Malda (Bengali: মালদা) is a district of the Indian state of West Bengal. It lies 347 kilometres north of Kolkata, the state capital. It is famous for the production of mango and silk. The folk culture of gambhira is a feature of the district, being a unique way of representation of daily life’s joy and sorrow of the common people, as well as the unique representation of national and international matters.
One time capital of Bengal, the district maintains the tradition of the past in culture and education. It lies just east of the confluence of the Mahananda and Kalindri rivers and is part of the English Bazar urban agglomeration. The town rose to prominence as the river port of the Hindu capital of Pandua. During the 18th century it was the seat of prosperous cotton and silk industries. It remains an important distributing centre for rice, jute, and wheat. Historical monuments include the mosque Jami' Masjid (1566) and the landmark Nimasari tower across the river. Constituted a municipality in 1867, it has several colleges affiliated with the University of North Bengal. Rice, jute, legumes, and oilseeds are the chief crops in the surrounding area. Mulberry plantations and mango orchards occupy large areas; mango trade and silk manufacture are the main economic activities.
Location and Population
- Latitude: 24°40’20” N to 25°32’08” N
- Longitude: 87°45’50” E to 88°28’10” E
- District area: 3455.66 km²
- Total Population (2001 Census) : 3,290,160
Malda is called the gateway of North Bengal. It was once the capital of Gour-Banga with its 3456 km² lay of the land classified into Tal, Diara, and Barind awaits the advent of tourists and people of archeological interest with its wealth to be enjoyed and its huge potential to be explored.
Malda region is washed by the waves of the rivers Ganges, Mahananda, Fulahar and Kalindri. Panini mentioned a city named Gourpura, which by strong reason may be identified as the city of Gouda, ruins of which are situated in this district. Examples are legion of the relic of a predecessor kingdom being used in the monuments of the successor kingdoms.
It had been within the limits of ancient Gour and Pandua (Pundrabardhana). These two cities had been the capital of Bengal in ancient and medieval ages and are equidistant, north and south, from English Bazar town (once known as Engelzavad established by the British rulers).
The boundary of Gour was changed in different ages since 5th century BC and its name can be found in Puranic texts. Pundranagar was the provincial capital of Maurya Empire. Gour and Pundrabardhana formed parts of the Mourya empire as is evinced from the inscriptions, Brahmi script on a seal discovered from the ruins of Mahasthangarh in the Bogra District of Bangladesh. Hiuen Tsang saw many Asokan stupas at Pundrabardhana.
The inscriptions discovered in the district of undivided Dinajpur and other parts of North Bengal along with the Allahabad pillar inscriptions of Samudragupta clearly indicate that the whole of North Bengal as far east as Kamrup formed a part of the Gupta empire.
After the Guptas in the beginning of 7th century AD Sasanka, the king of Karnasubarna as well as the king of Gour ruled independently for more than three decades. From the middle of 8th century to the end of 11th century the Pala dynasty ruled Bengal, the kings were devoted to Buddhism. It was during their reign that the Jagadalla Vihara (monastery) in Barindri flourished paralleling with Nalanda, Vikramshila and Devikot.
The Pala Dynasty yielded to the emergence of Sen Dynasty, the Sen rulers were Hindus, and in the habit of moving from place to place within their kingdom. At the time of Lakshman Sen Goud was known as Lakshmanabati. The Sen kings ruled Bengal till Bakhtiyar Khalji conquered Bengal in 1204 AD.
Thereafter the Muslim rule lasted for about five hundred years before Sirajuddaulah was defeated by Lord Clive at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 whence the British rule started. From ancient period different rulers with assorted origin, religion, and dynasty had left the imprints of their kingdom /dynasty on the earth in this district, most of them have failed to win over the tide of time as history has lifted one kingdom and later cast it down, sometimes into total oblivion. Those, which still stand on the earth in the form of ruins and relics, nevertheless reminds the past pomp and grandeur and are able to make the tourists and people of archeological interest sneak in.
This district was formed out of some portions of outlying areas of Purnia, Dinajpur and Rajshahi districts in 1813. At the time of Dr. B. Hamilton (1808 –09), the present thanas of Gazole, Malda, Bamongola, and part of Habibpur were included in the district of Dinajpur and the thanas of Harischandrapur, Kharba, Ratua, Manikchak, and Kaliachak were included in the district of Purnia. In 1813, in consequence of the prevalence of serious crimes in the Kaliachak and Sahebganj thanas and also on the rivers, a Joint Magistrate and Deputy Collector was appointed at Englishbazar with jurisdiction over a number of police station centering that place and taken from the two district. Thus the district of Malda was born. The year 1832 saw the establishment of separate treasury and the year 1859 the posting of a full-fledged magistrate and collector.
Up to 1876, this district formed part of Rajshahi Division and between 1876 and 1905, it formed part of Bhagalpur Division. In 1905, it was again transferred to Rajshahi Division and till 1947 Malda remained in this division. During the first Partition of Bengal of 1905, this district was attached with the newly created province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Again in August 1947 this district was affected by partition. Between 12 August and 15 August 1947 the fate of the district as to which side it should go, to Pakistan or to India, was undecided because the announcement of the partition award of Sir Radcliffe did not make this point clear. During these few days the district was under a Magistrate of East Pakistan, when the details of the Radcliffe Award were published, the district came over to West Bengal on 17 August 1947.But the sub-division of Nawabganj was severed from Malda and was given to East Pakistan as a sub-division of Rajshahi district.
