Kalimpong city as viewed from Elgin Hotel
|Named for||Kaley Bung|
|• Body||Kalimpong Municipality|
|• Total||1,056.5 km2 (407.9 sq mi)|
|Elevation||1,247 m (4,091 ft)|
|• Density||40.70/km2 (105.4/sq mi)|
|• Official||Bengali and Nepali|
|• Additional official||English|
|Time zone||UTC+5:30 (IST)|
|Vehicle registration||WB-78, 79|
|Lok Sabha constituency||Kalimpong|
|Vidhan Sabha constituency||Kalimpong|
Kalimpong is a city and a municipality in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located at an average elevation of 1,250 metres (4,101 ft). The city is the headquarters of the Kalimpong district. The Indian Army's 27 Mountain Division is located on the outskirts of the city.
Kalimpong is known for its educational institutions, many of which were established during the British colonial period. It used to be a gateway in the trade between Tibet and India before China's annexation of Tibet and the Sino-Indian War. Kalimpong and neighbouring Darjeeling were major centres calling for a separate Gorkhaland state in the 1980s, and more recently in 2010.
The municipality sits on a ridge overlooking the Teesta River and is a tourist destination owing to its temperate climate, magnificent Himalayan beauty and proximity to popular tourist locations in the region. Horticulture is important to Kalimpong: It has a flower market notable for its wide array of orchids; nurseries, which export Himalayan grown flower bulbs, tubers and rhizomes, contribute to the economy of Kalimpong. Home to Nepalis and indigenous Lepchas, other ethnic groups and non-native immigrants from other parts of India, the town is a religious centre of Buddhism. The Tibetan Buddhist monastery Zang Dhok Palri Phodang holds a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures.
The Kalimpong Science Centre, established under the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 2008 is a recent addition to its many tourist attractions. The Science Centre, which provides for scientific awareness among the students of the town and the locals sits atop the Deolo Hill.
The precise etymology of the name Kalimpong remains unclear. There are many theories on the origin of the name. One widely accepted theory claims that the name "Kalimpong" means "Assembly (or Stockade) of the King's Ministers" in Tibetan, derived from kalon ("King's ministers") and pong ("stockade"). It may be derived from the translation "ridge where we play" from Lepcha, as it was known to be the place for traditional tribal gatherings for summer sporting events. People from the hills call the area Kalempung ("the black spurs").
According to K.P. Tamsang, author of The Untold and Unknown Reality about the Lepchas, the term Kalimpong is deduced from the name Kalenpung, which in Lepcha means "Hillock of Assemblage"; in time, the name was distorted to Kalebung, and later further contorted to Kalimpong. Another possible derivation points to Kaulim, a fibrous plant found in abundance in the region.
Until the mid-19th century, the area around Kalimpong was ruled in succession by the Sikkimese and Bhutanese kingdoms. Under Sikkimese rule, the area was known as Dalingkot. In 1706, the king of Bhutan won this territory from the Sikkimese monarch and renamed it Kalimpong. Overlooking the Teesta Valley, Kalimpong is believed to have once been the forward position of the Bhutanese in the 18th century. The area was sparsely populated by the indigenous Lepcha community and migrant Bhutia and Limbu tribes.
After the Anglo-Bhutan War in 1864, the Treaty of Sinchula (1865) was signed, in which Bhutanese held territory east of the Teesta River was ceded to the British East India Company. At that time, Kalimpong was a hamlet, with only two or three families known to reside there. The first recorded mention of the town was a fleeting reference made that year by Ashley Eden, a government official with the Bengal Civil Service. Kalimpong was added to district of Darjeeling in 1866. In 1866–1867 an Anglo-Bhutanese commission demarcated the common boundaries between the two, thereby giving shape to the Kalimpong subdivision and the Darjeeling district.
