Koch dynasty

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Koch Kingdom
Koch Dynasty
Flag of Koch dynasty
Flag of Koch Bihar
Historical map of Cooch Behar
Historical map of Cooch Behar
Statushistorical kingdom
Kamatapur (present-day Gosanimari)
Cooch Behar
Common languages
Other ethnic religion[5]
Governmenthereditary monarchy
• 1515–1540
Biswa Singha
• 1540–1587
Nara Narayan
• 1581–1603
• 1586–1621
Lakshmi Narayan
• 1922–1947
Jagaddipendra Narayan
Historical eraEarly modern period
• Established by Biswa Singha
• Expansion
• Division into Koch Hajo and Koch Bihar
• princely state of British India
• Joined India Union
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Republic of India
Ahom kingdom
Mughal Empire
Kachari kingdom
Today part ofIndia

The Koch dynasty (Pron: kɒʧ; 1515–1949) ruled parts of eastern Indian subcontinent in present-day Assam and Bengal. Biswa Singha established power in the erstwhile Kamata Kingdom which had emerged from the decaying Kamarupa Kingdom.[6][7] The dynasty came to power by removing the Baro-Bhuyans, who had earlier removed the short-lived rule established by Alauddin Hussain Shah.

The dynasty split into three among the descendants of Biswa Singha's three sons; two antagonistic branches Koch Bihar and Koch Hajo and a third branch at Khaspur. Koch Bihar aligned with the Mughals and the Koch Hajo branch broke up into various sub-branches under the Ahom kingdom. Koch Bihar became a princely state during British rule and was absorbed after Indian independence. The third branch at Khaspur disappeared into the Kachari kingdom. Raikat is a collateral branch of the Koch dynasty that claim descent from the Sisya Singha, the brother of Biswa Singha.


The name Koch denotes a matrilineal ethnic group to which Biswa Singha's mother belonged;[8] and the king as well as most of the population of the kingdom (Koch Bihar) belonged to the Koch community.[9]


Historical background[edit]

After the fall of the Pala dynasty of Kamarupa, the kingdom fractured into different domains in the 12th century. Sandhya, a ruler of Kamarupanagara (present-day North Guwahati) moved his capital further west to present-day North Bengal in the middle of the 13th century and the domain he ruled over came to be called Kamata kingdom.[10] The buffer region, between the eastern kingdoms and Kamata was the domain of the Baro-Bhuyans chieftains. Alauddin Husain Shah of Gaur removed Nilambar of the Khen dynasty in 1498, occupied Kamata and placed his son Danyal Husayn in charge. Within a few years the Baro-Bhuyans—led by one Harup Narayan of the Brahmaputra valley—defeated, captured, and executed Daniyal, and the region lapsed into Bhuyan confederate rule.[11]

Emergence of the Koch power[edit]

It was in this context that a number of independent Koch tribes were united under a leader named Hajo, who occupied Rangpur and Kamrup.[12] The Koches, spreading towards the southern plains, were able to ally with other tribal groups.[13] Among various factors, the shift from slash-and-burn cultivation to settled cultivation and the breakdown of tribal clan-based relations are given as factors that contributed to the growth of Koch power.[14]

As part of these alliances Hajo's daughter Hira married Hariya Mandal, a member of the Mech tribe from Chiknagram in present-day Kokrajhar district,[15] though these ethnic identities are difficult to discern since there were frequent intermarriages.[16][17] Bisu, born to Hariya and Hira,[18] acquired the political legacy of his grandfather Hajo[19] and established himself as the chief of the eastern branch of the Koches in the Khuntaghat region (present-day Kokrajhar district of Assam).[20][21] It is thought that Bisu fought under the leadership of the Bhuyans as a landlord against the occupation of Kamata kingdom by Alauddin Husain Shah and thus learned their military tactics.[22]

Cooch Behar Palace constructed during the reign of Nripendra Narayan
Origin of the Koch dynasty, based on the Darrang Raja Vamsavali[23]

Consolidation of power under Bisu[edit]

He sought the alliance of tribal chiefs,[24][25] against the more powerful Baro-Bhuyans and began his campaign around 1509.[26] Successively, he defeated the Bhuyans of Ouguri, Jhargaon, Karnapur, Phulaguri, Bijni and Pandunath (Pandu, in Guwahati).[27] He was particularly stretched by the Bhuyan of Karnapur, and could defeat him only by a stratagem during Bihu.

