History of Darjeeling

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Beauty as we know it, Darjeeling has had a very interesting past. The Darjeeling name has been coined in Tibetan Language, Dorj meaning “thunderbolt” and ling meaning “Land or Place”. It literally means “the land of thunderbolt”. It has been an area of dispute between the British East India Company, Nepal, and Sikkim for many years.

The 1700s in Darjeeling

It all started in the 1700s, Darjeeling was originally a part of the kingdom of Sikkim.it was under the administration of the king of Sikkim.it was inhabited by the tribe Lepchas. That is until the Gurkhas, Nepalese army, attacked Sikkim in 1780. The Gurkhas sustained their way of capturing land after land. Until, in their spree of capturing lands, they stepped into the land of the British army. In 1814, war broke out between the British army and the Gorkhas which continued till 1816, in which the British emerged victoriously.

On 2nd December 1815, Nepal was forced to sign the treaty of Sugauli which authorized the British control over some of Nepal’s territory including Sikkim and Darjeeling. Subsequently, in 1817, the British East India Company and the king of Sikkim signed a treaty “Treaty of Titalia” giving full control of Sikkim, including Darjeeling, over to the king. In return, the king had to refer all foreign disputes in the area to the British government for adjudication.

Nepal and Sikkim Conflict

In 1827, conflicts between Nepal and Sikkim rose again. The dispute was then referred to the British governor-general as per the terms of the treaty. Captain Lloyd and Mr. Grant, officers of the British government, were sent to resolve the dispute in 1828.

In February 1829, they spent a few days in Darjeeling, earlier known as the old Gorkha station of Darjeeling. It was a deserted area in mountains with impenetrable forest land. Newly promoted general Lloyd negotiated with the king of Sikkim to carve out Darjeeling, as he realized that the place has potential to be a great health resort, the idea that he later pitched to the governor-general, William. The king agreed to carve out Darjeeling.

Rise of Tea Gardening In Darjeeling

Dr. Archibald Campbell was bought as superintendent of Darjeeling in 1839. He was in charge of administration and handling political relationships with Sikkim. He was largely responsible for the initial development of Darjeeling. He encouraged immigrant cultivators and the population rose rapidly. The population of Darjeeling went from 100 to 10,000 in a year. He also established hill corps and abolished bonded slavery. He is the one who came up with the idea of cultivating tea in Darjeeling, due to which the popularity of Darjeeling grew immensely.

It all started when the British lost all monopoly over China for tea trading and they realized that they have to find other resources of tea supply. In 1839, when Dr. Archibald Campbell came with the first possibility of cultivating Darjeeling tea. In 1841, he planted tea bushes that had been cultivated from seeds that came from China. The results were so good that in six years there was first tea nursery was established.

By 1866, there were already 39 tea plantations spread across 1000 acres of land which produced 133,000lbs of tea. The growth was rapid. Within the next 10 years, the number of gardens tripled, and the acres of the land multiplied by 80%. The production was tenfold. The British were strategic in this approach. They kept the terrain type and the climate in mind. The gardens were situated at elevations ranging from around 150m to 2100m, with annual rainfalls of 70 to 150 inches. The annual temperature ranged from 75f to 53f. They kept all of this in mind and made Darjeeling one of the biggest and best cultivators of tea.

The conflict between Sikkim and British

However, due to the development in Darjeeling, the leading business community of Sikkim was going down the path of loss. Business and slaves from Sikkim fled to Darjeeling to be under the British administration. By 1849, the dispute between Sikkim and the British government became so hated that, when, in November 1849, Dr. Campbell and sir joseph hooker were traveling in Sikkim, they were arrested and made prisoners. Sikkim faced a lot of pressure from the British government and was forced to release the prisoners in December 1849.

Due to this incident, the British government took measures to inflict punishment on Sikkim. First, the annual allowance was discontinued which was 6,000 rupees. Second, some part of Sikkim was taken under control, including the area which was already under the British, and was joined with Darjeeling.  due to this, the king could not get access to the plain areas without stepping into the British territory and he was completely isolated.

The dispute continued for many years, by then the king retired and the administration was handed over to Dewan Namgay. He was the one who was responsible for abducting Dr. Campbell. After Dewan Namgay became the king, the conflicts got more heated. British officers were abducted and were sold off as slaves in Sikkim. When all negotiations failed, the British decided to take over another part of Sikkim.

When the British army entered the Sikkim capital in March 1861, the king, Dewan Namguay, abandoned his forces and fled. After him, his son was given the administration of Sikkim. On March 28th, a peace treaty was signed between Sikkim and the British, resolving all border disputes. This treaty enabled free trade between Sikkim and Darjeeling.

However, the Kalimpong district was still in captivity of the Bhutanese. The situation there was tense. Innocent people lost their lives and properties were pillaged. In 1865, the British and Bhutanese signed a treaty in which the British were allowed the authorization of the Kalimpong district and in return, they were to pay an annual subsidy to Bhutanese.

Peace in Darjeeling

Peace was established in Darjeeling in 1866. Darjeeling paved the way for all-around development in the hills. Darjeeling hill area was declared as a partially excluded area in the provision of the 1935 act of government. In the second parliamentary elections in 1957, Darjeeling was considered as a separate constituency and a single Lok Sabha seat was allotted to it. As Darjeeling has had its fair share of revolving powers and growing businesses for British India, it has also been one of the regions that provided the world with the ‘ fine wine’ of teas as the tea lovers across the globe like to call it today.

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