Darjeeling-Queen of the Hills:
Darjeeling is a city and a municipality in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located in the Lesser Himalayas at an elevation of 6,700 ft (2,042.2 m). This place is noted for its tea industry, its view of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Darjeeling is the headquarters of the Darjeeling district which has a partially autonomous status within the state of West Bengal. It is also a popular tourist destination in India.
The recorded history of the town starts from the early 19th century when the colonial administration under the British Raj set up a sanatorium and a military depot in the region. Subsequently, extensive tea plantations were established in the region and tea growers developed hybrids of black tea and created new fermentation techniques.
The resultant distinctive Darjeeling tea is internationally recognized and ranks among the most popular black teas in the world. It’s Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connects the town with the plains and has some of the few steam locomotives still in service in India.
Darjeeling has several British-style private schools, which attract pupils from all over India and a few neighboring countries. The varied culture of the town reflects its diverse demographic milieu comprising Lepcha, Khampa, Gorkha, Newar, Sherpa, Bhutan, Bengali, and another mainland Indians’ ethnolinguistic groups. Alongside this, the neighboring town of Kalimpong was the center of the Gorkhaland Social Movement in the 1980s and summer 2017.
The culture of Darjeeling is diverse and includes a variety of indigenous practices and festivals as mentioned above. Many of the Nepali Hindus, as well as the various Buddhist and other ethnic groups such as the Lepchas, Bhutias, Kiranti Limbus, Tibetans, Yolmos, Gurungs, and Tamangs, have their own distinct languages and cultures and yet share a largely harmonious co-existence.
Due to the varied mix culture of Darjeeling, the local and ethnic food of Darjeeling is also quite varied. Rice, noodles, and potatoes seem to make up the dominant part of the cuisine party to make up the dominant part of the cuisine party due to the cold climate. The most popular local snack food is Momos, which are steamed flour dumplings with meat or vegetable fillings served piping hot with a side of clear soup and hot homemade tomato sauce. Locals love Alu Dom and various versions of it are served. They add Wai Wai Mimi instant noodles over a bowl of Alu Dom and call it Alu Mimi.
Another popular food is Thukpa which is of Tibetan origin. Thukpa is a homemade noodle soup with meat, eggs, and vegetables. Fermented foods and beverages are consumed by a large percentage of the population. Alcoholic beverages include Tongba, Jnaard and Chhaang, variations of local beer made from fermenting finger millet.
Tourist inflow into Darjeeling had been affected by the political instability in the region, and agitations in the 1980s and 2000s hit the tourism industry hard. However, since 2012, Darjeeling has once again witnessed a steady inflow of both domestic and international tourists. Presently, around 50,000 foreign and 500,000 domestic tourists visit Darjeeling each year, and its repute as the “Queen of the Hills” remains unaltered. All of these tourists visit Darjeeling just to see the natural beauty of this place, for food specialties and many more.
People of Darjeeling:
Darjeeling district is home to main immigrants from Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, Bhutan, and even Europe.
The Lepchas are the original inhabitants from the time when much of the land was covered with heavy forest. They are of Mongolian origin and speak in a language of their own called ‘Rong-Ring’. Lepchas are also known as Rongpas. They identify themselves with mother nature and thus the name ‘Mutanchi Rongkup’ Mother’s loved Ones.
The Khampas who belonged to the Lepcha tribe are relatively recent immigrants from Tibet. They are Buddhists and dress like American cowboys. These are warriors group as opposed to the original Lepchas who are usually docile.
One of the ethnic groups of the Nepalese is the Gorkhas. Gorkhas contribute to the greater bulk of the hill people. They are popularly known as the ‘martial race’ as many of them found a place in the Indian Army. The Gorkhas are identified by the possession of the traditional weapon ‘Khukri’- a curved decorated knife.
The immigrants from Nepal, known as Nepalese, speak the Nepali language and their religion is usually Hinduism. They comprise of a number of clans speaking different dialects. Among them are the Upadhyayas, the Thakurs, the Ranas, the Brahmins, Gurungs, Tamangs, Rais, Magars, Thapas, and Newars.
The Tibetans wanted to be independent of China, so many refugees have come to India from Tibet and settled in Darjeeling district since 1950. Their 13th religious leader, Dalai Lama was an exile in India from 1910 to 1912. They are Buddhist and they have their own religious leader.
The story of the people of Darjeeling will remain incomplete without mentioning the Sherpas. This ethnic group from this region of the world’s highest mountain derived their name from the Tibetan word ‘Shar’ meaning ‘east’ and ‘Pa’ meaning people. They are well adapted ho high altitude, the steep rocky terrain, and snow.
Although Darjeeling district harbors a variety of people who have their own distinctive languages, cultures and origins and ways of life, they are all nevertheless very hospitable and extend a lot of warmth. The official language of the district is Nepali while the official state language is Bengali. More than 50% of the people speak Nepali.
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