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Bankura district,West Bengal

Bankura district is one of the seven districts of Burdwan Division in the Indian state of West Bengal. The district has been described as the “connecting link between the plains of Bengal on the east and Chota Nagpur plateau on the west.” The areas to the east and north-east are low-lying alluvial plains while to the west the surface gradually rises, giving way to undulating country, interspersed with rocky hillocks.

Centre of the historic Mallabhum(Malla Kingdom) of western Bengal, Bankura and its surrounding regions are identified with its historical and cultural significance for the later Middle Ages. Vaishnavism, which gained the status of state religion in the Malla Kingdom in the seventeenth century, shaped the culture of the region. The Malla Kingdom was annexed by the British East India Company in 1765 and the modern Bankura district took its form in 1881 and was named after its headquarters.

History

The earliest signs of human habitation in the area are at Dihar—by about 1000 BC chalcolithic people had settled on the north bank of the Dwarakeswar.

Bankura district was inhabited by various Proto-Australoid and a few Proto-Dravidian tribes in later pre-historic times as well as Aryanised or assimilated with the people and culture of the Proto-Indo-European group, who prevailed in northern India, substantially later than rest of Bengal. These developments took place over many centuries through both conflict and cordiality.

The district was part of Rarh in ancient times. In the old Jain book Acaranga Sutra (around 4th century) there is mention of Sumha and Ladha (Rarh?) and there too the reference is to an area inhabited by uncivilised and barbaric people.

In the fourth century, Susunia edicts record in Prakrit and Sanskrit that Chandravarman, son of Simhavarman, was the ruler of Pushkarana (modern Pokhanna in Bankura district).According to the inscription on the Allahabad pillar, Chandravarman was defeated by Samudragupta and the area became a part of the Gupta Empire. The area was for many years part of Dandabhukti and Bardhamanbhukti.

Many historians opine that assimilation with Proto-Indo-Europeans took place first in northern and eastern Bengal and then in western Bengal. This has also been the broad course of the spread of Buddhism and Jainism in Bengal. There is ample evidence of pre-eminence of Aryan religion and culture in West Bengal from around the sixth century.

Bishnupur kingdom

From around the seventh century until around the advent of British rule, for around a millennium, the history of Bankura district is identical with the rise and fall of the Hindu Rajas of Bishnupur.[10] The area around Bishnupur was called Mallabhum. At its farthest extent Bishnupur kingdom stretched from Damin-i-koh in Santhal Parganas to Midnapore and included parts of Bardhaman and Chota Nagpur. Smaller kingdoms of aboriginal tribes, such as Dhalbhum, Tungbhum, Samantabhum and Varahabhumi or Varabhumi were gradually subdued and overshadowed by the Malla kings of Bishnupur.

Adi Malla (born 695 AD), the founder of the Malla dynasty, ruled in Laugram, 8.4 kilometres (5.2 mi) from Kotulpur, for 33 years. When he was 15 years old he had no equal as a wrestler in the territory all around. It was this that earned him the sobriquet of Adi Malla, the original or unique wrestler. He was also known as Bagdi Raja and was succeeded by his son, Jay Malla, who extended his domains and shifted his capital to Bishnupur. The subsequent kings steadily extended their kingdom. Among the more renowned are: Kalu Malla, Kau Malla, Jhau Malla, and Sur Malla.

Vaishnavism

Bir Hambir, the 49th ruler of the Malla dynasty who flourished around 1586 and ruled in the 16th-17th century, was a contemporary of the Mughal emperor Akbar. He was involved on the side of Mughals in their struggle against the Afghans and is mentioned by Muslim historians. He paid an annual tribute to the Muslim viceroys of Bengal and thus acknowledged their suzerainty. He was converted to Vaishnavism by Srinivasa and introduced the worship of Madan Mohan in Bishnupur.

Raghunath Singh, who followed Bir Hambir, was the first Bishnupur Raja to use the Kshatriya title Singh. With exquisite palaces and temples built during the period that followed Bishnupur was reputed to be the most renowned city in the world, more beautiful than the house of Indra in heaven. However, it has also been recorded that while these royal patrons of Hindu art and religion were busy building temples they had lost much of their independence and sunk to the position of tributary princes. Bir Singh walled up alive all his sons, eighteen in number. The youngest, Durjan, alone escaped, having been kept in hiding by the servants. The status of the Raja of Bishnupur was that of a tributary prince, exempted from personal attendance at the court at Murshidabad, and represented there by a resident.

