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Special issue on 38th anniversary of the New Nation

The history of two forts in Gouripur, Mymensingh

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Mohammad Raihan Uddin Sarker
In the ancient time there were five forts in Greater Mymensingh region, such as Killa Tajpur, Killa Bokainagar, Jangalbari, Egarasindhur and Roulbari. Some historians think that there were more than five forts in Mymensingh region, such as mint town as Ghiyaspur which was 24 kilo away from the present town of Mymensingh.  It was established by Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah (1323-1332), son of Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz (1301-1322) and was named after him. The location of Ghiyaspur has not been identified yet. A group of scholars, on the basis of historic place, have argued that the location of Ghiyaspur may be in Gouripur or Muktagacha because Zaminders settled there by choosing historical places free from natural disasters. Some have argued that the location of Ghiyaspur may be in Fulbaria or Mudhupur. The old or greater Mymensingh (established on 01 May 1787) was divided into six districts later, as Mymensingh, Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Tangail, Jamalpur, and Sherpur districts. Among  the six districts location of five forts are in only three districts Mymensingh, Netrakona and Kishoreganj. Killa Tajpur and Killa Bokainagar are in Gouripur Upazila of Mymensingh district. Roulbari is in Kendoa Upazila of Netrakona district. Jangalbari is in Karimganj Upazila and  Egarasindhur is in Pakundia Upazila of Kishoreganj district. Once these five forts were included in the kingdom of the Kamrupa (Assam) .Then it was under the medieval Muslim rulers and governors of eastern Bengal. The first Muslim military conquest of Bengal took place in the year 1204 by Muhammad Bakhtyaruddin khalji. From this period, the Muslim Sultans built educational institutions, great mosques, forts, palaces, bridges, roads linking other cities in the kingdom. They promoted art, literature, developed early form of Bengali language and created Muslim architecture unique only in Bengal. The Sultans ruled until arrival of Sher Shah Suri and later the Great Mughals in the 16th century. According to tradition, this early Sufi preachers and disseminators of Islam began to come to East Bengal from Makkah in order to propagate Islam. Rukunuddin Kaikaus (reigned: 1291-1300 CE) had already started the conquest of the eastern part of Bengal, and the task was completed during the time of Shamsuddin Firoz Shah. Very little is known about his conquest of Mymensingh. It is only known that his son Ghiyasuddin Bahadur issued coins from Ghiyaspur mint, identified with a village having the same name, about 24 km from Mymensingh. As Firoz Shah turned his attention towards the expansion of his kingdom, it is assumed that he came to Kella Tajpur and Kella Bokainagar on way to Sylhet.Then Kella Tajpur was named after his son Tajuddin Hatim Khan . The most important event of the reign of Firoz Shah was the conquest of Sylhet. According to an inscription Firoz Shah conquered Sylhet in 1303 CE. The names of the Sufi-saint Shah Jalal (R) and the Commander Syed Nasiruddin are associated in connection with the conquest of Sylhet.
Six sons of Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz (1301-1322)
Firoz had six sons - Shihabuddin Bughda, Jalaluddin Mahmud, Ghiyasuddin Bahadur, Nasiruddin Ibrahim, Tajuddin Hatim Khan and Kutlu Khan. Of these six sons, Tajuddin Hatim Khan was the Governor of Sonargaon and Ghiyaspur (Mymensingh) known from sources of World Public Library. As the father of six grown-up sons who helped him in the affairs of the kingdom, satisfied with the co-operation of his sons, Firoz Shah allowed his sons to run the administration of some portions of his kingdom independently and to exercise royal authority as in the minting of coins.
The position of Mymensingh in the ancient time
The old or greater Mymensingh was covered with forest, marshy land and crisscross rivers. The Koch, Hajong, Garo and Rajbanshi lived in this region. In the 11th and 12th century the Pala, Varman and Sena kings ruled this area or part of it. Kella Tajpur is one of the historic places and transit point for trade and commerce. Perhaps the biggest light of Islam in Mymensingh came from Saint Shah Jalal (R) ,who was of Yemeni origin , who was said to be descendant of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who came from family of saints. Shah Jalal and his followers were traveling from West to preach Islam. Among his followers were Arabs , Turks, Afghans, Persians, Central Asians and other Muslims who were educated as scientists, teachers, writers.