After the war, the region became a subdivision of the Western Duars district, and the following year it was merged with the district of Darjeeling. The temperate climate prompted the British to develop the town as an alternative hill station to Darjeeling, to escape the scorching summer heat in the plains. Kalimpong's proximity to the Nathu La and Jelep La passes (La means "pass"), offshoots of the ancient Silk Road, was an added advantage. It soon became an important trading outpost in the trade of furs, wools and food grains between India and Tibet. The increase in commerce attracted large numbers of Nepali's from the neighbouring Nepal and the lower regions of Sikkim, the areas where, Nepali's were residing since the Gorkha invasion of Sikkim in 1790. The movement of people into the area, transformed Kalimpong from a small hamlet with a few houses, to a thriving town with increased economic prosperity. Britain assigned a plot within Kalimpong to the influential Bhutanese Dorji family, through which trade and relations with Bhutan flowed. This later became Bhutan House, a Bhutanese administrative and cultural centre.
The arrival of Scottish missionaries saw the construction of schools and welfare centres for the British. Rev. W. Macfarlane in the early 1870s established the first schools in the area. The Scottish University Mission Institution was opened in 1886, followed by the Kalimpong Girls High School. In 1900, Reverend J.A. Graham founded the Dr. Graham's Homes for destitute Anglo-Indian students. The young missionary (and aspiring writer and poet) Aeneas Francon Williams, aged 24, arrived in Kalimpong in 1910 to take up the post of assistant schoolmaster at Dr. Graham's Homes, where he later became Bursar and remained working at the school for the next fourteen years. From 1907 onwards, most schools in Kalimpong had started offering education to Indian students. By 1911, the population comprised many ethnic groups, including Nepalis, Lepchas, Tibetans, Muslims, the Anglo-Indian communities. Hence by 1911, the population had swollen to 7,880.
Following Indian independence in 1947, Kalimpong became part of the state of West Bengal, after Bengal was partitioned between India and East Pakistan. With China's annexation of Tibet in 1959, many Buddhist monks fled Tibet and established monasteries in Kalimpong. These monks brought many rare Buddhist scriptures with them. In 1962, the permanent closure of the Jelep Pass after the Sino-Indian War disrupted trade between Tibet and India, and led to a slowdown in Kalimpong's economy. In 1976, the visiting Dalai Lama consecrated the Zang Dhok Palri Phodang monastery, which houses many of the scriptures.
Between 1986 and 1988, the demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland and Kamtapur based on ethnic lines grew strong. Riots between the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and the West Bengal government reached a stand-off after a forty-day strike. The town was virtually under siege, and the state government called in the Indian army to maintain law and order. This led to the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, a body that was given semi-autonomous powers to govern the Darjeeling district, except the area under the Siliguri subdivision. Since 2007, the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state has been revived by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and its supporters in the Darjeeling hills. The Kamtapur People's Party and its supporters' movement for a separate Kamtapur state covering North Bengal have gained momentum.
The town centre is on a ridge connecting two hills, Deolo Hill and Durpin Hill, at an elevation of 1,247 m (4,091 ft). Deolo, the highest point in Kalimpong, has an altitude of 1,704 m (5,591 ft) and Durpin Hill is at an elevation of 1,372 m (4,501 ft). The River Teesta flows in the valley below and separates Kalimpong from the state of Sikkim. The soil in the Kalimpong area is typically reddish in color. Occasional dark soils are found due to extensive existence of phyllite and schists. The Shiwalik Hills, like most of the Himalayan foothills, have steep slopes and soft, loose topsoil, leading to frequent landslides in the monsoon season. The hills are nestled within higher peaks and the snow-clad Himalayan ranges tower over the town in the distance. Mount Kanchenjunga at 8,586 m (28,169 ft) the world's third tallest peak, is clearly visible from Kalimpong.
Kalimpong has five distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter and the monsoons. The annual temperature ranges from a high of 30 °C (86 °F) to a low of 9 °C (48 °F). Summers are mild, with an average maximum temperature of 30 °C (86 °F) in August. Summers are followed by the monsoon rains which lash the town between June and September. The monsoons are severe, often causing landslides which sequester the town from the rest of India. Winter lasts from December to February, with the maximum temperature being around 15 °C (59 °F). During the monsoon and winter seasons, Kalimpong is often enveloped by fog.
