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First ever Gour Malda Marathon chooses heritage protection as theme

22 March, 2023 10:15:43
First ever Gour Malda Marathon chooses heritage protection as theme

A marathon to promote and protect some of Bengal’s most beautiful heritage structures? With less than a month to go for International Day for Monuments and Sites (or World Heritage Day), celebrated on April 18 by the UN every year, here’s some news from Malda that is sure to gladden every heritage lover’s heart.

The Malda District Police recently played host to the first ever Gour Malda Marathon, though Coochbehar organised a similar marathon, which fewer outsiders probably heard about. 

The Gour Malda marathon was not just fun and games. The theme of the event was ‘Protect our Heritage’, with routes of 5 km, 10 km and 21 km covering all major heritage sites of Malda. Of the nearly 2,500 participants, there were runners (and winners) from states such as Sikkim, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar too, apart from local enthusiasts. The total prize money and other awards across seven categories amounted to Rs 5.5 lakh.

While it is too early to gauge the impact of the run on the undoubtedly fabulous heritage of Malda, the event has raised several important issues, some of which Malda District Police SP Pradeep Kumar Yadav points out and adds, “While the Coochbehar marathon was confined to the city since most heritage attractions are within city limits, we found it easier to plan our routes since our heritage structures are outside city limits,” he says.

The district headquarters of Malda is one of the state’s largest cities after Kolkata, and the district as a whole represents the confluence of various cultures and royal dynasties which have historically shaped Bengal – the Buddhist Palas, the Hindu Senas, and the Muslim Nawabs.

The ancient Sanskrit grammarian Paṇini mentioned a city named Gourpura, which is most likely the city of Gour, the ruins of which are still seen in Malda. Ancient Gour and Pandua (Pundravardhana) are the two cities which formed the capital of Bengal in ancient and mediaeval times.


While a full list of Malda’s attractions are available elsewhere on this site, the point is that an event such as this helps draw attention to them, and as Yadav points out, may even popularise Malda among out-of-state tourists, thanks to word of mouth from participating runners. 

“We feel Malda doesn’t get the number of tourists it should, and we wanted to do our bit to draw more people to our heritage attractions. Besides, the routes we planned for the marathon were very scenic, and the weather was pleasant enough so that nobody fell ill. We wanted to complete the run before summer really sets in,” says Yadav.

The response from local industry has been encouraging, too, with many sponsors coming forward to support the marathon. During the 18th century, Malda was the hub of Bengal’s flourishing cotton and silk industries. Today, it is known as the gateway to North Bengal, and occupies the land around the confluence of the Mahananda and Kalindi rivers. The region grows rice, jute, legumes and oilseeds, and is also famous for mangoes and mulberries.

Consequently, as the SP says, there’s a fairly strong industrial presence in Malda, once again which few outsiders are really aware of. Should the Gour Malda Marathon become a regular annual feature, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, one hopes it will draw its share of commercial visitors as well as leisure travellers. 

In fact, Yadav is confident that the event will continue, and on a larger scale. Particularly since the police have gained a good idea of the logistics this time. “We deliberately capped the number of participants at around 2,500 this year, but we are confident of handling a larger pool now,” he says. 

The ancient heritage of Bengal seems in safe hands.

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