Left to right from top: Darjeeling with Kangchenjunga behind; Darjeeling railway station; a tea garden
StateWest Bengal
Settled1815, Treaty of Sugauli
Founded byEast India Company
 • BodyDarjeeling Municipality
 • City10.60 km2 (4.09 sq mi)
 • Metro
12.77 km2 (4.93 sq mi)
Elevation2,042.16 m (6,700.00 ft)
 • City120,414
 • Density11,000/km2 (29,000/sq mi)
 • Metro
 • OfficialBengali and Nepali[3]
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)

Darjeeling (Bengali: [ˈdarˌdʒiliŋ], Nepali: [darˈd͡ziliŋ]) is a city and municipality in the Eastern Himalayas in India, lying at an elevation of 2,100 metres (7,000 ft) in the northernmost region of the state of West Bengal.[4] It is noted for its tea industry, scenic views of the world's third-highest mountain Kangchenjunga, and a narrow-gauge mountain railway, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Darjeeling is the headquarters of the Darjeeling district which has a partially autonomous status called Gorkhaland Territorial Administration within the state of West Bengal. It is also a popular tourist destination in India.

In the early 19th century during East India Company rule in India a sanatorium and a military depot were set up in the region. Subsequently, extensive tea plantations were established, the tea growers developing hybrids of black tea and creating new fermentation techniques. A distinctive Darjeeling tea emerged, which became internationally recognised and has ranked among the most popular black teas in the world.[5] The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connecting the town with the North Bengal plains was completed in 1881 and has some of the few remaining steam locomotives in service in India.

Darjeeling has several British-style private schools that attract pupils from India and neighbouring countries. The culture of the town reflects its diverse demographic milieu which comprises the Lepcha, Khampa, Kirati, Gorkha, Newari, Sherpa, Bhutia, Bengali[6] as well as other Indian ethno-linguistic groups. Darjeeling and nearby Kalimpong were the centres of the Gorkhaland movement in the 1980s.


The name Darjeeling acclaimed from the Tibetan words Dorje, which is the thunderbolt sceptre of the Hindu deity Indra, and ling, which means "a place" or "land".[7]


Main article: History of Darjeeling

1800–1857: East India Company rule

Darjeeling, part of the Gorkha Empire, 1805
Darjeeling, Nepal, Bengal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet

From precolonial times, Darjeeling, which is located in a geopolitical boundary region, had been the object of the longer-term aspirations and concerns of several South Asian states.[8] For much of the 18th century, the Chogyal-ruler of the Kingdom of Sikkim to the north had affirmed possession of the hills and valleys between the Mechi and Teesta rivers among which Darjeeling lies.[9] In the last decades of the century, the Gurkhas of Nepal made a military push to the east bringing Darjeeling into Gurkha Empire.[10] They stopped short of the Teesta river, the territory to its east remaining a part of the Kingdom of Bhutan.[11][12] British interference in territorial matters in the region began in the aftermath of the East India Company army's victory against the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepalese War, fought between 1814 and 1816. As a result of two treaties which concluded the war, the Treaty of Sugauli and the Treaty of Titalia, Nepal returned the Darjeeling area to Sikkim.[13]

In 1829, two East India Company officials, Captain George Lloyd and J. W. Grant, on their way to resolving a boundary dispute between Nepal and Sikkim, passed a crescent-shaped mountain ridge that they thought appropriate for a sanatorium resort.[14][15][16] Lord William Bentinck, the Governor-General of India, to whom Lloyd communicated his notion, concurred; Darjeeling, he felt, had a location ideal for British residents to periodically shelter and recuperate and for the military to have a small presence for monitoring the Himalayan frontier.[17] Taking the ambition forward, the Company negotiated a lease of a 24x6 mile strip of land in a grant deed from the Chogyal in 1835.[17] By the end of 1838, during the tenure of Bentinck's successor, Lord Auckland, grants of land were made, sappers from the army readied for clearing the woods, and construction planned in earnest after the monsoon rains.[18] The following year, Archibald Campbell, a physician, was made ‘superintendent’ of Darjeeling, two public buildings, a hotel and a courthouse, were raised.[18] Soon, work had begun on bungalows which conformed to British tastes.[17]

