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Rajabhatkhawa has an interesting history just like its name

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ChitrakMitra Nandi is a student of Lakshmipat Singhania Academy and is in Class X

Rajabhatkhawa is not just famous for being the entry gate to Buxa Tiger Reserve. It is equally famous for being the place that celebrated the King of Coochbehar’s victory over the Bhutanese King who had encroached on Bengal’s territory and taken away his kingdom. Today, a lovely museum depicting that tale including fossilized and stuffed remains of animals found in the forests around, stands at Rajabhatkhawa. There is also a lovely Orchid House in place, but photography is strictly prohibited within the museum and orchid house.

Just as you enter the museum, you get to see a big notice saying: ‘Stay away from animals called humans, rest are predictable.’ True to what was written, within minutes we realized some visitors had plucked orchids from the Orchid House to take them home and were caught by the guards, who stopped their cars for enquiring. It was indeed sad to see tourists have so little respect about the flora and fauna of a protected reserve forest!

According to history of the area, in 1765, the 13th king of Coochbehar, Dhairjendra Narayan was enthroned and the King of Bhutan, Debraj could not tolerate him. He got into a conflict with the King of Coochbehar regarding the land near Buxa. He claimed the land belonged to him. It is almost like the ongoing land dispute between China and India. He sent his army and his commander-in-chief PanshuToma, who held the King of Coochbehar captive. At first, he was confined to Buxa, later he was taken to Punakha, the then capital of Bhutan. The Bhutanese King took over his lands too. Members of the Coochbehar Royal Family then appealed to the British and the East India Company to help them restore the King of Coochbehar back to his throne. In the beginning, the British were a bit reluctant, but then they realized the huge forest resources of the area, particularly Buxa and Alipurduar and they needed huge amount of wood to build railways during that time. They thus wanted to side with the King of Coochbehar.

The British helped the Coochbehar Royal Family to threaten the King of Bhutan and rescue the King of Coochbehar. The Bhutanese King signed a treaty with the East India Company in 1774 and released the King. As the King of Coochbehar started marching back to his kingdom, royal family and his subjects gave him a grand welcome. Today’s Rajabhatkhawa is the place where the King was welcomed to a Bengali lunch of Bhaat or rice. Since then, the place is known as Raja-Bhaat-Khawa meaning the place where the king ate rice. For me it was entrance to one of the largest forests of Bengal, Buxa.