Siliguri, a narrow stretch of land lying in the foothills of the Himalayas and bounded by the Mahananda River has a quaint and unique charm of its own. Besides its obvious strategic position to the north-eastern region of India and importance as a trading and commercial center in north Bengal, the natural beauty and cultural richness of Siliguri will appeal to all and sundry.
Siliguri is the gateway for all tourists to the hill stations of the north east, Sikkim and North Bengal and one can even get a picturesque glimpse of the Himalayan ranges on clear days. It is also the transit point for all travellers wishing to go to the neighboring countries of Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Siliguri is referred to as the land of the four Ts; “Tea, Tourism, Transport and Timber”. With an increasing population growth and the successful operation of retail, hospitality, real estate and other commercial sectors, Siliguri is a destination which will take you for both leisure and business. So explore some interesting and informative details about the city before you travel there!
The process of getting recognition for the potential of urban growth of Siliguri started in 1931 when it was made a non-municipal town and then declared as a municipal town in 1950. The total area of the Siliguri municipality was 15.54 sq. km. By 1994 it had been substantially increased to 41.90 sq. km and at the same time it was promoted to Siliguri Municipal Corporation. Most of Siliguri falls under the Darjeeling district, and is one of its subdivisions, while a minor part falls under Jalpaiguri district. In 1907, it received its sub-divisional status with four CD blocks; Matigara, Naxalbari, Phansidewa and Khoribari as well as the corporation area, Siliguri Municipal Corporation within its administrative jurisdiction.
According to Sailen Debnath, an eminent scholar of the Dooars and Terai region, the term “Siliguri” means heap of pebbles or stones. It was often called “Shilchaguri” in the nineteenth century. It served as a transit point between Kurseong, Darjeeling hilly regions and Nepal till 1816 when the Treaty of Sagauli was made between Nepal and British India. From 1835, it started developing as a small town after the British seized Darjeeling and then the whole of Dooars as well as Kalimpong by the end of 1865.
After the independence and partition of India, and the creation of Bangladesh (originally East Pakistan), Siliguri became an indispensable strategic and transit point and led to large influx of immigrants to this commercially viable city. This population continues to increase to the present day with a culturally diverse group of people from Nepal, adjacent Indian states and southern Bhutan settling here.
Siliguri is placed in the Siliguri Corridor, also known as a Chicken’s Neck corridor which is a narrow stretch of land which links the north eastern states of India with its mainland. Most of the city is in the Darjeeling district, though a small part lies in the neighbouring Jalpaiguri district. Siliguri is also the gateway to the hill stations of the east such as Darjeeling, Gangtok, Kalimpong, Mirik and Kurseong as well as North eastern hills of India due to its strategic location at the base of the Himalayan Mountains. It is divided by the River Mahananda into two halves while it is surrounded on almost all sides by extensive forests and hence is a favoured wild animal corridor. Siliguri has three main seasons, summer, monsoon and winter. The summers are hot with temperatures reaching 35 degree Celsius, while winters are chilly when temperatures fall down to 2 to 3 degree Celsius. Monsoons are characterized by moderate to heavy rainfall.
The sprawling, prosperous city of Siliguri is largely famous for being a transit point to the different hill stations of the eastern Himalayan ranges. However it is not short of sightseeing options in itself. Some of the notable places of interest in Siliguri are the Salugara Monastery, ISCKON Temple, Sevoke Kali Mandir situated about 20 km from Siliguri close to the Coronation Bridge, which is an interesting specimen of British architecture, situated on the way to Gangtok or Kalimpong on NH 31.
Other tourist attractions include the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary which is a must visit for its range of wild animals and peacocks, the Kalchakra Monastery in Salugara and which was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1996, the adjoining Tea gardens, the Science City in Matigara and Dudhia, a famous picnic spot on the Mirik-Siliguri highway.
The commercially prosperous, cosmopolitan nature of Siliguri has also been reflected in its markets and shopping facilities where you will be spoilt for choice. This traditional shopping destination sells its wares at two major points, the Hillcart Road and Sevoke Road. The Hillcart road is chiefly known for its traditional shops and has many of the city’s hotels; while Sevoke Road offers more upscale shopping experiences with shopping malls like Cosmos, Orbit Mall and City Mall. It is also the banking center of the city.
The myriad people of Siliguri account for an extremely rich and fascinating cultural heritage of Siliguri. Besides the predominance of group theatres, the city has many cultural clubs and music schools. Some of the clubs include the Cine Club, Automobile Club, Sky Watchers Association besides an active Astronomy Club.
Siliguri also hosts various fairs and carnivals including the fashion week held during winters and concerts organized by its indigenous clubs which are held during mid-October to mid-December. Some of the reputed fairs held in Siliguri are Boisakhi Mela, Lexpo Fair, Book Fair and Hosto Shilpo Mela (or handicrafts fair).
As a city within West Bengal, Siliguri has the ubiquitous Durga Puja as one of its major festivals. Some of the other festivals celebrated include Holi, Jagadhatri Puja, Chhath Puja, Laxmi Puja, Saraswati Puja, Diwali etc., most of which points to the influence of Bengali culture and rituals in the socio-cultural space of Siliguri.
Siliguri is a major transport hub of North Bengal and a huge variety of transport options are available. There are five different railway stations of Siliguri Urban Agglomeration; Siliguri town, New Jalpaiguri railway station in Siliguri and Siliguri Junction, Bagdogra railway terminal and Naxalbari railway station. The main bus terminus in SIliguri is the Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminus situated on Hill Cart Road, adjacent to the Siliguri Junction railway station. Most of the state run as well as private buses leave from this terminus situated besides the NBSTC bus stop to the hill stations like Darjeeling and other regions. The Sikkim Nationalized Transport bus station is also close to this place and buses from here leave for Sikkim. The third bus terminus in Siliguri is the P.C. Mittal Bus Terminus on Sevoke Road from where the buses take you to the Dooars region. Bagdogra Airport is the main domestic and international airport located about 15 km from the town. Local transport includes cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws, tempos and local buses which will take you to anywhere within the city.
City Geographical Area: 48 sq. km
Altitude: 398 ft. above sea level
Latitude: 26” 42′ 58N
Longitude: 88? 25′ 25E
Average Temperature: 24 degree Celsius
Average Annual Rainfall: 3274 mm.
Population: 513,264 (2011 Census)
Languages: Bengali, Hindi, English, Nepali
Religions: Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam
Best Time to Visit: April to mid-June and September to mid-December
STD Code: 0353