Dakshin Dinajpur


The district of West Dinajpur came into existence in August 1947 with the partition of Bengal. The Province of Bengal was divided into two parts in accordance with the Partition. The dividing line passed through the district of Dinajpur, the portion lying to the west of the line being named West Dinajpur. There is no local tradition regarding the origin of the name Dinajpur, and it is also rather difficult to advance any satisfactory theory about the origin of the name.

The district of West Dinajpur comprised an area, which in ancient times formed a part of the kingdom of Pundravardhana, the country of the Pundras. According to Brihatkathakosha of Harishena, Bhadrabahu (the Jaina guru of Chandragupta Maurya) was the son of a Brahmin of Kotivarsha in Pundravardhana.

According to the Jaina tradition, Godasa, a disciple of Bhadrabahu, founded the school called Godasa-gana, which in course of time had four shakhas, three of which were called Tamraliptika, Kotivarshiya and Pundravardhaniya. Kotivarsha has been identified with Devkot, which again, has been identified with Bangarh in PS Gangarampur. Buddhism spread in Pundravardhana at about the same time as Jainism.

The discovery of a seal in 1931, amidst the ruins of Mahasthangarh established the fact that Pundranagara or Mahasthangarh was a centre of Buddhism in the Maurya period. The message on the Mahasthangarh seal concerns shramanas of the Chhavaggiya sect residing at Pundranagara and contains direction regarding the steps to be taken to help them tide over a famine. A few clay seals found during excavations at Bangarh in 1937-41 have writings on them, which may be assigned to the Maurya period. The district, therefore, appears to have been included in the Maurya Empire.

The discovery of terra-cotta figurines of the Shunga period and Kushana gold coins at Mahasthangarh and at Bangarh indicates that Pundravardhana maintained its relations with the rest of India during the reigns of the Sungas and Kushans period. The terra-cotta figurines show that fine arts flourished at that period.

The Allahabad Pillar Inscription of Samudra Gupta mentions Samatata, Davaka and Kamarupa as the kingdoms situated on the eastern frontier of Samudra Gupta's empire.

The discovery of a number of inscriptions of the Gupta and later Gupta periods within or near the district of West Dinajpur bears ample testimony to the sway of the Guptas over Pundravardhana. Five copper-plate inscription were discovered in the village of Damodarpur in police station Phulbari (now in Bangladesh), and one copper-plate inscription was discovered in the village of Baigram in police station Hili.

The Baigram copper plate is one of the two, which were discovered while excavating a tank at Baigram in police station Hili. The Baigram copper plate inscription is dated in the year 128 of the Gupta era corresponding to 448 AD and thus, refers to the reign of Kumaragupta-I. Although the name of the king dose not appear in this copper plate.

These copper plate inscriptions offer valuable information about some aspects of the administration of the country during the reign of the Gupta kings. The incriptions reveal an efficient and methodical Administration during this period and the use of gold & silver coins testifies the prosperity of the country.

After the Gupta reign came the Pala dynasty founded by Gopala. The reign of the Pala kings occupies a glorious chapter in the history of Bengal. The Pala emperor had an well-organized navy. The armed forces included soldiers mounted on elephants, cavalrymen and soldiers mounted on camels. The Pala emperors were ardent Buddhists but never deprived persons professing other religions.

The Pala dynasty came to an end in Bengal during the reign of Madana Pala. Vijayasena of the Sena dynasty defeated him.

The rule of the Senas over North Bengal, however, was rather short-lived as the Sena kingdom was replaced by the Muslim kingdom established by Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji in C1201 AD. Vijayasena, Vallalasena and Lakshmanasena were the Sena kings who ruled over North Bengal in the 12th century AD.

Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji defeated Lakshmanasena at Nadia in 1201 AD. Ali Mardan Khalji assassinated him, in turn, while he was lying ill at Devkot. Muhammad Shiran Khalji (one of the officers of Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji) defeated Ali Mardan and imprisoned him after which he was elected the ruler of Lakhnawati. Ali Mardan fled to Delhi.

Ali Mardan, who had been instrumental in driving Malik Izzuddin Muhammad Shiran, reappeared in the politics of Bengal. In 1210 AD, he obtained vice-royalty of Lakhnawati from Qutb-ud-din Aibak.

