The Mall & Chowrasta
AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE By Katyayini Kesharwani
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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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The Chowrasta is like a city from where different streets emerge. It is large traffic free area that has shops, restaurants, tea shops, pony rides and many things to explore. There is a statue of Nepali ethnic poet Bhanubhakta at the centre.
There is also a big Saraswati temple and Church few distance away from Chowrasta.
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.
There are benches all along the Mall Road for people to sit and enjoy the views over a cup of Darjeeling tea. Also, there are some of the old and heritage stores lined up and countless vendors selling artefacts, woollens, and various figurines along the street. Besides shopping, one can also go for a pony ride here.
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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.
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With colourful clothes, handicrafts and jewels on display, The Mall & Chowrasta are a shopper’s delight and paradise.
The Mall is a junction of the Nehru Road and Dr Zakir Hussain Road. The Brabourne Park is attached to the Chowrasta and now features a musical fountain. This place is an open space and free from vehicular movements. It is a tiny island of relative peace, away from the busy areas near the bus stand and facing the beautiful peaks of the Himalayas. It also has a memorial of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, the house where he lived during his last days. The Hawa Ghar and the huge golden colour statue of the Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya are the two major attractions in Chowrasta. The Bhutia Market, which is close to Chowrasta is another attraction for shopaholics. The busy Chowrasta is just a short 3-minute walk from The Elgin, Darjeeling. A perfect place to experience the everyday life of the locals!