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Darjeeling


Darjeeling a north-east hill-station in India's state of West Bengal. Surrounded by Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet, Darjeeling, which the British annexed from Nepal in the wake of the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814 under the Treaty of Sagauli, 1815, was selected by the British to develop it as a hill-station where the ruling people could go for a change and have a taste of homeland climate and ecology. Among all the hill stations that they built over time (Simla, Kodaikanal, Mussoorie, Mahabaleshwar, Mount Abu, Nainital, Ranikhet, Shillong etc.), Darjeeling was the most exotic in panoramic view, in flora and fauna and in temperature.

In 1815, Darjeeling, 2286 metre above sea level, had practically no settled population, and by the turn of the nineteenth century, it was a town of fifteen thousand settled people hosting more than hundred thousand tourists every year since 1890. At present Darjeeling is many times larger as a hill town. As a tourist spot it now enjoys world-wide reputation. From 1898, Darjeeling had been serving as the summer capital of Bengal government. Besides being a tourist place and health recovery centre Darjeeling turned out to be the provider of tea with a unique aroma and special education for the children of the ruling classes.

Darjeeling began its journey towards its modern existence in 1838 when Lt Gilmore was appointed Executive Engineer to raise and organize a hill-people para-military labour force to construct roads and culverts and make necessary clearings. Gilmore could not achieve much success and was followed by Lt Robert Napier of Engineers (later Field Marshall Lord Napier). He took the challenging job very courageously and made the impossible possible by linking Darjeeling with Shiliguri with a stone-paved road that exists even to day. Along this road was later laid a narrow gauge light tramway. Sir Franklin Prestage, the first Manager of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, led the up-hill task. The work of the tramway was completed in 1881. Henceforth Darjeeling not only became accessible but also was effectively brought into the mainstream by the introduction of the Railway.

Administratively Darjeeling flourished as a hill town under Dinajpur district in Rajshahi Division. From 1898, Darjeeling assumed a unique political status when a Summer Secretariat of the Bengal Government was built there. Several Convent and Public Schools were established which provided education to the children of the Europeans and Anglo-Indians and also of the native aristocratic families. The courses of study in these schools included preparation for the Cambridge Junior School and Higher School Certificate Examinations. Most famous of these schools were Loreto Convent and St. Paul's and St. Joseph Colleges. The glory of these educational institutions is no more there. Darjeeling is now particularly known in the world for its tourism and tea. [Sirajul Islam]