After witnessing the mesmerizing sunrise from the Tiger Hill we drove down to visit Ghoom Monastery (Dunggon Samten Choling Buddhist Monastery) and found the entrance partially blocked by enthusiastic local handicraft/woolen vendors. Most fascinating was their confident setup over the narrow-gauge toy-train line passing in front of the monastery. Yes, it is no arrogance or ignorance, and I can vouch for the fact that they maintain complete harmony with the passage of our sweetheart Darjeeling Himalayan rail carriage. They are so used to with the timings of the trains that they can pack and unpack their goods several times a day to perfectly synchronize with the tourist demand of the place.
The Ghoom Monastery follows the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and houses a tall statue of ‘Maitreya Buddha’ (Coming Buddha). I peeped into the ongoing prayer hall and then to the kitchen at one side of the courtyard where a cook was about to prepare butter-tea for the students/monks residing there. I asked him politely if I could wait to taste a sip of that rich stuff but unfortunately he was strict with his rules. In any Buddhist monastery whenever I see tourists facing their bums towards Buddha and shamelessly clicking photos, I feel like enlightening them with some basic etiquette, but, anger is totally an anti-Buddhist quality and I abstain from expressing it in Lord’s abode.
Next place on our card was the Batasia Loop and the War Memorial. Batasia means ‘a windy place’. This is a natural spur of the Tiger Hill Mountain around which the narrow-gauge rail makes a double loop between Ghoom and Darjeling towns. The sanctified war memorial built in the memory of army-men who sacrificed their life for the motherland, consists of an oval shaped raised marble platform with a tall bronze statue of a Gorkha soldier in ‘Shok Shastra’ along with a thirty feet high triangular granite cenotaph on an octagonal base, with the ‘Roll of Honour’ engraved on it.
The color-rich flower garden enclosed by the loops provides a perfect natural studio foreground for tourists to take snaps with the panorama of mountain ranges with snowy peaks at the background! There also you’ll find local sellers selling over humble rail tracks and a dozen of guys eager to show you more than a dozen of spectacular spots through their telescopes in exchange of few bucks. But we were too hungry to locate lands of Tibet or Nepal as warm breakfast was waiting for us in our guest house. We decided to leave Ghoom and return to our den.
We resumed our pursuit after nine and next place was Ava Art Gallery. As expected, photography was strictly prohibited inside the gallery, possibly as most of the arts were for sale. The late artist had some extensive collection of foreign currencies for display too. Soon we reached Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park which is the only specialized zoo in the country and internationally recognized for its conservation breeding program of Red Panda, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and other highly endangered animal species of Eastern Himalaya. The reputed Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is also located inside the premises of the zoo. I captured plenty of photographs of myriad beautiful inhabitants of the Himalayan Zoo but you'll get to meet some of them only in my following blog post on Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park.