Kalimpong

From Gorkhapedia, the free Gorkha encyclopedia that anyone can edit

What is it? A Town
In the District of Darjeeling
In the State of West Bengal
In the Nation of India
Geographical Position Shiwalik Himalayas - Lower Himalayas
Geometric Position (Latitude and Longitude) 27.0667° N 88.4667° E
Area 3.5 Sq Miles
Elevation 1,247 m (4,091 ft)
Population 40, 143 (2001 Census)
Density 38.01 /km² (98 /sq mi)
Pin code 734 301
Telephone code +03552
Vehicle Registration Numbers WB-78, 791 GL - 03, GL -04
Climate Summer : 27°C Max - Min 17.2°C Winter : 15°C Max - Min 7.2 °C
Rainfall 86.20 inches annually
Best Season March to mid June & September to December
Clothing Tropical in summer and light woollen in winter
Languages Spoken English, Nepali, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Lepcha, Bhutia, Tamang
Administered by Sub Division Officer
P.T. Sherpa, WBCS (Exe) 03552-255264 (O) 03552-254265 (R) 03552-255280 (Fax) E-mail : ni.oc.oohay|gnopmilak_ods#ni.oc.oohay|gnopmilak_ods

INTRODUCTION

Kalimpong, the land of Orchids is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is located at 27.06° N 88.47° E and at an average elevation of 1,247 m (4,100 feet). The town is the headquarters of the Kalimpong subdivision, a part of the district of Darjeeling and the region administered by Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

Kalimpong is well known for its many educational institutions, which attract students from all over India, besides Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Kalimpong has today also become an important tourist destination owing to its temperate climate and proximity to popular tourist locations in the region. The town is famous for its flower market, especially the wide array of orchids. Several Buddhist monasteries which hold a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures known as Khangur are also present.

The precise etymology of the name Kalimpong however is still a mystery. In Tibetan language, Kalimpong means "Assembly of the Ministers", derived from kalon "ministers" and pong "assembly". It Lapche it means "ridges where we play". Further in Nepali Kalibong means ‘the black spur’

According to K.P. Tamsang, author of The Untold and Unknown Reality, the term Kalimpong is deduced from the name Kalenpung, which in Lepcha means "Hillock of Assemblage"; in time, the name was distorted to Kaleebung and later corrupted to Kalimpong.


HISTORY

Present-day Kalimpong is believed to have once been the forward position of the Bhutanese in the 18th century, overlooking the Teesta Valley. The area was sparsely populated by the indigenous Lepcha community and migrant Bhutia and Limbu tribes. After the Anglo-Bhutan War in 1864, the Treaty of Sinchula (1865) was signed in which Bhutanese held territory east of the Teesta River was ceded to the British East India Company. At that time, Kalimpong was a hamlet, with only four families known to reside there. The first recorded mention of the town was a fleeting reference made that year by Ashley Eden, a government official with the Bengal Civil Service.

After the war, the region was made into a subdivision of the Western Duars district, and the following year it was merged with the district of Darjeeling. The temperate climate prompted the British to develop the town as an alternative hill station to Darjeeling, to escape the scorching summer heat in the plains. Kalimpong's proximity to the Nathula and Jelepla passes, offshoots of the ancient Silk Route, was an added advantage and it soon became an important trading outpost in the trade of furs, wools and food grains between India and Tibet. The increase in population attracted large numbers of migrants from Nepal, leading to a sudden population increase and economic prosperity.

The arrival of Scottish missionaries saw the construction of schools and welfare centres for the British. The Scottish University Mission Institution was the first to be opened in 1886, followed by the Kalimpong Girls High School. In 1900, Reverend JA Graham founded the Dr. Graham's Homes for destitute Anglo-Indian students. By 1907, most schools in Kalimpong also started offering education to Indian students. By 1911, the population had swelled to 7,880.

Following India's independence, Kalimpong came under the state of West Bengal, after Bengal was partitioned between India and Pakistan. With China's annexation of Tibet in 1959, many Buddhist monks fled Tibet and established monasteries in Kalimpong. These monks also brought many rare Buddhist scriptures with them. In 1962, the permanent closure of the Jelep la Pass after the Sino-Indian War led to a slowdown in Kalimpong's economy, which relied heavily in trade between Tibet and India. In 1976, the visiting Dalai Lama consecrated the Zang Dhok Palri Phodang monastery, which houses many of the scriptures.


