Dooars Region

Dooars, also known as Dwars or Duars, is a region in Northeastern India located at the foot of the east-central Himalayas. The region is divided into Eastern and Western Dooars by the Sankosh river. Eastern Dooars is part of the western region of the state of Assam whereas Western Dooars lies in Northern West Bengal.  It is a portion of the Terai, a lowland belt linking the Himalayas and the plains region in the district of Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar. The altitude of Western Dooars ranges from 90 m to 1750 m and moist climate is favourable for tea gardens.

The name Dooars (Doors) is derived from the several passes that lead from the region into the Lesser Himalayas. In West Bengal, Dooars is the gateway of Bhutan, Sikkim, North Bengal and the North-Eastern states. The Dooars Region is made up of a vast texture of dense forests teeming with wildlife, unending tea gardens and is criss crossed by Teesta, Raidak, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Kaljani Rivers. The main forests that make up the Dooars region are Gorumara National Park, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary and Neora Valley National Park.

Flora

Visitors to the Dooars region will witness a beautiful, ever-changing terrain as they journey deeper into the forests. There are vast open grasslands, riverine forests, swamps, woodlands, and streams. As visitors venture into Dooars, they will see the rolling forest and riverine grasslands of Gorumara National Park, the dry mixed forest and thick bower of greenery of Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary and a landscape comprising of virgin natural forests, dense bamboo groves, colourful canopy of Rhododendron trees, lush green valley, meandering rivers and streams with snow-capped mountains of Neora Valley National Park.

Fauna

The most popular inhabitants of the Dooars region are the one-horned Indian Rhinoceros, Indian Elephant, Leopard and Gaur (Indian Bison). Other mammals that have made the forest their home are Royal Bengal Tiger, Himalayan Black Bear, Jungle Cat, small and large Civet, Fishing Cat, Leopard Cat, Chital (Spotted Deer), Hog Deer, Barking Deer, Sambar, Pangolin, Wild Boar, Indian Rock Python, Malayan Giant Squirrel, Red Panda, etc.  

Major bird species that can be spotted in Dooars include the Indian Peacock, Abbott’s Babbler, Alexandrine Parakeet, Barn Owl, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Black-throated Sunbird, Cattle Egret, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Great Indian Hornbill, Green Bee-eater, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Eagle Owl, Indian Shag, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Egret, Lapwing, Blue Whistling Thrush, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, etc. During winter, migratory birds like the Brahminy Duck, Stork, Ibis, Teal, etc arrive in thousands to breed and nest.

Culture

The inhabitants of the Dooars region comprise of tribes from Nepal, Burma, North-east India and Bengal. The original settlers of this region are considered as ancient as the Mongolians. The Mongoloid features are still visible on the natives composed of numerous tribes, including the Bodo in Assam, and the Rabha, the Mech, the Toto, the Koch Rajbongshi, the Tamang/Murmi, the Limbu, the Lepcha in Bengal.

The Oraons, Mundas, Kharia, Mahali, Lohara and ChikBaraik tribes were relocated to the Dooars region  from Nepal, ChotaNagpur and Santhal Parganas by the British to work in the tea gardens. The tribals of Chotanagpur origin were employed in tea gardens, which started production during the 1870s. Apart from the tribal population, a large Bengali population {mostly displaced from the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by the Partition of Bengal} also populate the Dooars region.

The present day tribes earn their livelihood from agriculture, working in tea gardens, working with the forest department and working in the various resorts in the Dooars region. They also make bamboo art and buffalo horn artefacts that are sold as souvenirs to visitors.

Zones

The Gorumara National Park is spread over 80 sq. km and located in the Dooars region at the foothills of the Himalayas. It was designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1949 and subsequently accorded the status of an Indian National Park in 1994. The rolling forests and riverine grasslands are home to a large number of herbivores like one-horned Indian Rhino, Asiatic Elephant, Gaur (Indian Bison), Spotted Deer, Sambar, Hog Deer, Barking Deer and Wild Boar. The only big cat that can be found in the park is the Leopard. Other animals that can be found here are the Malayan Giant Squirrel and the rare Hispid Hare. The park has a spot called Rhino Point, where rhinos and bisons huddle together to lick salt.

The Sanctuary derives its name from the word ‘Chapra’ which stands for a variety of small fishes found in West Bengal, and ‘Mari’ which means ‘in abundance’. In 1895, the area was declared as a National Reserve Forest under the Indian Forest Act. It came to be the Chapramari Wildlife Reserve in 1939 and was given the status of a National Wildlife Sanctuary by the Government of India in 1998.

The Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary is home to herds of elephants and the Indian Bison commonly known as Gaur. Other animals like Spotted Deer (Chital), Sambar, Barking deer and Wild Boars can also be found here. It is one of the few places where the Pangolin proliferates successfully. A salt reservoir, near the sanctuary’s watchtower, is frequented by the majestic Elephants and the Gaur (Indian Bison).It is one of the best places to encounter and photograph birds like the Green Magpie, Scarlet Minivet, Hill Myna, Indian Treepie and White-breasted Kingfisher.  

Spread over an expanse of 88 sq. km, the Neora Valley National Park is located in the Kalimpong district, West Bengal. It derives its name from the river Neora that flows through the park and has several mountain streams connecting this river. The land was declared a national park in the year 1986. The Neora Valley landscape is made of virgin natural forests, dense bamboo groves, colourful canopy of Rhododendron trees, lush green valley, meandering rivers and streams with snow-capped mountains. There are giant trees like Oak, Sal, ferns, rhododendrons, bamboo groves, and also tiny wild strawberries, Himalayan yew, wild white orchids and primulas.

The endangered Red Panda and black Asiatic bear inhabit the bamboo groves in the park. Other animals spotted here are the Barking Deer, Sloth Bear, Golden Cat, Wild Boar, Leopard Cat, Goral, Sambar, Himalayan Flying Squirrel, Thar and the Royal Bengal Tiger. The park is a paradise for bird lovers with over 200 species. Some of the birds found here are the flashy male Satyr Tragopan, Golden Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Kalij Pheasant, Nutcracker, Magpies and numerous finches and sunbirds. Different species of cuckoos fill the area with their singing during the spring and summer months.  

The Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary covers 216.51 sq. km of forest land. It was established in 1941 with the aim to protect the one-horned Indian Rhinoceros, an endangered species. It derived the status of a national park in the year 2012. It is close to the Gorumara National Park, which is also well-known for the conservation of its rhinoceros population. This deciduous forest is a montage of woods, swamps and grasslands and is chequered by the rivers Torsa, Hollong, Malangi, Bhaluka and Chirakhawa.

The Sanctuary is home to two of the big five wild animals – the one-horned Indian Rhinoceros and the Royal Bengal Tiger. The park holds the highest population of rhinoceros, right after the Kaziranga National Park, Assam. Other wild animals that can be found here are Elephants, Leopards, Sambar, Hog Deer, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer, Wild Pigs, and Gaur (Indian bison). Birdwatchers can enthral themselves with the sight of avifauna like the Crested Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Jungle Fowl, Peafowl (Peacock), Shikra, Finn’s Weaver, Partridge, and Lesser-pied Hornbill. Reptiles like the Indian Python, Monitor Lizards, freshwater Turtles, Geckos and Kraits are also found here.

The Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across 158 sq. km of forest area and is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, flanked by the rivers Teesta and Mahananda. The wildlife sanctuary was formally established in 1976 and is managed by the Darjeeling Wildlife Division of Government of West Bengal. This land was initially started as a game sanctuary for children but soon received the status of a sanctuary with the aim to protect the diminishing number of Gaur (Indian Bison) and the Royal Bengal Tiger.

The wildlife sanctuary is home to other animals like Elephants, Porcupines, Golden Cats, Himalayan Black Bears, Leopards, rare Mountain Goats (Serow), Sambar, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Wild Boars, Rhesus Macaque, Black-capped Langurs, etc. It is a haven for bird watchers who can see a variety of bird species like Peafowls, Peacocks, Egrets, Kingfishers, Fly Catchers, Racket-tail Drongo, Assamese Macaque, Robins, Woodpeckers, Swallows Babblers, Warblers, Minivets, etc. The sanctuary also houses some endangered birds like Rufous-necked Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill and Great Hornbill among others.

The crown gem of the Dooars region, the Buxa Tiger Reserve, is a sanctuary set up to preserve the Royal Bengal Tiger. Buxa was declared a tiger reserve in 1983 and was designated a National Park in January 1992. Buxa has an area of 745 sq km, the largest forest in North Bengal and has the second highest tiger population in West Bengal after Sundarban National Park. Other animals that can be seen in the reserve are Elephants, Gaur, Leopards, Sambar, Chital (Spotted Deer), Barking Deer, Wild Boars, etc.

Located inside the reserve at an altitude of 800 metres is the historic Buxa fort. During British rule, this fort was used as a prison. Freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was also confined inside the fort. A sacred temple called Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also lies inside the reserve.

Best time to Visit

Dooars is open for visitors throughout the year. The national parks are open from September till June. The ideal time to visit is between October and May.