History of Mymensingh
History of Mymensingh refers to the history of old or greater Mymensingh district, presently covered by Mymensingh, Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Tangail, Jamalpur, and Sherpur districts in Dhaka Division of Bangladesh. Mymensingh district was established by the British East India Company on 1 May 1787. Prior to that it is history of this area in general.
- 1 Ancient times
- 2 Sultanate period
- 3 Mughal period
- 4 Feudal systems
- 5 British period
- 6 Since Independence
- 7 References
In ancient times the area was mostly part of Vanga, a non-Aryan territory covering the eastern part of the Gangetic delta. According to some writers it also covered territories east of the old course of the Brahmaputra 
The impact of Aryan-Brahmana culture was felt in Bengal much after the same spread across northern India. The various non-Aryan people then living in Bengal were powerful and thus the spread of Aryan-Brahman culture was strongly resisted and the assimilation took a long time.
In a map published in his book Indica, the Greek traveller Megasthenes, who visited in 302 BC, presents the entire Mymensingh area and much beyond in Kamarupa. In 4th century AD, during the reign of Samudragupta, the region (whole of Kamrupa) was part of the Gupta Empire. During his visit to the area in 639-45 AD, the Chinese monk, Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) found both Buddhism and Jainism flourishing in Bengal. According to certain records, some parts of the Mymensingh area, which was part of Pundravardhana in 7th century AD, was restored to Kamrupa between the 8th and 10th centuries. Subsequently, some small kingdoms, subservient to the Pala Empire were there in area. While Sishu Pal, Harishchandra Pal and Jasho Pal, ruled in the southern portions, Bhag Dutta (who ruled in Kamrupa) established himself in the Madhupur tract.
In the 12th century Ballal Sena divided his kingdom into five parts – Rarh, Bagri, Barendra, Mithila and Vanga. While Barendra was the area bounded by the Mahananda, and the Padma and the Karotoya, Vanga was the area between the Karatoya and the Brahmaputra. It is evident that the area east of the Brahamaputra was part of Kamrupa and the area west of the Brahmaputra was part of the Sena Empire. However, there is a difference of opinion amongst historians about where exactly Vanga was and some feel that even the western portion of the Mymensingh area was part of Kamrupa. In the 13th century Kamrup broke up and small kingdoms surfaced in the Mymensingh area. In the 14th century the Bhati region was captured by a sannyasi (hermit) named Jitari. The bhati region normally refers to the extreme western part of old Mymensingh.
While Bakhtiyar Khilji established himself in the western parts of Bengal in the 12th-13th centuries, he failed to conquer Kamrupa. The supremacy of the Sena dynasty in the area continued for around a century after the capture of Nabadwip by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1202. In 1258, Ikhtaruddin Uzbeg Tugralkhan attacked Kamrupa and captured parts of it. The king of Kamrupa initially fled but returned to give fight. Ultimately, Tugralkhan managed to retain his supremacy in certain parts of Kamrupa, more specifically the Mymensigh area.
When Tugralkhan refused to accept the sovereignty of the Delhi Sultanate in 1279, Ghiyas ud din Balban launched a campaign against Tugralkhan, who fled but Ghiyas ud din pursued him and reached Sonargaon. Dunaj Roy, the ruler of Sonargaon warmly welcomed Ghiyas ud din. The latter made his second son Nasiruddin Mohammad the ruler of Bengal and left for Delhi. Nasirabad, named after him, later became Mymensingh town. Subsequently Feroze Shah divided Bengal into three parts and made Sonargaon the capital of the eastern region. Fakiruddin on assumption of office as ruler of Sonargaon, adopted the name of Sultan Sekendar and declared independence. Thereafter up to 1490, 17 sultans ruled at Sonargaon but it is not clear whether their territory included whole or part or any at all of the Mymensingh area.
In 1491, Feroze Shah II ascended the throne of the independent Bengal sultanate, and sent his general Majlis Khan Humayun to attack Sherpur. He defeated the Koch king Dalip Samanta. That appears to be the beginning of Pathan rule in the Mymensingh area. It was during the rule of Hussein Shah, who ascended the throne in 1494, that Pathan rule was extended to the entire Mymensingh area (1498).
Atia Masjid was built by Hussein Shah in 1516. This is as per the English translation of an Arabic inscription found at the mosque. Whenever Hussein Shah conquered a territory he built a mosque as a mark of his victory. That possibly was an older mosque. The present mosque at Atia was built by Saiyyad Khan Panni on the banks of the Louhajang River in 1608. There are remains of old structures in the area.
