Murshidabad is a place of historic importance situated on the southern bank of River Bhagirathi. It was the last capital of Independent Bengal from 1717 to 1773 when the East India Company shifted its capital to Kolkata. The present city is renowned for its silks and places of historical interest. It also serves as the district head quarters of Murshidabad district.

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Raas Mela or the Raas fair is a grand celebration dedicated to the deity Madan Mohan of Cooch Behar. In fact, its grandness makes it a festival and is basically observed during the month of November according to English calendar and in the month of Kartik as per Bengali calendar. It is one of the most popular festivals of Cooch Behar which attracts people from in and around the district and also from the neighboring state of Assam. It is conducted on the Parade Ground by the local municipal corporation and holds a special significance for the people of Cooch Behar.

History of Raas Mela


cooch-behar-raas-melaThe Madan Mohan temple was built by Maharaja Bripendra Narayan of Cooch Behar during the 18th century and he is also the pioneer of Raas Mela. Raas Mela was initially held at Vetaguri by the kings and subsequently on the temple premises beside Bairagi Dighi. Presently, the venue has been shifted to the Parade Ground to accommodate more people. The idol of Madan Mohan is a unique one made from 8 metallic compounds and the original one was stolen in 1994. However, the shrine was not kept vacant for long and there was another idol of the same stature.

Madan Mohan is another name for Lord Krishna and was worshipped as the family deity by the Koch Kings. In keeping with the tradition the same idol is worshipped by the followers now. The only difference between the idol at Nabadwip another famous religious place of Hindus and the one in Cooch Behar is that here Madan Mohan is worshipped without his consort Sri Radha. The main attraction of the fair is the Raas Chakra standing tall in the center of the fair. The Raas Chakra is made out of bamboo or posts and paper into a semi-cylindrical structure revolving around a pivot. It is found on the temple premises and signifies secularism in the state of West Bengal. The Raas Chakra is decorated by a Muslim family since ages and has floral patterns on paper and pictures of Lord Madan Mohan all over. It is 30 feet tall and is considered to be a source of bliss by the devotees.

How to reach Cooch Behar Raas Mela


The Mela continues for 18 days and is inaugurated by the District Magistrate of Cooch Behar. You can arrive at the Raas Mela by air, road or rail. Reach at Cooch Behar station and take a rickshaw to arrive at the Parade Ground. Alternatively, you can take the National Highway to reach Cooch Behar by your own vehicle. Flight travelers will arrive at the Cooch Behar airport or Bagdogra airport and from there hire rickshaws and taxis to reach the Parade Ground. The North Bengal State Transport Corporation also provides special buses from all parts of the district upto 11 pm to arrive at the fair ground.

Accomodation in Cooch Behar


Cooch Behar is dotted with hotels of all budgets and you can put up at anyone. There are some guest houses near the ground like Prabas, Chilarai Abasan and Pantha Niwas maintained by the municipality. If you wish to stay at hotels advance booking is recommended.

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Amartya Bag

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Cooch Behar is a district in north east West Bengal with a royal heritage. It is bound by Jalpaiguri to its north, by Assam to its east and by Bangladesh to its south. It used to be ruled by the Koch dynasty and therefore this name. Cooch Behar became a district in West Bengal in 1950 and is the only planned district in north Bengal on the Himalayan foothills. Since the Cooch Behar Palace still holds significance in the development of the district, it has been declared as a heritage town. Cooch Behar also happens to be the maternal home of Maharani Gayatri Devi. The residents enjoy a lovely climate and the best time to visit is during November through February when the temperature is between 10 and 24 degree Centigrade.

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Farah Bag is the third of the garden trio in Lalbagh which means ‘garden of pleasure’. Farah Bagh is the smallest among the garden trio and is located on the banks of Bhagirath River. Dahapara, the famous settlement of the Qanungo is situated on the south-western part of Farah Bagh. Farah Bagh is reckoned for its beauty and charm and Ali Jah of the Nawabs used to stay here after an extensive tour of his lands. It has canals, palaces, reservoirs, fountains which make it immensely attractive. The common myth about Farah Bagh is that fairies used to come down to this paradise on earth to spend their time.