Ancient Killa Tajpur   
At present Killa Tajpur is a small village of Maoha union in Gouripur upazila of Mymensingh district. This entire village was a fort surrounding over 4 kilo defensive muddy wall having 40 to 60 feet high and  60 feet wide during the Sultanate and the Mughal periods. It is a historical site, 10 kilometres off Gouripur town, 9 kilometres off Bokainagar Fort, closer to Chimo Rani Dighi , one of the largest historic tanks in the country and 2 kilometres off historic battle field. Now this area is known as Kumri village where the battle of Tajpur took place in which Great  Heroic Sakhina Bibi ,the bride of Jangalbari, fought against her father Dewan Omar Khan, the cheif of Killa Tajpur. The grave of Sakhina Bibi is located at Kumri village and it is glorified with the true love story of  the 17th century.
. According to some historians, most flood- free area on the bank of the rivers in Gouripur upazila was the transit point for trade and commerce some centuries ago. With the conquest of Bengal by the Sultanate in the beginning of the thirteenth century, the gate of Bengal was opened to the Muslims of various countries who came here as soldiers, administrators, missionaries, teachers, fortune seekers, political refugees, merchants and traders.
The history of Killa Tajpur
A lot of tales surround the construction of the Fort of Tajpur or Tajpur Fort. It is locally known as Killa Tajpur or Kella Tajpur. However, historians believe the fort was built by Majlish Khan Humayun, a General of Sultan Saifuddin Firuz Shah II (reigned: 1487-1489) to protect the territories of the Sultanate in the North-east region, to prevent Kamrupa's expedition. Saifuddin Firuz Shah was the second ruler of the Habshi dynasty of Bengal. He was a former Army Commander of Bengal's Ilyas dynasty-2. This fort was developed by next generals and Dewans between sixteen and seventeen centuries. It is assumed that the fort was under many rulers and commanders from 12th century or before. It was under Kamrupa.  Kamrupa was one of the historical kingdoms of Assam ruled by three dynasties from their capitals in present-day Guwahati, North Guwahati and Tezpur. After occupying this historical location, Tajpur was named after  Shamsuddin Firoz Shah's son Tajuddin Hatim Khan in 1303.Here a mint town was built at first. It is also said that in the beginning of 14th century the Sultan of Goura, Firoz Shah succeed to win Egarosindur, Bokainagar,Tajpur, and Roulbari. In 1338 Sultan Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah took the authorization of these ancient lands.
 The shape of Fort's initial construction dates back as far as 525 AD. Over the years, it was subjected to many attacks and had many different rulers. There is a debate among historians about the history of Killa Tajpur. They also believe that Killa Tajpur was inhabited since 1000 BC. There lived many tribes named Choch and Hajong. Tajpur which was situated on the Suraiya river (Now a lake) was a centre of trade and commerce. The Karranis are an important group of Afghans (or Pathans) originating in Bangash (modern kurram). Taj Khan Karrani was an employee of Sher Shah Suri. It seemed that when Taj Khan Karrani was in a critical position, he took shelter in Tajpur. A group of scholars, on the basis of rulers, have argued that Tajpur was named after  Taj Khan Karrani (reigned 1564-1566). The Afghan Taj Khan Karrani captured large tracts of south-eastern Bihar and West Bengal between 1564-1566, and with the assassination of the last Muhammed Shahi ruler, he seized complete control of Bengal. Taj Khan Karrani had long been a thorn in the side of regional rulers, conquering parts of modern Uttar Pradesh from Muhammed Shah Adil before being defeated and pushed out to Bengal, where he captured large swathes of territory before killing the Sultan. The Afghan leaders Taj Khan and Sulaiman increased their strength in several ways. At last Taj Khan ascended the throne of Bengal killing Sultan Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah III and established the Karrani rule in 1564. But Taj Khan could not enjoy his fruit for long and died in 1566. His brother Sulaiman Karrani succeeded him (1566) and transferred the capital from Goura to Tandah. He built a strong army with the Afghans who gathered in his capital from northern India after the Mughals had occupied those areas. Perhaps he sent some Generals with army to the forts of Mymensingh. According to Abul Fazal, a 16th-century historian and the author of Akbarnama, when Taj Khan Karrani came to rule Bengal, Qutubuddin, the paternal uncle of Isa Khan, consolidated his position under Taj Khan. Isa Khan gradually solidified his position under the Karrani rulers. With the help of Taj Khan, a Karran ruler during 1564-1566, Isa Khan (1529 - 1599) obtained an