Hussein Shah conquered the eastern side of the Brahmaputra right up to Tripura. He appointed Khoaj Khan to rule over this territory with his capital at Muajjamabad. This place no more exists and it is difficult to specify where exactly it was located.
After Hussein Shah conquered Kamrupa, Nasratshah was appointed the ruler. When the monsoon season set in and extensive areas were flooded, the defeated local rulers regrouped and recaptured Kamrupa. Nasratshah fled, crossed the Garo Hills and established himself at Muajjamabad. He renamed the entire area as Nasratshahi (Bengali: নসরতশাহী). At that time Ibrahim Lodi was ruling in Delhi. It was during the reign of Hussein Shah that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spread the Vaishnava religion and reforms. His follower Madhabacharya engaged in spreading Viashnava religion in the Mymensingh area.
With Akbar advancing and pushing the Pathans to Orissa, Bengal was ripe for small independent kingdoms ruled by the Barobhuyian. Five of them established kingdoms in eastern part of Bengal – Chand Roy-Kedar Roy in Bikrampur, Lakshman Manik in Bhulua, Kandarpa Narayan Roy in Chandradwip, Fazalghazi in Bhawal and Isa Khan in Khijirpur, and ruled over the Dhaka, Noakhali, Bakharganj, Faridpur and Mymensingh areas.
Akbar despatched Todar Mall in 1580 to quell disturbances in Bihar. Todar Mall not only quietened down Bihar with his able systems of land revenue collection but also built up rapport for rent collection in Bengal. He divided Bengal into 19 Sirkars, which was further subdivided into 682 Mahals. The Nasratshahi area was reconstituted as Sirkar Bazuha. It was divided into 32 Mahals – Alepshahi, Mominshahi, Husseinshahi, Baroraju, Merauna, Kharana, Herana, Serali, Besriabaju, Bhawalbaju, Pukhuriabaju, Daskahaniabaju, Selim-Pratapbaju, Sultanpratapbaju, Chandpratapbaju, Sonaghutibaju, Sonabaju, Selebras, Sayer Jalkar, Saojielbaju, Jafarogielbaju, Koturalbaju, Katabaju, Singhdhamoin, Mirhussein, Nasratshahi, Singhnasrat Jial, Mobarak O Jial, Hariyal Baju, Yuchhisahi, Pratapbaju and Dhakabaju. Sirkar Bazuha extended from the Buriganga to Garo Hills. In the east it included parts of greater Sylhet, and in the west it included parts of greater Pabna, Rajshahi and Bogra districts.
Isha Khan accepted the suzerainty of the Mughal Empire and took charge of both Sirkar Bazuha and Sirkar Sonargaon with his capital at Khijirpur. After settling down in his work, Isa Khan started building forts at Tribeg, Hajiganj and Kalgachiya, and also renovating the old forts at Egarosindhu and Ekdala. Thereafter, he stopped paying rent to the emperor at Delhi. Troops were despatched against Isa Khan. He was defeated by Shabaz Khan in 1585 in his capital. Shabaz Khan chased him until the borders of the sea but escaped from one island to another. Taking his victory for granted Shabaz Khan engaged in merry making, when Isa Khan suddenly attacked him and regained his capital. As Khijirpur was in shambles he shifted his capital to Sonargaon.
Next, Man Singh was despatched against Isa Khan. On being defeated at Ekdala, he fled to Egarosindhur. The decisive battle atarted near Egarosindhu on the western bank of the Brahmaputra. On the third day of the battle, Man Singh’s sword broke. On seeing Man Singh unarmed, Isa Khan stopped fighting. The noble gesture touched Man Singh. He concluded a treaty with Isa Khan, who was honoured in the Mughal court with the title of Masnadali and given charge of 22 parganas. The only other ruler in Sirkar Bazuha at that time was Raghunath Singh of Mulke Susang.
Muslims in large numbers moved into the sparsely populated area. Many Muslim holy men, pirs, fakirs and aulias, also entered the region and engaged in religious conversion. The earlier inhabitants of the area such as the Kochs and Hajongs were subdued before long.
Before the rise of Isa Khan, the Gazis used to rule in the forested areas of Bhawal. Once Isa Khan became powerful they accepted his suzerainty, but after his death they resumed their powers. Many of the Muslim holy men occupied 11 of the 22 parganas ruled by Isa Khan. Some of the prominent ones were Pir Sahensa in Atia, Pir Sahajman in Kagmari, and Islam Khan in Bhawal. In 1608, during the rule of Jahangir, the capital was shifted to Dhaka. Sirkar Bazuha being adjacent to the capital often had to bear some part of the brunt of foreign attacks, as for example of the Portuguese and Arakanese in 1610. The capital was shifted to Murshidabad in 1703.