Turning Darjeeling into a resort required many more workers than could be recruited from the scattered local populations.[17] The British attracted workers from Sikkim, Nepal, and Bhutan, by offering regular wages, lodgings, and exemption from the burdensome tax and forced labour regimens characteristic of work in these kingdoms at the time.[17] Tens of thousands arrived in Darjeeling at first to work and eventually to settle, and to forever change the character of the population.[17] During this time trunk roads were constructed in British India,[a] including the Darjeeling Cart Road in Northern Bengal, connecting Siliguri at the base of the Himalayan foothills to Darjeeling.[19] In 1845, a hill cantonment for convalescing British soldiers was set up above Darjeeling at an altitude of 7,000 feet, but it proved too rainy, cold, and psychologically unsuitable; after a large number of suicides were witnessed among the patients, it was moved to Lebong 2,000 feet below.[20]

A traditional cane bridge over the Rangeet river, 1878
Darjeeling, Nainital, Simla, 1857

The foundations of Darjeeling's future commercial fame were laid in these years.[21] The East India Company, having lost its monopoly rights in the tea trade with China in 1833, was looking for alternative sources for tea.[21] A plan had been prepared during the Bentinck administration for growing it in India.[21] In 1840 Superintendent Campbell began an experimental plantation; others, who saw the results, joined in the experimentation.[21] The tea plant, it was established, flourished in Darjeeling. European planters and backers acquired large stretches of the surrounding hillside and converted them to what came to be called tea gardens.[22]

More migrant labour arrived in Darjeeling. Although the migrations were necessary for the rapid transformation of Darjeeling, they created a dormant hostility between the East India Company and the neighbouring Himalayan kingdoms, which considered the burgeoning drain on their labour supply to be wrongful.[17] By 1849 British relations with the kingdoms had worsened, leading to the alleged kidnapping of superintendent Campbell and the explorer and botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker.[17] Despite the two being released without harm, the British exploited the incident to annex some 1,700 square kilometres (640 sq mi) of territory between the Mechi and the Teesta rivers from Sikkim.[17] The town became a municipality in 1850.[23]

Darjeeling thus became a hill station, an official retreat for British administrators in a hilly region of India where the climate was temperate; the "station" was a military term for an administrative unit.[24] After the rule of the East India Company had spread to the greater part of Indian subcontinent, the British felt able to build these towns. Like Darjeeling, other hill stations such as Simla, Ooty, and Nainital were established between 1819 and the 1840s. The "hill" was somewhat of a misnomer,[24] as the towns were built on high mountain ridges or valleys, their sites, like Darjeeling's, having been identified by Company officials for particular strategic or commercial benefit. Simla, which later became the summer capital of India, Darjeeling, later the summer capital of the Bengal presidency,[25] and Nainital, the summer capital of the North-Western Provinces,[26] lay in the northern Himalayan tracts.[27] Ooty, which lay in peninsular India became the summer capital of the Madras presidency.[28]

1858–1947: British Raj

A group of Lepcha shingle cutters, 1870
Terai Tea Association plantation, 1860

Through the course of the 1850s and 1860s the tea industry in Darjeeling grew in size, totalling 56 tea gardens employing nearly 8,000 labourers by the two decades' end; by the turn of the 20th-century, there were 100 tea gardens employing an estimated 64,000 workers.[29] The widespread deforestation caused by the tea industry drastically affected the lives of the region's forest-dwellers, the Lepcha people, who were either forced to relocate to other forests or be employed in their former habitat in new colonial occupations.[30] To the mix of the forest dwellers recruited, which also included the local Limbu and Bhutia, and subjects from the surrounding kingdoms, more joined from across the Himalayas.[22] They brought languages, customs, and religious traditions, in turn becoming constituents of the distinctive ethnicity of Darjeeling.[22] Sharing a Himalayan heritage, they communicated with each other in the Nepali language.[22]

In the 1860s the Ganges-Darjeeling road was built from the vicinity of the Ganges river to Siliguri at the base of the Darjeeling hills.[31] During 1856–1857, a provisional plan had been prepared for a road starting at Caragola Ghat, facing a planned railway station at Pirpainti in Bhagalpur district in what is today Bihar and ending at Titalya (which was then in Siliguri district and now a district sub-unit in Bangladesh) where it was to connect to the existing Darjeeling Cart Road.[32] The metalled road was to be 108 miles long and work began in 1860.[33] The rationale was the convenience of travelers and soldiers.[33] Completed in six phases of respective lengths of 7 miles across the Ganges to Barari; 23 miles to Purnea; 10 miles to the Panar river; 10 miles to the Mahananda river; 18 miles to the Ramjan river; and the last 40 miles to Titalya, the highway included 2,505 running feet of bridges over waterways and 150 feet of culverts below.[33] An unmetalled communication road, 30 feet wide, raised well above the flood level, and bridged with masonry, ran alongside.[33] The existing Darjeeling cart road to which it joined was metalled between 1861 and 1866.[34]

