1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kuch Behar

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KUCH BEHAR, or Cooch Behar, a native state of India, in Bengal, consisting of a submontane tract, not far from Darjeeling, entirely surrounded by British territory. Area, 1307 sq. m. Pop. (1901), 566,974; estimated revenue, £140,000. The state forms a level plain of triangular shape, intersected by numerous rivers. The greater portion is fertile and well cultivated, but tracts of jungle are to be seen in the north-east corner, which abuts upon Assam. The soil is uniform in character throughout, consisting of a light, friable loam, varying in depth from 6 in. to 3 ft., superimposed upon a deep bed of sand. The whole is detritus, washed down by torrents from the neighbouring Himalayas. The rivers all pass through the state from north to south, to join the main stream of the Brahmaputra. Some half-dozen are navigable for small trading boats throughout the year, and are nowhere fordable; and there are about twenty minor streams which become navigable only during the rainy season. The streams have a tendency to cut new channels for themselves after every annual flood, and they communicate with one another by cross-country watercourses. Rice is grown on three-fourths of the cultivated area. Jute and tobacco are also largely grown for export. The only special industries are the weaving of a strong silk obtained from worms fed on the castor-oil plant, and of a coarse jute cloth used for screens and bedding. The external trade is chiefly in the hands of Marwari immigrants from Rajputana. Among other improvements a railway has been constructed, with the assistance of a loan from the British government. The earthquake of the 12th of June 1897 caused damage to public buildings, roads, &c., in the state to the estimated amount of £100,000.

The Koch or Rajbansi, from which the name of the state is derived, are a widely spread tribe, evidently of aboriginal descent, found throughout all northern Bengal, from Purnea district to the Assam valley. They are akin to the Indo-Chinese races of the north-east frontier; but they have now become largely hinduized, especially in their own home, where the appellation “Koch” has come to be used as a term of reproach. Their total number in all India was returned in 1901 as nearly 21/2 millions.

As in the case of many other small native states, the royal family of Kuch Behar lays claim to a divine origin in order to conceal an impure aboriginal descent. The greatest monarch of the dynasty was Nar Narayan, the son of Visu Singh, who began to reign about 1550. He conquered the whole of Kamrup, built temples in Assam, of which ruins still exist bearing inscriptions with his name, and extended his power southwards over what is now part of the British districts of Rangpur and Purnea. His son, Lakshmi Narayan, who succeeded him in Kuch Behar, became tributary to the Mogul Empire. In 1772 a competitor for the throne, having been driven out of the country by his rivals, applied for assistance to Warren Hastings. A detachment of sepoys was accordingly marched into the state; the Bhutias, whose interference had led to this intervention, were expelled, and forced to sue for peace through the mediation of the lama of Tibet. By the treaty made on this occasion, April 1773, the raja acknowledged subjection to the Company, and made over to it one-half of his annual revenues. In 1863, on the death of the raja, leaving a son and heir only ten months old, a British commissioner was appointed to undertake the direct management of affairs during the minority of the prince, and many important reforms were successfully introduced. The maharaja Sir Nripendra Narayan, G.C.I.E., born in 1862, was educated under British guardianship at Patna and Calcutta, and became hon. lieutenant-colonel of the 6th Bengal Cavalry. In 1897–98 he served in the Tirah campaign on the staff of General Yeatman-Biggs, and received the distinction of a C.B. He was present at the Jubilee in 1887, the Diamond Jubilee of 1897, and King Edward’s Coronation in 1902, and became a well-known figure in London society. In 1878 he married a daughter of Keshub Chunder Sen, the Brahmo leader. His eldest son was educated in England.

The town of Kuch Behar is situated on the river Tursa, and has a railway station. Pop. (1901), 10,458. It contains a college affiliated to the Calcutta University.