Siliguri is the terminus of the roads from Kalimpang (Kalimpong) and Sikkim and of road and rail connections with Darjiling (Darjeeling) and Jalpaiguri and is the hub for trade with Darjiling, Sikkim, and Tibet (China). Sawmilling and jute milling are important industries; there are also tea plantations in the vicinity. It was declared a municipality in 1931, and it has several colleges affiliated with the University of North Bengal (established 1962), the main campus of which is situated just west of the city. After partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, the city became a crowded refugee centre. It has grown in strategic importance because of its proximity to international borders.
Siliguri started as a small area in the northern part of city, on the front of Mahananda River, which is now Dagapur. The Treaty of Sugauli in 1815, signed between Britain-Nepal, changed the prospects of Siliguri, and it became a point of transit for the Darjeeling hills and Nepal mainland. From 1815 onwards, Siliguri started growing rapidly as a small city due to its strategic location in trade routes. In 1865, the British captured Darjeeling and the entire Dooars region to build tea plantations and export the produce to England. To scale up exportation they introduced the Siliguri Town railway station which stands to this day, and introduced the Toy train from the station to Darjeeling in 1880. This helped Siliguri gain sub-divisional town status in 1907.
Geographically, Siliguri is strategically positioned, connecting the northeastern states of India with the rest of the country. Its proximity to the borders of Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh has turned it into a major trade and transit hub. The city is flanked by lush tea gardens, dense forests, and the meandering Teesta River, creating a picturesque setting against the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas.
One of the key attractions of Siliguri is its accessibility to popular tourist destinations such as Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Gangtok. The city acts as a transit point for travelers heading to these hill stations renowned for their scenic beauty and cultural richness. The iconic Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, originates in Siliguri, offering a nostalgic steam engine journey through the mountains.
Siliguri’s economy is driven by its strategic location, serving as a trade and transportation hub. The city hosts numerous markets and commercial centers that cater to both local and international trade. Hong Kong Market, a bustling commercial area, is famous for its diverse range of goods, including textiles, electronics, and handicrafts. The city’s economy also thrives on the tea industry, with several tea estates in the surrounding areas contributing to the global tea market.
Apart from its economic significance, Siliguri has a vibrant cultural landscape. The city celebrates various festivals with enthusiasm, reflecting the diverse communities that coexist in the region. Durga Puja, Diwali, and Christmas are celebrated with grandeur, showcasing the harmonious blend of Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian cultures. The Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, located on the outskirts of the city, provides nature enthusiasts with an opportunity to explore the rich biodiversity of the region.
In conclusion, Siliguri is more than just a bustling city; it is a gateway to the majestic Himalayas and a crossroads of cultures and commerce. With its panoramic views, diverse cultural tapestry, and strategic significance, Siliguri continues to be a pivotal point in the northeastern region of India, welcoming travelers and traders alike to explore the beauty and opportunities that lie beyond its vibrant cityscape.