Darjeeling Hill Road 19 1/2 miles below
Darjeeling Railway in a village, 1880

By the last decades of the 19th-century, large numbers of administrative officials of imperial and provincial governments were travelling to hill stations during the summers.[35] Commerce in the stations had grown as had the trade with locations in the plains.[35] When the Darjeeling Hill Road was completed in 1866, no rail line as yet connected Calcutta to northern Bengal.[35] After reaching the last train station, travellers needed to take boats and be carried in palanquins by four bearers on the 200-mile journey to Darjeeling which required two weeks to complete.[35] A train service to Darjeeling was announced in 1872, and by 1878 the train could take summer residents to Siliguri. Thereafter tonga horse-carriages on the Darjeeling Cart Road would cover the final stretch.[35] In 1880, the East Indian Railway Company Jamalpur Locomotive Workshop began to build steam locomotives for Siliguri–Darjeeling line.[35] Later, miniature steam engines made by Sharp, Stewart and Company of Manchester, were employed for pulling the train on a narrow-gauge of two feet.[35] The service to Darjeeling was opened in July 1881.[35] After reaching the Ghoom railway station at 7,500 feet above sea level the train made the final descent to Darjeeling.[35] Darjeeling was now within a day's travel from Calcutta.[35] The cost of the journey, which had been Rupees 176 in 1841 was to decline to Rupees 49 for a first-class coach by the early 20th century.[35] For many years the train had a monopoly on the import and export trade of Darjeeling town.[35]

After the Charter Act of 1833, which allowed unrestricted immigration into India, British women began to arrive in significantly large numbers.[36] Hill stations became popular summer destinations for women and children as colonial physicians began to recommend them for reasons of reproductive health.[37] As they were also thought to hold out hope for sickly children,[38] the British soon began to consider them promising sites for children's education.[39] The Societies Registration Act, 1860 offered state grants to Christian educational institutions of all denominations, but restricted enrollment in the hill stations to European children.[40] St Paul's an Anglican all-male school in Calcutta was moved to Darjeeling in 1864.[40] The Catholic Church opened St Joseph's College for boys in Darjeeling in 1888.[40] For girls, the Loreto Convent had been established before the British Raj; St. Helen's was established below Darjeeling in Kurseong in 1890; and the Calcutta Christian Schools Society established the Queen's Hill School in Darjeeling in 1895.[41] Anglo-Indians (of mixed British and Indian ancestry) were discouraged from attending these schools and Indians were just about prohibited until after the First World War. Some schools began to specialize in preparing children of the domiciled British of modest means in careers in provincial services, public works, surveys, and police.[42] St Joseph's, Darjeeling, took to placing students in the Thomason College of Civil Engineering in Roorkee,[43] originally established to train canal engineers.[44] As the needs of the less well-off children began to attract attention, the railway companies established schools for the children of their British and Anglo-Indian employees.[45] Notable among these was the Victoria School in Kurseong established in 1879.[46] Other schools for children of Europeans of modest means and Anglo-Indians were St Andrew's Colonial Homes established in 1900 in Kalimpong, another satellite town of Darjeeling, and Goethals Memorial School in Kurseong in 1907.[46]

St Joseph's College, est. 1888
Poet Rabindranath Tagore's house

Although princely states could not own property in Darjeeling, the restriction did not extend to Indian residents of British India, the regions administered by the British. By the turn of the 20th-century, Darjeeling had become a popular vacation destination for the Bengali upper classes many of whom had come to acquire the language, customs, and manners of the British. Wealthy zamindars such as the Raja of Darbhanga and Raja of Burdwan had built mansions in Darjeeling. The landowner and Bengali language poet, Rabindranath Tagore who would win the Nobel prize for literature in 1913, spent summers in Darjeeling or nearby Kalimpong. Famous barristers from Calcutta built summer homes in Darjeeling in the proximity of the British.[25] During the Indian independence movement, the Non-cooperation movement spread through the tea estates of Darjeeling.[47] There was also a failed assassination attempt by revolutionaries on John Anderson, the Governor of Bengal in 1934.[48] Subsequently, during the 1940s, communist activists continued the nationalist movement against the British by mobilising the plantation workers and the peasants of the district.[49]

