The Good Darjeeling Life: Culture and History

Do you also sometimes wanna escape your busy daily life and just pack your bags and head to live the Good Darjeeling Life?

The majestic sunrise, the aesthetic sunset or the magical night sky are just a few perks of living in the “Queen of Hills”. Or like we call it the good Darjeeling Life.

Makes me rethink harder about the quote:

 “Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”by Barry Finlay.

About escaping our daily life and go settle in one of the India’s best hill station and everyone’s favourite, Darjeeling or should I just say the Queen of Hills?

Tempting, I am sure!

What makes Darjeeling so perfect?

What makes living in Darjeeling so unique is the rare mix of several different cultures and ethics living in harmony and along with one another. So, it is a blessing to be living with or as the Gorkhas(a term for the local people of Darjeeling).

It makes me happier to help you take a closer glimpse at the life of our fantasies. So, let’s just dive into a day in India’s most favorite hill station, the Queen of the Hills, Darjeeling.

Amalgamation of Cultures: Darjeeling life

The culture and history found in Darjeeling gives it a distinct flavor. There are people of different backgrounds and faiths living harmoniously in Darjeeling.

Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism are the two most popular faiths in Darjeeling, alongside several other small religious groups. The biggest holidays include Dashain, Tihar, Buddha Jayanti, Christmas, Holi, Ram Navami, and so forth. Aside from that, the town’s varied ethnic population participates in a number of local festivities. All this makes us imagine our hometown to be as blessed with the diverse culture as “The Queen of Hills”.

festival in darjeeling

But does that mean it can stop us from tasting this flavor of life?

No way you are gonna miss out on all this awesomeness! And not to forget, all this would have been impossible without the people from different ethnic groups who live here with harmony. So let’s get to know how different groups of people get along and maintain their rich heritage in details.

Aesthetics around the year in Darjeeling Life

In January/February, Buddhist ethnic groups such as Lepchas, Bhutias (also known as “Buddhist” or “Lhotsampa“), Sherpas (also known as “Tamang“), Yolmos (also known as “Meches“), Gurungs (also known as “Tamangs“), and Tamangs commemorate Losar (“Tibetan New Year“), Maghe Sankranti, Chotrul Duchen (“Sakyamuni’s Descent from the God Realm“), and Tendong Lho Rumfaat. The festivals of Ubhauli and Udhauli Sakela are held every year by the Kiranti Rai people.

The Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha is brought to the town every five years during Maha Puja (Maha = great or grand, Puja = feast) for a month-long celebration. It was last held in 2007 during March. The festival is celebrated with traditional dances, processions, music and recitations of scriptures. This festival attracts huge crowds which often exceed 200 pilgrims on some days.

The Buddhist Cynosures in Darjeeling

Tamang, Yolmo and Lepcha people celebrate their New Year (Holi) during February. This New Year is a six-day festival celebrated with dance, music and feasts.

One of the most important festivals for Tamangs is Bajra Jogini Jatra on 3rd day of the month of Baisakh (April–May). This is one of the biggest festivals for Tamangs in Nepal where they make merry by sharing their joys and sorrows through songs and dances. Music plays an important role in it which consists mainly phcham and khyamti(these are different types of drums made from hollow wooden logs).

The festival culminates on the bright moon night on Purnima called Jitiya (“Sister’s Moon” ). In which, people from all over the district visit. The Tamangs from Dolakha also come to celebrate this festival in Darjeeling. But the Tamang of Khotang and Okhaldhunga celebrate it at their hometowns.

Sherpas Darjeeling life

Sherpa people celebrate the yearly cleansing ritual, “Chasok Tangnam“, during 7th to 9th day of second month (“Nadir“) according to Tibetan calendar. It falls around February – March as per Gregorian Calendar for rest of Nepal. During this period, people burn juniper sticks (called Juniperus recurva: local term for jhatora or simply Tora) in their yards or courtyards throughout the night which is later added up to make wood piles (Kharka) burnt by women folk during Chasok Tangnam ceremony. Men folk carry out all the household work so that women can prepare for the religious rites and ritual practices.

Lepchas Darjeeling life

Lepchas have a new year called “Ubhauli Sakela Ubhauli” which is celebrated on 13th day of month of Bhadra (August–September). This celebration marks good harvest and victory after a month long fast (“Ubhayna“). To mark this occasion villagers construct a special Arch (“dhungro“) decorated with flowers and colorful stuff made by local artists. Besides that, they also carry seven idols of different Gods from different directions into the Arch. All the idols are then kept at a common place followed by sacrificing animals for blessings of gods and goddesses.

Buddha Jayanti in Darjeeling

Buddha Jayanti, celebrated every year on full moon day (“Purnima“) of April according to Buddhist calendar by all Buddhist sects. But Tibetan and Newari Buddhist sects celebrate it on the 8th day of fourth month (“Chaitra“) according to Tibetan calendar. Tamangs and Sherpa people observe the occasion by performing various religious rites, feasts, and community activities such as visiting monasteries and making alms offering for monks.

This festival belongs to Kirat Rai people of Nepal. It falls on 9th day (Rato) of first month (“Boishakh“) according to Bikram Sambat calendar as per all Kirant Rai sects but for Tamang sect it falls on 2nd day (“Gausain“) of second month (“Baisakh“). It is a festival marking the beginning of sowing seeds in the year after an idle winter season. The celebration begins with hoisting flag at a high place and sacrificing animals such as buffaloes, goats, chicken, etc., for good luck and fortune.

