1902 Encyclopedia > Darjiling (Darjeeling), British India

Darjiling (Darjeeling)
British India

DARJILING, or DARJEELING, a district of British India, in the Rajshahi Kuch-Behar commissionership, under the lieutenant-governor of Bengal, is situated between 26° 30' 50" and 27° 13' 5" N. lat., and 88° 2' 45" and 88° 56' 35" E. long. It is bounded on the N. by independent Sikkirn, on the E. and S. by Jalpaigurf district, and on the W. by Nepal, and has an area of 1234 square miles. Darjiling consists of two well-defined tracts,—viz., the lower Himalayas to the south of Sikkim, and the tardi, or plains, which extend from the south of these ranges as far as the northern borders of Purniah district. The plains from which the hills take their rise are only 300 feet above sea level; the mountains ascend abruptly in spurs of from 6000 to 10,000 feet in height. The scenery throughout the hills is picturesque, and in many parts magnificent. The two highest mountains in the world, Kanchanjanga in Sikkim, and Everest in Nepal, are visible from the town of Darjiling. The principal peaks within the district are— Phalalum (12,042 feet), Subargum (10,430), Tanglu (10,084), Situng, and Sinchal Pahar (8607). The chief rivers are the Tista, Great and Little Ranjit, Ramman, MahanandA, Balasan, and Jaldhaka. None of them are navigable in the mountain valleys; but the Tista, after it debouches on the plains, can be navigated by cargo boats of considerable burthen. Bears, leopards, and musk deer are found on the higher mountains, deer on the lower ranges, and a few elephants and tigers on the slopes nearest to the plains. In the lowlands, tigers, rhinoceroses, deer, and wild hogs are abundant. A few wolves are also found. Of small game, hares, jungle fowl, peacocks, partridges, snipe, woodcock, wild ducks and geese, and green pigeons are numerous in the tardi, and jungle fowl and pheasants in the hills. The mahsir fish is found in the Tista.

Population.—The Bengal census of 1872 returned the population of the district at 94,712 persons (males, 53,057 ; females, 41,655), thus classified:—Hindus, 69,831; Mahometans, 6248; Buddhists, 1368; Christians, 556; others, 16,709. The inhabitants of the hilly tract consist to a large extent of Nepali immigrants and of aboriginal highland races ; in the tardi the people are chiefly Hindus and Mahometans. The Lepchas are considered to be the aboriginal inhabitants of the hilly portion of the district. They are a fine, frank race, naturally open-hearted and free-handed, fond of change and given to an out-door life; but they do not seem to improve on being brought into contact with civilization. It is thought that they are now being gradually driven out of the district, owing to the increase of regular cultivation, and to the Government con-servation of the forests. They have no word for plough in their language, and they still follow the nomadic form of tillage known asjum cultivation. This consists in selecting a spot of virgin soil, clearing it of forest and jungle by burning, and scraping the surface with the rudest agricul-tural implements. The productive powers of the land become exhausted in a few years, when the clearing is abandoned, a new site is chosen, and the same operations are carried on de novo. The Lepchas are also the ordinary out-door labourers on the hills. They have no caste dis-tinctions, but speak of themselves as belonging to one of nine septs or clans, who all eat together and intermarry with each other. In the upper or northern tardi, along the base of the hills, the Mechs form the principal ethnical feature. This tribe inhabit the deadly jungle with impunity, and cultivate cotton, rice, and other ordinary crops, by the jtim process described above.

The agricultural products consist of rice, cotton, pulses, oil seeds, and jute, principally grown in the tardi, and Indian corn, mdrua, and rice in the hills. Tea cultivation is the great industrial feature of Darjiling district,—con-ducted almost entirely by means of English capital, and under European supervision. This industry dates from about 1856. The first planters did not meet with success; but the past ten years have been a period of steadily increasing prosperity. In 1866 there were 39 tea gardens in Darjiling, with a total cultivated area of 10,392 acres, and an out-turn of 433,715 B> of tea. In 1874 the gardens had increased to 113, the area under cultivation to 18,888 acres, and the out-turn of tea to 3,927,911 tt>. The cultivation of cinchona was introduced by Government about 1862, and the undertaking has now attained a point which promises success. The Government reserved forest extends to 44,800 acres, scattered over an area of about 700 square miles. India-rubber of excellent quality is obtained from these forests.

Coal of good quality seems to exist, but the supply has not hitherto been utilized. A little iron is manufactured, and copper mining is carried on to a some-what greater extent ; but the methods adopted by the natives are of a very primitive kind. Lime is obtained in large quantities, building stone is abundant, and slate is found. The principal line of communication is the imperial cart road to Darjiling, which has a course of 48 miles through the district. The Northern Bengal State Railway, now (1877) in course of construction, will bring the dis-trict in closer connection with Calcutta, and materially promote the development of its resources.

In 1870-71 the Government revenue of the district amounted to ¿£18,797, and the civil expenditure to ¿£23,869. Three magisterial and three civil and revenue courts are at work in the district; the strength of the police force in 1872 was 213 men. The principal educational institution is St Paul's school, intended to provide good education at a moderate cost for the sons of Europeans and East Indians. The higher elevations of the district may be pronounced free from endemic disease of every kind except goitre, and this is by no means widely spread. In the tardi, however, and in the lower valleys, malarious fevers, often of a severe and fatal type, prevail.

The British connection with Darjiling dates from 1816, when, at the close of our war with Nepal, we made over to the Sikkim rajA the tardi tract, which had been wrested from him and annexed by Nepal. In 1835 the nucleus of the present district of British Sikkim or Darjiling was created by a cession of a portion of the hills by the rajA of Sikkim to the British as a sanatorium. A military expedi-tion against Sikkim, rendered necessary in 1850 by the imprisonment of Dr Campbell, the superintendent of Darjiling, and Dr Hooker, resulted in the stoppage of the allowance granted to the raja for the cession of the hill station of Darjiling, and in the annexation of the Sikkim tardi at the foot of the hill3 and of a portion of the hills beyond. In August 1866 the hill territory east of the Tista, acquired as the result of the Bhutan campaign of 1864, was added to the jurisdiction of Darjiling.

DARJILING TOWN, the well-known sanatory station, is situated in 27° 2' 48" N. lat. and 88° 18' 36" E. long., near the northern boundary of the district, and is 7167 feet above the sea-level. It contains an ordinary population of about 4000 souls, but being a great summer resort from the heat of the plains, the number fluctuates according to the season of the year. The mean temperature of the place is about 24° below that of Calcutta, and only 2° above that of London. (W. W. H.)

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