After visiting tea garden and tea factory our post lunch destination was Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple and the Darjeeling Peace Pagoda located in the vicinity of the Japanese temple, at Jalapahar hill area. It was not far from the center place where we had pacified our tummy with light meal, just fifteen minutes back. Our driver left us at a point from where we had to take a five minutes walk along the cemented pathway under the canopy of wild creepers and monstrous furniture trees. It was neither an uphill walk, nor a downhill stroll but what I can say is it was a charming afternoon walk! The two storied Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple is simple in appearance and you’ll be more distracted by the larger Peace Pagoda sharing the same campus. As you enter the temple you’ll encounter a framed photo of Fujii Guruji, the founder and don’t forget to take the wooden stairs to the first floor prayer hall. Be decent enough to abstain from clicking if somebody is praying in the prayer hall.
After a short prayer we made our way to the snow-white Peace Pagoda. According to Lotus Sutra of Buddhism, the very appearance of the Peace Pagoda in itself is an incarnation of Buddha which radiates the message of nonviolence and it sanctifies the land and mind of people. This Peace Pagoda platforms four avatars of Lord Buddha (Sleeping, Sitting, Standing and Meditating Buddha) and has beautiful artworks on sandstone, depicting various events of Buddha’s life. Even you can get a partial bird’s eye view of the Darjeeling town from the Pagoda. Here ended our contract with the cab driver and he dropped us before our Kakjhora Forest rest house.
I was not tired enough to surrender to a late afternoon nap, so strolled back towards the Mall road aimlessly. At the beginning of the Mall road, I saw the ‘much heard’ Keventer’s. If you’re not impressed by its ‘slice of watermelon’ like green-triangular-small parameters, two words on its hoarding ‘Since 1911’ are sure to lure you! By chance if you’re not an admirer of traditional English breakfast/snacks with sandwiches, hot-dogs or sausages, you can still visit Keventer’s for a cup of exquisite Darjeeling tea while relaxing on its terrace, watching the busy market area of Darjeeling. I settled with sausages (pork sausages are worth trying) and a mug of coffee on its open terrace and spotted the clock-tower which was used quite nicely in the Bollywood movie ‘Barfi’.
I resumed my wandering along the mall road, crossed the classic Chowrasta and stopped by a big church, St. Andrew’s Church whose foundation dated back to 1843! This church was roomy enough to accommodate 150 persons at a time. Along the walls of the interior of the church are inlaid mural tablets inscribed in the memory of some of the oldest residents of Darjeeling, chief among them being Lt. General A. Lloyd, the person who credited with laying the establishment of Darjeeling. On the opposite side of the road, there was the cultural auditorium hall of Darjeeling. The sun had slipped down the horizon and halogen glow over the streets of Darjeeling was easing up. I took a U-turn as I had to search the Circuit House of Darjeeling. We were supposed to shift to the Circuit House in the following morning as we could procure booking in the Forest Dept Rest House at Kakjhora only for first two days. Well it was not a big deal… moreover experiencing sleeping at different places is a welcome idea for me. But, something that was tickling my excitement was the toy-train ride scheduled for the next morning.
I passed by the picture-perfect Chowrasta, the lifeblood of Darjeeling tourism, located at the highest point of the Nehru road. You’ll find a full social canvas at Chowrasta, ranging from pony-riders, bench-writers, hawkers, porters, bubble-makers to enthusiasts exploring the heritage shops like Oxford Book or Habeeb Mullick & Son. Chowrasta is one among few places where vintage coexists harmoniously with new-age as evident from the Café Coffee Day, Nathmulls etc sharing the stage with those before mentioned old shops. You can be an enchanted passive spectator for hours occupying some bench in Chowrasta. I activated my Sherlock Holmes senses to search the Circuit House. In the next blog post I’ll be narrating the last day of our failed Darjeling trip and you'll come to know how my long-pampered dream got shattered. So, do join my damp and bitter pity party!