The land of glorious past with rich heritage and culture, Coochbehar is a town as well as a district. It is the only planned town in North Bengal. The monuments and palaces depict the lives of the golden ages of the Cooch dynasty. Cooch Behar was an independent kingdom before it merged with India after India's independence.
It is the easternmost district of West Bengal bordering Assam. The district of Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar together constitutes the Dooars region of North Bengal. To the North and North West of Coochbehar is Jalpaiguri district, to its south is Bangladesh and to its east is Assam.
Train – There is a major rail station in town about 5 kms from the town centre. The station is well connected with major cities of India.
Alipurduar Junction, about 25 kms away from Coochbehar, is another important rail station.
New Jalpaiguri rail station in the vicinity of Siliguri town is 150 kms away. This is the most important rail station of the entire North-Bengal Sikkim region. If you are travelling by a North East bound train, it must be passing through New Jalpaiguri as well as one of the two station of Alipurduar Junction or Coochbehar or both. Alternatively you may travel to a train that ends at New Jalpaiguri and travel to Coochbehar from here by road.
By Air – Bagdogra is the nearest major airport about 160 kms away. The airport is well connected with rest of the country. There are a few international flights to Bagdogra as well, especially from the neighboring countries. Coochbehar town also has its own airport which has not been operational on a regular basis for quite some time. There has been some effort by the government to make the airport operational but it has not seen much success so far.
Road – As for the rest of Dooars, Siliguri is the main transit point for Coochbehar. From Siliguri there are two main roads to Coochbehar. The Siliguri – Jalpaiguri National Highway 31 will take you to Coochbehar 150 kms away. Alternatively the Dooars route via Malbazar through National Highway 31C is relatively lengthy at 185 kms but offers much better viewing pleasure. Both routes meet at Falakata about 45 kms before Coochbehar.
The history of Cooch Behar dates back to 11th - 12th century AD during the reign of the Pala-Senas. Various artifacts, sculptures, coins, antics found from the excavations in different times reveal that the ancient territory of Kamrup played a role in the development of the present region.
The recent excavation of 'Rajpat' or Palace at Gossanimari village, 25kms from Coochbehar marks the site as an ancient capital of Kamtapur of the Khen dynasty.
The present Cooch Behar originates from this 'Kamta' land and Maharaja Niladhvaja being the founder of the dynasty. Later during 1510 to 1530 AD Maharaja Viswa Singha established an independent 'Koch' kingdom. Cooch Bihar, the feudatory state under British Government before 1949, surrendered its full and extensive authority, jurisdiction and power of the state to the Dominion Government of India by an agreement dated 28th August 1949, which came into force on 12th September 1949. Finally, on 19th January 1950 Cooch Behar was transferred and merged with the province of West Bengal and from that date Cooch Behar emerged as a new District in the administrative map of West Bengal.
Cooch Behar is also rich in tradition and culture. Hindus being majority of the population, this is the pious land with lots of Temples and festivals. The age-old historical structures and monuments play an important role to bring the city into the map of important heritage site. Although most of the buildings are now facing gradual destruction but the city is growing in popularity for still what remains.
Attractions in Cooch Behar
The Royal Palace: The most important tourist attraction in Coochbehar is the Palace or Rajbari- the city's pride even today. In 1887 the famous Koch King, Maharaja Nripendra Narayan built this magnificent palace. The creation of this palace was influenced by the classical European style during Italian Renaissance. The glorious double storied brick building covers an area of 4768 square meters. It extends 120 meters from north to south and 90 meters from east to west.
The architecture of the Palace is worth mentioning. A conclave shaped porch is projected in the center of the main entrance to the building through the Durbar Hall. The Durbar Hall is dodecagonal in shape, resting on four arches supported by massive Corinthian pilasters and projecting a lantern at the top. The shape recalls the memory of St. Peter's Church at Rome. The building contains more than fifty massive halls, which include the bedrooms, dressing rooms, billiard room, kitchen, dinning hall, dancing hall, library, and the ladies gallery. The rooms deserve special attention for their beautiful Royal paintings that adorns the ceiling as well as the interior wall.
