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Darjeeling's famous toy train takes a trip down memory lane
by Pallav Basu

     Darjeeling (West Bengal): Darjeeling's famous Toy Train now has a museum that showcases its 125-year-old journey. The museum takes tourists on a virtual trip down memory lane showcasing the glorious past of this world heritage item. The authorities of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) have set up the museum at the station and it houses rare photographs and interesting anecdotes about the train. Fifty-two photographs chronicle the early days of the train, started by the British, which include the first DHR workshop at Kurseong that opened in 1880 and private trolleys used to ferry passengers. P.K.Mittal, Additional Divisional Railway Manager and Chief Executive Officer of DHR said photographs for the museum were collected from all over the world. "The museum is depicting the unique photographs which are connected with the history of DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway). Very rare photos,some of them we have brought from London and other societies spread all over the world. I am sure people will be able to appreciate how DHR was conceived and how it developed over a long time," he said.

    The museum also has small souvenirs on sale for tourists. The photographs serve as a good medium to take back passengers into the history of the DHR . "It's a very nice train, in history you have to cherish this. And I think it's very old and has a unique history. It's great that one can experience the toy train through this museum. The train was one of the reasons we came to India," said Judith, a Dutch tourist. DHR also plans to open similar museums at Kurseong and Dhoom stations, which are popular tourist hubs. Called "Toy" because of its miniature size and snail pace, Darjeeling's steam train presents a picture of old-world charm. From New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, the toy train covers a distance of nearly 144 kilometres.
-Sept 6, 2005

Kilakarai--the birth place of world famous Indian conch  (Go To Top)
by P Subramaniyann

     Kilakarai (Madurai): :Kilakarai, a coastal village adjoining the Gulf of Mannar, in Ramnathapuram district of the Tamil Nadu houses numerous types of world famous conches. The conches play an important role in religious ceremonies and temples but many may not know that they have their origin in this little known village. These conches are famous not only for their variety, novelty, acoustic character and beauty. The chank or Indian conch, is a large, thick-shelled gastropod found in abundance in the shallow waters of Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar, between India and Sri Lanka, where it feeds on marine worms. From there it extends around the southern coastline of the country to Kerala, with isolated populations further in the north, especially in the Gulf of Kutch, as far as the coast of Pakistan. Chanks are living sea animals and immediately after their catch are brought to the shore and are processed through various stages including chemical coating, acid wash and roasting in boiling oil to remove the mollusc. In the recent years the chank-fishing has increased manifold keeping with ever increasing demand of chank products which has caused worry to the environmentalists and the marine scientists. "The middlemen are getting good money . They are also fishing the undersized chanks which should not be done because these undersized chanks will grow to a good size and they will reproduce. So, these undersized chanks are also being caught and this should be avoided," says Professor V K Venkataramani, Principal investigator of Fisheries College and Research Institute.

     But the dealers in conch trade are of the opinion that the demand for conch provides a means of susteanance for them. "We sell the conch in kilos. A one kg conch costs around 15 to 20 rupees and even to 30 rupees. Moreover, the conches that make sound costs around 200 to 250 rupees and if work is done on it then it touches 300 to 350 rupees. The conches that are meant for the temples ranges from 500 to 600 rupees," says Ibrahim Rowthar, a leading conch merchant. Conches are fished from the bed of the sea by the trained divers who dive upto a minimum of 10 metres of depth to pluck the chanks. The divers how many they get that depends purely on their fortune. They may get 10 or none in a single dip. The chank beds are widely spread at depths of 50 to 60 feet where there are fine sands contain, and chank are not numerous except in a few restricted areas. The chank shell has played an important role in the daily life of the Indian people for thousands of years, for there is evidence of the use of the shell as far back as the early civilizations of the Indus Valley, and traces of chank workshops have been discovered all over India dating back more than 4,000 years. The shell is sometimes known as the Sacred Chank because of its importance in both the Hindu and Buddhist religions, where it is used as a ceremonial trumpet and as a libation vessel (Jhal shankha).
-Sept 3, 2005

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References: India Travel Times, News, Hotels, Airlines, Indian, Tourism, Tourist, Tour, Ayurveda, Yoga, Hotel,


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