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Chapter:  Roots of Bengal
Author # Title:  Click to visit article
Bridge & Raymond Allchin
1 Excerpts from 'The Birth of Indian Civilization';  by  Penguin Books, 1968.
Presents a brief account of the ancient civilization in the eastern parts of India.
H Blochman 2 Partial reproduction of 'Blaev's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum';  Vol II (Amsterdam,1650) (Asiatic Society publication, 1968). 
It shows a fifteenth century, European conception of India.
H Blochman 3 Excerpts from 'Contributions to the Geography and History of Bengal: Part 1 - Geographical'; published in the Journals of the Asiatic Society, 1873 to 1875 (p.3-7 in the Asiatic Society publication, 1968).
This introductory note gives a fascinating account of the history of Bengal in the Mohammedan Period.
H Blochman 4 Excerpts from 'The Frontiers of Muhammadan Bengal' in 'Contributions to the Geography and History of Bengal: Part 1 - Geographical';published in the Journals of the Asiatic Society, 1873 to 1875 (p.12-35 in the Asiatic Society publication, 1968).
These excerpts - as an extension of #3 - describes the socio-political conditions in Bengal in the Mohammedan Period.
Samaren Roy 5 Calcutta: Society and Change: 1690 - 1990; "Towards Plassey"; Rupa & Co publishers, 1991.
This chapter of the book describes the gradual weakening of Mughal control over Bengal, and the relentless ascendancy of the Europeans.
Samaren Roy 6 Calcutta: Society and Change: 1690 - 1990; "The Bengal Army"; Rupa & Co publishers, 1991.
Describes the role of the Bengal Army in the ascendancy of Calcutta and the supersession of Madras in 1774 as the East India Company's headquarters in India, till the mutiny in 1857 which shattered the state of affairs.
Soumendranath Tagore 7 Excerpts from "Chapter X: Rammohun's impact on the Indian mind"; The Asiatic Society, 1975; page 96.
Presents a closing statement on Rammohun's impact on Bengal and Indian Renaissance.
  8 Chronological record of events taking place in Bengal and Calcutta from the early 16th century.
  9 Pop QUIZ on 'Roots of Bengal'
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CONTRIBUTIONS & ARTICLES:
1.   Excerpts from 'The Birth of Indian Civilization' by Bridget and Raymond Allchin;  Penguin Books,1968.
Page 19:
The civilization of India - that is to say of the area now comprising the modern states of India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Nepal - presents to the outside observer - be he casual or serious - a number of perplexing contrasts and problems. For example, there is on the one hand a sense of overriding unity throughout the whole sweep of her history, and on the other there is a baffling degree of local and regional variation ... 

Page 37:
The Eastern region consists of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta and its hinterland - Bengal . The first two regions (i.e. Western and Central regions) have supported city life and been centers of the trade and culture of North India since the time of Buddha (6th century BC) and probably considerably earlier. Evidence for the extension of the Harappan culture into the western Ganges basin is only now beginning to emerge. Archaeological finds however do suggest that settlement and city life began in the Western and central regions and later spread to Bengal. This is what one would expect, as the low-lying plains of Bengal with their high rainfall must originally have consisted of forests and marshes, which would have needed a considerable labour force, equipped with effective tools, to bring them under cultivation. The fertility of the alluvial soil, which now supports such a large population, must have made these areas more difficult to clear in the first place. The situation is probably analogous to that found in many parts of Europe where heavier and richer soils could not be, or were not, utilized until well into the Iron Age ... and by the fifth century the poet Kalidasa spoke of villages as 'a cock's flight' apart ...

Page 174:
... the western extensions of Bengal and parts of Orissa ...here, too, very little excavation has been done. At Kuchai, in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, a small excavation by B K Thapar of the Archaeological Survey revealed a deposit of stone axes, some rectangular form, along with coarse gritty red pottery, stratified above a Late Stone Age assemblage ...Early Historic levels in an excavation at Tamluk in West Bengal, along with ill-fired pottery (hitherto unpublished), and in the late Chalcolithic or early Iron Age levels in Pandu Rajar Dhibhi III and IV in the Ajay Valley, Burdwan District, West Bengal ...

Page 330:
... on the south-western extremities of the delta there are indications at Pandu Rajar Dhibi, Mahisadal and Tamluk of settlements predating the arrival of iron. It is interesting to note that rice seems to have played an important part in this growth of population and expansion during the first half of the millennium and the wide alluvial plains of the Ganges offered a most favourable environment for its cultivation ...

DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on July 25, 1998 

After reading Bridget and Allchin, I come away with the feeling that we really know very little of our past. Whereas there is a rich amount of material describing the Harappan civilization and Mohenjo Daro, and their effect on civilization in the Western, Central and the Southern regions of India, there seems to be very little about the civilization of the Eastern Region. I believe we could all learn more about our roots, if a few experts could share their knowledge and enlighten us about the early history of the Eastern Region in general, and the Bengal region in particular.

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2.   Partial reproduction of 'Blaev's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum', Vol II (Amsterdam, 1650), showing a fifteenth century, European conception of India.
DISCUSSIONS:

Comment # 1: Received from S. Mukherjee on July 25, 1998 

What could it really have been like, though ... I wonder...?

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3. Excerpts from 'Contributions to the Geography and History of Bengal : Part I - GEOGRAPHICAL', by H. Blochman,  published in the Journals of the Asiatic Society, 1873 to 1875 (p. 3-7 in the Asiatic Society publication, 1968)
Before the conquest of Bengal by the Muhammadans under Bakhtyar Khilji in A.D. 1203, Bengal is said to have been divided into five districts

(1) Rádha, the country west of the Húgli and south of the Ganges; 

(2) Bagdi, the delta of the Ganges; 

(3) Banga, the country to the east of, and beyond, the delta; 

(4) Barendra, the country to the north of the Padma (Podda) and between the Karataya and the Mahánandá rivers; and 

(5) Mithilá, the country west of the Mahánandá. 

We do not know whether these names refer to revenue districts, or merely indicate (as they now do) popular divisions based upon the course of popular rivers; but as the different orders of Bráhmans and Káyasths take their distinctive named from these divisions, it may be assumed that they existed or were recognized at the time of Ballál Sen, who classified the castes. 

The ease with which Bakhtyár Khilji took possession of Bengal by the surprise of Nadiyá (1)  , the then capital, stands unparalleled in history, unless we compare it with the almost peaceful transfer of the same country, five hundred years and fifty years later, from the Muhammadans to the East India Company. But it would be wrong to believe that Bakhtyar Khilji conquered the whole of Bengal: he merely took possession of the southeastern parts of Mithilá, Barendra, the northern portions of Rádha, and the northwestern tracts of Bagdi. This conquered territory received from its capital the name of Lak'hnauti, and its extent is described by the author of Tabaqát i Naçirí, who says that the country of the Lak'hnauti lies to both sides of the Ganges and consists of two wings: the eastern one is called Barendra, to which Deokot belongs; and the western has the name of ral (i.e. Rádha), to which Lakh'núr belongs. Hence the same writer also distinguishes Lak'hnauti-Deokot from Lak'hnauti-Lakhnúr. From the town of Lak'hnauti to Deokot on the other side, and from Lak'hnauti to the door of Lakhnúr, on the other side, an embanked road (pul) passes, ten days march. Distinct from the country of Lak'hnauti is Banga (diyár i Bang, Bangadesh, Tabaqát, p.267), and in this part of Bengal the descendants of Lak'hmaniyah kings of Nadiyá still reigned in A.H.658, or 1260 A.D., when Minháj i Siráj, the author of the Tabaqát, wrote his history(2)  of Deokot, which still gives name to a large parganah, was correctly identified by Buchanan with the old fort near Dinajpur, on the left bank of the Purnabhabha, south of Dínájpúr. Close to it lies Gangarámpur with its ruins, and the oldest Muhammadan inscription known in Bengal (3). Lakhnúr, the town or 'thanah' of the of the other 'wing', has not yet been identified. The name occurs in no Muhammaddan history after the time of the Tabaqát i Náçiri, and the only hint given is, that it lay west of the Hugli, on the road, at about the same distance from Lak'hnauti city as Deokot lay from the capital - which would be the northern portion of District Birbhum. 

Minhaj's remark that Banga was, in 1260, still in the hands of Lakhman Sen's descendants, is confirmed by the fact that Sunnárgáon is not mentioned in the Tabaqát; nor does it occur in the coins of the first century of Muhammadan rule. It is first mentioned in the Tarikhi i Barani as the residence, during Balban's reign, of an independant Rái; but under Tughlaq Sháh (A.D. 1323), Sunnárgáon and Sátgáon, which likewise appears for the first time, are the seats of the Muhammadan governors, the term 'Bangálah' being now applied to the united provinces of Lak'hnauti, Sátgáon and Sunnárgáon. (4) 

The Tárikh i Barani, the Tárikh i Firúzsháhi by Afif, and the Travels of Ibn Batútah yield but little additional information. Firúzábád, or Panduah (north of Máldahá, or Máldah) which General Cunningham sigificantly calls 'Hazrat Panduah', or 'Panduah, the Residence', appears as the new capital, and in connection with it Fort Ekdálah, said to be 'near Panduah'. The actual site of this fort is still a matter of doubt; even the author of Riyázussalátín, who lived in the neighbourhood of Máldah and Panduah, says nothing about it. (5) 

About 850 A.H. (A.D. 1446), during the reign of Náçiruddin Mahmúd Shah, the capital was transferred to Gaur. Thus Lak'hnauti is henceforth again called in history. The transfer, though it may have been connected with the restoration of an old dynasty, was unfortunate. Gaur lies in the middle between the Ganges and the Mahánandá, thus occupying, as is the case of all Deltaic lands, the lowest site; and east of it lies the Kallak Sajá marsh, called in the Áín, Chuttid-pattiá, into which the drainage of the town opened. Every increase in the waters of the Ganges caused the marsh, which is connected with it, to rise, and "if the [earthen] embankment broke, the town was under water", and the drainage was driven back into the town. Hence the removal of the capital, a short time afterwards, to Tándah (6) ,and the ultimate desertion of the town as fever centre for Rájmahall. 

The meagre information supplied by the Tabaqát i Nizámi and Firishtah throws no further light on the geography of Bengal, but leaves the impression that during the reigns of the independant kings (A.H. 739 to 944, or A.D. 1338 to 1538), the extent of Muhammadan Bengal was the same as what we find it in A.D. 1582, the year in which Todar Mall prepared his rent-roll of Bengal, a copy of which Abul Fazl has given in the Áín. 

