Darjeeling is a town in India’s West Bengal state, in the Himalayan foothills. Once a summer resort for the British Raj elite, it remains the terminus of the narrow-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, or “Toy Train,” completed in 1881. It’s famed for the distinctive black tea grown on plantations that dot its surrounding slopes. Its backdrop is Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak of the world.
Few years ago we were on a trip to fascinating northern provinces of India. We took a flight from New Delhi (DEL) to Bagdogra (IXB) followed by a journey on the serpentine roads of the great Himalayan range to reach Darjeeling in evening. We checked-in Central Heritage Hotel, which is an old colonial era hotel established in 1905.
The hotel was entirely made up of wood and interestingly was the first hotel where we stayed and that didn’t have even the fan. The hotel was very beautiful and cozy. Having checked-in, we relaxed for some time and the left for the market. The famous Mall Road was at a walking distance from our hotel. We visited the famous Glenary’s Bakery & Cafe, also known as the Glenary’s Cake Shop which is located at the ground floor of a two storied white colonial building that prominently displays its name in front. This is a prominent landmark of Darjeeling and existing since the British colonial days. It opens from 7 am to 8:30 pm. You can enjoy sumptuous breakfast, snacks, cakes & pastries at the bakery & cafe.
We kept on wandering on the Mall Road and reached a very big tea shop, the Golden Tips, which among India’s oldest tea brand established in 1933. Originally from Darjeeling, the land where grow the finest teas in the world. We have tasted so many variety of teas. The way they present tea to you was really awesome.
Having done a lot shopping and exhausted completely, we returned to our hotel. For the next morning we had a plan for witnessing sunrise from the Tiger Hills so we instructed the reception to give us a wake-up call at 3:30 am. Lying at an altitude of 2590 meters and a distance of 13 kilometres away from the Darjeeling, Tiger Hill is most famous for its splendid sights of sunrise from where you can see the peaks of Kanchenjunga illuminate before the sun is seen at lower elevations.
I’ve read somewhere that ‘Gurudev’ Ravindra Nath Thakur had been nine times to Darjeeling, just to witness the sunrise but he couldn’t see even once because of clouds. So we kept our finger crossed for the next morning.
Next morning we left the hotel very early around 4 for the Tiger Hills. The hilltop was completely jam-packed. Ladies were selling hot tea and coffee that was our only respite in that chilly winter morning experiencing stormy wind at an elevation of 8500 ft. Anyhow we managed to cling to the rails of the hill, waiting for the sun to come up, every one was staring at the horizon and there came the moment.
Providence seemed to have smiled on us in the morning. The sun rose to an absolutely brilliant dawn and I couldn’t have asked for more. I haven’t seen a dawn more beautiful. The sun made its way out very gently. The horizon started getting crimson as the mother nature was announcing the rise of the Sun.
On the other side there was my Kanchenjunga, standing high in the sky. Much above the peaks of other mountains, Kanchenjunga starts taking shape. It seems that as the sun kisses it’s forehead, its peak starts turning red with bashfulness. The distant snow-capped peaks of Kanchenjunga turned golden from red with the morning rays. It seemed that she finally had decided to lift off her veil and reveal herself and her surrounding peaks of Kumbakaran, Kabru and Pandim, which together form what the Buddhists in India and Nepal term as the ‘Sleeping Buddha.’ My prayers seemed to have been answered.
There is a Nepali quote about Mount Everest or ‘Sagarmatha’ as they refer to her. “You do not summit the Sagarmatha, she lets you summit her.” Similarly, after seeing the heavenly Kanchenjunga, I felt “This is not you who see Kanchenjunga, it is she that lets you see her.”
I was feeling so calm and composed after seeing this divine and mesmerising beautiful face of nature that nothing in the world is left to achieve, so powerful and full of energy that I could literally fly. So pure as the morning breeze, as the Kanchenjunga itself.
All the way back to hotel, we were in complete silence as treasuring any precious belongings. Completely lost and as hypnotised by what we had just witnessed. Lest we forget to keep any of those never fading moments into our memory vaults. That was the effect of that dawn with Kanchenjunga.
Darjeeling has much to offer and we enjoyed many more places too but the best part of Darjeeling is witnessing the sunrise from Tiger Hill. I’ll share rest of my experiences anytime later, getting nostalgic at the moment…
Just look at our funny faces. These all pictures were taken at the time we didn’t have proper gears.
P.S. Benedict Cumberbatch, the famous British actor (Sherlock Holmes fame) volunteered as an English teacher at a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling.