Tuesday, 30 July 2019

ABORIGINALS' FORT OF PALAMAU


Palamu is one of the twenty four districts of the Eastern Indian state Jharkhand. From time immortal, Palamau portrays waves of unending small hillocks, dense forest and rain feed seasonal rivers. Its natural beauty, unpolluted air, forest resources and simple lifestyle of forest tribes attracted Indian writers, film makers and tourists for centuries. Through it is not too far from the East Indian urban centre it successfully retained its rustic virgin beauty.





It is situated at Auranga river about 20 miles south-east of Daltenganj (nowadays Medininagar). It is beyond southern limits of Bihar: spread over an uneven land, leading to the plateau of Chotonagpur( geologically one of the earliest land mass of our planet) in the south-east and the central provinces in the south west. In recent past the area faced severe maoist dominance. At present, not only the law and order situation becomes better; the entire district is equipped with new infrastructures.



The greatest tourist attraction of the area is the first Indian tiger reserve at Betla.  At stone throwing distance to the main entrance of the tiger reserve there remain two relics of fort. The official website of Palamu opens with the image of one of these structures but we have not found any board(s) of Archaeological Survey of India around those relics.




Autonomous tribes probably inhabited the area in past. Kharwars, the Oraons and the Cheros practically ruled over the tract. Palamau, according to Mughal historians (Fifteenth Century), lay south of Patna, the distance from latter to the northern boundary of the former being 71 miles. It is likely that the Cheros territory extended upto Daudnagar or Arwal, where the remains of the Cheros forts have been found. Toward the north-east, the Cheros were mentioned by Abul Fazal as the principal Zamindars in Chai Champa (Ramgharh) and Pundag (Palamau). Very little is known about the Kharwar rulers of Palamau. Haraprasad Shastri in his quest for origin of Buddhhsim in Eastern  India also came to this conclusion that the ethnic races ruled in the Chtonagpur  zone were Cher – an offshoot of Dravidian aboriginals




Prior to the domination of Palamau by the Cheros, Rakshel Rajputs held sway over the district. They have probably been assimilated in the indigenous population. The Rakshels had reached Palamau by moving through Rohtasgarh from the Rajputana area of Rajasthan. Later on they were thrown out by the Cheros. The area was probably inhabited by indigenous tribes in the past. Besides the Kharwars, Oraons and Cheros.  other tribes related with Palamau were the Gonds, the Korwas, the Paharis and the Kisans.The Kharwars outnumbered other tribes.




In order to understand the real cause of many of the village disorders in Mughal times, we must bear in mind that the population was dynamic, not static. Internal movements of the people were constantly going on. In different generations different tribes migrated to new districts and tried to push away the older settlers in order to make home for themselves. A clan that had entered a district as servants and tenants, in a few generations grew strong enough to overthrow their masters and became the dominant race and owner of the land.






Three aboriginal races practically ruled over this tract. Inscriptions and other relics which have been found indicate a fairly developed civilization in spite of the jungles and comparative inaccessibility of the area. The Oraons had their head quarters at Rohtasgarh in the then Sahabad district. And there is every indication that for some time a portion of Palamau was ruled from the head quarters of Rohtasgarh. The Cheros reigned in Palamau for nearly 200 years and the most famous of Chero rulers was Medini Rai who according to tradition made himself lord paramount of the  southern portions of Hazaribag and Sarguja ( in Madhya Pradesh). 






Historians and local people of Palamau differ on the date the fort was built. However the conscious view is that the old fort was built by the Rakshels before the Chero dynasty. Raja Medini Rai, a tribal Chero king who ruled between 1662-1675, rebuilt the old fort, making it into a sprawling, impregnable and majestic structure overlooking the meandering Oranga river, surrounded by densely wooded hillocks. Raja Medini Rai was capable, upright and benevolent king known for his in-depth knowledge of warfare as well as his astute leadership.



As per the details kept in the local Government Museum, the fort belonged to the adivashi Chero King. Cheros fought gallantly against Mughal invasion from Akbar’s period. Ultimately in second half of seventeenth century Cheros were defeated by the Mughal army. The relic clearly indicates its Islamic face-lifting. As per Alamgirnama Mughal General Daud Khan demanded Cheros their tribute to Delhi and complete conversion of the Hindus to Islam. Cheros fiercely fought for their liberty and honour but were defeated.  Even Daud was very slow in his progress with his army, as the area was a dense forest. He had to move by constructing road for his army ; hence his marching in Palamau was in snail’s pace(1660-1661).





