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The districts of Uttar (North) and Dakshin (South) Dinajpur are enclosed by Bangladesh on the East, Bihar on the West, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri district on the North and Malda district on the South. Historically, this region was part of the erstwhile Dinajpur district of undivided Bengal. With the partition of India in 1947, Dinajpur district was divided. The portion to the west was allocated to West Bengal and renamed West Dinajpur while the rest of the Dinajpur district went to present day Bangladesh. West Dinajpur was enlarged in 1956 with the addition of some districts of Bihar and on 01.04.1992 was bifurcated into Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur. The district headquarters of North Dinajpur is at Raigunj while South Dinajpur is at Balurghat.

The antecedents of Dinajpur as a specific territorial region within Bengal stretch back more than 2000 years to the age of the Mauryas and Guptas, when the ruined city at Bangarh near Gangarampur in Dakshin Dinajpur – then known as the city of Kotivarsa or Devikot in the Pundravardhana kingdom- flourished as a major trading post on the eastern fringes of their empires. The mythological associations of Uttar Dinajpur place it astride the frontiers of the ancient territories of Anga and Pundra , as mentioned in the Mahabharata. The decline of this important region of Bengal after it had risen to its zenith during the four-century reign of the Buddhist Palas was as much the result of ecological change accompanying the migration of distributary rivers in the Tista-Punarbhaba-Atreyee system, as of the shift of political power away from the region during the subsequent ascendancies of the Sena kings, the Turko-Afghan sultans and Mughals and the colonial empire of the British.

The economy of both North and South Dinajpur is predominantly agricultural and the population almost entirely rural – about 87% across both districts. Both districts are industrially backward are the two least populated districts in West Bengal, though North Dinajpur does have a few industries and many small scale units. According to the Census of 2011, the population of South Dinajpur was 16,70,931 while that of North Dinajpur was 30,00,849. Communities belonging to the scheduled castes account for about 28% of the population across both districts with the bulk belonging to the indigenous Rajbonshi community. The tribal population comprises about 16% in the South and nearly 6% in the North. Both North and South Dinajpur have been categorised as backward districts with a complete absence of mineral resources. 

Bengali is the principal language used here while Islampur in North Dinajpur has a large number of Urdu and Hindi speaking people. The Rajbonshi language is spoken by the indigenous communities while settlers who had migrated from the Santal Parganas and Chhota Nagpur are commonly bilingual. 

The region is drained by a number of north-south flowing rivers like Kulik, Nagar and Mahananda in the North and Atreyee, Punarbhava, Tangon, Ichamati and Brahmani in the South. Uttar Dinajpur has very fertile soil thanks to alluvial deposition.  Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest bird sanctuary in Asia.

Dinajpur is rich in historical and cultural heritage. From the different antiques discovered during excavation and existence of many big tanks all over the district, it is evident that this district had a flourishing past in the sphere of education and culture. Bangarh boasts of the largest share of archaeological ruins and icons to be found in Dakshin Dinajpur. Excavation done in the late 1930s resulted in the  discovery of ancient objects and ruins spanning the Mauryan era  to the Muslim period.. Archaeological discoveries also indicate that this region saw the spread of both Buddhism and Jainism during the Mauryan period while many places are associated with stories from the Mahabharata. There is also abundant evidence of sixth and seventh century sun worship in this region. Black stone images from the Sen period indicate that local sculptors lived in the region and that the stone must have been brought down from the Rajmahal Hills over the river Punarbhava. Many of  these archaeological objects have been collected and preserved at Balurghat College and District Library museum. 

The Muslim rulers of Gour in the medieval period had in their iconoclastic fury  indiscriminately destroyed all the Hindu and Buddhist centres of art, culture and education, monuments, idols, buildings and temples in the area. That is why, not a single old temple can now be seen in the district and most of the stone images are found damaged or ruthlessly mutilated - either found underground or recovered from tanks. Much of the material sacked from temples or cities was used to build Muslim mosques or monuments. The Hindus fled in fear and took refuge in Kamrupa Kingdom. The rest of the people were forcibly converted to Islam.

Being a mainly rural economy, there is a rich folk culture in the two districts, which are badly in need of promotion. Khon, mainly performed by the rural Rajbonshi community mostly concentrated in Kushmandi and Bangshihari Blocks is a kind of folk opera - songs intertwined with dialogue, spoken in the local dialect. Gomira or Mukha Khel is a dance cum mime performed by various ethnic groups which though Hinduized now, has its roots in animistic worship. Notua (not to be confused with the form of the same name in Purulia), Halua Haluani and Chor Churni are other popular forms of folk drama. Bishohara, Bhaoaiya and Tukkha share their importance with folk traditions of the neighbouring districts of Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.  There is also a fair concentration of Bauls across the two districts. A near extinct form of Santal puppetry called Chadar Badar is found in this region. Accompanied by song, flute and drumbeats, wooden puppets mimic the rhythm of a Santal dance. The Rajbonshi wedding songs (Biyer Gaan) are also a specialty of the region.

Traditional material art of particular repute comprises cane and bamboo work and terracotta pottery in North Dinajpur, jute Dhokra craft and mask making in South Dinajpur. Shola pith dolls and decorations and the famed Shitalpati mats too are also traditional crafts of this district.