Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The Gorgeous Colonial Anglican church ''St. Andrew's'', Darjeeling, West Bengal

st. Andrews church, Darjeeling. West Bengal,, .trawell.in/
old Anglican Church, Darjeeling,WB,  blog.sterling.holidays.com
There stands a beautiful Anglican church called St. Andrew's  about  1.5 km from Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Station. Located on the Mall Road in  this stunningly beautiful  hill station (elevation of 6,700 ft/2,042.2 m) in  the Lesser Himalayas  from where you can enjoy the vast vista of  the mighty Himalayan mountain ranges including  the breath-taking views of Mt. Kangchenjunga, the world's third-highest peak in the world, this old church is one of the popular  tourist spots and the visitors to  this town will never miss it.  The credit goes to  British military officer one  Lt. Gen. Lloyd who was known as the 'Discoverer' of Darjeeling hill station.  In order to sign a a deed with the Raja of Sikkim  on behalf of East India Company, he came to Darjeeling in 1828. This would facilitate  the Company to get the administrative control over Darjeeling. Lloyd  lived here until his demise in 1865.
St. Andrew's. Darjeeling, WB. miles2smile.wordpress.com

Connected (with stations in the plains) by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the state of West Bengal, its history began in the  early 19th century when the colonial administration under the British Raj set up a sanatorium and a military depot in the region.  Consequently there arose a need for  a church for Christian worship  here as there were numerous British patients and employees in the sanatorium.  Besides,  many British families moved in to this hill station to reside and develop extensive tea plantations  as the soil, altitude and climate were quite suitable for the growth of tea plants. Here, they established tea estates and tea growers developed innovative hybrids of black tea and created new fermentation techniques. The resultant unique Darjeeling tea now  ranks among the most popular black teas in the world.
Between 1843 CE and t844, the church was established by the British. The foundation stone of this old Anglican church was laid on November 30, 1843, the day dedicated to St.Andrew. The  cost of construction of the structure was  Rs 9000 - a whooping sum   back in those olden  days.  Named after the patron saint of Scotland St. Andrew, the church was badly damaged by an earthquake  and later in 1873, it was rebuilt to cater to the spiritual needs of many Scottish soldiers and tea planters living in the Darjeeling Hill area as they happened to be early worshipers  at this church  on the hill. The church  can  accommodate  about 200 person during services and obviously, it is not a big one. This being due to the fact this area, geologically speaking, is prone to  earth tremors or earthquakes. The impressive clock tower was built  in 1883 and the north and south transepts with porches were added in 1897.
Darjeeling map, India. discoversikkim.com
The church  boasts of  British architectural  design following impressive  Gothic Style, one of the signature styles of early European  churches.  The church design that is known for its its  pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress is believed to   date back to 12th century AD. It was under the supervision of Captain Bishop, commander of the troops, the structure came up. The reason why so many people throng this historical church in this NE part of India is the serene ambiance  coupled with picturesque surroundings promote a sort of spiritual exhilaration, conducive to  focus our mind on meditation and prayer; be at peace within us far removed from the madding crowd and urban noise.  Arguably, it is the most attractive  and picture-perfect landmark of  this famous hill station with the church standing tall with a fine spire and a Cross atop. 
Inside this old church you will be wonder-struck by  inlaid superb marble tablets and brass plaques, a sort of memorial to some of the oldest residents/pioneers  of Darjeeling.  A major attraction is  a small brass plaque in memory of Charlotte Countess Canning,  wife of the Governor General of that time.  Lady Charlotte  was on a visit to Darjeeling in 1861 to sketch the landscapes around this place. On her way back, she halted at Terai where she , unfortunately  contracted malaria, a dreaded disease in those days,  and died in Calcutta.  It was during Gov. Gen. Canning's tenure the famous rebellion of 1857 -  the First War of Independence  against the arrogant and oppressive EIC officials took place - a dark chapter in British -India history.
An interesting feature of this church is every year  it conducts  a special Christmas Carol Service with religious fervor- a tradition that has been around since the colonial time.   The service is  quite popular among the residents who cut across religion, etc  and attend the church function.
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/darjeeling-s-british-legacy-a-journey
https://www.trawell.in/west-bengal/darjeeling/st-andrews-church
https://blog.sterlingholidays.com/st-andrews-church-darjeeling-reminiscing-a-bygone-colonial-era/