1947 onwards: Independent India

Socio-economic problems of the region that had not been addressed during the British Raj continued to linger and were reflected in a representation made to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1947, which highlighted the issues of regional autonomy and Nepali nationality in Darjeeling and adjacent areas.[49] While the hill population comprised mainly ethnic Nepalis, the plains harboured a large ethnic Bengali population who were refugees from the Partition of India.[50] A cautious and non-receptive response by the West Bengal government to most demands of the ethnic Nepali population led to increased calls, in the 1950s and 1960s, for Darjeeling's autonomy and for the recognition of the Nepali language; the state government acceded to the latter demand in 1961.[51]

Nehru visiting Everest-hero Tenzing, Darjeeling, 1954
A poster of the Gorkhaland movement in Darjeeling, 10 February 2014

The creation of the new Indian state of Sikkim in 1975, along with the reluctance of the Government of India to recognise Nepali as an official language under the Constitution of India, brought the Gorkhaland movement to the forefront.[52] Agitation for a separate state continued through the 1980s,[53] and included violent protests during the period 1986–88. The agitation ceased only after an agreement between the government and the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), resulting in the establishment of an elected body in 1988 called the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), which received autonomy to govern the district. Though Darjeeling became peaceful, the issue of a separate state lingered, fuelled in part by the lack of comprehensive economic development in the region even after the formation of the DGHC.[54] New protests erupted in 2008–09, but both the Union and State governments rejected Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's (GJM) demand for a separate state.[55] In July 2011, a pact was signed between GJM, the Government of West Bengal and the Government of India which includes the formation of a new autonomous, elected Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), a hill council endowed with more powers than its predecessor Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.[56] However, political stability in the region remained elusive due to recurrent internal dispute among GJM leaders,[57] capricious alliance building with national-level political parties (Trinamul Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party),[58][59] and occasional–sometimes violent–protests demanding creation of separate Gorkhaland.[60][61][62] The Darjeeling Municipal election of March 2022 was won by the Hamro Party, a new political party which did not campaign for a separate Gorkhaland.[63]


Darjeeling is the main town of the Sadar subdivision and also the headquarters of the district. It is located at an elevation of 2,000 m (6,700 ft)[2] in the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region on the Darjeeling-Jalapahar range that originates in the south from Ghum. The range is Y-shaped with the base resting at Katapahar and Jalapahar and two arms diverging north of the Observatory Hill. The north-eastern arm dips suddenly and ends in the Lebong spur, while the north-western arm passes through North Point and ends in the valley near Tukver Tea Estate.[64] The hills are nestled within higher peaks and the snowcapped Himalayan ranges tower over the town at distance. Kangchenjunga, the world's third-highest peak at 8,598 m (28,209 ft), is the most prominent mountain visible. On clear days Nepal's Mount Everest, 8,848.86 m (29,031.7 ft), Lhotse at 8,516 m (27,940 ft) and Makalu at 8,485 m (27,838 ft) can be seen from Tiger Hill.[65]

The hills of Darjeeling are part of the Lesser Himalaya. The soil is chiefly composed of sandstone and conglomerate formations, which are the solidified and upheaved detritus of the great range of Himalaya. However, the soil is often poorly consolidated (the permeable sediments of the region do not retain water between rains) and is not considered suitable for agriculture. The area has steep slopes and loose topsoil, leading to frequent landslides during the monsoons. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the city falls under seismic zone-IV, (on a scale of I to V, in order of increasing proneness to earthquakes) near the convergent boundary of the Indian and the Eurasian tectonic plates and is subject to frequent earthquakes.[65]


Darjeeling has a temperate climate (Köppen: Cwb,[66] subtropical highland climate) with wet summers caused by monsoon rains.[67]

According to India Meteorological Department, Darjeeling's annual mean maximum temperature is 17.2 °C (63.0 °F) while the mean minimum temperature is 8.5 °C (47.3 °F).[68] The lowest temperature ever recorded was −7.2 °C (19.0 °F) on 30 January 1971 while the highest temperature rose to 28.5 °C (83.3 °F) on 21 August 1970.[68] The average annual precipitation is 2,380 mm (94 in), with an average of 105 days of rain in a year.[68] The highest rainfall occurs in July.[69][66] The heavy and concentrated rainfall that is experienced in the region, aggravated by deforestation and haphazard planning, often causes devastating landslides, leading to loss of life and property.[70][71] Snowfall is rare, and the town can go many years without any snow.[72][73][74][75]

