Ghum Festival: A Window To Unknown Darjeeling

Ghum Festival: A Window To Unknown Darjeeling
The Darjeeling toy train at Ghum, India’s highest railway station, Photo Credit: Anandoart / Shutterstock

Joy rides on the heritage toy train, performances by local musicians and dancers, food stalls, and walks in and around Darjeeling, are some of the special attractions

Uttara Gangopadhyay
October 07 , 2021
05 Min Read

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), popularly known as the Toy Train, has been a nostalgic ride for many. “But not everyone realises that the DHR is integrated into the lives of the people here and vice versa,” said Priyam Agarwal, Assistant Director, DHR. “Therefore, we are organising the Ghum Festival this year to highlight the connection.”

Spearheaded by Col. SK Choudhury, Divisional Railway Manager, Katihar Division of the North-East Frontier Railway (NFR), the Ghum Festival has been designed in a manner that it will highlight the contribution of both the local people and the railway personnel in various ways to make the region a successful tourism circuit. The NFR is one of the 18 zones of the Indian Railways.

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The festival, which has been named after the Ghum Railway Station, the highest railway station in India, will be held from November 13 to December 5, this year. Ghum, perched at 7,407 feet is about 10km by road from Darjeeling (6,700 feet).

There are three verticals of the festival – Culture, Adventure and Tourism, with plenty of activities planned under each. During this time, visitors will not only get an opportunity to avail the regular Toy Train rides (the passenger train running between Siliguri and Darjeeling, Joy Rides, Jungle-Tea-Safari Ride, etc) but also learn about the DHR at the museum located inside Ghum station (open between 9am and 4pm).

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Various local organisations have come forward to join the endeavour, said Agarwal, from offering home stays to visitors to holding walks and adventure activities. Visitors can also use the opportunity to enjoy trips to the Singalila National Park, to Sandakphu, etc. On specific days, there will be mountain biking and runs, etc.

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“There is no dearth of travellers to Darjeeling. But either they retire to the luxurious tea gardens or opt for the de rigueur sightseeing trips. As a result, they often miss the multi-layered core that lies within – the hill tribes and their culture, forest villages, the culinary inheritance, the heritage of DHR, and more,” said Anirban Dutta, co-founder of Darjeeling Walks, one of the organisations which has joined the DHR to make the festival a success. They will be conducting a series of walks through the duration of the festival which focuses on the various characteristics of the town and its neighbourhood – Summer Capital Walk, Forest Village Walk, Gastronomy Walk, Newari Cooking Experience, Tea Experiences, Himalayan Ecological Tours, etc.

Other collaborators include Mountain Biking Club of Darjeeling, Darjeeling Hill Runners Association, Vikrun Foundation, Darjeeling Kalimpong Himalayan Tourism Association, Darjeeling Hotel Owner Association, etc.

During the festival, there will be a host of programmes at Ghum, Darjeeling and other places, which will highlight the art, dance and music, cuisine, handloom and handicrafts, etc. of the local people.

The festival will conclude with a grand function at the Chowrasta in the heart of Darjeeling on December 5 to commemorate the day the DHR was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999, the second railway in the world to be thus honoured. Later, it was joined by the Kalka-Shimla Railway and the Nilgiri Railway, and together they are now inscribed as the Mountain Railways of India.

For further details of the festival, check here.


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