In the 16th century Sher Shah Suri, who was a Pathan ruler ruling between two Mughal emperors, was the first to establish a powerful feudal administration. He raised the status of different provinces to that of a sirkar, and streamlined the system of revenue collection. During his reign such positions as that of amin (surveyor), sikdar (police chief) and munsef (judge) were created. It was during the rule of the Baro Bhuiyan that zamindars or landlords first came into existence in the Mymensingh area. They had their amla (bureaucracy), gomasta (administration), and their own forces called paik-peyada-barkandaj.
The Mughals brought in some radical changes. They introduced the position of mansabdars, who were military rulers, also looking after administration. The selection of mansabdars was through a regular process. The Mughals introduced a scientific system of feudal administration, which later the British retained for a long period.
While the contribution of zamindars for the development of an area is widely noted and tales of their torture is local legend, the torture imposed on zamindars is less well known. When zamindars failed to pay rent, they were tied in chains and taken earlier to Dhaka and later to Murshidabad for punishment.
Indranarayan Chowdhury, zamindar of Kagamri, failed to pay rent and was tortured so much by Murshid Quli Khan that he was ultimately forced to give up his religion and convert to Islam as Inayetulya Chowdhury. In 1725, Surya Narayan Chowdhury, zamindar of Daskahania (Sherpur) was tortured so much that he gave up his zamindari. Two children of Rana Singha, the deceased ruler of Susang, Kishore Singha and Raj Singha, were sentenced to ten whips each for non-payment of revenue. The punishment borne on their behalf by a loyal servant Banchharam is part of local lore.
After the Battle of Plassey, the British occupied Dhaka towards the end of 1757. In 1765 British East India Company acquired from the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, the sole right to collect rent in Bengal. However, they did not immediately concentrate on governance and for a long time there could scarcely have been any government. They set up a trading establishment at Begunbari in the Mymensingh area and removed the Portuguese and French establishments from the area.
The situation was recorded in a local rhyme:
- Nababguli khaey aar ghumaey
- Ingraj taka adaey kore aar despatch lekhey
- Bangali kandey aar utsanney jaey
- The nawbabs eat and sleep
- The English collect money and send despatches
- The Bengalis cry and go to hell
Chhiyattarer manwantar or the famine of 1770 struck Bengal. It is so called because of its happening in the Bengali calendar year 1176. The famine nourished the Sannyasi Rebellion by swelling their ranks and they soon became a nuisance to be reckoned with by the government.
Around 1773, the sannyasis and fakirs came and set themselves up in the forested areas of Madhupur and in Sannyasiganj (Paltan near Jamalpur). With Warren Hastings sending a force against them, they went underground for the sometime, but resurfaced later.
In 1781, they forcibly harvested the crops of both zamindars and peasants in Alapsingha and Jafarshahi parganas. They tortured people in the entire area and the nominal English force could do nothing to prevent their atrocities. In 1783, the sannyasis under Shah Madgerud again looted Jafarshahi. Lodge fought a pitched battle against the sannyasis and the English set up a cantonment at Sannyasiganj. Although the main body of the sannyasis were subdued, they carried on sporadic attacks from time to time. The zamindars appealed again and again for support and finally a decision was taken to establish a new district. It was a long time before they finally petered out.
Formation of district
Mymensingh district was established by the British East India Company on 1 May 1787. It may be mentioned that Mymensingh is a corruption of Mominshahi and Mominingh, the name of the pargana in the area. The name could also have been synthesised from two parganas, Alapsingh and Momenshahi, both of which were included in the then Mymensingh District. It became the largest district in India. Nasirabad was established in 1791. Begunbari where the English had developed an early establishment was washed away by the Brahmaputra. Another town was established at Sehra. With the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis in 1793, peace and goodwill prevailed in the area. The practice of arbitrary torture for non-payment of revenue was modified by a system of judiciary. The district started feeling the gradual introduction of westernised modernity. Peace and prosperity gave rise to large zamindars that became legends in their own right.
Notable Zamindar Estates of the district
There were innumerable Zamindar Estates in Mymensingh district. Some of notable ones were:
- Sushang Estate. The Sushang Estates date back prior to the Afghan-Pathan-Moghul eras. Amongst all the zamindars, they enjoyed the highest order of social precedence in the district, and third in undivided Bengal, preceded only by Coochbehar and Burdwan. However, their revenues were small.
- Mymensingh Estate. The Mymensingh Estate or the Maharaja Mymensingh Estate was the largest in the district and socially preceded over every other zamindars of the district excepting Maharaja of Sushang.
