Dooars or Duar, The Himalayan Terrai
The Himalayas are spread over a large stretch over the landscape that constitutes India. On the extreme eastern fringes of India, lies the state of West Bengal sharing international borders with some neighbouring countries. Flanked by the Eastern stretch of the Himalayas, also know as Kanchenjunga, to the north, and dense forests on the other side, lie nature’s favoured playgrounds, brimming with diverse flora and fauna and tea gardens, ornamented by rivers, springs and fresh water bodies, all teaming together to cradle a precious bed of settlement for various human civillizations. With flat greenery at the onset giving way to dense forestry so thick it barely gives in to sunlight, the Dooars with the massive Himalayas in the background and a brilliant diversity in vegetation and wildlife interspersed with sleepy settlements in between and the always available option of fresh tea straight from the gardens, makes it nothing short of paradise on earth. Stretching from Bengal over to a portion of Assam, this splendid tea rich terrai region has derived its name Dooars from the word door. The plains at the foothills of this region form the gateway from India to Bhutan like a door and hence the nomenclature as it forms the doorway to Bhutan. Besides Bhutan this passage of land also opens the road to many neighbouring states of the North Eastern part of India as well. Stretching over the course of two states Assam and Bengal and bounded by two rivers, Teesta in the west and Sakrosh in the east, the Dooars region, largely unknown to the rest of the world, is bifurcated into Eastern Dooars for the area lying in Assam and Western Dooars for the area in Bengal. Politically speaking, the Dooars region comprises of the plains of Darjeeling District, the whole of Jalpaiguri District and the upper region of Cooch Behar District in West Bengal and the districts of Dhubri, Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Goalpara and Bongaigaon in the state of Assam. However nature has been amply benevolent to the Western Dooars in Bengal region as it abundantly houses various treasures and bounties right from tea to timber making it a fascinating destination for tourists,travellers and nature lovers alike.
The Doorway to the Dooars
Silliguri in West Bengal lies at the confluence of the plains and the hills and is the reccomended junction to begin the onward journey towards the Dooars. The Dooars is a fascinating treasure trove of dense and vibrant greenery, abode to a variety of exotic wildlife and birds, criss-crossed by river channels and tea gardens, with dollops of human settlements scattered around them. These human settlements are home to some of the oldest indigenous tribes inhabiting these forests. A short stay in these enchanting surroundings can be a refreshing experience from the congestion of the urban landscapes and can help one unwind from their stressful life in the city.
The entire region is connected with a network of motorable road systems running through the deep forests and tea gardens. A meter gauge railway service connects Siliguri and Cooch Behar via Alipurduar. A train journey or a road trip through this region is immensely delightful and is interwoven through the many rivers & their innumerable tributaries trotting and rolling down from the hills. The Dooars valley is especially reputed for being home to many wildlife sanctuaries within its premises the most famous of them being National Park of Gorumara, Chapramari Forest Reserve, The Buxa Tiger Reserve and the Jaldapara Wildlife Santuary. As you head east of Jalpaiguri district into the forest area called Dooars, the scenery rapidly changes from vast stretches of lush green paddy fields to thick greenery marking the beginning of the Gorumara forest, home to breath taking foliage of rain forests and natural habitat of the famous One Horned Rhino, Indian Elephants & other wildlife species. The vegetation is an enviable mix of tall soaring trees of fir and birch, so thick and dense that they form a natural canopy for sheltering smaller exotic flowering plants and orchids growing in their midst and resounding with the echo of rare migratory birds and wild animals. The Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the rare one-horned rhinoceros, the mighty bison, leopard, spotted deer, sambar, hog deer, reptiles, huge wild tuskers, wild boars and the rarest variety of animals and birds including plenty of peacocks. A recent trend in the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary that has gained popularity among tourists and visitors alike is the jungle safari on an elephant ride through the forest area occasionally spotting wild animals, particularly the one-horned rhinos, in their untampered natural habitat. One can also enjoy the Chilapata forest nearby, which is home to elephants and leopards.
The Buxa Tiger Reserve
The famous Buxa Tiger Reserve is an area of about 760 sq.km in the region of Dooars and home and natural habitat of the endangered and dwindling population of Royal Bengal Tigers. After the Royal Bengal Tiger started dwindling in numbers due to rampant poaching and encroachment of natural habitat of tigers, it was almost on the verge of becoming extinct. However, a dedicated initiative spearheaded by the government has seen the rise of the tiger population again. Presently there are at least forty Royal Bengal tigers in the reserve, thanks to the relentless efforts. This place is an apt getaway for passionate nature lovers and wildlife enthusiast as it provides many trails along the river beds and forests for trekking.
At sunset, the forest covered ridges provide a splendid view of the army of sal & segun trees descending down the sandy banks of the Teesta clad horizon with nimble steps. Spellbound and overwhelmed in admiring the beauty of the forests against the setting sun and the rumbling waters of the Teesta in the approaching imminent dusk, one can distinctly hear the shrill whistle of a railway engine in the distance, about the enter the Mahananda Santuary or chugging its way through the deep forests towards Alipurduar. Early in the morning, the first rays of the sun as they break through the boughs and branches of trees, softly caress your eyes, bidding you gently to wake up. A peek out of the bedroom window of your room presents a view of an age-old jungle with many ancient trees, some with their roots reaching up to the sky and colourful species of flowering plants, greeting you in the morning. Dwelling further along the mud tracks hidden by the thick vegetal canopy, one is greeted by a fragrance in the air and the landscape presents a stretch of exotic colourful flowering plants, some known and some yet to be discovered. As one goes deeper , the greenery becomes thicker with rows of lush green tea bushes, line of taller trees shading them and a deep blue sky overseeing it all.
The Mystic Magic of Jaldhaka & Other Attractions
The exclusive location and backdrop of Suntalekhola is almost reminiscent of a fabled land from fairy tales. It is fondly girdled by a gurgling brook & surrounded on all sides by towering mountains in various shades of green, this place is connected to the rest of the world only by a hanging footbridge that shakes every time you take a step. And the Neora Valley with its dense forests, colourful wild orchids, broad medley of butterflies & meandering mountain streams is one of the few remaining virgin forests in the country. It is home to many endangered species of wildlife including the elusive Red Panda. There are also many watchtowers within dense forested areas in the natural habitats of many wild animals where one can safely perch and remained position to sight wild animals in their true elements in their natural environment. These watch towers remain the only viable source for spotting wildlife when the jungle safari remains closed for tourists during the mating season from August to November.
A little further ahead lies another place of interest for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike known as Jaldhaka. River Jaldhaka marks the trans boundary between India and Bhutan as it is the landmark for Bindu, the last village bordering the Indian side of the Indo Bhutan border. The Jaldhaka river originates from the Kupup Lake in south-eastern Sikkim and flows through Bhutan, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and then swiftly enters into Bangladesh, to join River Dharla. The river roughly flows over a stretch of 200 kilometres and the flow of water is extremely rapid.It is a visual treat for animal lovers and birdwatchers and the surrounding natural beauty is spell binding and mesmerizing. The Nagrakata Tea Research Center and the Chapramari Forest on the other side of the Jaldhaka river are noteable places of interest worth visiting.