Tourism is the most significant contributor to Kalimpong's economy. The summer and spring seasons are the most popular with tourists, keeping many of town's residents employed directly and indirectly. The town—earlier an important trade post between India and Tibet—hopes to boost its economy after the reopening of the Nathu La (pass) in April 2006. Though this has resumed Indo–China border trades, it is expected that Kalimpong will have a better chance of revival as a hub for Indo–China trades if the demand of local leaders for reopening of Jelep La pass also is met.
Kalimpong is a major ginger growing area of India. Kalimpong and the state of Sikkim together contribute 15 percent of the ginger produced in India. The Darjeeling Himalayan hill region is internationally famous for its tea industry. However, most of the tea gardens are on the western side of Teesta river (towards the town of Darjeeling) and so tea gardens near Kalimpong contribute only 4 percent of total tea production of the region. In Kalimpong division, 90 percent of land is cultivable but only 10 percent is used for tea production. Kalimpong is well known for its flower export industry—especially for its wide array of indigenous orchids and gladioli.
A significant contributor to the town's economy is education sector. The schools of Kalimpong, besides imparting education to the locals, attract a significant number of students from the plains, the neighbouring state of Sikkim and countries such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand.
Many establishments cater to the Indian army bases near the town, providing it with essential supplies. Small contributions to the economy come by the way of the sale of traditional arts and crafts of Sikkim and Tibet. Government efforts related to sericulture, seismology, and fisheries provide a steady source of employment to many of its residents.
Kalimpong is well renowned for its cheese, noodles and lollipops. Kalimpong exports a wide range of traditional handicrafts, wood-carvings, embroidered items, bags and purses with tapestry work, copper ware, scrolls, Tibetan jewellery and artifacts.
Kalimpong is located off the National Highway 31A (NH31A), which links Sevok to Gangtok. The NH31A is an offshoot of the NH 31, which connects Sevok to Siliguri. These two National Highways together, via Sevok, links Kalimpong to the plains. Regular bus services and hired vehicles connect Kalimpong with Siliguri and the neighbouring towns of Kurseong, Darjeeling and Gangtok. Four wheel drives are popular means of transport, as they can easily navigate the steep slopes in the region. However, road communication often get disrupted in the monsoons due to landslides. In the town, people usually travel by foot. Residents also use bicycle, two-wheelers and hired taxis for short distances.
The nearest airport is in Bagdogra near Siliguri, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) from Kalimpong. Air India and Druk Air (Bhutan) are the four major carriers that connect the airport to Delhi, Kolkata, Paro (Bhutan), Guwahati and Bangkok (Thailand). The closest major railway station is New Jalpaiguri, on the outskirts of Siliguri, which is connected with almost all major cities of the country.
|Source:Census of India.|
At the 2001 census, Kalimpong had an average literacy rate of 79%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy was 84%, and female literacy was 73%. In Kalimpong, 8% of the population was under 6 years of age. The Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes population for Kalimpong was 5,100 and 5,121 respectively.
Kalimpong is the headquarters of the Kalimpong district. The semi-autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), set up by the West Bengal government in 1988, administers this district as well as the Darjeeling Sadar and Kurseong subdivisions. Kalimpong elects eight councillors to the DGHC, who manages the departments of Public Health, Education, Public Works, Transport, Tourism, Market, Small scale industries, Agriculture, Agricultural waterways, Forest (except reserved forests), Water, Livestock, Vocational Training and Sports and Youth services. The district administration of Darjeeling, which is the authoritative body for the departments of election, panchayat, law and order, revenue, etc., also acts as an interface of communication between the Council and the State Government. The rural area in the district covers three community development blocks Kalimpong I, Kalimpong II and Gorubathan consisting of forty-two gram panchayats. A Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) presides over the Kalimpong subdivision. Kalimpong has a police station that serves the municipality and 18 gram panchayats of Kalimpong–I CD block.
The Kalimpong municipality, which was established in 1945, is in charge of the infrastructure of the town such as potable water and roads. The municipal area is divided into twenty-three wards. Kalimpong municipality is constructing additional water storage tanks to meet the requirement of potable water, and it needs an increase of water supply from the 'Neora Khola Water Supply Scheme' for this purpose. Often, landslides occurring in monsoon season cause havoc to the roads in and around Kalimpong. The West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Corporation Limited (WBSEDCL) provides electricity here. Renewable Energy Development Agency of the state has plans to promote usage of solar street lights in Kalimpong and proposed an energy park here to sell renewable energy gadgets. The Public Works Department is responsible for the road connecting the town to the National Highway–NH-31A. The Kalimpong municipality has a total of 10 health care units, with a total of 433 bed capacity.
