The name Dooars is said to have been derived from the word Door in English or ‘Dwar’ in local languages. There are 18 entry points or Doors to Bhutan from Dooars area. The most famous is the main connecting road of Bhutan with India through Phuentsholing – Jaigaon boarder.
The Dooars area of North Bengal is bound in the East by Assam, on its West is the Plains of Darjeeling district of North Bengal. To its North is Bhutan and to the South is Bangladesh. The Dooars region is mostly in the plains but includes some hilly areas of lower altitude. The area is crisscrossed by a large number of rivers that flow mostly from Bhutan in the North to Bangladesh in the South. Most of the rivers orginate at lower altitude and are fed by monsoon rain. This gives a unique characteristic to the rivers with very low level of water in dry season and sudden high water and even flash floods during monsoon or sudden rain. There are however a few glacier fade large rivers in Dooars. The river Teesta that roughly forms the western boundary of Dooars is the largest river in the region, Torsha and Sankosh are also quite large.
Forests of Dooars
The region used to be part of a continuous stretch of dense forest. The forests were used by the elephants traditionally to migrate from Assam upto the Nepal border. Human habitation has decreased the overall forest cover but even then, Dooars remains home of some of the best forests of the region including several National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Forest Reserves.
The most important and the largest forests of Dooars in terms of tourist importance are Gorumara National Park, Jaldapara National Park and Buxa Tiger Reserve. There are other forest areas including parts of Baikunthapur forest division (Kathambari and Apalchand), Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Neora valley National Park, Khuttimari forest, Titi forest and many others.
The forests of Dooars are home to some of the largest mammals. Asiatic Elephants, Rhinos and Gaur, the Indian Bison. Their numbers are also quite impressive in the forests and are increasing steadily. Sighting is also relatively common for tourists. Other wildlife variety includes a wide array of Birds, reptiles and deer.
Traditionally Jaldapara was the favourite destination of Dooars for many decades with its Holong forest bungalow and Madarihat Tourist lodge. Today Gorumara forests have surpassed Jaldapara in terms of tourist visit and tourism infrastructure. Buxa being the furthest destination, witnesses least tourist movement among the big three, though the forest area of Buxa is by far the largest and the tourist movement is steadily increasing here as well.
Best Time to Visit
October to March is traditionally considered the high season for tourists visiting Dooars. Rains are relatively rare during these months and temperature is mostly pleasant. During winter months of December and January, the temperature may dip to below 10 degree Celsius though.
June 15th to September 15th the tourist movement is the least as the forests remain closed for safari. This being the rainy season as well as the breeding season for much of wildlife. However if you want to avoid the tourist rush and enjoy nature at its pristine best, Monsoon months are ideal. The sprouting new green leafs all around and the incessant rain makes it the most spectacular and romantic season to visit Dooars. To top it all, resorts offer special offseason discounts during these months. If you are not much into sightseeing tours and want to relax amongst nature, we would strongly recommend visit during this period.
April and May are summer months in Dooars and temperature normally remains well below 30 degree Celsius. This being the summer vacation large number of tourists flock the neighbouring Darjeeling – Sikkim as well as Bhutan area. Many of them also include a couple of nights stay in Dooars in their itinerary.
Bagdogra is the nearest Airport and NJP is the major railhead. Both are in the outskirts of Siliguri town which is the transit hub for the entire region. However there are a number of train stations within Dooars including Alipurduar, Coochbehar, Hasimara and Malbazar. All trains travelling to North East of India has to pass through Dooars and stops at one or the other of these stations.
People and Culture
Tribal culture with its folk dance, drama, songs and folk lore is an integral part of the culture of the region. The tribal communities of Raj Bangshi, Mech, Rava, Toto, Limboo, Lepcha and the Bengali and Nepali community populate the region and provide a rich flavour to the rich cultural diversity of Dooars.
Dooars was covered with thick forests and the tribal people lived an isolated existence until the British invaded their space, followed by the Bangladeshis; the British cleared the land for tea estates while the Bengali people after the partition of Bangladesh came here and were actively involved in agriculture. The British were also responsible for bringing another set of tribes called the Madeshia, Uraons, Munda and Nageshia from Chotanagpur to work in the plantations; these tribes since have lived in harmony with the other communities of North Bengal.
The majority of people in Dooars belong to the Bengali community followed by the Rajbangshi tribe. Many festivals among the Bengali community and Rajbangshi are similar like the Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Manosha Puja etc. On the occasion of Manosha Puja – worship of the serpent Goddess – village fairs, dramas and festivals are held and villagers pray for good crops.
Folk drama of Dooars includes the ‘chor chunni’ and ‘dhamgaan’ is a popular folk song. Rajbangshi’s most popular songs are the ‘BhawaiyaGaan’ – devotional and love songs – which is very famous in Bengal.
