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Kalimpong

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Template:Kalimpong infobox

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Kalimpong town as viewed from a distant hill. In the background are the Himalayan mountains.

Kalimpong is a hill station (a hill town) nestled in the Shiwalik Hills (or Lower Himalaya) in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located at Template:Coor d 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. A major forward base of the Indian Army is located on the outskirts of the town.

Kalimpong is well-known for its many educational institutions, which attract students from all over North East India, West Bengal, Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. In recent times, Kalimpong has become an important tourist destination owing to its temperate climate and proximity to popular tourist locations in the region. Kalimpong is also famous for its flower market, especially the wide array of orchids. It also houses several of Buddhist monasteries which hold a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures.

Contents

Name origin

The precise etymology of the name Kalimpong remains unclear. The most widely accepted origin of the name Kalimpong is "Assembly (or Stockade) of the King's Ministers" in Tibetan, derived from kalon ("King's ministers") and pong ("stockade"). Another possible origin to the name comes from the translation "ridges where we play" from Lepcha, derived from the region's traditional tribal gathering for summer sporting events. People from the hills also call the area Kalibong ("the black spurs").

According to K.P. Tamsang, author of The Untold and Unknown Reality about the Lepchas, 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. Another possible derivation points to Kaulim, a fibrous plant found in profusion in the region.

History

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Morgan House, is a classic example of colonial architecture in Kalimpong.

Until the mid-19th century, the area around Kalimpong was ruled intermittently by the Sikkimese and Bhutanese kingdoms. 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, the 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 in 1947, 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 Jelepla 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.

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Most large houses in Kalimpong were built during the British era. In the background is Mount Kanchenjunga.

Between 1986 and 1988, the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland and Kamtapuri based on ethnic lines grew strong. Riots between the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), led by CK Pradhan, and the West Bengal government reached a standoff after a forty-day strike. The town was virtually under a siege, leading the state government to call in the Indian army to maintain law and order. This led to the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, a body that was given semi-autonomous powers to govern the district. Though Kalimpong is now peaceful, the issue on a separate state still lingers. In July 2004, the generally tranquil town was catapulted into national and international headlines after Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, a murderer wanted by Scotland Yard, was traced to be residing in KalimpongTemplate:Ref.

Geography

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A view from the Deolo Resort, atop Deolo Hill, Kalimpong's highest point.

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 Kanchenjunga at 8,591 m (28,185 feet) the world's third tallest peak, is clearly visible from Kalimpong.

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View of the Himalaya range.

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).

Many locales in Kalimpong are named based on its distance in miles from Teesta Bazaar, a town which lies on the Teesta river in the valley below. For example, the locale 13th mile would be situated at a distance of 13 miles (21 km) from Teesta Bazaar.

Economy

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Oranges grown in the hillsides are a exported to many parts of India.

The most significant contributor to the Kalimpong economy is tourism. The summer and spring seasons are the most popular with tourists, keeping many of Kalimpong's residents employed directly and indirectly.

Farming on terraced slopes is a major source of livelihood for its rural populace and it supplies the town with fruits and vegetables. Although education used to be the primary driver of the economy of the town, in recent years its contributions have stagnated.

Many establishments cater to the Indian army base near the town, supplying it with essential supplies. Small contributions to the economy come by the way of the sale of traditional arts and crafts of Sikkim and Tibet. Government efforts related to sericulture, seismology, fisheries etc. provide a steady source of employment to many of its residents. Kalimpong is well known for its flower export industryTemplate:Ref – specially for its wide array of indigenous orchids and gladioli. If the Indian government's proposalTemplate:Ref to reopen the Nathula and Jelepla passes by mid-2005 is realised, the economy will get a significant boost, due to Kalimpong's location on the historic trade route.

Transport

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National Highway 31A winds along the banks of the river Teesta near Kalimpong.

Most people live fairly close to the market and so they walk between their homes and the market. Those staying far from the town centre own vehicles or rely on local share-taxis to travel to their destinations. Taxis for exclusive use around the city are also available. Four wheel drives are the most popular means of transport, as they can easily navigate the steep slopes in the region.

The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport near Siliguri located at a distance of 80 km (50 miles), while the nearest railhead connecting the rest of India is New Jalpaiguri, located on the outskirts of Siliguri. Kalimpong is located off the National Highway 31-A, which links Siliguri to Gangtok.

Civic administration

Kalimpong is the headquarters of the Kalimpong division, a part of the Darjeeling district. The district is governed by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), a semi-autonomous body set up by the West Bengal government. Kalimpong elects eight councillors to the DGHC. The town is divided into twenty-three municipal wards by the local municipality, while the rural area is composed of forty-seven gram panchayats. There are three blocks in Kalimpong.

Kalimpong's municipality is in charge of the infrastructure of the town such as potable water and roads. Two lakes atop Deolo Hill provide potable water to the town. Owing to severe rains that wash away most of the surface, the condition of the roads is poor. The state electricity board provides electricity to Kalimpong and although the town doesn't face power shortfalls, the voltage supply is unstable, so voltage stabilisers are necessary. Street lighting is available only in the main town centre. The Public Works Department is responsible for the road connecting the town to the National Highway–NH-31A.

A district magistrate presides over the Kalimpong division. Kalimpong has a small police department with a lock-up. Most criminals are taken to the Darjeeling, the district headquarters for trial.

