Isa Khan

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Not to be confused with Afghan Noble Isa Khan Niazi.
For other people named Isa Khan, see Isa Khan (disambiguation).
Isa Khan
Isa Khan.jpg
Leader of Baro-Bhuiyans of Bengal
Reign 1576–1599
Successor Musa Khan
Born c. 1529
Sarail, Bhati region, Bengal Sultanate
Died September 1599 (age 70)
Bhati region, Mughal Empire
Spouse Fatema Khan
Sona Bibi
Issue Musa Khan
House Jangalbari Fort
Father Sulaiman Khan
Religion Sunni Islam

Isa Khan (c. 1529 – September 1599) was a Muslim Rajput chief who led the Baro Bhuiyans (twelve landlords) and a Zamindar of the Bhati region in 16th-century Bengal.[1] Throughout his reign he resisted the Mughal empire invasion. It was only after his death that the region fell totally under Mughal control.

Early life and background[edit]

Area of Bais Rajput clan in South Asia

Bhagirath, grandfather of Isa Khan, belonged to the Kshatriya Rajput community.[2][page needed] He came to Bengal from Ayodhya and took the job of Dewan under the Sultan of Bengal Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah (reigned 1533–1538).[1] His son Kalidas Gazdani inherited the post after his death. Later, Kalidas converted to Islam and took the Muslim name Sulaiman Khan. Sulaiman married Sultan's daughter Syeda Momena Khatun and got the Zamindari of Sarail (present-day Sarail Upazila, Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh) in Bhati region. Their son, Isa Khan, was born in Sarail.[1]

Following the death of Sultan Ghiyasuddin, Sulaiman declared himself as the legal successor and revolted against the newly established Afghan rule. Later he was killed in a battle.[1]

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

Isa Khan's father was born in Bais Rajput clan. He revolted and was later killed in a battle against Islam Shah Suri. Isa and his brother Ismail were sold as slaves. After the death of Islam Shah Suri, Taj Khan Karrani came to rule Bengal. Qutubuddin, the paternal uncle of Isa Khan, consolidated his position under Taj Khan. Qutubuddin then brought the two brothers from Turan region. Isa Khan gradually solidified his position under the Karrani rulers.[3][4]

Rise to power[edit]

Bara Sardar Bari called Isa Khan's zamindar bari in Sonargaon

With the help of Taj Khan, a Karrani ruler during 1564–1566, Isa obtained an estate in Sonargaon and Maheswardi Pargana in 1564 as a vassal of Karrani dynasty of Bengal. He gradually increased his power. In 1573 he helped Daud Khan Karrani in his expedition to Chittagong against Udaya Manikya, the king of Tripura.[1] He also helped Kala Pahar, Daud Khan's 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]

The ruling of Karrani dynasty ended when Daud Khan was defeated in the Battle of Rajmahal in 1576. Isa started playing a leading role in the local resistance.[1] In the end he successfully conquered Dhaka, Rangpur, Pabna, Tripura, parts of Mymensingh and Bogra.[7][8] In 1577, Isa established Egarasindhur (in present-day Pakundia Upazila, Kishoreganj) as the political and trading centre. Forming a petty kingdom that remained independent.[9] He declared himself as the ruler of the Bhati region in 1581–82. From Sarail, he shifted his administrative centre to Sonargaon. He built fortresses at Katrabo, Kalagachhia and Khizrpur near Sonargaon.[1]

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.[1] Ibrahim Naral, Karimdad and Shah Bardi submitted their allegiance to the Mughal force.[10] Isa faced the 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]

According to descriptions by Rajmala, Khan, who became the Zamindar of Sarail, sent one thousand labourers for Amar Manikya along with other Zamindars of Bengal in response to the request made by Manikya to excavate the Amar Sagar Dighi at around 1580 AD. Besides, as the naval commander of Manikya, Khan fought against the Zamindar Taraf Fateh Khan in 1581.[1]

Battle against Shahbaz Khan[edit]

In 1583 Mughal General Shahbaz Khan destroyed Isa's palace in Baktiarpur.[13] In September 1584,[14] the then-subahdar Shahbaz crossed Ganges near Khizirpur and attacked Sonargaon, Katrabo and Egarasindhur[1] 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, and even killing one of Mughal general,[7] then Shahbaz Khan retreated to Tandah.[15]

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).[16]

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.[17]

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.

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

They be all hereabout Rebels against the King Zebaldin Echebar (Jalaluddin Akbar) for here are so many Rivers and Iands, that they flee from one to another, whereby his Horsemen cannot prevaile against them. The chief King of all these Countries is called Isacan (Isa Khan), and he is chief of all the other Kings, and is a great friend to all Christians.[18]

Later on in 1588 he was involved in conflicts against Chand Rai and Kedar Rai.[1]

Battle against Raghudev[edit]

Isa continued his campaign against the Koch dynasty. He fought and defeated 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.[19] Isa successfully captured portions of Raghudev's territory as far as Rangamati and Goalpara.[20] 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.[18] 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.[20] Isa was emboldened to resist the Mughals after he successfully sought alliance with Raghudev, his former enemy[21] and Kedar Rai, Zamindar of Bhusna in Faridpur.[22] 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.[18] At first Isa faced defeat with the Mughals attacking Katrabo, one of Isa's pargana[23] 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.[1]

It is recorded that in this clash Isa personally fought Man Sing in a duel.[24] 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.[25]


Due to his submission, Akbar assigned 24 parganas or administrative units under the ruling of Isa.[26]

