Cooch Behar district (, Rajbongshi/Kamatapuri : ) is a district of the state of West Bengal, India, as well as the district's namesake town. During the British Raj, the town of Cooch Behar was the seat of a princely state of Koch Bihar, ruled by the Koch dynasty.
As of 2011 it is the third least populous district of West Bengal (out of 19), after Dakshin Dinajpur and Darjeeling.
Origin of name
The name "Cooch-Behar" is derived from the name of the Koch Rajbongshi tribe that is indigenous to this area. The word "Behar" is the Sanskrit word "Bihar" (to travel) which means the land through which the "Koch Rajbongshi" Kings used to travel or roam about ("Bihar").
The greatest Koch Rajbongshi King that has ever ruled in the Kingdom of Kamatapur is Maharaj Naranarayan, as well as his younger brother Prince Chilaray and other descendents. Historic Kamatapur comprises the total North Bengal maximum parts of Assam, some parts of present Bangladesh, Kishanganj district of Bihar and a few parts of Bhutan. The Koch-Rajbongshi community is demanding a separate state of their own comprising the parts of their old Kingdom to save their centuries-old culture from extinction.
The Koch dynasty originated from Mahishya community and has ruled the area around the town of Cooch Behar since the 16th century. The state remained unaffected by the great changes that overtook its surrounding provinces in the decade following the Battle of Plassey in 1757. However, it was invaded by Bhutan in the latter half of the 18th century, which prompted a British Ambassador to Bhutan, George Bogle to enter into a formal treaty alliance with the British in 1775. In 1947, the state acceded to the dominion of India and merged with the Union of India shortly afterwards.
Over time, Cooch Behar has been transformed from a kingdom to a state and from a state to the present status of a district. Before 28 August 1949, Cooch Behar was a Princely state ruled by the king of Cooch Behar, who had been a feudatory ruler under the British Government. By an agreement dated 28 August 1949 the king of Cooch Behar ceded full and extensive authority, jurisdiction and power of the state to the Dominion Government of India. The transfer of administration of the state to the Government of India came into force on 12 September 1949. Eventually, Cooch Behar was transferred and merged with the province of West Bengal on 19 January 1950 and from that date Cooch Behar emerged as a new District in the administrative map of West Bengal.
Exclaves of India and Bangladesh in and around Cooch Behar district Cooch Behar is a district under the Jalpaiguri Division of the state of West Bengal. Cooch Behar is located in the northeastern part of the state and bounded by the district of Jalpaiguri in the north, state of Assam in the east and by Bangladesh in the west as well as in the south. The district forms part of the Himalayan Terai of West Bengal.
A geopolitical curiosity is that there are 92 Bangladeshi exclaves, with a total area of 47.7 km in Cooch-Behar. Similarly, there are 106 Indian exclaves inside Bangladesh, with a total area of 69.5 km . 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 exclaves are within Indian exclaves, and three of the Indian exclaves are within Bangladeshi exclaves. The largest Indian exclave, Balapara Khagrabari, surrounds a Bangladeshi exclave, Upanchowki Bhajni, which itself surrounds an Indian exclave called Dahala Khagrabari, of less than one hectare (link to external map ). See also Indo-Bangladesh enclaves.
Being the district near the Eastern Himalayan foothills, after rains in the catchment area of each of the rivers generally attain strong current and flood the adjacent area. The turbulent water carries sand, silt, pebbles which causes many problems in productivity as well as hydrology. The soil is formed by alluvial deposits and is acidic in nature. It is friable loam to sandy loam ranging in depth from 0.15 to 1 meter. The soil has a low level of nitrogen while potassium and phosphorus levels are medium. Deficiency of zinc, calcium, magnesium and sulphur is quite high.
Rivers and topography
Cooch Behar is a flat country with a slight southeastern slope along which the main rivers of the district flow. Most of the highland areas are in the Sitalkuchi region and most of the low-lying lands lie in Dinhata region.
The rivers in the district of Cooch Behar generally flow from northwest to southeast. Six rivers that cut through the district are the Teesta, Jaldhaka, Torsha, Kaljani, Raidak, Gadadhar and Ghargharia.
