Art and Culture of Cooch BeharLocated at the foothills of Eastern Himalayas, Cooch Behar is with precious remnants of royal inheritance making it an excellent choice for tourism. The district is characterized by its scenic extravaganza that add on to its historical significance, rich culture, divine temples and legacy making it a wonderful location for visit in all terms. Apart from its scenic surroundings and excellent sightseeing spots another most interesting aspect of this area is its unique and exclusive culture that predominantly displays the essential tradition and customs of the location but at the same time appreciates the modern principles and theories.
Culture of Cooch Behar
Cooch Behar is a place that majorly exhibits a mixed culture. This is all the more since the place has a strong and influential past which includes various popular dynasties having their reign based here. Though majority of the inhabitants in Cooch Behar are Hindus, but there are other religions too like Muslims, Christians, Sikh etc. For almost all religions there are dedicated temples and mosques where traditions and customs are maintained and festivals too are organized. But in spite of all this, the predominant culture of Cooch Behar is of the Hindu Bengalis and the majority of social activity is centered on the customs and traditions maintained by this clan, popularly known as Bengali culture.
Traditional Culture of Cooch BeharBengali culture essentially means tradition, customs, aesthetic sense, communal living, sense of warmth, religious and essentially food lover. Every occasion here is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm, togetherness and good food. An integral part of essential Bengali culture is its attire. Though one can find all kinds of traditional and western wear here but the preferred attire is sarees for women and dhoti Punjabi for men. Usually festivals and private occasions are attended by the locals in these attires only. A distinctive style of wearing the saree called as “atpoure” is quite popular among the locals especially during festival times.
Music , dance, drama or any other form of art is quite popular recreation in Cooch Behar. People prefer to indulge in these activities and encourage the same for the juniors from early age. Even the school and colleges prefer to have one of these extra activities in its curriculum to encourage these forms of art. Music in Coach Behar majorly focuses on classical, Nazrulgeet, Bangla band music and last but least the Rabindra sangeet or songs of famous Rabindranath Tagore.
An equal importance is bestowed on other forms of art like dance, drama , painting and others. There are compressive schools to promote the several forms of art and there are arrangements to receive formal training on the same. Some of the centers providing training on the same are listed below for reference.
Address: College Para, Dinhata, Po-Baranachina, Cooch Behar
Cooch Behar H O, Cooch Behar West Bengal 736101
Stuti Music College Cooch Behar
Address: New Town, Cooch Behar Bazar, Cooch Behar West Bengal 736101
Phone: 03582 225054
Tufanganj SUR Sadhna Kendra Cooch Behar
Address: Ghogarkuti,Nutan Bazar, Cooch Behar Bazar, Cooch Behar West Bengal 736101
Phone: 03582 244788
Sahebganj Taj Club
Address: P.O. Sahebganj, Dist. Cooch Behar, Sahebganj, Cooch Behar West Bengal 736176
Folk Culture in Cooch BeharApart from this folk music are also hugely popular here. Bhawaiya is a special form of folk song which has gained huge popularity here. Bhawaiya are majorly songs based on emotions and feelings are usually coupled with an instrument named Dotara. Bhawaiya is the songs majorly performed by the Rajbongshi community. There are other ritual songs played here which includes Shaotal Pujor Gaan, Shonarai Gaan, Madankamer Gaan and many others.
Similar to folk music there are folk dances too usually performed in celebration of religion and specific Gods and Goddesses. Most popular dance forms in this part of Bengal are Vrita dance and gambhira dance form which initially started as a celebration for agriculture but later became devotional. The dances are bright colorful and express joy, happiness and festivity. A combination of folk dances and music can be seen in the beautiful folk dramas organized here on special festive days. Some of the popular folk dramas are Kushan, a part of mythological epic Ramayana, and Bishohara based on stories of Goddess Manasa.
Rabindra Bhawan on of the popular and well known auditorium based at the heart of Cooch Behar town organizes several programs on drama, dance, poetry recitals and drawing competition to encourage these forms of art in the district.
Art and Craft in Cooch BeharCooch Behar holds huge pride and fame all over the country for their exclusive collection of handicrafts which are made by the skilled craftsmen of this area. There are several unique items which are found here and workers spend days to make a single item. Majorly the products centers on home décor kitchen utensils, mats and others. Some of the special items of Cooch Behar is briefed below
SitalpatiOne of the most unique kind of product available in Cooch Behar is a special mat known as “Sitalpati”. This is one of a expensive variety of mats made only in selected areas of Ghughumari, Pushnadanga, Nakkati and Barokodali. Sitalpati is nothing but cool mats made out of a particular cane known as Mutra. Usually people of the Kayasth caste are engaged in making this kind of cool mats. The attractive features of this mat are golden glossiness, shining texture and a uniform smoothness that makes it extremely comfortable to use. But the feature that is absolutely unique in this mat is its ability to impart coolness which is an extremely utility object especially in the hot and humid weather of the State. The mat finds a lot of utility in rural areas but in recent years it has find its place in the urban families too especially for its unique cooling ability and beautiful texture.
