Isa Khan

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Not to be confused with Afghan Noble Isa Khan Niazi.
Isa Khan
Leader of Bara-Bhuiyans of Bengal
Reign 1576–1599
Successor Musa Khan
Spouse Fatema Khan
Sona Bibi
Issue Musa Khan
House Jangalbari Fort
Father Sulaiman Khan
Born c. 1529
Died September 1599 (age 70)
Religion Sunni Islam

Isa Khan (c. 1529 – September 1599) was a Muslim Rajputs chief who lead the Baro Bhuiyans (twelve landlords) and a Zamindar of the Bhati region in medieval Bengal. Throughout his reign he put resistance against Mughal invasion. It was only after his death, when the region went totally under Mughals.

Early life and background[edit]

Area of Bais Rajput clan in South Asia

According to Abul Fazl, a 16th-century historian and the author of Akbarnama:

The year Isa Khan's father was killed in the battle was 1548. He spent his childhood and youth in Bhati.[3] Furthermore explained that Baghirath, Isa Khan's grandfather was belonged to the Rajput community who came to Bengal from Ayodhya, particularly as explained by Muhammad Abdur Rahim, author of Social and cultural history of Bengal noted he was from Kshatriya Rajputs, indicating his noble background. He took the job of diwan under the Sultan of Bengal Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah. His son was named Kalidas Gazdani, who inherit the post after Baghirath's death. Later, Kalidas convert to Islam and took the Muslim name Sulaiman. Sulaiman married the Sultan’s daughter Syeda Momena Khatun and got the Zamindari of Sarail[4]

Rise to power[edit]

With the help of Taj Khan, a Karrani ruler, Isa obtained an estate in Sonargaon and Maheswardi Pargana in 1564 as a vassal of Karrani dynasty of Bengal. He gradually increased his power and by 1571 Abul Fazl designated him as the ruler of Bhati. In 1573 he helped Daud Khan Karrani, Sulaiman's son, in his expedition to Chittagong against Udaya Manikya, the king of Tripura.[3] He also helped his Kala Pahar, Daud Khan's Muslim convert general[5] in driving out the Mughal's Navy from the vicinity of Sonargaon in 1575. Isa's services to Daud Khan earned him the title of Masnad-i-Ala of Khizirpur.[6]

Military campaigns[edit]

After the fall of Daud Khan Karrani, Isa played a leading role in the local resistance that followed the defeat of the Kararani Afghans at the hands of the Mughals in the battle of Rajmahal in 1576.[3] In the end he successfully conquered Dhaka, Rangpur, Pabna, Tripura, parts of Mymensingh and Bogra and set his own base in Sonargaon[7][8] In 1577, Isa established Egarasindhur (in present-day Pakundia Upazila, Kishoreganj) as the political and trading center. forming a petty kingdom that remained independent from foreign authority.[9] Later he was involved in many military campaign

Battle against Khan Jahan[edit]

In 1578 Mughal Subahdar of Bengal, Subahdar Khan Jahan led an expedition towards the Bhati region and set camp in Bhawal.[3] Ibrahim Naral, Karimdad and Shah Bardi submitted their allegiance to the Mughal force.[10] Isa faced the formidable Mughal force led by Shah Bardi and Muhammad Quli on the Sarail-Juan Shahi border in Kastul on the bank of Meghna river.[11] According to Rajmala, Isa then quickly retreated to Tripura and sought assistance from the Tripura king, Amar Manikya. With the good grace of the queen Amrabati, the king granted an army of 52,000 to help Isa face the Mughals.[12]

But before Isa returned to Sarail, two zamindars - Majlis Pratap and Majlis Dilawar already attacked and defeated the Mughal forces under Khan Jahan. Muhammad Quli was captured but Shah Bardi fled to Bhawal camp.[10] With the remaining army, Khan Jahan retreated to Srihatpur city of Tandah. Few months later, Khan Jahan died of health issues on 19 December 1578.[10]

Later after he repelled the Mughal forces, According to descriptions by Rajmala, Isa who now are Zamindar of Sarail sent one thousand laboueres for the Tripura King along with other Zamindars of Bengal in response to the request made by Amar Manikya when diggers were needed for excavating the ‘Amar Sagar Dighi’ at around 1580 AD. Besides, he fought against the zamindar of Taraf Fateh Khan in 1581 as the naval commander of Amar Manikya.[13]