The district of Cooch Behar has a moderate type of climate characterised by heavy rainfall during the monsoon and slight rainfall in the month of October to mid-November. The district does not have high temperatures at any time of the year. The summer season is from April to May with April being the hottest month with mean daily maximum of 32.5 C and mean daily minimum of 20.2 C. The winter season lasts from late November to February, with January being the coldest month with temperature ranging from 10.4 C to 24.1 C. The recorded temperature minimum is 3.9 C and respective recorded maximum is 39.9 C. The atmosphere is highly humid throughout the year, except the period from February to May, when the relative humidity is as low as 50 to 70%. The rainy season lasts from June to September. The district's average annual rainfall is 3 201 mm.
The agricultural area of Cooch Behar is 2530.63 square kilometers. The dominant agricultural products of Cooch Behar district are jute and tobacco. Paddy rice is also grown before and after the rainy season. Common plantation crops are arecanut, coconut and black pepper. Vegetable, mustard plant, and potato cultivation are increasing. In order to support agriculture, special programs have been taken for the production of sunflowers, maize and groundnuts. Revolutionary methods are being used in Boro paddy and potato cultivation. But due to nonadoption of modern technology, a large number of farmers still depend on traditional technology. Only 33% of the potentially cultivable land is developed for irrigation. In Kharif, the area of production of vegetables and other crops is much less. The ovine breed in the region originates from Tibet and was brought to the plains of West Bengal by traders. The trade between Tibetan traders and traders from the plains of Bengal took place from the region. The sheep along with other items of trade were transported to a place known as Bhot Patti (situated in Maynaguri Block of Jalpaiguri District). The major trading occurred at a place known as Rangpur, situated now in Bangladesh. The goods were exchanged and the sheep were also taken to plains of Bengal by the returning traders, the animals were given to the farmers of Sunderban region for rearing and bringing them back to their health. The sheep were used for their meat by the Europeans during the colonial era. They preferred mutton over Chevon so sheep meat was in great demand. A single consignment of the sheep were transported to Australia in the late 18th century when the Australian colony was being settled. The consignment was shipped from the port of Fulta near Kolkata. However, the sheep were not preferred by the settlers as their size was small and wool quality too was inferior. The breed Booroola Merino of Australia are the descendents of the same sheep.
The district comprises five subdivisions: Cooch Behar Sadar, Dinhata, Mathabhanga, Mekhliganj and Tufanganj. Cooch Behar Sadar consists of Cooch Behar municipality and two community development blocs: Cooch Behar–I and Cooch Behar–II. Dinhata subdivision consists of Dinhata municipality and three community development blocs: Dinhata–I, Dinhata–II and Sitai. Mathabhanga subdivision consists of Mathabhanga municipality and three community development blocs: Sitalkuchi, Mathabhanga–I and Mathabhanga–II. Mekhliganj subdivision consists of Mekhliganj municipality and Haldibari municipality and two community development blocs: Mekhliganj and Haldibari. Tufanganj subdivision consists of Tufanganj municipality and two community development blocs: Tufanganj–I and Tufanganj–II. Cooch Behar is the district headquarters. There are 11 police stations, 12 development blocks, 6 municipalities and 128 gram panchayats in this district.
Other than municipality area, each subdivision contains community development blocs which in turn are divided into rural areas and census towns. In total there are 10 urban units: 6 municipalities and 4 census towns. Cooch Behar, Kharimala Khagrabari and Guriahati are part of a urban agglomeration. Dinhata and Bhangri Pratham Khanda also form an urban agglomeration together.
Cooch Behar Sadar subdivision
- Cooch Behar: municipality
- Cooch Behar I (Community development block) consists of rural areas with 15 gram panchayats and two census towns: Kharimala Khagrabari and Guriahati. Block headquarter is in Dhaluabari.
- Cooch Behar II (Community development block) consists of rural areas with 13 gram panchayats and one census town: Khagrabari. Block headquarter is in Pundibari.
- Dinhata: municipality
- Dinhata I (Community development block) consists of rural areas with 16 gram panchayats and one census town: Bhangri Pratham Khanda. Block headquarter is in Dinhata.
- Dinhata II (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 12 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Sahebganj.
- Sitai (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 5 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Sitai.
- Mathabhanga: municipality
- Sitalkuchi (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 8 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Sitalkuchi.
- Mathabhanga I (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 10 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Sikarpur.
- Mathabhanga II (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 19 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Mathabhanga.
- Mekhliganj: municipality
- Haldibari: municipality
- Mekhliganj (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 8 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Changrabandha.
- Haldibari (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 6 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Haldibari.
- Tufanganj: municipality
- Tufanganj I (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 14 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Tufanganj.
