|Facts and Figures|
|Languages||Bengali, Nepali, Hindi and English|
|Best time to visit||April-June|
THE TRANQUIL HILL STATION
The first thing that strikes the traveler visiting Kalimpong is its quiet atmosphere. The peaceful ambience that pervades is heightened by the presence of monasteries and churches across the town. Kalimpong is also known for its bustling bazaars and traditional handicrafts. It is famous for its orchids and nurseries. Kalimpong offers panoramic view of the great Himalayan ranges that lie beyond it.
Kalimpong is located in the northern part of the state of West Bengal, in the northeastern region of India. It is adjacent to the state of Sikkim and near the Teesta River. It is set amongst the foothills of the mighty Himalayas at an altitude of 1250 m above sea level. Kalimpong is 50 km from Darjeeling and 80 km from Gangtok. The weather in Kalimpong is alpine. Summers (April-June) are mild and winters are cold (November-February). It experiences southwestern monsoon rains in July-September.
The best time to visit Kalimpong is during summer.
The etymology of Kalimpong has several interpretations. According to one view, Kalimpong means a place where tribesmen gather and organize traditional tribal games. The second view suggests that the name has been derived from a place in Bhutan. A third interpretation is that Kalimpong is named after Kaulim, a fibrous plant found in abundance in this region.
Until the 18th century ad, Kalimpong was a part of the Kingdom of Sikkim and was ruled by Sikkimese rulers. It was then taken over by the Bhutanese. In the 19th century, the British took over Kalimpong and merged into the present Indian state of West Bengal.
There are a number of places of tourist interest in Kalimpong. Kalimpong has three important gompas or monasteries: the Tharpa Choeling Gompa, the Tongsa Gompa and Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa. The Tharpa Choeling Gompa was established in 1922 and belongs to the Yellow Hat (Gelukpa) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. His Highness the Dalai Lama also belongs to this sect, which was founded in the 14th century in Tibet. The Tongsa Gompa is located near the Tharpa Choeling Gompa. It is the oldest monastery in Kalimpong and was founded in 1692. The present building is constructed over the ruins of the original monastery, which was raised by the Gurkhas, in the pre-British era. The Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa was built in the mid-1970s on Durpin Hill and is located 5 km south from the town center. It was consecrated by His Highness the Dalai Lama. This monastery is famous for its traditional Tibetan wall paintings.
Kalimpong is an important flower producing center and it produces 80% of the total gladioli produced in India. There are numerous nurseries in Kalimpong, which excel in production of orchids. Travelers can visit some important nurseries across the town and look at their collection of flowers, orchids and cacti.
Other places to visit in Kalimpong include the Sericulture Research Institute, Dr Graham’s Home and the adjoining chapel (located on the slopes of Deolo Hill), and the Nature Interpretation Center (located on Rinkingpong road).
Teesta Bazaar, located 16 km from Kalimpong, is an important place for whitewater rafting. The rafting season is between mid-November to mid-February. The small village of Lava, located at 2,353 m above sea level and about 30 km east of Kalimpong, is an important place to visit. Kagyupa Gompa is located here.
The village of Kaffer, located at 1555 m above sea level, is beyond Lava and one can have magnificent view of the summit of Kanchenjunga from here. The Samco Ropeway across the Teesta River, on the main Siliguri-Gangtok road is an important attraction near Kalimpong. One has to take a bus for Siliguri from Kalimpong in order to visit this ropeway en route.
From Kalimpong it is possible to go to visit Phuntsholing across the Bhutanese border, without a visa.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS
Kalimpong hosts an annual flower festival in the month of October.
Markets in Kalimpong, which are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, are good places for the souvenir hunter. Kalimpong offers a wide range of traditional handicrafts to the traveler. Woodcarvings, embroidered items, bags and purses with tapestry work, copperware, scrolls, Tibetan jewelry and artifacts can be picked up from the shops and markets across the town.
HOW TO REACH
The nearest airport is at Bagdogra and the nearest railhead at Siliguri. The main bus and jeep station is located on Ongden Road. There is jeep service between Kalimpong and Darjeeling (3 hours). However, bus service between these two towns is not so good. Buses and jeeps can be taken to go to Siliguri (3 hours). There are few buses to Gangtok and Bagdogra. From the Indian Airlines Office (Ph: 55241), located on the Main Road, travelers can book tickets for Indian Airlines flights scheduled from Bagdogra. Travelers can also book tickets for Royal Nepal Airlines flights scheduled from Bagdogra.
The blending of different cultures has left a mark on the cuisine of Kalimpong. The influence of the Jesuits is evident from the local Kalimpong cheese and Kalimpong lollipops, which are a specialty of this town. Kalimpong is known for its Nepalese cuisine and Tibetan dishes. Gundruk, a popular Nepali dish, is very popular, so are the mouthwatering Tibetan momos and thoopa.
