History of Darjeeling

Old Darjeeling
A view of old Darjeeling town

Present Darjeeling
Darjeeling town : at present

The name Darjeeling is a composition of 'dorje' meaning 'thunderbolt' and 'ling' meaning 'place' ... 'the Land of Thunderbolt'. The Nepalese had marched till the east of Sikkim in 1780 as far as Tista river. Due to a disagreement with Nepal, the British declared war against Nepal at the end of 1813. In 1816 by a treaty signed at Seagoulie, Nepal ceded  4000 sq. miles of territory and by the treaty of Titalya in 1817 the Rajah (king) of Sikkim was reinstated.

Old way of travelling
An old but comfortable mode of transport

In 1828 two British officers, Capt. C. A. Lloyd and Mr. J. W. Grant, after settling the internal factions between Nepal and Sikkim, found their way to a place called Chungtong to the west of Darjeeling and were very impressed with what they saw and thought of making this place a sanitarium. Other British officers also reported favourably on the situation of the hill of Darjeeling.

The East India Company then directed its officers to start a negotiation with the Rajah of Sikkim for the cessation of the hill either for an equivalent in money or land. This transfer was successfully done in 1835  for an allowance of Rs. 3,000/- per annum. The Rajah of Sikkim's revenue from this tract of land had never exceeded Rs. 20/- per annum. Later this allowance was raised to Rs. 6000/- per annum. In 1849 the relation of the British and Sikkim worsened with the imprisonment of two British officers by Sikkim authorities. Eventually they were released but as a punishment the British stopped the annual allowance and annexed this territory.

By 1860s peace was restored in the borders and the march of progress began. Roads and important construction were done, Loreto Convent in 1847, St. Paul's School in 1864, Planters' Club in 1868, Lloyd's Botanical Garden in 1878, St. Joseph's School in 1888, Railway Station in 1891, Town Hall (present Municipality Building) in 1921.

Goods train
Old Darjeeling goods train

Tea Plantations started developing all around Darjeeling. During this time immigrants flooded in to work in construction sites, the Tea Gardens and other agricultural works. The population of Darjeeling was barely 100 in 1835 and  was about 94,712 in 1871-72, 155,179 in 1881 and 249,117 in 1901.

With India attaining independence on 15th August 1947, the district of Darjeeling remained in the partitioned section of Bengal (West Bengal) and therefore in the Indian union. With the district's sub-Himalayan and geographical condition, it occupied an unique status in the state. The only remaining industry, that is the Tea industry, continued to play a major role in the economy of the area and the country as well. The other natural wealth forests  have been adversely affected by the ever growing population, now estimated to be around 1,200,000. In the years since independence, much has been done for the area's education, communication, attention to cash crops like orange, potato, cardamom, ginger, etc.

Bamboo bridge
An old bamboo bridge over Rangeet river

On 29th May 1953 two men set foot on Mount Everest for the first time in history and one of them was Tenzing Norgay, from Darjeeling. Subsequently, this historical event led to the formation of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. Of the old heritage the Toy Train (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) is now listed under UNESCO's world heritage.

Since the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in 1988 the hill areas fall under its jurisdiction. It has elected Councillors and they have the authority in managing certain affairs of the hill like education, tourism, health etc.

Copyright 2000 all photos : Das Studio, Darjeeling
Copyright 2000 : darjnet.com, Darjeeling
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