Monday, 5 October 2015

Further Godwin-Austen history in North East India

Last Saturday I saw Steven Godwin-Austen, Alice's first cousin who told me that Alice's Great Grandfather, Arthur Odling had been a tea planter near Darjeeling and that Alice's Grand Mother, Beryl, had worked at Dr Graham's school in Kalimpong. This was confirmed on Sunday by Richard Godwin-Austen at his 80th birthday lunch.

Arthur Odling was a partner in Armo Tea Company of which I haven't been able to find any current details. His daughter Beryl worked at Dr Graham's Orphanage in Kalimpong. The orphanage was founded in 1900 by Rev Dr John Graham a missionary of the Church of Scotland. The family of Homes that were created raise children through adolescence, their teenage years into adulthood and currently encompasses an area of some 400 acres.

Both the current Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lyonchen Ushering Tobgay and his predecessor, Lyonchen Jigmi Yoser Thinley (2008-13) attended Dr Graham's Home in Kalimpong.

Kalimpong is known for its educational institutions many of which were established during British Colonial rule. It used to be the gateway in the trade between Tibet and India before China's annexation of Tibet and the Sino-Indian war. China's annexation of Tibet in 1959 saw many Buddhist monks flee Tibet and establish monasteries in Kalimpong. They brought many rare Buddhist scriptures and in 1976 the Dalai Lama consecrated the Zang Dhok Palri Phodang monastery. the Sino-Indian war in 1962 resulted in the permanent closure of the Jelep Pass seriously disrupting trade and the local economy.

Driven by increasing local demands for independence the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was founded in 1988, a body with semi-autonomous powers. Since 2007 the demand for a seperate Gorkhaland state has been revived by the Gorkha Jammukti Morcha and its supporters.

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