ABOUT KALIMPONG

GENERAL INFORMATIONDESTINATION KALIMPONGEARLY HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENTETYMOLOGYCLIMATEPOPULATIONTHE FLORA AND FAUNA OF KALIMPONG AGRICULTURENURSERIESTEA GARDENCUISINES

Population (Town)

49,403 (2011 Census)

Population (District)  

2,51,642 (2011 Census)

Altitude (Bazaar)

1250 mts.

Climate

Summer Max – 27 C, Min – 16 C

Winter Max – 17 C, Min – 5C

Tourist season

Mid-February to June

October to mid-December

Languages spoken

English, Nepali, Hindi

People

Gorkhas, Lepchas, Tibetans, Marwaris, Bengalis and Biharis

STD Code 

03552

Distance from major cities

and time taken by road 

Siliguri – 68 kms, 2 ½ hours

Darjeeling – 55 kms, 2 ½ hours

Gangtok – 72 kms, 3 hours

Bagdogra – 80 kms, 3 hours

New Jalpaiguri – 75 kms, 3 hours

 

Basing ones stay in Kalimpong during a visit to the Sikkim_Darjeeling region is distinctly advantageous due to its convenient location. Kalimpong is the most centrally located town of the region: Siliguri, Darjeeling, Gangtok, Pelling, Lava and Lolaygoan all being
almost equal distant from Kalimpong, Visitors to this beautiful part of the world will find it most convenient if they base their stay in Kalimpong and then proceed with their onward tour of the region. If the stay of the visitors is based in Kalimpong then traveling to Darjeeling or Gangtok or Pelling would take approximately 2 ½ to 3 hours but if their stay is based in, say Darjeeling, then traveling to Gangtok would take almost 4 ½ hours and about the same time would be taken to travel to Pelling or Lava or Lolaygoan. (See Chart). Much time and energy is wasted traveling through the hill roads leaving the guest with little time for their leisure or for sightseeing and also leaving the visitor too tired to enjoy their holiday.

In addition to the advantage of being centrally located, Kalimpong has a much milder climate in comparison to the towns of Darjeeling and Gangtok where in the winter month the weather is too cold for comfort. Kalimpong also has a good many number of good hotels and lodges which offer excellent service at very reasonable prices.

Chart Showing Time Taken By Road

  SILIGURI DARJEELING KALIMPONG GANGTOK PELLING LAVA LOLEYGOAN
SILIGURI X 3 HRS 2 ½ HRS 4 HRS 4 HRS 3 HRS 4 ½ HRS
DARJEELING 3 HRS X 2 ½ HRS 4 HRS 4 HRS 3 ½ HRS 5 HRS
KALIMPONG 2 HRS 2 HRS X 2 HRS 3 ½ HRS 1 HR 2 HRS
GANGTOK 4 HRS 4 HRS 2 HRS X 4 HRS 3 ½ HRS 5 HRS
PELLING 4 HRS 4 HRS 3 ½ HRS 4 HRS X  4 ½ HRS 5 ½ HRS 
LAVA 3 HRS 3 ½ HRS 1 HR 3 ½ HRS 4 ½ HRS X 1 HR
LOLEYGOAN 4 ½ HRS 5 HRS 2 HRS 5 HRS  5 ½ HRS 1 HR X

CARAVAN OF BULLOCK CART NEAR NOVELTY LINE 1922 KALIMPONG

The earliest recorded history of Kalimpong is small and hazy. It was only after the Anglo-Bhutan War in 1864 that the history of Kalimpong was recorded. Prior to this, some records are available on the history of Kalimpong but these records are very contradictory and are almost impossible to authenticate. It was only after the Treaty of Sinchula on 11 November 1865 that Kalimpong came to be a place of some importance and prominence.