The coins and inscriptions of the above period yield a few particulars. We have the seven Bengal mint towns given by Thomas, to which I can now add three more, viz. Fathábád, Khalífatábád, and Husainábád, which will be discussed below. The inscriptions reveal the important fact, that Bengal was divided into revenue divisions called Mahalls, over which, as in the Dihli empire, Shiqdars (7) were placed, and into larger circles under 'Sarlashkars', or military commanders, who have often also the title of Vazir (Diwan). Of places mentioned on inscriptions I may cite cite - Iqlim Mu'azzamábád (eastern Maimansingh); Thánah Láúr (north-western Silhat) - both occur also united under the same Sarlashkar); Sarhat, in Western Bírbhúm, now in the Santal Parganahs; Láopallah, east of the island in the Húglí opposite Tribení Ghát, evidently in olden times an important place as lying at the point where the Jamuná leaves the Húglí and commences her tortuous course, first easterly, then southerly, into the Sundarban (8)  ; and also several places which have not yet been identified, as Simlábád, Hádigarh and Sájlá-Mankhbád. (9)

From the middle of the 16th century we have works and maps of Portugese historians, notably the classical 'Da Asia' by Joao de Barros (died 1570); and the graphic descriptions of Caesar Frederick (1570) and Ralph Fitch (1583 to 1591). Nor must I forget the Persian traveller Amin Rází, an uncle of Núr Jahán, who composed his 'Haft Iqlim' in A. H. 1002 (A.D. 1594); but it is doubtful whether he visited Bengal, or merely wrote down what he heard at Ágrah. I shall occasionally refer to the works of these travellers below. (10)

But by far the most interesting contribution to the geography of Bengal, in spite of the unsatisfactory state of the MSS, is Todar Mall's rent-roll. Though of 1582, it may be assumed that Todar Mall merely gave in it what he found to exist with regard to both divisions and revenue.; for Bengal was only subjugated during Jahangir's reign, and properly assessed by Prince Shujá, a short time before 1658. In the Áín we find that Bengal proper was divided into 19 Sirkárs, and 682 Mahalls. Eight of the 19 Sirkars, and 204 of the 682 Mahalls, have Muhammadan names. The rent-roll included both the kháliçah ('genuine', vulgo khalsa) or crownlands, and the aqtá or jágír lands, i.e. lands assigned to officers in lieu of pay or maintenance of troops. The distribution of the Sirkárs depended, as in the old Hindu division, on the courses of the Padmáwati, Ganga and Brahmaputra, as will be seen from the following list of Sirkars. 

(End of contribution: If you wish to get more details of the remaining part of this publication, please mailto:sankalpatrust@hotmail.com or use the feedback form)

Author's original footnotes for this portion: Return to top of contribution 

1. Lak'hman Sen, the last king of Bengal, though called king, cannot have been much more than the principal zamindar of his time."He was a liberal man," says the author of the Tabaqát, "and never gave less than a lak'h of cowries, when he made a present - may God lessen his punishment in hell!" 

2. Tabaqát Náciri, p 151. Thus an expedition against Banga by the governor of Lak'hnauti is mentioned in 657, Tabaqát Náciri, p 267. 

3. Major Raverty, of whose translation of the Tabaqát two fasciculi have just appeared, informs me that all his best best MSS have Lak'hnúr ... and it was no doubt the last spelling that led Stewart to substitute Nágor (in western Birbhum}, which certainly lies in the direction indicated. Outside the Maratha wall of Nágor, we have Lak'hipúr and a Lak'hináráyanpúr. 

4. Barani, p 452. He spells Satgáon, not Sátgáon. It is alsmost useless to remark on the geography of Bengal as given in the Taqabát before the appearence of Major Raverty's translation, who has collated nearly all existing MSS of the work. The Bibliotheca Indica is untrustworthy. Taking it, however, as it is, we find the following places mentioned : Núdiyah, in this spelling, for Nadiyá; Lak'hnauti, Banga; Rál (Rádha); Barendra; Lak'hnúr; Deokot' Nárkoti (?), pp 180,243; Bangáon,. pp 153; Fort Bishnokot, founnded by Husámuddin 'Iwaz near Lak'hnauti, pp 180,243. Besides these, a few places are mentioned on the frontiers of Bengal, as Kámrúd (always with this spelling) for Kámrúp; Jagannáth (Púri) ?; and a few places in Asám or Tibbat, p.263.; and Jájnagar, regarding which vide below. 

The Tárikhi i Firishtah furnishes the isolated fact of the foundation of Rangpúr by Bakhtyár Khilji on the frontier of Bengal (Lucknow Edition, p. 293). 

5. Mr. Thomas compares with Ekdálah the name 'Jagdula', a village east of Hazrat Panduah, towards the Púrnábhabha. The Indian Atlas Sheet No. 119 also mentions a village Jagdal due north of Máldahá, near the Mahánandá, in Lat. 25º 17' 30", and a 'Jugdul' and a 'Jugdal' will be found south east of Gaur, Long. 88º 28', Lat. 24º 42'. Even in other parts the name is common; for Jagdal is the Bengali 'Jogoddul', 'a leaf of the world', the world being the lotus, and each town a petal of it. Another Ekdálah will be found on the same sheet, south-east of Bogra (Bagurá), Long. 89º 40' 30", Lat. 24º 35' 45", and a third is in Rájsháhi, a little south-west of Nátor. The name seems to be the Bengali 'having one wing'; and Dodalá 'having two wings', occurs likewise as a name of villages. 

6. Rennel marks 'Tarah' near the Paglá River (a branch of the Ganges and perhaps the old bed of the river), south-west of the fort of Gaur, "Tanda standeth from the river Ganges a league, because in times past the river flowing over the banks in time of raine did drowne the countrey and many villages, and so they do remaine. And the old way the river Ganges was wont to run, remain drie, which is the occasion that the citie doeth stand so farre from ther water." Ralph Fitch. 

The losses of Akbar's Bengal army in Gaur will be found in my Áín translation, p. 376. 

7. How extensively the Hindus were employed as revenue officers may be seen from the fact that the Arabic-Persian Shiqdár and Majmu'ahdár have become Bengali family names, generally spelt 'Sikdar' and 'Mozoomdar'. 

8. The island opposite Tribeni has a conspicuous place on De Barros' map of Bengal and on that by Blaev. The maps also agree with Ablul Fazl's statement in the Áín, that at Tribeni there are three branches, one on the Saraswati, on which Sátgáon lies; the other the Ganga, now called Hugli; and the third, the Jon or Jabuná (Jamuná). De Barros and Blaev's maps shew the three branches of almost equal thickness, the Saraswati passing Satigam (Sátgáon), and Chouma (Chaumuhá in Húglí District, north), and the Jabuná flowing westwards to Buram (Borhan, in the 24 Parganahs) 

9. Journal, A. S. Bengal, 1870, Pt. I, p. 284 

10. I have not mentioned Nicoló de Conti's Travels (1419 to 1444, A.D.), because he only mentions one town in Bengal, Cernove on the Ganges, which Col. Yule has identified with the 'Shahr i Nau' or 'New Town' on Sikandar Sháh's coin of 1379 (Thomas, In. Coinage of Bengal, Journal, A.S. Bengal, 1867, p.65); but the position of the town is still a matter of doubt. 
 

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4. Excerpts from 'The Frontiers of Muhammadan Bengal' in 'Contributions to the Geography and History of Bengal: Part 1 - Geographical', by H. Blochman,   published in the Journals of the Asiatic Society, 1873 to 1875 (p. 12-35 in the Asiatic Society publication, 1968) 
Abulfazel estimates the breadth of Bengal from Garhí to Chatgáon at four hundred kos. From north to south, the longest line was from Koch Bihár to Chittuá in Surkáar Medinipur. "The zamindárs are mostly Kayasths." Not a word is said on the strength of the Muhammadan population, or the progress of Islám - comparative statistics were not thought of in his age. The remark made by old English travelers that the inhabitants of the islands and the coast of south-eastern Bengal were chiefly Muhammadans, and the uncertain legend regarding the introduction, in the beginning of the 16th century, of Islamic rites into Cháatgáon by Nuçrat Sháh are the only allusions that I have seen on the subject. Neither history nor legends allude to the conversions among the semi-aboriginal rural population, that must on a large scale have taken place during the reigns of independent kings of Bengal, chiefly, no doubt, through the exertions of the numerous Afghán Jágirdárs.

The military and naval power of the country is fixed at 23,330 horse, 4,260 guns, 1,170 elephants and 4,400 boats. In Nawáb Ja'far's rent-roll, however, the strength of the naval establishment (nawárá) consisted of 768 armed cruisers and boats, which were principally stationed at Dháká, to guard the coast against the Mags and foreign pirates; and the number of sailors included 923 Firingis, chiefly employed as gunners. The annual charges of the navy, including construction and repairs, was fixed at Rs. 843,452, which was levied under the name of 'amalah i nawárá from parganahs in South-Eastern Bengal. The same rent-roll mentions that the garrisons along the whole eastern frontier from Chátgáon to Rángámáti on the Brahmaputra consisted of 8,112 men (ahshám), who cost Rs. 359,180 per annum.

Of the roads in Bengal we have no information prior to Van den Broucke's map (1690) in Valentyn's work. He marks a principal road passing over Patna, Munger and Rajmahall to Suti, where the Bhagirathi leaves the Ganges. From here a branch went to Moxudabath (Murshidabad), Plassi (Palasi) and Hagdia (Agardip), crossed the Bhagirathi for Gadia pore, and passed on to Bardwan, Medinipur, Bhadrak and Katak. The other branch went from Suti along the right bank of the Podda to Fathabad, from where it passed to Dhaka ...

The Western Frontier:
In the north-west, the frontier of Bengal extended but little beyond the Kosi River ; but under some of the early Muhammedan Governors and the independent kings, the Bengal Empire included all upper Bihar north of the Ganges as far as Saran. Of Ilyas Shah, for example, it is asserted that he was founder of Hajipur, opposite Patna, on the Ghandak, although Firuz Shah, on his return from Bengal, appointed for the first time Imperial collectors in Tirhut. Sikandar Shah's coins, again, have been found far west of the Kusi.

Southern Bihar only belonged to Bengal from the time of the conquest of Bakhtiyar Khilji to about 730 A.H. (A.D. 1330), when Muhammad Tughluq annexed it to Dihli. From A.D. 1397, the whole of Bihar belonged to the kingdom of Jaunpur ... It is not clear how far the Afghan chiefs depended on Husain Shah of Bengal, whom inscriptions represent firmly established in 903 at Munger, while other inscriptions from Bonhara and Cheran (near Saran) would lead us to conclude that the whole Upper Bihar and the western portions of Souther Bihar belonged to him in A.D. 1502. On the other hand, we hear in history of the cession by Husain Shah of Bihar, Saran and Tirhut, and of the reconquest of these lands by Nucrat Shah ...

South of the Ganges, the western frontier is better defined. Fort Taliagarh, or Garhi, near K'halgaon (Colgong) on the Ganges, was looked upon as the entrance, or key, to Bengal - a position which the Muhammadan historians compare with that of Fort Sahwan on the Indus, the key of Sindh. From Garhi the frontier passed along the Ganges to the south of Ag-Mahall (Raj Mahall), when it again turned westward to north-western Birbhum, passing along the boundary of the modern Santal Parganahs to the confluence of the Barakar and the Damudar, from where it went along the left bank of the Damudar to the neighbourhood of the town of Burdwan ...