Battle against Shahbaz Khan[edit]

In 1583 Mughal General Shahbaz Khan destroyed Isa's palace in Baktiarpur.[14] In September 1584,[15] the then-subahdar Shahbaz crossed Ganges near Khizirpur and attacked Sonargaon, Katrabo and Egarasindhur.[3] and pursued the defeated Pathan forces under Masum Kabuli up to Bikrampur in Dhaka, the cunning Isa then deluded negotiation of surrender and delayed the attack of Mughal general in several months. But in 1584 Isa and Masum Khan Kabuli deploying a muskets and gunpowder artilleries launched counterattack which finally defeat Shahbaz Khan in the naval and land battles of Egarasindur and Bhawal.[16] and even killing one of Mughal general,[7] then Shahbaz Khan retreated to Tandah.[17]

Battle against Laksmana Singh Hajra[edit]

In 1585, he attacked two Koch rulers, Ram Hazra and Lakshman Hazra, and occupied their Jangalbari Fort (in present-day Karimganj Upazila, Kishoreganj ).[18]

Another source from local tradition was recorded that this happened in 1586 after Man Singh had defeated him in the battle of Egarasindhur. In the same year, Mughal Subahdar Shahbaz Khan again sent his forces against Isa to the south.[19]

Second battle against Shahbaz Khan[edit]

With the help of reinforcements by Emperor Akbar, Shahbaz Khan led another military expedition towards Bhati in 1586. Isa attacked him at Bhawal (north of Dhaka) but forces of Shahbaz Khan were well fortified near Brahmaputra. Isa then choose to give allegiance towards Akbar and prevented an imminent invasion of Bengal by the Mughals.

He even promised the Mughals he would dispatch Ma'sum Khan Kabuli, the renegade to a compulsory Pilgrimage to Mecca, something that viewed as an act of banishment. and although in the end he didn't do it, he did manage to restrain the rebel[20]

In late 1586 Ralph Fitch, an English traveler and merchant, came to Sonargaon, Bengal’s eastern districts and stated,

Later on in 1588 he was involved in conflicts against Chand Rai and Kedar Rai[4]

Battle against Raghudev[edit]

Isa continued his campaign against the Koch Kingdom. this time he fight and defeat Raghudev the king of Koch Hajo who ruled from Sankosh river in the west to the Bhareli river in the east on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river and rival to Koch Bihar kingdom which gained prominence after the latter's annexation by Mughal empire[22]. Isa successfully captured portions of Raghudev's territory as far as Rangamati and Goalpara.[23]. However later Isa Khan and Raghudev formed an alliance against the threat of Mughal invasion

Battle against Durjan Singh[edit]

On 17 March 1594 Man Singh was appointed the Subahdar of Bengal by Emperor Akbar.[21] After establishing Rajmahal as the capital of Bengal, Man Singh sent his own son, Durjan Singh, to Isa's Bhati region with a vast army on 7 December 1595.[23] Isa was emboldened to resist the Mughals after he successfully sought alliance with Raghudev, his former enemy[24] and Kedar Rai, Zamindar of Bhusna in Faridpur.[25] In the clash that took in August 1597 and Isa engaged in a battle against Mughal naval forces with the assistance of Masum Khan Kabuli, an ex-Mughal defector.[21] At first Isa faced defeat with the Mughals attacking Katranbo, one of Isa's Pargana[26] and city. However on 5 September Durjan Singh was killed and Mughal was defeated. Both the army and navy of the Mughal-Koch Bihar alliance were either routed or captured[3]

It is recorded that in this clash Isa personally fought Man Sing in a duel.[27] However the duel ended inconclusively when Isa Khan stopped fighting after Man Singh’s sword broke. The noble gesture touched Man Singh and both men was found respect for each other which developed into a friendship. Man Singh respect to his rival was even further that later when Isa sought to submit to the Mughal as the latter thought its wiser not to incite a full invasion, Man Singh accompany him to the Mughal court.[28]


Due to his submission, Akbar assigned 24 parganas or administrative units under the ruling of Isa.[29] The names are as follows.

