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As Darjeeling is set to host tourists again, let us look back at a few lost attractions

19 November, 2020 17:34:34
As Darjeeling is set to host tourists again, let us look back at a few lost attractions

The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration partially opened a tourist site that had been lying abandoned for three years, at Jamuni, approximately 15 km from Darjeeling. Perhaps understandably for a region that relies so heavily on tourism for a livelihood, the reopening was driven by locals, who reportedly volunteered to clean up the area.

This week, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration partially opened a tourist site that had been lying abandoned for three years, at Jamuni, approximately 15 km from Darjeeling. Perhaps understandably for a region that relies so heavily on tourism for a livelihood, the reopening was driven by locals, who reportedly volunteered to clean up the area.

As more and more sectors unlock amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Darjeeling is gradually getting back to normal, like many of the state’s other tourism destinations. However, even as we celebrate the reopening of Jamuni, now is a good time to look back on afew traditional tourist attractions that the Queen of Hills has lost, most of it during the 2017 agitation.

One of these is Sonada Station, through which the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) toy train passes twice a day. The station’s heritage structure was burnt to the ground by protestors in 2017, and though much of it was painstakingly restored and the station reopened in 2019, the original structure no longer exists.

A similar fate met Gayabari Station, also part of DHR, with a platform built between 1879 and 1881. Happily, the original structure survived the fire, though much of the rest of the
 
station has been restored in keeping with UNESCO guidelines, since DHR was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

The agitators also attempted to burn down the Elysia building, which houses the headquarters of the DHR, though the heritage structure was not completely destroyed. However, the damage was grave enough for UNESCO to express the worry that the World Heritage tag might have to be revoked if the damage was too great.

Sadly, the nearly century-old Raj Rajeshwari Hall in Kurseong, 30 km from Darjeeling, run by the town’s Bengali Association, was completely gutted in a fire set by unidentified protestors, and all its old documents, sound system, and furniture were destroyed. Having received a government grant to repair the structure, the hall was in the midst of renovations when the agitation began. A permanent structure for Kurseong’s only Durga Puja, the hall is now little more than rubble, though it had survived the previous agitations of 1986 and 2007.

Nonetheless, Darjeeling’s other attractions are still very much in place, and with winter approaching and the skies clearing, now
is the best time to view the snow-capped Himalayas from one of the area’s many viewpoints. For accommodation, there is always West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation’s Meghbalika Tourism Property, earlier Darjeeling Tourist Lodge. For more information and bookings, contact

West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd
DG Block, Sector-II, Salt Lake
Kolkata 700091
Phone: (033) 2358 5189, Fax: 2359 8292
Email: visitwestbengal@yahoo.co.in, mdwbtdc@gmail.com, dgmrwbtdc@gmail.com
 

Story Tag:
  • Darjeeling

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