The boundary excludes the whole of the Santal Parganahs from the south of K'halgaon to the Barakar, Pachet and the territory of the Rajahs of Bishnupur (Bankura). In vain do we look in Santalia for Muhammadan names of villages and towns; and though there can be no doubt that the Muhammaden kings of Bengal tried to hold parts of the hills by establishing thannahs and appointing jagirholders, no permanent settlements were formed ...

The Southern Frontier: The southern frontier of Muhammedan Bengal was the northern outskirt of the Sunderbans, which extended, generally speaking, in the same manner almost as it does now, from Hatagarh, south of Diamond Harbour on the Hugli to Bagerhat in southern Jessore and to the Horingotta (or Deer-shore river); i.e. along the southern mahalls of Sirkars Satgaon and Khalifatabad ... Tiparah, Bhaluah, Noakhali and District Chatgaon were contested ground, of which the Rajahs of Tiparah and Ararkan were, at least before the 17th century, oftener masters than the Muhammadans. It was only after the transfer of the capital from Rajmahall to Dhaka, that the south-east frontier of Bengal was extended to the Phani River, which was the imperial frontier till the beginning of Aurangzib's reign, when Chatgaon was permanently conquered, assessed and annexed to 'Subah Bangalah' ...

Abulfazl says that there were in Sirkar Fathabad three classes of zamindars, which perhaps refers to the independent Afghan, Hindu and Portugese chiefs ...

The province of Chatgaon was no secure possession, and seems to have been alternately in the hands of the kings of Bengal, the Rajahs of Tiparah, and the kings of the Arakan. In A.D. 1350, it belonged to king Fakhruddin of Sunnargaon ... About 1407, again, the king Meng-tsau-mwun fled to Bengal ... ultimately restored but became a tributary to the king of Thu-ra-tan ... In 1512, Chatgaon was conquered by the Rajah of Tiparah, who drove away Husain Shah's garrison ... It is not known how the district was lost again; but during the troubles of Sher Shah's revolution, the Mughal invasion, the aggression of the Portugese and the Bengal Military Revolt, Chatgaon did not belong to Bengal ...

The Eastern Frontier:The invasions of the Assamese were as numerous as the inroads of the Muhammadans into Assam, which had commenced under the succesors of Bakhtyar Khilji. During the reigns of Rajah Kans and his son, the Assamese under Chudapangha (AD 1414 to 1425) conquered north-eastern Bengal as far as the Karataya; and as about the same time Jaunpur was at the height of its power, successfully encroaching on the western frontier, and the Rajahs of Tiparah made likewise invasions, we may assume that Bengal under the kings of the Kans dynasty was most circumscribed. With the restoration of the Illyas Shahi dynasty (about AD 1440) and the gradual downfall of Jaunpur, Bengal recovered her ancient limits, and entered upon her most flourishing period ...

The Northern Frontier: From Bhitarband, near the bend of the Brahmaputra, and in later times from Gauhatti in Kamrup over K'hontag'hat, the frontier passed along the southern portions of Koch Bihar to Mahall Patgaon, or Patgram (west of Koch Bihar), which is mentioned by Mughal historians as the frontier-town in the extreme north, and from there along the foot of the hills and the forests of Sikkim and Nepal to the northern portions of Purniah District. Thus by far the greater portion of what is now-a-days called the Koch Bihar Division, did not belong to Bengal ...

The Rajahs of North Bengal were powerful enough to preserve a semi-independence in spite of the numerous invasions from the time of Bakhtiyar Khilji, when Debkot, near Dinajpur, was looked upon as the most important military station towards the north. During the 15th century, the tract north of Rangpur was in the hands of the Rajahs of Kamata ... Buchanan estimates the circumference of Kamatpur at nineteen miles; the palace - as in the case of Burmese and Chinese towns - stands in the centre. History informs us that Kamata was invaded, about 1498 AD, by Husain Shah, and legend states that the town was destroyed and Nilamba, the last Kamata Rajah, was taken prisoner ... The Kamata family was succeeded by the Koch dynasty, to which the present Maharajah of Koch Bihar belongs. The new Rajahs secured their possessions by erecting a line of fortifications along the boundary, many of which are still in excellent preservation ...

The prevalence of human sacrifices in Koch Bihar is known from the Ain. The Haft Iqlim has the following:

"There is a cave in this country, which according to the belief of the people, is the residence of a Deo. The name of the Deo is Ai, and the people are zealous in their worship. Once a year they have a feast, when they kill all sorts of animals found in the country, believing that the meritoriousness of the slaughter comes from Ai. They likewise kill on the same day the Bhogis, who are a class of men that have devoted their lives to Ai, saying Ai has called them. From the time they become Bhogis, they may do what they like; every woman is at their command, but after one year they are killed."

Aurangzib's army under Mir Jumlah took Koch Bihar on the 19th December 1661, when the town was called 'Alamgirnagar' - a name which has not come into use ... On Van den Broucke's map, the whole Himalayan tract, from northern Bihar to Assam, is called "T Ryk van Ragiawarra,' or the realms of Rajawara and in the text he says that "Ragiawara consists of several separate countries, which sometimes fight the Great Moghul, and at other times are forced to submit ..."

Blaev's Map of Bengal and of the Mughal Empire The map of Upper India by William and John Balev is taken from their "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum", Amsterdam, 1645 to 1650, Vol. II, and is based upon the Portugese and Dutch charts that existed at the time, and upon the descriptions of European travellers ...

From a glance at the map, it will be seen that our early geographers had no information of the extent and situation of the countries which we now-a-days call the Central Provinces and Chutia Nagpur. Hence Gwalior, Narwar and (on Van Der Broucke's map) Malwa, bound Bengal on the west; the Santal mountains are continued eastwards to meet the Assam montainchains, and places belonging to the Central Provinces have been put north of Bengal ...

[Reminder from Essem: This presentation is only an extract. Please read the full article for a more comprehensive understanding of the subject.] 
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5.   Excerpts from 'Calcutta : Society and Change: 1690 - 1990; "Towards Plassey", by Samaren Roy'; Rupa & Co. 1991; pages 14 to 22
Job Charnock's settlement at Kalikata on August 24, 1690, started that village on the path of growth into a metropolis. Kalikata and its adjoining villages of Sutanati and Govindapur had existed previously. The Sabarna Roy Choudhury's were entrusted with rent collection in the three villages, and probably the area around, for which purpose they built a kutchery, an adjoining tank and a temple to Shyam Rai at Laldighi in Kalikata.

All these events happened in the earlier part of the 17th century, that is, after Akbar had annexed Bengal to the Moghul Empire in the latter part of the 16th century and Jahangir had consolidated the empire in the early 17th. The settlement of Basaks and Setts, Yogi Chowringhee and his disciple Janga Giri who worshipped Kali in Govindapur, and the spot on the bank of the Adi Ganga where the present Kali temple is situated are all pre-Moghul.

Though the reason given by the Senas for moving the capital from Gaur to Navadwip was the greater sanctity of the latter, almost all the temples at Nabadwip were built subsequent to the transfer of the capital. The rulers presumably wanted a tighter control on trade than was possible from Lakhnauti. It could be more effective from a location downstream. The shift of the capital in its turn could push trading groups further south and further downstream. There are references to Satgaon having become a trading center early in the 14th century long before Vasco Da Gama had rounded the Cape of Good Hope and arrived at Calicut on May 2, 1498.

One of the descendants of Lakshikanta Dhar, one of the oldest Suvarna Banik families resident in the metropolis, does contend that his ancestors came to Satgaon and thence to Sutanati to escape the tyranny of Balai Sen, who ruled Bengal in the twelfth century. So do the (De) Mullicks. We have seen the persecution suffered by another trading community, the Jews, in Nazi Germany who dispersed to distant places. The story is plausible. Some other Suvarna Banik families might have settled in one of the riverside villages at about the same time, the Setts and the Basaks in particular.

Portugese vessels sailed up the Hooghly for the first time around around A.D. 1510, for a year later they were in Indonesia. Other dates mentioned about the Portugese visiting the Calcutta region are 1517 and 1537. They had a permanent trading settlement at Hugli to serve the port at Bandel by 1540. They made converts and though they were expelled by the Shahjahans in 1632, the converts were numerous enough to enable them to rebuild the church at Bandel within 60 years of its destruction.

Before the Portugese, the trading communities on the Hooghly were the Chinese, the Arabs and the Malays. While those converted by the Portugese became a permanent component of Calcutta's population - they built themselves a large church in 1707 - there are no relics of the Chinese and Arab connections. The present Chinese population dates back to the 19th century. The Arabs, as also the Malays and the Abyssinians, intermarried with local Muslims and are no longer distinguishable. Many Arabic words have however entered the Bengali language. Bandel, 40 km upstream of Calcutta, for instance, is a mispronunciation of the Arabic word for port, bandar. Nao for boat and paisa for a low denomination coin are everyday words of Porugese origin ...

So far, we have been considering groups from outside the Indian subcontinent. The earliest people to come to Calcutta from other parts of the subcontinent were from Gujarat - Hindus, Muslims and Parsis. They wre seafarers and traders whose interests extended from East Africa to China long before Calcutta became a mercantile center. Moghul records of traders at Hugli list them along with those from other countries. Some members of the Sett families, who had settled at Sutanati and Govindapur, claim to be Gujaratis. In Calcutta, Parsis and Ismailis (Gujarati Muslims) built themselves institutions to meet their ritual needs. For Indians, Calcutta was successor to Hugli, and the older non-Bengali families in the city came here from Hugli, Azimgaj, Murshidabad and adjoining areas. These were Agarwals and Oswals, trading groups who for generations had also participated in administration, and had come from Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for trade as well as to man administrative services.

A corresponding group was of the Khatris from Punjab, who were to be found in the armed forces, civilian posts, as well as trade. One of the earliest Khatri families to have administrative responsibilities were the Mahrajas of Burdwans who were entrusted with the maintenance of mud forts on the Hooghly, at Mettiabruz and Tana to keep out pirates. This assignement was around 1698. Khatri became the dominant trading group till the start of jute mills in 1860.

Buying of jute from farmers involved a certain amount of money lending. The Marwaris were good at this, for some had been advancing money to the growers of opium against the expected crop. The jute mills needed men to work the looms, and these people were recruited mostly from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, but at least two of the mills had their entire workforce from as distant a place as Tamil Nadu.

Huzrurimull, who rendered succour to the British in 1756 when Siraj-ud-dowla had stromed Calcutta, was the earliest Sikh to attain eminence in the city.