People and culture

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The Zang Dhok Palri Phodong monastery atop Durpin Hill.

The majority of the populace are ethnic Nepali, having migrated to Kalimpong in search of jobs while it was under British rule. Indigenous ethnic groups include the Lepchas, Bhutias, Sherpas, Rais, Yamloos, Damais, Kamais and the Limbus. The other non-native communities are the Bengalis, Marwaris, Anglo-Indian, Chinese, Biharis and Tibetans who escaped to Kalimpong after fleeing the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet. Kalimpong is the closest Indian town to Bhutan's western border, and has a small number of Bhutanese nationals residing here. Hinduism is the largest religion followed by Buddhism and Christianity. Islam has a minuscule presence in this region, with a mosque in the bazaar area.

Popular festivals include Diwali, Christmas, Dussera and the Buddhist festival of Loosong. Languages spoken in Kalimpong include Nepali, which is the predominant language; Hindi, English and Bengali. Cricket and football (soccer) are the most popular sports in Kalimpong.

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Another view of the Durpin monastery, along with the Buddhist prayer flags.

The most popular snack in Kalimpong is the momo, steamed dumplings made up of pork, beef or vegetable cooked in a wrapping of flour and served with watery soup. Wai-Wai is a packaged snack comprising 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 noodle called Thukpa, served in soup form is also popular in Kalimpong. There are a large number of restaurants which offer a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from Indian to continental, to cater to the tourists. Tea is the most popular beverage in Kalimpong, procured from the famed Darjeeling tea gardens.

The cultural centres in Kalimpong include, the Lepcha Museum and the Zang Dhok Palri Phodong monastery. The Lepcha Museum, situated a kilometre away from the town centre showcases the culture of the Lepcha community, the indigenous peoples of Sikkim. The Zang Dhok Palri Phodong monastery has 108 volumes of the Kangyur, and belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism.

Media and education

Kalimpong receives almost all the television channels that are received in the rest of India. Cable Television serves most of the homes in the city, while Direct To Home is more common in the outlying areas. Besides mainstream Indian channels, Kalimpong also receives local Nepali language channels. Newspapers in Kalimpong include English language dailies, The Statesman and The Telegraph, which are printed in Siliguri, and The Hindu and the Times of India which are printed in Kolkata (Calcutta), and are received after a day's delay. In addition to these one can also find a few Nepali, Hindi and Bengali language newspapers.

Internet cafés are well established in the main market area, mostly served through dialup lines. BSNL provides a limited form of broadband connectivity of upto 128 kbit/s with DIAS (Direct Internet Access Service) connections. The public radio station, All India Radio is the only radio channel received in Kalimpong. The area is well serviced by local cellular companies such as BSNL, Reliance Infocomm, Hutch and Airtel.

There are fifteen major schools in Kalimpong, the most notable among them being Dr. Graham's Homes, St. Augustine's School, Saptashree Gyanpeeth, St Joseph's Convent and Rockvale Academy. Schools offer education up to class 10, following which students may choose to join a Junior College or carry on with an additional two years of schooling. The Kalimpong College is the main college in the town. Most students however, choose to further their studies in Siliguri and Calcutta. The Tharpa Choling Monastery, near Kalimpong is an educational institute that imparts religious training to young Buddhist monks.

Flora and fauna

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The area around Kalimpong lies in the Eastern Himalayas, which is classified as an ecological hotspot, one of only three among the Ecoregions of India. 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.

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Cacti grown in Kalimpong.

The Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Clouded Leopard Tiger, Siberian Weasel, Asiatic black bear, barking deer, Himalayan Tahr, goral, gaur, pangolin, Indian bison, moupan hare and Himalayan squirrel are some of the fauna found near Kalimpong. Avifauna of the region include the Griffon Vulture, Munal pheasant, hornbills, Indian black crested baza, Indian besra, sparrow hawks and the khaleej pheasant.

Kalimpong also has over forty-six nurseries which mainly cultivate gladioli which account for 80%Template:Ref of India's production and 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.

External links

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References

  1. Template:Note Wife duped by murder fugitive (http://www.suntimes.co.za/2004/07/25/news/durban/ndbn13.asp), Peter Foster, Sunday Times (South Africa) (http://www.suntimes.co.za), Sunday, 2004-07-25.
  2. Template:Note Kalimpong (http://www.hillstationsinindia.com/east-india-hill-stations/kalimponq.html), Hill stations in India (http://www.hillstationsinindia.com)
  3. Template:Note Routes of promise (http://www.flonnet.com/fl2014/stories/20030718005201800.htm), Frontline magazine (http://www.flonnet.com), Volume 20, Issue 14; July 5-July 18, 2004.
  4. Template:Note Kalimpong (http://www.wb.nic.in/westbg/kalimpong.html), NITPU Kolkata, West Bengal (http://www.wb.nic.in)
  5. Guide to Kalimpong – 3rd edition (2002) — Sandeep C. Jain — Himalayan Sales
  6. Sangharakshita, Facing Mount Kanchenjunga — Windhorse Publications, 1991, ISBN 0-904766-52-7
  7. Lepcha, My Vanishing Tribe — A.R. Foning, ASIN: 8120706854
  8. The Unknown and Untold Reality about the Lepchas — K.P. Tamsang ASIN B0006FEFIW

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