The Light & Sound show: Every Friday and Saturday the cultural dept of West Bengal organizes a musical show with colourful lighting and fountains just beside the Coochbihar Palace. The show has become tremendously popular among the tourist as well as the local citizens. The show starts with the fall of evening and continues till 8 o'clock at night. Set amidst a well maintained garden in the heart of the city the amusement park becomes alive as the show starts. The fountains turn and twist making peculiar shapes with rhythm of music. It's a fine recreation for spending leisure time.
SagarDighi: The most important water body in the town the Sagar Dighi is situated in the heart of Coochbihar. Surrounded by the age-old royal heritage buildings by the 4 sides of the square shaped lake SagarDighi is also famous for feathered animals. A large number of migratory birds assembled in the lake each year. Among the important species cotton teal, lesser whistling teal, ruddy shell duck are worth mentioning. Best time for watching birds in SagarDighi is December to February.
RasikBill: Spread over an area of 2500 hectares on the Alipurduar - Khamakhyaguri Road RasikBill is the largest abode of migratory birds in North Bengal. There is a well-maintained resort just beside the wetland.
The majority of the population being Hindus, Cooch Behar is the pious land with lots of Temples and ancient myth, old structures as well as monuments. Here is a quick look of different temples as well as holy places.
Madan Mohan Bari
This is the most important temple situated in the heart of the Cooch Behar town. Maharaja Nripendra Narayan constructed Modan Mohan temple during 1885 to 1889. The deities in the temple include Lord Madan Mohan, Ma Kali, Ma Tara and Ma Bhavani. On the occasion of Raas Puja the traditional Raas Jatra Festival along with Rass Mela is held in Cooch Behar, which is among the biggest festivals of North Bengal.
Situated at Debibari of Cooch Behar Town the Baradebi temple was constructed with the influence of European architecture. The temple holds the idol of Goddess Durga. Each year a big fair is organized here during Durga Puja.
Established by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan during 1860 to 1880, the Roman époque architecture of the temple is a rarity in this area. The temple indicates the influence of Brahmo Samaj on the Maharaja of Cooch Behar.
Kamteswari temple is situated at a distance of about 8 km west of Dinhata railway station. The original temple is now destroyed. The present temple has been established by Maharaja Pran Narayan in 1665. Inside the temple the throne of Debi is situated. Beside the main temple 2 smaller temples also exist at the back-side of the temple courtyard. At the gate a 'Tarakeswar Sivalinga' exists. A large number of festivals are observed here of which the Batha Festival of Debi in the month of Magh is worth mentioning.
Baneswar Siva temple
Situated at a distance of about 10 km to the North of Cooch Behar town, the temple has a 'Shivalinga' 10 feet below the plinth level. Also present in the temple is 'Gouripat'. By the side of the main temple is another temple which has the statute of 'Ardhanariswar' installed. On the occasions of Madan Chaturdashi and Dol Purnima this statue is carried temporarily to the Madan Mohan Temple of Cooch Behar town. This has given it the fame as 'Movable Baneswar'. There is a big pond within the temple campus having a large number of tortoise. Some of the tortoises are very old and big in size .At Siva Chaturdashi a big mela is held here for a week.
Siddheswari Kali Bari
Situated at a distance of 11 km from Cooch Behar town (one km from Baneswar), it was constructed around 1830 by Maharaja Harendra Narayan. The temple houses the idols of Goddess Siddheswari. There is a holy tree by the side of the temple.
Madan Mohan temple, Mathabhanga
The temple is situated near the S.D.O.'s office of Mathabhanga Sub-division. This temple is domed at the top. Statues of Krishna and Balaram are established in the Temple. Ratha Jatra, Raas Jatra, Janmastami and Dole Jatra are celebrated here every year.