Between 1740 and 1750, when the Marathas roamed over Midnapore, Burdwan and Birbhum, it became apparent that the Mughals had been so weakened by Nadir Shah's sack of Delhi in 1739, that they could no longer excercise any effective authority in Bengal. Nadir Shah had extracted and extorted so much money form Emperor Muhammad Shah and his nobles that the Mughals had no resources left to control recalcitrant potentates.

From 1722 onwards, the hereditary governors of the Deccan and Oudh had for all practical purposes become independent, though both did go to Delhi with troops to fight Nadir Shah.

For its functioning, the Empire was wholly dependent on tribute remitted from Gujarat and Bengal; these remittances were probably customs duties in the two maritime provinces. Even at the time of Nadir Shah's invasion, Jagat Seth of that time had to underwrite the ransoms of several nobles.

While in 1632 Shahjahan was able to expel the Portugese permanently, and Shaista Khan in 1688 had been able to temporarily banish the English, no longer after 1740 could the Mughals take such decisive action. Significantly, the Emperor was no longer represented by a member of the royal family, as it had been earlier. From 1717 onwards, the governorship of Bengal, which included Orissa and Bihar, had been entrusted to Murshed Quli Khan's family - the Nizamat.

Ill defined as the position was, it depended on the Nawab Nazim's personality and assertion. Because the Deccan Nizams and the Nawab Nazims of Oudh in irregular terms, and often through members of their families, held the office of the Wazir, the Bengal Nizamat did not enjoy the same status as the corresponding dynastic offices in the Deccan and Oudh. The position of the Nazims in Bengal was further weakened by the absence of direct male successors, which both the Deccan and Oudh families had.

Murshed Quli Khan willed his grandson (Sarfaraj) by a daughter to succeed him, but another daughter's husband (Shuja-ud-din Muhammad Khan) seized the office. The next sucession issue occured after Nadir Shah's incursion and was settled by violence in which Alivardi Khan, backed by Jagat Seth, whose influence in Delhi was considerable, came to power. On Shuja-ud-din's death (March 1739), his nephew, Sarfaraj, the former claimant was killed in the battle of Giria on April 10, 1740, by Alivardi Khan.

The next succession dispute in Bengal occured in 1756, 8 months before another foreign incursion - Ahmed Shah Abdali's sack of Delhi. Two grandsons, both by daughters, were contenders for the Nizamat. Siraj-ud-dowla, being ensconced at the headquarters, felt secure enough not to solicit an imperial sanad. There was probably not enough money in his treasurey to tender the customary Nazar. The way he collected money from the French at Chandernagore, and the Dutch at Chinsurah a little later, could be out of neccessity and not greed. Besides, nominees of the Deccan and Oudh families were fighting a minor around Delhi for the Wazarat.

Shaukat Jung, son of the other daughter based at Purnea, made ample concessions to the axiom that possession is nine-tenths of law. He sent an emmisary to Delhi with the promise of a remittance of a crore of rupees ... that is to the person who won the war, for the Wazarat. In spite of the fact that the sword was the arbiter of most disputes, legitimacy could not be ignored. 

Even Nadir Shah seeking the hand of a Mughal princess, and asked to furnish his genealogy, could not escape the fact that the fountainhead of all legitimate rights in India was the Mughal Emperor. Though in the genealogy he furnished, the seven generations previous to him were mentioned as "the sword" he could not depose the Mughal Emperor he had defeated, nor usurp his throne. He took the peacock throne as booty, but left Muhammad Shah secure as Emperor.

Siraj, retaliating against acts of defiance by the English, marched to Calcutta and stormed it. The acts of defiance were fortifications which he demolished, and giving asylum to Raj Ballav Sen and his son, Krishnadas. On his reaching Calcutta, he had Krishnadas produced before him, but only to invest him with a robe of honour.

Within three months of the death of his grandfather, Alivardi Khan, the 22-year old Siraj had captured Calcutta and extracted rupess three and a half lakhs from the French at Chandernagore, and rupees four and a half lakhs from the Dutch at Chinsurah. At Calcutta, he found only fifty thousand. He could not outbid his cousin, who had promised a crore to the Emperor, by an actual payment.

So Siraj marched towards Purnea, and Shaukat Jung on his part set out to capture Murshidabad. In a battle of October 16, 1756 Shaukat Jung was killed and all local rivalries ended. The payment to the Emperor was no longer pressing, but the year of destiny, 1757, began ominously.On January 2nd, 1757, the English had re-captured Calcutta, and the same month, Ahmad Shad Abdali, marching down from Kabul, captured Delhi. The Khutba had been read in his name in the Jama Masjid at Delhi, which meant that Abdali could become the Emperor. There were reports that the Afghan had been invited by the Delhi Muslims to offset chances of the Marathas taking over the Mughal Empire.

Under these circumstances, Siraj had to be circumspect. In February, he was ready to negotiate with the English, but the latter, during the recapture of Calcutta, were convinced that guns mounted on ships were - within their range - more effective than land-based artillery.The recoil did not involve as long an interruption in the firing.

Some of the the potentates at Siraj's court were negotiating with the English. The most important of these were Mir Jafar, who was a General, as well as married to the step-sister of Alivardi Khan. In the absence of a direct male decendant of Alivardi Khan, Mir Jafar's right to the Nizamat's succession was only one step removed form that of Siraj and Shaukat Jung. As Siraj had established his claim by victory in batlle, so would Mir Jafar, and as it turned out this decisive battle was fought by the English at Plassey on June 23, 1757. Even the source of conferment of subsequent legitimacty was vague; it could be the Mughal Emperor, it could be Ahmad Shah Abdali, or the latter's nominee, Najib-ud-dowla.

Clive and Watson sailed up the river, capturing Chandernagore from the French on March 20, after a seige of 10 days, and then defeating Siraj-uddowla at Plasey on June 23. Mir Jafar kept his troops out of the engagement, and after Siraj's murder nine days later, was made the Nawab Nazim. Later the Emperor ratified the appointment, but Mir Jafar's first term as Nawab Nazim ended in October 1760. The imperial confirmation was not forthright, for at first Khadim Hussain at Purnea and then Prince Aly Gohar were also appointed Nawab Nazim. The Prince's claim to the office automatically ended with the murder of Alamgir II by Wazir Ghazi-ud-din. Prince Aly Gohar was crowned Emperor Shah Alam II at Patna in 1759, and left for upcountry places to obtain military assistance from the Nawabs of Oudh, who were rivals of the Deccan Nizam family. Shuja-ud-dowla was appointed the Wazir.

French naval and military power had been eliminated in 1757, but the Dutch were still a factor. Most of the zamindars were reluctant to accept Mir Zafar, who in order to meet his financial obligations to the Company and bribe its officials, was demanding excessive payments from them. For a time, Mir Jafar seems to have entertained offers of Dutch assistance, but the latter were defeated by the English at the Battle of Bedara on November 25, 1759.

Meanwhile, the British had begun intrigues with his son-in-law, Mir Kasim, and started negotiations with Mir Jafar for the installation of the son-in-law as the Deputy Subadar as well as the removal of three persons from their posts as advisor to the Nawab Nazim. Utlimately, Mir Jafar stepped down in favour of his son-in-law and took residence at Alipore, where the Agri-Horticultural Society's Gardens were subsequently located. Mir Kasim did not get on well with the English, because he abolished duties on native boats plying on the Ganga to be on par with the boats of the Company and its officials. In July 1763, the English removed Mir Kasim and brought back Mir Jafar.

Changes in the Nizamat of Bengal had ignored the Mughal Emperor and in October 1764, Shah Alam and his Wazir Shuja-ud-dowla marched into Bihar to enforce imprerial authority. The English Company defeated the Wazir's army at the battle of Buxar and within a year of the engagement, Shah Alam entrusted the Dewanee or the collection of revenue of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the Company.

Other links to works of historical interest on Bengal and Calcutta:
Excerpts from 'Contributions to the Geography and History of Bengal: Part 1 - Geographical', by H Blochman  
Calcutta : Society and Change: 1690 - 1990; "Introduction"; ; by Samaren Roy 
Calcutta : Society and Change: 1690 - 1990; "Growth of the Metropolis"; by Samaren Roy
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6.   Excerpts from 'Calcutta : Society and Change: 1690 - 1990; "The Bengal Army" , by Samaren Roy'; Rupa & Co. 1991; pages 39 to 47
The Bengal Army was one of the two factors contributing to Calcutta superseding Madras in 1774 as the East India Company's headquarters in India. The other was more land and hence availability of more revenue in Calcutta than Madras. The two were interconnected, for more revenue meant ability to recruit and maintain a larger army than it could at Madras or Bombay. The larger Bengal Army in its turn enabled the Company to expand its territory faster than from Madras or Bombay, each of which had its own army. The three armies were merged and placed under one Commander-in-Chief as late as 1893. Lord Roberts, the first C-in-C of the army in India, had served in the Bengal Army. The soldier who later distinguished himself as the Duke of Wellington belonged to the Madras Army, and Lord Napier to the Bombay Army. Neither of them enjoyed overall command of the (British) Army in India. Similarly, Warren Hastings from the Bengal cadre became the first Governor-General. Lord Roberts had been born in Calcutta.

Elsewhere, the details of the expansion of the jurisdiction of Fort William at Calcutta have been given - three adjoining villages in 24 Parganas in 1698; rent collection rights in three zillas in 1760; and extension of the same rights over three subas, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, in 1765. After 1760, the revenue raised in Bengal could pay for the Company's purchases in India, China and Indonesia without remittances in bullion from Britain. These purchases were sold in Europe, earning handsome profits for the Company, larger than before.

Yet the Bengal Army was not the first to be raised by the Company. The first units were raised at Madras for fighting in the Carnatic. In fact, the battle of Plassey was fought and won with troops from Madras and for a long time British Indian soldiers were derogatorily called Telengani. Out of the money Mir Jafar paid for being proclaimed Nawab Nazim, the company raised at Calcutta a 5000-strong force consisting mainly of Hindustanis - men from Bihar and Oudh

The Mughal imperial army became unimportant during the succession disputes bewteen 1712 and 1720 ... Moghul territory had shrunk throughout Bengal, Oudh and in the Deccan. The Maratha confederacy had already established principalities in the western and central parts of the erstwhile Mughal terrtories at Gwalior, Indore, Baroda and Nagpur ...

In 1742, Alivardi Khan raised an army to resist Maratha raiders. At Patna, he recruited Brahmins, Rajputs and Shaibzada Muslims, descendants of pre-Moghul settlers. At Purnea, he recruited Pathans who had ruled Bengal till the last quarter of the 16th century. This might be considered the start of the Bengal Army. Alivardi Khan died in 1756, while the Deccan and Oudh families were fighting around Delhi for tha Wazarat. The following year, Ahmad Shah Abdali sacked Delhi.

Alivardi Khan's army disintegrated after the historic defeat at Plassey and Siraj-ud-dowla's death, but Mir Kasim reorganized it under an Armenian General and equipped it with artillery. He also provided it with means to engage arms. He engaged Walter Rheinhart, a German, to train his army. After a few initial successes against the British, however, the army was not tested, since Mir Kasim quit the Nizamat.

