Barbotey Rock Garden

Barbotey Rock Garden

The Rock Garden (also known as Barbotey Rock Garden) at Chunnu Summer Falls and Ganga Maya Park are recently added tourist attractions in the hilly town of Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal, India. It is a showpiece meant to lure people to Darjeeling after political agitations disrupted tourism in the 1980s. There is another rock garden in Darjeeling known as Sir John Anderson Rock Garden, which is part of Lloyd's Botanical Garden. The British secured Darjeeling from the Raja of Sikkim in 1835 and developed the area. They introduced tea gardens in the area. Townships sprang up, hotels were built and the population in the area grew rapidly. From a mere 100 souls in 1839, the population had shot up to 10,000 by 1849. Spread on hill slopes at an altitude of 2,134 metres (7,000 feet), the town and the area became a major centre of tourist attraction. In the 1980s, the movement of the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) was in full swing in the Darjeeling Hills. The unrest affected the arrival of tourists and Darjeeling started losing out as a tourist destination. With the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council (DGAHC) in 1988, relative peace returned to the area. Since tea and tourism were the mainstays of the economy of the region, DGAHC initiated efforts to lure tourists back to Darjeeling. "We are now focusing on not only Darjeeling town as a tourist centre, but also the region outside it," D.T. Tamlong, principal secretary, DGAHC told Frontline. The garden is about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Darjeeling. While proceeding from the town along Hill Cart Road, one has to turn right, well before reaching Ghum. The road descends rapidly into the valley. With sharp bends all the way, there are scenic views at many points. Tea gardens dot the hill slopes. Constructed by the Gorkha Hill Council Tourism Department, it was inaugurated by Subhash Ghising, the GNLF supremo. The Rock Garden is not one in the conventional sense. A multi-level picnic ground terraced around a natural waterfall, its attraction is in it "being a sort of road-side facility but with a little too much concrete." The garden offers a beautiful view of a hill stream cascading over rocks along the slope, done up with flower gardens and sitting spaces at different levels. There also is a small lake. With tourists pouring in large numbers, tea shops and snack kiosks have come up. Ganga Maya Park is further down the road, about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the Rock Garden. Named after an innocent victim of police firing during the GNLF agitation, "it meanders down the course of a chortling mountain stream, past gazebos, clumps of flowering shrubs and trees, over humped backed bridges under which koi-carp coruscate, and into a circular lake with paddle boats and a waterfall." It has a small lake where boating facilities are available. Gorkha folk dances are performed to entertain the tourists. Good road conditions are essential in the hills, not only for comfortable rides but also for safety. The poor maintenance of the roads often led to protests by transporters’ associations. Amongst the bad roads in focus is the one to Rock Garden and Ganga Maya Park. DGHC maintains a vast network of roads, and they are repairing stretches. Since it is difficult to get bitumen on time, repairs get delayed sometimes. Satyajit Ray’s Kanchenjungha (1962) helped the world discover the charm of Darjeeling. Raja Mukherjee’s directorial debut Bidhatar Khela (2007) renewed the magic of the town. Mukherjee, who had never been to Darjeeling before, was overwhelmed by the place and was surprised that the beauty of the hills has not been properly exposed to the world. After two trips to the town, he decided to capture every possible place here — from St Paul’s School to Mount Hermon, from Hotel Viceroy, Ganga Maya Park, Rock Garden, Happy Valley to even Morgan’s House in Kalimpong — in his movie.

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