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Culture of Jalpaiguri

Culture of Jalpaiguri
Tea plantation workers in Jalpaiguri (Source: Flickr)

The district of Jalpaiguri had been under the rule or control of several dynasties and even countries partially or wholly through different periods of history. In ancient history it was a part of the Kamrupa kingdom extending till the Karatoya River in the west. The land was commonly known as the Dooars or Duars meaning “doorway” or “passages” of the Bhutanese who used them to communicate with the people from the Terai region for purposes of trade and commerce. Thus the cultural influence of Bhutan can be felt in Jalpaiguri district. In fact, the name  Jalpaiguri itself is thought to have originated from “je-le-pe-gu-ri” meaning a place where warm clothes are bartered or traded.

Jalpaiguri later became the capital of the Raikat rulers of Baikunthapur. Annexed by the British in 1864 from the Bhutan king, the district became the centre of the lucrative tea trade since the late 19th century under colonial rule. The town had become the port-of-call for all people who wanted a hand in this prosperous business. Large scale immigration resulted in the emergence of a cosmopolitan culture of the city where people from different religious, racial, ethnic and class backgrounds came together.  Culturally it was also influenced by the tea plantations and the British bungalow culture. The Jalpaiguri club, the stately bungalows, parks and gardens and the race course bear testimony to the colonial heritage of the town.

Tribal culture like that of the Lepcha-Limbu, Bhotia and the Rajbanshi culture form an integral part of the cultural heritage of Jalpaiguri. Each of these communities has lived together in harmony against the serenity of nature, maintaining their distinctiveness.

Languages of Jalpaiguri

Jalpaiguri is the melting pot of different racial and ethnic groups like the Totos, Mech, Ravas, Santhals, Oraons and Madasia who have their individual culture including their language. Some of the common languages used by the people in Jalpaiguri district include Bengali, English, Hindi, Oraon, Sadri, Boro Santal, Munda Kharia and others.

Dance and Music of Jalpaiguri

Culture of Jalpaiguri
Tribal Dance in Jalpaiguri (Source: flickr)

Folk music, folk lore and folk dance form an integral part of the culture of Jalpaiguri district. In these music and dance forms, the rhythm of simple living in the midst of nature is a strong element. One popular folk song is the “dham gaan”, revolving around mythological characters. “Bhawaiya” is the folk song that the Rajbanshi sing which details the love of God and Man.

Some of the dance forms include the mech dance which has several variations. During the spring festival, Mech women perform “Bagroomba” dance where they wear colourful costumes evocative of butterflies. The “Chal Jhumgre Gele Nai” dance form is a war dance martial in character. The “Mesa Gland Nai” dance form by Mech women is an exhortation to the commnuity’s youth to be hard working and industrious. The Rajbhanshi dance accompanied by Kartal, Kanshi, Dhol and Mukhabanshi instrument are an invocation to the River Teesta, which they worship as a goddess. The songs and dance forms of the Rava tribe are also gaining steady popularity.

Food in Jalpaiguri

Culture of Jalpaiguri
Local food (momo) in Jalpaiguri

Enjoy the flavour of local food wherever you are touring in Jalpaiguri district. Some of the traditional food of the region includes momo, fermented bamboo shoots, fresh fish pickle from dry fish, the “dak bungalow” chicken and locally flavoured Chinese cuisine. There are also umpteen roadside eateries which not only serve local food but also give you general food items in the form of puri bhaji and Bengali cuisine. In addition, the aroma of Jalpaiguri tea in earthen pots or "kulhars" is just amazing.

Handicrafts of Jalpaiguri

Culture of Jalpaiguri
Cane Crafts of Jalpaiguri

Jalpaiguri is famous for its variety of handicrafts which showcase the talent of the artisans and the regional culture which goes into their making. Some of the popular items which the tourist can carry back as souvenirs include cane crafts, wooden and jute artifacts, jewellery, wall hangings, handbags and carpets.

Festivals of Jalpaiguri

Culture of Jalpaiguri
Durga Puja in Jalpaiguri

Jalpaiguri is located within the state of West Bengal, believed to be the land of festivals. Apart from the major festivals of the Bengalis like Durga Puja and Kali Puja which is celebrated here, Jalpaiguri local population also have their local beliefs and worship. The “Teesta Burir Puja” is symbolic of this diverse religious aspect. It is celebrated by both the Rajbhanshis and Bengalis to worship the Giver goodess Teesta, which constitutes the lifeline of this region.

The Jalpaiguri people also perform the “Manosha Puja” which is a worship based on the cult of the serpent goddess. Other rituals and festivals like the “Hutt Ghurni” are performed by the locals to get good crops and rain in the region.
All these festivals highlight the rich tradition and cultural base of the Jalpaiguri people. They are usually accompanied by fairs which are ruled by the general spirit of carnivalesque enthusiasm.

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