GEOLOGY

The town centre is located on a ridge connecting two hills, Deolo Hill and Durpin Hill, at an elevation of 1,247 m (4,091 feet). Deolo, the highest point in Kalimpong, has an altitude of 1,704 m (5,590 feet) and Durpin Hill is at an elevation of 1,372 m (4,501 feet). The River Teesta flows in the valley below and separates Kalimpong from the state of Sikkim. The Shiwalik Hills, like most of the Himalayan foothills, have steep slopes and soft, loose topsoil, leading to frequent landslides in the monsoon season. The hills are nestled within higher peaks and the snow-clad Himalayan ranges tower over the town in the distance. Mount Kanchanjunga at 8,591 m (28,185 feet) the world's third tallest peak, is clearly visible from Kalimpong.


CLIMATIC CONDITIONS

Kalimpong has five distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter and the monsoons. Summers are mild, with the highs usually never crossing 30 °C (86 °F), and last between May and June. Summers are followed by the monsoon rains which lash the town between June and September. The monsoons are severe, often causing landslides which sequester the town from the rest of India. Winter lasts from December to February, with the maximum temperature being around 15 °C (59 °F). During the monsoon and winter seasons, Kalimpong is often enveloped by fog. The annual temperature ranges from a high of 30 °C to a low of −4 °C (25 °F).


FLORA AND FAUNA

Acacia is the most commonly found specie at lower altitudes, while Cinnamon, ficus, bamboo, cacti and Cardamom, are found in the hillsides around Kalimpong. The forests found at higher altitudes are made up of pine trees and other evergreen alpine vegetation. Seven species of rhododendrons are found in the region east of Kalimpong. The temperate deciduous forests include oak, birch, maple and alder. Three hundred species of orchid are found around Kalimpong, and Poinsettia and sunflower are some of the wild species that line the roads of Kalimpong.

The Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Clouded Leopard, Siberian Weasel, Asiatic black bear, barking deer, Himalayan Tahr, goral, gaur and pangolin are some of the fauna found near Kalimpong. Avifauna of the region include the Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Monal pheasant, hornbills, Black Baza, Besra, sparrow hawks and the Kalij Pheasant.

Kalimpong also has over forty-six nurseries which mainly cultivate gladioli which account for 80%of India's production of orchids, which are exported to many parts of the world. The Nature Interpretation Centre and the Rishi Bankim Chandra Park are two ecological museums within Kalimpong

TRAVELING UP TO KALIMPONG

Kalimpong is well connected by road to both Darjeeling and Siliguri. Around 18 km from Siliguri lies the nearest Airport at Bagdogra. Regular Flights are operated from here to the rest of the cities of the nation. Taxis and buses also ply regularly between Darjeeling and Kalimpong and Siliguri and Kalimpong. No prior reservations of any kind are required.


PLACES TO VISIT

MORGAN HOUSE

The Morgan House is the oldest Colonial bungalows in Kalimpong. It is currently under the West Bengal Tourist Development Corporation and it houses one of the well known Hotels in Kalimpong.
Dr. Graham’s Homes

Dr. J. A. Graham was one of the earliest Scottish missionaries to come to Kalimpong. He started St.Adrews Colonial Homes in 1900. The first cottage to house these children were built on the slopes of the Tripai Hill. But gradually the entire surrounding area was converted into a township which had its own cottages, farm, chapel, workshop, hospital, bakery, play ground, poultry, staff quarters, hostels etc. The present area of the school is over 400 acres. This orphanage cum school was originally named as “At. Andrews Colonial Homes’ and later renamed as Dr. Graham’s Homes.

ZANG DHOK PALRI PHODANG

Consecrated by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama in 1976, Zang Dhok Palri Phodang is the largest and the most beautiful monastery in Kalimpong. His Holiness himself presented 108 volumes of Kangyur. Being situated at the height of 1372 metres on the peak of the Durpin Dara, the monastery commands a majestic view of the surrounding areas as well as of the town of Kalimpong. On a clear day, a panoramic view of the Kanchanjunga and the adjacent peaks can be had from the roof of this Monastery.