TOURIST PLACES TO VISIT
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary - Jaldapara National Park (formerly Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary) is a national park situated at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Alipurduar District of northern West Bengal and on the banks of the Torsa River. Jaldapara is situated at an altitude of 61 m and is spread across 216.51 km2 (83.59 sq mi) of vast grassland with patches of riverine forests. It was declared a sanctuary in 1941 for protection of its great variety flora and fauna. Today, it has the largest population of the Indian one horned rhinoceros in the state, an animal threatened with extinction, and is a Habitat management area (Category IV).The nearby Chilapata Forests is an elephant corridor between Jaldapara and the Buxa Tiger Reserve. Near by is the Gorumara National Park, known for its population of Indian rhinoceros.
Lataguri - Lataguri is a small town located in the Jalpaiguri district of Indian state of West Bengal. The village is located outside the Gorumara National Park on National Highway No. 31. Permits for entering Gorumara and Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary are given from Lataguri. The village also contains a "Nature Interpretation Center", which gives information about the flora and fauna of the area. A few roadside restaurants ("Dhabas") and hotels cater for tourists. Cooch Behar is a flat country with a slight southeastern slope along which the main rivers of the district flow. Most of the highland areas are in the Sitalkuchi region and most of the low-lying lands lie in Dinhata region. The flora here includes among others palms, bamboos, creepers, ferns, orchids, aquatic plants, fungi, timber, grass, vegetable and fruit trees.
Gorumara National Park - It was declared as a National Park in the year 1992. Earlier in the year 1949 it was known as a wildlife sanctuary, river Murti, Jaldhaka and Ingdong drains this park forming a water body known for birding. This national park is famous for the breeding of the rare one - horned rhinoceros. Elephant ride and Jeep safari can help you spot the mighty bison, leopard or spotted deer and peacocks. The other mammals found here are, sambar, hog deer, reptiles, huge wild tuskers, wild boars and the rarest variety of animals and birds. It is a paradise for lovers of nature and adventurer. Nearby there are many a spot to visit. Watchtowers at Chuk chuki, and Jatra Prasad, Toto Para, Jaldapara, Dhupi Jhora, Bindu, Samsing, Rocky Island, Suntaley Khola, Buxar Tiger reserve, Cooch Behar etc are some of the places of Interest. Chapramari amidst of forests.
Murti (The River In Dooars) - Murti is a river that originates in the Neora Valley National park and flows through prime tourism area of Dooars before meeting Jaldhaka river. The river reaches the plains at Samsing, further inside Dooars, it divides the continuous stretch of forest of Gorumara. The forest on the left bank being called Chapramari and the forest on the right bank known as Gorumara. Further downstream, it meets river Jaldhaka and enters Bangladesh near Mathabhanga. Inside Bangladesh the Jaldhaka river meets the mighty Brahmaputra.From its origin till it meets Jaldhaka river, Murti is about 80 kms in length. The river is famous due to the number of tourist destinations on its both banks. Almost the entire stretch of the river is dotted with tourist spot with a number of resorts, forest bungalows, picnic spots sprawling besides it. The most famous watchtowers of Gorumara National Park such as Chukchuki, Medla and Jatraprasad are all located overlooking river Murti.
Buxa Fort - This tiger reserve forest abounds in a fascinating diversity of flora and fauna. The surrounding region is home to the tribes like Mech, Rava, Oraon, Munda, Kora and even the smallest surviving tribe, the Toto. It is one of the reserve forests stretching to Bhutan as Phipsu reserve and to Rasikbill near Cooch Behar and is drained by rivers like Sankosh, Raidak, Jayanti, Churnia, Turturi, Phashkhawa, Dima and Nonani. Elephants and leopard can be spotted very frequently. A small pond, locally known as pokhri on hilltop with innumerable numbers of tortoise is a treat to watch. Declared as National Park in January 1992 and is well maintained with an orchid house and leopard rehabilitation centre.
Chilapata Forest - Chilapata Forest falls are a great treat to watch on the way to Cooch Behar from Jaldapara. This is another dense forest with elephants and leopards. But, be warned, the most dangerous inhabitants of the forest are armed robbers! In fact, less than three vehicles are not allowed into the forest at any given time for security reasons. The prime reason for hazarding such a trip would be to visit the 5th century CE Nal or Mendabari Fort, mentioned in Marco Polo’s travelogue.
Kunja Nagar Eco Park - Kunja Nagar Eco Park Nearly 7km. from Falakata, touching Jaldapara Sanctuary, lies this Eco-Tourism Park. Here you can see leopard, deer, gharial and rose-ringed parakeet. If luck favours, you may see rhino, deer or elephant during boating.Wild animals are not found always, but sitting on the Watch Tower you will feel nature as your own. There is arrangement for picnic. So day time remains lively. The evenings are beautiful. If you go up the Watch Tower in a moon-lit night, you will not like to come down. There is electric wire fencing for safety from elephant attacks. For night stay there are Forest Bungalow and Tower House.