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Make a trip to Coochbehar Palace, a dream built in brick

23 March, 2021 17:00:48
Make a trip to Coochbehar Palace, a dream built in brick

As palaces go, Coochbehar Palace is not all that old - only about 135 years or so. However, its historical importance lies in the family that built it. And its aesthetic appeal is unquestionable. Also called Victor Jubilee Palace, this landmark makes Coochbehar the only planned city in North Bengal with remnants of a royal heritage. Modeled after London’s Buckingham Palace in 1887, it was built during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan of the Koch dynasty, and is one of the primary reasons why Coochbehar has been declared a heritage city. To those interested in India’s royal families, it is also notable as the maternal home of the famously beautiful Maharani Gayatri Devi.

Maharani Gayatri Devi

The Koch dynasty, as many know, ruled large chunks in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, chiefly across what is now Assam and Bengal; the dynasty is named after the Koch community, and emerged as the dominant ruling house in the Kamata kingdom in 1257 AD. The first Koch king, Viswa Singha, and then his son Nara Narayan, with Chilarai as his general, soon occupied the western portion of the former Kamarupa kingdom as well as some regions of south Assam. Following the death of Nara Narayan in 1586, the dynasty split into two branches, which controlled Koch Bihar in the west and Koch Hajo in the east. 

Koch Hajo was soon absorbed by the Ahom kingdom. Koch Bihar, having formed a separate unit, soon came under the threat of Mughal occupation, and though it weathered the storm, a new enemy emerged in the form of an expansionist Bhutanese kingdom. After a series of wars with the Bhutanese and Tibetans, the Northern threat was pushed back, but a Bhutanese regent was installed in the royal court of Koch Bihar. Cornered, the royal family decided to seek British intervention, and military assistance from the British helped end the Northern challenge once and for all. However, the British East India company imposed a number of treaties on the hitherto independent kingdom, and when British colonial rule finally ended, the princely state of Cooch Behar immediately merged with India in 1949 and became a part of West Bengal as Coochbehar district.

Renowned for its elegance and size, Coochbehar Palace is a two-storey brick edifice, covering an area of over 51,000 square feet. The original palace was three-storeyed, but the top storey was destroyed by the notorious Assam earthquake of 1897. The entire main structure is 395 feet long and 296 feet wide. Fronted on the ground and first floors by a series of arcaded verandahs which enhance its elegance, the palace also projects slightly at the southern and northern ends. In the centre is a projected porch, through which you enter the Durbar Hall, with its beautifully shaped metal dome topped by a cylindrical ventilator, in the best traditions of Western Renaissance architecture. There are various halls in the palace and rooms that include the Dressing Room, Bed Room, Drawing Room, Dining Hall, Billiards Hall, Library, Toshakhana, Ladies’ Gallery and Vestibules. 

Coochbehar Palace finds a place on the List of Monuments of National Importance in West Bengal. The palace is a perfect example of the blending of East and West, and reflects the ability of the Koch kings to embrace the best of European architecture without sacrificing their Indian heritage.

 How to get there 
Coochbehar is easily accessible by air, rail and road. The distance from Kolkata is approximately 700 km, for those adventurous enough to drive down. From others, train and flight bookings are easily done online. Once there, while you will find places to stay within the city itself, we suggest you make a day trip to see the palace from Aranya Tourism Property (earlier Jaldapara Tourist Lodge), which is just over an hour’s drive from Coochbehar city. Staying at Jaldapara also gives you access to its justifiably famed forest sanctuary, which is worth spending multiple days over. For bookings and other details about both Coochbehar and Jaldapara, contact

West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd
DG Block, Sector-II, Salt Lake
Kolkata 700091
Phone: (033) 2358 5189, Fax: 2359 8292
Website: https://www.wbtdcl.com/
Email: visitwestbengal@yahoo.co.in, mdwbtdc@gmail.com, dgmrwbtdc@gmail.com 

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