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A COLLECTION OF COLORFUL PEOPLE

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With an area of 1,200 sq. miles, the district is shaped like an irregular triangle, the southern region, the base, comprises the Terai, a marshy low-lying area at an average height of 300 ft above sea level; the apex is formed by the Phalut ridge where Nepal meets India. The Eastern frontier lies along the Rivers Teesta and Rangeet, beyond is Rishi-La and Bhutan. The lower regions of the lybrinthian hilly forest-clad ridges, have been cleared for the cultivation or the world famous Darjeeling Tea. Started in area of only 14,000 acres in 1872, it had risen to 787,000 acres by 1956. Beyond the town itself, modern, elegant and sophisticated, lies nature in the raw in hills, valleys and forests, unbroken and untamed, where dwell the Lepchas or Rongpas, and other leading the same life their forefathers did, in their gaily painted huts.

The population of the district is approx. 850,000 including about 52,689 living in the town. The colorful people are descended from the Gorkhas of eastern Nepal; Tibetans, Lamas in yellow robes and women in striped aprons, ornaments and brocades; Gurungs from western Nepal tending goats and cattle; fair-skinned Sikkim Bhutias and Lepchas; the Dukpas of Bhutan and the plainsmen escaping the sweltering heat,


The Lepchas Or Rongpas


Known as the 'squatters', these kindly 'ravine people' the inhabitants of Sikkim are of Mongolian origin and have been supplanted by the virile Nepalese through inter-marriage. The Lepchas have lost their literature and have suffered by the constant ravages of the marauding neighboring hills tribes. Their white complexion, tinged with yellow, the women have graceful features and wear heavy ear-rings and necklaces studded with turquoise and coral. They do all the household and farm work, besides caring for the cattle and poultry. Peace-loving and carefree the short but broad-chested and sinewy men, the strong arms, find non-violent uses for the long knife they are want to carry. Flowing hair woven into plaited pigtails tops their graceful dress, reminiscent of the Roman gladiators. The Khampas, another branch of the Lepchas, are warrior-like and more dashing than their docile cousins. Both branches are Buddhists and under the influence of their priests. The Khampas are recent immigrants from Tibet.

The Nepalese

Immigrants from Nepal, they are the dominant people and are divided into different castes, speaking various dialects. The short Mongolian type Nepalese, the Gorkhas, renowned for their military prowess the world over, and the first to be decorated with the coveted Victoria Cross, finds jobs and security both in the British and Indian armies. Powerfully built, exploits of the Gorkha Rifles have gone down into legend literature and lore. They carry the traditional weapon, the Khukri-a curved ornamental knife put to every conceivable use. Other with aquiline noses, broad foreheads, large eyes and tall stature are of Aryan stock and descended from the Rajput refugees who fled India at various stages of her turbulent history. They brought with them, Hinduism. There are also the Gurungs, Magars, Rais, Tamangs and Newars from west Nepal. The Magars are also sub-divided into the Ranas, Thapas and Ales.


The Newars

Newars are the original inhabitants of the Nepal Valley possessing their own language, script and literature. Besides being good painters, they are also wood-carvers, sculptors and metal workers. Best known, however, the world over-the Sherpas, originally from Solo Khumbu, plucky mountaineers who won undying fame after the conquest of Everest by Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Said the London Times of Tenzing, inhabitant of Namche Bazaar, "...He is obviously and indisputably one of Nature's gentlemen. He has an inborn ease and elegance that would cause a flutter in many a London drawing-room ...... In spite of his international fame, and although before the final assault, he had climbed higher than any of the Europeans of expedition, he retained his modesty throughout, and was as willing to help in the menial tasks of camp life as to share the fiercest dangers of Everest's summit". The eloquent tribute can relatively apply, in parts, to all the gallant Sherpas. Tenzing Norgay is no more with us but world will remember till the end of this earth. In the memory of this hero of Everest Central Bus Terminus at Siliguri has been named as Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus and Hill Cart Road linking Darjeeling with Siliguri has been renamed as Tenzing Norgay Road. Tenzing Norgay's son, Jamling, recently climed Mt. Everest. He was followed in his ascent by a team of Imax large-format movie cameras. Click Here for information on Jamling's ascent and the Imax movie "Everest."

The Bhutias

The Bhutias are divided into Tibetan, Bhutan, Dharma and Sikkim Bhutias. The Sikkim Bhutias or Arrats wear flowing robes and ornamental long knives. They form a large part of population and, among them, are the Mechis who are original tribes from the Terrai region. The Limbus, a hardy people, are migrants from Nepal, but more Mongolian and under the influence of their priests, largely during birth, marriage or death. Simple and good natured, music and dance forms an integral part of their life. They are rooted to the soul.

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