Darjeeling Travel Guide
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, 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. 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) — 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 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. 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.