Bengal Natural History Museum, Darjeeling, is one of the best places to visit in Darjeeling. It is located inside the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park complex. This museum was originally started as a small building in the Botanical Garden which was meant to showcase the varieties of butterflies and birds of the hills. Today, one can find preserved remains of the bird species, reptiles, insects, fishes, and mammals displayed in a replication of their natural habitats. An attractive display of the various minerals of the region is present here as well.
History of Natural History Museum
This Natural History Museum was established in 1903 at the behest of the then Governor-General of India Mr. George Nathaniel Curzon. Established as a small museum within the premises of the Lloyd Botanical Garden. However, due to the growing visitors and increasing collection, the museum was shifted to its current location in the year 1915, and the Bengal Natural History Museum was officially formed in the year 1923. Initially, the museum was run by Bengal Natural Museum Society from 1923 to 1976 and later it was handed over to the Forest Department of West Bengal.
Structure of History Museum
The Bengal Natural History Museum is a visual delight for nature lovers as it contains an exhaustive collection of almost 4300 specimens, including rare reptiles, birds, insects, fishes as well as mammals. All these specimens are of real creatures that were captured and preserved. The butterfly and beetle section merits special mention. Specimens of estuarine crocodiles are also seen here.
There are two sections of the museum, one at the ground level and the other in the basement. The first section at the ground level is that of birds. One can spot specimens like Himalayan Brown Wood Owls, Northern spotted owlet, Northern Brown Fish Owl, pheasants, flycatchers, woodpeckers and lot more. There are over 820 specimens of birds belonging to more than 400 species of the area. There are only two foreign species that have been given as gifts to the museum. There is also a huge collection of birds' nests and their eggs in the museum. They are all placed in natural settings on the tree branches. Also, one can see the different kinds of animals on display like Tibetan fox, Tibetan Lynx, Toddy cat, heads of wild buffaloes hanging from the walls, panthers or leopards. There are various types of butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and beetles which were displayed in glass cabinets.
The basement has many types of birds like pelicans, jungle fowls and others against various land features of West Bengal. The Bengal Natural History Museum houses a wide collection of Himalayan fauna. There is also a small library in the Museum building and houses with many rare and valuable books including 125 volume series of ‘The fauna of British India'. A specialized taxidermy unit is present at the Natural History Museum Darjeeling to oversee the curing, stuffing, and preparation of the birds and animals to be displayed as exhibits.
How to reach the Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum is located at a distance of 3 km from Darjeeling. You can hire a cab to visit this Museum. The nearest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra, near Siliguri. There are direct flights to Bagdogra from cities like Kolkata, Delhi, and Guwahati. From the airport, you can reach Darjeeling by hiring a cab.
The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri and it is well connected to all major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Cochin, and Chennai. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways famous toy train service starts at New Jalpaiguri and will get you to Darjeeling in about 7 hours.
There is a regular bus service from Siliguri to Darjeeling which is approximately 70 km away. Bus services are also available from nearby towns like Kurseong and Kalimpong. Alternatively, you can also drive down to Darjeeling. The road network is quite good with the stunning mountain landscape.
Best time to visit the Natural History Museum
Darjeeling is the perfect place for tourists throughout the year except during the monsoon season and the National History Museum can be visited whenever you visit Darjeeling at your convenience.
Places to visit near the National History Museum
There are many tourist attractions near the National History Museum. They are Tenzing rock, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan zoological park, Mahakal Temple, Peace Pagoda, and Mirik.
National History Museum Timings: 8:00 A.M to 7.30 P.M on all days of the week except Thursdays and on National holidays.
National History Museum Entry Fees: INR 10 per person.