Dooars is the small stretch of land between the Himalayas in the North and Bangladesh in the South belonging to the districts of Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Coochbehar of West Bengal. Dooars does not have a political or national boundary, the natural area of Dooars can be considered to include the Goalpara and Kokrajhar districts of Assam as well.
The name Dooars is derived from the word ‘Duar’ or ‘Dwar’ which in local language mean Door. The Dooars area historically has been the connection between the Bhutan hills with the rest of the world leading to the name. After Independence of India and division of Bengal into West Bengal and Bangladesh, the Dooars area has become especially significant as the ‘Dwar’ connecting India’s North East with the rest of the country. Because of this, Dooars and Northern part of Bengal is considered to be part of North East India whereas the rest of Bengal is not considered so.
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 jatraprasad watchtower in gorumaraJaldapara 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.
Tourism in Dooars took its root in the second half of 20th century. It was confined to nature lovers and adventure seekers who had to book forest bungalows and carry their own ration. Food was prepared by the Bungalow chowkidar against a bakshish. A major exception was the Holong Bungalow of Jaldapar National Park. Being inside the core forest area and next to a open ground and salt pit, the Holong bungalow was a sure shot way to watch innumerable wildlife from the comfort of your bungalow room. Tourism continued to develop at its own elephantine pace, till in the late 1990’s Gorumara happened. Gorumara is a smaller forest in the Westernmost part of Dooars with relatively higher concentration of wild life. A number of factors worked in favour of tourism here by the beginning of the new millennium, Gorumara had already overtaken Jaldapara as the numero uno tourism destination of Dooars.
The next decade witnessed frenetic development of tourist infrastructure and by 2015 around Gorumara we had more than 2000 room nights available at different price and service ranges. The Gorumara effect also had its percolation in other parts of Dooars. The tourists came to Gorumara but visited other parts of Dooars as well. Soon private tourist accommodations started coming up in places such as Samsing, Bindu – Jhalong, Nagrakata, Jaldapara, Buxa and other areas.
Even after a fast paced growth of couple of decades, potential of Dooars still remain under exploited and explored. The potential of Adventure and Cultural tourism in Dooars is just been experimented with in the recent past. Still unknown to the large section of tourist, the Dooars offers some magical landscape with fascinating view of river valleys and hills.
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.
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.
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.
Rivers of Dooars
One of the unique features of Dooars is its numerous fast flowing rivers and rivulets that originate in the Himalayas. Further south the rivers merge with one another and eventually most of them become tributary of the great Brahmaputra River. But in Dooars, each stream has its own identity and names are as beautiful as the rivers themselves – Diana, Murti, Leash, Ghish, Raidak, Kaljani, Jaldhaka are some of these smaller rivers.
There are much larger rivers in Dooars as well. The Tista or Teesta river originates from Sikkim and roughly forms the western boundary of Dooars before it enters Bangladesh. Torsha river passes through the middle of Dooars dividing a continuous stretch of forest into Jaldapara and Chilapata forests. The Eastern boundary of Dooars is created by Raidak and Sankosh rivers on the Bengal – Assam boarder.
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.
The Road network of Dooars is quite strong. The National Highway connects West to East starting at Siliguri and travelling through northern Dooars destinations such as Gorumara, Jaldapara and Buxa before entering Assam. The other road starts from Siliguri and travels through Southern Dooars destinations such as Jalpaiguri, Maynaguri etc. before meeting the Northern highway almost midway into Dooars. From these two arterial roads there is a network of smaller roads that cover every nook and corner of Dooars.
The rail network of Dooars is also strong. New Jalpaiguri at its westernmost tip is the most impotatnt station. Alipurduar on the Eastern part also has stoppage of most major trains. In between there are more than 20 picturesque rail stations, only a few of them have any major trains stoppage. There are DMU and passenger and intercity trains travelling and stopping at these stations. A journey 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.