Dakshin Dinajpur district within its present boundaries is only 29 years old, having been carved out in the 1992 bifurcation of erstwhile West Dinajpur district into the new districts of North and South Dinajpur. The predecessor district of West Dinajpur district was itself produced by the 1947 partitioning of the Dinajpur district of undivided Bengal, and the subsequent reorganization of Indian states on linguistic lines in 1956, which transferred the territory of Islampur from Bihar’s Purnea district to the state of West Bengal.
Dakshin Dinajpur district extends between latitude 25010'55" to 25035'15" N and longitude 88009'07" to 8900'30" E, abutting into Bangladesh along its north, east and south-east frontiers, and sharing its western and south western borders with the West Bengal districts of Uttar Dinajpur and Malda. With a population of 16.76 lakh in 2011, living scattered over 2 statutory towns and 1631 villages in an aggregate area of 2,219 sq.km, Dakshin Dinajpur is one of the smallest districts in West Bengal, stretching 45 km on its north to south extension and 85 km from the west to the east.
The ancient history of Dinajpur can be traced back to the Mahabharat period when it was identified as the land of the Pundras or Matsya Desha. Excavations at the archaeological site of Bangarh on the banks of the Punarbhaba river to the north of modern Gangarampur reveal this to have been the site of the important weaving and trading settlement of Kotivarsha during the Maurya and Gupta eras when it was also the headquarters of the bhukti of Pundravardhana. Under the succeeding rule of the Muslim sultans, the fortified settlement there became known alternatively as Devikot or Damdamah.
Physiographically, the district is a part of the Barind or the region of Old Alluvium deposited by old and now vanished rivers which once formed palaeo courses for the Tista river over time. Following long-term river shifts and accompanying environmental change, the Pala and Sena rulers of later eras relied upon an elaborate system of storage tanks to irrigate agriculture in the region. The large tanks constructed by them continue to serve the same purpose even today. Among the largest of these are Dhal Dighi and Kal Dighi in Gangarampur block, Mahipal Dighi in Kushmandi block, Tapan Dighi in Tapan block and Alta Dighi, Malian Dighi, Gour Dighi in Harirampur block. The elaborate irrigation network helped the agriculture to flourish across the entire Dinajpur region, with over 200 varieties of aromatic rice being known and grown there. However, agrarian tensions which have also simmered there because of dissatisfactory tenancy arrangements culminating in the late 11th century Kaivarta rebellion separated the Mahipala and Ramapala eras under the Palas, the Fakir-Sanyasi rebellion of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the Tebhaga Movement conducted much later between 1946-47 by the provincial Kisan Sabha in Bengal to ameliorate the exploitative practices in crop-tenancy.
Undivided Dinajpur in old Bengal owed its origins to the zamindari of Dinajpur Raj set up by the Dutta Chaudhury zamindari family on lands acquired during the reign of Akbar. The family head was eventually bestowed the title of the Raja of Dinajpur by Aurangzeb in 1677. Reaching its heyday under Prannath (1682-1733), Dinajpur became one of the richest zamindaris in Bengal. However, with accession of the East India Company to the erstwhile Diwani of Bengal in 1765, the Dinajpur Raj had to face a series of extortionate revenue assessments and was broken up into a number of smaller revenue jurisdictions which constituted the British district of Ghoraghat - later undivided Dinajpur district, with Balurghat as a major British-era subdivision. When Balurghat became the headquarters for the new West Dinajpur district after 1947, it was already a major subdivisional township in Bengal. However, as the township of Raiganj lay more directly on the communication highway between South and North Bengal, it advanced much faster economically at the expense of the outlier town of Balurghat.
This led to anomalies in the regional development of Dakshin Dinajpur until it became a full-fledged district in 1992. Establishment of Balurghat College in 1948 reflected the early educational advancement of the district, and in 1991, Balurghat was deemed the most literate town in all of India with literacy levels already close to 85 percent. Civil and cultural activities were also well established in the district, with Balurghat rapidly becoming a major arena of the theatre movement in West Bengal. With a current student enrolment of over 4 lakh students in over 2,270 schools (approx.170 of which are at Secondary/HS level), the district has taken significant current strides in the field of education. With only one college established at the time of Independence, the first women’s college came into being also at Balurghat after 22 years. In the 1980s and 1990s, higher education made its first major strides into another subdivision of the district, with the establishment of new colleges at Gangarampur, and at Harirampur after Dakshin Dinajpur had been reconstituted as a separate district. In ten years between 2000-2010, a Law College and B.Ed College were established respectively at Gangarampur and at Buniadpur which was then declared a Municipality in 2015. Meanwhile, new rural and mofussil degree colleges were also established at Patiram in Balurghat block, and at Tapan, Kushmandi and at the Hili border block. Following the establishment of a new rural degree college at the border block of Kumarganj, Dakshin Dinajpur University was set up under an Act of the State Assembly in 2018.
In the years before establishment of the University, higher education had been showing consistent progress leading to its even spread into all regions of Dakshin Dinajpur. This was also reflected in parallel expansion of the school education base. At this important juncture in time, Dakshin Dinajpur University now takes up the mantle of maintaining the even advancement of higher education across this ancient region of the state, which had shown exemplary socioeconomic advances throughout its history. The collective partnership of all educated sections in the district, comprising the district’s students, teachers and school and college administrators will have a significant contribution to the success of this new endeavour.