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Roshni Bag is the mausoleum or muqbara of Suja-ud-Daulah located in Murshidabad district. Suja-ud-Daulah dies in 1739 and was buried in this spot. When translated in English it means ‘garden of lights’. Once you enter the premises, you will notice a 3 domed brick built mosque in the northwestern part stands enclosed in a walled compound. The mausoleum of Suja-ud-Daulah can be seen from the mosque as a rectangular structure. Arriving at the spot is easy by a car; taxi or you can simply walk to it if you are staying around. This place is of utmost significance to the students of history and archaeology.

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Cossimbazar Kuthi is a relatively less popular tourist spot in Murshidabad. The bazaar area used to be famous due to its silk production which has reduced these days. However, the Cossimbazar Kuthi stall stands at present. During its heyday Cossimbazar Kuthi used to be the residence of Babu Jagabandhu Roy, who was a high class Kulin during the Nawab’s time. He also became the chief of the Cossimbazar Silk Factory in 1760AD. It is also known that Job Charnock had worked in the capacity of assistant in this Kuthi for INR 300.

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The Dutch Cemetery is located next to the Cossimbazar railway station at Kalkapur where the Dutch owned huge factories in the year 1666 AD were based. The grandeur of the Dutch has been ruined and small tombs of 43 in number remain to this day. Most of the monuments were built between 1721 and 1792 AD. The oldest monument at the Dutch cemetery belongs to Daniel van der Muyl who died in 1721. Most of the monuments are pyramidal in shape with cenotaphs mentioning the names. Some of the popular and relatively less ruined ones include Gregorius Herklots, Matthias Arnoldus Brahe, tamerus Cantes Vischer. The cemetery is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

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Jafarganj Muqbara or cemetery was built on an area of 3.51 acres by Mir Jafar. It is located approximately half a mile north to the Hazarduari Palace premises inside the bigger campus of Namak Haram Deuri. The cemetery is enclosed within waved walls and is the final resting place of the Nawabs belonging to the Najafi dynasty from Nawab Nazim to Humayun Jah. Nawab Nazim Syud Ahmed Najafi’s tomb was later shifted to Karbala in Arab. It is also home to the graves of Syud Ahmed Najafi (Mir Jafar’s father), Shan Khanum Begum (Alivardi Khan’s sister), Munny and Babbu Begum (Mir Jafar’s widows), Muhammad Ali Khan (Mir Jafar’s brother), Ashraf Ali Khan and Ismail Ali Khan (Mir Jafar’s brother-in-laws).  This cemetery is now maintained and administered by the Archaeological Survey of India and the entry fee is 3 INR only.

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The Chalk Masjid or Chowk Mosque in Murshidabad is quite a popular tourist attraction located in the south eastern side of Hazarduari Palace. It was constructed by Munny Begum, consort of Mirjafar in 1760. The Chalk Masjid stands tall on the site of Chahel Setun built during the period of Murshid Quli Khan. The exterior and the interior of the masjid is adorned with beautiful and prolific cartouche, vegetal motifs and arch shaped recess with stucco. The mosque has a grand appearance due to the 5 domes in the center with 2 ‘chau-chala-end-vaults’. It is called the ‘Chowk’ because it is an intersection of 5 roads serving as the biggest market area of the city. Pious Muslims gather inside the mosque to observe Id-ul Zoha, Id-ul Fitr, and Ramzan.

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The Ghari Minar or the Clock Tower of Murshidabad, West Bengal is located on coordinates 24°11′15″N 88°16′10″E / 24.187381°N 88.269315°E is a famous tourists spot. It is located to the south of Hazarduari Palace in the Nizamat Fort premises. It was erected in the garden area of Nizamat Fort probably for passengers traveling by boat and sailors. The Ghari Minar comprises of a heavy bell, the dial of a clock facing east towards Bhagirathi River and 4 masonry shields on 4 corners on the ground supported by 4 masonry lions. It is also known as the ‘Big Ben of Murshidabad’, the handles and figures of the clock being visible from the opposite bank. It was designed by Sagore Mistri, the same person who constructed Hazarduari Palace. He was the assistant to Colonel Duncan MacLeod. 

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