By the time the next historic battle of Buxar was fought, the Bengal Army of the British was 5,000-strong, trained along the European system of warfare. Between 1761 and 1893, the Bengal Army went on expanding. It first defeated the Marathas and then the Sikhs, both these armies having been trained by European soldirs of fortune. Having defeated the Marathas, the Burmese, the Gurkhas, and the Sikhs, and having held Afghanistan under occupation for two years, the Bengal Army felt confident of taking on any opponent.

Recruiment to the Bengal Army was open to all, although most came from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Each battalion had around 400 men - Brahmins, Rajputs and Muslims, but there were no denominational companies. The composition of the companies was mixed, which over the years developed a nationalist feeling - Indian! Other ranks having reservations assumed the characteristics of resentment led to the Mutiny. Indians from good families and educated in Persian, the Companies official language till 1835, joined as havildars and acted as sergeants to their companies. After a period, they were commissioned to act as second in command of a company as jamadars. The company commander used to be a subedar. The highest position to which an Indian could rise was that of subedar-major, who functioned as the Indian officer commanding the battalion. At all levels there were British officers who had the command of platoons, companies and battalions, and were treated as seniors to their Indian counterparts. The same system was followed in the cavalry, artillery and engineers units, though the designations were different. Only one Indian, English-knowing, rose to be a major, and that was immediately after the Mutiny, when the Queen's proclamation had opened all careers to Indian talent ... but was retired lest he command British juniors.

Till the Mutiny, a third of the Bengal Army was recruited from three districts of Bihar - Sahabad, Saran and Patna - which till 1912 were parts of Bengal. The nomenclature, Bengal Army, derived as much from the main area of enlistment as from the administrative agency which paid for it. Barrackpore, north of Calcutta, was the first headquarters of the Bengal Army for British troops garrisoned at Fort William within the city. The first frontier cantonment of the army was at Berhampore, further north of Calcutta, and from where a watch could be maintained on the Nazim's troops at Murshidabad and Purnea. After the battle of Buxar, another cantonment was built at Danapur to guard any incursion from the Nawab Wazir of Oudh, who was the solitairy potentate in the Ganga basin having an army.The Moghul Emperor, Shah Alam II, had none of his own, being a fugitive at Allahabad.

Mir Jafar had paid for the first five thousand men in the Bengal Army; the rulers of Oudh and Hyderabad paid for its subsequent enlargement ... In due course the Bengal Army was quartered at Chunar Fort and Benares to prevent a Martha raid from Nagpur, at Allahabad to prevent one from Jhansi and at Farrukhabad to quieten the Rohillas.Then Farrukhabad became a very large cantonment till Meerut was established as a larger station to dwarf the Maratha military centre at Aligarh.Still later, Rawalpindi became the Bengal Army's largest cantonment to guard against a Russian invasion through Afganisthan.

No Oudh contingent of the Bengal Army was formally constituted, but two extensive and rich areas - Allahabad and Kara - were ceded to the Company for the maintenance of the large military establishment of the Bengal Army for the defence of Oudh. Similarly territory was given to the Company for cantonments of the Bengal Army at Bareilly and Shaharanpur. Ringed as Oudh was by these cantonments, the last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah could be easily deposed in 1856.

The Nizam of Hyderabad felt threatened by the Marathas and let the Company raise units of the Bengal Army for the defence of his territory, after dismissing the French officers in his employment. The Hyderabad contingent of the Bengal Army continued to the name and be of near brigade strength till the outbreak of World War II.

Sikh principalities east of the Sutlej feared incorporation into the Punjab, which had a large army trained by European soldiers of fortune. When they entered into an alliance with the Company for the protection of their territories, the Bengal Army established a cantonment at Ambala. It was at this stage that the Sikhs and the Gurkhas were enlisted individually into the Bengal Army. After the Sikh wars and annexation of the Punjab and the Afghan interludes, the Bengal Army was restive.

Nothing like the Bengal Army had existed before in India's long history. More territory had accrued to the Company for the protection assured to ruling houses by the Army than by conquest. Armies trained by Europeans had been humbled by it. In its nineties, the Bengal Army was aware and proud of its achievements ...

The Bengal Army mutinied in 1857 throughout the country wherever its unit was not outnumbered by British and other units. These latter -the others - were mostly units of defeated Sikh Army absorbed in the Company's forces, Gurkha units recruited for the Cis-Sutlej Sikh principalities and local irregulars raised on the North-West Frontier. Where a unit of the Bengal Army was outnumbered it had to submit to being disarmed, as at Barrackpore and at Peshawar and other places on the Frontier. At cantonments on the fringes of the Bengal Army, the Madras and the Bombay Armies were used to quell the Mutiny.

In Oudh, which was ringed by units of the Bengal Armay, the outbreak was most ferocious, and the troops lent by Nepal were used against the mutineers. Lucknow and Delhi were the two centers of high drama and prolonged sieges. The siege at Delhi was conducted by mutineers marching to the Mughal capital from Meerut and Bareilly. Mostly Sikh and a sprinkiling of Gurkha troops were used by the British to regain Delhi.

The units of the Bengal Army were not the only ones to mutiny, for then the uprising would have confined to cantonments and the focal points like Delhi, where the last Moghul Emperor (then not even a titular emperor) lived, and Lucknow, where a descendant of the Nawab Wazirs had been deposed only a year earlier. In 1784, Shah Alam II has sought the protectuion of the Marathas and conferred a nominal Wazarat on the Peshwa and the actual administration of whatever territory was left to him, to Madhaji Scindia, a member of the Maratha confederacy. Nana Sahib, whom the British had denied succession to the gaddi of the Peshwa, lived at Bithur near Cawnpore and provided a third rallying point. At the Scindia seat of Gwalior, only the unit of the Bengal Army posted there had mutineed.

In spite of the paucity of focal points - even the cantonments were far and few apart - the Mutiny turned into a popular upsurge throughout the countryside from Delhi and Gwalior in the west to Assam in the east. Landlords and peasants participated in it. Of course, the movement was stronger in areas whence men had enlisted in the Bengal Army.

The Mutiny changed the composition of the Bengal Army. No longer were Indians to be enlisted into the artillery, and engineer units were turned into sappers and miners. The cavalry was to be recruited entirely from the Punjab and the North West Frontier. None from Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, the recruitng areas of the Bengal Army, was acceptable to the Army any more. The units which had mutineed and disbanded were replaced by Sikhs, other Punjabis and the Gurkhas. That testifies to a national awakening having taken place, though confined to the areas of recruitment of the Bengal Army, and that Army was the conduit of communication of that awakening.

Calcutta was panic-stricken till the unit at Barrackpore permitted itself to be dismissed. The period of fear lasted for three or four days, and during that period most of the Europeans in the city slept at night on board the ships moored on the river. Events of a hundred years ago, that is 1757, were recalled and exaggerated in the narration. No wonder the Holwell monument was erected after the Mutiny - to be precise, 43 years later.

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7.   Excerpts from "Chapter X: Rammohun's impact on the Indian mind",   by Soumendranath Tagore; in 'Rammohun Roy: His Role in Indian Renaissance'; The Asiatic Society, 1975; page 96.
See 'Introduction to Rammohun Roy: His Role in Indian Renaissance', by Soumendranath Tagore for an excellent introduction to the subject of not only Bengal's Renaissance, but Indian Renaissance as well.
What was Rammohun's total impact on the Indian mind? It has been said by some that Rammohun's social and religious reform movements did not influence the people very much and were limited to a small minority of the Hindu society. It could not have been otherwise. History shows that all great thought-movements are initially minority movements. They are generated by a creative elite and then gradually percolate downwards and then permeate the society. As Arnold Toynbee says in his Study of History :

"In all acts of social creation, the creators are either creative individuals or, at most, creative minorities..."

If we study the history of any great thought movement, we shall see the truth of this statement. Minority or majority cannot be a criterion of judging the historical importance of a social movement. Buddhism, for instance, was a minority movement when it began its historical march. So was the Vaisnava movement of Chaitanya Maháprabhu.

The French Illumination, or the Encyclopaedist Movement, was also a minority movement. But, despite the small numbers of those who consciously adhered to the Encyclopaedists, the impact of the movement on the minds of the people was so great that it finally led to the French Revolution. The same is true as well of the movement created by Marx and Engels, which gave birth to the Russian Revolution decades later. Thus, fetishism of number cannot be considered as the objective historical method to determine the historical truth about great thought-movements.

To my mind, the best way to evaluate Rammohun's influence should be by the religious and social thinking and opinions of the generations immediately following him, so that a true assessment can be made as to what extent his ideas influenced those who moulded the opinion of the society and brought about social changes. Thus, one must not ignore the activities of the "Tattwabodhini Sabha", the largest and most influential cultural organization of Bengal (1839 - 1854), which came into existence immediately after the death of Rammohun and which, without any doubt, was inspired by his ideas. This was made clear in the declared objective of the Sabha, which was to revitalize the "religion of Rammohun Roy" and other social movements initiated by him. The nature and influence of the Sabha can be judged by the quality of its membership. Among the members were men like Mahrishi Devendranath Tagore, Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who was also Secretary of the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj for a while, Pandit Madan Mohun Tarkalankar, Tarachand Chakravorty, Ramgopal Ghosh, Bhudev Mukherjee, Raja Rajendralala Mitra, Sambhunath Pandit, Pyarichand Mitra, Kissory Chand Mitra, Ishwar Chandra Gupta, Hemchandra Bandyopadhyay, Madhusudan Dutta, Askay Kumar Dutta, Maharaja Mahtab Chand of Burdwan, Raja Srichandra of Nadia, and others.

During the Tattwabodhini period - a period spread over at least twenty years - which was indeed the formative and most productive period of Renascent Bengal, there was not a single great figure of any historical importance who can be said to be completely free from Rammohun's influence. Can it be denied that the contributions of the members of the Tattwabodhini Sabha had laid the foundation of what we now call the modern society of India.

The influence of the Tattwabodhini Sabha was not limited to Bengal only. The journal published by the Sabha had an all-India circulation, as the Tattwabodhini Patrika was published in five different languages from five different centers - in Bengali from Calcutta, in Tamil and English from Madras and in Hindi and Urdu from Bareilly.

Another characteristic of any great thought-movement is that even those who are not open adherents of it are influenced by it in many ways. For instance, even those thinkers in the fields of history, economics, sociology, etc who have not accepted Marxism as an ideology are today influenced by Marxist ideas in more ways than one. Similarly, the declared adherents of Rammohun's Brahmavad - the Brahmos - might have been small in number, but it cannot be denied that a large section of the educated, enlightened people was greatly influenced by Rammohun. Even those great men who brought about reforms in the Hindu Society from within like Swami Vivekananda were greatly influenced by him.