- Tufanganj II (Community development block) consists of rural areas only with 11 gram panchayats. Block headquarter is in Baxirhat.
The district is divided into 9 assembly constituencies:
- Mekliganj (SC) (assembly constituency no. 1),
- Sitalkuchi (SC) (assembly constituency no. 2),
- Mathabhanga (SC) (assembly constituency no. 3),
- Cooch Behar North (assembly constituency no. 4),
- Cooch Behar West (assembly constituency no. 5),
- Sitai (assembly constituency no. 6),
- Dinhata (assembly constituency no. 7),
- Natabari (assembly constituency no. 8) and
- Tufanganj (SC) (assembly constituency no. 9).
Mekliganj, Sitalkuchi, Mathabhanga and Tufanganj constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) candidates. Mekhliganj constituency is part of Jalpaiguri (Lok Sabha constituency), which also contains six assembly segments from Jalpaiguri district. Sitalkuchi, Mathabhanga, Cooch Behar North, Cooch Behar West, Sitai, Dinhata and Natabari constituencies form the Cooch Behar (Lok Sabha constituency), which is reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC). Tufanganj constituency is part of Alipurduars (Lok Sabha constituency), which also contains six assembly segments from Jalpaiguri district.
Impact of delimitation of constituencies
As per order of the Delimitation Commission in respect of the delimitation of constituencies in the West Bengal, the district will be divided into 9 assembly constituencies:
- Mekliganj (SC) (assembly constituency no. 1),
- Mathabhanga (SC) (assembly constituency no. 2),
- Cooch Behar Uttar (SC) (assembly constituency no. 3),
- Cooch Behar Dakshin (assembly constituency no. 4),
- Sitalkuchi (SC) (assembly constituency no. 5),
- Sitai (SC) (assembly constituency no. 6),
- Dinhata (assembly constituency no. 7),
- Natabari (assembly constituency no. 8) and
- Tufanganj (assembly constituency no. 9).
Mekliganj, Mathabhanga, Cooch Behar Uttar, Sitalkuchi and Sitai constituencies will be reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) candidates. Mekhliganj constituency will remain part of Jalpaiguri (Lok Sabha constituency), which will also contain six assembly segments from Jalpaiguri district. Mathabhanga, Cooch Behar Uttar, Cooch Behar Dakshin, Sitalkuchi, Sitai, Dinhata and Natabari constituencies will continue to form the Cooch Behar (Lok Sabha constituency), which will be reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC). Tufanganj constituency will remain a part of Alipurduars (Lok Sabha constituency), which will also contain six assembly segments from Jalpaiguri district.
Cooch Behar Palace
Cooch Behar Palace (Rajbari): Built in the classical European style of Italian Renaissance on the lines of Buckingham Palace in 1887. A recently constructed museum in the rooms of the Palace has added glory to the Royal structure. The vast lawn and beautiful landscaping of the garden have made it more beautiful. It is a must visit.
Madan Mohan Temple: Situated in the heart of the Cooch Behar town. Constructed by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan during 1885 to 1889. A divine structure, deities include Madan Mohan the kul-devata of the Koch Dynasty, Ma Tara and Ma Bhavani. The annual Rash Mela is held here in November.
Rajpat Mound: A protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Situated about 35 km from Cooch Behar Town. One can see the remains of a palace and some excavated artifacts and statues.
Baneshwar Shiv Temple: Situated at a distance of about 10 km to the North of Cooch Behar town, the temple has a 'Shivalinga' 10 feet below the plinth level. There is a big pond within the temple campus having a large number of tortoise. Some of the tortoises are very old and big in size. At Siva Chaturdashi a big mela is held here for a week.
Madhupur Dham: Situated about 10 km west from Cooch Behar Town. In 1489, Shankaradeva performed his last journey to Cooch Behar when Maharaja Nar Narayan requested him to preach the teachings of the neo-Vaishnava cult. It was in his honour that the Madhupur Dham was built in the 16th century. This place has a special significance for the devotees of Acharya Shankaradeva.
Kamteswari Temple: Situated at a distance of about 35 km west of Cooch Behar Town, the original temple is now destroyed. The present temple has been established by Maharaja Pran Narayan in 1665 The throne of Devi is situated here. Beside the main temple 2 smaller temples also exist/ at the gate a 'Tarakeswar Sivalinga' exists.
