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. ALSO SEE Top 5 weekend getaways from Kolkata
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.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN COOCH BEHAR
There are many budget hotels in Cooch Behar that are scattered throughout the city along with many guesthouses and few mid-range hotels. There are no luxury hotels in Cooch Behar, but the mid-range hotels near Gopalpur offer good service.
Rajbari, a heritage hotel 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.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN COOCH BEHAR
Most eateries in Cooch Behar serve non-vegetarian dishes but there are a few hotels that serve vegetarian dishes too. You will mostly find Bengali cuisine at restaurants. Few restaurants also serve North Indian, South Indian and Chinese cuisines.
Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons