Cooch Behar Knowledge Guide
Cooch Behar formed part of the Kamarupa Kingdom of Assam from the 4th to the 12th centuries. In the 12th century, the area became a part of the Kamata Kingdom, first ruled by the Khen dynasty from their capital at Kamatapur. The Khens were an indigenous tribe, and they ruled till about 1498 CE, when they fell to Alauddin Hussain Shah, the independent Pathan Sultan of Gour. The new invaders fought with the local Bhuyan chieftains and the Ahom king Suhungmung and lost control of the region. During this time, the Koch tribe became very powerful and proclaimed itself Kamateshwar (Lord of Kamata) and established the Koch dynasty. The first important Koch ruler was Biswa Singha, who came to power in 1510 or 1530 CE. Under his son, Nara Narayan, the Kamata Kingdom reached its zenith. Nara Narayan's younger brother, Shukladhwaj (Chilarai), was a noted military general who undertook expeditions to expand the kingdom. He became governor of its eastern portion. After Chilarai's death, his son Raghudev became governor of this portion. Since Nara Narayan did not have a son, Raghudev was seen as the heir apparent. However, a late child of Nara Narayan removed Raghudev's claim to the throne. To placate him, Nara Narayan had to anoint Raghudev as a vassal chief of the portion of the kingdom east of the Sankosh river. This area came to be known as Koch Hajo. After the death of Nara Narayan in 1584, Raghudev declared independence. The kingdom ruled by the son of Nara Narayan, Lakshmi Narayan, came to be known as Cooch Behar. The division of the Kamata Kingdom into Koch Behar and Koch Hajo was permanent. Koch Behar aligned itself with the Mughal Empire and finally joined the India as a part of the West Bengal, whereas remnants of the Koch Hajo rulers aligned themselves with the Ahom kingdom and the region became a part of Assam. As the early capital of the Koch Kingdom, Cooch Behar's location was not static and became stable only when shifted to Cooch Behar town. Maharaja Rup Narayan, on the advice of an unknown saint, transferred the capital from Attharokotha to Guriahati (now called Cooch Behar town) on the banks of the Torsa river between 1693 and 1714. After this, the capital was always in or near its present location. In 1661 CE, Maharaja Pran Narayan planned to expand his kingdom. However, Mir Jumla, the subedar of Bengal under the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb, attacked Cooch Behar and conquered the territory, meeting almost no resistance. The town of Cooch Behar was subsequently named Alamgirnagar. Maharaja Pran Narayan regained his kingdom within a few days.
In 1772–1773, the king of Bhutan attacked and captured Cooch Behar. To expel the Bhutanese, the kingdom of Cooch Behar signed a defence treaty with the British East India Company on 5 April 1773. After expelling the Bhutanese, Cooch Behar again became a princely kingdom under the protection of British East India company.The Victor Jubilee Palace was based on Buckingham Palace and built in 1887, during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. In 1878, the maharaja married the daughter of Brahmo preacher Keshab Chandra Sen. This union led to a renaissance in Cooch Behar state. Maharaja Nripendra Narayan is known as the architect of modern Cooch Behar town.
Under an agreement between the king of Cooch Behar and the Indian Government at the end of British rule, Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan transferred full authority, jurisdiction and power of the state to the Dominion Government of India, effective 12 September 1949. Eventually, Cooch Bihar became part of the state of West Bengal on 19 January 1950, with Cooch Behar town as its headquarters.A geopolitical curiosity was that there were 92 Bangladeshi enclaves, with a total area of 47.7 km² in Cooch-Behar. Similarly, there were 106 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh, with a total area of 69.5 km². These were part of the high stake card or chess games centuries ago between two regional kings, the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Maharaja of Rangpur.Twenty-one of the Bangladeshi enclaves were within Indian enclaves, and three of the Indian enclaves were within Bangladeshi enclaves. The largest Indian enclave was Balapara Khagrabari which surrounded a Bangladeshi enclave, Upanchowki Bhajni, which itself surrounded an Indian enclave called Dahala Khagrabari, of less than one hectare (link to external map here ). But all this has ended in the historic India-Bangladesh land agreement. See Indo-Bangladesh enclaves.
Every year during the Ras Purnima, the city hosts Ras Mela, one of the largest and oldest fairs of West Bengal. The fair is older than 200 years. The fair is organised by Cooch Behar Municipality in the Ras Mela ground near ABN Seal College. During the fair, it becomes a major economical hub of the whole North Bengal region. Merchants and sellers from all over India and also from Bangladesh join this fair. Earlier the Maharajas of Cooch Behar used to inaugurate the fair by moving the Ras Chakra and now the work is executed by the District Magistrate of Cooch Behar District. The Ras Chakra is considered as a symbol of communal harmony because it is made by a Muslim Family from generations.A huge crowd gather in Cooch Behar from neighbouring Assam, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and whole North Bengal during the fair. Novelist Amiya Bhushan Majumdar was born, brought up, and worked in Cooch Behar. Cooch Behar with its people, culture, and the river Torsha were a recurrent theme in his novels.
Cooch behar Palace
It is the main attraction of the city. It was modelled after the Buckingham Palace in London in 1887, during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. It is a brick-built double-story structure in the classical Western style covering an area of 51,309 square feet (4,766.8 m2). The whole structure is 395 feet (120 m) long and 296 feet (90 m) wide and is on rests 4 feet 9 inches (1.45 m) above the ground. The Palace is fronted on the ground and first floors by a series of arcaded verandahs with their piers arranged alternately in single and double rows. At the southern and northern ends, the Palace projects slightly and in the centre is a projected porch providing an entrance to the Durbar Hall. The Hall has an elegantly shaped metal dome which is topped by a cylindrical louvre type ventilator. This is 124 feet (38 m) high from the ground and is in the style of the Renaissance architecture. The intros of the dome is carved in stepped patterns and Corinthian columns support the base of the cupola. This adds variegated colours and designs to the entire surface. There are various halls in the palace and rooms that include the Dressing Room, Bed Room, Drawing Room, Dining Hall, Billiard hall, Library, Toshakhana, Ladies Gallery and Vestibules. The articles and precious objects that these rooms and halls used to contain are now lost. The original palace was 3 storeyed, but, was subsequently destroyed by a 19th-century earthquake measuring 8.7 on Richter scale. The palace shows the acceptance of European idealism of the Koch kings and the fact that they had embraced European culture without denouncing their Indian heritage.
Sagardighi is one of "Great Ponds" in the heart of Cooch Behar, West Bengal. The name means an ocean-like pond, exaggerated in view of its great significance. As well as being popular with people, it also attracts migratory birds each winter. It is surrounded by many important administrative buildings, like District Magistrates Office, Administrative Building of North Bengal State Transport Corporation, BSNL's DTO Office on the West; Office of the Superintendent of Police, District Library, Municipality Building on the South, Office of BLRO, State Bank of India's Cooch Behar Main Branch and many other on the East and RTO office, Foreigner's registration office, District Court etc. on the North. Most of such buildings are remnants of royal heritage.