Saturday, 23 August 2014

FORGOTTEN MARTYRS OF BENGAL

The final novel of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay  was Sitaram (1886). It was the story of a Hindu Raja of Bhusna who fought against the Muslim invaders with his few loyal solders and about his tragic end, his life and romance. The age of Bankim Chandra and the prosperity of Bangabhumi was over, but still the unknown hero Sitaram , whom he glorified by his novel, lives in myths and stories in and around Bengal. This historical character Raja Sitaram, whose achievements were really great, if compared with other heroes of Bharat ( Like Rana Pratap, Shibaji ), who fought bravely against the Islamic  forces during the middle ages.





Today Sitaram is totally forgotten, both in Bengal and outside Bengal , but he certainly deserves the place of national hero . Bhusna is now a forgotten place in Bangladesh, (situated a few miles east of Magura), but once it was a part of Jessore district. Now it is in the Faridpur District. Bhusna was a prosperous town of importance during the middle ages. The name Bhusna derives from a name of a king who conquered that region and assumed the title of “Banga-bhushan”. During the 16th Century  A.D., Bhushana became a place of strategic importance during the strife between the Hindu Rajas of Bengal and the Mughals. Finally, Raja Mukund Rai, one of the Bara-Bhuiyans of Bengal conquered Bhusna. His son Satrajit Rai fought against the Mughal Army and was defeated and killed in 1639 A.D.


After a brief period of confusion and Mughal rule , Bhusna come into prominence again under Raja Sitaram. Sitaram Rai belong to a kayastha family of Uttar Rar region. His father was Udayanarayan  and mother Dayamoyee. Sitaram’s mother was a brave woman. In her girlhood, she had fended off a band of dacoits with a kharga. Sitaram’s grandfather and father worked as revenue collectors under the Mughals.  His childhood was spent in Dhaka. Sitaram was born in Hariharnagar in 1658 A.D., and became landlord of Bhusna at the age of 14. Initially he sided the Mughals against the rebellious Afghan Chieftains, and as a reward, got the zamindari of Naldi Pargana as a reward.



After gaining the Zamindari, Sitaram consolidated his forces and build some forts and eventually rose to power and wealth. Having founded his capital Bagjani, 10 miles from Bhusna. He fortified it by a long earthen embankment and a ditch. He had some able generals like Ramrup Ghosh, Rupchand Dhali, Mitra Singha, Gobar Dalan ect., with the help of them, he defeated Magh and Firingi pirates.. From Pubna to Bay of Bengal  and from Nadia to Barishal, he extended his Kingdom. His annual revenue was 78 Lakhs.



At the time, The Mughal Empire was declining and Raja Sitaram took full advantage of it to declare his independence and to expand his kingdom. First his policy in 1687-88 was to convince Auranzeb that only he could maintain the peace and prosperity of that area. He met Aurangzeb and got his recognition. Then he defied Murshid Kuli Khan, then the Subedar of Bengal. Murshid Kuli Khan sent Saiyad Abu Torap, the Faujdar of Bhusna against Sitaram. In 1699, Ina battle in the banks of River Barasia, Abu Torap was defeated and killed by the forces of Sitaram. This was the first major victory of Sitaram against the Mughals.



This defeat led to the conflict between Murshid Kuli Khan and Sitaram. The forces of Murshid Kuli Khan , under the command of Baux Ali Khan, ( Kuli’s own brother-in law) attacked the fort of Bhusna. Some Hindu Zaminders loyal to the Mughals, joined him.  Sitaram gained some initial victories, but later he left the fort of Bhusna for his Capital in Bagjani. During his stay at Bagjani, Sitarm fought bravely against the Kuli’s forces, but in the conflict his general Ramrup Ghosh (Menahati) was killed. Later, he fell into the trap of some conspirators, who were loyal to Murshid Kuli Khan. The main conspirators was Dayaram, the Zamindar of Dighapatia. With the help of Dayaram, (Dayaram Ray, the principal aide of Raghunandan, the founder of Natore Estate). the forces of Murshid Kuli Khan imprisoned Sitarm. He was sent to Murshidabad in a cage and killed. Like the end of Pritviraj Chaun, the end of Sitarm is still a mystery. According some sources, he drank poison and killed himself his kingdom was divided among the Rajas of Natore, Chachra , and Naldanga.


Sources :  1. “Jashor Khulnar Itihash” by Satish Chandra Mitra. (Day’s Publishing)
                 2. “ Brihatbanga” by Dinesh Chandra Sen (Day’s Publishing)
                 3. “ Sitaram Ray” by Jadunath Bhattacharya. ( ? ).
                 4. “ Bengal District Gazetteer” Jashor District.
                 5. “ Baglar Mati Banglar Jal” Blog from Bangladesh.
    
 Research  -Santanu Roy.