Darjeeling History

Darjeeling History

Darjeeling, located in the Lesser Himalayas at an elevation of 6,700 ft (2042.2m) has a temperate climate. Summers in Darjeeling are mostly wet caused by the monsoon rains. Monsoon is at its peak during the month of July, the month when rainfall is the highest.

Darjeeling is warmest during the month of August and ideal too for a visit. The sun shining bright just to comfort you, not more, not less. The skies painted yellow giving a dreamy vision. August is just the right time to plan a vacation to Darjeeling. Winters in Darjeeling as we all know it are too cold. In the months of December and January, though not very frequent, the town may receive snowfall.

Our present is moulded and shaped by the past. To know the history of Darjeeling is a must. Darjeeling history is linked with the history of Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, Bengal, and Great Britain, i.e., the East India Company. Originally, Darjeeling was a part of the Kingdom of Sikkim. The place was mostly inhabited by the Lepchas and the Kirati people.

The word Darjeeling is derived from a Lepcha word ‘Dorjeling’ meaning the Land of Thunderbolt. The place was later invaded by the Gorkha army in the 1790s. The Gorkhas attacked the Sikkim capital of Rabdentse and annexed territories up to the Teesta River. But later, after the Anglo-Gorkha war fought between the Kingdom of Nepal and the East India Company, Nepal had to cede one-third of its territory to the British. The Anglo-Gorkha war resulted due to border disputes and ambitions of expansion of the territory.

Old Taxi Stand in Darjeeling

On February 10, 1817, a treaty was signed between the Chogyal of Sikkim and the East India Company known as the Treaty of Titalia. The Treaty assured to the Chogyal that security would be provided to Sikkim and returned the land annexed and invaded by the Gorkhas.
In February 1829, a land dispute arose between Nepal and Sikkim. To help resolve the issue, Lord William Bentinck, the then British Governor General of India, sent two officers Captain Llyod and J.W.Grant. On their way, they stayed in Darjeeling for around six days.

They were very much mesmerized by the place and the weather conditions as it would be suitable to build a sanitorium there. Llyod later talked to the Government about Darjeeling serving as a Sanitorium and Grant also urged the Government to acquire the location for the purpose.


The Government after being satisfied with the location and its weather conditions agreed to build a Sanitorium there. General Llyod was given the responsibility to negotiate with the Chogyal of Sikkim to acquire the Tract on lease. Chogyal soon agreed to the British and the land on the lease was granted on February 1, 1835, as per the Deed of Grant.


The same year Arthur Campbell, a member of the Indian Medical Service was appointed as the agent of the location on lease and Lieutenant Napier as the architect. Campbell became the first Superintendent of the Sanitorium in 1839. A road connecting Darjeeling with the plains too was built in 1839.

Women Workers Cleaning Tea Leaves in Factory in Darjeeling, India – 1865

Tea seeds too were now being planted on an experimental basis. The first tea seeds were imported from Kumaon region in China. Dr. Campbell was the first to experiment with tea plantations in his residential area at Beechwood, Darjeeling. Later such experiments were conducted by several British officers and on being successful tea plantations started operating commercially. Until now, Darjeeling is famous for its tea estates. Darjeeling tea is considered one of the finest. Darjeeling tea leaves are in demand around the world. A huge amount of tea leaves are exported abroad every year.


Darjeeling had now started developing rapidly. The people of Sikkim now started migrating to Darjeeling, especially the labor class, due to the growing importance of Darjeeling. This led to the jealousy of the Chogyal of Sikkim. The people who had migrated to Darjeeling were forced to come back to Sikkim.


The relations between the Sikkim and the British deteriorated to such an extent that Dr. Campbell during a visit to Sikkim was abducted and was kept in imprisonment for weeks. An army was sent by the Company to release Campbell. However, no bloodshed is recorded. Consequent to the actions of the Chogyal, Darjeeling now became a part of the British Empire and Sikkim, a protected state. Kalimpong and Dooars too were seized by the British.


Darjeeling saw rapid Development after the 1850s. The municipality, Tea estates, Missionary Schools were established; Loreto Convent in 1847, St. Pauls School in 1864, Planter’s Club in 186, Llyod’s Botanical Garden in 1878, St. Joseph’s School in 1888, Town Hall (Municipality) in 1921. With the establishment of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways in 1881, smooth communication and transport further led to the smooth development of the town. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways is now declared UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

Rickshaw pullers resting. Chowrasta, Darjeeling during the British Raj
Rickshaw pullers resting. Chowrasta, Darjeeling during the British Raj

Darjeeling tourism too started flourishing. The resident of Darjeeling during the time were the British Ruling Class. They would visit Darjeeling every summer to escape the sweltering heat of the plains. Well-to-do Indians too started frequenting their visit especially from Calcutta and Maharajas from princely states. This turned Darjeeling into an ideal tourist destination.


After India was declared autonomous, Darjeeling was merged with West Bengal. A separate district was established consisting of the hill towns of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and the Terai areas of Siliguri.

Through the years, despite the modernization, Darjeeling has managed to retain its charm and vigor. It still stands as one of the favorite tourist destinations. Tourists from across the world visit the town. Many movies have been filmed and shot in Darjeeling due to its vivid beauty. Although movies from various film industries, namely the Nepali and Hindi have been filmed here, Darjeeling is most loved by the Bengali cinema.

And why wouldn’t it be? The famous Toy Train, one of its kind, found only in Darjeeling, Chowrasta where you can sit idle all day and still feel immense joy, Mall Road for a walk with a lover, with friends, with an acquaintance, with family members, watching the mountains, the trees, the flowers, the sky and the clouds enjoying the chilly weather, Heritage buildings established during the British era, Soft spoken friendly people with a Nepalese accent making the environment more blithe, the Mirik lake where you can enjoy boat riding conversing with the water, the birds and the mouth-watering traditional delicacies, never fail to enchant the locals and tourists alike.

This is just a trailer. To watch the whole movie, you need to visit the place, sync into the place, give it all of yourself, go with the flow and breathe in the air of Darjeeling.




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