Winter is the perfect season to travel far and wide in a tropical country like India where the rest of the year sees uncomfortably warm and humid weather at most places. So, this time of the year is witness to people flocking to different corners of the country to let their hair down. The hidden gems get some respite from this tourist season. The small town of Cooch Behar in the northern part of the Indian state, West Bengal, is one such hidden gem. Formerly a princely state ruled by the Koch dynasty, Cooch Behar was inducted into India's republic in 1950, three years after the latter’s independence from British rule in 1947. Today, the town is known for its royal architectural exploits, ancient temples and natural beauty. Surrounded by Assam on the east and Bangladesh on the south, Cooch Behar is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway, enhanced by the town’s formidable history and verdant nature. Here is a list of places that you must visit during your sojourn in Cooch Behar.
The Rajbari (raj-royal, bari-house), also known as the Victor Jubilee Palace, was the abode of the rulers of Cooch Behar since 1887 when Maharaja Nripendra Narayan built it. The former palace is an architectural marvel constructed in the Renaissance style. The magnificent edifice is almost 400 feet in length, 300 feet in width, and spread over 51,000 square feet. As you walk across the beautiful gardens surrounding the palace, you will get a sense of the building's expanse and splendour from several feet away.
The design of the main entrance of the palace was inspired by that of the St. Peter’s church in Rome. On the first floor, there is a series of arcaded verandas that have alternate piers. The gigantic Rajbari has more than 50 rooms that include dancing hall, ladies' gallery, billiard room, library, and the royal family's obvious living quarters. All these rooms are adorned with stunning paintings, arches and Corinthian columns. The Cooch Behar Rajbari remains open from 10 AM to 5 PM. The Government of West Bengal's tourism department organizes a Light and Sound Show at the Rajbari from 6 PM to 8 PM every Friday and Saturday.
This is a sacred Hindu temple that was built by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan in the 1880s. The pristine white temple is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Kali and houses the deities of three different incarnations of Kali - Ma Kali, Ma Tara and Ma Bhawani. On the day of Rash Purnima, a holy day for the Hindus, Madan Mohan Bari organizes the public celebration of Rash Yatra, one of the most significant festivals of north Bengal.
This is a large natural lake in Tufanganj, the neighbouring town of Cooch Behar. Tufanganj is only a 40-kilometre car ride away from Cooch Behar. The Rasik Beel is famous as a great bird-watching spot for the plethora of migratory birds that visit it during winter. The lake is situated in the midst of three lush green forests - Atasmochar, Nagurhaat and Bochamari. These forests house a deer park, a python house, a tortoise house and a leopard house. Rasik Beel and the surrounding forests are great places to spend a relaxed winter afternoon.
The nearest airport from Cooch Behar is the Bagdogra Airport near Siliguri at about 160 kilometres. Given that the airport is quite far away, you can opt to reach Cooch Behar by rail. The nearest railway station is located only 5 kilometres away from the main town. The town is very well-connected to the rest of India as it is an important stop on the route connecting north-east India. Cooch Behar is well-connected via road as well. Government-run buses regularly ply between Cooch Behar, the headquarter of the North Bengal State Transport Corporation, and the neighbouring towns and cities. Private buses also run to Cooch Behar from different areas of West Bengal and neighbouring states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam.
Winter is the season of holidays. Everyone is in a celebratory mood. A lot of people like to spend the holidays with their loved ones at a home away from home. And for those who want to spend this time away from the bustle of crowds, there is no place better than Cooch Behar. The little town to the north of West Bengal is a treasure trove of nature and fascinating history and is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway.
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