In spite of the different theories put forward by the various scholars and historians, one thing about the history of Kalimpong is certain: ‘that it was a part of the Sikkimese or 'Donzong' kingdom which basically was inhabited by three major communities - the Lepchas (who called themselves the 'Rong' or the Ravine folk), the Bhutias and the Limbus (Tshongs). The first Chogyal (Divine Ruler) of Sikkim is believed by scholars, to have brought a consolidated rule over the whole of Sikkim which also included the area now known to be Kalimpong’.

One of the later rulers, Tensung Namgyel (born in 1664 and enthroned in 1670) married three times. The first wife, a Tibetan, bore him a daughter, Pende Amo. The second wife, a Sikkimese, bore him a son Chador Namgyel, and the third wife was the daughter of a Limbu king. Chador Namgyel, (born in 1686) succeeded his father in 1700, as a mere child of 14 years. This offended his half-sister Pende Amo, who not only was older but was also the first child of the royal family. She executed an invasion by the Bhutanese who overran the kingdom with the child king having to flee to Tibet. In 1706, Chador Namgyel, now a young man, returned to Sikkim and the Bhutanese were forced to evacuate the entire kingdom west of the river Teesta, though the Bhutanese still maintained their position at the fort of Damsong and retained the area of the kingdom east of the mighty Teesta River. The area still under the Bhutanese rulers was basically the area of present day Kalimpong.

This area in these earlier times was known as Dalimkot and Kalimpong was the name of a very small village which had as its citizens two or three families with 8-9 cows. This village was considered so insignificant that the Ashley Eden of the Bengal Civil Service, made just a flying reference to the village of Kalimpong, in his report to the Secretary to the Government of India. Incidentally, as per the present records available, this was the first time any official reference was made about Kalimpong.

The next reference made about Kalimpong in history, was by Surgeon Rennie, in his book Bhotan and the story of the Dooar War. He too did not find it important enough to show Kalimpong on the map in his book. After the Anglo-Bhutan War of 1864 and the Treaty of Sinchula which was signed the following year, the entire area east of the Teesta River as well as the Doars was ceded to British India and this ceded area was attached to the Western Doars District. In the following year, this area was transferred to the District of Darjeeling. It was only after this that Kalimpong was set on the development track. Some of the important reasons for the sudden development of Kalimpong were:

  1. Kalimpong became an important centre for trade with Tibet due to the closeness of the town to the Jelepla Pass which allowed access to Central Tibet.
  2. The British government decided to open up Kalimpong as an alternative Hill Station to Darjeeling.
  3. The coming of the Scottish Missionaries who did significant work for the development of Kalimpong, and
  4. The British Government opened up Kalimpong for settlers from other places who came in large numbers and with their hard work and skill made Kalimpong what it is today.

Kalimpong offered easy access to the Chumbi Valley of Tibet via the Jelepla Pass, which is about a 100 km away from Kalimpong town. Hence trade with Tibet was channelized through Kalimpong. Musk, wool, fur, food grains, etc, that were carried on mules, were traded in Kalimpong. This sudden economic prosperity of the town attracted the plainsmen and others to flock into Kalimpong. The decision to develop Kalimpong as a hill station too prompted well-to-do families from the plains and as well as British Officers to frequent and build summer cottages in Kalimpong.

The Scottish Missionaries too played a big part in the development of Kalimpong by starting various primary schools and welfare centers in Kalimpong. The Scottish University Mission Institution was started in 1886 and in a few years’ time, the Kalimpong Girls High School was established. In the year 1900, Rev. J. A. Graham, founded the present Dr. Graham's Homes, which was aimed to be a school cum orphanage for destitute Anglo-Indian children. All these attracted people into Kalimpong in large numbers and by 1907, it was no longer the same old Kalimpong. By 1911 it had an official population of 7880 people. Kalimpong was made a sub-division in the year 1916.

The economic development of Kalimpong took a back seat following the Chinese aggression in 1962 after which trade through Jelepla was closed. Today, Kalimpong relies mostly on the business generated by the educational institutes, tourism and agriculture but it still retains its peaceful and relaxed way of life. The 2011 census puts the population of Kalimpong sub-division (now a full-fledges district) at 2,51,642 while the population of the town is 49,403.

