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27 January 1782|
Chandpur, 24 Parganas, Bengal Presidency, British India
|Died||19 November 1831(aged 49)|
Syed Mir Nisar Ali Titumir (Bengali: তিতুমীর; 1782–1831) was an Islamic preacher who led a peasant uprsing against the zamindars and the British colonial authorities in Bengal, British India during the 19th century. Along with his followers, he built a bamboo fort (Bansher-Kella-বাঁশের কেল্লা in Bengali) in Narkelberia Village, which passed into Bengali folk legend. After the storming of the fort by British soldiers, Titumir died of his wounds on 19 November 1831.
Titumir was born as Syed Mir Nisar Ali on 27 January 1782 (14 Magh 1182 in the Bengali calendar), in Chandpur village, in North 24 Parganas district (currently in West Bengal, India). His father was Syed Mir Hassan Ali and mother was Abida Ruqayya Khatun. His ancestor Saiyid Shahadat Ali came to Bengal from Arabia to preach Islam. Saiyid Abdullah, son of Shahadat Ali, was appointed the chief qazi of Jafarpur by the emperor of Delhi and was invested with the title of "Mir Insaaf." They claimed descent from Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam.
Titu Mir’s education began in his village school, after which he moved to a local madrassa. By the time he was 18 years of age, he had become a Hafiz of the Qur'an and a scholar of the hadith and Muslim traditions. He was also accomplished with the Bengali, Arabic, and Persian languages. During this time he met Syed Ahmad Barelvi in Kolkata and became a preacher with the Tariqah-i-Muhammadiya movement.
Religious and political activism
In 1822, Titu Mir went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj enjoined upon all Muslims, and on his return he commenced organizing the Muslim peasants of his native village against the landlords or zamindars and the British colonialists. He also began wearing the tahband, a tube shaped garment worn around the waist, in preference to the dhoti, seen as more overtly Hindu. On his return from Mecca in 1827, Titu Mir started preaching among the Muslims of 24 Parganas and Nadia, advising them to refrain from practicing shirk and bidah.
Confrontations with the Zamindars
Titu Mir opposed a number of discriminatory measures in force at that time which included taxes on mosques and the wearing of beards. This brought him into conflict with Hindu zamindar Krishnadeva Rai of Purha, Kaliprasanna Mukhopadhyay of Gobardanga, Rajnarayan of Taragonia, Gauri Prasad Chowdhury of Nagpur and Devanath Rai of Gobra-govindpur.
Titu Mir had himself belonged to a "peyada" or martial family and himself had served under a Zamindar as a 'lathial or 'lethel', a fighter with a quarterstaff or lathi, (which in Bengal is made of bamboo, not wood) and he trained his men in hand-to-hand combat and the use of the lathi. Titu Mir formed a "Mujahid" consisting of lathials. The increasing strength of Titu Mir alarmed the zamindars who attempted to involve the British in their fight against him. Being instigated by the Zamindar of Gobardanga, Davis, the English kuthial (factor) of Mollahati, advanced with his force against Titu Mir, but were routed.
He fought against local Zaminder Krishna Dev Roy. who fearing his growing forces, took help of the British to attack Titumir's followers.
Confrontations with the British
The followers of Titu Mir, believed to have grown to 15,000 by that time, readied themselves for armed conflict, and they built a fort of bamboo at Narikelbaria, near the town of Barasat. This was surrounded by a high double curtain wall of bamboo stakes filled in with mud cladding and sun-baked bricks.
Titu Mir declared independence from the British, and regions comprising the current districts of 24 Parganas, Nadia and Faridpur came under his control. The private armies of the Zamindars and the forces of the British met with a series of defeats at the hands of his men as a result of his strike-and-retreat guerrilla tactics.
Finally, the British forces, led by Lieutenant Colonel Stewart consisting of 100 cavalry, 300 native infantry and artillery with two cannons, mounted a concerted attacks on 19 November 1831, on Titu Mir and his followers. Armed with nothing more than the bamboo quarterstaff and lathi and a few swords and spears, Titu Mir and his forces could not withstand the might of modern weapons, and were overwhelmed. The bamboo castle was destroyed, and Titu Mir was killed along with several of his followers. The commanding officer of the British forces noted his opponent's bravery in dispatches, and also commented on the strength and resilience of bamboo as a material for fortification, since he had had to pound it with artillery for a surprisingly long time before it gave way.
In 2004, listeners of the BBC's Bengali service voted Titu Mir 11 on a list of 20 "Greatest Bengalis." The survey produced well over 100 names, and the top 20 was compiled on points awarded according to listeners' order of preference.
In Dhaka, Jinnah College was renamed to Titumir College in 1971. Titumir Hall is also a dormitory of Dhaka's Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
On 19 November 1992, the Government of Bangladesh issued a commemorative stamp honoring Titumir on the 161st anniversary of his death.
In popular culture
Mahasweta Devi wrote a novella called Titu Mir. A play named Titumir-er Basher Kella has been made for TV in Bangladesh. It has also featured as a theme for Puja pandals which are often done up as historical tableaux.
- Titumirer Bansher Kella (Bamboo Fort of Titumur, 1981) by Rabeya Khatun
- Tariqah-i-Muhammadiya, from Banglapedia.
- Khan, Muazzam Hussain. "Titu Mir". Banglapedia. Bangladesh Asiatic Society. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- "India's Struggle for Freedom". Department of Information & Cultural Affairs, Government of West Bengal. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "Mir Nisar Ali (Titu Mir)".
- "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- Bangladesh Navy Official Website
- "Bangladesh Stamps". bdstamps.com.