Swami Vivekananda

In a letter dated 25th of February 1897, Swami Vivekananda writes to one of his disciples Mrs. Wool, who was then a resident of Darjeeling, "I have been lately very busy and as a result my health has deteriorated. Hence I have decided to leave for Darjeeling posthaste where I can rest and recuperate." However, Swami Vivekananda was not able to travel to Darjeeling that soon. He instead arrived in Darjeeling on the 5th of May, two months later. He stayed for a month and fully recuperated. However, he returned back to Darjeeling again on the 4th of April, 1889 almost a year later. In a letter to another of his disciples Mrs. Alibul, he writes, "Truly, the magnificence of Darjeeling is such that one is allured as a bee to the nectar."
In another letter dated 23rd of April, 1898, he writes to Swami Brahmananda, "Alas, the time has come for me to leave this blessed land. I will be back in Calcutta soon. However, I feel that I should stay at Kurseong for a day, perhaps to soak up for a little while in the misty dreams of these hills."

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore

Gurudev had a special bonding with Darjeeling hills and frequently visited places like Mungpoo, Kalimpong and Kurseong besides staying in Darjeeling. In 1922, inspired by the cascading waters of Pagla Jhora, a stream near Kurseong, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore penned one of his finest plays titled Muktadhara or the Free Current. Muktadhara, described by the poet as "a representation of a concrete psychology", was translated in English by the Nobel Laureate himself in 1922 and was published with the title 'The Waterfall'.
In Darjeeling meanwhile, the Casselton which is now a hostel for the student of Darjeeling Government College was booked for the Gurudev at the monthly rent of Rs. 243. Gurudev would recite poems of Tennyson and Browning among other poets here. He also composed many of his poems at Casselton.

Hand Gurudev reciting "Janmodin" over the All India Radio at his Gauripur house on the 25th of April, 1940.

The Gurudev had for the first time come to Darjeeling in 1882 and returned back in 1887 and 1895. In 1914, Gurudev accompanied by his son Rathindranath Tagore and his wife had arrived at Darjeeling again. The place where he stayed at seems to be debatable at that time. Most scholers believe that he had stayed at the Woodlands, while some believe that it was 'Ashantulli'.
Later, in the month of June, 1931, Gurudev arrived in Darjeeling and stayed at 'Ashantulli. Among many of his letters written from 'Ashantulli', in one letter dated 10th June 1931, he writes, " It is because of the exploitation of the innocent people of this country that this country is in such a situation. While I was travelling in Gaya, I had come across a rather strange or should I say comical incident. A Queen from West India had arrived and upon meeting a poor priest had put on his feet a load of wealth. I laughed, didn't that wealth belong to the poor man and hadn't the Queen been to be a Queen after taking that wealth from him?"
On the 27th of April, 1933 Gurudev visited Darjeeling for the last time. Of course, it does not mean that he never came to Darjeeling Hills again. He just did not come to Darjeeling again. It seems by this time due to his age and the subsequent love affair with Kurseong, Kalimpong and especially Mungpoo, Darjeeling was somewhat forgotten. On the 13th of May, 1933, Gurudev wrote to Hemantwala Devi. " I have taken shelter in the laps of Himalayas." Describing about his journey, Gurudev writes in the same letter, "I was also certainly very lucky because I did not had to even pay for the fare for the whole journey. However, my ambition of being alone here remains somewhat unfulfilled as I am as much surrounded by people as I am in Calcutta." An interesting part of the letter is the paragraph where he describes Darjeeling perhaps for the last time. "Cabbages and various vegetables are abundant here", he writes. "Fruits however, seems to be a bit elusive. Flowers are everywhere. The days are cold and the sun almost seems to play hide and seek with us".
On june, days before Gurudev was to leave Darjeeling, he was felicitated by the Gymkhana Club. A seminar was also organized and Gurudev recited many of his Bengal and English poems.
After 1933, Gurudev never came to Darjeeling, but he frequently visited Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mungpoo where he wrote many of his poems. On the 25th of April 1940, Gurudev recited his poem "Janmodin" over the All India Radio. Special arrangements had been made for the Gurudev to recite his poem from where he was staying. And hence, the AIR transported all their instruments to the Gauripur House(Now Co-operative Training Centre) where the Gurudev was staying. The telecast was a great success.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi visited Darjeeling only once in 1925. However, he is said to have completed most of the 80 km of journey from Siliguri to Darjeeling on foot. At times he did use a rickshaw and a bullock cart but according to Deshbandhu Chitranjan Das, the scenery so enthralled him that he(Mahatma Gandhi) declared that the best way to travel through such a beautiful land was on foot.' Mahatma Gandhi was accompanied by Chitranjan Das and Anne Besant on his journey.
Mahatma Gandhi is also to have been 'rather amused' by the Toy Train, but it is still uncertain and inconclusive that he travelled in it. "The Mahatma was not at all fascinated rather amused(by the Toy Train)."

