Sunday, November 21, 2010

BANGAHR

The district of Dinajpur has reasons to be proud of its rich historical and cultural heritage. It was a part of undivided Dinajpur district of erstwhile Bengal which was known as Pundra Vardhan Bhukti in ancient times.
According to Brihath Katha Kosh the famous Jain Guru of the Maurya Emperor Chandra Gupta was son of a Brahmin of Devakota in Pundra Vardhan. The eastern portion of Dinajpur was known as Panchanagari and Devakot was the capital, the ruins or which are still found in and around Bangarh in Gangarampur PS.
In the centre or Bangarh is a large heap of bricks said to have been the palace of Raja Bana. At Shivbati a little distance from the northeast corner of the city heaps of brick are said to be the ruins of a temple of Virupakshya Shiva. King Bana was a worshipper of Shiva. He excavated Tapan Dighi in Tapan PS to offer tarpan to Shiva.
About half a mile west from the northern end of the palace was a house where Usha, daughter of Bana, used to live. She was in love with Aniruddha, son of Krishna. Aniruddha fled with Usha, the road he followed is still called Ushaharan Road. However, Usha's love for Anirudlha brought about a total destruction for her father and his empire. On the other side of river Brahmani is a place called Narayanpur where the great battle between Krishna and Bana is said to have taken place.
About 10 miles away from Bangarh is a place called Kardaha in Tapan P.S. Here the palms of Bana been cut by Krishna in the battle are said to have fallen and furneral taken place. In the river bed of the Tangon near Bangshihari Police Station the stone relics of an ancient Temple are visible when the river water recedes.

A good number of places in the district are associated with the epic stories. In Mahabharata it is said that the Pandavas in incognito, took shelter in the palace of king Birat, ruins of which are seen at Bairhatta - a village in Harirampur PS. It's also said that here Kichaka, the army chief of king Birat, was killed by Bhima, when the former tried to establish illicit relations with Draupadi. A tank at Bairhata is still called Kichaka Kunda. Dehaband, an area full of mounds, about 15 km away from Birhatta is said to be the palace of Kichak. An ancient shami tree, a unique specis in this region, is also seen at the entrance of the village, in which Nakula is said to have kept the arms of the Pandavas hidden before entering the Palace.
A village in the locality has been named Pancha Bhaya (five brothers) after the Pandavas. A number of places like Karandighi. Karnajora. Karanji in the neighbouring area reminds their association with the great warrior Karna.

During the Mauryan period Jainism flourished in this area, mention has already been made about the famous Jain Guru Bhadra Vahu who travelled from present Gangarampur to Pataliputra. The river Punarbhava was then the main and one of the most important river routes from Pundra Bardhan Bhukti to Pataliputra and Indraprastha. Since then, this area was an important centre of Jainism. The Jain Prajna Pana mentions the name of Kotivarsa.
In the 6th and 7th century AD. many of the kings preceeding Harshavardhan were devotees of Sun god. There is abundant evidence of sun worship in this region.
In Tapan thana, an old sand stone image of Surya is kept which belongs to perhaps the 7th century AD. At Bairhatta, another piece of stone carved in the image of Surya was recovered. Mention may be made about a very recent recovery. During re-excavation of Bhabna Dighi at Kokil village in Harirampur Police Station by the Panchayat under JRY in June,1994, a very beautiful stone image of Sun god has come out which belongs to an earlier period around the 7th century AD.
Another beautiful black stone image of Surya about 3½ (ft) high recovered from the criminals, has now been kept at Tapan Thana building. It is an exquisitely beautiful image, perhaps belonging to the Gupta period.
According to Ramcharita Manasha, Barendra Bhumi was the homeland (Janakbhu) of the Palas. Gopal the first king of the Pala dynasty is said to have hailed from here. Reference may be made to Pancha Gour-Gour empire of Emperor Dharma Pal. In fact gradual extension of Pundra Vardhan Bhukti began under the Palas. It comprised number of Mandals and each Mandal comprised several vishayas. Kotivarsha mentioned earlier was a Vishaya situated on the river Punarbhava. It has been mentioned in the inscriptions as the most important Vishaya. Though Dharma Pala (C 77O-810 A.D.) was a great patron of Buddhism and set up more than fifty Buddhist monasteries in different parts of his empire, he was not averse to Hinduism. He himself established a four faced Shiva image at Buddha Gaya. At Aminpur village in Kushmandi Police Station a five faced Ban Linga has been discovered. At Dehabandh village in Kushmandi PS, one Shiva Linga is seen on the road side with four goddesses with folded palms engraved on four sides. It is a unique image belonging to Gupta age. A similar sand stone image has been kept at district library. Some beautiful sculptures of Gupta period can be seen at the said Library Museum.