This process of the gradual spreading of Rammohun's ideas was pointed out in the Census Reports of Bengal even as late as 1911 and 1921. In the census Report of 1911: "The actual number, however, gives no idea of the extent to which the Brahmo doctrines have spread." In the Census Report of 1921, Mr W J Thomas writes: "Though the number of progressive Brahmos is small and increased by little in the last 20 years, thousands of intellectual Hindus of Bengal have been so profoudly influenced by the monotheistic ideas of the Brahmo Samaj as really to be Brahmos at heart, though they have not actually joined the Samaj."

In more recent times, Rabindranath Tagore - pointing out the universal vision of Rammohun - writes: "Rammohun was the only person in his time in the whole world of men to realize completely the significance of the Modern Age. He knew that the ideal of human civilization did not lie in the isolation of independance, but in the brotherhood of interdependance of individuals as well as of nations in all spheres of thought and activity."

Swami Vivekananda emphasized that by welcoming western thoughts, Rammohun brought India into the mainstream of world history and wrote: "That we did not go out, that we did not compare notes with other nations - that has been the one great cause of our downfall, and every one of you know that the little stir, the little life that you see in India, begins from the day when Raja Rammohun broke through the walls of that exclusiveness. Since that day, the history of India has taken another turn, and it is growing with accelarated motion." (Emphasis mine - S.T.)

Referring to her discussions with Swamiji about Rammohun, Sister Nivedita wrote in her 'Master As I Saw Him' - "It was here (Nainital) too that we heard a talk on Rammohun Roy in which he (Swami Vivekananda - S.T.) pointed out three things as the domimant notes of his teacher's message - his acceptance of Vedanta, his preaching of patriotism and the love that embraced the Mussalman along with the Hindu. In all of these three things, he (Swami Vivekananda -S.T.) claimed himself to have taken the task that the breadth and foresight of Rammohun Roy had mapped out."(Emphasis mine - S.T.)

In his inaugural address read at the Sri Ramkrishna Centenary Parliament of Religion and published in the Modern Review in April 1937, Dr Brajendranath Seal said:

"Rammohun Roy, the precursor and in a very real sense the father of Modern India, sought the Universal Religion, the common basis of the Hindu, Moslem, Christian and other faiths. He found that each of the national religions was based on this common faith with a certain distinctive historical and cultural embodiment.

"It is fundamental to note that Rammohun Roy played two roles in his own person:

  1. As an universalist he formulated the creed of what was called Neo-theophilanthropy (a new love of God and man) on positive and constructive lines. He construed the Gayatri on this basis. And, strange to say, this Hindu became one of the forefathers of the Unitarian creed and worship in the West, the other three being Prince, Priestly and Canning.
  2. As a Nationalist Reformer, Rammuhun Roy had a three-fold mission:
  • As a Hindu Reformer, he gave a Unitarian redaction of the Hindu Shastras from the Vedanta and the Mahanirvana Tantra
  • As a Moslem defender of he faith, he wrote the Tuhfat-Ul-Muwahhiddin and the Monozeautul Adiyan, which were polemical works, and
  • As a Christian, he gave a Unitarian version of the entire body of scriptures, old and new, in his controversies with the Christian Missionaries.
Rammohun Roy was thus in himself, a Universalist and three nationalists all in one."

Mahadev Govind Ranade, the great social reformer of Maharashtra, also pointed out the manifold contributions of Rammuhun and wrote: "Rammohun Roy was at once a social reformer, the founder of a great religious movement and a great politician. These three activities were combined in him in such a way that they put to shame the performance of the best among us at the present time."

Underscoring Rammohun Roy's revolt as a revolt against interference with independence of thought, Maulvi Abdul Karim wrote: "Rammohun Roy, to my mind, was one of those inspired messengers of truth whom God is pleased to send from time to time for the reclamation of degraded humanity. Rammohun Roy whose career was one of revolt - revolt against interference with independence of thought and action, revolt against social and religious tyranny, revolt against superstitious customs and inhuman practices. It was Rammohun Roy who laid the foundation of all modern movements for the amelioration and elevation of the people of India." (Emphasis mine - S.T.) "His was a heart that transcended all geographical boundaries. His sympathies were world-wide, embracing all mankind."

Calling Rammohun Roy "the apostle of a religious revival" in India, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in his The India Struggle wrote:

"Faced with the menace of being swallowed up by a new religion and a new culture, the soul of the people revolted. The first visible embodiment of this revolt was Raja Rammohun Roy and the movement of which he was the father, the Brahmo Samaj movement. Rammohun Roy stood out as the apostle of a religious revival. He urged a return to the original principles of Vedantism and for a total rejection of all the religions and social impurities that had crept into Hinduism in later times. He also advocated an all-round regeneration of the social and national life and the acceptance of all that is useful and beneficial in the modern life of Europe. Raja Rammohun Roy therefore stands out against the dawn of the new awakening in India as the prophet of the new age," (Emphasis mine - S.T.)
Links to related articles:
'Introduction to Rammohun Roy: His Role in Indian Renaissance, by Soumendranath Tagore
Chapter1: Rammohun and the Indian Renaissance, by Soumendranath Tagore
Adapted from 'Ideas that have moved the city', by Samaren Roy
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8.  Chronological record of events taking place in Bengal and Calcutta from early 16th century.
1533: The first Europeans, the Portugese, come to Bengal

1540: Portugese establish the first European trading post at Hugli.

1570: Birth of Lakshmikanta Gangopadhyay, founder of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family, the first zamindars of Calcutta. Soon after his birth, his mother dies and his father, Kamdev Gangopadhyay, hailing from Halisahar in North 24-Parganas, left for Benares for yogic sadhana, leaving the new born child in the care of the priests and milkmen in the Kalighat temple complex, which was built by Raja Basanta Roy. The child - Lakshmikanta - was taken home by Rani Kamala, the younger wife of the Raja, to their Sursoona home and brought up by the family and given traditional education and training in military affairs.

1585: Lakshmikanta, as priest, performs the Durga Pauja of Raja Basanta Roy in the 'Atchala' of Barisha.

1594: Emperor Akbar appoints Man Singh Viceroy of East India, who chooses Rajmahal for his capital.

1605: Death of Akbar; Jahangir becomes the new Emperor.

1612: Man Singh sent again to Bengal to suppress the revolt of Barobhuyians of Bengal led by Raja Pratapaditya, uncle of Basanto Roy. On his way Man Singh meets Kamdev Bhattacharji and becomes his disciple. After his victory over Pratapaditya. Man Singh confers on Lakshmikanta the zamindary of five parganas: Magura, Khaspur, Kalikata, Paikan and Anwarpur and part of Hetegarh and confers upon him the title of "Majumdar"

1628: Shah Jahan ascends the throne at Delhi

1639: Shuja appointed Viceroy in East India

1650: The English East India Company establish their first trading center at Hugli

1652: The English Company gets a firman from Shuja to trade

1656: Job Charnock first comes to Bengal, serves for a while in Cossimbazar, is then sent to Patna. He later returns to Cossimbazar as head of the English Kothi.

1658: Aurangzeb defeats his brothers, including Shuja, in the succession struggle and becomes the Emperor; All the English settlements and factories are brought under Fort St. George in Madras.

1660, June: Mir Jumla appointed Subedar of Bengal; Vanden Broock & Dondlaz publishes a map of Calcutta

1664 March: Shaista Khan appointed Subedar of Bengal on Mir Jumla's death

1679: Shaista Khan appointed Subedar of Bengal for the second time

1686: Job Charnock flees to Hugli; Moghul Army takes possession of the Cossimbazar kothi of the East India Company. After about two months stay at Hugli, Job Charnock comes to Sutanati.

1688: Job Charnock flees from Sutanati and goes to Balasore.

1689: Ibrahim Khan appointed Subedar of Bengal

1690, September 3rd: Job Charnock returns to Sutanati, the third and final arrival. Start of the metropolis; The Company receives the Royal Charter granting it monopoly of Eastern Trade for 15 years on 31.12. 1690.

1693, January 10: Death of Job Charnock. Tomb built 80 years later in the compound of what is now known as St. John's Church.

1698: Azimushan appointed Viceroy of Bengal and takes up residence at Burdwan.

1698, November 10: Transfer of zamindary rights of three villages: Sutanati, Kalikata and Govindpur, by Sabarna Roy Choudhury to the East India Company, Calcutta becomes a Presidency of the East India Company, and Charles Ayer (son-in-law of Job Charnock} becomes the first Governor, subordinate to Madras. Mayor's Court established; Mayor and Alderman appointed; Fortification of the warehouse in village Kalikata begins.

1700-1707: The English turn the warehouse into the old Fort William. Azimushan, later Emperor, lays the foundation stone of Belvedere (now National Library) at Alipore. Ralph Sheldon appointed the first Zamindar of Calcutta.

1701: Murshid Quli Khan appointed Dewan of Bengal, later transferred to the Deccan

1707, February 20: Death of Aurangzeb

1709, June 5: St. Annes Church (later destroyed in 1756) consecrated with the reading of a message from the Lord Bishop of London

1710: Murshid Quli Khan returns to Bengal as Dewan

1712: Death of Bahadur Shah. Jahandar Shah succeeds as Emperor at Delhi 

1713: Farrukhsiyar (son of Azimushan) becomes Emperor at Delhi

1716: Santosh Roy Choudhury of Sabarna Roy Choudhury family comes to Barisha from Birati in North 24 Parganas and settles there; English mission at the court of Farrukhsiyar; St John's Church built

1717: Murshid Quli Khan appointed Nawab Nazim of Bengal; Start of the Nizamat

1719: Farrukhsiyar assassinated

1720: Portugese Church built in Calcutta

1724: Armenian Chirch built

1727: Shuja-ud-din Mohammad Khan succeeds Murshid Quli Khan as Nawab Nazim of Bengal

1730: Gobindaram Mitra builds a Navaratna temple on Chitpur Road (taller than the present Octerlony monument)

1733: Bihar included in the Subah of Bengal; Alivardi Khan appointed Deputy Subedar of Bihar

1737, September 30: Cyclone plays havoc in the city. The top of the Navaratna Temple in North Calcutta is blown off

1739, March: Sarfaraj Khan succeeds his father Shuja-ud-din as Nawab Nazim

1740: Nadir Shah sacks Delhi; Horse coach introduced in Calcutta but only for the members of the Governor's Council

1740, April 9: Alivardi Khan succeeds Sarfaraj Khan as Nawab Nazim. Sarfaraj killed by Alivardi in the battle at Giria 

1742: Digging of the Marattha Ditch as a defensive moat for the three villages

1748: Death of Emperor Mohammed Shah

1749, January 13: First orders issued to maintain Calcutta's drainage system

1751: Zamindary of the entire 24-Parganas district, north and south of Calcutta, transferred to the East India Company

1752: Holwell appointed Zamindar of Calcutta; Roger Drake appointed President of Calcutta

1756: Siraj-ud-dowla succeeds Alivardi Khan as Nawab Nazim of Bengal on the latter's death; Unsuccessful attempt by Ray Rayan Rajballav Sen (1693-1763) to secure the marriage of his minor widowed daughter; Maharaja Krishnachandra Ray of Krishnagar organizes counter-conference of Pandits denying scriptural sanction of widow remarriage.

