The Mall & Chowrasta
By Katyayini Kesharwani
Image by @optimisticmegatron, Instagram
To get the pulse of a city, one must visit the oldest places within it. The Mall & Chowrasta give travellers the real essence of Darjeeling.
Don’t be fooled by the name and expect a glitzy building full of branded clothes. The Chowrasta or Mall is an open space in the centre of town, lined with small stores, selling souvenirs, woollens, packets of tea, food items, and lots more. It is a rendezvous of people from all over the world and is notable as a popular tourist hangout in Darjeeling. The word ‘Chow’ means four and ‘Rasta’ stands for roads, essentially means that the Mall is where four roads meet. Located on top of Nehru Road, this flat piece of circular land is the major shopping area and centre for commercial activities. In the olden days, this was the place where the Europeans came for their evening walks. Today, the locals, as well as the tourists, come here to lounge and relax. On a clear day, one can also have a magnificent view of the Kanchenjunga from here.
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Visitors often speak of how seamless the feeling of watching the crowds flounder through the market seem with the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas.
Located in the heart of the town it was the fashionable place of assembly for residents and visitors in the 18th Century. Chowrasta is situated on the ridge of the Darjeeling hill range and is now a focal centre of tourist attraction and a popular spot for the residents to assemble, leisure or just stroll in the tranquillity that that part of the hill station offers.
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In the night, the Market comes to life with artefacts and souvenir shops lighting up and bejewelling the streets with wonderful displays.
Image by @shillonggal, Instagram
One can venture The Mall & Chowrasta either on foot or on these small vendor services that provide a tour of the area on hooves.
There is also a small open space auditorium here, where local rock bands often host performances. The temple of Mahakal is located on the hilltop right at the centre of the Mall and Chowrasta. One side of the mall is thickly layered with pine forest under the shadow of the towering mountain peaks, the other side lies shops of traditional garments, handicrafts, carpets, rugs, paintings, semi-precious jewellery, and metal wares. Some of the noted shops, restaurants, and eateries in the area are Habeeb Mullick & Son, Curio Corner, Nathmulls Tea & Sunset Lounge, Golden Tips, Life & Leaf, Jolly arts and Bhutan Tibet Art Shop.
Image by @gauthamkokku, Instagram
With colourful clothes, handicrafts and jewels on display, The Mall & Chowrasta are a shopper’s delight and paradise.