There is nothing more blissful than getting lost in streets and life of the city of Darjeeling, the land of celestial thunderbolt, as its known in north-east India. It’s like being in a dream, walking through the winding roads and woods, looking at the approaching clouds and water dripping from the tips of the innumerable green ferns. As you stroll around with the majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga playing peek-a-boo among the clouds, you will be compelled to wonder at the sudden appearances of clouds all around you. One has to be physically present there to take in the moment as if the sky itself is bowing down to embrace you. Sometimes they surround you like a translucent blanket of fog, but there are times when it is so dense that one has to stop and wait till it passes. It’s a heaven- like experience, where while you can see nothing below your waist, everything above it is clear. The place’s attractions are the panoramic vista with snow-clad mounts and acres of greenery shaped in form of tea-plantation of the heavy-eyed hill resort.
To the east, a dull orange sun emerges, painting the sky with brilliant strokes of magenta, gold, orange and fuchsia. The snow capped Everest, Kabru, Kanchenjunga, Jannu and other peaks become visible as if they have also risen from slumber to start a new day. As the fog lifts in the slowly penetrating sun, the town gradually comes alive. Amidst brewing of tea, the sing-song Gorkhali (the local dialect) rises and falls like music. The British consummate architecture makes holidaymakers spellbound by the entire topography of its environs as well as enthralls them by showcasing the true vim and vigour of beautiful Himalayas.
West Bengal is undoubtedly a seventh heaven for the tourist where he finds himself completely cuddled in the tender lap of natural world of verdure ecology. One certainly finds feelings of jealousy for those who are the natives of this paradise. The beauty of Darjeeling is truly amazing and has inspired the minds of great Nepali authors and poets. Due to its scenic beauty, heavenly ambiance and climatic conditions it was the summer capital during the British rule in India and not to forget it has a glorious history written with the pen of god and ink of memorable memories.
The best time to visit Darjeeling is during March-May or September-November. The rains which start by May-end are heavy which make living conditions cold and unbearable for a non-resident. During winters there is a drastic fall in temperature from the summer’s 15 to 25 degrees centigrade to as low as 2 to 10 degrees.
One of the prime places to visit is a visit to Ghoom which is 6 km away from the main town; the hillock is dominated by the famous Yiga Choeling Monastery which has 15 images of the Maitreya Buddha. Belonging to the “Yellow hat” sect, the monastery contains many ancient palm leaf and paper manuscripts in Tibetan script. The Museum of Natural History is where one can see a fine collection of Himalayan animals, reptiles, birds and insects.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is the only centre in India for the breeding of the rare “Snow leopard”. The Ussurian tigers and the Himalayan black bear are also among its attractions. Neighbouring the zoo is the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute established in 1954 by the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the wake of the conquest of Everest. Tenzing Norgay was its first Director and Advisor till his demise. A kilometre from the zoo is the Darjeeling-Rangit Valley ropeway. Considered the longest in Asia, it is a thrilling ride with splendid views.
If one is looking for souvenirs, then the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre. It produces excellent Tibetan crafts like carpets, wood and leather work. Established in 1959 after the Dalai Lama and his followers fled Tibet, it is a haven for ethnic Tibetan art.
The lush green tea gardens on the hills would leave a mesmerizing effect on the tourists and especially the hot black tea by the roadside tea stalls serves as the best beverage in that cold climate.
Darjeeling in India was the first hill region where organized trekking was first conducted by Dr. Hooker in the 1840s. For the adventurous freaks, the breathtaking panoramic views of Everest and Kanchenjunga have been alluring thousands of nature lovers from different parts of the world since then. Treks in this region are organized through both high and low altitude areas. The best time of the year to undertake trek in Darjeeling in India is April-May and October-November. It is advisable to carry one’s own provisions.
About 22 kilometres through, lends an enchanting peep into the valley below with the Bhutan range in the east, the Teesta River and its Tiger island in the south-east. The sensational point of the fourth spiral, the Agony Point, is reached outside the Tindharia station.
The scenic beauty along the rail line is a thing of joy forever. From those stalwart Sal trees, the railway track twists in and out of ravines, the tall cotton trees, the buttressed semul palms, the giant bamboo all entwined with creepers and loaded with ferns and moss. There are fig trees, oak and chestnut trees, the birch, the maple brambles and
Orchids, some of them interspersed with walnut trees and laurels until, in the vicinity of Cheem, the centre of the Buddhist monastery of the Yellow Sect, there is that glorious glimpse of primroses, magnolias and rhododendrons. This luxurious vegetation is topped with sublime landscapes of snowy heights, more than a dozen peaks standing aloft above 6,000 meters — the renowned Kanchenjunga and the mountains of east Nepal, Sikkim and Tibet.
You won’t feel it until you see it, a travelogue may help you get a description but it won’t give you the essence of the place that this land is. The beauty of Darjeeling sends it invitation; it’s on you how long you take to pack your traveling bags.