Sagardighi: Situated in the Cooch Behar Town itself. The huge tank was excavated by Maharaja Hitendra Narayan. It is a popular rendezvous in the evening, surrounded by heritage buildings including Victor House and a War Memorial where a tank is kept. During winter months one can spot migratory birds on the water surface and the nearby trees.
Rasikbeel Watch Tower
Rasikbil: It is situated about 42 km from Cooch Behar Town. A recognized bird sanctuary. It has a deer park and a recently built aquarium where fishes, turtles, seven nos. of leopards, Peafowl are kept. You may spot Chinese Fishing Nets on the way to Rasikbil. Rasikbeel is a complex of wet land, the name of important water bodies are Bochamari beel, Rasik beel, Batikata Beel & raichangmari beel. In Bengali beel means large water body. The main migratory bird spp found in this wet land are Lesser Whistling Teal, Common Teal, Cotton Teal, Dapchick, Bronze winged Jacana, Pheasant Tailed Janacana, Shoveler, Barheaded goose, White Eyed Poacherd etc. Except this a lot of other aquatic bird like small & large Cormorant, four spp. of Kingfisher, open bill stork etc. are found. The area of water doby complex is 178 hec. The whole area comes under protected forest & managed by Coochbehar Forest Division. In recent past (Jan, 09) a beautiful watch tower of 70 feet height was constructed by Coochbehar Forest Division. There is a min zoo at Rasikbill, the zoo is recognised by Central Zoo Authority, Govt. of India. There are Tortoise, Gharial, Leopard, Spotted deer, Peafowl and other birds in the zoo. In 2009, Coochbehar Division in collaboration with Zoological Survey of India conducted bird census in the wetland complex, 66 species of birds were recorded.
Rasomati Ecotourism complex- This ecotourism complex is recently developed by Coochbehar Forest Division. The main attraction is the Rasomati Jheel (Water body) which herbours lots of residential & migratory birds. There is a picnic spot with paddle boating facility for tourist. A six km. long Jungle safari is also major tourist attraction. For observation a tower of height 56 feet has been constructed. The spot is located in the Patlakhawa forest which was a game reserve of the king of Coochbehar.
Kholta Ecotourism Spot- The spot is on Coochbehar Aliporeduar Road, 20 km away from Coochbehar, Recently (Feb-09) Developed by Coochbehar Forest Division, The children park, Deer park (Sambar & Spotted Deer)& Toy train is the major tourist attraction. The spot is surrounded by Araikumari riverlet, there is old teak plantation created by the king of Coochbehar.
Apart from these other tourist spots are:
- Eco Heritage Park
- Nipendra Narayan Park
- Brahmo Mandir
- Ranir Bagan
- Baradebi Bari
- Siddheswari Kali Bari
- Dangar Ayee Temple
- Siddhanath Siva temple, Dhaluabari
- Madan Mohan temple, Mathabhanga
According to the 2011 census Cooch Behar district has a population of 2,822,780, roughly equal to the nation of Jamaica or the US state of Kansas. This gives it a ranking of 136th in India (out of a total of 640). The district has a population density of . Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 13.86 %. Koch Bihar has a sex ratio of 942 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 75.49 %.
Flora and fauna
The flora here includes among others palms, bamboos, creepers, ferns, orchids, aquatic plants, fungi, timber, grass, vegetable and fruit trees.
In absence of large forest area in the district, except at Patlakhawa, not many species of animal are found though there are many wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and animal reserves in the neighboring Jalpaiguri district and Alipurduar subdivision of Jalpaiguri which are not very far from the district.
In 1976 Cooch Behar district became home to the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, which has an area of . It shares the park with Jalpaiguri district.
Primary Schools - 1805
High Schools - 120
Higher Secondary Schools - 61
High Madrasa - 5
Senior Madrasa - 2
Junior High School - 60
Junior High Madrasa - 16
Kendriya vidyalaya - 1
Engineering / Technical Schools - 2
Professional & Technical Schools - 16
General College - 9
Blind School - 1
Libraries - 110
Cooch Behar district has an Agricultural University named Uttar Banga Krishi Viswavidyalaya at Pundibari about 15 km from Cooch Behar Town. Apart from those Government schools there are a few privately aided schools mostly ICSE, ISC and CBSE boards.
- List of enclaves and exclaves
- Indo-Bangladesh enclaves
- Moore, Lucy (2004) Maharanis: The Extraordinary Tale Of Four Indian Queens And Their Journey From Purdah To Parliament, Penguin, ISBN 0-670-03368-5
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