A passage in Raj Tarangini refers to existance of a Kartikeya Temple in Pundra Bardhan in 8th century AD. In Kushmandi another black stone Kartikeya image has been discovered which might belong to a little later period.
Several mounds at Dhampara and Danagram indicate existence of historical relics in the area. The ruins or the famous Jagdalla Mahabehar mentioned in Ramcharita, can still be seen under thick bamboo groves in a village called Jagadalla in Banshihari Block.
The Buddhist scholars who became famous in Tibet like Bibhuti Chandra, Danshila, Mokshakar Gupta and Subha Kar Gupta were associated with this Mahabehar. It is said that Sanskrit Texts were actually translated to Tibetan at Jagadalla.The presiding deity here was Abolokiteswar.This famous centre of Buddhist culture and education was demolished by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 12O2-03 A D.
After the death of Dharma Pal, Deva Pal reigned for about forty years. He constructed Somepuri monastery which is near Paharpur. In Tapan Police Station a few Buddha images have been found - one of which has been kept at College Museum. In Kumarganj Police Station one village near Daudpur is named Buddha Nath Dham. Quite a large number of Buddhist images representing Mahayana Pantheon and belonging to Pala period have been found in different parts of this district. Recently (April, 1994) four miniature Bronze images about 5" (inches) high - two of Lord Buddha and two of Tara have been unearthed during re-excavation of a tank at Tapan Police station. Those are kept in Thana presently. In Thakurpura Ghat in Balurghat PS, one big stone image of Buddha in sitting posture was found. At Bhakla village in Batun GP, Kumarganj PS, a small black stone Buddha image is still being worshipped in a village Temple.
The decline of the Pala dynasty began in the later half or the 9th century A. D. The Pratihar got for some time control over North Bengal. In Dinajpur (now in Bangladesh) an inscription pillar of Pratihar king Mahendra Pal, son of king Bhoja has been found. A prosperous village on the bank of river Srimati in itahar PS is called Pratirajpur.
Narayan Pal (C854-908 AD) some how retained Gour region. A record refers to the construction of a shiva temple by Narayan Pal somewhere near Punarbhava. Gopal-II's inscription on copper plates have also been found in the district.
Mahipal (C988-1038 AD) was famous for his construction activities. He restored and repaired many monasteries and Buddhist monuments. Traditions have associated the name of Mahipal with a number of Tanks. One such big tank called Mahipal Dighi can be seen in Banshihari Block. At that time big monasteries existed at Tapan and Vikahar in Tapan PS, Devikot in Gangarampur Police Station, Dehabandh and Amalahar in Kushmandi P.S.
Tantrik Buddhism flourished in Bengal at this time under the Chandras. King Gopi Chandra belonged to this dynasty. Atish Dipankar is said to have been born in that royal family. The kingdom of Nayapal was invaded by king Karnya of west. Karnya defeated the Pal king and destroyed many monasteries. Dipankar Sri Jnan was then in the court of Magadha. He made sincere efforts to bring peace. Through his good offices, a treaty was concluded. Dipankar left India for Tibet some time in 1038-1042 AD.
During the reign of Mahipal-Il (C1072-75 AD) Divyok organised a revolt against the Palas. He usurped the throne and made his position secure in Barendra Bhumi. Rudaka and Bhima succeeded one after another.
Alter Vijay Sen, Ballal Sen became the king of Bengal. His dominion comprised among others Barendra Bhumi. Lakshman Sen had his second.capital at Lakshmanavati in Gour. Biswarup Sen was also called Goureswar. The early Sen kings were followers or Shaivism. A few beautiful black stone Shiva Parvati images have been recovered in the district. One such image can be seen at District Library museum. Another exquisite image has been kept at Balurghat Treasury. The royal seal of the Sens was engraved with the image of Sadashiva. A few images of Ganga and Yamuna have also been found in the district. A relief depicting a lady lying with a child by her side, attended by females and with miniature figures of Shiva at the top (found at Gangarampur) may represent the scene of Krishna's nativity or birth of Kartikeya (Kumar Sambhava). The later rulers of the Sena dynasty were Vaishnavas. Hundreds of Vishnu images built of black stone, exquisitely decorated have been found in almost every prosperous village in the district. The last addition to such collection is the black stone idol in village Kaigram in Balurghat Police Station (March 94) which has been kept at Balurghat Thana. Another beautiful piece of Vishnu image 32" x 16" has come to notice during re-excavation of Bhabna Dighi (June, 94) in Harirampur Police station. This has been kept in Banshihari Block office.

