1 February 1835
The East India Company acquired Darjeeling
On 1 February 1835, the East India Company acquired Darjeeling from the Chogyal (monarch) of Sikkim as a ‘gift’. In this edition of This Day in History, you can read all about how the Company acquired Darjeeling, and also helped develop the now famous ‘Darjeeling Tea’.
Darjeeling Acquisition – Background
- Up until the early 18th century, Darjeeling was a part of the Kingdom of Sikkim.
- Sikkim was ruled by the Chogyals of the Namgyal dynasty who were hereditary monarchs.
- The Gorkhas of Nepal invaded Sikkim continually and in 1780, they captured Sikkim.
- The Gorkhas went on capturing land in and around that region when they unwittingly overstepped onto the British East India Company’s domains.
- There was a war between the British and the Gorkhas which the British won and this led to the Treaty of Titalia in 1817. As per this treaty, the Raja of Sikkim was restored his kingdom by the British.
- But this also meant that he would lose suzerainty to the British especially in matters of foreign affairs.
- Again, issues arose between Sikkim and Nepal in 1827. This time, the British Governor-General Lord William Bentinck appointed two officers Captain George Lloyd and J W Grant to resolve the issue.
- In February 1829, Captain Lloyd spent a few days in Darjeeling which was then known as the ‘Old Gorkha station of Darjeeling’.
- Darjeeling was then a deserted place with hardly any inhabitants. The cool climate of the region impressed Captain Lloyd of the suitability of the place to be converted into a sanatorium (a place where ailing officers could go to recuperate).
- Lord Bentinck, when apprised of the proposal by the now General Lloyd, asked him to negotiate with the ruler of Sikkim.
- General Lloyd negotiated with Sikkim’s monarch and as a friendly gesture, Darjeeling was given to the Company.
- In return, the Company would pay the king an annual allowance of Rs.3000, which was subsequently increased to Rs.6000 in 1846.
- The deed was granted on 1 February 1835, and it goes as follows:
“The Governor-General having expressed his desire for the possession of the hills of Darjeeling on account of its cool climate, for the purpose of enabling the servants of his Government, suffering from sickness, to avail themselves of its advantages, I the Sikkimputtee Rajah out of friendship for the said Governor-General, hereby present Darjeeling to the East India, that is, all the land south of the Great Runjeet river, east of the Balasur, Kahail and Little Runjeet rivers, and west of the Rungpo and Mahanadi rivers.”
- In 1839, the Company brought Dr. Campbell as the first Superintendent of Darjeeling. Dr. Campbell was a British resident in Kathmandu.
- He was to take care of administration and also the political relations with Sikkim.
- Campbell is largely considered as the person responsible for the development of Darjeeling. He introduced road and founded the Hill Corps to maintain law and order.
- He also brought immigrant cultivators to the area. Within ten years, the population of the region rose from about 100 to 10,000.
- During this time, however, relations with Sikkim soured. There were conflicts on and off and the annual allowance of Rs.6000 was discontinued.
- In 1861, the Treaty of Tumlong made Sikkim a British protectorate.
- After this, there was peace in Darjeeling as well. Agriculture prospered with the introduction of terrace farming.
- More areas were brought under cultivation.
- New crops were introduced like orange, potato, cardamom, cinchona and most famously, tea.
- It was Dr. Campbell who discovered that tea did well in this climate, and from 1847 tea nurseries were established by the government.
- Several tea plantations came up and today, Darjeeling Tea is famous throughout the world.
- Darjeeling is today a part of West Bengal state. Darjeeling District has a partial autonomous status within the state.
- It is one of the main epicentres of the Gorkhaland movement.
Also on this day
1865: US President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution that abolished slavery in the USA.
2003: US Space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during its re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere killing all astronauts on board
including Indian-origin Kalpana Chawla.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.