AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE
Darjeeling, the queen of the hills, is on the boil again. The quint hill station has lost a lot of its luster since the Gorkhaland movement began in the mid-80s, attributable to sporadic bloodshed. It’s no longer as popular as it was back in the day when Rajesh Khanna sang “Mere Sapno Ki Rani Kab Aayegi Tu” driving a jeep through the beautiful hills studded with tea gardens in the movie Aradhana. But despite all odds, Darjeeling still offers old-world charm, thanks to colonial structures that withstood the test of time.
The presence of some magnificent structures from the British era have evolved into Darjeeling’s heritage landmarks.
Image by Jay Ramji, Flickr
The Town Hall aka Darjeeling Municipality was established in 1850, it is one of the oldest city administrative bodies in India.
The Town Hall– Coming back to the history, located on Landenla Road, the main thoroughfare, the town hall houses the Darjeeling Municipality. Lord Ronaldshay, Governor of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, laid the foundation stone in October 1917. Astonishingly, the Town hall was built at an estimated cost of Rs 2.5 lakh, half of which was donated by the maharaja of Cooch Behar. A 600-seat hall, a reading room, a square, a 100-foot-high stone clock tower, an octagonal gable roof, and a flag-staff were all part of the design. It was then the history when a full- fledged municipality was set up in the building in 1850.
The Clock Tower– The famous clock tower; was established by GT Gent and Company, England. Despite surviving a severe fire in 1996, the clock had discontinued functioning. Largely through the efforts of the Darjeeling Rotary Club, it was restored in 2006. The West Bengal Historic Commission then designated the town hall as a heritage site. The huge clock plays a lovely musical tone followed by dings of the bell at every hour which would surely bring you back in time.
Image by Subhajit Mitra, Flickr
Surrounded by the city lights and sipping on tea in Keventers, you cannot miss the picturesque view of the Clock Tower.
St. Andrew’s Church– Arguably, the most prominent and picturesque landmark of Darjeeling is St. Andrew’s Church. The foundation stone of this old Anglican church was laid on November 30, 1843, the day dedicated to St.Andrew. The building was built at a cost of Rs 9000 – a princely sum back in those days – to accommodate a congregation of around 150 people. Scottish troops and tea planters were among the earliest visitors, and the tea began its journey in the town.
Image by Subhajit Mitra, Flickr
The St. Andrew’s Church is not just any other place of worship in Darjeeling but it is a piece of history. It stands testimony to the grand transformation of Darjeeling form a forgotten densely forested habitat of few hundred people to one of the most beautiful and popular hill stations of the world.
St. Joseph’s School– A school, also marks its name in the list of historic monuments, St. Joseph’s School, North Point. The renowned school started its journey at Sunny Banks in 1888. It was shifted to its present location on Lebong Card Road in 1892. The property was procured by Fr. Henri Depelchin, SJ, the founder.
Image by CamelKW, Flickr
A fact to understand the significance the school holds- St. Joseph celebrated its 125th year anniversary on 13 February 2014 which was graced by the presence of the then President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee
An earthquake severely ruined St. Joseph’s in 1934. The west wing has been significantly disturbed. The architectural turrets at Fraser Hall were hurled down the slope towards Tukvar Road when the outdoor infirmary collapsed. The damage was so severe that school vacations had to be prolonged until the property was considered safe to occupy.
St. Luke’s Garison Church- Located in the Jalapahar Troops Cantonment, St. Luke’s Garison Church was built specifically for the British army in 1889. However, it ceased to function in September 1948. The steep three-kilometer hike also deterred locals from making a visit. Later, the majestic gothic edifice was renovated into a multi-purpose hall and was also used as a badminton court. The army decided in 2006 to restore the Church to its former grandeur. The single-story building was significantly damaged in the earthquake of 1935, prompting major repairs.
MacFarlane Memorial Church, Kalimpong: The most prominent landmark in Kalimpong is 125 years old. It is named after William MacFarlane, the first missionary from the Church of Scotland who visited Darjeeling in 1870. The structure is a truly is a visual treat.
Image by 1001Things.org
Surrounded beauty and tranquility, the picture captures a scenic view of MacFarlane Church situated over 4100ft above the ground.
Designed in Scottish style, the church belongs to the Gothic revival school of architecture, the tower and pinnacles were added later. Every monument holds a significance from the past stories and establish a relationship to the era where it all began.