Mardan's reign was however short-lived and he was killed in 1213 AD by the Khalji nobles who elected Husam-ud-din Iwaz as ruler. Husam-ud-din Iwaz ruled for about fourteen years and took the title of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Iwaz Khalji. It was he who transferred the seat of Government from Devkot (Bangarh) to the historic city of Gaur-Lakhnawati. He connected the two frontier towns of Devkot (Bangarh) and Lakhnor (in Birbhum district) by an unusually wide and high-embanked Grand Trunk Road with ferries on the big rivers like the Ganges on the Lakhnor side and the Mahananda and the Purnarbhava on the other.

Ali Mardan had thrown of the allegiance to Delhi, and Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Iwaz Khalji ruled as an independent king till 1227 A.D. when he was defeated at the hands of Nasir-ud-din, the eldest son of Sultan Iltutmish.
From 1227-87 AD no less than fifteen chiefs were in authority at Lakhnawati and of them ten were Mamluks of the Imperial Court of Delhi. The history of the period is a sickening record of internal dissensions, usurpations and murders.

Akbar conquered Bengal in 1585 AD. During his reign, the district of West Dinajpur was probably contained within the sarkars of Tajpur and Panjara. No incident worthy of note appears to have taken place in the district of West Dinajpur during this long period of about two hundred years, during which Bengal remained under the control of the Mughals.

The district came under control of the East India Company in 1765, the year in which the East India Company obtained the Diwani of Bengal. They appointed Muhammad Reza Khan as their Naib or deputy at Murshidabad. In order to acquire control over the administration, they had forced Najm-ud-daulah, Mir Jafar's son, to consent to the appointment of the same Muhammad Reza Khan as his deputy as well.

In the reign of Akbar, we find the first authentic traces of the great zamindari family of Dinajpur, with which for the next two centuries the history of the district is closely interwoven.

During the later half of the 18th century, the district was subjected to the plundering raids of the Sanyasis and Fakirs. Some of these sanyasis settled down and acquired properties in many places including Dinajpur district. It may recalled that the early Muslim colonisers activity patronised these Fakirs and Auliyas, the holy men of Islam, who acted as the vanguard of the army in the hitherto unconquered regions.

These sanyasis and fakirs used to enter the district from places in Western India ostensibly for pilgrimage but in reality, to amass riches by plundering the people.

Warren Hastings curbed the activities of the Sanyasis, but the fakirs continued to oppress the people of the district even as late as 1799. The East India Company took vigorous measures to bring them to book and by the beginning of the 19th century, completely stopped these activities.

The Rebellion of 1857 left the district undisturbed. The most important result of the Rebellion was that the administration of the affairs of India was taken over by the British Government and the East India Company ceased to exist.

The administration of the British, no doubt, had secured peace and some kind of justice on the inhabitants but the discrimination that was made between Englishmen and Indians in various spheres of administration gradually built up a store of resentment against the British Government.

In 1905, the Secretary of State agreed to the Government of India's new scheme of Partition of Bengal into two parts with the exception of the Darjeeling district, by separating Dacca and Chittagong Divisions to form a new province of East Bengal and Assam. This proposal to divide Bengal was made for administrative convenience and for ensuring advancement in East Bengal and Assam in the fields of education, etc. This move was strongly opposed by the people of the district. Lal Mohan Ghosh suggested that all honorary magistrates and all members of district boards, municipal commissioners and panchayats should resign in a body and national mourning should be observed for twelve months during which the people should not participate in any public rejoicing.

The partition was however, proclamed in September 1905. The reaction in the district to this proclamation was sharp and Maharaja Girija Nath Roy took leading part in the agitation against the partition.

By-the first World War, revolutionary movement continued in the district of Dinajpur. When the struggle for freedom began in 1919; local congress leaders of Balurghat promoted the ideals of the Congress throughout the sub-division. Primary Congress Committees were organised even in remote villages. Parallel administration was set up. Hindus and Muslims of the district jointly took part Khilafat movement of 1920. In 1942, Purna Chandra noted revolutionary, was arrested at Dinajpur.

Dinajpur continued to figure in the reports of the Government as a troubled district. During the months of June and July, 1932, the Santals at Akchha in Gangarampur police station of Balurghat sub-division stopped paying rents, chowkidari taxes, etc.

During the 1942 Quit India movement, the people of Balurghat sub-division acted in a noteworthy manner.

Under the leadership of the local Congress leader, Saroj Ranjan Chatterjee, they formed a procession and proceeded to Balurghat and besieged the town. However, this movement was crushed by the arrival of a large contingent of armed policemen with District Magistrate from Dinajpur.

The West Dinajpur district was further bifurcated in 1992 into Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur districts.