1756, June 17: Storming of Calcutta and East India Company's fort by Siraj-ud-dowla; Ahmed Shah Abdali invades Delhi

1756, October 16: Siraj defeats Shaukat Jung, his rival claimant for Nawab Nazim, in the battle of Manihari. Shaukat Jung is killed

1757, January 2: The British recapture Calcutta

1757, February 9: Siraj signs a treaty with the English

1757, March 23: The English capture Chandannagore

1757, June 1-3: Conspiracy meeting at Jagat Seth Mahtabchand's house; Participants include Maharaj Krishnachandra Ray, Umichand and others; decision taken to help the British oust Siraj and instal Mir Jafar as Naab Nazim in his place. Rani Bhavani opposes the move

1757, June 4: Watts gets the agreement signed by Mir Jafar. The agreement states that Mir Jafar will act as a dummy Nawab for the British

1757, June 23: The Battle of Plassey is fought

1757, July 2: Mir Jafar installed as Nawab Nazim following the assassination of Siraj; Eviction of residents of village Kalikata for the construction of the new Fort William by the East India Company. Those evicted include the Tagores, the Ghoshals of Bhukailash and Munshi Nabakrishna Deb's family

1760: Mir Jafar quits as Nawab Nazim under pressure from the British; His son-in-law, Mir Kasim, is installed as Nawab Nazim; Mir Jafar takes up residence in Alipore

1761: Start of the Bengal Army

1762, July 12: Deforestation of the area between Chowringhee and the Ditch

1763: Mir Kasim removed from the position of Nawab Nazim; Mir Jafar reinstalled

1764: Battle of Buxar

1765: Grant of Dewanee of three Moghul Subahs, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company; Najm-ud-dowla, son of Mir Jafar, succeeds as Nawab Nazim

1767: First burial at the Park Street cemetry

1772, April 13: Warren Hastings appointed Governor-General of Bengal

1774, August: Calcutta becomes the capital of British possessions in India, having authority over Bombay and Madras; Hastings becomes Governor-General; Supreme Court of India constituted

1775: Maharaja Nandakumar, last important member of the Moghul bureaucracy is hanged; Foundations of Calcutta Theatre

1779: Durrell Seminary; Women's School founded by Mrs Durrell (probable ancestor of Lawrence and Gerald Durrell)

1780, January 29: First appearence of Hicky's Bengal Gazzette

1780, August 17: Warren Hastings' duel with Philip Francis, a member of the Council; Red Road laid out as a promenade

1781: Start of the Calcutta Madrassah; Oriental bias in education; A new system that centralized the revenue administration operations in Calcutta

1783: William Jones arrives as judge of the Supreme Court

1784, January 15: Founding of the Asiatic Society by William Jones

1785: A scavenger's office opened to clear the forests around Calcutta; Warren Hastings resigns as Governor of Bengal on February 1, 1785.

1786: Foundation of the Botanical Gardens at Howrah; Lord Cornwallis becomes Governor General

1789: East India Company prohibits the people of Bengal from producing salt on June 3, 1789; Indigo is planted in Bengal for the first time on October 29, 1789

1791: Founding of the Sanskrit College at Benares; Ramjoy Dutt School started in Colootola where Ramkamal Sen studied

1794, January 16: First horse-race at Akra, near Calcutta

1795: First Bengali theatre founded by Lebedev, a Russian

1799 - 1803: First Calcuttan, Mirza Abu Taleb (1752-1806) visits England and Europe and brings back the idea of progress

1800, March: Karmakar cuts Bengali type faces for printing; Fort William College set up

1803: Conversion of Marhatta Ditch into Circular Road

1804, June 2: Governor-General forms Committe to keep Calcutta clean; Rammohun Roy (1774-1833) publishes his first book, Tuhfat-ul-Muwahiddin (Gift of Monotheists) in Persian; plea for an adoptive society in preference to the prevailing ascriptive

1806: Two Tagores, Dwarkanath and Prassannakumar, come out of Sherbourne Seminary for English boys; Missionaries allowed into Calcutta; Tipu Sultan's sons arrive in Calcutta.

1807, March 31: First steamship built in Kidderpore

1808: First hore-race in Calcutta

1809: New temple to goddess Kali built at Kalighat by Sabarna Roy Choudhury family

1810: Dhurrumtala Academy founded by David Drummond; Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809-1831) is a student.

1813: Christian missionaries permitted to teach in Company territories

1814: Rammohun Roy comes from a small town to live in Calcutta; Town Hall built

1815: Atmiya Sabha founded by Rammohun Roy (emphasis on conscience)

1817, January 20: Establishment of Hindoo College on Upper Chitpur Road at the house of Gourchand Basak; Alao in 1817, the map of the Suburbs of Calcutta between Baranagore, Salt Water Lake and Garden Reach was prepared.

1819: First daily newspaper, The Calcutta Journal, started; Race course laid out on the maidan; The banyan tree at the junction of Bowbazar Street and Circular Road, which Job Charnocjk used as a resting place, cut down by a notification of the Governor-General

1822, April 22: The first Persian Weekly, Meerut-ul-Akhbar, published

1823: Calcutta Sanskrit College founded; Hindoo College shifted to a part of the building.

1826: New building of Sanskrit College, Hindoo College accomodated in a part of the building; Henry Derozio appointed teacher in the Hindoo College; First steamer service started between Calcutta and Chinsurah, later extended to Buxar (1838) and Gauhati (1844); First Hindi Language newspaper - Oodunt Martand - published in Calcutta on May 27 from 37, Amratala Lane - edited by Jugal Kishore Shukla

1827, February 1: Bengal Club for Europeans founded in Calcutta

1828, August 20: Rammohun Roy forms Brahmo Sabha (shift in Rammohun Roy's emphasis from conscience to monotheism); Derozians establish "Academic Association"; Vidyasagar (1820-1891) comes to Calcutta to study

1829, August 20: Abolition of the practice of suttee enacted; Golf Club started in Calcutta (reportedly second oldest in the world)

1830, January 30: Trust deed of the first Brahmo place of worship executed by Rammohun Roy - open to all denominations; Rammohun Roy leaves for England

1831, April 25: Derozio dismissed from Hindoo College

1831, December: Death of Derozio; beef-eating at K M Banerjee's (1813-1885) house; Start of open defiance of taboos; Young Bengal Journal, Jnananveshan (in Bengali) started by Dakshinaranjan Mukehrjee (1814-1873)

1832: Maheshchandra Ghosh, Derozian and close friend of K M Banerjee, embraces Christianity

1832, October 17: Krishnamohan Banerjee embraces Christianity

1833: Death of Rammohun Roy and burial at Bristol

1835: English system of education introduced following Macaulay's recommendations; Medical College of Calcutta opened on February 20, 1835

1836, August 31: Calcutta Public Library established

1837: Historic Grand Trunk Road started; Victoria becomes Queen of England

1839: Tattabodhini Patrika (in Bengali) founded; Chowringhee Theatre burns down; Calcutta Mechanics Institute founded - the name is later shanged to Calcutta Lyceum.

1840: Brahmo Samaj revived by Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905) to ultimately become the Brahmo Samaj three years later

1841: Sans Souci theatre at park Street, financed by Dwarkanath Tagore (1794-1846); Esther Leach fatally burnt here on November 22, 1843

1842, January 9: Dwarkanath Tagore sails for England in his own steamer, the India, accompanied by his physician, Dr Macgowan, nephew Chundermohan Chatterjee, aide-de-camp Paramanad Moitra, three Hindu servants and his Muslim cook

1842: Foundation of Loreto School at Middleton Row (Much later, Mother Teresa came to one of its branches at Sealdah as a teacher); Madhusudan Dutta (1824-1873) and his friends drink in public at Wilson's Hotel (now Great Eastern Hotel); Derozion Journal, The Bengal Spectator, refers to Parasar hymn permitting widow remarriage

1843, February: Madhusudan Dutta embraces Christianity; Brahmo Samaj founded by Debendranath Tagore. Radhanath Sikdar (1815-1870) discovers Peak XV on the Himalayas as the highest point on earth's surface

1845: Rev K M Banerjee (Derozian) begins publishing his encyclopaedia which continued till 1951

1845, March 8: Dwarkanath Tagore leaves on his second trip to England, accompanied by his youngest son, Nagendranath, his nephew, Nabinchandra Mukherji and four medical students, two of whom were supported by his scholarships

1849: First female school (Bethune) opened with a gift of land and cash by Dakshinaranjan Mukherjee, a Derozian

1850: First telegraph line to Diamond Harbour established - Shibchandra Nandi was the engineer; The Brahmo Samaj under Debendranath Tagore accepts Akshaykumar Datta's (1820-1886) plea to abandon belief in the infallibility of the Vedas

1851, January: Iswarchandra Vidyasagar appointed Principal of Sanskrit College at Calcutta

1851, June 20: Establishment of the Geological Survey; Jnanendramohan Tagore embraces Christianity

1852: First Kayastha student admitted to Sanskrit College (Previously, admission was restricted to Brahmins and Vaidyas)

1853: Vidyasagar starts campaign for widow remarriage, relying on Parasar hymn; Telegraph line between Calcutta and Agra 

1854: Government Art College established

1854, December 15: Foundation of the Association of Friends for the Promotion of Social Improvement with Debendranath Tagore as President; Kisorichand Mitra and Akshaykumar Datta as Secretaries and Raja Satyacharan Ghoshal (Bhukailash), Pearychand Mitra, Harishchandra Mukherjee, Chandrasekhar Dey, Rajendralal Mitra, Digamber Mitter, Gourdas Basak and others as members of the committee

1855: Vidyasagar's pamphleteering campaign for widow remarriage under various pseudonyms; Derozians demand a general marriage law with modern features; Dakhineswar temple built - Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1834-1886) its first priest.

1856: Widow remarriage Act passed 100 years after Rajballav Sen's unsuccessful attempt; Kisorichand Mitra (1822-1873) and Digamber Mitter(1817-1879), both Derozians, organize a reception for Michael Madhusudan Dutt on his return from Madras

1856, December 9: First widow remarriage under the new Act attended and financed by Vidyasagar

1857: The Sepoy Mutiny breaks out; Metalling of Grand Trunk Road

1857, November 1: Calcutta University constituted; Hindoo College renamed Presidency College and opened to all; Publication of Bengali Journal, Som Prakash, edited by Dwarkanath Vidyabhusan, an associate of Vidyasagar; Pearychand Mitra (1814-1883) publishes Alaler Gharer Dulal ubnder the pseudonym, Tekchand Thakur.

