous momos or thupkas whose fabled taste has transcended across the Himalayas along with the migrant Tibetans or the lemon grass menu from south-east Asia, Darjeeling offers you the best.

Momo : Meat dumplings and vegetables which are steamed and accompanied by a bowl of clear soup and achaar. One can also order for vegetable momos in which the meat is ideally replaced by cabbage and other vegetables.

Thupkas : Tibetan noodles mixed with egg/meat, vegetables with a predominant soup base.

Shaphalay : Tibetan bread stuffed with meat.

Aludum : Typical indian potato preparation which the hill people cannot do without.

Tibetan Tea : Salt tea which is mixed with butter which has its own distinct taste.

Tongba : Local brew made from millet and has to be sipped through a bamboo straw. Usually found in the local haat (fair) held on sunday near the Rock Garden.

People

The original inhabitants of the Darjeeling Hills were Lepchas or Rongpa (the ravine folks) as they prefer themselves to be known as. Though their origin is obscure, they are decidedly Mongolian in feature. The Khampas, another branch of the Lepchas, are warrior-like and more dashing than their docile cousins. The Khampas are recent immigrants from Tibet. The greater bulk of the people in the Hills are Gorkhas . They are industrious and enterprising as a race and speak various dialects. The short Mongolian type Nepalese, the Gorkhas, renowned for their military prowess the world over, and the first to be decorated with the coveted Victoria Cross, finds jobs and security both in the British and Indian armies. They carry the traditional weapon, the Khukri-a curved ornamental knife. Among the population are also the Newars or best known, the world over as the Sherpas. They are well known for their courage, stamina and surefootedness and for their immeasurable contributions to Mountaineering. Also much in evidence in the Hills are the Bhutias and they are divided into Tibetan, Bhutan, Dharma and Sikkimese Bhutias and a greater bulk of Bengalee from Siliguri subdivision.

Nepali Folk Dances

The Nepalese are rich in folk culture. The hills and dales are the treasure house of songs and dances of the hill folk. There is not a moment in their lives, possessed as they are of a lyrical mind and heart that does not turn into singing and dancing.
The panorama of the Majestic Himalayan mountains, its lush green hills and forests seem to have played a significant role in influencing the religion and culture including the folk songs and dances of the Nepalese people, inhabiting in and around the Himalayan regions with its serene, romantic and poetic shades of different hues. Even the two major religions. viz., Hinduism and Buddhism, seem to have influenced the Nepali culture full of its rich folks songs and dances, co-existing side by side.
The earlier cave paintings, religious rites and temple songs and dances have also played another significant role in influencing Nepalese Folks songs and dances. The earlier form of dances and folk songs attributed to the Gods and goddesses of both the Hindu and Buddhist pantheon, are also inspirational in creating Nepalese folk songs and dances, impressions of religious dances performed either to appease Gods and goddesses or ward-off the evil spirits can also be seen distinctly in performing arts of the Nepalese people.
The following are some of the most popular and worth mentioning forms of Nepali folk dances.

1. Maruni Nach. 2. Dhan Naach. 3. Jhankri Naach. 4. Jatra Naach. 5. Damphu Naach. 6. Khukuri Naach. 7. Deora Naach. 8. Panchay Naach. 9. Dhimay Naach. 10. Sanginy Naach. 11. Balan Naach. 12. Jhyauray Naach. 13. Paschimay Chutki. 14. Rodhighar Naach. 15. Baton Naach. 16. Jhumara Naach. 17. Sakhia Naach.

Architecture

Developed by the British, many buildings of British style architecture can be found here. Apart from these, the Tibetan influence is very noticeable in the buildings of the monasteries.

Handicrafts

The culture of the hill people of Darjeeling are uniquely expressed in the exquisite and inimitable artistic handicrafts of the district and their traditional colourful designs, which show marked resemblance to the art of neighbouring Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. Among the artistic crafts, ornaments, trinkets and handlooms are worth mentioning. There is also fine craftsmanship in wood-work and bamboo fret work. While the principal utility products are blankets, woolen knitted garments and woven fabrics, the artistic products are hand-bags, wall panels, fire-screens, folding partitions, Bhutan paintings, cotton shoulder-bags etc. Beautiful curios are made at Darjeeling and Kalimpong on copper plates studded with red and blue stones with engravings of replicas of deities. Wonderful Tankas with paintings depicting the life of Lord Buddha are also available. Woolen carpets are made in a combination of shades in vegetable and synthetic dyes. Bhutia chaddars can be found in beautiful textures. Decorative Nepali khukris are made in Ghum. Bedroom slippers and rope-sole shoes, jackets, hats, hanzu coats made from handloom cloth and masks are among the many items which attract tourists and curio collectors.

Economy

The cash crops of the region are fruits, tea and cardamom. Tourism contributes in a major way to the economy of the region.

Industry

Tea and Darjeeling are synonymous. Darjeeling Tea is world renowned for its flavour, which is unequaled by other tea producing areas not only of India but also of the world. Darjeeling still manufactures the tea by the original methods known as the ‘orthodox’ method.

Darjeeling hills are the natural home for countless orchid species like Cymbidiums, Vandas, Dendrobiums, Paphiopedilums, Lycaste, Odontoglossum, Phaius, Arundina etc.the list being endless.

In the past several decades the nurseries of Kalimpong area was very much involved and buzzing with floricultural activities and developed their own techniques in tissue culture propagation of orchids and other related floricultural plants. In Kalimpong itself we have about four nurseries propagation. Exports from these hills also started 5-6 decade back. For the unlimited scope in the present multi-million dollar floriculture industry, these hills are the natural habitat for innumerable plant species and thus much has been achieved till date by our floriculturists. However, this region still has enormous potential. With the global floricultural trend these hills have limitless scope for production of Gladioli cut flowers to cater to the demand of both the domestic as well as the export market. Cut flower started trade over three decades back. Today other cut flowers, besides Gladioli are anthuriums, Orchids particularly Cymbidiums, bulbous flowers of lilies, ornithogalum and other flowers like gerberas, carnations and greens like ferns are under production.

The forests in and around Darjeeling have delightful flora and fauna. It is a plantlover’s paradise. Four thousand species of flowering plants, three hundred varieties of ferns, including tree fern and countless types of flowerless plants, mosses, algae, fungi, birches, and of course, the prize orchids, wild and cultivated. There are oaks, chestnuts, cherry, maple, birch, alder-all fine and large trees of excellent growth. In the upper hills areas and the alpine zone are the magnolias, buck-landias, pyrus and conifers such as webb, Himalayan firs, English yews, Sikkim spruces, larch, which is the only deciduous conifer, weeping tsuga brunoniana and junipers lvy is common.

The fauna is similarly varied-monkeys, wild cats, tigers, leopards, civets, jackals and foxes, wild dogs, bears, otters, martons, weasels, squirrels(including the Himalayan flying and Assam giant varieties), porcupines, hares, barking deer,sambhurs, chitals and the very rare pangolin. In the foothills and the teria forests, in the sanctuaries (Jaldhapara and Gorumara in the neighbouring Jalpaiguri) can be seen the gaur or Bison, elephants and the single horned rhinoceros.

Darjeeling is the home of six hundred varieties of beautiful birds like flycatchers, fairy bluebirds, orioles, finches, sunbirds, long-tailed broadbills, woodpeckers, rufous piculets, emerald cuckoos, three-toed kingfishers, long-legged falcons, Hoogson’s imperial pigeons, emerald doves, besides a large number of seasonal migratory birds on their way to the plains.

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