On the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, by the banks of the mighty Mahananda river, stands a special town. It is a town known for its misty mornings and lazy afternoons; yet a wild adventure is always around the corner – quite literally, for a deep, dense forest is just close by. Here, trees stand as strong as the industry, the trade is as robust as its tourism, and its tea is as strong as its spirit. Siliguri, a simple town in North Bengal, may just be a pit-stop on your holiday, the gateway to the beautiful 7 sister states of North-East India. But few know that it is quite a charming town in itself.
Connecting mainland India to its north-eastern states, along with countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, Siliguri is the commercial capital of West Bengal. Harbouring many industries to facilitate inland trade and exports, it has grown exponentially in the last few decades and enjoys all the mod cons of a city. Yet it still nurtures a rustic, countryside charm. Siliguri is the best of both worlds. It is also the best space to find diversity thriving in the region. Commercial opportunities and avenues have resulted in people from various states and faiths finding a home in Siliguri, lending it a diverse, multi-cultural legacy. This is what we are all set to explore during a splendid heritage walk through the town on January 13th, 2019, organised by Sahapedia through its outreach programme, ‘India Heritage Walks' in collaboration with LetUsGo, a unique travel company organising offbeat tours.
Take a walk across the Mahananda Bridge and observe the placid river below it, and stop by the Mahamaya Temple to learn the legend of goddess Kali. Apparently, people visit this ancient temple before they purchase new vehicles. Next, enter the magnificent St. Mary’s church in Pradhan Nagar where half of the town flocks during Christmas to light candles. Observe the beautiful facade of the church under the morning sun. Here, one might also be able to see the popular nativity scene on display. Then walk down to Champasari. It is a busy, bustling area of the city, but the Quadri Jama Masjid looms above the city. Its glistening facade in shades of white and green and intricately carved minarets are truly breathtaking to view. The participants shall also stop by an old Hanuman temple.
There are also a few Buddhist monasteries in the town like the Do Ngag Chhoyi Khor Ling Gumba and the Salugara monastery. Though not part of the walk, they are worth checking out to understand the history of Buddhism in the region and the multi-culturalism that prevails. In times of communal violence, religious nationalism, caste-based hate and bigotry, let this walk be an opportunity to understand diverse perspectives. Let the city show you how to co-exist peacefully.
The walk is being led by Hemraj Shah, a native of Siliguri who works in the tourism industry and teaches hospitality and tourism in a local college. Having guided tours ever since he was a child, Hemraj takes immense pride in the cultural and religious diversity of his town where people from multiple ethnicities, such as Bengali, Nepali, Bhutiya, Bihari and Kamtapuri reside. Understand their origin and legacy in the city as you immerse yourself into different faiths, all of which are ultimately seeking the same truth.
Trace the history of the city with him, as you uncover stories of the past while understanding the geographical and commercial significance of Siliguri and its undying, overwhelming charm. In the shadow of the magnificent Himalayas, come take a walk through the parliament of religions and celebrate the diversity that truly upholds the spirit of this country.
This guided tour is free. For more details and registration, click here.
To read more about Bengal’s rich cultural legacy on Sahapedia, click here.