Trans-himalayan Commercial and Cultural Interactions: A Case Study of Colonial Darjeeling Himalaya
The history of trans-Himalaya and Darjeeling constitutes an important chapter in the extension of British rule. The main motive of this paper is to document the historical process and development of trans-Himalayan trade and culture and role of Darjeeling Himalaya in it. Trade and Commerce brought about a great transformation in the economic landscape, demography and the entire socio-economic pattern of the Eastern Himalaya. Trade through the Himalayas is a truly international commerce which affected important political and commercial relations between the Himalayan kingdoms such as Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet and the British. Darjeeling as a commercial centre attracted attention of mercantile community and became the Entrepot centre and the market of the Eastern Himalayas. Economic development was accompanied by a growth of its population. Darjeeling became the hub for trans-cultural encounters, cultural interactions and pluralism. Nepali became the lingua franca in the Darjeeling hills.
I focus on trans-Himalayan commercial and cultural interactions concentrating on certain parameters such as trade and culture revealing the vital role of Darjeeling Himalaya in it. The paper will outline the trans-Himalayan commercial and cultural relationships taking the case study of the colonial Darjeeling Himalaya and analysing the synthesis of indigenous and colonial systems promoting commercial liberalism and cultural pluralism in the region. The paper discusses the economic and cultural mobilities and networks, modes of economic and social organization, cultural diversity and cultural integrity in the region.
Eventually, the work also tries to present an analytical study in the connection that how trade brought cultural pluralism in Darjeeling. Merchant and trading communities such as the Bhutias, Sherpas, Nepalese (Newars), Tibetans, Marwaris, Biharis, in general began to migrate to this area and settle here in order to set up their business enterprises. Culturally, Darjeeling became a ‘melting pot’ and ‘ethnological museum’. So, trans-Himalayan trade brought ‘Cultural Pluralism’ in the Darjeeling Himalaya which contributed to the liberal and cosmopolitan identity of the hills.
Keywords: trans-Himalaya, Darjeeling Himalaya, entrepot, trade, culture, cultural pluralism