During the 17th century, driven by unsettled political conditions, some Rajput families from Rewari (in present day Haryana) fled their homes. They took refuge in the lower Himalayas, finally settling down at a village called Kasul where there was a perennial spring of fresh water. Today, some three centuries later, the spring is the site of a water reservoir and Kasul has grown into the delightful little hill station of Kasauli. But some locals would believe that Kasauli comes from Kausalya, a mountain stream that flows between Kasauli and Jabli. The name might even have been derived from Kusmawali or Kusmali, meaning flower maiden. Given the abundance with which the hills of Kasauli bloom from spring to autumn, this could well be the truth.
The calm and peaceful air of Kasauli belies any sense of history. Yet this region was in the thick of the westward Gurkha expansion, stemmed with some difficulty by the joint efforts of the British and some local chieftains, in 1814. The Gurkha ceded the fort at Sabathu and this was turned into a convalescent home for British nationals. Some time later the Governor-General, Lord Amherst, decided to develop Shimla Hills as a summer gateway for the British establishment and Col. Tapp, political agent at Sabathu, came to survey the Kasauli area.
The 1857 Indian War of Independence stirred the hearts of the Kasauli Guard, numbering about eighty Indian soldiers. Receiving news that the Gurkha Regiment at nearby Jutogh has also risen in revolt, the garrison at Kasauli set out to join them. Before the two could combine and pose a serious threat, the British agent talked the Gurkha Regiment into submission, on promise of a general pardon. The Kasauli Guard found themselves completely isolated. So far from being pardoned, they were severely punished for their insurgence.
The settlement of Kasauli really began with the efforts of Sir Henry Lawrence, who also started the famous Lawrence School at Sanawar. He and his wife built themselves a cottage named Sunny Side. It was the first cottage to be built at Kasauli and stands to this day.
Kasauli remains a cantonment where the army is a living presence; one reason why everything is so clean. The heart of Kasauli, mercifully, has not been overrun by hotels and apartment blocks.
Flora & Fauna
Some of the private gardens in Kasauli are ablaze with color and the very air is redolent of pine. Indeed most of the hillsides are covered with pine and the ground underfoot is thickly carpeted with resin rich needles. There are oaks too, and rhododendron, firs, horse chest hut, wild cherry and several varieties of deciduous trees. Which is why spring is so beautiful at Kasauli, with the trees and bushes turning the most delicate shades of pink and green and silver as they unfurl new leaves to the sky. Zinnias, dahlias and morning glory must have been scattered so much seed long ago and now they have the run of the hillsides along with wild flowers.
Where the habitat is largely undisturbed, Kasauli is rich in birds. But leopards, once fairly common in this area are rarely to be seen. The handsome Shimla Fox is also rare, but not so the ghooral, jungle cat and jackal.
Places to Visit
The highest point at Kasauli, known as Monkey Point, is now with the IAF and the site of new family apartment blocks for IAF personnel. Monkey Point commands a panoramic view of the hills, valleys and plains below, with the meandering Sutlej and, far away, the city of Chandigarh.Lawrence School at Sanawar, six kilometers away, rich in tradition and a world in itself, also attracts tourists. The temple of Nahari Devi, which overlooks a waterfall, is also worth a visit. Nothing has so far affected the fall, not the severest drought or driest summer.
Around town, one can look for the graves of the two Chinese POWs who died here. Or try to find out the names of the two brothers who perished fighting the forest fire that ravaged Kasauli at the turn of the century. Or find the old time mailbox with a cast iron crown on top, a relic of the British Postal Service.
The two main walks around Kasauli, the Upper and Lower Mall are beautiful. The residents of Kasauli walk a lot, for Kasauli was always short on city attractions and meant for getting about on your own two feet, in communion with nature or if you are lucky, a walking partner. The somewhat steep Upper Mall takes you past an important landmark, the Kasauli Club. Founded in 1880 as the ‘Kasauli Reading and Assembly Rooms’, it was later converted into Kasauli Club. Initially the club provided accommodation to men only, women not being permitted unless it was very cold or if accommodation was going a-begging. Famous for its six tennis courts, its lavish ‘tennis teas’ and gala Saturday Nights, the club suddenly found itself posed for dissolution in 1947. But saved by the breadth of a hair, it survived to celebrate its centenary in 1980.
Delhi is connected to Chandigarh by air. From Chandigarh it is a little more than an hour by road to Kasauli. Buses connect Kasauli to many major cities of north India. Private taxis are also available between; to Kalka and proceed by bus to Kasauli, less than an hour away.
Where To Stay
There is a PWD rest house and a number of private hotels. There is also the HPTDC run Hotel Ros Common, which is very popular. Prior booking is advisable.
|Hill Stations in India|