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Culture & Heritage

The geographical boundaries that constitute the Jalpaiguri district of the present day had been under the control (administration) or rule of various dynasties or even countries either in fragments or as a whole during the different phases of history.

As history goes by, when Huien Tsang visited Assam, a major portion of today's Jalpaiguri was a part of the kingdom of Kamrupa which then apparently extended up to river Karatoya in the west. This land, often and commonly designated as Duars had often been included in the kingdoms of Bhutan and Cooch Behar. The name 'Duars' may have evolved from the word 'Doors' or passages. There were eighteen such passages which were used by the Bhutanese people to communicate with the riverine plains of the south for the cause of trade or barters. In 1864 under the command of captain Hedayet Ali, the British managed to capture this area from the clutches of the Bhutanese kingdom and divided it into two parts. The eastern part are merged with the Gowalpara district of today's Assam and the western part was named as a new district - Western Duars. In 1869 through some constitutional changes the Jalpaiguri District was formed. The name Jalpaiguri may have evolved from "JE-LE-PE-GO-RI" probably meaning the place to exchange or barter warm clothes, Blankets etc. with other essential commodities.

From time immemorial this land remaimed a pristine creation. Covered with dense forest and riverine grassland, Jalpaiguri was the harbour of one of the richest bounties of Wild Life.

It had seen the arrival of various Indo-Mongoloid tribes, who came in to settle in this fertile land. Most of them continue to live on even today. The majority of the Indo-Mongoloid class are the 'Raj Bangshis'. Apart from them there are the Mech, the Ravas, the Totos etc.Some Limbus and Lepchas had also (migrated) immigrated through the terai crossing Mechi River. Then, came the British, and with them the Bengalees from present Bangladesh. Many forest areas got cleared for Tea Plantation and Agricultural lands. The planters brought from the Chotonagpur Plateau area - the Nageshias, the Uraons and the Mundas to work as labour in the Tea Gardens. All these various tribes brought along with them, their culture and beliefs.

Though different varieties of races and their cultures got intermingled in the same land; each individual race retained their individual culture and heritage over the ages. Thus the phenomenon of 'Combined Culture' never got a chance to bloom here. In the serenity of the forests, beyond the misty curtain of the hills or by the gushing streams here and there developed and prospered various culture like - the Bhotia Culture, the Rajbanshi Culture, the Lepcha-Limbu Culture together with the Cultures of the Coch, the Mech, the Ravas, the Totos and the Bengalees

Majority of Tribal Cultures are Folk Cultures. Folk Dance, Folk songs and Folk Lores form an integral part of these cultures. And then there were festivals. Many festivals are common to both the Bengalees and the Rajbangshis who constitute the bulk of Jalpaiguri's population. Apart from the major festivals like the 'Durga Puja' and the 'Kali Puja', there is the 'Teesta Burir Puja' epitomising the Life Line of this region the Teesta River; an occassion observed by the Bengalees and the Rajbangshis alike. ' Manosha Puja' or the worship of the Serpent Goddess is another important festival of this region. Many Village Fairs and Stage Dramas commemorate this event. Then there are rituals for 'Good Crops' and 'Good Rain'; the later is known as "Hutt Ghurni".

Jalpaiguri's very own Folk form is the 'Chor Chunni'. 'Dham Gaan' is another popular folk song of Jalpaiguri. It evolves round the rise and fall mythological characters. 'Bhawaiya' the folk song of the Rajbangshis, depict the love of both God and Man. 'Bisha-Hara Pala' is another very popular stage drama of Jalpaiguri. It reveals the story of Devi Manosha - the Serpent Goddess and Behula - a pious wife who had lost her husband - Lakhindar due to snake bite on her marraige night. It depicts the confrontation of Man and God. Karom, Bishua, Jitia, Bandna and Gaburdeb are some of the festivals of other Tribes. Rava songs and Dance are gaining popularity these days.
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