DURPIN DARA

Durpin Dara provides a heart stopping view of the Teesta River and Teesta Valley. The sound of the river flowing below and amongst the beautiful forest all around makes this view point a great place for an excursion.

NATURE INTERPRETATION CENTRE

Also known as the ecological museum, this is situated just outside the town. It has been set up by the Forest Department.

ST TERESA'S CHURCH

St. Teresa’s Church is the largest Roman Catholic Church in Kalimpong. The paintings on the wall have a very distinct Tibetan Touch.

DEOLO LAKE

Situated at a height of 5500 feet, Deolo is the highest point in the Kalimpong town. The two water reservoirs at the Deolo Hill supply drinking water to the town. The view from Deolo hill is a fantastic one. One can see the entire Kalimpong town, the surrounding village and Relli valley on one side and on the other side the entire Teesta river, Teesta valley, surrounding villages of South Sikkim and the massive mountains of West Sikkim.

MANGAL DHAM

Mangal Dham is one of the most impressive of Hindu Temples in North Bengal. Belonging to the followers of Shri Krishna Pranami Dharma founded by Nijanandaacharya Shri Devchandraji Maharaj, this Temple spreads over an area of two acres.

On the ground floor of this temples lies the “Samadhi” of Guruji Shri Mangaldasji. The prayer hall is on the upper floor where the idols of Raj Shyamji, the revered Prannathji and Guru Mangaldasji are found side by side.

KALIMPONG HAAT BAZAAR (RAJA DORJI MARKET)

Best explored on foot, the main market place is a bustling beehive of human activity where vendors vie with each other to sell off their homegrown food produce. The ‘haat bazaar’ typifies the traditional open-air market, a venue where villagers from the surrounding area are allowed to set up temporary stalls.

THARPO CHOLING MONASTERY

A monastery of the Gelukpa sect built in 1937 with donations from Tibetan traders paying homage to the gods for safely having crossed the treacherous trails.

TONGSA GOMPA (MONASTERY)

The oldest monastery of Kalimpong built in 1692 by the Bhutanese during the occupation, and in their typical flavour.


TREKKING IN KALIMPONG

Trekking in the Kalimpong region can be the most pleasant and unforgettable holiday experience in one’s life. Kalimpong offers some of the most spectacular treks along the magnificently beautiful hills that surround it. The charm, beauty, mystery and adventure of the mighty hills slowly unfolds as one treks through the sleepy hamlets, dense forest and lush green fields. Unlike treks in the Darjeeling region or West Sikkim, which are more suited for the more hard-core trekking buffs, the treks in Kalimpong are more suited for the occasional or first time trekkers. The treks range from easy strolls in the country side to mild treks at the elevation of around 2500 mt to 3000 mts. All treks in Kalimpong are distinctly dissimilar to the treks in the other regions in the sense that the virginity of the forests is still intact and the remoteness of the various villages dotting these beautiful trekking routes is still present.

LAVA

Surrounded by virgin pine forests and often hidden in mists and clouds at an altitude of 2,350 meters, this small village lies 34 kilometers away from Kalimpong on the old trade route to Bhutan. It has a beautiful monastery of Bhutanese origin and a Nature Interpretation Centre. Popular for nature exploration and bird watching, it is also the starting point for treks into the Neora National Park, which abounds with floral and faunal wealth.

LOLAY GAON

Also called Kapher, it is 25 kilometers from Lava, along a lovely forest drive. It has a heritage forest and offers fine views of the snowy Singalila Range.

SAMTHAR PLATEAU

Scenic and remote, at an elevation of 1,400 meters, Samthar Plateau is 80 kilometers from Kalimpong, and 45 kilometers from Lava. It has breathtaking views of the snowy mountains, superb sunrise and sunset, picture post card hamlets, exotic flora, forests, mountain streams and river-pools, all far from the madding crowd. This is an area popular for nature hikes, angling, mountain biking and cultural explorations.

NEORA NATIONAL PARK

A 4-day trek through forests and exotic flora of the National Park, culminating in the ascent of the 3,152 meter Rache La tri-junction, to view the Chola Range. Other activities include nature and culture exploration of the Rishi Valley and remote waterfalls. Altogether, a memorable experience.

Bibliography
1. Fallen Cicada - Unwritten History of Darjeeling Hills
2. A guide to Darjeeling Hills by Barun Roy

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