Malda city, during it's early days, grew up only near the side of river Mahananda, and now the place is known as Phulbari. Some of the most old houses can be found here. The city started to grow since 1925-1930. Now near about half-million people live in this city, and it is one of the big cities of West Bengal.
Flora and fauna
The flora of Malda district is merely a small portion of that extending from Kose to the Brahmapurtra, and alteration of beels and village shrubberies with the drier jungle of the Barind region, where the ground is not occupied by the usual crops, it is covered by and abundant Natural vegetation excepting the sandy beds of rivers. Old river beds, ponds, marshy land and other watery regions have a copious vegetation of vallisneria and other plants. The areas which are subject to frequent inundation usually cover themselves with seedy grasses and in marshy parts with Rosainvolucrata is plentiful. Some portions of Barind area are covered by jungles, which consist chiefly of thorny scrub bush jungles mixed with Pipal, Bat, Simul and Pakur trees and Nepal Bamboos. Species of thorny bamboos are also seen in Pandua areas near villages and embankment areas of Gour thickets or shrubberies, ordinary Neem, Jack-fruit trees, tamarind, bamboo, pipul and mango trees are seen in plenty. The soil of the western region of the district is particularly suited to the growth of mulberry and mango, for the production of both of which Malda has become famous.
Though about a century ago Malda was great place for the unusual quantity of large games" at present the district has lost its charm in this respect, Earlier, the breeding ground of the animal were the thorny jungles of the "Barind' area and jungles covering the Gour and Pandua ruins.
But the jungles have mostly been cleared and their inhabitants exterminated by the Santals and Paharias, who have crossed the Ganges in large number to settle in "Barind" and other areas. It is high time that the people become aware of the dangers of ecological imbalance.
The rivers, beels, and ponds of Malda produce considerable quantities of various categories of fishes mention may be made Rohu, Katla, Chital, Boal , Magur, Shol, Hilisha, Pabda and varieties of Crabs , Prawns, Turtles etc. Pisciculture has been undertaken under various projects according to modern scientific methods.
Though Malda is one of the least educated districts of West Bengal, it contains some of the most élite schools of the state. Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Vidyamandir (1944), in Malda Town, is accepted as the best school in the district. The Barlow Girls High School, A C Institution, Lalitmohan, St Xavier (English medium) are also some of the most reputed schools of the district. Malda Zilla School is the oldest school in town and also one of the oldest schools in West Bengal.Malda college is also in the top league among north bengal university affiliated colleges. It's physics department is considered to be the best of the lot.Malda town also has an engineering college and few private technical institution mostly for computer related professional courses.For a long time proposals are on the table for an university and a medical college in malda.We should keep in mind that a school named Mathurapur B.S.S. high school is one of the most updated school in town. It has got a great track record in the state.
The economy of the district is basically agrarian and ranks as one of the most underdeveloped districts in West Bengal. Malda has a low per capita income, low yield per unit area, poor industrialisation, shortage of capital and entrepreneurship, and also a lack of infrastructure and large labour surplus.
Malda occupies an important place in the map of the State for the production of raw-silk yarn. The annual estimated production of raw-silk yarn in this district is about 85% of the total output of the State which, if taken in terms of money amounts to approximately rupees 4 crores (40,000,000 rupees). Production of mango is another important aspect of Malda's economy. About 45,000 acres (180 km²) of land are covered by mango orchards which, in normal years, bear fruit to the extent of 3,60,000 tonnes the value of which in money terms comes to about Rs. 5.5 crores (55,000,000 rupees). (All estimates of year 2000)
It will not be out of place to put in a few words about the mango production of Malda district, which has earned fame for this district. Mango is abundantly grown over the whole district with the exception of "Barind' area. Englishbazar is by far the highest and the best mango-growing thana. It is followed by other thanas namely. Ratua, Manickchak, Kaliachak, Chanchal, Malda and Harischandrapur in that order. There are mainly two varieties of mangoes (i) the gooti or the ordinary varieties of mango grown from seed and (ii) Kalam which is grown from grafting .The latter is of superior-quality and fetches higher price. The finest variety is the Gopalbhog, though there are other varieties namely , Brindaboni,Gopalbhog, Ashsina, Langra, Kshirshapati, Kishanbhog and Fazli.
The mango trade is one of the most important feature of the economy of this district and one which leaves important impact on the economy of this district. The price of mango varies according to its class and the effect of weather on the crop, for hail and heavy rains are most injurious to the formation of a goods fruit. In recent years, there have been several failure of crops and there seems to be a cycle of good and bad years. A bumper crop usually comes once in four years and is followed by a bad year in which the production may come down to 25% 30% of the average production. Then comes a moderate crop with production ranging between 45-50% followed by a second bad year. The only consolation for such a bad year is that the price rises in proportion to the extent of failure of crop. Such fluctuation in the total product and price make it very difficult to reach an accurate estimate of the annual value of the mango trade.
Malda have been long neglected district since independence of India, but it became a prominent place in West Bengal after Late A. B. A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury one of the prominent personality of eastern India (b.1927-d.2006) took steps within his various capacities being minister of different portfolios from state to national ministries of India to develop Malda.
Past 28 years West Bengal was ruled by the opponents of Mr. Khan Chowdhury succeed to establish a unique relation with him and the district witnessing the fruit of this coalition in industrial sector. Sukhjeet Starch Ltd, East End Silk Ltd. and lots of other enterprises are coming up. There is also GO-NGO partnership on the card specially artisan based business cluster development and SME establishment is within the mission
- Official Site
- A travel article on Nandadirghi Vihar by Rangan Datta
- A travel article on Gour by Rangan Datta
- Rangan Datta's personal web-site
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