Dooars, a land of unending beauty, lies in the sub-Himalayan foothills in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Stretching from River Tista on the west to River Sankosh on the east, over a span of 130 km by 40 km along the foothills Himalayas, Dooars occupies a major part of Jalpaiguri district.
Derived from the word 'doors' Dooars or Duars acts as a gateway to Bhutan and the North-Eastern states of India. To the north of Dooars stands the East Himalayas as a natural backdrop and towards south it's a vast plain land with low river basin extends farther up to Bangladesh. Dooars with a vast texture of dense forests teeming with wildlife, unending tea gardens, babbling rivers, interspersed with small ethnic settlements, constitute a fascinating tourist destination. Still unknown to the large section of tourist, the Dooars offers some magical landscape with fascinating view of river valleys and hills.
This entire Dooars region are cries-crossed by Tista, Raidak, Torsha, Jaldhaka, Kaljani and their innumerable tributaries trotting and rolling down from the hills. The entire region is served with a network of motor-able roads and highways connecting all important townships, forests and tea gardens. The railway service connects Siliguri and Cooch Behar via Alipurduar. A journey itself by rail or on road through the dense natural forests interwoven with lush green tea gardens gives immense delight and freshness to both mind and the eyes.
The Dooars valley is specially noted for its wildlife sanctuaries, the most important of which are the Gorumara National Park (75 km from Siliguri), Chapramari wildlife sanctuary (68 km from Siliguri), Buxa Tiger Reserve (200 km from Siliguri) and Jaldapara Sanctuary (124 km from Siliguri). These sanctuaries are abounding in a fascinating diversity of rare flora and fauna. The vast texture of massive trees sheltering varieties of orchids and the forests resounded with songs of birds and call of wild animals make it a veritable paradise for lovers of nature.
Tourist Destinations in Dooars
Dooars plains can be broadly divided into Eastern Dooars, Central Dooars and Western Dooars.
Eastern Dooars – Buxa tiger reserve is the most important tourist destination and forest in this area. Alipurduar, Coochbehar are major towns. Buxa and its surrounding area offer a large number of small but attractive tourist destinations such as Jayanti, Raimatang, Buxa fort, Lepchakha, Rajabhatkhawa, Hatipota, Bhutanghat etc.
Coochbehar is a tourist destination on its own right. Rasikbill near Coochbehar is also an important birding destination.
Central Dooars – Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary has been the prime attraction in this area. Chilapata forests adjacent to Jaldapara has also become an important tourist destination during the last few years. The main entry point of Bhutan at Jaigaon / Phuentsholing is also in this area. The central Dooars area is dotted with tea gardens and a number of small towns such as Banarhat, Birpara, Madarihat, Binnaguri falls in this area.
Moraghat and Khutimari forests are also in this area. The full potential of tourism in Central Dooars area is yet to be explored.
Western Dooars – This is the most popular tourist area in Dooars. Gorumara National Park and Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, two forests on both sides of Murti river, are the most popular tourist area of Dooars. This area also has the best tourism infrastructure with large number of hotels and resorts around Gorumara / Chapramari area.
History of Dooars
The land and people of the Dooars have a long history, which includes part of Assam, Coochbehar and the Rangpur District of present Bangladesh. Jalpaiguri has a presence in Mahabharata, which goes back to 10th century BC. There is mention of a king named Bhagadutta, a ruler of Pragjyotish or western Assam, who joined the great battle of Kurukhsetra on the side of Kourav. It appears from Mahabharata that he ruled over an area that extends from Bramhaputra River in Assam to Eastern Nepal along the foothills of Himalayas. The modern district of Jalpaiguri falls within this tract. Several rock inscriptions excavated from Jalpaiguri district refer the presence of some great ruler of ancient India. Bhaskarbarmana, the best known King of Gupta Dynasty, Sasanka are among the few of them.
During the medieval period there was a long chain of dense forest tract moving from east bank of Tista in present Dooars to the west bank of Bagmati River in Bangladesh Rangpur. These jungles were the territory of three Mongoloid tribes - Koch, Mech and Tharu. The Raikats - ruler of Baikunthapur had an important role in uniting Jalpaiguri. The evidences of their kingdom and palaces are still visible in Raikatpara in Jalpaiguri town.