In some records Bisu moved his capital from Chikana to Hingulabas (near present-day Samuktala) and then finally to Kamatapur (now called Gosanimari) which is just a few miles southeast of the present-day Cooch Behar town[28]—but since these movements were recorded much after the events the dates and rulers associated with these movements are not expected to be accurate and these movements represent the gradual movement of Koch power towards the southern plains of the Brahmaputra valley.[29] After subjugating the petty rulers, he announced himself the king of Kamata bounded on the east by Barnadi river and on the west by the Karatoya river[30] in the year 1515.[31]

The Koch dynasty in Kamata was one of several tribal formations that developed into statehoods around 15th century in northeast IndiaAhom, Chutia, Dimasa, Tripura, Manipur, etc.[32]


At his coronation Bisu adopted Hinduism and the name Biswa Singha.[33][34] Nevertheless, he retained the Koch identity of his mother discarding the ethnic identity of his father.[35] Later, Brahman pundits created a legend that lord Siva was the father of Biswa Singha to give legitimacy to his rule[36] and conferred on him the status of the Kshatriya varna.[37] According to the legend constructed at the time of coronation, Bisu was son of Siva and his tribe either the Koch or Mech people were Kshatriyas who ran away from the fear of extermination by the Brahman sage Parashurama and took shelter in Western Assam and Northern Bengal and later disguised themselves as Mlechchas.[38]

This process of hinduisation was much slower in the lower strata of the society,[39] the king Biswa Singha with his tribal origin claimed Rajbanshi kshatriya status,[40] the lower class Koch took this name after the 18th century.[41]


Biswa Singha's two sons, Naranarayan and Shukladhwaj (Chilarai), the king and the commander-in-chief of the army respectively, took the kingdom to its zenith. During the reign of Nara Narayan, Koch Behar saw the propagation of eksarana-namadharma by Sankardev along with his two disciples Madhavdeva and Damodardev,[42][43] which helped brought a cultural renaissance to the kingdom.[44]The spread of this new religious movement was initially resisted by the Koch, Mech and Kachari people residing in the Koch-Kamata kingdom,[45][46] for which Nara Narayan made an official order to recognise the different religious practices of the people residing in the kingdom,[47] though by the end of the 18th century, the masses of the Koch population had absorbed considerable Hindu content.[48][49]

Later, Nara Narayan made Raghudev, the son of Chilarai, the governor of Koch Hajo, the eastern portion of the country. After the death of Nara Narayan, Raghudev declared independence. The division of the Kamata kingdom into Koch Bihar and Koch Hajo was permanent.


Rulers of undivided Koch kingdom[edit]

Rulers of Koch Bihar[edit]

Rulers of Koch Hajo[edit]

  • Raghudev (son of Chilarai, nephew of Nara Narayan)
  • Parikshit Narayan

Rulers of Darrang[edit]

The Mughal Subah, in alliance with Lakshmi Narayan of Koch Bihar, attacked Parikshit Narayan of Koch Hajo in 1612. Koch Hajo, bounded by Sankosh River in the west and Barnadi river in the east, was occupied by the end of that year. Parikshit Narayan was sent to Delhi for an audience with the Mughal Emperor, but his brother Balinarayan escaped and took refuge in the Ahom kingdom. The region to the east of Barnadi and up to the Bharali river was under the control of some Baro-Bhuyan chieftains, but they were soon removed by the Mughals. In 1615 the Mughals, under Syed Hakim and Syed Aba Bakr, attacked the Ahoms but were repelled back to the Barnadi river. The Ahom king, Prataap Singha, then established Balinarayan as a vassal in the newly acquired region between Barnadi and Bharali rivers, and called it Darrang. Balinarayan's descendants continued to rule the region as a tributary to the Ahom kingdom till it was annexed by the British in 1826.[51]

  • Balinarayan (brother of Parikshit Narayan)
  • Mahendra Narayan
  • Chandra Narayan
  • Surya Narayan

Rulers of Beltola[edit]

  • Gaj Narayan Dev (brother of Parikshit Narayan, ruler of Koch Hajo, brother of Balinarayan, first Koch ruler of Darrang).
  • Shivendra Narayan Dev (Son of Gaj Narayan)
  • Gandharva Narayan Dev (Son of Shivendra Narayan)
  • Uttam Narayan Dev (Son of Gandharva Narayan Dev)
  • Dhwaja Narayan Dev (Son of Uttam Narayan Dev)
  • Jay Narayan Dev (Son of Dhwaja Narayan Dev)
  • Lambodar Narayan Dev (Son of Jay Narayan Dev)
  • Lokpal Narayan Dev (Son of Lambodar Narayan Dev)
  • Amrit Narayan Dev (Son of Lokpal Narayan Dev)
  • Chandra Narayan Dev (Son of Lokpal Narayan Dev) (died 1910 CE)
  • Rajendra Narayan Dev (Son of Chandra Narayan Dev) (died 1937 CE)
  • Lakshmipriya Devi (wife of Rajendra Narayan Dev) (reign:1937-1947 CE died: 1991 CE)

Rulers of Bijni[edit]

The Bijni rulers reigned between the Sankosh and the Manas rivers, the region immediately to the east of Koch Bihar.