- Ramgopalpur Estate. The zamindars of this estate were given the title of Raja.
- Gauripur Estate. Jugal Kishore Roychaudhuri, Brajendran Kishore Roychaudhuri, who donated a very large sum to the National Council in 1905 which later became Jadavpur University, for which he was offered the title of Rai Bahadur; Birendra Kishore Roy Chaudhuri who was an eminent Sarod player and founder Dean of the Faculty of Music of Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta.
- Muktagacha Half Estate.
- Atharabari Estate.
- Narayandahar Estate- It is said that the estate was Founded by a kanauji Brahmin Rajeswar Pathak who came here from Agra area with Raja Mansing's army at the time of Emperor Akbar near Purbadhala of Netrokona sub division.Notable personalities of this family were Rajendra narayan mazumder chaudhury,Mahendra narayan mazumder chaudhury,Rabindra narayan mazumder chaudhury,Mohini mazumder chaudhury, Haridas mazumder chaudhury etc.At the latest his family's Asok narayan mazumder chaudhury lives in kolkata. First English minor school was started in 1846 at Narayandahar.
Earlier there was a sadar post office in the district from where the mail was carried by hand to wherever the collector was residing at that point of time. In July 1792, a postal system was established with the setting up of eight post offices between Dhaka and Mymensingh.
In 1793 the use of copper coins were introduced replacing the system of karis and dhamris. In 1800, the use of old coins was stopped and the coins of East India Company were introduced. The first permits for importing liquor were introduced. Gradually the judiciary was separated from the executive. For the first time, metal roads were introduced. Dhaka-Mymensingh telegraph line was established in 1883. Dhaka-Mymensingh railway was opened in 1886. The District Board was set up in 1887. Nasirabad Municipality was established in 1869.
The borders of Mymensingh district underwent constant change and internal administrative changes continued. In 1786 Beluha and some adjoining mahals were transferred to Tripura. In 1830, Sarail-Satarkhansar, Daudpur, Haripur, Bejura etc. were transferred to Tripura. In 1845, Jamalpur was made a sub-division. In 1860 Kishoreganj was made a sub division. In 1866, Atia from Dhaka and Dewanganj from Bogra were transferred to this district. Tangail subdivision was set up in 1869 and Netrakona made a subdivision in 1882. In 1906, Mymensingh district had five subdivisions, nine munsef chowkies, and forty police stations.
With floods and famines affecting the district from time to time in the 19th century resulting in the failure of the peasants to pay taxes and subsequent oppression of the zamindars, peasant rebellions were many. The suffering caused was of such an order that even human beings were sold for the petty sum of one to four rupees, in an age when price of a maund of rice shot up to two rupees. The more prominent among these rebellions were the Pagalpanthi uprising, the boxer uprising at Sherpur (1791), Jankupathar’s uprising (1833), and Mangal Singh’s uprising at Bhawal (1836).
The leader of the Pagalpanthis was Karam Shah, who established a strong influence over the indigenous tribal population consisting of Garos and Hajongs, who were exploited by the zamindars, through the simple doctrine of equality, fraternity and truthfulness. Karam Shah petitioned the collector in 1802 for taking over the entire estate to the north-east of Sherpur pargana on payment of tax. Although the collector recommended the case, it did not find favour with the Board of Revenue. After his death in 1813, his second son, Tipu, became leader and collected a small army. As leader of the oppressed peasantry he started a ‘no rent’ campaign. He attacked and looted the houses of zamindars in Sherpur and made Garjaripa, an ancient fortified place, his headquarters. He issued orders under the seal of ‘Royal Court of King Tipu Pagal’.
He was arrested twice and released, and the government wanted to solve the problem with a more equitable rent but Tipu’s army of 3,000 men armed with spears, swords, bows and matchlocks, took possession of the entire area between Sherpur and Garo Hills. Ultimately, the British decided to launch full-scale military operations. By 1839, the Pagalpanthi uprising came to an end.
There were subsequently some uprisings in the district against indigo cultivation and the related oppression of the peasants.
With departure of the British in 1947, Mymensingh district was part of East Pakistan. Tangail was made a separate district in 1970  when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. After the formation of Bangladesh in 1971, re-organization of the country's regional administrative structure was undertaken and Jamalpur, a sub-disdtrict then called Subdivision, was made a separate district in 1978. As decentralisation continued under president General Ershad, Kishoreganj and Netrokona were promoted as districts in 1984. Also, a new district was created named Sherpur with parts mainly from Jamalpur.
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