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


Khan 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.[27]


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

Khan's son, Musa Khan, took control of Sonargaon after his death.[28] 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.[17] Masum Khan was the eldest son of Musa Khan. Masum served as the Mughal army General during the Hughly invasion in 1632.[29] His eldest son was Monwar Khan. Monwar acted as the chief of the Bengal Zamindars' flotilla on the conquest of Chittagong in 1666.[30] A village called Monwarbagh, in Bandar Upazila of Narayanganj District, was named after him.[30] Haybat Khan, another grandson of Musa, established Haybatnagar (in present-day Kishoreganj district) and made it the centre of his land-lordship of seven parganas.[17]

James Wise (d. 1886[31]), 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.[32]

As of 2005, Dewan Amin Dau Khan, the 14th descendant of Isa has been living in Jangalbari Fort in Egarasindur village. The fort seemed to have a circular front and had 40 rooms. The fort was mostly destroyed during an earthquake in 1893.[33]

Death and legacy[edit]

Khan died of natural causes[18] in September 1599.[34]

On 12 February 1909, a farmer unearthed seven cannons in Monwarbagh.[29] The cannons were partly made of brass. They had labels "Isa Khan" and "1002" (Hijri 1002 year is 1593 CE in Gregorian Calendar). These 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.[35][36]

Bangladesh Navy has named a base, BNS Issa Khan in his honour. The base, BNS Isa Khan, was the first Bangladesh Navy base to receive the national standard in 1974.[37]

Popular culture[edit]

On 15 September 1992, Bangladesh Government issued a commemorative stamp in honour of Isa.[34]

A jatra, named Isa Khan, depicting the life of Isa, written by Bhoironnath Gangopadhyay and directed by Mridul Kanti Dey, was staged on the premises of Bangladesh Lok O Karu Shilpa Foundation on 18 October 2012.[38]

See also[edit]

Original 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;
  • Jadunath Sarkar, ed, The History of Bengal, II, Third Impression, 1976;
  • Abdul Karim, History of Bengal (Mughal Period), I, Rajshahi, 1992.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l AA Sheikh Md Asrarul Hoque Chisti. "Isa Khan". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Muhammad Abdur Rahim. Social and cultural history of Bengal. 
  3. ^ Akbarnama, Volume III, Page 647
  4. ^ Chowdhury, Kamal (2005). Banglar Baro Bhuiyan and Maharaj Pratapaditya. p. 163. 
  5. ^ Biplab Dasgupta. "European Trade and Colonial Conquest, Volume 1". 
  6. ^ Abdul Karim (1992). History of Bengal: From the fall of Daud Karrani, 1576 to the death of Jahangir, 1627. Institute of Bangladesh Studies, University of Rajshahi. 
  7. ^ a b Kunal Chakrabarti; Shubhra Chakrabarti. Historical Dictionary of the Bengalis. 
  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 15 April 2015. 
  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. ^ The Ballads of Bengal by Dineshchandra Sen. p. 322. 
  14. ^ Bangladesh:Past and Present
  15. ^ Nitish K. Sengupta (2011). Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib. Penguin Books India. ISBN 9780143416784. 
  16. ^ Dineshchandra Sen. Ballads of Bengal. p. 315. 
  17. ^ a b c Shahnaj Husne Jahan. "Jangalbari Fort". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c d Eaton, Richard (1993). The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760. 
  19. ^ Called Koch Hajo in Persian chronicles, Kamrup in local sources (Nath 1989:86).
  20. ^ a b Sinh, Raghubir (1984). A history of Jaipur. p. 81. 
  21. ^ Title History of the Koch Kingdom, C. 1515–1615 ; D. Nath; Mittal Publications, 1989; ISBN 8170991099, 9788170991090
  22. ^ The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760
  23. ^ Shahnaj Husne Jahan. "Katrabo". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  24. ^ Dacca : Eastern Bengal District Gazetteers ; Basil Copleston Allen; Concept Publishing Company; 1912; ISBN 8172681941, 9788172681944
  25. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503–1938 ; Jadunath Sarkar, Raghubir Sinh; Orient Blackswan, 1994; ISBN 8125003339, 9788125003335
  26. ^ Dineshchandra Sen. Ballads of Bengal Volume 2. 
  27. ^ Chowdhury, Kamal (2005). Banglar Baro Bhuiyan and Maharaj Pratapaditya. p. 143. 
  28. ^ Muazzam Hussain Khan. "Musa Khan". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  29. ^ a b Chowdhury, Kamal (2005). Banglar Baro Bhuiyan and Maharaj Pratapaditya. p. 398. 
  30. ^ a b Muazzam Hussain Khan. "Dewan Manawar Khan". Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  31. ^ The People in India
  32. ^ James Wise. Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Volume 43. pp. 209–214. 
  33. ^ Khodeja Sultana Lopa (16 April 2005). "The Rich Tradition of Kishoreganj". Star Weekend Magazine. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  34. ^ a b "Bangladesh Commemorative Stamps −1992". Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. 
  35. ^ "Pre-Mughal Cannons of Bengal: A Re-evaluation". 
  36. ^ NAHER, LAHIRI, K. CHATTOPADHYAY, SABIKUN, SURAJIT, PRANAB (2005). Banglar Baro Bhuiyan and Maharaj Pratapaditya. p. 163.  ]
  37. ^ "PM confers National Standard to BNS Osman". Dhaka Tribune. 11 October 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  38. ^ "Jatra pala Isa Khan staged". New Age. 21 October 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.