  1. Atia
  2. Kagmari
  3. Barabaju
  4. Sherpur, nowaday is Sherpur District
  5. Jayan Shahi
  6. Alapsing
  7. Mymensingh
  8. Jafarshah
  9. Nasirujiral
  10. Khaliajury
  11. Gangamandal
  12. Paitkura
  13. Bardakhat
  14. Swarnagram
  15. Baradakhat Mandra
  16. Husainsahi
  17. Bhowal
  18. Maheswardi
  19. Katrar
  20. Kurikhai
  21. Jour Husainpur
  22. Singdha
  23. Darjibaju
  24. Hajradi


Isa first married Fatema Khan, a descendant from Hossain Shah dynasty. Later he married Sarna Moi, the daughter of Chand Rai of Sripur. After conversion to Islam, Sarna Moi took the name Sona Bibi.[30]


Grave of Musa Khan, the son Isa Khan in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

His son, Musa Khan then took control of Sonargaon.[31] On 10 July 1610 Musa was dethroned by Mughal General Islam Khan Chisti. After that, the descendants of Isa transferred from Sonargaon and settled in Jangalbari Fort.[32] Masum Khan was the eldest son of Musa Khan. Masum served as the Mughal army General during the Hughly invasion in 1632.[33] His eldest son was Monwar Khan. Monwar acted as the chief of the Bengal Zamindars' flotilla on the conquest of Chittagong in 1666.[34] A village called Monwarbagh, in Bandar Upazila of Narayanganj District, was named after him.[34] Haybat Khan, another grandson of Musa, established Haybatnagar (in present-day Kishoreganj district) and made it the center of his land-lordship of seven parganas.[32]

Dr James Wise (d. 1886[35]), a civil surgeon in Dhaka for 10 years, published a report on Baro-Bhuyans in Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Volume 43 in 1874. He found information from the account of his meeting with the descendants of Isa in Jangalbari and Haybatnagar. He addressed Isa as the Zamindar of Khizirpur. The Haybatnagar family had possessed sanads sent by Shah Shuja in 1649 and another one from Shaista Khan in 1667. Subhan Dad Khan had been the head of the family in Jangalbari in 1874. The other descendant of Haybatnagar family, Ilah Nawaz Khan, had died in Calcutta in 1872. Other branches of the family had settled in Jafrabad and Baghalpur in Mymensingh, Harishpur in Tripura and Katrabo in Dhaka.[36]

As of 2005, The Daily Star Dewan Amin Dau Khan, the 14th descendant of Isa has been living in Jangalbari Fort in Egarasindur village, Kishoreganj district. The crumbling fort seems to have a circular front and the current condition was the 40 rooms in the fort were mostly destroyed during an earthquake in the year 1300 of Bengali calendar or 1893 AD.[37]

Death and legacy[edit]

Isa died of natural causes[21] in September 1599.[38]

In 12 February 1909, a farmer unearthed seven cannons in Monwarbagh.[33] The cannons were partly made of brass. They had labels mentioning "Isa Khan" and "1002" (Hijri 1002 year is 1593 CE in Gregorian Calendar). It is arguably those cannons were made from the era of Sher Shah Suri who ruled Bengal before the Bara Bhuiyans while at least three cannons which carved with Isa Khan labels were made during Bara Bhuiyans independent era from Mughals.[39][2]

The Bangladesh Navy has named a ship and a base, BNS Issa Khan in his honor. The ship, BNS Isa Khan, was the first Bangladesh Navy battleship to receive the national standard in 1974.[40]

Popular culture[edit]

Commemorative stamp[edit]

On 15 September 1992, Bangladesh Government issued a commemorative stamp in honor of Isa.[38]


A jatra depicting the life of Isa (and hence named Isa Khan) written by Bhoironnath Gangopadhyay and directed by Mridul Kanti Dey, was staged on the premises of Bangladesh Lok O Karu Shilpa Foundation on October 18, 2012.[41]

See also[edit]


Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

  • NK Bhattasali, 'Bengal Chiefs' Struggle for Independence in the Reign of Akbar and Jahangir', Bengal Past and Present, 38, 1929;
  • MA Rahim, The History of the Afghans in India, Karachi, 1961;
  • JN Sarkar, ed, The History of Bengal, II, Third Impression, 1976;
  • Abdul Karim, History of Bengal (Mughal Period), I, Rajshahi, 1992.


