Dhotrey: Rose, Fell, And Rising Still

by Sayan Panda
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If you really want to find a small and quaint village in the heart of the Darjeeling district, all you need to do is just ask. But, in my opinion, Dhotrey and Timburey have to be the top two. But, we aren’t talking about Timburey today. Our topic for the day is Dhotrey, so let’s start.

Also spelled as Dhotre, it is a scenically blessed sleepy settlement at an altitude of 8,340 ft situated within the buffer zone of Singalila National Park. It’s around 11 km from Darjeeling and approximately 100 km from NJP or IXB. It’s turning out to be the next rural tourism destination for travelers. As it is a little bit popular nowadays, some small shops for regular belongings, homestays (the one I usually stay at is the Vidya Sagar Homestay) for accommodation and some public vehicles for transportation are available. But still, the authentic and natural beauty is intact and hasn’t yet been tainted by the swarm of tourists. A lot of Pine trees make the place, what we say in Sanskrit, ‘Nayanabhiram,’ which translates to soothing the eyes. The stunning beauty of not just the Kanchenjunga, but the entirety of the Sleeping Budhha can be seen on cloudless days.

So now that we’re done with the basic overview of the place, let’s delve into the history.

This village that now stands beautifully along the side of  the Singalila National Park, was once a part of this dense jungle itself, and once, also was the victim of a terrible fire, that burnt the whole village to the ground.

To start with, Dhotrey, or Dhodrey as the locals put it, never existed before the 80’s. The whole area was a dense jungle of Chaap trees, with its only house in the Batasia Range, which belonged to the Forest Department. 

A private company brainwashed some locals from the neighbouring villages and got them on the job of clearing out the forest. Each Chaap tree is sold for a huge sum of money. Almost the entire area was cleared out before the locals understood what was really going on and with the help of a strong local political party, they finally put a stop to it. All the pines here now were planted by the company itself when the trees were cut down. 

Now coming to the residents, the workers who had come from the nearby villages to do the clearing, had to set up small huts as they had to be there for a long time. Well, they never left. And those small huts grew into small houses and that’s how a part of the jungle became a village.

Everything was going well for them since then, but 9th February 2008, changed the look of Dhotrey forever. They use the wood burning ovens, so they used to keep some logs lit, so that they could use them the next morning for making tea. But one particular log lit up the entire village of Dhotrey that night. It’s a very windy place so it didn’t take long for fire to spread, so within a half an hour, the fire had spread to the entire village. Thankfully nobody died or was even injured, as the houses used to be small. It was very easy finding a way out of them. They had their lives, but were homeless, so it was up to them to make their roof and get their lives back on track.

This forest village presently has 68 small huts, and each and everyone of them have been built by the residents of the village. Yes.

Whenever a new house has to be made, members from each and every family of Dhotrey join in. They go to the forest and first cut four  trees as the four main pillars of the house. Then the house is built out of wood and ply and finally it’s topped with green asbestos shade. 

Usually, they take around 1 or 2 days to complete a hut, and once they are done with it, the whole village feasts together and have a great time.

Dhotrey is one of the very few villages in India that just got their electricity last year. 

They rose from the jungles. Then fell due to the fire. And now they rise again. With the help of its residents, that are approximately around 300 religious, mostly Buddhist believers, who have decided and are determined that Dhotrey will shine once again as it used to.

Doesn’t this story stir up some new kind of energy in you? A new level of power? I don’t know about you, but since I had heard the story from the locals there, it changed me.

O! So now after this moral monologue, let me first tell you how you can get there, and then we’ll talk about what all you call co there.

All you need to do is reach NJP by 10:30 am, as there is only one shared cab that goes up to Dhotrey. But, just in case you’re late, then just book a cab, which obviously costs more, but I feel it is worth it. I have experienced both, so, as an avid traveller, I’d say try and experience both. This thing goes for coming back as well, but finding a private cab from there would be difficult, so either you get up on time and catch the shared cab, or just trek down to Manebhanjan, from where you’ll definitely find a cab.

The Lord Shiva temple can be a place to garner some peace and concentration in this calm and quiet environment. Enjoy the beauty of the mountain range up to the eyesight from the nearby viewpoint. A lot of floating clouds are very charming in the monsoon. The unforgettable beauty of the sunset from the viewpoint will definitely take place in the minds forever. If a variety of flowers are what you seek, then the ideal time to visit the place is between the months of March and May, for the beautiful Rhododendrons, Magnolias or many different types of Orchids. You can even hike up 4 km to Tonglu, situated at an altitude of 10,130 ft, Tonglu is a settlement on the way to Sandakphu from Manebhanjan in the district of Darjeeling.

Thus, gear up with your trekking equipment, and head straight off from this intensely hot hell of the cement jungles, and get there, and let the place work its magic.

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