People, culture, and cuisine
The original settlers of Kalimpong are the Lepchas, although the majority of the populace are ethnic Nepali, having migrated from Nepal to Kalimpong in search of jobs while it was under British rule.
Indigenous ethnic groups include the Newars, Bhutia, Sherpas, Limbus, Rais, Magars, Chettris, Bahuns, Thakuris, Gurungs, Tamangs, Yolmos, Bhujels, Sunuwars, Sarkis, Damais and the Kamis. The other non-native communities as old as the Nepalese are the Bengalis, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, Chinese, Biharis and Tibetans who escaped to Kalimpong after fleeing the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet. Kalimpong is home to Trinley Thaye Dorje—one of the 17th Karmapa incarnations. Kalimpong is the closest Indian town to Bhutan's western border, and has a small number of Bhutanese nationals residing here. Hinduism is the largest religion followed by Nijananda Sampradaya, Buddhism and Christianity. Islam has a minuscule presence in this region, The Oldest settlers include people residing since the mid of 19th Century and also mostly Tibetan Muslims who fled in 1959 after Chinese invasion of Tibet. The Buddhist monastery Zang Dhok Palri Phodang holds a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures. There is a Mosque, Kalimpong Anjuman Islamia Established in 1887 in the bazaar area of Kalimpong.
Popular Hindu festivals include Dashain, Tihar, Cultural Programme and the Tibetan festival of Losar. Languages spoken in Kalimpong include Nepali, which is the predominant language; Lepcha, Limbu, Tamang, Kirat, Hindi, English and Bengali. Though there is a growing interest in cricket as a winter sport in Darjeeling Hills, football still remains the most popular sport in Kalimpong. Every year since 1947, the Independence Shield Football Tournament is organized here as part of the two-day-long Independence Day celebrations. Former captain of India national football team, Pem Dorjee hails from Kalimpong.
A popular snack in Kalimpong is the momo, steamed dumplings made of pork, beef or vegetable cooked in a wrapping of flour and served with watery soup. Wai-Wai is a packaged Nepalese snack made of noodles which are eaten either dry or in soup form. Churpee, a kind of hard cheese made from yak's or chauri's (a hybrid of yak and cattle) milk, is sometimes chewed. A form of noodle called Thukpa, served in soup form is popular in Kalimpong. There are a large number of restaurants which offer a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from Indian to continental, to cater to the tourists. Tea is the most popular beverage in Kalimpong, procured from the famed Darjeeling tea gardens. Kalimpong has a golf course besides Kalimpong Circuit House.
The cultural centres in Kalimpong include, the Lepcha Museum and the Zang Dhok Palri Phodang monastery. The Lepcha Museum, a kilometre away from the town centre, showcases the culture of the Lepcha community, the indigenous peoples of Sikkim. The Zang Dhok Palri Phodong monastery has 108 volumes of the Kangyur, and belongs to the Gelug of Buddhism.
Kalimpong has access to most of the television channels aired in the rest of India. Cable Television still provides service to many homes in the town and it's outskirts, while DTH connections are now practically mandatory throughout the country. Besides mainstream Indian channels, many Nepali-language channels such as Dainandini DD, Kalimpong Television KTv, Haal Khabar (an association of the Hill Channel Network), Jan Sarokar, Himalayan People's Channel (HPC), and Kalimpong Times are broadcast in Kalimpong. These channels, which mainly broadcast locally relevant news, are produced by regional media houses and news networks, and are broadcast through the local cable network, which is now slowly becoming defunct due to the Indian government's ruling on mandatory digitization of TV channels. The movie production houses like JBU films produces the movies on the nepali and other languages.
Newspapers in Kalimpong include English language dailies The Statesman and The Telegraph, which are printed in Siliguri, and The Economic Times and the Hindustan Times, which are printed in Kolkata.
