History of Chittagong

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Chattogram has been a seaport since ancient times. The region was home to the ancient Bengali Buddhist Samatata and Harikela states.[1] It later fell under of the rule of the Gupta Empire, the Pala Empire and the Vesali kingdom of Arakan till the 7th century. Arabs traded with the port from the 9th century AD. An account by historian Lama Taranath has revealed a Buddhist king Gopichandra had his capital at Chittagong in the 10th century, and according to Tibetan tradition, Chittagong was the birthplace of 10th century Buddhist Tantric Tilayogi.[2] In the Fourteenth Century, explorer Ibn Battuta passed through Chittagong during his travels.

Sultan Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah of Sonargaon conquered Chattogram in 1340 AD.[3] Sultan Giasuddin Mubarak Shah constructed a highway from Chittagong to Chandpur and ordered the construction of many lavish mosques and tombs. After the defeat of Mahmud Shah in the hands of Sher Shah in 1538, the Arakanese Kingdom of Mrauk U regained Chittagong. From this time onward, until its conquest by the Mughals, this region was under the control of the Portuguese and the Magh pirates (a notorious name for Arakanese) for 128 years.[2]

Ships moored off Chittagong in the late 1820s.

The Mughal commandar Shayestha Khan and his son Buzurg Umed Khan expelled the Arakanese from the area in 1666 and established Mughal rule there. After the Arakanese expulsion, Islamabad, as the area came to be known, made great strides in economic progress. This can mainly be attributed to an efficient system of land-grants to selected diwans or faujdars to clear massive areas of hinterland and start cultivation. The Mughals, similar to the Afghans who came earlier, also built mosques having a rich contribution to the architecture in the area. What is called Chittagong today also began to have improved connections with the rest of Mughal Bengal. The city was occupied by Burmese troops shortly in First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824 and the British increasingly grew active in the region and it fell under the British Empire. The people of Chittagong made several attempts to gain independence from the British, notably on 18 November 1857 when the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th companies of the 34th Bengal Infantry Regiment stationed at Chittagong rose in rebellion and released all the prisoners from jail but were suppressed by the Kuki scouts and the Sylhet Light Infantry (10th Gurkha Rifles).[2]

Chittaong grew at the beginning of the twentieth century after the partition of Bengal and the creation of the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam.[4] The construction of the Assam Bengal Railway to Chittagong facilitated further development of economic growth in the city. However, revolutionaries and opposition movements grew during this time. Many people in Chittagong supported Khilafat and Non-Cooperation movements.



Vesali period[edit]

Arab trade[edit]

Arab Muslim traders frequented Chittagong since the 9th century. In 1154, Muhammad al-Idrisi mentioned of a busy shipping route between Basra and Chittagong, connecting it with the Abbasid capital of Baghdad.[2]

Tripura Kingdom[edit]

Dhanya Manikya (r. 1463 to 1515) expanded Tripura's Kingdom territorial domain well into Eastern Bengal which included modern areas of Sylhet, Dhaka and Chittagong Divisions

Bengal Sultanate[edit]

The Sultan of Bengal, Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah, invaded Tripura Kingdom and conquered Chittagong in 1340. A number of sufi saints under Badruddin Allama (Badr Pir) accompanied him. The Sultan annexed the region to his Sultanate as a mulk (province). A sufi saint named Shayda was appointed to rule over Chittagong.[5]

Sultan Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah gave permission for the Portuguese settlement in Chittagong to be established in 1528. Chittagong became the first European colonial enclave in Bengal.[6][7]

Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta visited Chittagong in 1345.[8]

Maritime silk route[edit]

Portuguese settlements[edit]

Lopo Soares de Albergaria, the 3rd governor of Portuguese India, sent a fleet of four ships commanded by João da Silveira, who after plundering ships from Bengal, anchored at Chittagong on 9 May 1518.[9] Silveira left for Ceylon afterwards.[9]

