The Elgin Darjeeling is a 125-year-old heritage hotel in Darjeeling. This Luxury 5 Star property was once the residence of Maharajah of Cooch Behar. Legend has it that the name “Elgin” was derived from the village of Elgin in Scotland. The hotel has been restored to its original grandeur. The snug and cozy interiors are decked with etchings of G.Douglas, lithographs of Daniell, period Burma teak furniture, oak floor boards and paneling, crackling fireplaces, candle-lit tables and strains of music from the grand piano.
The building was originally built in the year 1887 around a beautiful garden and designed as Manor House. The property was originally owned by the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and leased to a succession of British families such as the Pavion and Oakley families. It was originally a club and then remodelled as a hotel. In the year 1965, Kuldip Chand Oberoi, of the Oberoi family of Hoteliers, bought the hotel from the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and Nancy Oakley.
One realizes the meaning of palpable ‘old world charm’ when one visits this charming colonial hotel which has played host to dignitaries like the US Ambassador and the Crown Prince of Sikkim to Dominique Lapierre and Mark Tully. The hotel has stories to tell from the time of its first owner the Maharaja of Cooch Behar in 1880s to the present owner Diamond Oberoi spanning over a century of memories.
Darjeeling over the years
Pained by chaos and turmoil caused by weapons violating nature’s law of peace and harmonious coexistence, ‘Indra’, The King of Heaven, dropped his sceptre on earth exemplarily. This persuaded others to drop their weapons and owe their moral obligations towards peace to prevail. He created a little piece of heaven on earth named ‘Dorjeling’ as ‘Dorje’ means thunder. The mystic land of peace and tranquillity is now called as ‘Darjeeling’ or the “Land of the Thunderbolt”
Previously Darjeeling was a territory governed by the Maharaja of Sikkim, who had been engaged in a series of inefficacious attacks against the Gorkhas. British intervened and prevented the Gorkhas from turning the whole of Sikkim into a province of Nepal. It was then that the British sent Captain George W. Aylmer Lloyd to visit Darjeeling. He comprehended that the place was befitting for the purpose of a ‘sanatorium’ and can act as a summer resort for British officials to escape the scorching heat in the plains.
There wasn’t any noteworthy development until British Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck paved a way to negotiate with the Maharaja of Sikkim. He proposed the transfer of Darjeeling to the British in exchange for money or land. The Maharaja accepted on condition that the British would turn in Kummo Pradhan, an ex-Sikkim agent who eloped into British territory after deceiving the throne of Sikkim. The British Government declined the proposal and abstained from any further negotiations. Captain Lloyd took advantage of the situation by twisting facts of the letters from Maharaja and sent deed grant to the Company with the annotation that the transfer of the company had been agreed to by the Maharaja without any conditions and as an act of friendship. Darjeeling was thus deceptively taken over by the company.
Another salient development under British colonial rule was the construction of “Darjeeling Himalayan Railway,” also known as the “Toy Train.” It was given the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1999. It is located at a mere distance of 5 km from The Elgin Hotel.
There is one more aspect to the story of Darjeeling without which the story would remain incomplete. It is the story of Darjeeling Tea. This was a result of experimentation by a British surgeon, Dr. Arthur Campbell, who smuggled in some seeds from China and planted them in his own garden at Beechwood Park, Darjeeling. It is a masterpiece created by the amalgamation of hills, sunshine, rainfall, soil, and the altitude at which it is grown. It is now admired as the “Champagne of Teas” and cannot be recreated anywhere else in the world.