The last king of Sena dynasty Keshab Sen came to power in 1225 AD. He was a Sun worshiper and some Sun images of his time have been found in the district.Mention may be made about a few- black stone images of Sena period which stand unique in the locality. One such image is that of Ardhanarishwar recovered from Dehabandh, now kept at Kushmandi Block office. Another interesting image is that of Barahi (goddess with face of a pig) recovered from Bairhatta and now kept at Harirampur Thana.
Broken pieces of Chandi image with Godhika at the bottom found at Bairhatta and about eight feet high huge Mahismardini image (or may be a Buddhist goddess, lying at Bhikahar deserve special mention. At Sarbamangala village about 10km away from Shivabati in Gangarampur PS. one black stone eight armed Mahismardini image (about 2 1/2 ft high) and another eighteen armed Chandi image (about 2 ft high) are seen kept in a mandir. Under a tree in front of the Mandir, a number of broken stone images of Mahismardini, Surya and Vishnu are found.
It appears that a sculptor of late Sen period lived here. It is also presumed that there were some sculptor families in this area in ancient times. The village now called Patharpunji in Tapan PS, indicates that stones were brought from Rajmahal hills by boat through river Punarbhava and stored in that village and in other places which were used for stone carving by the local artists.
Bakhtiyar Khilji after defeating Lakshman Sen and destroying Nadia, made Gour his capital. The body of Bakhtiyar lay in a tomb in a village near Narayanpur, which was then known as Dumduma in Gangarampur Thana.The early Mahammedan rulers in Gour reigned almost independently and rarely paid tributes to the Emperors of Delhi. Alauddin reigned during 1340-42 AD. His successor Shamsuddin had an encounter with the Emperor Firoz Shah. During Mahammedan rule in North Bengal, Dumduma was a frontier military fort and  the ruins of a number of brick buildings in Gangarampur area were probably the lines where the troops quartered.
At the beginning of the 15th century, Ganesh, a Hindu king became a powerful ruler in Dinajpur. One of his family members had built a lofty brick temple with fine teracotta work at Amritapur on river Ichhamati in Mohana GP in Kumarganj PS, the ruins of which embraced by a huge old tree and numerous mounds all round can still be seen.

Jalauddin the next king, by killing Ganesh, usurped the throne and compelled the Hindus to become Muslims. Jalauddin  was assassinated in 1426. The Mahammedan rulers of Gour at that time were fanatics and in their iconoclastic fury they had destroyed indiscriminately 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 under earth or recovered from tanks. The Hindus fled in fear and took refuge in Kamrupa Kingdom. The rest of the people were forcibly converted to Islam.

