Friday, 9 December 2011

Cooch Behar, West Bengal

To get an experience of the regal age and imperial glory in West Bengal, Cooch Behar is an idyllic retreat. Situated in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas, it is the only planned town in North Bengal region, with remnants of a royal heritage. Once the seat of the princely state of Koch Bihar, ruled by the Koch dynasty; Cooch Behar gained its present status three years after Indian independence. The princely state was transformed into Cooch Behar District, with Cooch Behar town as its headquarters. Cooch Behar town is also the largest the town in the district.

Going down to the pages of history, it is seen that Cooch Behar gained its name from the indigenous Koch tribe, which resided in the place for centuries. The word ‘behar’ is take from the Sanskrit word ‘bihar’, which means to travel. Cooch Behar was a part of the Kamarupa Kingdom, from the 4th century to the 12th century. From the 15th century and till the beginning of the 18th century, the district was ruled by the Koch rulers. However, in the last quarter of the 18th century, the princely state was captured by the King of Bhutan. To expel the Bhutanese, Cooch Behar signed a treaty with the British East India Company, thus becoming a feudal ruler under the British.

The princely-state of Cooch Behar reached its zenith during the rule of Nripendra Narayan, who is also fondly remembered as the ‘architect’ of modern Cooch Behar town. Till date, the town proudly flaunts the magnificent colonial structure of Cooch Behar Palace, the dwelling of the first family of Cooch Behar. Apart from that, it extends visitors the mesmerizing and enthralling structure of Madan Mohan Temple and Baneswar Siva Temple. Apart from the numerous tourist attractions in Cooch Behar, there are number of must-see sites near the place as well, including Rasikbil, Kholta Ecotourism Spot, Alipurduar and Chilapata Forest.

The rich heritage of Cooch Behar is well reflected in its cultural diversity, which is a mixture of those found in West Bengal and Bangladesh. People of Cooch Behar celebrate every festival with great fervor and enthusiasm. Durga Puja and Ras Purnima are the main festivals practiced in the region. However, other festivals, such as Pohela Baishakh, Rathayatra, Dolyatra, Diwali, Poush parbon, Christmas and Eid, are also celebrated here. Talking about food, rice and fish are the staple food of the region. And if you are visiting the place during festivity, do not leave until you taste the appetizing bhuna khichuri and labra!!

Places to See:

Cooch Behar Palace (Rajbari)

Built in 1887, by the illustrious Koch king Maharaja Nripendra Narayan - also referred to as the ‘architect’ of modern Cooch Behar town, the Royal Palace is a sight to behold in the city. The palace is an excellent example of the imperial and regal glory of the bygone era. A colonial structure, it once used to be the dwelling of the first family of Cooch Behar. Just as the imposing exteriors, the interiors of the Royal Palace are extremely gripping and riveting. A newly built museum, coupled with vast stretch of beautiful landscaping lawns, make the outlook more beautiful and stunning. 

Madan Mohan Temple

A mesmerizing structure, the temple was constructed during the years 1885 to 1889, by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. A divine structure, the temple enshrines the idols of Lord Madan Mohan, Ma Kali, Ma Tara and Ma Bhavani. It is located in the heart of Cooch Behar town and is a must-watch for tourists in the city. On the occasion of Rush Purnima, one of the biggest festivals of North Bengal, the temple celebrates the traditional Rash Yatra, along with Rash Mela.


Sited in the heart of Cooch Behar town, Sagardighi is a huge tank, excavated by Maharaja Hitendra Narayan. Surrounded by heritage buildings, including Victor House and a War Memorial, on all sides, Sagardighi is a popular destination during the evenings. The square-shaped tank is also famous among feathered animals, as a lot of migratory birds can be spotted on the water surface and the nearby trees, during winters. The lake extends tourists a calm and serene ambience, coupled with scenic beauty. 

Baneswar Siva Temple

A popular tourist spot in Cooch Behar, Baneswar Siva Temple is located at a distance of about 10 km to the north of the city center. The temple houses a Shivaling that is 10 feet below the plinth level. Apart from this, the temple has 'Gouripat' and statue of Ardhanariswar installed in it. During Madan Chaturdashi and Dol Purnima, the statue is carried to the famous Madan Mohan Temple, which is why the statue has been given the name of Movable Baneswar. In the temple premises, there is a big pond that has a large number of tortoises, some of which are very old and big in size. 

Light & Sound Show

Enticing and enchanting - the light and sound show, organized every Friday and Saturday, by the cultural dept of West Bengal is fascinating and worth watching. Sited in a well-maintained garden, at the amusement park just beside the Cooch Behar Palace, the show is absolutely compelling and exciting with its colorful lighting and fountains. The show starts with the fall of evening and continues till 8 o'clock at night. With the start of the show, the whole place comes to life. Once in Cooch Behar, the Light & Sound Show would be a fine recreation zone, for spending leisure time.


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