We have already established the fact that India is a diverse country with language, culture, traditions, and heritage changing every step of the way. The same is the case with Darjeeling. The cultural and heritage roots of the people in Darjeeling goes deep into Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. The colorful culture of this quaint hill station can be seen through their incredible festivals and fairs. Darjeeling is home to people from Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet, and even Europe. Did you know that initially Darjeeling was developed as a health resort or sort of a place where ailing British soldiers would go to heal?
People of Darjeeling
The towns of Kurseong, Kalimpong, and Mirik are dominated mainly by the Nepali population. The foothills of the Himalayas or the Terai region mainly comprise of the Bengali population due to its proximity to the plains of West Bengal. You can only imagine the incredible diversity of the people here that range from Nepalis to Tibetans, ethnic tribes, and Hindus. Their origin and language vary from region to region because of the heterogeneous nature of their roots.
Speaking of inhabitants of Darjeeling, Lepchas are the originals. They have been living here since anyone could remember and ever since most of the land was covered entirely in forests. Their origin can be traced back to Mongolia and the language they speak is also unique called rong ring that have earned them the name of rongpas. Having stayed in forests and among natural beauty for so long that they identify themselves as a part of nature themselves.
Lepcha women dress up very gracefully that goes well with the calm demeanor they have. Socially they are committed to following the tribal culture of rearing poultry, cattle, goats, and pigs. Their cultivation is mainly focused on crops like wheat, rice, maize, and cardamom. The tribe is known for being peace lovers and hate aggression.
The Khampas initially belonged to the Lepcha group and relatively newer and recent immigrants from Tibet. You can easily spot the Khampas because they pretty much dress up like an American cowboy but are mostly Buddhist followers. The Khampas are a warrior group as opposed to the rather docile Lepcha group.
There are many ethnic groups from Nepal, one of them being the Gorkhas. The Gorkha tribe constitutes a major part of the hill tribe. They are identified by their possession of a traditional knife weapon called a Khukuri. They are known for being a prized possession in the Indian army for their bravery, Valour, loyalty, and Vigour.
Art and Craft of Darjeeling
It goes without saying that Darjeeling represents a massive variety of cultures and diverse traditions because it is inhabited by people from varied and equally unique backgrounds. The art and culture in Darjeeling reflect not only the designs and patterns adopted by the locals here but they also portray the religious practices. For example, thankas are an extremely popular part of Darjeeling culture. You can even find a huge range of stuff like trinkets, curios, handmade jewelry, traditional masks and so much more.
Folk Dance of Darjeeling
Darjeeling is dominated by the Nepali population so it goes without saying that the Nepalis of Darjeeling are the most widely seen group of people here. The Nepalese have an extremely rich culture which is clearly seen through their folk dance and songs. Most of the dances are dedicated to the gods and goddesses. The dances and songs are not merely limited to Buddhists, they even have dances dedicated to Hindu gods as well. This shows that they are incredibly accepting of other traditions and rituals as well. Some of the most famous types of dances in Darjeeling are – Khukuri Naach, Damphu Naach, Jatra Naach, Maruni Naach and so much more!
Food of Darjeeling
What can be said about the food of Darjeeling? It is delicious, lip-smacking, and incredibly wholesome while also being healthy. The ingredients are mostly used keeping in mind the temperature and elevation of the hill station. This means that they make food that is made with easily available ingredients that will keep them warm in the harshest of winters and is of course delicious to eat. Momo is the queen of foods in Darjeeling. It is so popular and much loved by the locals that it has gained popularity in most of the hill stations and north Indian states as well. Each ethnic group here has a distinct food for their tribe or community. Some famous indigenous fermented products include Gundruk, Kinema, and Sinki.
Festivals of Darjeeling
Being situated in West Bengal you would expect that the region and the people remain dominated with primarily Bengali festivals and fairs. However, there are numerous small local festivals celebrated in Darjeeling that remain especially rooted in these parts itself. Sure they celebrated Bengali festivals like Saraswati Puja and Durga Puja with incredible vibrancy, but the festival of the locals here is equally colorful and vibrant. As a part of local tradition and culture, the Lepchas and Bhutiyas celebrate New Year in January Whereas the Tibetans welcome New Year by the last week of March or the first week of April through their mesmerizing masked devil dances. In mid-June, the Tibetans also make it a point to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama. Diwali in Darjeeling is a whole another experience comprising 2 weeks’ long celebrations that include Lakshmi puja, Bhai Tika, Deosi, and Bhailo.