Culture of Darjeeling
The culture of Darjeeling, India, is quite diverse and unique. Apart from the major religious festivals such as Dashain, Tihar, Christmas, Holi, Ram Navami, etc., the diverse ethnic populace of the town celebrates several local festivals. Buddhist ethnic groups such as the Lepchas, Bhutias, Sherpas, Yolmos, Gurungs, and Tamangs celebrate new year called Losar in January/February, Maghe Sankranti, Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, and Tendong Lho Rumfaat. The Kiranti Rai people (Khambus) celebrate their annual Sakela festivals of Ubhauli and Udhauli. Deusi and Bhaileni are songs performed by men and women, respectively, during the festival of Tihar. All these provide a "regional distinctness" of Darjeeling's local culture from the rest of India. Darjeeling Carnival, initiated by a civil society movement known as The Darjeeling Initiative, was a ten-day carnival held yearly during winter that portrayed the rich musical and cultural heritage of Darjeeling Hills as its central theme. Every year, cultural festivals are held in the town of Darjeeling and its surrounding areas.
The people of Darjeeling consume a diverse variety of foods. Each ethnic group has its own distinct traditional food. A popular food in Darjeeling is the momo, a steamed dumpling containing chicken, mutton, pork, beef or vegetables cooked in a doughy wrapping served with a watery vegetable soup and spicy tomato sauce/chutney. Indigenous fermented food products such as gundruk (fermented and dried leafy vegetable), kinema (fermented soyabean), and sinki (fermented and dried raddish) are consumed by the people. Wai-Wai is a favorite packaged snack of Darjeeling hills comprising noodles that are eaten either dry or with soup. Hard chhurpi, a type of hard cheese made from cow or yak's milk, is another popular mini-snack that is both nutritious and masticatory. Soft chhurpi, a traditional soft cheese, is consumed along with green vegetables as savoury dishes, used as filling for momos, ground with tomatoes and chillies for chutney or made into a refreshing soup. A type of noodle called thukpa, served with soup and vegetables/meat, is extremely popular in and around the hills of Darjeeling. There are a number of restaurants offering a variety of traditional Indian, Continental and Indian Chinese cuisine to cater to tourists. Tea is the most popular beverage, procured from the famed Darjeeling tea gardens, as well as coffee. Chhang or jaanr is a local alcoholic beverage made from fermented millet, maize or rice.
Colonial architecture characterizes many buildings in Darjeeling; several mock Tudor residences, Gothic churches, the Raj Bhawan (Governor House), Planters' Club and various educational institutions are examples. Buddhist monasteries showcase the pagoda style architecture. Darjeeling is regarded as a center of music and a hotbed for musicians and music admirers. Singing and playing musical instruments is a common pastime among the resident population, who take pride in the traditions and role of music in their cultural life. Western music is popular among the younger generation, and Darjeeling is a major centre of Nepali rock music. Prashant Tamang the winner of Indian Idol 3 is a resident of Darjeeling. Football is the most popular sports in Darjeeling. An improvised form of ball made of rubber garters is often used for playing in the steep streets.
Some notable places to visit include the Tiger Hill, the zoo, monasteries and the tea gardens. The town attracts trekkers and sportsmen seeking to explore the Himalayas, serving as the starting point for climbing attempts on some Indian and Nepali peaks. Tenzing Norgay, one of the two men to first climb Mount Everest, spent most of his adult life in the Sherpa community in Darjeeling. His success provided the impetus to establish the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling in 1954. In the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center, Tibetan crafts like carpets, wood and leather work are displayed. Several monasteries like Ghum Monastery (8 km or 5 miles from the town), Bhutia Busty monastery, Mag-Dhog Yolmowa preserve ancient Buddhist scripts.
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