In 2017, the Honourable Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Bannerjee, out of genuine love and appreciation for Kalimpong, upgraded Kalimpong into a district after which it has been put on the fast track to development.

STUDENTS AT MELA GROUND

Historians and scholars have put forward various meanings of the word Kalimpong. Mr. K. P. Tamsang who wrote the highly informative book, The Unknown and Untold Reality About The Lepcha’s opines that the original name is ‘Kalenpung’ which in the Lepcha language means “Hillock of Assemblage”.

He suggests that this name was distorted in the course of time into ‘Kaleebung’ and later into Kalimpong. Another meaning of Kalimpong is “Ridges where we play”. The Tibetan translation of the word, Kalimpong, is “The Stockade of King Ministers” from the two Tibetan words ‘Kalon’ meaning Kings and Ministers and ‘Pong’ meaning Stockade. Some Tibetan Scholars translate ‘Pong’ as assembly, in which case Kalimpong would mean “Assembly of Kings and Ministers”.

The hill people also call Kalimpong as ‘Kalibong” or the Black Spurs. However, the meaning that has found the most favour is “Ridges where we play”. It is said that Lepcha tribesmen used to organize field sports here when not engaged in agricultural pursuits.

Click here for - Live Kalimpong Weather.

Situated at a height of 1250 metres and between a latitude of 26 o 51’ and 27 o 12’and at a longitude 88 o 53’ E, Kalimpong has a mild and temperate climate. This is it's distinct advantage over it's neighboring towns. The maximum summer temperature is 27 o C and the minimum 16 o C. Temperatures in winter hover between a high of 17 o C and a low of 5 o C. The average annual rainfall is 220 cm.

Like the rest of India, Kalimpong has five distinct seasons. Spring from March through April, summer in May and June, monsoon from mid-June to September, autumn in October and November and winter months stretch between December and February. The best season to visit Kalimpong is during spring and autumn.The typical rainy season is marked by heavy downpours and long, persistent drizzles. An umbrella or a rain jacket is a must however clear the sky may appear in the morning.

The climate of Kalimpong during the spring and autumn season is perfect for a relaxed and cool holiday. The mild sunshine, the cool breeze, clear skies and the moderate temperature is ideal for short walks and excursions. Outdoor life can best be enjoyed in this weather. 

Kalimpong has a very rich ethnicity and the presence of different ethnic group has made Kalimpong very rich in forming the diverse populace of the district. from the early times of the British occupation in this area the Population has grown steadily up in particular in the Kalimpong town. Administratively Kalimpong district is divided in 4 units - Kalimpong-I Block, Kalimpong-II Block & Gorubathan Block and the Kalimpong Municipality.

According to the 2011 Census the Population of Kalimpong district is 2,51,642, which is 26,422 higher than the population of the previous census of 2011.

 

Area Population in 1991 Population in 2001 Population in 2011 Total Electors
Elector / Population Ratio
Kalimpong Municipality 38832 42998 49403 36811 0.745
Kalimpong-I 53641 67680 74746 59607 0.797
Kalimpong-II 51411 60263 66830 52312 0.783
Gorubathan 46382 54279 60663 46522 0.763
Total 190266 225220 251642 195252 0.776

 

 

 

Of the sixteen hotspot zones in the world, two of them fall in India – the Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas. Kalimpong is a precious part of the Eastern Himalayas and boasts a rich bio-diversity. The Neora Valley National Park (88 sq. km), on the north-eastern face of the district with its dense subtropical and impenetrable temperate forest, is a national asset.