Hussain Shah  ruled in this region during the period from 1497 to 1521. At Hemtabad, a tomb of a Pir shows the signs of having being built with materials from Hindu temple.On the bank of Dhal Dighi at Gangarampur. there is a mosque and monument of Saint Mullah Atauddin, the same also been built with materials brought from Bangarh. The Afghan rule in Gour lasted till 1576 AD, when Daud Khan was defeated and the Maghals got control over Gour.
The Muslim rule lasted for about three hundred years. The Afghan rulers had their capital at Gour and they took little interest in developing this area. This district at that time formed the northern most boundary for the Mahammedan kingdom - that is why defence was their main concern. They utilised the old garrisson and rampart at Bangarh for quartering their troops and seldom built any structure worth mentioning from architectural point of view except a few small tombs and mosques. Constant warfare, and distability led to economic depression. The land once prosperous became poor. It has sarcastically been told by a historian in early British period that it was Dinajanapur (land of the poor) from which the word Dinajpur might have been derived.
During the reign of Akbar, we find authentic references to the famous Zamindary family of Dinajpur. The Zamindary of Dinajpur mentions among other estates Bangshihari, Gangarampur and Patiram. Sukdev and his son Prannath, two notable Rajas of Dinajpur ruled in this region in the later half of the 17th century. The village Sukdevpur and the nice lake Pransagar both in Gangarampur PS remind us about these two royal characters. The Rajas of Dinajpur continued to rule over this area for a considerable period.

In 1765 the British got the Dewani of Bengal and in 1772 an English District Collector and Chief of  Revenue wasappointed in Dinajpur. The area was then notorious for lawlessness. Mr Marriott was Collector in l786. Next to him Mr Red Fern and Mr Vansittart were Collectors for short periods. The next Collector Mr Hatch started to exercise judicial powers too. The District Magistrate's area at that time extended to Malda, Bagura and Dinajpur.
In the last decade of the 18th century indego plantation started in the district. In 1793 two indego factories - one at Madnabati and another at Mahipal Dighi were established by Mr Carey and Mr Thomas respectively.
Mr Carey was a missionary, while Mr Thomas was a medical practitioner. Mr Carey's name would be remembered as he established the first printing Press in Bengal at Madhabati in Bangshihari PS. He translated the Bible into Bengali in 1801.
It is interesting to note, however, that the Sepoy Mutiny which rocked many parts of north India in the year l857, left this district undisturbed.
The district Dinajpur in British times included greater portion of Bagura. Malda and parts of Rajshahi, Rangpur and Purnea. At the time of Revenue Survey in 1857 - 61 the total area of the district was 4586 Sq miles. Between 1795 and l800, large tracts of land were transferred to Purnea, Rangpur and Rajshahi for administrative convenience and better enforcement of law and order. In 1833 again some estates were transferred to Bagura and Malda. In 1864-65, 1868 and 1870 further transfer of territory from Dinajpur to Malda and Bagura took place. Finally in l897-98 the whole of Thana Mahadevpur was made over to Rajshahi. At that time, except Thakurgaon Sub division, the rest of Dinajpur district remained under the direct supervision of the Collector. In November, 1904 five Thanas of Balurghat, Gangarampur, Porsha, Patnitola and Phulbari were separated to form a new subdivision called Balurghat. As per census 1911. the total area of Balurghat Sub division at that time was 1177 Sq miles, comprising 2776 villages. Total population of the Sub division was 4,47,343, density of population being 38 per sq mile. Bangshihari was then a part of Dinajpur sub division.
This is in brief the outline history of the district till the first decade of the present century. A good number of archaeological objects of this district of different ages have been collected and preserved at Balurghat College and District Library museum. But due to negligence and lack of awareness we have lost by this time, many of the valuable pieces of antiquities. Even today we have not made sufficient arrangements for protection and preservation of these objects. Time has come to take care of these silent speakers of golden past.

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