Climate data for Darjeeling (1981–2010, extremes 1901–2012)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 19.0
Mean maximum °C (°F) 15.1
Average high °C (°F) 10.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 6.1
Average low °C (°F) 1.5
Mean minimum °C (°F) −0.5
Record low °C (°F) −7.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 13.5
Average rainy days 1.1 1.5 2.8 6.8 10.5 18.8 22.9 21.7 14.9 2.9 0.6 0.7 105.3
Average relative humidity (%) (at 17:30 IST) 81 78 75 78 88 93 94 92 90 84 75 74 84
Mean monthly sunshine hours 167.4 141.3 145.7 147.0 151.9 72.0 77.5 102.3 96.0 167.4 189.0 189.1 1,646.6
Mean daily sunshine hours 5.4 5.0 4.7 4.9 4.9 2.4 2.5 3.3 3.2 5.4 6.3 6.1 4.5
Average ultraviolet index 5 6 9 11 13 15 15 14 12 9 6 4 10
Source 1: India Meteorological Department[69][76] UV Index[77]
Source 2: Deutscher Wetterdienst (sun 1891–1990)[78]

Flora and fauna

A Red panda (Ailurus fulgens) in the Darjeeling zoo

Darjeeling is a part of the Eastern Himalayan zoo-geographic zone.[79] Flora around Darjeeling comprises sal, oak, semi-evergreen, temperate and alpine forests.[80] Dense evergreen forests of sal and oak lie around the town, where a wide variety of rare orchids are found. The Lloyd's Botanical Garden preserves common and rare species of plants, while the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park specialises in conserving and breeding endangered Himalayan species.[81] The town of Darjeeling and surrounding region face deforestation due to increasing demand for wood fuel and timber, as well as air pollution from increasing vehicular traffic.[82]

Forests and wildlife in the district are managed and protected by the Divisional Forest Officer of the Territorial and Wildlife wing of the West Bengal Forest Department.[79] The fauna found in Darjeeling includes several species of ducks, teals, plovers and gulls that pass Darjeeling while migrating to and from Tibet.[83] Small mammals found in the region include small Indian civets, mongooses and badgers.[84] TA conservation centre for red pandas opened at Darjeeling Zoo in 2014, building on a prior captive breeding program.[85] The Himalayan newt Tylotriton verrucosus, one of two salamander species occurring in India, is found in wetlands in the vicinity.[86] The Himalayan relict dragonfly Epiophlebia laidlawi, one of just four species in the family Epiophlebiidae was first described from the region.[87]

Civic administration

Darjeeling Municipality Building
Darjeeling Municipality Building

The Darjeeling urban agglomeration consists of Darjeeling Municipality and the Tukvar Tea Garden (Tukvar valley).[88] Established in 1850, the Darjeeling municipality maintains the civic administration of the town, covering an area of 10.60 km2 (4.09 sq mi).[1][88] The municipality consists of a board of councillors elected from each of the 32 wards of Darjeeling town as well as a few members nominated by the state government. The board of councillors elects a chairman from among its elected members;[64] the chairman is the executive head of the municipality. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) hoeld power in the municipality until March 2022,[89] when it was defeated by Hamro Party, a new political outfit.[63]

From 1988 to 2012, the Gorkha-dominated hill areas of Darjeeling district were under the jurisdiction of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).[90] In 2012, the DGHC was replaced by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA). The elected members of GTA manage certain affairs of the hills, including education, industry and land revenue; however they cannot legislate or levy taxes.[91] Law and order in Darjeeling town comes under the jurisdiction of the district police force, which is a part of the West Bengal Police; a Deputy Superintendent of Police oversees the town's security and law affairs. Darjeeling municipality area has two police stations at Darjeeling and Jorebungalow.[92]


Main article: Demographics of Darjeeling

Historical populations[64]
Population Growth (%)

1901 17,000
1911 19,000 12.3
1921 22,000 17.1
1931 21,000 -4.8
1941 27,000 28.5
1951 34,000 23.4
1961 41,000 21.0
1971 43,000 5.5
1981 58,000 34.4
1991 71,000 24.1
2001 103,000 44.6
2011 132,016 28.2

According to provisional results of the 2011 census of India, Darjeeling urban agglomeration has a population of 132,016, out of which 65,839 were males and 66,177 were females. The sex ratio is 1,005 females per 1,000 males. The 0–6 years population is 7,382. Effective literacy rate for the population older than 6 years is 93.17 per cent.[93] According to the 2001 census, the Darjeeling urban agglomeration, with an area of 12.77 km2 (4.93 sq mi), had a population of 109,163, while the municipal area had a population of 107,530.[88] The population density of the municipal area was 10,173 inhabitants per square kilometre (26,350/sq mi). The sex ratio was 1,017 females per 1,000 males,[88] which was higher than the national average of 933 females per 1000 males.[94]

