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Nadia

The district of Nadia takes its name from the town of Nadia or Nabadwip  on the west bank of the Bhagirathi, but its administrative headquarters are at Krishnanagar. Nadia district, which is a large alluvial plain, borders with Bangladesh to the east, North 24 Parganas and Hoogly districts to the south, Bardhaman district to the west and Murshidabad district to the north.

The region was part of the kingdom of the Sen kings, whose dynasty was founded at the close of the 10th century. The town of Nabadwip is said to be founded by Lakshman Sen son of Ballal Sen till  it was sacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1203 CE. However, this did not immediately give way to Muslim rule in the region. For the next couple of centuries, the region was ruled by various independent Muslim kings of Bengal as well as by Raja Pratapaditya in the late 16th century CE who declared his independence from the Mughal empire which had established itself by then.  Subsequently under Mughal rule, the district became part of the Jessore Faujdar.  

The district of Nadia was for centuries a great centre of literature and learning. Joydev, the earliest Bengali poet and composer of the Geet Govinda  was one of the ornaments of King Lakshman Sen’s court in the 12th century while Krittibas Ojha (1381-1461 CE), the medieval Bengali poet who brilliantly re-scripted the great Indian epic Ramayana in Bengali, was born at Phulia village in Nadia. It was in Nadia that the scholar and philosopher Raghunath Shiromani, with the permission of his teachers at Mithila, set up the famous school of logic (tarkashastra) on the NavyaNvaya system which produced great logicians in the fifteenth century. Sri Chaitanya  Mahaprabhu (1486-1534 CE), the great religious leader and social reformer who spearheaded the Bhakti Cult in Bengal, was born in Nabadwip.  Later, in the 18th century court of the famous king Krishnachandra Rai at Krishnanagar, literature flourished again with Ram Prasad Sen and Bharat Chandra Rai being his two chief court poets.  Gopal Bhnar the legendary wit, immortalized in countless stories, was Krishnachandra’s court jester. Under  Krishnachandra’s rule, art and culture flourished and it was at this king’s initiative and encouragement that some reputed potters from Natore in present day Bangladesh moved to Krishnanagar.

Close to Krishnanagar is Palashi where the famous Battle of Plassey was fought on 23rd June, 1757 between the last independent ruler of Bengal, Nawab Siraj Ud-Daula (1756-1757) and the British forces under the command of Lord Clive. The British district of Nadia was formed in 1787.

British rule in India ended in 1947 with the traumatic partition not only of Bengal, but of Nadia district itself. Kusthia, a district in present day Bangladesh, was a part of the Nadia district before partition. It was the birthplace of many historical figures including the legendary Lalon Fakir (1774-1890 CE). Rabindranath Tagore lived a part of his life at Shelaidaha in this district and composed some of his memorable poems and short stories here.

The whole district is a network of rivers with the most important being the  Bhagirathi, Mathabhanga, Jalangi, Bhairav, Churni, and Ichhamati. Bethuadahari forest reserve in Nadia was established in 1980 to preserve the bio-diversity of the central Gangetic alluvial zone. According to the 2011 Census, the total population of Nadia is 5,168,488 of which 72.19% live in villages. A majority of the people here speak Bengali followed by Hindi, Santali and other assorted languages.

The economy of Nadia is primarily agrarian. New alluvium soil and plenty of underground water have enhanced agriculture in Nadia. There are also a number of agro-based industries in Nadia.  Jute is an important commercial crop produced in this district, though the partition of Bengal has greatly impeded its cultivation.The handloom industry plays a key role in the socio-economic life of the district. Shantipur and Phulia are the most famous cotton handloom (taant) weaving centers in West Bengal and the saris are in great demand in the national market. The first recorded references of Shantipur as a handloom weaving centre are over 500 years old.  Phulia in contrast shot to fame as a centre of handloom sari weaving after India’s partition, banking on immigrant weavers from Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan. However, exploitation by middlemen and the retail explosion have impacted the traditional weavers, many of whom are taking to alternate trades.

Gorbhanga village situated in the Nadia district of West Bengal is the home of the Fakirs who celebrate the search of the Eternal Truth through their music. For some years now, the village has been hosting an annual three-day Fakiri festival, where hundreds of Bauls and Fakirs from around the state participate and which is fast becoming a destination for cultural tourism. Traditional fairs and festivals in Nadia are Satimar Mela at Ghoshpara in Kalyani, Raash Mela at Shantipur and Nabadwip and  Lalon Mela at Kadamkhali village at Asannagar.

There are a number of century old terracotta temples in Nadia. Raghbeswar Temple at Dignagar and Shyamchand Temple at Shantipur are protected by the State Archaeology Directorate. Mayapur in Nadia is the headquarters of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and is of special significance to followers of Gauriya Vaishnavism. 

Folk crafts of the district include the unique, realistic clay models by the potters of  Ghurni, a neighbourhood in Krishnanagar, conch products at Shankhanagar Baliadanga, Nabadwip and Shantipur, sholapith products and models at Krishnagar, and bell metal products at Matiari and Kaliganj.

Bolan Gaan (songs) are widely sung here during the Gajan festival in honour of Lord Shiva. String puppeteers or Taarer Putul performers of West Bengal are mainly from Nadia.  
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