It was a hot day, and I was browsing through the Facebook posts. People have such interesting lives and here I was bored trying to find some place to vent out this boredom. And then I saw my friend Vijaya Tamang’s pictures of a blue sky, green sprawling hills and her hair flowing in the breeze. Kalimpong, she was in one of the most beautiful places in India.
Vijaya and Vivek, I had met them in Anandpur Sahib and they planned to open a retreat in Kalimpong. Vijaya told me that I was to write about it, so the moment I saw the pictures I made my plan. I dialed her number and through the phone popped out some of the most exotic locales I could see in Kalimpong. It is also the centre of wool business in east India.
A mixture of culture, history, Kalimpong resonates with stories. From architecture to cuisines and festivals, there are tales of Bhutan, British times. Some say Kalimpong means black spur in Bhutanese while others call it the ‘ridge where we play’, a sports field in earlier times.
Army Golf Club
Keeping the sports spirit alive, it is a nine-hole course and visitors can play a round of golf by paying a small fee. The view of the valley and Durpin monastery are awesome.
Crockety House, built during the British rule, has excellent architecture. It was built by the wool traders of Britain in the 18th century and is located in the upper section of Kalimpong. Just located behind this, is the house of famous poet Rabindranath Tagore. It was from this home that Tagore broadcast the poem “Janmadin” on the all India radio on his birthday.
Galingka was built by a wool trader. With Mount Kanchenjunga in the backdrop, Galingka house has a secluded nature garden with orchids, cacti and more exotic plants.
Morgan house, another colonial bungalow, has been converted into a tourist lodge by the Government of India. Originally, the home of a rich jute merchant from Britain, it is heaven for bird and wildlife watchers as the marshes around attract wildlife.
Dr. Graham’s Homes, this is a must see as Dr. J.A. Graham is one of the pioneers of the development of Kalimpong. On September 24, 1900, an area of 100 acres was granted by the British to Dr. Graham for his project of the St. Andrews colonial homes.
There are many churches here. The largest is the Catholic Church built in 1890. Designed by Mr. Hardy of Edinburgh, it was opened to public in November 1891. It has symbols and wall paintings inside which is a contribution to art and architecture.
Mac Farlen Church, built in 1890 – 91, is considered the landmark building of Kalimpong. Here sermons were held in 10 languages– Bodo, Nepali, Bengali, Hindi, English, Chinese, Lepcha, Sanskrit, Urdu and Tibetan.
Church of Mother Mary is located within the vicinity of The Missionaries of Charity. Here all work is in the Oriental or Tibetan style.
Neora National Park
Established in 1986, it is the land of the red panda. A trek through this is like going through an enchanting forest with exotic flora. At the end of the trek is the peak, RacheLa junction (of Bhutan, Sikkim and West Bengal), from where the view of Chola Range is breathtaking. Other endangered species seen here are the clouded leopard, musk deer, gold naped finch, orchids and ferns. If you look down, there is a waterfall in the Rishi Valley below.
The oldest Bhutanese monastery in the area is Tsonga Gumba. Most scholars say it was built around the late 1600s. In his book, Bhotan and The Story of The Doars War, Surgeon Rennie (1865) has mentioned a monastery where three monks resided. He had called it Tusso Cimpa.
Zang Dhok Palri Phodang or better known as Durpin Monastery, it is the largest monastery in Kalimpong and was consecrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1976.
Pine View Nursery is famous as the Cactus nursery. It is home to almost 1,500 varieties of cacti ranging from Rs. 20/- to a few lakhs.
The Haat Bazaar: held twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, here you can experience all of the local life of Kalimpong. Best to come early in the morning and see the agricultural and farming items, fresh vegetables, clothes, bags, umbrellas, spices, clothes. Hidden from the eyes is a compound packed with people playing carom board and various card-games. Doing the rounds are freshly made momos, phambi, alu thukpa, and street delicacies.