Gorkha is a term that denotes Nepali-speaking people.[95] In Darjeeling, Gorkhas form the majority of population and includes several ethnic groups such as the Chhetri, Gurung, Limbu, Magar, Newars,[6] Rai, Sherpa,[6] Tamang, Yolmo, Sunuwar along with other denominations under the Indo-Aryan Khas; the Tibeto-Burman ethnic groupd include Kirati, Lepcha and Bhutia.[96] Other communities that inhabit Darjeeling include the Anglo-Indians, Bengalis, Biharis, Chinese, Marwaris, Rajbanshis and Tibetans. Nepali is the lingua franca of Darjeeling;[97] other languages used include Hindi, Bengali and English. Bengali is prevalent in the plains while Tibetan is used by the refugees and some tribal people.[6] Dzongkha is spoken by the Bhutias and the Tibetans. The predominant religions of Darjeeling are Hinduism and Buddhism, followed by Christianity.[98][99] Darjeeling has seen a significant growth in its population, its decadal growth rate being 47% between 1991 and 2001.[88] Population growth and increasing tourist traffic created extensive infrastructural and environmental problems; forests and other natural wealth have been adversely affected.[100]

Civil utilities

Natural springs in the Senchal Range provide most of Darjeeling's water supply. Water collected is routed through stone conduits to two lakes that were constructed in 1910 and 1932, from where it is piped to the town after purification at the Jorebungalow filtration plant.[101] During the dry season, when water supplied by springs is insufficient, water is pumped from Khong Khola, a nearby small perennial stream.[102] Increasing demand has led to a worsening shortfall in water supply;[103] just over 50% of the town's households are connected to the municipal water supply system.[64] The rest has to share water from community faucets, or collect water from natural springs.[104] Various efforts made to augment the water supply, including the construction of a third storage reservoir in 1984, have failed to yield desired results.

The town has an underground sewage system, covering about 40% of the town area, that collects domestic waste and conveys it to septic tanks for disposal.[105] Solid waste is disposed of in a nearby dumping ground, which also houses the town's crematorium.[105] Doorstep collection of garbage and segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste have been implemented since 2003.[106] Vermicomposting of vegetable waste is carried out with the help of non-governmental organisations.[107] In June 2009, in order to reduce waste, the municipality proposed a ban on plastic carrier bags and sachets in the town.[108]

From 1897 to the early 1990s, Darjeeling was powered by hydroelectricity from the nearby Sidrapong Hydel Power Station, and it was the first town in India supplied with hydropower. Today, electricity is supplied by the West Bengal State Electricity Board from other locations. The town often suffers from power outages and the electrical supply voltage is unstable, making voltage stabilisers popular with many households. Almost all of the primary schools are now maintained by Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. The total length of all types of roads within the municipal area is around 134 km (83 mi).[109] The West Bengal Fire Service provides emergency services for the town


Picking tea leaves in the traditional fashion
A tea factory in Darjeeling

The two most significant contributors to Darjeeling's economy are tourism and the tea industry. Darjeeling tea, due to the unique agro-climatic conditions of Darjeeling, has a distinctive natural flavour, is internationally reputed and recognised as a geographical indicator. The office of the Darjeeling Indian Tea Association (DITA) is located at Darjeeling.[5] Darjeeling produces 7% of India's tea output, approximately 9,000,000 kilograms (20,000,000 lb) every year.[55] The tea industry has faced competition in recent years from tea produced in other parts of India as well as other countries like Nepal.[110] Widespread concerns about labour disputes, worker layoffs and closing of estates have affected investment and production.[111][112] Several tea estates are being run on a workers' cooperative model, while others are being planned for conversion into tourist resorts.[111] Women are preferentially employed for plucking tea leaves, and constitute more than half of tea plantation workers.[112][113] Besides tea, widely cultivated crops include maize, millets, paddy, cardamom, potato and ginger.[114]

Darjeeling had become an important tourist destination as early as 1860.[23] It is reported to be the only location in eastern India that witnesses large numbers of foreign tourists.[55] 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.[55][115] Since 2012, Darjeeling has once again witnessed a steady inflow of both domestic and international tourists. As of 2015, around 50,000 foreign and 500,000 domestic tourists visit Darjeeling each year,[116] and its repute as the "Queen of the Hills" lives on.[117] According to an India Today survey published on 23 December 2015, Darjeeling is the third most Googled travel destination in India.[118] It is also a popular filming destination for Bollywood and Bengali cinema. Noted Bengali film director Satyajit Ray shot his film Kanchenjungha (1962) here. Bollywood movies such as Aradhana (1969), Main Hoon Na (2004), Parineeta (2005) and Barfi! (2012) were partially shot in the town.[119][120]


Main article: Transport in Darjeeling

The narrow gauge train often crisscrosses the street.
The narrow gauge train often crisscrosses the street.

