The only planned city in the north Bengal region, Cooch Behar is also one of the largest cities of the state of West Bengal. It is replete with signs of the bygone era, the most prominent of them being the breathtakingly beautiful Cooch Behar Palace.
Cooch Behar is also the birthplace of Maharani Gayatri Devi, the third Maharani of Jaipur and probably India’s most famous queens. The city gets its name from Koch dynasty which ruled the region and Behar from the Sanskrit word vihar meaning house. There is another theory that says that the word Behar is derived from the Sanskrit bihar which means to travel. Cooch Behar is known for its legacy of royal palaces, temples, kings and its natural beauty. Nripendra Bahadur Narayan, the 17th of the Koch dynasty monarchs, is considered to be the architect of the modern Cooch Behar. A hotspot of cultural diversity, the region is a rich blend of various culture from West Bengal and Assam.
The Ras Purnima fair held at the Madan Mohan Temple is the most popular festival of Cooch Behar
The Cooch Behar Palace, also known as Victor Jubilee Palace, is the main landmark of the city. Designed by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan, it was modeled on London’s Buckingham Palace. The palace is renowned for its grandeur and the monument is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. With verandahs with alternate rows of single and double pillars, the Cooch Behar palace projects out at the northern and southern ends. There is a regal metallic dome on top of the hall which rises to a height of 124 ft and is built in the Renaissance style of architecture.
In ancient times, a territory of Kamrup existed in the region where the city of Cooch Behar now stands. Sculptures and coins excavated from different parts of the region stand testimony to that. The region was ruled by various rulers of Narayan Dynasty till the 18th century when it was taken over by the British. Cooch Behar was merged with West Bengal after India won independence in 1950.
A royal palace, shows strong influence of European styles and is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the city. It was built by Nripendra Bahadur Narayan who was the most notable ruler of the Narayan Dynasty.
The existing structure of the Kamteshwari Temple is not the original one; the present temple was built in 1665 by Maharaja Pran Narayan to replace the razed temple. There is a Debi throne and two other temples within the premises of the temple with a ‘Tarakeswar Shivlinga at the gate.
Located in the centre of the city, it is a very important temple built between 1885 and 1889 by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan devoted to Krishna and Balaram. There are shrines of Goddess Bhavani, Goddess Tara and Goddess Kali in the temple. The top of the temple is dome shaped.
Baneswar Shiva temple is located at a distance of around 12 km from Cooch Behar and is known for its serene and peaceful surroundings. The entire temple complex is divided into several sub temples that include the images of various Hindu deities like Goddess Gouripat and Ardhanishwar. Baneswar temple also houses a small lake which is believed to have spiritual and medical healing powers. According to a famous tradition of this temple, no devotee is supposed to leave the temple complex without taking a bath in the ancient lake. Dol Poornima, Chaturdashi and Mahashivratri are three of the most important festivals of this temple.
Rashikbill or Rasikbill is a huge lake located in the town of Tufangang in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. It is a very popular bird watching spot famous for local and migratory birds. It falls on the way to Kamakshyaguri from Alipurduar by train. Rasikbeel is 74 kilometers from Alipurduar by high road. Rashikbill boasts about a jumble of wild flora and fauna. Located around a large lake spreading over 175 hectares area, Rashikbill Lake is surrounded by three dark and dense forests – Nagurhaat, Atasmochar and Bochamari. They are separated by Batikata a small canal. It is a heavenly haven of eco-tourism in the wilderness with breathtaking beauty of its picture-postcard scenery.