  • Chandra Narayan (son of Parikshit Narayan)
  • Joy Narayan
  • Shiv Narayan
  • Bijoy Narayan
  • Mukunda Narayan
  • Haridev Narayan
  • Balit Narayan
  • Indra Narayan
  • Amrit Narayan
  • Kumud Narayan
  • Jogendra Narayan
  • Bhairabendra Narayan

Rulers of Khaspur[edit]

The Barak valley was obtained by Chilarai in 1562[52] from the Twipra kingdom during his expedition when he subjugated most of the major rulers in Northeast India and established the Khaspur state with a garrison at Brahmapur, that eventually came to be called Khaspur (Brahmapur→Kochpur→Khaspur). The Koch rule began with the appointment of Kamal Narayan (step-brother of Chilarai and Naranarayan) as the Dewan a couple of years after the establishment of the garrison.[53] Kamalnarayan established eighteen clans of Koch families that took hereditary roles in the state of Khaspur and who came to be known as Dheyans (after Dewan).[54] The independent rule of the Khaspur rulers ended in 1745 when it merged with the Kachari kingdom.[52]

The rulers of the Koch kingdom at Khaspur were:[53]

  • Kamal Narayan (Gohain Kamal, son of Biswa Singha, governor of Khaspur)
  • Udita Narayan (declared independence of Khaspur in 1590)
  • Vijay Narayana
  • Dhir Narayana
  • Mahendra Narayana
  • Ranjit
  • Nara Singha
  • Bhim Singha (his only issue, daughter Kanchani, married a prince of Kachari kingdom, and Khaspur merged with the Kachari kingdom.)

See also[edit]



