The name ‘Darjeeling’ came from the Tibetan words, ‘dorje’ meaning thunderbolt (originally the scepter of Indra) and ‘ling’ a place or land, hence ‘the land of the thunderbolt’. It is internationally renowned as a tourist destination along with its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The development of the town dates back to the mid 19th century, when the British set up a sanatorium and a military depot. Subsequently extensive tea plantation was done
Captain Herbert, the Deputy Surveyor General, was sent to Darjeeling to examine the area. The court of Directors of the British East India Company approved the project. General Lloyd was given the responsibility to negotiate a lease of the area from the Chogyal of Sikkim. The lease as per the Deed of Grant was granted on 1 February 1835.
Thus, Darjeeling was gifted to the Britishers. This was an unconditional cessation of what was then a worthless uninhabited mountain. The land gifted to East India Co. in 1835 did not comprise the whole present Darjeeling. It was narrow enclave of 138 square miles, about 30 miles long and 6 miles wide. It was entirely surrounded by the Raja’s dominions – entry and exit being restricted to a narrow path, which included the sites of Darjeeling and Kurseong towns and touched the plains near Pankhabari. What the Raja got in return immediately was a gift parcel – one double barreled gun, one rifle, one 20 yards of red-broad cloth, 2 pairs of shawl- one superior quality and the other of inferior quality.
In 1839 Dr. Campbell, the Br. Resident in Nepal was transferred to Darjeeling as Superintendent. He devoted himself to the task of developing the station, attracting immigrants to cultivate the mountain slopes and stimulating trade and commerce. Dr. Campbell brought Chinese tea seeds in 1841 from the Kumaon region and started growing tea on an experimental basis near his residence at Beech wood, Darjeeling. This experiment was followed by similar efforts by several other Britishers. The experiments were successful and soon several tea estates started operating commercially.
Today there are 86 tea estates which produce Darjeeling tea and has received the UNSECO status, it cannot be produced anywhere else in the world just like the champagne of France. Hence it is limited and valuable. The annual production of Darjeeling tea is approx 10 million kgs and exported all over the world with some teas fetching price over Rs 20,000 a kg in the international market.
Tourism has also seen a growth in equivalent proportions. The majestic sight of Kanchenjunga with snow covered peaks and tall coniferous trees abound Darjeeling and the chill climate mingled with these sights are unforgettable. It is the aura of this hill station that draws you mysteriously again and again. No wonder in India it has been called the “Queen of all the hill stations”. British architecture and the mall roads with tall heritage clock tower draws you back into medieval history. Today Darjeeling is visited with above 1 lac inbound foreign tourists and 3 lacs domestic tourists annually. The tourists are spell bound with the virgin greenery still visible in this part of the Himalayas. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the highest railway station in the world has been accorded a UNESCO World heritage site, another major tourist attraction more internationally than domestically. The upper Darjeeling abounds in rich flora like rhododendrons, magnolias, orchids etc. About six hundred different species of birds inhabit the forests. Darjeeling is blessed with extreme natural beauty. A place you just cannot afford to miss.