Tihar in Darjeeling

Tihar is a five-day Hindu festival that takes place towards the end of October or early November every year according to Gregorian Calendar. Mainly celebrated by Hindus of Nepal, it symbolises their close bond with nature. And it is celebrated by making special pujas (offerings of light and prayers). On the night of Diwali people decorate their homes with rangolis made on floor using rice flour or chalk powder.

Mira Bai’s birthday

Mira Bai’s birthday is observed as the largest celebration of Darjeeling on 1st November. According to Indian calendar while Buddhists celebrate Buddha Jayanti every year on the full moon day (“Purnima“) of 4th month (“Chaitra“). It is also one of the biggest festivals for Tamangs where they dance Bihu songs all night long remembering the deeds of gods and goddesses. There are many plays depicting how Siddharta Gautam attained Nirvana. The day is full of joy and feasting with people visiting each other to share their joys and sorrows.

Tamangs Darjeeling life

Tamangs have a unique culture altogether. The Tamangs celebrate a series of eight festivals known as “Ubhauli“. It falls on 8th day (“Ashtami“) according to Bikram Sambat calendar or 10th day (“Dashami“) according to the Indian calendar. Another festival for them is “Udhauli” which falls on 5th day (“Trayodashi“) according to either Indian or Bikram Sambat calendar depending upon the region they belong in Nepal while it coincides with Diwali for Tamang sect living in Sikkim state, India. This festival is popular as Kheye Haat and celebrated with great pomp and show. People make rangolis on the floor while young people wearing traditional dresses go from door to door dancing to the enchanting music. This festival falls in October or November every year.

Tamangs of Nepal celebrate two festivals such as Maghe Sankranti and Tendong Lho Rumfaat which coincides with Makar Sankranti and Buddha Jayanti for other Nepalese communities living in Darjeeling.

Tantric Buddhists of Nepal

Tantric Buddhists of Nepal celebrate three different types of Maha Shivratri:

  • Maha Shivratri proper,
  • Kaulachakravarti Shivaratri and
  • Siddha Kshetra Manda Shivaratri.
 The former falls on 14th day ("Purnima") of Indian calendar while the latter two fall on 27th day ("Chaturdashi") of both Bikram Sambat and Indian calendars.  

Dashain in Darjeeling

The most popular festival in Darjeeling is Dashain. It falls towards the end of September every year according to Gregorian Calendar and it coincides with Durga Puja for Bengali people living in North Bengal, India. It is a fifteen-day celebration where people buy new clothes and make elaborate feasts consisting of non-vegetarian food. Homes are decorated with colourful rangoli made on floors using rice powder or chalk powder while worshiping goddess Durga as the symbol of power and victory over evil forces. So, during this time, there are many processions accompanied by beating drums and blowing conches. It is the longest festival of the town with participation from people from all parts of Darjeeling.

Durga Puja in Darjeeling

The biggest Hindu festival celebrated in Darjeeling is Dashain (Dusshera), which lasts for sixteen days during September – October. It commemorates the victory of Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura and fall of evil in the world. People visit each other’s home and share their joys and sorrows with their family and friends during this time. They also participate in pandals, viewing scenes from Hindu epics, Ramayana and Srimad Bhagavatam. Especially erected for this occasion that last for a month or more. Many people indulge themselves in gambling during this period.

People enjoy Laxmi Puja on 8th day (“Ashtami“) which marks end to Dashain celebrations. This is on the night before Diwali. On this day people visit each other’s houses bearing gifts in form of sweets and money. Needless to mention the different types of food and snacks on such occasions. Another major festival celebrated during autumn season around September every year is “Indrajatra” or “Jatra” which lasts for nine days after new moon day (“Amavasya“) according to Bikram Sambat calendar.

The Merry season in Darjeeling

Christmas is one of the most important public holidays in Darjeeling. The celebration is carried out with great enthusiasm and joy. During this time, every one irrespective of their faith participates in Christmas related activities such as decorating Christmas trees, singing carols, lighting candles throughout the day. On 24 December each year there is also a special mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church which is attended by people from both Christian and non-Christian background. Which ensures our Christmas in Darjeeling is merry.

Education in Darjeeling

Darjeeling is home to a number of reputed institutions dating back to the British Raj.

 These institutions have a rich culture and heritage and are known for their eloquent mastery of the English language.

The Nepali – Indo Tibetan fusion of culture in the backdrop of the Kanchenjunga makes the experience very special. The town lives in its own bubble and has a never-ending charm

Living here gives one a special perspective on cultures and is a lifetime experience.

So, I would gladly take that chance to relive my school days in Darjeeling.

Architecture in Darjeeling

The well preserved colonial architecture influences most structures in Darjeeling. It is easy to spot these in mock Tudor residences, Gothic churches, the Raj Bhawan (Governor House), Planters’ Club and various educational institutions as examples.

Night life in Darjeeling

Our Gorkhas do know how to make sure the night life in Darjeeling is just as worthwhile. With a collection of cafes, pubs and beautiful restaurants to check into, Darjeeling night life is nothing short of an all-rounder definitely!

It is a treat to stay in Darjeeling and enjoy the ambience and food from some of the best restaurants and pubs like:

Shangri La

Joey’s Pub

1910 Bar and Lounge

That confirms no need to worry about your Darjeeling nightlife at all!


Hope I was able to help you take a closer look at the life of your dreams in Darjeeling.

To help you explore the serenity of this magical hill station we have listed a few places you can’t miss once you are here!

Check them out, here!

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