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|Regions with significant populations|
|Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Bihar, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal|
|Koch, Kamarupi Prakrit, Goalpariya dialects|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Koch Rajbongshi (Koch), also known as Rajbangshi, Koch-Rajbangshi, Rangpuri, are one of the indigenous Assamese ethnic group living in Assam,Northeast India. They belongs to Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group inhabiting parts of Assam, northern West Bengal, and some pockets on the eastern parts of Nepal, Bihar, Bhutan and northern Bangladesh. They are recognised as OBC in the state of Assam as Koch-Rajbangshi, ST in the state of Meghalaya as Koch and SC in the state of West Bengal as Rajbanshi. Etymologically, the term 'Rajbongshi'; which derives from Kamtapuri, of the Magadhi Prakrit sub-group; means 'Descendant of the king' (Raj= King; Bongshi= descendant of). The Rajbongshi or Koch Rajbongshi Tribe were ethnically and culturally related to the same Koch Dynasty who ruled their land, and vice versa, i.e., the Koch dynasty of Assam, northern Bengal, and Rangpur Part.
Etymologically, the term 'Rajbongshi'; which derives from Kamtapuri, of the Magadhi Prakrit sub-group; means 'Descendant of the king' (Raj= King; Bongshi= descendant of). The Rajbongshi or Koch Rajbongshi Tribe were ethnically and culturally related to the same Koch Dynasty who ruled their land, and vice versa, i.e., the Koch dynasty of Assam, northern Bengal, Rangpur Part. Many however trace this etymological relation to the dynasties prior to that of the Kochs. In Assam the Koches are officially recognized by the Government of Assam as'Koch-Rajbongshi', in West Bengal they are known as Rajbanshi and in Nepal they are known as Rajbanshi and officially recognized as Adivashi.
The origin of Koch Rajbongshi (Koch) dates back to the Vedas as stated by the Koch Scholar and Koch Ratna Sibendra Narayan Koch. The Koches were the ruler of the Kamarupa Kingdom and followed by the Koch Dynasty, Kamatapur Kingdom. In the Historical Book "THe Cooch Behar State and its Land Revenue Settlements" Published by the Koch King of "Cooch Behar State" in the Year 1903, clearly states that Koch and the Rajvanshi are of Koch Origin and Rajvanshi or Koch is the same community of the State. A wide literature are available of the Koch Rajbongshi which were documented by the Koch King and their Princely State, however, their present homeland ranges from Pragjyotisha, Pundra and Kamarupa in various ancient texts like Vishnu Purana, Kalika Purana, Harivamsa, Yogini Tantra, Bhramari tantra, and even in the great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. References are also found in the later texts from the medieval times like the and . It is from such sources that the local traditions and myths about Koch Rajbongshi history developed. The very first proper ethnographic details were documented by Colonial ethnographers of erstwhile British empire, who aimed at 'scientifically' documenting various caste and tribal groups. Buchanan-Hamilton suggested that the Rajbanshi or Koch had a common ethnic origin and are from the same Old Koch Stock and when the Old Koch converted to Hinduism they were termed as either Rajbanshi or Koch Rajbongshi which was established since the time of the Koch King of Koch Dynasty. The indigenous, aboriginal and traditional Koch-Rajbangshi people are spread across Assam, Meghalaya, North Bengal, Bihar within India and is also present in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and can be safely called the largest trans-border ethnic community of South Asia. And even though the emergence of modern nation states have divided this group of people, across provinces and nations, yet their shared history, past imagination and many commonalities still tie them and the Koch-Rajbongshi (Rajbanshi) people are one of the native peoples of South Asia region.
They are spread mainly in the districts of Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Goalpara and Dhubri districts of Assam; Meghalaya; Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Darjeeling in West Bengal. Substantial small amount of Koch-Rajbongshi population can also be found in the Malda district of West Bengal, Purnia district of Bihar, the Jhapa District of Nepal and Rangpur, Dinajpur Districts of Bangladesh.
