Set in a picturesque valley, Bijanbari lies to the east of Darjeeling (West Bengal). Located at an altitude of about 760 m above sea level, the difference in altitude from Darjeeling to Bijanbari is about 1374 m. There is a big sloping hill with tea garden (Takvar and Som tea estates) that falls between these two places. Far in the horizon, you can make out a silhouette in yellow and another in white–which is the statue at The Padmasambhava and the statue of Shiva in white located in Sikkim.
Bijanbari is the headquarter of the Pulbazaar-Bijanbari Development Block; a Development Block being a rural area earmarked for administration and development by the government of India. There are twenty-three (23) Gram-Panchayats (local self-government in small villages/ towns) under its aegis.
The word ‘Bijanbari’ literally translates into the field (bari) of seeds (Bijan). Bijanbari is rich with the bounties bestowed by the Little Rangeet River (locally called the Chota Rangeet). Brimming with agriculture and dairy products, the valley abounds in potatoes, cardamom, sweet smelling rice (Basmati), maize, millets, peas, beans, squash, cauliflower, cabbages and tomatoes; fruit orchards produce apples, oranges, pineapples and plums. While the little Rangeet is overflowing with trout, the valley has wildlife, flowers and butterflies.
This region is a tea producing area with over 50,000 workers and a population of nearly 200,000. There are people practising all religions – Hindu, Christian, Muslim etc. Bijanbari has three private schools and a Govt school up to the 12th standard. A Graduate level College was started in October 1995 with the support of `fair trade consumers` of tea in the West.
Being the largest village in the area, there are internet cafés, photo studios and cash machines in the village. The small market also has cloth stores, books & stationery stores, tailors, goldsmiths, grocery stores, fruit & Vegetable vendors, Photocopy stores etc. Every Wednesday people of the valley descend to the Bijanbari village to attend the weekly HAAT (market) to buy their supplies.
In and Around Bijanbari
On the way from Darjeeling lies the Hima Falls and another 6 km downhill is Biswambhar rock rising 50 feet vertically from the road. You can also drive via the rock garden near Reshihaat for a picnic. It is also possible to walk to Bijanbari via Singtam tea garden.
Closeby (hardly 2 Kms near a bridge, lies Pulbazaar (literally ‘the market by the bridge: Pul= Bridge, Bazaar= market). A few minutes’ walk from Pulbazaar brings you to the Sericulture farm that houses silkworms and mulberry bushes. Pulbazaar has a weekly ‘HAAT’ (market) on Fridays. This is the oldest and biggest market in the district for livestock, hides and agricultural produce.
A walk along and upwards the little Rangeet river up to the micro – hydroelectricity plant is also very interesting.
In addition to the above, it is possible to walk/ go on day hikes/ picnic to the weekly bazaars of Kaizalay, Gok, Relling, Singla bazaar etc.
The state of Sikkim is close by and a 40 minutes’ drive will take you to Jorethang – which witnesses the famous Maghey-mela (sometime in January). Remember that foreigners require a permit to enter Sikkim.
Closest Airport: Bagdogra 108Kms (India), Bhadrapur in Nepal (1.5 hours to the west of Bagdogra)
Closest Railway station: New Jalpaiguri (88 Kms)
Travel to/ from Nepal: One can fly Kathmandu – Bhadrapur airport – drive 2.30 hours to Siliguri (in the plains ) and then drive (03 hours in the hills ) to Bijanbari on a northernly axis. The road to Bijanbari will branch off at Ghoom 09kms short of Darjeeling.
Travel to/ from Bhutan: The nearest entry point to Bhutan is Phuntsoling to the east – about 2 hours’ drive from Siliguri.
September to mid-December…clear sunny days with a great view of mountains.
Mid-December to January…a little unsettled with some rain. Nights can be very cold.
February to May… springtime. It starts to warm up again with more sunny days. Rhododendrons forests and other Himalayan floors are in full bloom.
June to September …Monsoon
Here are some interesting links to ‘Darjeeling talk’:
The most reliable source of the latest Darjeeling news is at www.thedarjeelingchronicle.com