1859: Archaeological Survey established; Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Sharmistha staged at Belgachia Villa; Indigo planting disputes in Bengal

1860: Age of Consent Bill fixing 10 years as the lowest age in regard to girls for consummation of marriage passed; St. Xaviers College established; Dinabandhu Mitra (1830-1873) publishes Nil Darpan

1861: Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Meghnad Kavya published; Satyendranath Tagore and Manmohan Ghosh leave for England to study law ignoring proscription of sea travel; Council of three Indians (all feudal potentates) to advise the Viceroy

1862, July 1: Calcutta High Court inaugurated; Inauguration of Indian Museum at Calcutta in its new building; Younger Brahmos celebrate the first inter-caste marriage in Samaj secretary - elders refrain from attending

1864: Bankimchandra Chatterjee's (1838-1894) first novel, Rajmohan's wife, published

1865: Bankimchandra Chatterjee publishes Durgeshnandini ; Brahmos born after 1840 object to services being conducted by Brahmins wearing the sacred thread; Split in the Brahmo Samaj; Keshub Chnadra Sen (1838-1884) breaks away and forms Navavidhan Samaj

1866: Younger Brahmos begin a campaign against caste distinctions being continued among Brahmos which leads to a proverb that blames three Sens of destroying the caste system (Wilsen, Istisen and Keshubchandra Sen; the first being the bar where young men consumed liquor and forbidden food, the second the railway station implying the railways where men of all castes were seated in the same compartment, and the third the Brahmo reformer)

1867: Rajnarain Bose (1826-1899) along with Nabagopal Mitra, Satyendranath Tagore and Gnanendratah Tagore organize the Hindoo Mela; Beginnings of the Hindu Revivalism; Dr Mahendralal Sircar (1833-1904) publishes his prospectus for an institute to carry on scientific research

1869: First General Post Office set up; Bengali play, Sadhabar Ekadashi, staged by Ardendhusekhar Mustafi at the National Theatre; The foundation stone of the Victoria Memorial is laid by the Prince of Wales on January 4, 1869.

1870: Oxford and Cambridge opened to non-Anglicans. Anandamohan Bose (1847-1906) - the first to avail the opportunity to secure admission (earlier, Indians had gone to study law and medicine, and to London University for general education); Tap water introduced to Calcutta (but orthodox residents resent the service); Dakshinaranjan Mukherjee (Derozian) demands a Provincial Legislature, and that the number of elected officials should equal that of officials; Beginnings of political activity; Father Lafont starts a tiny laboratory at St Xaviers; Lafont joins Mahendralal Sircar in the latter's effort to found the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science.

1871: Abolition of purdah. Young Brahmos take their wives out of the purdah, and the screen separating women from men removed. They also demand that there should be no discrimination between sexes in matters of education.

1872: The Native (later called Civil) Marriage Act passed - The Act requires parties to inter-caste marriage declare themselves to be non-Hindus. The legislation and the declaration renders the Widow Remarriage Act of 1856 obsolete without repealing the Act

1872, December 7: First Bengali public theatre inaugurated by Ardhendusekhar Mustafi; Nil Darpan staged.

1873: Horse-drawn trams start plying in Calcutta; Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Sharmistha staged on the public theatre.

1874: New Market, later named Sir Stuart Hogg Market in 1903, inaugurated

1875: Rabindranath Tagore's (1861-1941) first poetical work, Bhanusingher Padabali, published. Toru Dutt (1856-1877) publishes her English transaltion of French poems under the title, A sheaf gleaned from the French fields

1876: Dr Mahendralal Sircar and Father Lafont establish the Indian Association of Science; The Indian Association organized with Anandamohan Bose as the first Secretary; Zoological Gardens established at Alipore

1878: The name Indian Association of Science changed to Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science; Second split in the Brahmo organization led by Sivanath Sastri (1847-1919)

1879, March 4: Bethune College for Girls established

1880, April 5: Bengal Engineering College shifts to Sibpur in Howrah; PN Bose's (1855-1935) paper on Siwalik fossils published in the Geological Magazine

1881: Asutosh Mukherjee's (1864-1924) paper published in the Cambridge Messenger of Mathematics

1882: Identification of cholera germ by Koch in Calcutta; Bankimchandra Chatterjee's novel, Anandamath, published

1883: Illbert Bill: Europeans in India object to the Bill and force amendments. The demonstration - the last by Europeans in the country - is the most massive in Calcutta, where the largest number of them live. The Bill is drafted by Biharilal Gupta, one of the three from Calcutta who got into the ICS. It aims at making Europeans and Indians equal in the eye of the law. A O Hume issues circular to the graduates of Calcutta University for organizing themselves politically

1884: Lecture Hall built at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science; Jagadishchandra Bose (1858-1937) publishes article in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal (JASB)

1885: W C Bonnerjee presides over the inaugural session of the Indian National Congress

1886: Second session of the Indian National Congress held at Calcutta and presided over by Dadabhai Naoroji

1890, Februay 13: Start of the first Botanical Survey

1891: The Age of Consent Bill to raise the marriageable age for girls from ten to twelve is not approved by the Indian Legislative Council (in spite of suport by Vidyasagar); Vizianagram Laboratory founded at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science; Factory Act

1892: Legislatures for India and Bengal constituted, with mainly feudal potentates as Indian representatives; Indian Council of Art

1893: Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) addresses the first World Parliament of Religions at Chicago in the USA

1894: Beef eating and sea travel accepted as an individual's choice by a Committee of Legislators

1897: Jagadishchandra Bose demonstrates transmission of radio waves first at Calcutta and then in London

1899, April 17: Ronald Ross - Indian by birth and British by origin - discovers presence of malaria parasites in Anopheles mosquito in the P. G. Hospital Laboratory

1902: First electric trams run in Calcutta and Ronald Ross receives Nobel Prize

1905, October 16: First partition of Bengal; Lord Minto becomes Governor General; Rammohun Library established on March 18, 1905; Death of Debendranath Tagore, the founder of the Brahmo Samaj

1906: Publication of Rabindranath Tagore's novel, Gora, underscoring the need for rehabilitating Brahmos into the Hindu fold

1908, May 2: Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950) and others arrested in the first Political Conspiracy case in Calcutta; Brahmos open a school for untouchable Namasudras

1910, February 11: Aurobindo Ghosh retires from politics and leaves for Pondicherry; Later, the first aeroplane takes off from the Maidan on December 28, 1910

1911, July 29: Mohun Bagan defeats English East York, the first Indian Football team to win the I.F.A. shield

1912, April 1: India's capital shifted from Calcutta to New Delhi and first partition of Bengal revoked. Bihar and Orissa separated from Bengal; Earlier, the Calcutta Improvement Trust is formed on January 2, 1912 

1913: Rabindranath Tagore awarded Nobel Prize for Literature - the first Indian to receive the Nobel award

1914: Foundation stone of the University College of Science laid at 92 Upper Circular Road; First Indian Science Congress held at Calcutta, presided over by Asutosh Mukherjee

1914, August 6: First World War starts; Jugantar Party of Bengali revolutionaries reorganized under the leadership of Jatin Mukherjee.

1915, April: M N Roy (1884-1954) visits Batavia to contact German agents for shipment of arms to Bengal for an armed insurrection

1915, August: M N Roy as representative of Jugantar Party leaves on his world quest for arms and aid for Indian revolutionaries to overthrow British rule in India.

1915 September 9: Death of Jatin Mukherjee in an armed encounter with British police at Balasore

1917: U N Brahmachari discovers Urea Stebamine as a specific for Kalaazar; Jagadishchandra Bose establishes Bose Research Institute; C V Raman appointed Palit Professor of Physics at the University College of Science in Calcutta

1918: End of First World War

1919, May 27: Rabindranath Tagore returns his Knighthood in protest against the Jallianwallahbagh massacare

1920: Rowlatt Act announced

1923: Meghnad Saha's Spectral Analysis 

1924: Satyendranath Bose's new statistics forms basis of Bose-Einstein equation; Death of Asutosh Mukherjee

1925, March 31: First Blind School established at Behala, Calcutta

1931: C V Raman awarded the Nobel Prize for his research work at Cacutta; Saratchandra Chatterjee (1876-1938) publishes Sesh Prasna; First Round Table Conference for India's Dominion Status begins in London; The first Bengali 'talkie' - Jamai Sashti - is screened on April 11, 1931 

1934, May 1: First cricket Test match played in Calcutta - India vs England; match is drawn

1935: New Constitution of India promulgated

1936: Manik Banerjee (1908-1956) publishes Padmanadir Majhi and Putul Nacher Itikatha

1939, September 3: Second World War starts

1940: Shyamadas Chatterjee successfully experiments with nuclear fission at the Bose Institute

1941, January: Subhas Bose escapes to Germany

1941, February 28: Howrah Bridge is opened

1942, August: Congress launches "Quit India" movement; First Japanese air raid on Calcutta on December 20, 1942

1943, October: The Bengal Famine; Three and a half million people die of starvation; Lord Wavell becomes Governor General

1946, August 16: The Great Calcutta killing, following Muslim League's call of "Direct Action"

1947, August 15: India gets Independence and Bengal gets second Partition, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in India'd first Prime Minister

1950: Republic Day - January 26, 1950; Mother Teresa forms the Missionaries of Charity on October 7, 1950

1956, August 7: First electric crematorium set up at Keoratala burning ghat
 
1962, September 29: Birla Planetarium opened to the public

1975, August 9: The first 'Doordarshan' transmission from Calcutta

1977, April 7: The first jumbo jet flies into Dum Dum Airport

1982, March 31: Sealdah flyover inaugurated

1983, June 6: The first color television transmission from Calcutta

1984: The first soccer match is played at the Salt Lake Stadium on January 25; The first Metro Rail run between Esplanade and Bhawanipur on October 24

THIS IS AN ONGOING COMPILATION;
PLEASE SEND IN YOUR ENTRIES IF WE HAVE MISSED ANY, AND TELL US IF THERE ARE ANY ERRORS IN OUR COMPILATION. THANK YOU.

REFERENCES:
1. Calcutta: Society and Change: 1690 - 1990, by Samaren Roy; Rupa & Co publishers, 1991.
2. Atlas of the City of Calcutta and its environs: National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization, Ministry of Science & Technology, Govt. of India.
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 Quiz - time!!!  ready...get set...GO!
If you do not know any of the answers, click on the link to 'view' the 'answer'...
... but first, you must enter your name please:
Q1. Under Bakhtyar Khilji in A.D. 1203, Bengal was divided into ___ districts: 
(in words; lowercase)

Q2. Job Charnock's settlement at Kalikata was started on August 24, 1690 (true or false)? 
(in words)

Q3. The Bengal Army Mutiny started on July 13, 1847 (true or false)? 
(in words; lowercase)

Q4. The formative and most productive period of Renascent Bengal was during the _____ period
(in words; lowercase/sentence case)

Q5. The first partition of Bengal was dated October 16, 1905: (true or false)? 
(in words; lowercase)


  



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