Rarh (Bengali: রাঢ়) is a region in West Bengal, consisting of the districts of Bankura, Paschim Bardhaman, Purba Bardhaman and Purulia.
- 3 Panchet Dam — a popular picnic spot
The Rarh region has been defined in several different ways, often including parts of Jharkhand. This article covers the West Bengal side of the Damodar Valley and the Chota Nagpur Plateau. Some definitions cover the larger area west of the Bhagirathi-Hooghly River.
Rarh has hosted numerous settlements and kingdoms throughout history and has a rich cultural heritage of several years. Some identify the region with the powerful Gangaridai nation mentioned in the ancient Greek and Roman documents. According to the accounts, Gangaridai was a powerful kingdom whose war elephant forces led to the withdrawal of Alexander the Great from India. Subsequent empires such as the Mauryas, Kushanas and Guptas held sway over the region and beyond it. In the 7th century, the region was part of Shashanka's kingdom. It was subsequently ruled by the Palas and Senas, till Bakhtiyar Khilji captured it in 1199. During the British Raj, Rarh gave rise to several Indian independence activists, including Rash Behari Bose, Batukeshwar Dutt and Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Rarh is a transitional zone between the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the west and the Ganges Plains in the east. The major rivers in the region include the Ajay, Bhagirathi, Damodar and Dwarakeswar. The Damodar River was once known as the "Sorrow of Bengal" and the "River of Sorrows" as its floods wreaked havoc in the past. Since the formation of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) in 1948, such hazards have been reduced.
Rarh is a major mining and industrial area in West Bengal. The area was once heavily forested and infested with plunderers and marauders for ages. The discovery of coal in the 18th century led to industrialisation, with cities like Asansol and Durgapur flourishing to become some of the most important industrial centres in Eastern India.
As in most of West Bengal, Bengali is the main language in the region. There are two main dialects of Bengali spoken in the region: Rarhi and Manbhumi. Rarhi is spoken in Purba Bardhaman while the Manbhumi dialect is spoken in Bankura, Paschim Bardhaman and Purulia.
The NH 19 (formerly NH 2), also known as the Durgapur Expressway, crosses this region by Asansol, Bardhaman and Durgapur. The highway is part of the Golden Quadrilateral that connects four megacities of India. NH 19 is also part of the Asian Highway 1 (AH 1) that continues further east to Bangladesh and eventually to Japan.
Rarh has an extensive railway network and is part of both the Eastern Railway (ER) and the South Eastern Railway (SER) zones.
See and do
The major landmarks in the region include the Curzon Gate (Bijoy Toran) and Sarbamangala Temple in Bardhaman, 108 Shiva Temples (Nava Kailash) in Ambika Kalna and the terracotta temples in Bishnupur. Hills like Ajodhya, Biharinath, Joychandi and Susunia are also notable attractions and you can also trek these hills.
Eat and drink
Rarh is diverse in terms of cuisine. Purba Bardhaman is famous for confectioneries like sitabhog, mihidana and langcha.