Kamatapur is a historical and cultural region of South Asia, comprising present areas of Northeast India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. The Koch Rajbanshi people of South Asia, particular Northeast India consider themselves as Kamatapuri, since the historical memory of the Kamatapur is still alive in their imagination and they continue to protect and preserve the Kamatapuri culture, language and art despite many challenges. In the mid of the 13th century Sandhya Rai established the Kamrup Kamata Kingdom comprising areas of present North Bengal, Lower Assam and some areas of present Bangladesh. The Kamrup Kamata kingdom was the continuation of the old powerful Kamrup Kingdom. Kamrup Kamata Kingdom went through various ups and downs in its seven hundred years of existence (1250 to 1950). It also went through various names i.e. Kamata, Koch Kamata, Koch Country, Behar and Koch (Cooch) Behar. Kamata alias Cooch Behar became a princely State of British India. After the Independence of India Cooch Behar joined Indian domain in 1948. In 1950 Cooch Behar was declared a District of West Bengal. Some important areas of the old Kamata Kingdom, like Bijni estate, Gauripur estate and Beltola Kingdom became part of present Assam and Rangpur became part of present Bangladesh. The traditional and historical identify of Kamatapur and the Kamatapuri people were lost in the post-independent scenario as both were adjusted in new political and cultural identities of the Indian sub continent. There has been a series of movements since the early of 20th century for the cultural and political recognition of the Kamatapuri identity. However, very little attempt had been made to preserve and document the art, culture, history and literature of Kamatapur and the Kamatapuris.
History of Kamatapur
The history of Kamatapur is not properly represented in the modern day historical writings. Unfortunately, it's not part of any post colonial nationalistic history of the Indian sub continent. The history of Kamatapur is partial history of present West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Meghalaya of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. The disappearance of Kamatapur as a region and emergence of Assamese and Bengali, two language based nationalism is the main reason behind the neglect of the History of Kamatapur. However, a glimpses into the pages of history books, particularly Assam, tells the rich and colourful history of Kamatapur without any doubt. Kamatapur is the other name of ancient Kamrup kingdom, medieval Kamrup Kamata or Koch Kamata kingdom and the native Koch Bihar (Cooch Behar) State of British India. When the kingdom of Kamrup of South Asia was invaded by Tughril Khan Malik Yuzbeg, the capital of the kingdom was transferred from Kamrup Nagar (North Guwahati) to Kamatapur (Koch Behar). From that time onward this kingdom was known as Kamata or Kamrup-Kamata Kingdom. At that time the Kingdom of Kamata comprised areas of Assam and undivided Bengal. Kamata was ruled by different rulers of different dynasties from the period of mid 13th century to 15th century, until the rise of the Koch Dynasty. Being at the entry point of present Northeast India the Kingdom of Kamata had to face the invaders coming from both Indian and Bhutan side. An attack on Kamata by Sultan Barbak in the mid 15th century was resisted by the then ruler of Kamatapur Chakradhvaj. Later at the end 15th Century during the reign of Nilambar (Son of Chakradhvaj), the Kingdom was attacked by the ruler of Bengal (Gaura), Hussain Shah. Hussain Shah destroyed the capital Kamatapur and established an Afghan colony over there. The people and the Bhuyans (Land Lords) of Kamata united under the able leadership of Bishwa Singha, an ambitious Koch youth from present Kokrajhar of Assam and throne way the Afghan colony from Kamatapur. Bishwa Singha established the Koch Dynasty in Kamatapur in the early of 16th Century and brought political stability in the Kamrup Kamata region. After Bishwa Singha, his elder son Nara Singha ruled Kamata for a while till his bother Naranaryan ascended the throne. Narnarayan, with the help of his bother Chilarai (also Minister and Commander in chief of the Koch Kamata Army) established the Koch sovereignty almost on entire Northeast Indian Kingdoms (Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Khasi, Jayantiya etc.) and established cordial relationship with the Mughal. This period of Koch rule is regarded as golden period in the history of the region since many valuable literary works were completed under the patronage of Narnarayan. Sankardev, the great scholar and saint of that time composed most of his major work under the patronage of these two brothers. After the death of Chilarai, Kamata Kingdom was split into two parts between Raghudev Narayan, son of Chilarai and Naranaryan as Koch Kamata (also Koch Behar) and Koch Hajo (Kamrup). The partition weakened the power of the Koches. The Koch Hajo Kingdom suffered several partitions in the later period and smaller kingdoms like Bijni, Darang and Beltola emerged from Koch Hajo. The Koch Kamata or the Koch Behar Kingdom became smaller and lost its sovereignty to the Mughals of India. It should be mentioned here that the independent minded Koches always tried to retain there sovereignty . In 1773, during the rule of Dharmendra Narayan Koch Behar came under the British India by a treaty were British agreed to drive away the Bhutiyas from the Kingdom. Thus Kamrup Kamata Kingdom became a princely state of British India. The territories were gradually lost to the British due to various conspiracy and politics and when Koch Behar joined the Indian Domain in 28 August 1949 it was only a symbolic version of the vast Kamrup Kamta kingdom of 16th century. It was hoped that Koch Behar would soon became an Indian state like other princely states of British India, but unfortunately Koch Behar was merged as a District of present West Bengal of India, despite opposition from the people of Koch Behar.
