EAST INDIA

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Splendours of the East

Darjeeling is popularly known as the "Queen of the Hills" and produces the famous Darjeeling Tea, one of the world's finest teas. It is also home to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a World Heritage Site.

Darjeeling with its natural beauty provides a wide variety of activities from liesurely scenic walks to more gruelling activities such as trekking and river rafting for the adventurous ones.

Tiger Hill Situated at an altitude of 2590 meters (8482 ft.) and 13 kilometers from the town, this spot has earned international fame for the magnificent view of the sunrise over the "Kanchanjunga" and the great eastern Himalayan Mountains. Even Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, is visible from here. The hesitant rays of the early morning sun paint these peaks in pale gold.

Batasia Loop and the War Memorial

The Batasia loop situated almost 5 km away from the town is a gigantic railway loop where the Toy Train makes a 360 Degree turn. It was basically built to make it possible for the Toy Train to cut the deep ascend. Strategically located the Batasia Loop offers a panoramic view of the Kanchanjunga Range.A War Memorial constructed in the memory of the brave sons of the soil who laid down their lives in the different wars since the independence of the nation adds to its attraction. There is also a well furbished market where visitors can buy locally made purses, bags and other decorative items.

Ava Art Gallery

Situated about 4 km from the Market Square and on the National Highway, Ava.Art Gallery was established in 1965 by the Late. Bhopal Rao Sett and Ava Devi. It is the only Art Gallery of its kind in the Hills. A collection of 60 pieces of art work in water, oil and thread paintings are displayed in the Gallery. Visitors can travel on foot to get to the Gallery or simply hire a taxi. Entrance fees are not charged.

Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park

Situated 10 km from town, Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park has now developed into a very attractive picnic spot with natural water falls. The park offers boating facilities and is endowed with great scenic beauty. Ample eateries are available for visitors to indulge in local delicacies and one can even buy souvenirs. No fees are charged for taking photographs. Visitors are however, required to make arrangements for transportation. A two way travel arrangement is advisable.

Peace Pagoda

The Japanese Peace Pagoda was established by Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist order. Situated on the slopes of the Jalapahar Hill the pagoda can be reached by foot or on taxi. The pagoda is the highest free structure in the town. It also showcases the four avatars of the Buddha.

Botanical Garden

It is the oldest Botanical Garden named as Lloyd Botanical Garden with varieties of flora and is famous for two living fossils. It is located just below the Eden Sanatorium(Saheed Durga Mall District Hospital) on an open slope covering an area of about 40 acres. Lloyd Botanical Garden is open seven days a week. There are no entrance fees. A camera, a small note book for a botany enthusiast and a couple of hours to spare, is a must.

Pemayangtse

The small town of Pemayangtse is an important Buddhist religious center in the state of Sikkim. Pemayangtse is not only a religious center, but it offers a panoramic view of the eastern Himalayas to the traveler including the mighty Kanchenjunga peak that overlooks the town. The area around Pemayangtse offers to the adventure seeker a number of trekking and hiking trails.

Pemayangtse is located in the southwestern part of the state of Sikkim, in the northeastern region of India. It is set amongst the Sikkim Himalayas at a height of 6,000 feet above sea level and is near Great Rangit River. The weather in Pemayangtse is alpine. Summers (April-June) are short and mild, while winters are cold (November-February). It experiences monsoon rains between July and September.

The state of Sikkim was originally the home of the Lepcha tribesmen. In the 15th century AD, this region saw the migration of Tibetan Buddhist sects. The Nyingamapa sect/order established its base in Sikkim and their religious teachers or Lamas helped establish the Kingdom of Sikkim. The ruler of this kingdom was called the Chogyal. The capital of this kingdom was at Yuksom and later shifted to Rabdentse, both of which are near Pemayangtse. The kingdom of Sikkim included parts of eastern Nepal, the Chumbi valley (Tibet), Ha valley of Bhutan and foothills of India up to Darjeeling. The kingdom of Sikkim tried to resist the advancing British rule in the 19th century, but the British annexed it in 1849. The power of the Chogyal was thus reduced and Sikkim made a British protectorate. This action of the British infuriated the Tibetans, who had an unsuccessful armed clash with the British. This area became a part of India when India annexed Sikkim in 1975.

The Pemayangtse monastery is the main attraction of this small town. It is one of the principal monasteries in the state of Sikkim, as it is the second oldest monastery in the state and was built in 1705. This monastery is the main center of the Nyingamapa sect, which is a tantrik sect established in the 8th century AD. The followers of this sect wear red caps rather than the yellow ones worn by monks in other monasteries. The walls of this monastery are adorned with traditional frescoes depicting tantrik Buddhist themes. An interesting feature of Pemayangtse monastery is the depiction of sangthopalri or heaven, intricately sculpted on wood by a single monk, which took several years to complete. The monastery also houses a treasure trove of antique carvings. Near the monastery, one can find traditional austere dwellings of the monks. Pemayangtse is endowed with rich natural beauty, as it is set amongst picturesque mountains, glaciers and has abundant shrubs of the exotic rhododendron. Walks around the town are refreshing and one can explore the sylvan environs of Pemayangtse. Pemayangtse is a base for travelers seeking to explore the exhilarating trekking routes of western Sikkim.

Pemayangtse is famous for its Buddhist festivals. The festival of Losar marking the Tibetan New Year is celebrated in the month of February/March every year with great fanfare in the Pemayangtse monastery. The traditional religious Kagyat Dance festival, involving mask dancing, is held every month in the monastery. The gaiety and the rhythm of the mask dance will haunt and enchant the traveler, once he has seen it.