There are six natural subtropical forests beginning at different zones:

  1. Mongpong (from Tiger Bridge), continuing to Lish, Guling and Nazoke
  2. Chunabhatti, stretching to Nimbong.
  3. Pubung-Mangzing stretching to Gitdabling,
  4. Dalimkot-Gourbathan, extending to Samsing and above
  5. Kumai, taking its route to Rongo and above and
  6. Jholung Paren to Todey, via Godak.

The Tarkhola and the forests along the eastern flank of river Teesta are connected to Neora Valley through Munsong, Damsang-Algarah and Paktham-Lahba. The second connectivity of forests begin at Chunabhatti (Bagrakote)-Pubung and continues through Nimbong, Pemling, Lolaygaon and Lahba to join Neora Valley. The forests of Ambiok-Dalimkot (Gourbathan), Samsing, Kumai, Rongo, Paaren- Godak and Todey Tangta skirt the national park on the south-eastern flank.

At the foot of Kalimpong, along the river banks of Relli and Teesta, the rain forests can be observed containing the species Acacia (Khair), Meliosma Pinnata (Dabdabe), Albizia (Siris) and Dalbergia (sissoo). The lofty sal trees and the intermixed species of Terminalia, Largerstroemia parviflora, and Dillenia from the sal forest lie in the lower hills. The tropical mixed forests in this zone show the presence of Tetrameles (Maina), Beilschmiedia (Tarsing), Macarange (Malata), along with the undergrowths. The subtropical forests, mostly deciduous, extending to an altitude of 1800m, are home to species like Gynocardia odrata (Gante), Callicarpa (Guenlo), Duabanga (Lampate), Terminalia (Saj), Phyllanthus (Amala), Cinamomum (Tejpat), Engelhardia (Mauwa) and Ficus (Khaniun). The beauty of these forests has been enhanced by the magnificent and lofty climbers like Entada (Pangra), Tinospora (Gurjo, Combretum (Thakauli), Mucuna (Kaoso & Baldengra), Cissus (Charchare).

The popular bio-diversity and typical Himalayan flora is exhibited by the evergreen temperate forests. The temperate ranges cover the forests of Algarah, Charkhola- Lolaygaon, Damsang, Thosum, Todey Tangta and continue above to the Rachela peak, the tri-junction of Sikkim, Bhutan and Kalimpong. Floristically, this climatic border is marked by the presence of certain species like Leucoceptrum canum (Ghurpis), Edgeworthia gardneri (Argeli), Rapidophora (Kanchirno), Thunbergia, Agapetes, etc. There are about seven species of Rhododendrons in the Neora Valley, some of them forming a pure (monoculture) forest at the peak of Rachela. Species like Rhododendron arboreum, Magnolia campbellii, Alcimandra cathcartii, Abutilon indicum, Mussaenda treutlerii and others can be seen along the ridges of Labha, Gumbadara, Jhandi, Damsang, Todey Tangta and above and they are popular with explorers.

The evergreen patches of Pinus, Thuja and Cryptomeria can be seen along the roadsides of Labha and Kafer. The common trees of this temperate forests are Quercus lamellose (Oak), Betula alnoides (Birch), Acer spp. (Maple), Alnus napalensis (Alder), Lyonia, Castanopsis, Lithocarpus, Sorbus, Llex, etc. The upper ridges of this zone are often dominated by the thickets of Arundinaria maling and allied spp. Neora Valley is host to a number of plants of tremendous botanical value. The highly endangered saprophytic herbs of the humus soil of the deep forest, Balanophora and Monotropa are available in this forest. The notable names of vegetational wealth include Rhododendron spp, Tsuga dumosa, Taxus buccata, Helwingia himalaica, Paris Polyphylla, Polygonatum spp, Arasaema spp, Smilax spp, etc., and they form the integral part of this upper forest.