The mammoth size of both the relics clearly indicate that once upon a time a huge urban and military population was there within a dense forest. Chero King Medini Rai or his linage might have accumulated tremendous resources but how did they erect such structures within the dense forest? That means Cheros inherited the basic structures and then renovated as per their own requirement. Chero kings are termed as Vanvashi kings. It is clearly indicated that during Chero’s regime the fortification was within the forest.


It is clear that during a glorious past a huge human civilization with urban influence might have flourished in and around today’s Betla, might be the place was urbanized not like the deep forest which is recorded since 1660. Interestingly, the locals available as drivers of jeeps, guides of the jungle trail and mahout of the elephant safari at the main gate of the Betla National Park are practicing Muslims- that might be the signature of Daud Khan’s invasion.






As often happens in the annals of history when an able ruler passes away, the entire dynasty fall apart as was evident following Raja Madini Rai’s death due to power struggles and in-fighting in the ruling family. The administration slowly and indirectly passes into the hands of various ministers and advisors who are driven by personal gain rather than dynasty. It is difficult to ascertain who the real betrayers were but the dynasty struggled with controversies and lacked any real achievement, starting from the reign of Raja Pratap Rai to that of Raja Rudra Rai, Raja Dikpal Rai, Sahab Rai, Joy Kishan Rai, and finally Chiranjit Rai.


We came across certain pre-independence records of both forts under British Administration in Imperial Gazetteer of India and annual report of Archaeological Survey of India- mentioning some fund requirement of proposed renovation. The history of the Forts under British Raj had a very common pattern – Hindu native landlords of Palamau under British protection, inheritance disputes, placement of more puppet Hindu landlords, aboriginal rebellion, failure of paying revenue to the administration, and ultimately the entire Palamau forest and the decadent forts went under the sole British control. (By the middle of July 1771, the East India Company established its authority over the whole Palamau).  During our research we came to know of one thesis paper of Tahir Hussain Ansari, where in 2008, he was referring to one portrait in connection with the Mughal invasion of Palamau Fort (he mentioned that the masterpiece was in Mannulal Librbrary, Gaya). In relation to this portrait, Ansari took the words of W.W.Hunter for describing the foot solders  “…..majority are black, with loin cloth, and bare heads and bare feet, bows with one curve and plenty of arrows, besides which some have  spears, some swords and some shields.” Does it not represent Indian independence ? The 1857 Sepoy Mutiny is now embalmed as the first struggle for Indian Independence – why are we forgetting about the Cheros ? is not this portrait important to the modern day Indians ? Is not this portrait a piece for national archive ?



It is clear that the property (fort) was in its deploring condition during British Raj but unfortunately it remained in the worst state today. It appears that from 1660 onwards the structures are standing within the forest without slightest of maintenance. Now in our country a drive is carried out for revisiting our glorious past for rewriting a truthful history of our country. Is anyone working on those forts?


The aboriginals of Palamau were known for their fierce sense of liberty- it was amply recorded during entire British Raj time and again. Might be the same spirit somehow went in these structures; human civilization and administration of the country have forgotten about them but somehow they kept themselves stood tall within a dense forest and challenging nature against their intended oblivion .






Research:  Santanu Roy and Abhijyan Basu.

Photography:  Debabrata Roy.


Sources :
1. Ain-I -Akbari by Abul Fazal . Ed. Saiyed Ahmad Khan. 1986.(pdf file)
2. The comprehensive history of Bihar, The Cheros by K.S. Singh ed. Sayd Hasan Askari
    and Q. Ahmad.
3. Bahiristan-I -Ghalybi By Mirza Nathan, Vol-1. Tr. by B.I. Borah. Guwahati 1936.
4. The Statistical Account of Bengal by William Wilson Hunter.
5. A historical account of Chotanagpur. Journal of Historical Research, 1960. Voll-3
    Ranchi University.
6.  Dynamics of Tribal migration of India by Ranjit Toppo. Xavier Institute of social 
     Service (Ranchi, India)
7.  History of Aurangzeb (Northern India, 1658-1681) by Acharya Jadunath Sarkar.
     2nd. Edition. Published by S.C.Sarkar (pdf).
8.  India : An illustrated Tribal World by Hrisikesh Mondal, Sumit Mukherjee & Archana
     Dutta. Anthropological Survey of India.
9.  Haraprasad Shastri Rachanaboli- Part-3, Article "Bouddha Dharma Kothay Gelo" 
     Publishing Year 1917.
10. "The Cheros of Palamau" by Tahir Hussain Ansari.  An article published in Sodhganga.
11. Lastly, Mr.  Debabrata Roy. a wildlife enthusiast, without his cordial help and co-                    operation , we could not proceed to document this remarkable fort.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

JINSAR ( JIN SAHAR) - ANCIENT RUIN OF A TEMPLE


If anybody searches in google map “JINSAR , WEST BENGAL”, a location in west Medinipur will  appear  on the screen along with blue marking of Kanshabati river.  With a little zoom-in will show a label “Ancient Ruin of a Digambar Jain Temple” more towards the river. Recently two bloggers had shared their findings on this ruin through their article; one of them a historian and the other an enthusiastic travelogue writer. Based on one of their reports, another  information is also evident in face-book.





Way back in fifties when the eminent Bengali scholar Binay Ghosh visited Medinipur to collect materials for his monumental book “Paschimbanger Sanskriti” (The culture of West Bengal). During this travel he had been to this place and pointed out that “Jinsar” denotes Jin Sahar (City of Jain). 




If one observes the current maps of Jharkhand and West Bengal one finds distinct links of age old Jain heritage at different locations of lower eastern part of Jharkhand and lower western part of West Bengal (Giridih- Dhanbad- Bokaro- Puruliya- Bankura- West Midinipur). These links are broadly classified in two groups. The first one, earlier Jain structures still in use as hindu temple (Begunia in Barakar, West Bengal) or Jain statue becoming symbol of hindu God (dressed in red loin-cloth) placed inside a new structure attracting regular attention of devotees (Polkiri in Bokaro, Jharkhand). The second group is the heritage structure which were submerged during the construction phase of reservoirs of DVC Project (Telkupi ,Puruliya, West Bengal) in early fifties. A few, however, became visible since 2005 due to silting .



One observes that all these Jain Temple clusters were developed beside river networks of Damador, Barakar and Kanshabati, clearly indicating a primary navigational river high-way for commerce of an age old civilization. Budhist and Jain Sreshthis (merchants) were common characters in old scriptures as well as in modern texts of nineteenth century. The construction material is not burnt-brick but finely cut stone brought from outside Bengal, suggesting patrons had rich resources. The period of execution accessed eleventh to twelfth century.



As per Jain documentation the aboriginals of this place (Porto- Australoid Tribes) were not having any friendly attitude towards Thirthankar Mahavir. Was it an indication of conflict between rude Foragers and cultured Aryans ?



Available archeological evidences of Tamluk (Tamralipto) region of southern Medinipur strongly indicate it as a seat of non-Aryan civilization of copper-age transformed into a busy river harbor and into a Buddhist university-town (?) between fourth and seventh century (documented travelogue of famed Chinese Monks). In eleventh century it became A part of the Kingdom of Rajendracholdev and in twelfth century it came under the administration of Chorgangadev. The Buddhist and Jain doctrines of different eras were having their simultaneous influence in Medinipur. The eco-political scenario of this particular landmass of modern West Bengal withstands the cultural syntheses of south as well as north India. Whatever might be the historic socio-religious evolution of this area the western part of this district always displayed the urge for independence and determination to avail the same (Forager’s gene? / Red Corridor ?). It had survived as the battlefield between Mughal and Pathan; it remained the soft-target of yearly Maratha invasion of Bengal during the fag end of Mughal Dynasty; the “Chuar Rebellion” was the first revolt against administration of British India much before “Sepoy Mutiny” of 1857 (unfortunately never highlighted beyond scholastic world).



The ruin of “Jinsar” is remarkable as this age old piece of heritage structure is going towards oblivion due to extreme negligence from modern India. The district which withstood wave after wave of military onslaught, religious vortex and political turmoil failed to preserve its archeological beauty. On the other hand, extensive touring in this region (eastern part of Jharkhand and lower western part of West Bengal) gives the impression: “against the huge time scale the religion of the locality changed from one form to another but the God’s Idol remains live by the believers. It had remained a solace to the villagers; it would continue its peaceful influence on the anxious minds in future. Religion, society and time may change but the Idol remains as an assimilation of Indian heritage and legacy forever, and continued to be an emblem for all hopes and good deeds and a symbol of destroyer of all evils”.
The old Jain statue of ruined Digambar Jain Temple of Jinsar proved the above theory absolutely wrong.




If you feel anyway curious about this relic please go through the below mentioned links, as modern Indian it is our duty to preserve our heritage.



Sources :




4. Pashimbanger Sanskriti by Binoy Ghosh
5. Special courtsey  Mr. Tarun Tapas Mukherjee & Md. Yeasin Pathan.

Research : Abhijan Basu and Santanu Roy.
Photo courtsey : Santanu Roy.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

AMBIKANAGAR


When Jainism spread all over India in ancient times, the Jains possess a long and continues history of their own. It is, therefore worthwhile to see the status or high position enjoined by Jainism in relation to other religions. It is also important to understand Jain political personalities like rulers, ministers, generals, etc, in different parts of India during the ancient and medieval times.


Jainism had its influence in Bengal. Hiuen Tsang states that in Pundravardhana and Samanta, in western and eastern Bengal the naked ascetics called nirgranthas are most numerous. Even now Jains relics, inscriptions, Idols are found in different parts of Bengal. Even the name “Vardhamana” is given to one district in Bengal. In this connection it has been pointed out that the indigenous people of western Bengal known as “SARAKA” are the hindu remnants of early Jain people. Again in some parts of Bengal Jain Idols are worshipped as the idols of hindu deity Bhairava. In short, the influence of Jain religion on customs and manners   of Bengal is very much visible even at present.


Everywhere, the history of Jainism was of the history of long struggle. It made its way into the religious life of India having overcome the tremendous pressure of its rival creed, Buddhism. The Brahmanas showed bitter hostility to Jains and went to the extent of destroying idols and cult objects and converting their temples into Brahmanic ones. Needless to say that because of the lack of centralized leadership, the original character of Jainism could not be maintained and eventually It mingled with the local cults and was transformed beyond recognition.


Binoy Ghosh wrote his famous book “Paschim-banger-Samskriti”; he had travelled to the remotest villages to find what the persons concerned had to say about their own religious belief and practices. He had also drawn heavily from the district or sub divisional histories written by local enthusiasts. In his book, we find the real extent of Jain influence on the religious life of Bengal, its actual functional role and not the dry list of images found here and there.


In southern Bankura Jain Cult of Ambika has been completely embressed in hinduism. The goddess holds an important position in the socio cultural life of this region. A number of shrines dedicated to her seem to have sprung up in different places. What is most important is that some places are known by her name, among these the most important is AMBIKANAGAR.


Ambikanagar is located just near the confluence of the rivers Kumari and Kansavati, about 4 kilometeres from Mukutmonipur and 16 km from Khatra,  and has been least affected by the construction of the Kansavati Dam. It lies about 4 km south east of the water- reservoir. The village has given its name to a pargana extending over 151 sq. miles and was formally the headquarters of old family of Zamindars. Regarding this Zamindary there are many legends which are well known to the people in and around the village. But these are all related to mediavel history.


In earlier days western- south portion of Bankura was called Ladha or Radha. It is believed that lord Mahavir – 24th Tirthankar moved through the region ; thereafter many Jains routed through Radha lands. Their pathways have been mentioned by Fai-hen, Hung-Sen as well as J.D.Beglar during 19th century. However, we restrict to Ambikanagar in Khatra referring to the influence of Jainism. Jainism as a religion had existed in erstwhile kingdom of Bengal for many centuries.

A number of ancient Jain and Buddhist texts attest to the dominance of Jainism in the ancient Gouda Kingdom. However, afterwards it lost much of its position in the triangular struggle involving the Brahminical Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism for dominance in various parts of the early medieval post –Pala period.In the 12th century.  Jainism received royal patronage from King Anantavarman Choda-Ganga-Deva, fifth ruler of eastern Ganga Dynasty, erstwhile Kalinga Kingdom at   AMBIKANAGAR, Bankura.



Anantavarman Choda-Ganga Dev, the powerful king of Orissa, extended his kingdom in entire south west of Bengal upto the boundary of Bhagirathi. Ambikanagar is a small village in Khatra sub division of Bankura district. Anantavarman was an ardent follower of Jainism. Under royal patronage Jainism spread in western part of Bengal. Moreover the wealthy Jain communities used to navigate the region easily through navigable river routes. Jains have had left imprints of their presence in the banks of Damodar, Kasai (Kansaboti). In course of time, the Dev-decendents became followers of Brahmanical sects. Ambikanagar began to deviate from Jainism.



Then came the reign of Chintamoni Dhoba, the Raja of Dhalbhum, headqurtered at Ambikanagar. In course of time  his kingdom was wrested by Jagannath Dev of Dhalpur, Rajasthan. The local story goes that with his ascending the throne of Dhalbhum. Jaganath Dev went to Puri for pilgrimage and on his way back he met the King of Orissa. Looking at the handsome look of Dev the King addressed him “Sahajada”. Sahajada connotes to Nawab or prince. In a quick reply to the king Jagannath said “Please confirm the title”. The king was so pleased that he handed over a troop of solders and ordered “Go and curve out your principality anywhere with your battalion.” Thereafter Jagannath marched with his commandos and reached Supur, Ambikanagar and overpowered Chintamoni. In memory of his conquest he named his kingdom Dhabalbhum.



Dev dynasty ruled the Supur-Ambikanagar Parganas of Khatra, and extended the jurisdiction to the western part of Midnapore and parts of eastern and south eastern part of Singbhum. After 32 generations of Supur –Ambikanagar raj, there are internal conflicts among the family members and accordingly the kingdom was divided into two sub-parts. Teckchand became the authority of Supur parganas and based his regime at Supur, while Khargeswar made his kingdom at Ambikanagar.



Besides, Ambikanagar village has a good number of archeological remains ranging from prehistory to history. Exploration undertaken by archeologists recorded specimens consisting of early historic potsherds, architectural and sculptural remains etc. Mrs. Debala Mitra carried out an extensive survey that resulted in the discovery of Jain images and temples which are still lying in different parts of Ambikanagar. Besides the temple ruins at Sasthitala or the place in and around the modern temple of Ambika a few stone sculptures belonging to 11th –12th century A.D. have also been recorded. This can be taken to show that in the hey-day of its glory it was a reasonably important religious centre. Mrs. Debala Mitra observed that the village was a thriving Jain centre which is proved by the existence of a good number of remains relating to the Jain Pantheon.

Due to the construction of Kansaboti dam, the area and the settlement of  Ambikanagar have been reduced in size. Paresnath, a hillock exists just below the reservoir .The dry bed of the Kumari river lies south of it. There are a few small hills around the locality. The small hill close to the village is named after the locality of Paresnath. The hill now is a part of the bank of the water-reservoir.  At the top of the Pareshnath hill there is a hut-like tin-shed, constructed by Mr. Asutosh Ganguly, a retired employee of the Kansavati project. In the central part of the shed there is a Siva Linga. Beside the Linga a good number of sculptural remains are lying in and around the shed. All the specimens are said to have been collected from the neighboring places including submerged temple site of Sarengath. That is another story.



Sources : 
     1. "In search of the Identy: A study of the Sculptural Remains of the 
           Bishnupur region"- Journal of Indian society of oriental art. by 
           Rupendra Kumar Chattopadhyay, Swati Roy & Subha Mazumder.
     2. "Report of a tour through Bengal provinces" by Joseph David Beglar.
     3. "Bankura Jelar Purakriti" by Amiya Kumar Bandopadhyay.
     4. "Paschim Baner Sanskriti" Part-II, by Binoy Ghosh.
     5. "Jaina Iconography" By Debala Mitra - Internet Archive.
     6. "Ambika in Jain Art and Literature " Debala Mitra.
     7.  Dhalbhum block- Wiki.
     8. "Archaeology of Eastern India -Chhotanagpur Plateau
          and West Bengal." by Dilip Kumar Chakraborty.
     9. "Jainism in Ancient Bengal" byParesh Chandra Dasgupta.
    10. "A servey of Jainism and Jaina art in Eastern Bengal" by Debjani
           Mitra Dutta.
    


Research :  Santanu Roy


Picture Courtesy : Santanu Roy.