In October 1521, two separate Portuguese missions went to the court of Sultan Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah to establish diplomatic relations with Bengal. One was led by explorer Rafael Perestrello and another one by captain Lopo de Brito.[9] Brito's representative, Goncalo Tavares, obtained a duty-free arrangement for trade in Bengal for the Portuguese merchants.[10] The two Portuguese embassies, both claiming official status, created confusion and led to a fight between them at Chittagong.[9]

The Portuguese settlement became a major bone of contention between the Mughal Empire, the Kingdom of Mrauk U, the Burmese Empire and the Kingdom of Tripura.[9]

According to a 1567 note of Caesar Federeci, every year thirty or thirty five ships anchored in Chittagong port.[11]

The Mughal conquest of Chittagong in 1666 brought an end to the Portuguese dominance of more than 130 years in city.[12]

By the early 18th century, the Potuguese settlements were located at Dianga, Feringhee Bazar in Chittagong district and in the municipal ward of Jamal Khan in Chittagong.

Arakanese conquest[edit]

The Arakanese Kingdom of Mrauk U declared independence from the Sultanate of Bengal and conquered Chittagong in 1531.[13]

Magh-Portuguese piracy[edit]

Mughal period[edit]

Mughal-Arakanese battle on the Karnaphuli River in 1666

Mughal Army defeated the Arakanese Army and annexed Chittagong to the Mughal Empire in 1666. They began to build the city up in a planned way. The name of different areas in the city, including Rahmatganj, Hamzer Bagh, Ghat Farhadbegh and Askar Dighir Par, were named after the Nawabs appointed by the Mughal emperors. Four mosque-tomb complexes – Bagh-i-Hamza Masjid, Miskin Shah Mulla Masjid, Kadam Mubarak Masjid, Bayazid Bostami Masjid and one tomb, The Shahjahani Tomb, survived from this period.[14]

English East India Company fought with Mughal Army in the Child's War to seize and fortify Chittagong during 1686–1690. They failed and Chittagong continued for another hundred years to be ruled by Mughal Empire. Nawab Mir Qasim finally ceded Chittagong to the English in 1760.[15]

British rule[edit]

The First Anglo-Burmese War in 1823 threatened the British hold on Chittagong. In September 1857, Sepoys took control of the treasury in Chittagong during the Sepoy Mutiny.[16]

In British ruling period, they created some educational institutions in Chittagong. Chittagong Collegiate School and College, Chittagong College are two of them.

The Chittagong armoury raid by Bengali revolutionaries, led by Surja Sen, in 1930 was a major event in British India's anti-colonial history.

World War II[edit]

US Navy sailors in Chittagong, 1944

During World War II, the British used Chittagong as an important military base. Frequent bombardment by the Japanese Air Force,[clarification needed] notably in April 1942 and again on 20 and 24 December 1942, resulted in military relocation to Comilla. Nevertheless, the war had a major negative impact on the city, with the growth of refugees and unevenness in fortune, reflected in the Great Famine of 1943.[2]

Post-war expansion[edit]

After the war, rapid industrialisation and development saw the city grow beyond its previous municipal area, particularly in the southwest up to Patenga, where Chittagong International Airport is now located.[2] The former villages of Halishahar, Askarabad and Agrabad became integrated into the city.

East Pakistan[edit]

The Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) was established by the government of East Pakistan in 1959 to manage this growth and drew up a master plan to be reviewed every five years to plan its urban development. By 1961 the CDA had drawn up a regional plan covering an area of 212 square miles (550 km2) and a master plan covering an area of 100 square miles (260 km2).[2] Over the decades, especially after the losses of 1971, the master plan developed into several specific areas of management, including the Multi-Sectoral Investment Plan for drainage and flood-protection of Chittagong City and a plan for easing the traffic congestion and making the system more efficient.[2]

University of Chittagong was founded in November 1966.[17]


In 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, Chittagong suffered massive losses in people and buildings given that they denied the occupation army access to the port. The first public announcement was made over the radio from the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra located at Kalurghat, Chittagong. Following the independence of Bangladesh, the city underwent a major rehabilitation and reconstruction programme and regained its status as an important port within a few years.[2]


  1. ^ "Showcasing glorious past of Chittagong". The Daily Star. 31 March 2012.
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