Maratha raids

The Bishnupur Rajas who were at the summit of their fortunes towards the end of the 17th century, started declining in the first half of the 18th century. First, the Maharaja of Burdwan seized the Fatehpur Mahal, and then the Maratha invasions laid waste their country. In 1742, when the Marathas, under Bhaskar Rao, attacked Bishnupur, the troops put up a spirited defence but then Gopal Singh retreated within the fort and ordered the troops and citizens to pray to Madan Mohan to save the city. It is believed that Madan Mohan responded and the cannons were fired without human assistance. The truth probably is that the Maratha cavalry were unable to pierce the strong fortifications and retired. While they failed to take the fort and pillage the treasury, the Marathas harried the less protected parts of the kingdom. Intrigue and litigation that followed ruined the Bishnupur Raj family and eventually in 1806, the estate was sold for arrears of land revenue and bought up by the Maharaja of Burdwan.

British administration

Bishnupur was ceded to the British with the rest of Burdwan chakla in 1760. The Marathas had laid the country waste and famine of 1770 completed the misery of the kingdom. A large section of the population was swept away, cultivation fell, and lawlessness spread. The once powerful king had been reduced to the status of a mere zamindar. In 1787, Bishnupur was united with Birbhum to form a separate administrative unit, the headquarters was shifted to Suri, and a rebellious situation prevailed. Bankura continued to be one district with Birbhum till 1793, when it was transferred to the Burdwan collectorate.

Towards the end of the 18th century, certain portions of the district around Raipur was affected by the Chuar rebellion. At the time Bankura appears to have been part of Jungle Mahals. The disturbances of the Chuars in 1832 in the western part of the district lead to the disbandment of the Jungle Mahals in 1833. Bishnupur was transferred to Burdwan. In 1872, the parganas of Sonamukhi, Indas, Kotulpur, Shergarh and Senpahari were transferred from Manbhum to Burdwan. In 1879, the district acquired its present shape with the thanas of Khatra and Raipur and the outpost of Simplapal being transferred from Manbhum, and the thanas of Sonamukhi, Kotulpur and Indas being retransferred from Burdwan. However, it was known for sometime as West Burdwan and in 1881 came to be known as Bankura district.

Post-independence
The district is currently a part of the Red Corridor.
Tourism

Bankura has gained much popularity among the tourists hailing from India. The place has a rich cultural and traditional heritage. It is famous for its paintings, music and other arts. It has gained popularity among domestic tourists due to the beautiful locations and historical destinations. The place has contributed great deal toward modern Bengal art and architecture. You can see the beautiful terracotta art and architecture in Bankura.[6] The tourist spots can be divided into four zones.
Eastern Zone

  • Bishnupur is an important tourist spot of Bankura district. It is 152 km from Kolkata and 34 km from Bankura Town. This place has a historical importance as it was the capital of Mallabhum. It is very famous for terracotta temples and Baluchari sarees. It is popular for classical music dalmadal and painting. There are approximately 16 temples, most of which are made in the decade of Mallaraja. Important temples of Bishnupur are Jor Mandir, Rasmancha, Radhamadhab Temple, Kalachand Temple, Madan Mohan Temple, Radha-Gobinda Temple and Shyam Ray Temple.
  • Joyrambati is 98 km from Kolkata. It is a holy place as it was the birthplace of Sree Sree Maa Sarada Devi. Temple of Singha Bahani Devi and Mayerepukur are also visiting sites.
  • Western Zone

  • Susunia Hill is a very important tourist spot of Bankura District. It is 50 km[9] from Bisnupur and 21 km[10] from Bankura town. It is famous for natural spring and Silalipi.
  • Biharinath Hill is the tallest (448 m) of Bankura District. It is in the northwestern edge of the district. It is 57 km from Bankura Town. It was an ancient center of Jainism. This place is famous for its natural beauty.Biharinath offers hills, dense forest, water bodies, river Damodar, renowned temple of Lord Shiva, green unpolluted nature with salubrious atmosphere. Now Biharinath can boast of its advancement in tourism with accommodations having A.C. rooms and other modern amenities.
  • South Zone

  • Mukutmonipur is an important tourist spot of Bankura District. It is 55 km from Bankura District headquarters. It is the second biggest earthen dam of India.This place is very famous for its natural beauty and bluish tract of water.
  • Jhilimili is another tourist spot, 70 km from Bankura Town. Its beauty lies in its dense natural forest.
  • Northern Zone

  • Durgapur Barrage
  • Gandoa Dam
  • Koro Pahar (Amar Kanan)