Jalpaiguri as an administrative unit came into being in 1869, by amalgamating western Dooars with Jalpaiguri subdivision of Rangpur (Bangladesh). The most significant historical development after the formation of Jalpaiguri district was the growth of tea industry in dooars plains. It not only changed the landscape but also the socio-economic pattern of the area. The vast tract of forestlands becomes dotted with tea gardens, villages and markets.
The climate of Dooars plains is more or less similar to that of the remaining districts of North Bengal. But owing to its proximity to the hills, it has a longer winter and heavier rainfall.
Winter: The cold season starts by the first week of November and continues upto the end of February. January is the coldest month with mean minimum temperature at 10.7 Celsius and the mean daily maximum temperature at 23.6 Degree Celsius. Because of cold spell from Himalayas in the north the night temperature may drop close to freezing point on some occassions.
Summer: Temperature starts rising by March, which continues till October end being June and July the hottest months. But temperature never rises to the unbearable limit because of its location advantage. The mean daily maximum temperature in these months is 31.6 Degree Celsius (82.9 Degree Fahrenheit) and the mean daily minimum temperature is 21.3 Degree Celsius (70.3 Degree Fahrenheit). With the withdrawal of south-west monsoon in September the temperature decreases and weather gradually becomes cooler.
Monsoon: The rainy season in the area starts in the month of July with the arrival of south-west monsoon. The region receives a record rainfall during July-August. The average annual rainfall in the region is 3925 mm. There are 110 rainy days in Dooars region. The highest rainfall recorded in the region was 900mm in 1998 in Buxa.
The best weather prevails in Dooars plains from October to June, when the sky remains clear and the weather is bright and sunny.
People of Dooars
Dooars has a great importance from anthropological point of view. The geographical diversity, combining forests, hills and tea gardens, houses a large number of ethnic groups - a prominent feature of Dooars.
Majority of people falls under schedule cast and tribes having a variety of culture, language, custom and religion. Toto - a primitive tribe has its only settlement in Toto Para in Dooars. Rava, Mech, Turi, Drukpa are among the other major tribes in the region. With the introduction of tea gardens in Dooars plains during the 19th century there has been a steady migration from the neighboring states like Bihar and Assam and also from Nepal.
Oraon, Munda, Santhal from Bihar started to settle in the tea gardens as daily labors. Slowly they formed a broader society known as Madesia and became one of the major ethnic group in the region mostly in tea gardens. Rajbansi, a schedule cast sub-group under broader Bengali group, is the largest population in Dooars.
Being a home to different tribal communities and immigrant people from neighbouring states and countries, Dooars has a number of distinct languages and Dialects.
Bengali is the most widely spoken language and is the official language in the state. The maximum number of people in the towns use Bengali. The second important language in Dooars is Rajbansi, which is basically a dialect of Bengali spoken by most of the rural people in North Bengal plains. The dialect is locally known as Bahe. Before adopting the bahe language the Rajbansi people used to speak Koch - a language of Boro group of Tibeto-Burman family of language. The Koch language is still a major language of the rural people of Coochbihar.
The overall linguistic picture of Dooars is that the aboriginal people in the region like Meches, Coches and Ravas largely speak the language of Boro group of Tibeto-Burman family. However, all these languages are distinctive and have their individual identities.
With the Hinduization of the Coches a large numbers of former Bodo speakers began to speak Bengali and developed distinct Bengali dialect. With the opening of tea gardens from the middle of the ninetieth century, a large number of Dravidian speaking Oraon and Austric speaking Mundas and Santhals started migrating into Dooars and settled there. Apart from speaking their own language among themselves, for inter-caste communication they developed a dialect called Sadri, which is a mixture of Hindi and Bengali. In course of time this dialect became a significant mother tongue of tribal people in the teagardens.
Each group of people in Dooars has their own traditional dress in accordance with their culture and tradition. The ethnic people wearing traditional dresses although is an increasingly rare phenomenon, but still can be seen in the remote villages.
The Rajbansi men usually wear a dhoti in the North Indian style. Among the poorer classes, the upper part of the body is not always covered but shirts are now coming into use. The traditional dress of the Rajbansi women consist of an unsown piece of cloth called phota, which approximates a sari in length and breadth. It is wrapped round the body below the armpits thus covering the torso and descending the calf muscles. The arms and the shoulders are kept bare. On festive occasions and while traveling, the Rajbansis women wear a gilap or wrapper round their shoulders. Women of well to do families, especially in the urban areas, are taking more and more to saris and blouses, wearing them in the Hindu manner.