Situated at a height on 213m above sea level, is a world renowned hill resort -Darjeeling. "The land of the thunderbolt" The British acquired it from the Raja of Sikkim as a "free gift", about a hundred and fifty years ago and developed it as a rest and recreational center for their troops. Today Darjeeling has become a welcome respite during the hot summer months. Blessed with a cool and bracing climate, one can see a panoramic view of the Himalayas spread over one hundred and eighty degrees crowned by the Kanchenjunga massif.
The town has retained, till today, many of the legacy of the British Raj. It has a mixed population of about 100,000 of various races and religions living in perfect harmony. This is vividly reflected in the shrine at observatory Hill, where Hindus and Buddhists offer prayers alongside each other. Gorkhas, Bhutias, Lepchas, Sherpas. Yolmos and migrants from the plains have made Darjeeling their home. Gorkhali (Nepali) is the lingua-franca, but Hindi and Bengali are also spoken and almost everyone understands and speaks a bit of English.
Places of Interest:
Situated at an altitude of 8000 ft above sea level, and 11 km away from Darjeeling, Tiger Hill is synonymous with spectacular sunrise and the play of different hues of colors over Mt. Kanchenjunga. Mount Everest is also visible from here at a great distance.
Yiga Choling Monastery:
This famous Buddhist monastery, founded in 1875 is atop a hill at Ghoom, 8 km away. It is famous for it's statue of the Maitreya or the coming Buddha. He is depicted in a sitting position with blue eyes. It is currently undergoing renovation.
Tomb of Alexander Csoma de'Koros:
This great Hungarian scholar of Tibetan language and culture, was the first to introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the Western world. His tomb has been declared a protected monument by the Government of India and is one of the landmarks of Darjeeling.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (H.M.I.):
Established in 1954. Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the first person to climb Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary, was closely associated with this Institute till the time of his death. The Institute conducts basic and advance courses in mountaineering and has a field training center in the West Sikkim Himalayas where the advance course students climb small peaks. The Everest museum, which is attached to the Institute, has on display rate photographs, objects and artifacts. Tenzing's monument is also located here.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park:
Situated alongside (H.M.I.) the zoo houses many exotic animals and birds of the Eastern Himalayas. The pride of the zoo is Red panda Project, and a Snow Leopard breeding center, aimed at saving these endangered species.
Introduced by the British in 1840 as an experiment, Darjeeling's "Orthodox" tea is now famous the world over. Darjeeling tea is produced by the orthodox method as opposed to the "Curling, Crushing and Tearing" (CTC) method adopted in other places in India. The most convenient tea garden to visit Happy Valley which is only 2 km away from town.
Museum of natural History:
The museum has on display birds, animals, butterflies etc. of the eastern Himalayan region.
A huge Pagoda, built by Japanese Buddhist monks dedicated to world peace, amidst serene surroundings, it is one of the landmarks of Darjeeling.
This small but sturdy steam engine train, introduced by the British over a hundred years ago, is as much a part of Darjeeling as the Tea Gardens and Kanchenjunga. Running on a track measuring a mere 2 ft. and running from the plains of Siliguri to Darjeeling is considered a marvel of engineering. The joy ride to Ghoom takes about an hours passing through the famous Batasia Loop.
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