Lifestyle and culture
The Koch Rajbongshi community had traditionally been a largely agricultural community, cultivating mainly rice, pulses and maize. Rice is the staple food for the majority of the population. Even in the 21st century, a large portion of this community still adhere to a rural lifestyle, though urbanization is on constant rise. The food consumed and the diet pattern is similar to all the Koches of Assam, West Bengal, Nepal, Bangladesh, Meghalaya. Rice and Pulses are consumed on regular basis along with vegetables and bhajis (fries- mainly potatoes). Typical is the Dhékir sāg and naphā sāg, two types of vegetable preparation, mostly boiled with very little added oil, out of newly-born shoots of fern leaves. In lower Assam, a vegetable preparation of bamboo shoots is also consumed. Consumption of stale rice or pantha bhāt is common within Koch Rajbongshi. Cooking is mainly done using mustard oil, though sunflower oil is sometimes used. As far as non-vegetarian foods are concerned, the Koch Rajbongshi population consumes a large amount of meat and eggs unlike other neighborhood populations from Bengal region, who consume large amount of fish. Goat meat and sheep (if available) is generally consumed, and consumption of fowl meat is discouraged, especially by the older generations, though such barriers now cease to exist. Eggs of Ducks and poultry are consumed. Fish is also consumed but not in very large number. The rivers of northern Bengal does not sustain large varieties of fishes because of its non-perennial nature. However, in lower Assam areas, large rivers like the Brahmaputra sustain large varieties of fish which becomes an important part of the dietary habit of the Koch Rajbongshi living there. A typical Koch Rajbongshi home is essentially of rectangular pattern, with an open space (aṅgina) in the middle. This is done mostly for protection against both wild animals and strong winds. The north side holds the betel nut and fruit gardens, the west contains Bamboo gardens while the east and the south is generally left open to allow sunshine and air penetrate into the household. Koch Rajbongshi traditional attires are mainly Patani, Agran, Angsha, Chadar, Dhoti and various other traditional costumes being weaved at their traditional hand loom in their home. The traditional clothing for men is Angsha and Jama or inners, while for women is bukuni-patani; Agran; Angsha; Chadar a piece of cloth tied around the chest that extends up to the knee. Regarding the traditional attire of the Koch Rajbongshi Tribe, it is clearly mentioned in the Historic Book which was published by the Koch King in 1903, "The Cooch Behar State and its Land Revenue Settlements". The Koch Rajbongshi Tribe has still preserved their age old ethnic attires and are being used on a regular basis as their common costumes, The Koch Rajbongshi (Koch) Tribe prefer to wear their traditional attires in-spite of the fact that the modern costumes are widely available.
Music forms an integral part of Koch Rajbongshi (Koch) culture. The main musical forms of Koch Rajongshi(Koch) culture are Kamatapuri Folk Song, Bhawaiyya and Chatka and pala gaan. Various instruments are used for such performances like, string instruments like-dotora, sarindra and bena;double membrane instruments like- tasi, dhak, khol and mridanga; gongs and bells like-kansi, kartal; and wind instruments like- sanai and kupa bansi.
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 Rangpuri of Bangladesh. (n.d.). In People Groups. Retrieved June 24, 2018, from http://www.peoplegroups.org/explore/groupdetails.aspx?peid=48713
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 Das, A. J. (n.d.). History of Kamatapur. In Kamatapur . Retrieved June 24, 2018, from http://www.kamatapur.com/history/
 Chaudhuri, Harendra Narayan (1903). The Cooch Behar State and its Land Revenue Settlements. Princely Cooch Behar State: The Cooch Behar State Press. p. 135.
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