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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Hungary-Darjeeling cement age old relationship

Amitava Banerjee, Hindustan Times  Darjeeling, November 26, 2012
First Published: 13:05 IST(26/11/2012) | Last Updated: 13:07 IST(26/11/2012)

A totem pole gifted by the people of Kovaszna (Transylvania, Romania), the birthplace of eminent Hungarian scholar, linguist, Tibetologist Alexander Csoma De Koros, in his memory, cemented the age old relation between Hungary and Darjeeling along with assuring future collaborations between the two places.

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The totem pole was formally made public at the Darjeeling Chowrasta on Sunday in the presence of a high power Hungarian delegation from the National Assembly of Hungary led by Speaker Laszlo Kover. The Hungarian Ambassador to India Janos Terenyi was also present on the occasion.

Amar Rai, chairman, Darjeeling Municipality proposed that Kovaszna where De Koros was born and Darjeeling where he had passed away be declared as twin cities. He also proposed culture, linguistic, art exchanges between Hungary and Darjeeling in future.

The Darjeeling Municipality will be naming the cemetery stretch on Lebong Cart Road "Alexander Csoma De Koros Path" in the Hungarian Scholar's honour.

"The memorial pole symbolizes relations between Hungary and Darjeeling. The name Darjeeling was known to us much before the days of internet and mass tourism not because of it being a British Hill Station, or the Himalayas or the tea but as the place where De Koros had breathed his last. He was a renowned oriental scholar who introduced Tibetan culture and literature to the west," stated Kover.

The speaker stated that Koros had come to the Himalayas in search of the origin of the Hungarians.

"Though he was not successful owing to his sudden death, he had dedicated his entire life for this cause. He was bold, dedicated with immense perseverance. The Szeklar (people from Sczeklarland from where he originated) are proud that the pole is rising to the skies in the Himalayas eternalizing the scholar's legacy," the speaker added.

From Chowrasta, the Hungarian delegation visited the tomb of the scholar, located at the Christian Cemetery, Darjeeling which is protected by the Archeological Survey of India.

"It is very touching to see how his tomb has been preserved. Many Hungarians visiting India visit his tomb in Darjeeling. We hope that many more Hungarians visit Darjeeling in future," stated Kover.

He assured that the delegation would discuss the proposals of the Darjeeling Municipality "seriously" and translate the recommendations into action. In the evening the delegation met a Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) delegation led by GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung.

Incidentally this perogramme was initially scheduled to be held from April 29 to May 1, 2012 in Darjeeling. It was rescheduled owing to the resignation by  Hungarian President Pal Schmitt whereby the Hungarian delegation had postponed their visit to India.

Born on the 4thApril 1784 at Koros, Hungary, the renowned Tibetologist Alexander Csoma De Koros left his country to trace the roots of the Hungarians and braving tremendous hardship reached Tibet.

There with great determination he mastered Tibetan language in 9 years and studied original Buddhist literature thoroughly.

He came to Calcutta in 1831 with many Tibetan manuscripts and prepared a catalogue of them in the Asiatic Society. From 1837 to 1842 he served as the librarian of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta and made everlasting academic contributions.

As an Indologist and Tibetologist this great scholar will never be forgotten for his pioneering works. He breathed his last in Darjeeling in 1842 on his way to his mission in Tibet.

He authored the first Tibetan-English dictionary and grammar book and is said to have been able to read in seventeen languages.

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