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Sports library salute to Cooch Behar king

Cooch Behar, once the headquarters of a princely state, has got a sports library recently. It is dedicated to the memory of the late Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan (1915-1970), the last of Cooch Behar’s rulers who saw the merger of his kingdom with West Bengal.

It was fitting that the sports library would be dedicated to Jagaddipendra Narayan, an ardent sports lover and hunter, on his 99th birth anniversary on December 15, by the Cooch Behar District Sports Association.

The library, called Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur Krira Granthagar, is housed at the Rajbari Stadium Complex in Cooch Behar.

According to Bishnubrata Barman, the general secretary of the district sports association, the library was the only one of its kind in the state. “This is the first library exclusively for sports books not only in the district, but anywhere in Bengal. Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan played a crucial role in promoting sports, not only in his realm but all across Bengal. He was a talented cricketer and captained the Bengal team. The library was inaugurated by footballer Sunil Sengupta,” Barman said.

To begin with, about 500 books have been procured for the library and the district sports association plans to keep on adding to the collection.

“The association will run the library and buy books from its funds. One of the rooms available at the sports complex will be converted into a reading room soon. We are also going to appeal to publishers to donate sports books to the library,” said Barman.

Sportspersons, young and old, welcomed the idea. “This kind of initiative is praiseworthy. I am happy that such a library has come up and will benefit sports lovers of all ages,” said the 80-year-old Sunil Sengupta, who had represented the district team in football.

He said the library should help players and referees know the rules of a sport. “Many people play a sport but few know the nuances of the rules and regulations of a particular game. I hope that players, referees and umpires come here and read about the games and sports they are following, the rules governing them and their history,” said Sengupta.

Prasenjit Barman, the chairman of the Rajbangshi Bhasa Academy, said all kinds of sports were popularised during the reign of the princes.

“During the rule of the Cooch Behar princes, cricket was not the only popular game. Football, hockey, tennis and even athletics were popular among the youth. Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan was interested in promoting sports and led the Bengal team in cricket,” he said.

Cooch Behar was not far behind Calcutta as far as celebrity sports persons’ visits were concerned.

“During Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan’s time, the Nawab of Pataudi, Jr, Lala Amarnath, P. Sen, Vijay Hazare and many others came as his guests. We have to say sports was a priority for the erstwhile rulers,” said Trinamul MLA from Natabari, Rabindranath Ghosh.