estate in Sonargaon and Maheswardi Pargana in 1564 as a vassal of Karrani dynasty of Bengal. He gradually increased his power. In 1573 he helped Daud Khan Karrani in his expedition to Chittagong against Udaya Manikya, the king of Tripura. In 1585, Isa Khan attacked two Koch rulers, Ram Hazra and Lakshman Hazra, and occupied their Jangalbari Fort. In 1608 Nasir Khan and Dariya Khan, two Afghan chiefs of Tajpur, left Usman and joined the imperialists. Then the fort was captured under the Mughal. While Islam Khan Chisti (1608-1613) became a new Governor of Bengal, the lord of Killa Tajpur was Omar Khan of Mugal ancestry. The ballad of love story of Sakhina, the daughter of Omar Khan, with Dewan Feroj Khan, the grand son of Isha Khan, is based on fact which took place at the end of the 17th century during the rein of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. This event had been sung and performed on stages in villages of this region since the end of the story in a tragedy. This is Killa Tajpur where Sakhina grew up and taught the art of archery, sword fighting and horse riding until her adulthood. Sakhina is one of the heroines of Eastern Bengal Ballads of Mymensing .(Mymensingh Gitikas). Chandra Kumar De and Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen were the collectors of these folk ballads and the editor was Dr.Dinesh Chandra Sen. The collection of (Mymensingh Geetika) folk ballads was published from Calcutta University, India in 1923. The successor of Omar Khan and next successors up to Nabab period are unknown because there is a large gap. The Muslim empires with the exception of only Mughals who were able to extend their land to Bangladesh.
 Killa Tajpur as tourism attractions :  Kella Tajpur is an ancient fort considerably rich in archaeological wealth, especially of the medieval period both during the Muslim and pre-Muslim rules, though most of it is still unexplored and unknown. In archaeological fieldwork and research this area was very much neglected for a long time for various reasons.  A number of field projects including a comprehensive survey and exploration is needed to be undertaken by the Government to the unexplored areas like Kella Tajpur, Kella Bokainagar. The major archaeological sites in Kella Tajpur are described below. 2 kilometres off historic battle field, now this area is known as Kumri village, where the battle of Tajpur took place in which Great  Heroic Sakhina Bibi ,the bride of Jangalbari, fought against her father Dewan Omar Khan, the cheif of Kella Tajpur. The grave of Sakhina Bibi is located at Kumri village and it is glorified with the true love story of  the 17th century.Contd from page 54
The history of Killa Bokainagar : Bokainagar Fort, locally known as Killa Bokainagar, is situated about three kilos southeast of Gouripur Town. It was on the bank of the Balua River which was a branch of the Brahmaputra. Now it is in ruins. Like kella Tajpur, Kella Bokainagar was a fort surrounding over 4 kilo defensive muddy wall having 40 to 60 feet high and  60 feet wide during the Sultanate and the Mughal periods. No historical evidence regarding the origin of Bokainagar fort has been found before 16th century. There is a legend that a Koch chief named Bokai constructed the fort. Historians also believe that Killa Bokainagar was inhabited since 1000 BC. There lived many tribes named Choch and Hajong. A lot of tales surround the construction of the Fort of Bokainagar. The word 'Bokai' has been derived from the Persian title Khawaja, lord, master, Sufi. Its synonym is Hoxha, or Hodja, is an Albanian surname as Ishmael Bokai.  Khawaja or Khwaja is from the Iranian word Khw?ja, New Persian Kh?jé (Persian). This title is also used in the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia. The title refers to the holder as Master, Lord. It is also closely related to other terms in Sufism. The spellings Hodja or Hoca (Turkish), Hodža (Bosnian), Hoxha (Albanian), Hodža (Serbian), Hotzakis (Greek), Hogea (Romanian) and Al-Khawaja are also used. It is assumed that the fort was under many rulers and commanders from 12th century or before. Once it was under Kamrupa.  Once it was a city of Sufism or khawajas. Bokainagar was named after the Astana of Bokais or Sufism. Above 700 years old Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah is the dargah of one of the Sufi saints is situated in Killa Bokainagar  of Gouripur Upazila in Mymensingh district and the dargah is visited daily by the Muslims as well as people of other communities. The Afghan hero Khawaja Usman Khan Nohani was the pioneer of Kella Bokainagar which has been well depicted in the history of not only India but also the world. He was the son of Isa Khan Nuhani Mian Khel and nephew of Qutlu Khan Nuhani. Qutlu Khan Nuhnai was the ruler of North Orissa.
