Darjeeling Travel Guide

History


The history of Darjeeling is intertwined with that of Bengal, Bhutan,

Sikkim and Nepal.Until the early 19th century, the area around

Darjeeling was ruled intermittently by the kingdoms of Bengal,Nepal and

Sikkim,[2] with settlement consisting of a few villages of Lepcha

woodspeople. In 1828, a delegation of British East India Company

officials on their way to Sikkim stayed in Darjeeling and decided that

the region was a suitable site for a sanatorium for British

soldiers.[4][5] The Company negotiated a lease of the area from the

Chogyal of Sikkim in 1835. Arthur Campbell, a surgeon with the

Company and Lieutenant Napier (later Lord Napier of Magdala) were given

the responsibility to establish a hill station there.

The British established experimental tea plantations in Darjeeling in

1841. The success of these experiments led to the development of tea

estates all around the town in the second half of the 19th century.

Darjeeling was included by the British Indian Empire a few years after

an incident of discord between Sikkim and the Company in 1849.

During this time, immigrants mainly from Nepal, were recruited to work

at constr Scottish missionaries undertook the construction of

schools and welfare centres for the British residents, laying the

foundation for Darjeeling's high reputation as a centre of education.

The opening of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1881 hastened the

development of the region. In 1898, Darjeeling was rocked by a major

earthquake (known as the "Darjeeling disaster") that caused severe

damage to the town and the native population.
Darjeeling War Memorial

Under British rule, the Darjeeling area was initially a "Non-Regulation

District" (a scheme of administration applicable to economically less

advanced districts in the British Raj[10]) — acts and regulations of

the British Raj did not automatically apply to the district in line

with rest of the country. As a consequence of the 1905 Partition of

Bengal, the area came under the jurisdiction of the Rajshahi

division[11] and was placed in the newly created province of East

Bengal and Assam. Darjeeling at this arrangement, started being ruled

under the Rangpur District Administration of the modern Bangladesh.

Later in 1919, the area was declared a "backward tract".

Darjeeling's elite residents were the British ruling class of the time,

who visited Darjeeling every summer. An increasing number of well-to-do

Indian residents of Kolkata (then Calcutta), affluent Maharajas of

princely states and land-owning zamindars also began visiting

Darjeeling.[12] The town continued to grow as a tourist destination,

becoming known as the "Queen of the Hills". The town did not see

any significant political activity during the freedom struggle of India

owing to its remote location and small population. However, there was a

failed assassination attempt by revolutionaries on Sir John Anderson,

the Governor of Bengal in the 1930s.


After the independence of India in 1947, Darjeeling was merged with the

state of West Bengal. The separate district of Darjeeling was

established consisting of the hill towns of Darjeeling, Kurseong,

Kalimpong and some parts of the Terai region. When the People's

Republic of China annexed Tibet in 1950, thousands of Tibetan refugees

settled across Darjeeling district. A diverse ethnic population gave

rise to socio-economic tensions, and the demand for the creation of the

separate states of Gorkhaland and Kamtapur along ethnic lines grew

popular in the 1980s.
The G.N.L.F. flag.

The issues came to a head after a 40-day strike called by the Gorkha

National Liberation Front, during which violence gripped the city,

causing the state government to call in the Indian Army to restore

order. Political tensions largely declined with the establishment of

the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council under the chairmanship of Subash

Gishing. The DGHC was given semi-autonomous powers to govern the

district. Later its name was changed to "Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous

Hill Council" (DGAHC). Though Darjeeling is now peaceful, the issue of

a separate state still lingers, supported by some non-violent political

parties such as Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.