  1. ^ (Nath 1989:23–24)
  2. ^ (Nath 1989:23–24)
  3. ^ (Shin 2021:33)
  4. ^ (Shin 2021:33)
  5. ^ (Sheikh 2012:252)
  6. ^ (Nath 1989:2–11)
  7. ^ "Kamarupa was reorganized as a new state. 'Kamata' by name with Kamatapur as capital. The exact time when the change was made is uncertain. But possibly it had been made by Sandhya (c1250-1270) as a safeguard against mounting dangers from the east and the west. Its control on the eastern regions beyond the Manah (Manas river) was lax." (Sarkar 1992, pp. 40–41)
  8. ^ "(I)t becomes clear that Biswa Singha's father was a Mech and mother was a Koch and both the tribes were "rude" and "impure", hence non-Aryan or non-Hinduised." (Nath 1989:17)
  9. ^ "The dynasty was Koch and the name of kingdom was Koch Bihar because the king himself and most of the population belonged to the Koch community" (Das 2004:559)
  10. ^ (Gogoi 2002, p. 17)
  11. ^ (Nath 1989:21)
  12. ^ "The Koches 'who had a number of chiefs, at first independent, but who gradually united under the authority of one of themselves named Hajo, occupied Rangpur and Kamrup" (Nath 1989:17)
  13. ^ "Having moved from the Himalayan terrain, probably following the courses of the Teesta and Dharla rivers, the Koches settled first in North Bengal and then spread gradually towards the east, south and west, thereby allying with other tribal groups like the Rabhas, Dhimals, Hajongs, Garos, and Meches (Nath 1989: 1-4)." (Shin 2021:30)
  14. ^ " (I)t is clear that the centre of Koch power was gradually moving towards the southern plains of the region. This repeated transfer of capital was associated with a shift in their subsistence from jhum cultivation to settled agriculture (Ray 2002: 48). Simultaneously, there was a change in their political system from a clan-based chiefdom to a state with multiple agents involved in its functioning. Both the processes are commonly observed among rising local powers with indigenous origin in the northeast between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries (Shin 2020: 49-75)." (Shin 2021:31)
  15. ^ "[Hajo] had two daughters, Hira and Jira of whom Hira was married to Hariya, a member of the "impure tribe" called Mech."(Nath 1989:17)
  16. ^ "Subject to differences of opinion, the progenitor of the Koch monarch was either a Koch or a Mech, Haria Mandal by name..." (Sarkar 1992:70)
  17. ^ "Frequent intermarriage between the Koches and the Meches made them come close to each other, thereby making differentiation between the two groups difficult in both the historical and fictional narratives. The founder of Koch political power was Visva Sinha (1515-40), the son of Haria Mandal who was the head of twelve leading Mech families and inhabited Chiknabari in Mount Chikna near Bhutan hills."(Shin 2021:30)
  18. ^ "[Hajo] had two daughters, Hira and Jira of whom Hira was married to Hariya, a member of the "impure tribe" called Mech. Of them was born Bisu...it becomes clear that Biswa Singha's father was a Mech and mother was a Koch and both the tribes were "rude" and "impure", hence non-Aryan or non-Hinduised."(Nath 1989:17)
  19. ^ (Nath 1989:17)
  20. ^ (Barman 2014:18)
  21. ^ (Nath 1989:197)
  22. ^ "Bisu, who might have fought Alauddin Hussain Shah or his government in Kamrup under the leadership of the Bhuyans and had a knowledge of their (the Bhuyans') military tactics..." (Nath 1989:22–23)
  23. ^ (Sarkar 1992:91)
  24. ^ "Visva placed considerable dependence on tribal force in warfare. Tribal militia, consisting of the Meches, Koches, Kacharis, Bhutias and so forth, continued to participate in aggressive warfare under Naranarayan, resulting in a great expansion of the Koch territory (Barman 2007: 83-87)"(Shin 2021:33)
  25. ^ "...Dimarua, Panbari, Beltola, Rani, Moirapur, Borduar, Bholagram, Pantanduar, Chaigaon, Bogaduar, Bongaon, Baku, Luki, Hengerabari. Biswa Singha received the allegiance of these states including those of Darrang, Karaibari, Atiabari, Kamtabari, and Balrampur. The ruling family of these states till the annexation of the lower Brahmaputra valley to the British in 1826 were Koch, Mech or Garo and some of them claimed the continuity of their rule since centuries back" (Nath 1989:23–24)
  26. ^ (Nath 1989:28–29)
  27. ^ "It is stated that Biswa Singha subjugated the Bar Bhuyan then the Saru Bhuyan and then the Bhuyan of Ouguri. After this he defeated the Daivajnya Chuti Bhuyan and thereafter Kusum Bhuyan, Dihala Bhuyan, Kalia Bhuyan and the Bhuyans of Jhargaon, Kabilash Bhuyan, the Bhuyans of Karnapur, Phulaguri, and Bijni, and finally Pratap Rai Bhuyan of Pandunath, Guwahati. The Gurucaritas also mention Gandhanva Rai, the Bhuyan of Banduka and Sriram Khan of Sajalagram." (Nath 1989:24)
  28. ^ "With his military and administrative ability, Viva crushed a number of Bhuyans, local chiefs with a huge estate and military strength, subjugated other hilly areas and set up a new polity about 1515. He shifted the political centre from Chikanbari, his native village close to Bhutan border, to Hingulabas, a village in the plains of western Duras, and then finally to Kamatapur, the fortified city occupied by the Khens about a century earlier"(Shin 2021:30–31)
  29. ^ "Since the sources are of a much later date than the events they record, the date of occurrence and the kings credited with each shift of the capital may not be accurate. But, as Ray points out, it is clear that the centre of Koch power was gradually moving towards the southern plains of the region." (Shin 2021:30–31)