Darjeeling can be reached by the 88 km (55 mi) long Darjeeling Himalayan Railway from New Jalpaiguri, or by National Highway 110, from Siliguri, 77 km (48 mi) away.[121][122] The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a 600 mm (2 ft) narrow-gauge railway that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 for being "an outstanding example of the influence of an innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multi-cultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world",[123] becoming only the second railway in the world to have this honour.[124][119] The train service is popularly known as the "toy train".[125][125] Bus services and hired vehicles connect Darjeeling with Siliguri; Darjeeling has road connections with Bagdogra, Gangtok and Kathmandu and the neighbouring towns of Kurseong and Kalimpong.[121] However, road and railway communications often get disrupted in the monsoons because of landslides.[126][127] The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport, located 90 km (56 mi) from Darjeeling.[121] Within the town, people usually traverse by walking. Residents also use two-wheelers and hired taxis for travelling short distances. The Darjeeling Ropeway, functional since 1968, was closed in 2003 after an accident killed four tourists.[128] It reopened in February 2012.[129]


Main article: Culture of Darjeeling

Colourful Buddhist prayer flags around Mahakal Temple at Observatory Hill, Darjeeling
Colourful Buddhist prayer flags around Mahakal Temple at Observatory Hill, Darjeeling

The culture of Darjeeling is diverse and includes a variety of indigenous practices and festivals, and has a regional distinctness from the rest of India.[29] Dashain (Vijayadashami), Tihar (Diwali), Holi, Lakshmi Puja,[130] Maghe Sankranti,[131] Losar, Buddha Jayanti, Christmas are major festivals. Tibetan Buddhism is followed by some ethnic groups such as Tibetans, Lepchas, Bhutias, Sherpas, Yolmos, Gurungs, and Tamangs; their common festivals are the Tibetan new year festival Losar,[132] Saga Dawa and Tendong Lho Rumfaat.[133][134] The Kirati ethnic group Rais, Limbus, Sunuwars and Yakkhas celebrate Udhauli and Ubhauli their main festival.[135] Popular icons of Hindu pantheon such as Durga, Kali, Shiva are worshipped by Hindus; in addition, there are deities which have both Hindu and Buddhist influences, such as Manjushri and Macchindranāth, popular among Newar people, and Gorakhnath, worshipped by Gorkhas.[132] The Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism, prevalent in the area is noted for importance of gompa or monasteries in community life of the followers.[132] Mixing and inter-marriage between ethnic groups have led to hybrid cultural forms and practices.[29] Darjeeling Carnival, initiated by a civil society movement known as The Darjeeling Initiative, is a ten-day carnival held yearly during the winter with portrayal of the Darjeeling Hill's musical and cultural heritage as its central theme.[136] Western music is popular among the younger generation, and Darjeeling is a major centre of Nepali rock music.

Momos in a roadside stall
Fermented Tongba

A popular food in Darjeeling is the momo, a steamed dumpling containing pork, beef, chicken or vegetables (cabbage or potatoes) cooked in a doughy wrapping and served with watery soup. Wai-Wai, originally a product of Nepal, is a packaged snack consisting of noodles which are eaten either dry or in soup form. Churpee, a kind of hard cheese made from cow's or yak's milk is sometimes chewed. A form of Tibetan noodle called thukpa, served in soup form is also popular in Darjeeling. There are a large number of restaurants which offer a wide variety of traditional Indian, continental and Chinese cuisines to cater to the tourists. Other popular foods are Kinema, Gundruk and Sha phaley.[137] Fermented foods and beverages are consumed by a large percentage of the population.[138] Fermented foods include preparations of soybean, bamboo shoots, milk and Sel roti, which is made from rice. [139] Tea (especially butter tea, made with brick tea, butter, water, milk and salt) is a popular delicacy.[137] Alcoholic beverages include Tongba, Jnaard (pronounced as Jaar) and Chhaang, variations of a local beer made from fermenting finger millet.[137][140][141] Football is the most popular sports in Darjeeling where annual Gold Cup tournament used to be a favorite event in the hills. An improvised form of ball made of rubber bands is often used for playing in the steep streets, and is known as Chungi.[142][143]

