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 golden ages of the Cooch dynasty. Cooch Behar was an independent kingdom before it merged with India after India's independence.
Coochbehar 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 Royal Palace
The most important tourist attraction in Coochbehar is the Palace or Rajbari. The palace is the greatest buildings not only in Coochbehar but hardly has any competition in terms of grandeur with any other building in North Bengal. 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.
In front of the palace is a large open ground and park. The area is well maintained and local people as well as tourists can be seen roaming in the park especially during holiday evenings. Part of the large open area has been converted into a stadium; another part is separated and rechristened as Rajbari Park. The Coochbehar palace area in the middle consists of a small pond and open ground.
The palace has been converted into a museum now with large paintings and other memorabilia from the Raj era. Photography inside the palace is prohibited.
The most important water body in the town the Sagar Dighi is situated to the south of Coochbehar palace. Surrounded by the age-old royal heritage buildings, the square shaped lake SagarDighi is also famous for feathered bipeds. A large number of migratory birds assemble in the lake during winter months including cotton teal, lesser whistling teal, ruddy shell duck and others.
Madan Mohan Temple and Rush Mela
Madan Mohan refers to God Krishna. But in Coochbehar the god is known as Madan Mohan only. The Temple of Madan Mohan is about 500 meters East of the Kings palace. It is considered as the most sacred god of Coochbehar and thousands of devotees visit the temple every year.
The most ancient and traditional of all fairs is Raas Mela organised in and around Madan Mohan Temple. 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. 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.
People from the whole of Coochbehar and surrounding area join in the festivity. A huge fair is set up all around the temple ground. This is probably the largest rural fair of North Bengal which goes on for several days. For tourists, the “Rush Mela” as the fair is being called, is an opportunity to witness the human cauldron of Dooars at one place.
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 with 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 feudal state under British Government, joined the Dominion of 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.