About 300 species of orchids have been reported in this part of the Himalayas. Some of the popular orchids available here are Paphiopedilium, Pleone, Orchis, Herminium, Oberonia, Liparis, Coelogyne, Dendrobium, Cymbidium, etc. along with the common ground orchids like Habenaria, Satyrium, etc. The only medicinal plant garden of the nation that cultivates the precious Cinchona (and has its headquarters at Mungpoo) has a major stretch of cultivation in Kalimpong – at Munsong and Rongo – Gairibas. The commercial cultivation of Cinchona spp, Dioscorea spp, Cephaelis ipecacuanha, and other herbal plants such as Digitalis, Solanum, Rauwolfia, Mentha etc. have ben carried here since its inception in the 60s.

The faunal diversity of this region is another interesting asset. There is record of about 130 mammals, 550 birds, 125 freshwater fish, 51 reptiles, 25 amphibians, 43 moths and 24 butterflies in the district of Darjeeling. The wildlife of Kalimpong is enriched by the presence of endangered species like the red panda and munal pheasant, Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard tiger, Himalayan tahr, goral, gaur and pangolin at widely different altitudes. The forest belts host the Siberian weasel, today cat, Asiatic black bear, common India leopard, barking bear, Indian bison, moupan hare and Himalayan squirrels.

Some of the many birds found here are sparrow hawks, Indian besra, griffon vulture, kaleej pheasant, a variety of hornbills, woodpeckers, owls, Indian black-crested baza, etc. The Neora Valley is birdwatching heaven. The dominant genera in the amphibian species are Rana, Loepa and butterflies like Pieris, Poutia, Apollo, Papilio etc. can be spotted. A good number of studies have been conducted on the flora and fauna of this region, yet a lot is left for the naturalists and nature enthusiasts to explore.

Placed between the Teesta and the Jaldhaka rivers and stretched from the lesser Himalayas to its foothills, the Kalimpong district is rich with an abundance of flora and fauna, with temperate climate that favours agro-horticulture. More than 80% of people in Kalimpong depend on farming for their livelihood. Major agro-products include paddy, maize, millet, pulse, oilseed, and potato; however Kalimpong is more widely known as a hub of cash crops like ginger, cardamom, betel-nut and oranges.

Kalimpong is also the home to the Dalle Khursani (Capsicum Annuum), a variety of small but extremely hot chillies, which add delectable pungency to the exotic cuisine of the hills.

The admixture of temperate and tropical climate offers congenial clime for propagation and production of wide varieties of ornamental Plants. The common ornamental plants which have made niche in the local terrain are orchids, Gladioli, cacti, pelargoniums, hybrid Azelias. Considering the viable market both domestic and international, many nurseries have come up as viable business activity. The nurseries of Kalimpong are cynosures for the visitors as they offer wide variety of plants within reasonable prices and within close proximity.

The nurseries that may be visited are Shantikunj, Pine view, Orchid retreat, Horticultural Trading Company.

The economy of Kalimpong is agro-based. However, the district has six tea gardens in the Gorubathan block. These tea gardens manufacture high quality CTC grade barring Samabeong tea estate near Lava, which produces orthodox organic variety. The quality of tea has enough flavour and softness and to woo considerable number of tea lovers across the world. Apart from providing sustainable employment, these tea gardens are potential vistas the nature loving tourist folk who can enjoy the enchanting beauties of the lush green plantation fields. Tea bushes spread over the undulating mountain valleys create a mesmerizing visual effect to draw the tourist folk.

All of the six the tea-estates of Kalimpong district falls under the Gorubathan Development Block. They are Samabeong, Upper Fagu, Lower Fagu, Kumai, Ambiok & Mission Hill

Kalimpong, being a cauldron of different culture and ethnicity the cuisine of the place has diversity in taste and texture. The food ranges from simple soft steamed Momos to tangy hot trotter’s chutney. In brief there is a delicacy to suit every kind of palate.

Meet and meet products find preferred position in local platter, however, fermented Gundruk, Sinky, Kinema is devoured with gusto by the majority. The popular cuisines among the people are steamed rice,   Momos, thukpa, Sephale, Shel-roti and  various types of  chutneys.