HandGandhi at the Hill Cart Road near Kakjhora with C.R. Das and Anne Beasant in 1925(Toy Train track is evident).

Rishi Aurobindo

Rishi Aurobindo was sent to Darjeeling by his father at an early age of five years to study at the Loreto Convent. He arrived in Darjeeling with his brothers Binoy and Manmohan. Darjeeling had a deep impact on the young boy, who spent many years in the town. He is once said to have told his disciples that it was in Darjeeling that he had felt close to spirituality.

Hand The photo depicts a young Aurobindo in his Loreto Convent uniform.

Deshbandhu Chitranjan Das

C.R. Das died on the 16th of June, 1925, in Darjeeling at the age of 55 at his residence known as Step Aside below Chowrasta.

Swami Avedananda

Swami Avedananda established two centres of the Ramkrishna Vedanta Math, one in Calcutta and one in Darjeeling. The swami was very much in love with Darjeeling and meant to uplift the hill people by spreading among them religious, moral and intellectual education. Swami Prabhudananda was one of his disciples.

HandSwami Avedananda meditating in Darjeeling in 1936.

Sister Nivedita Memorial

Swami Vivekananda’s aide, Sister Nivedita, was cremated in Darjeeling on 1911. She breathed her last at the young age of 44 years. The memorial stands today just below the Railway Station on the way to the Victoria Falls inscribed with these words: "Here repose the ashes of Sister Nivedita, who gave her all to India." Religious discourse are held there every Sunday.

Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose

One of the greatest scientists to have ever been born in this country had lived much part of his life in Darjeeling. Most of his works were also based in Darjeeling. He was absolutely in love with Darjeeling and belived it to be a paradise for Botanists all over the world.

Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton

In 1846, Joseph Dalton Hooker, a botanist, biogeographer and traveler obtained a government grant for a trip to India. After visiting Calcutta, Hooker came to Darjeeling where he met Brian Houghton Hodgson, an expert on Nepalese culture & Buddhism. Hooker collected about 7,000 species in India and Nepal and on his return to England, managed to secure another government grant while he classified and named them. Hooker and Campbell's travels added 25 new rhododendron species to the 50 already known and the spectacular new species they introduced into Britain helped create a rhododendron craze among British gardeners. Hooker's journey also produced his Himalayan Journals(1854), which were dedicated to Darwin.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain was 61 years of age when he arrived at Darjeeling in the month of February, 1896. However, his age was no hindrance at his exuberance surpassed his frail structure. He was so excited about the journey and at arriving in Darjeeling, that he documented every single detail in his diary. In one of such entries, describing the 'Toy Train Journey' from Siliguri to Darjeeling, he wrote: "The railway journey up the mountain is forty miles, and it takes eight hours to make it. It is so wild and interesting and exciting and enchanting that it ought to take a week."

Copyright © - FALLEN CICADA, "Unwritten History of Darjeeling Hills" written by Sanjay Biswas/Barun Roy.