Siddhanath Siva temple, Dhaluabari
Situated at a distance of 7 km from Cooch Behar Town on the way from Cooch Behar to Dinhata, this beautiful temple epitomizing terracotta as a mode of art. Constructed by Maharaja Harendra Narayan and Maharaja Shibendra Narayan during 1799 to 1843 the Temple has 5 dome-like peaks, but at present the largest middle one has been damaged.
Madhupur Dham temple
In 1489, Shankaradeva performed his last journey to Cooch Behar when Maharaja Nar Narayan requested him to preach the teachings of the neo-Vaishnava cult. It was in his honour that the Madhupur Dham was built in the 16th century. This place has a special significance for the devotees of Acharya Shankaradeva.
Dangar Ayee Temple
Situated at Gunjabari in Cooch Behar town. Constructed by the 1st Queen i.e. Dangar Ayee, Kameswari Debi, of Maharaja Shibendra Narayan during 1839 to 1847. It is famous as the 'Aunt's House' of Lord Madan Mohan and hence the locality is known as Gunjabari.
Fairs and Festivals
The people of Cooch Behar celebrate numerous fairs & festivals throughout the year. Each festival and fair has its own history and importance. Rich in culture & heritage of its own, these fairs and festivals play an important role in the social lives of the people of North Bengal. People from all sections participate in these numerous festivals with pomp and glory.
The following information covers only a few of the festivals that are unique to Coochbehar. There are many festivals celebrated in Coochbehar along with the rest of the region, much of which is not detailed below. The list below, hence, is not exhaustive.
Raas Mela (Celebrated between October - November)
The most ancient and traditional of all fairs is Raas Mela. The fair is organized every year after Durga Puja - the most important festival in Bengal. The Raas fair through performances describes the great epic of love saga of Lord Krishna and continues for 15 days. However, here the idol of Lord Krishna is replaced by the idol of Modan Mohan.
The origin of Rass Mela can be traced back during the rule of the 17th King of Cooch Behar, i.e. Maharaja Harendra Narayan, during 1783-1839. Thousands of people from all over Bengal and adjacent states including Nepal and Bhutan throng this place during this fair.
Hujur Saheb Mela at Haldibari (February - March) :
Every year on 5th-6th day of the month of Phalgun according to Bengali calendar, people come to Holdibari to pray and make wishes to be fulfilled at the holy Mazar Shareif. Indiscriminate of religious creeds, Hindus and Muslims visit there. In that connection a two-day long big fair takes places characterised mainly by religious environment.
Shibaratri Mela (February - March) :
On the occasion of Shivaratri a big fair is arranged at Baneswar.
Beside Baneswar, fair also take place in the sub-divisional towns of Dinhata & Mathabhanga on this occasion. Recently the fair is held at Mathabhanga and has reached wide dimensions over years of celebrations.
Ratha Yatra (Celebrated in the month of June - July)
Ratha Yatra or "The voyage of Lord Jagganath's Chariot" is another attractive and colourful fair in Cooch Behar. The fair is very important of Hindus. Although the fair is celebrated in many parts of India, the Ratha Yatra in Coochbihar has a distinctive feature. Here Sri Sri Madan Mohan instead of Lord Jagganath rides from main temple to his maternal aunt's house at Gunjabari in beautifully decorated Raths or Chariot. The chariots are 45 feet high and have 6 wheels. The procession or rath yatra draws huge crowds from all over the country. An atmosphere of almost hysterical devotion prevails on this day and in earlier years, devotees were known to have thrown themselves under the wheels of the rath in the hope of obtaining instant salvation. After one week the holy idol is ridden back to the main Madan Mohan temple. All throughout these seven days, great fair takes place at the main temple campus and at Gunjabari.
The Baradebi Mela comes after Ratha-yatra. This four-day long celebration marks the worship of Sri Baradebi or Durga at Devibari of Cooch Behar Town.
Sri Panchami Mela (Celebrated in August):
Every year during August on the occasion of Sri Panchami a five-days long fair takes place the in Madhupur Dham about 12 km away from Cooch Behar town. The fair felicitate Shankardev, the protagonist & preacher of Baisnava cult.
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