Among other languages, Nepali, Hindi and Bengali are prominent vernacular languages used in this region. Newspapers in all these four languages are available in the Darjeeling Hills region. Of the largely circulated Nepali newspapers Himalay Darpan, Swarnabhumi and some Sikkim-based Nepali newspapers like Hamro Prajashakti and Samay Dainik are read most. The Tibet Mirror was the first Tibetan-language newspaper published in Kalimpong in 1925. while Himalayan Times was the first English to have come out from Kalimpong in the year 1947, it was closed down in the year 1962 after the Chinese aggression but was started once again and is now in regular print. Internet service and Internet cafés are well established; these are mostly served through broadband, data card of different mobile services, WLL, dialup lines, Kalimpong News, Kalimpong Online News, Kalimpong Times and KTV are the main online news sites that collect and present local and North Bengal & Sikkim news from its own agencies like KalimNews and other newspapers. Besides this there are others like kalimpong.info, kalimpongexpress.blogspot.com and several others. All India Radio and several other National and Private Channels including FM Radio are received in Kalimpong.
There are fifteen major schools in Kalimpong, the most notable ones being Scottish Universities Mission Institution, Dr. Graham's Homes, St Joseph's Convent, St. Augustine's School, Rockvale Academy, Saptashri Gyanpeeth, Springdale Academy, St. Philomenas School, Kalimpong Girls' High School, Kumdini Homes, Chandramaya High School, Lolay Sampu High School, Kendriya Vidyalaya and Gandhi Ashram School. The Scottish Universities Mission Institution was the first school that was opened in 1886. The schools offer education up to high secondary standard, following which students may choose to join a Junior College or carry on with additional two years of schooling.
Kalimpong College, Cluny Women's College and Rockvale Management College are the main colleges in the town. Former two are affiliated to the North Bengal University and the latter affiliated to West Bengal University of Technology and apart from these, Good Shepherd IHM (Hotel management Institution) offers courses on hospitality sectors. Most students however, choose to further their studies in Siliguri, Kolkata, and other colleges in the Indian metropolis. The Tharpa Choling Monastery, at Tirpai Hill near Kalimpong, is managed by Yellow Hat sect and has a library of Tibetan manuscripts and thankas.
Flora and fauna
The area around Kalimpong lies in the Eastern Himalayas, which is classified as an ecological hotspot, one of only three among the ecoregions of India. Neora Valley National Park lies within the Kalimpong subdivision and is home to tigers. Acacia is the most commonly found species at lower altitudes, while cinnamon, ficus, bamboo and cardamom, are found in the hillsides around Kalimpong. The forests found at higher altitudes are made up of pine trees and other evergreen alpine vegetation. Seven species of rhododendrons are found in the region east of Kalimpong. The temperate deciduous forests include oak, birch, maple and alder. Three hundred species of orchid are found around Kalimpong.
The Red panda, Clouded leopard, Siberian weasel, Asiatic black bear, barking deer, Himalayan tahr, goral, gaur and pangolin are some of the fauna found near Kalimpong. Avifauna of the region include the pheasants, cuckoos, minivets, flycatchers, bulbuls, orioles, owls, partridges, sunbirds, warblers, swallows, swifts and woodpeckers.
Kalimpong is a major production centre of gladioli in India, and orchids, which are exported to many parts of the world. The Rishi Bankim Chandra Park is an ecological museums within Kalimpong. Citrus Dieback Research Station at Kalimpong works towards control of diseases, plant protection and production of disease free orange seedlings.
Kalimpong is also famous for their rich practice of cactus cultivation. Its nurseries attract people from far and wide for the absolutely stunning collection of cacti they cultivate. The strains of cacti, though not indigenous to the locale, have been carefully cultivated over the years, and now the town boasts one of the most fascinating and exhaustive collections of the family Cactaceae. The plants have adapted well to the altitude and environment, and now prove to be one of the chief draws of tourism to the township.
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- Kalimpong travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Informative site on Kalimpong maintained by Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association (HORAK)
- Comprehensive list of schools in Kalimpong
- Birds of Kalimpong area