Culture of Kurseong
The culture of Kurseong is quite diverse and unique. Kurseong is a city and a municipality in Darjeeling district and serves as the headquarters of Kurseong subdivision. Although the origin of the name is not known, some stories suggests that the name Kurseong is derived from the Lepcha word “Kharsang” which later morphed to Kurseong, which means the “land of white orchids” (kurson rip) because of the little white orchids dotting the valleys.
One of the major attractions of Darjeeling and Kurseong are the plethora of local ethnic foods. Due to the distinct origins and culture of the people you will find authentic local food of various ethnic groups like Tibetians, Nepali, Bengali, etc. As you move around the town you will find lip-smacking Momos with authentic and original Tibetian Flavors. Momos are actually dumplings made with flour and stiffed with either meat or vegetables and are either steamed or fried and are served with clear soup. If you love to experiment then you can also try Thukpa which is essentially a hot noodle soup mixed with meat, eggs, vegetables. Although thukpa is more like a starter but for first timers or an average eater it can easily fill up your stomach. If this does not quench your thirst for local cuisine then you can try the Nepali Thali which is actually a meal comprising of several items like lentils or daal, boiled rice, vegetable curry, pickles, curd, papad and a sweet item. You can order chicken or other meat items instead of vegetable curry also. If you are an avid eater of pickles then you can also try Dalle or Darjeeling Hills Pickles which is prepared in round red chili, mustard oil, salt and spices. The pickles are very hot so if you do not enjoy hot foods then this is not for you, however these pickles are very delicious so you can just take a small bite. You can also try Kakra Ko Achar which is actually pickled cucumbers dipped in sesame seeds, garlic, green chili and salt. You can also find authentic Naga food joints serving fermented or dried bamboo shoots served with choice of meat and pickles. If you go to Kurseong and do not taste Churpee then you really have missed something. Churpee are cheese made from yak’s milk which comes in both soft and hard variety.
The culture of Kurseong is truly intriguing. Due to the presence of diversified populations various festivals are observed in this part of Bengal. Festivals form an integral part of the people’s lives in Kurseong. With the onset of New Year, in the month of January as the district of Darjeeling experiences festivity in each month as a result of the cultural blend of various religions, tribes and immigrants, people of Kurseong also jumps into the bandwagon to celebrate the festivals. If you want have your fill of culture then you can plan your holidays accordingly and indulge yourself in the rich culture and celebrations.
Maghe Sankranti: In spite of the chill of the month of January, Maghe or Makar Sankranti is observed in the middle of the month. The main ritual is to take a bath in the rivers or streams and offer Pujas. This day marks the beginning of the month Magh and the festival is observed to welcome the spring season and prayers are offered to bring good weather and fortune to the people for the rest of the year. Villagers organize fairs where you can find people dressed in their local costumes selling various eye-catching items. If you can brave the cold then you can plan your visit during this time to get a taste of the wonderful mix of culture that Maghe Sankranti offers you.
Desai: The Nepali Hindus come alive on the streets with their pomp and splendor in the month of March to celebrate Dasai. You will be astonished to watch the energy of the people as they dance and play their traditional musical instruments. The festival is to commemorate the triumph of good over evil. Prayers are offered to the Goddess of Power – Devi Shakti, and elders bless the young generation by tainting their foreheads with tika
Tihar: Tihar or Diwali is celebrated in Kurseong in about 15 days after Durga Puja, a major Hindu festival. The way Tihar is celebrated here is quite intriguing. The first day is known as Kak Tihar and is observed to honor the crows, the second day is known as Kukur Tihar where the dogs are honored and the third day is known as Gai Tihar where cows are worshiped. During all these days the animals are well fed. On the first day crows are worshiped to avoid grief because Nepalese believe that crows symbolize sadness. On the second day dogs are worshiped because as per the Nepali Hindu practitioners dogs play an important role in human life. Dogs are believed to be the messengers of the God of Death. Dogs are also said to guard the gates of afterlife. Cows are worshiped on the third day because cows are considered symbol of prosperity and wealth. On the third day of Tihar cow horns are painted with bright colors, lamps are lit and all the houses are decorated with colorful lights. The entire town sparkles and fire crackers are lit up.
Loshar Festival: Loshar Festival marks the new year of the Tibetians and usually is observed in the month of February. It is an important festival of the Tibetians and the celebration continues for a week. It is celebrated with great ardor and devotion by the Tibetians, and if you like to watch some traditional dance then this is the festival that you should be looking for. As the Tibetian youths take to the streets, dressed in multi colored clothes to perform the traditional YAK dance, your heart will also dance to the tune. The youths walk down the street singing and dancing creating an electrifying atmosphere, something that you would love to enjoy and remember for a long time.
There are plenty of places to visit in Kurseong where you can observe the rich culture so if you want to have your fill of history and culture just visit Kurseong to walk back in time and discover the richness of history and culture this oldest municipality of undivided India unfolds for you!