Some notable places to visit include the Tiger Hill, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, monasteries and the tea gardens. The town attracts trekkers and sportsmen seeking to explore the Himalayas, serving as the starting point for climbing attempts on some Indian and Nepali peaks. Tenzing Norgay, one of the two men to first climb Mount Everest, spent most of his adult life in the Sherpa community in Darjeeling. His success provided the impetus to establish the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling in 1954. In the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center, Tibetan crafts like carpets, wood and leather work are displayed. Colonial architecture is exemplified in Darjeeling by cottages, Gothic churches,[144] Planters' Club,[145] the Raj Bhawan and various educational institutions.[146][147] Several monasteries like Ghoom Monastery (8 km or 5 miles from the town), Bhutia Busty monastery, Mag-Dhog Yolmowa preserve ancient Buddhist scripts. A Peace Pagoda was built in 1992 by the Japanese Buddhist organisation Nipponzan Myohoji.[148] The Mahakal Temple on Observatory Hill is a pilgrimage site for Hindu and Buddhists.[149]


Primary school children in Darjeeling, 1976
Primary school children in Darjeeling, 1976

Darjeeling's schools are either run by the state government or by private and religious organisations. Schools mainly use English and Nepali as their medium of instruction, although the India's official language Hindi and the state's language Bengali are also emphasized. The schools are either affiliated with the ICSE, the CBSE, or the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. During the British Raj, both parochial schools and public schools on the model of British public schools were established in Darjeeling, allowing the children of domiciled Europeans,[150] Anglo-Indians and a few Indians to obtain an exclusive education.[151] Institutions such as St. Paul's School, Loreto Convent, St. Joseph's School and Mount Hermon School attract students from all over India and South Asia. Many schools still adhere to the traditions from its British and colonial heritage. Darjeeling hosts three colleges — St. Joseph's College, Loreto College (now Southfield College)[152] and Darjeeling Government College — all affiliated to University of North Bengal in Siliguri.


  1. ^ The longest, the Grand Trunk Road, connected Calcutta in the east to Peshawar in the west.[19]


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  9. ^ Shneiderman & Middleton 2018, p. 5 Throughout much of the eighteenth century, the territory between the Mechi and Teesta rivers was claimed by the Chogyal of Sikkim.
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Further reading

  • Bradnock, R (2004). Footprint India Handbook (13th ed.). Footprint Handbooks. ISBN 978-1-904777-00-7.
  • Brown, Percy (1917). Tours in Sikhim and the Darjeeling District (3rd (1934) ed.). Calcutta: W. Newman & Co. p. 223. ASIN B0008B2MIY.
  • Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2011). China's Ancient Tea Horse Road. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B005DQV7Q2
  • Koehler, Jeff (2014). Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World's Greatest Tea. New York, London, New Delhi, Sydney: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781620405147.
  • Lee, Ada (1971). The Darjeeling disaster: Triumph through sorrow: the triumph of the six Lee children. Lee Memorial Mission. ASIN B0007AUX00.
  • Marshal, Julie G. (2005). Britain and Tibet 1765–1947: A select annotated bibliography of British relations with Tibet and the Himalayan states including Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-415-33647-3.
  • Newman's Guide to Darjeeling and Its Surroundings, Historical & Descriptive, with Some Account of the Manners and Customs of the Neighbouring Hill Tribes, and a Chapter on Thibet and the Thibetans. W. Newman and Co. 1900.
  • Ronaldshay, The Earl of (1923). Lands of the Thunderbolt. Sikhim, Chumbi & Bhutan. London: Constable & Co. ISBN 81-206-1504-2.
  • Roy, Barun (2003). Fallen Cicada - Unwritten History of Darjeeling Hills (2003 ed.). Beacon Publication. p. 223. ISBN 978-81-223-0684-2.
  • Saraswati, Baidyanath, ed. (1998). Cultural Dimension of Ecology. DK Print World Pvt. Ltd, India. ISBN 978-81-246-0102-0.
  • Sen, Debrati (2017). Everyday Sustainability: Gender Justic and Fair Trade Tea in Darjeeling. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 9781438467139. LCCN 2016054530.
  • Singh, S. (2006). Lonely Planet India (11th ed.). Lonely Planet Publications. ISBN 978-1-74059-694-7.
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