  30. ^ (Nath 1989:23–24)
  31. ^ (Nath 1989:28)
  32. ^ Guha (1983, p. 5)
  33. ^ "(Bisu) adopted Hinduism and assumed the name Biswa Singha after his coronation (Barpujari 2007: 69–71; Gait 2008: 49–50)."(Roy 2020)
  34. ^ (Shin 2021:30, 31)
  35. ^ "It is interesting to note that Bisu, the founder of the dynasty and son of Haria Mandal, a chieftain of the Tibeto–Burman origin, discarded the tribal affinity of his father, but retained Koch identity of his mother (Bisu’s mother, Hira belonged to the Koch origin) adopted Hinduism and assumed the name Biswa Singha after his coronation (Barpujari 2007: 69–71; Gait 2008: 49–50)."(Roy 2020)
  36. ^ "It is common to believe Biswa Singha's origin as son of Siva was nothing but creation of the Brahmans..The Brahmans needed royal patronage and the king wanted legitimacy which could be obtained through the universal religion to teach the people to be obedient, patient and submissive"(Sheikh 2012:250)
  37. ^ (Gogoi 2002:18)
  38. ^ (Sharma 2009:356–357)
  39. ^ "So among the mass people the process of Hinduization was slower than in the folds of the royal family. With the embracing of Hinduism, they were left with a somewhat despised name 'Koch' and adopted the name Rajbansi, a Kshatriya status which means literally 'of royal race', confined predominantly within the cultivators and the respectable classes. The name Koch was used by the palanquin bearers. Thus Koch Behar was undergoing religious transformation and developing a caste hierarchy under an impact of Brahminical Hinduism though it was much slower in the lower strata of the society "(Sheikh 2012:252)
  40. ^ (Sheikh 2012:250):"(K)ing Biswa Singha with his tribal origin embraced Hinduism and claim Kshatriya status. He is also known as Bishu succeeded in establishing his authority, styling himself as Raja, he first claimed Rajbanshi Kshatriya status"
  41. ^ "But it is interesting to note that neither in the Persian records, nor in the foreign accounts, nor in any of the dynastic epigraphs of the time, the Koches are mentioned as Rajvamsis. Even the Darrang Raj Vamsavali, which is a genealogical account of the Koch royal family, and which was written in the last quarter of the 18th century, does not refer to this term. Instead all these sources call them as Koches and/or Meches."(Nath 1989:5)
  42. ^ "The process of sankritisation was further advanced by the advent of Srimanta Sankardeva, along with his two disciples Madhavdeva and Damodardev in the mid sixteenth century. They introduced neo-vaishnavite movement in Koch Behar"(Sheikh 2012:251)
  43. ^ "Democratic values and simplicity advocated by Sankardeva had profound influence on the heterogenous people of the Tista-Brahmaputra basin. So all communities including the Koch, Kalita, Kayastha, Chandal, Garo, Ahom, Bhutia, Miri, Muslim and even the brahmins had embraced Sankardeva’s Vaishnavism. Madhavadeva and Damodar Deva, the disciples of Sankardeva also touched the hearts of the heterogeneous communities through their religious teachings and transformed the neo-Vaishnavism into a popular cult of the region."(Barman 2014:21)
  44. ^ "Satra and namaghar of the neo-Vaishnavism appeared as two powerful institutions with capacity for social control. So Naranarayan and Chilarai encouraged the foundation of satras in Sub-Himalayan Bengal and Lower Assam to popularize Koch rule among the follower of Vaishnavism. They not only established close relations with Sankardeva but also became great patron of the neo-Vaishnavism. Lakshmi Narayan (1587-1637), Raghudeva Narayan (1581-1618), Parikshit Narayan (1603-1618), Bir Narayan (1627-32) and Prana Narayan (1632-1665A.D.) also continued the state’s support to the building of the satras in the kingdom "(Barman 2014:22)
  45. ^ The rulers could not antagonize the tribals as they needed the tribal support in warfare. Hence, when the worship of Lord Shiva solely with the Vedic rituals was opposed by the tribals, King Naranarayan had to allow traditional ways of worship with animal sacrifice, offering of country beer (chakat) and colourful tribal music and dances. The Kacharis, Meches, Koches and other tribes of northern side of the Gohain Kamal Ali (from Cooch Behar to Narayanpur) were allowed to maintain their own cultural form with their own priests and rituals"(Barman 2014:29)
  46. ^ (Sheikh 2012:252)
  47. ^ "Naranarayan had to issue an edict by which the tribal form of religious practice prevalent among like Koches, Meches, and the Kacharis was recognised"(Sheikh 2012:252)
  48. ^ "From the seventeenth century onward, however, the Koch society absorbed considerable Brahmanical content. Their claim to kshatriya status emerged as a way of reflecting and extending the new economic status of landed magnates that had arisen in the Koch society during Mughal rule. By the end of the eighteenth century this claim was filtering down the ranks of the Koch society and gaining an increasing acceptability (Ray 2002:50)."(Shin 2021:34)
  49. ^ "So among the mass people, the process of Hinduization was slower than in the folds of the royal family"(Sheikh 2012:252)
  50. ^ "Princess Daisy of Pless: The Happy Years. An exhibition at Castle Pless". www.rvondeh.dircon.co.uk.
  51. ^ (Nath 1989:102–104)
  52. ^ a b "The Khaspur state originated with Chilarai's invasion in 1562 AD and remained in existence till 1745 when it merged with the Dimasa state of Maibong." (Bhattacharjee 1994:71)
  53. ^ a b (Bhattacharjee 1994:71)
  54. ^ (Bhattacharjee 1994:72)