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Cooch Behar or the Koch State was a part of the Ratnapth of ancient Kamrup till the middle of the seventh century; and according to Sailen Debnath, the area became a part of the Kamata kingdom or Kamatapur since the second half of the seventh century and its political status remained so except the interludes created by the rule of the area by the Tibetans in the last leg of the seventh century, by the Bengal Palas intermittently till the rise of King Jalpeswar in the ninth century and the Kamrupa-Palas till the twelfth century. Kamatapur, according Sailen, as was established by Sangaldip, suffered from the lack of political continuity till the year 1185 when king Prithu became its ruler. During the period of the next king Sandhya, the capital of Kamatapur was shifted from Panchagarh to Singijani in Cooch Behar; and in the year 1257 it was again shifted to Gosanimari in Cooch Behar. The Khen dynasty was the last ruling dynasty of Kamatapur until the year 1498 when Ala-uddin Hussain Shah occupied the capital of Kamatapur.
Viswa Singha, the first ruler and founder of the Koch Kingdom retrieved Kamatapur by a chain of successful wars against the occupants of Gaur. He liberated Cooch Behar, writes Sailen Debnath, from his second capital at Hingulavas in the Dooars, whereas his first capital was at Koch-Hazo. Viswa Singha was able to recover the northern and eastern part of part of Kamatapur before 1509 when he became the king as well; though some historians opine that he became king in 1510 or 1530 CE. Under his son, Nara Narayan, the Kamata Kingdom reached its zenith. Nara Narayan's younger brother, Shukladhwaj (Chilarai), was a noted military general who undertook expeditions to expand the kingdom, and he became governor of its eastern portion. After Chilarai's death, his son Raghudev became governor of this eastern portion.
The early capital of Koch Kingdom (Cooch Behar) was not static and became stable only when shifted to Cooch Behar town. Maharaja Rup Narayan, on the advice of an unknown saint, transferred the capital from Attharokotha to Guriahati (now called Cooch Behar town) on the banks of the Torsa river between 1693 and 1714. After this, the capital was always in or near its present location.
In 1661 CE, Maharaja Pran Narayan planned to expand his kingdom. However, Mir Jumla, the subedar of Bengal under the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb, attacked Cooch Behar and conquered the territory, meeting almost no resistance. The town of Cooch Behar was subsequently named Alamgirnagar. However, Maharaja Pran Narayan regained his kingdom within a few days.
During 1772–1773, the king of Bhutan attacked and captured Cooch Behar. To expel the Bhutanese, the kingdom of Cooch Behar signed a treaty with the British East India Company on 5 April 1773, and the king of Cooch Behar became a feudal ruler under the British. In 1878, the maharaja married the daughter of Brahmo preacher Keshab Chandra Sen, and this union led to a renaissance in Cooch Behar state. Maharaja Nripendra Narayan is known as the architect of modern Cooch Behar town.
Under an agreement between the kings of Cooch Behar and the Indian Government at the end of British rule, Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan transferred full authority, jurisdiction and power of the state to the Dominion Government of India, effective 12 September 1949. Cooch Behar District became part of the state of West Bengal on 19 January 1950, with Cooch Behar town as its headquarters.
Since Nara Narayan did not have a son, Raghudev was seen as the heir apparent. However, a late child of Nara Narayan removed Raghudev's claim to the throne. To placate him, Nara Narayan had to anoint Raghudev as a vassal chief of the portion of the kingdom east of the Sankosh river. This area came to be known as Koch Hajo. After the death of Nara Narayan in 1584, Raghudev declared independence, and the kingdom ruled by the son of Nara Narayan, Lakshmi Narayan, came to be known as Cooch Behar. The division of the Kamata Kingdom into Koch Behar and Koch Hajo was permanent. Koch Behar aligned itself with the Mughal Empire and finally joined the India as a part of the West Bengal, whereas remnants of the Koch Hajo rulers aligned themselves with the Ahom kingdom and the region became a part of