  1. ^ Akbarnama, Volume III, Page 647
  2. ^ a b Chowdhury, Kamal (2005). Banglar Baro Bhuiyan and Maharaj Pratapaditya. p. 163. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f AA Sheikh Md Asrarul Hoque Chisti. "Isa Khan". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  4. ^ a b Banglapedia Article of Isa Khan written by ABM Shamsuddin; chief Editor Professor Sirajul Islam
  5. ^
  6. ^ History of Bengal: From the fall of Daud Karrani, 1576 to the death of Jahangir, 1627; Abdul Karim; Institute of Bangladesh Studies, University of Rajshahi, 1992
  7. ^ a b Historical Dictionary of the Bengalis By Kunal Chakrabarti, Shubhra Chakrabarti
  8. ^ The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760 By Richard Maxwell Eaton
  9. ^ ABM Shamsuddin Ahmed, EgaraSindhur, Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Retrieved: 2012-04-18
  10. ^ a b c Chowdhury, Kamal. Banglar Baro-Bhuiyan and Maharaja Pratapidtya. p. 170. 
  11. ^ Akbarnama, Volume III, Page 377
  12. ^ Rajmala, page 192
  13. ^ ABM Shamsuddin Ahmed. "Isa Khan". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  14. ^ The Ballads of Bengal by Dineshchandra Sen, page 322
  15. ^ Bangladesh:Past and Present
  16. ^ Ibid., trans., 3: 659, 1214; text, 438, 809. Nathan, Bahāristān text. fols.672,72b trans 1:174,189
  17. ^ Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib; Nitish K. Sengupta; Penguin Books India, 2011; ISBN 0143416782, 9780143416784
  18. ^ Ballads of Bengal, Dineshchandra Sen, page 315
  19. ^ Shahnaj Husne Jahan. "Jangalbari Fort". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  20. ^ Ibid, trans., 696-697; text 461
  21. ^ a b c d Eaton, Richard (1993). The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760. 
  22. ^ Called Koch Hajo in Persian chronicles, Kamrup in local sources (Nath 1989:86).
  23. ^ a b Sinh, Raghubir (1984). A history of Jaipur. p. 81. 
  24. ^ Title History of the Koch Kingdom, C. 1515-1615 ; D. Nath; Mittal Publications, 1989; ISBN 8170991099, 9788170991090
  25. ^ The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760
  26. ^
  27. ^ Dacca : Eastern Bengal District Gazetteers ; Basil Copleston Allen; Concept Publishing Company; 1912; ISBN 8172681941, 9788172681944
  28. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938 ; Jadunath Sarkar, Raghubir Sinh; Orient Blackswan, 1994; ISBN 8125003339, 9788125003335
  29. ^ Ballads of Bengal Volume 2, Dineshchandra Sen
  30. ^ Chowdhury, Kamal (2005). Banglar Baro Bhuiyan and Maharaj Pratapaditya. p. 143. 
  31. ^ Muazzam Hussain Khan, Musa Khan, Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Retrieved: 2012-03-01
  32. ^ a b Shahnaj Husne Jahan, Jangalbari Fort, Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Retrieved: 2012-03-05
  33. ^ a b Chowdhury, Kamal (2005). Banglar Baro Bhuiyan and Maharaj Pratapaditya. p. 398. 
  34. ^ a b Muazzam Hussain Khan. "Dewan Manawar Khan". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  35. ^ The People in India
  36. ^ Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Volume 43 by Dr James Wise, page 209-214
  37. ^ Khodeja Sultana Lopa (2005-04-16). "The Rich Tradition of Kishoreganj". Star Weekend Magazine. Retrieved 2012-12-25. 
  38. ^ a b Commemorative BD stamps
  39. ^ Pre-Mughal Cannons of Bengal: A Re-evaluation
  40. ^ "BNS Osman gets ‘National Standard’ award". 11 October 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  41. ^ "Jatra pala Isa Khan staged". New Age. 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2012-12-25.