MadurThis is another variety of mat available in Cooch Behar. The raw material for this kind of mat is Madur kathi and it is grown usually in swampy areas. This is one of the most popular mats in the state though the cooling effect of the same is much less in compared to Sitalpati types. These mats are cheaper too and quite affordable. These particular mats are usually decorated with beautiful motifs.
Bamboo and Cane HandicraftsBamboo and Cane handicrafts are quite popular in Cooch Behar. There are specific processes which are used to create the best of artifacts from these products. Like for example, cane is thoroughly processed so that it remains water protected and insect resistant and then only the products are made. Several home décor and kitchen utilizable products are made out of bamboo and cane which are indeed quite beautiful creation. Products like dhamas, chaluni, fruit bowl, paper basket, containers, table mats, decorative items, table mats are major items which are the best collectables in this category. Model of Rajbari made of bamboo sticks is a hot selling collectable item here preferred by people of all places.
Jute HandicraftsJute is produced a lot in this state as a result products made out of jute has huge popularity here and even beyond. People of Polia and Rajbanshi tribe are the major persons involved in this kind of artistry. From jute there is a plethora of products that can be made and the same is prepared with huge artistic skill and proficiency. One can find products like jute dolls, jute hangers, jute mats, jute pen stand, jute cushion covers , wall hangings, jute embroidery and many others. In fact the Government of the country along the Crafts Council of West Bengal have introduced training programs for this excellent craftsman to make designer goods out of jute material and make it a more larger scale business.
KanthaKantha is typically a beautiful creation out of old clothing. The native women of the area bind several layers of old clothes and stitch them to make this beautiful artistry. Bounded on all corners by the borders of sarees, this typical artifact is beautified with skillful embroideries depicting the picture of social life in the district. The final creation are usually used as wall hangings, home décor, as appliqué work on garments, stole, bed sheets, napkins and many others.
Shola PithArtifacts made out of Shola Pith are quite popular throughout the country. It displays beautiful artistry and supreme handwork. Made out of light weighted pithy reed thses are cut and designed by special iron knives to make the Shola pith. Different object are made out of this like toys, garlands, images of Gods and goddess, décor for temples etc. In festivals like Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja and Laxmi Puja, ornaments made of shoal pith are used hugely. All Goddesses are decorated with the shola ornaments to enhance the beauty of the deity. Also in marriage functions shola pith is used a lot. A typical head gear for both bride and groom is made out of this shola pith which is considered as a ritual. Many tourists prefer to buy small items like Goddess Durga of Shola pith decorated in a glass box in this area.
Festivals in Cooch BeharAnother distinctive feature of Cooch Behar which has almost become an integral part of the culture here is socializing in the neighborhood. There are several communities or “Para” in each residential areas and almost every Para has a community club where socializing, entertainment through various games or casual chit chat is initiated. This way a strong sense of community is build up in all too. The best part of the culture of Cooch Behar becomes visible during the festival days here. People here indulge in celebrating the Pujas at the best way possible with all rituals and customs. Some of the popular festivals here include Bengali New Year, Dolyatra, Rathyatra, Kali Puja, Durga Puja, Annapurna Puja, Baradebi Mela, Sri Panchami Mela, Shivratri Mela, Astami Snan Mela, Basant Utsob, Poushe parbon, Christmas, Eid-al-Fatir, Eis-ul-zuha etc. Durga Puja, Diwali and Rash Purnima are some of the most prominent festivals in Cooch Behar. Ras Purnima, attracts all the more because during this time Ras Mela is organized which is actually the largest fair in North Bengal.
Ras Mela is also called the Ras Yatra where the devotees gather to honor Lord Krishna and his beloved Goddess Radha. This festival brings to live the good old days Lord Krishna had spent in Vrindavan. Though the festival is celebrated all through Bengal but in such a grandeur it is celebrated only in Cooch Behar. This ritual of celebrating the Ras Yatra has been a custom in this area from the times of Royal rule here. It was 1812 when the Koch rulers started this festival in honour of Lord Madan Mohan, a form of Lord Krishna. The fair or mela here is characterized by huge footfalls including visitors from other states and sale of local products majorly handicrafts of the area. The festival takes place in the month of December when the weather is also quite pleasant here.
As mentioned Durga Puja and Diwali is an equally entertaining festival here where people are found to be in spiritual ecstasy. The essence of Shiuli, the rhythmic beats of dhak and the mind blowing Dhunuchi Nach is something that pulls the string of every heart. Durga Puja is celebrated for a stretch of five long days where everybody celebrates with food, outing, new clothes, social gathering and loads of fun. Pandal hopping and trying the delicious street foods is the major occupation of people of Cooch Behar during this time. Again the same enthusiasm can be experienced during the Kali Puja and Diwali celebration where the festival stretches whole night and people prays to God for prosperity and well being. Not to mention fire crackers and lightening are the key attraction in this festival. Both the festivals take place during the month of October when a lot of tourist also crowds the streets of the district.
In a nutshell, it may be concluded that Cooch Behar is a town where there is an amalgamation of both the worlds. With a welcome towards modern lifestyle and principles, the people of Cooch Behar proudly showcase their rich heritage and culture. There is a strong traditional value along with a sense of bonding among the natives that makes it a wonderful place to stay or visit.
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