  The Afghan Age : From The year duration from 1537 to 1612 is called the Afghan Age. The Mughal conquest of Bengal did not occur all on a sudden. Although the entry of imperial forces into the capital of Bengal was  on September 25, 1574 , the conquest actually took three-quarters of a century to accomplish, beginning as far back as 1537 and continued until 1612. This period was when migrants were being welcomed ultimately from Afghanistan, but more immediately from Upper India, held de facto control over much or most of the countryside. In the mid fifteenth century, Afghans had replaced Turks as the Delhi Sultanate's ruling class. The Afghan hero Khawaja Usman Khan Nohani was the last Afghan ruler in the Afghan Age. From there the Afghan leader went on to dislodge the Mughals not only from Bengal but from Delhi as well in the process driving the hapless Humayun out of India altogether. In 1556, however, Humayun managed to re-conquer Delhi from Sher Shah's successors. The situation became acute in the 1560s, when Mughal power under the brilliant leadership of Akbar (1565-1605), the dynasty's greatest empire builder, began expanding all over North India. After the fall of the Karrani power in 1576, Bengal was under the Mughal rule. Only Eastern Bengal was under Isa Khan and his associates.  Afghans ruled Bangladesh and there was even a Pashtun-Bengali navy commanded by Isa Khan, the chief of the Bara-bhuiyans who fought against the Mughals. But Afghan resistance continued at least for three decades under the leadership of Isa Khan. Raja Mansingh's main task in Bengal was to subjugate or dominate the Afghan chieftains and the Bhuiyans under Isa Khan. In September 1597 Mansingh sent two large forces, by land as well as waterway, against Isa Khan.
  Killa Bokainagar : Stronghold of Usman Khan            
The Afghans took possession of Bokainagar ( in Gouripur ) which was once a centrally located place in the heart of the Bhati area and well connected through rivers with the four forts in greater Mymensingh district. Usman Khan was one of the most colourful personalities in the history of Bengal as well as Indian subcontinent. But with the death of Khwaja Isa Khan Nohani, father of Khwaja Usman Khan, the Afghans in Orissa rose in rebellion. Raja Man Singh, the Mughal Subahdar of Orissa, hardly suppressed or put down the rebellion (1593).  Khwaja Usman, along with his brothers, Khwaja Sulaiman, Khwaja Wali, Khwaja Malhi and Khwaja Ibrahim, having been expelled by Raja Man Singh from North Orissa, came to Bengal. Traversing through many districts they came to the East Bengal.   Mansingh assigned Khwaja Usman as Chef in the Faridpur district of East Bengal after the Mughal conquest of Orissa (1593). But before he could arrive there Mansingh cancelled his grants, at which he broke out in open rebellion, ravaged South Bengal and then joined Isa khan Masnad-i-Ala. Usman established himself in the region east of the Brahmaputra in Mymsensingh district, with the city of Bukainagar in Gouripur upazila as his stronghold. In alliance with Isa Khan he fought more than once with Man Singh and continued his political alliance with Isa khan Masnad-i-Ala. The second phase of Mughal campaigns started with Man Singh's appointment as Governor of Bengal in 1594. Having defeated the Afghan Contd from page 55
leaders of Orissa two years back, the new Governor aimed at East Bengal. However, this was a difficult project. In that time, many riverine battle took place .Though the Mughals were dependent on their cavalry in many battles, in the Bhati region, they had to build some sort of a riverine fleet which did not seem to have matched the bigger fleets of their rivals.  
"Khwaja Usman was probably the most romantic figure in the history of medieval Bengal. Driven out of Orissa, Usman had established himself in Bengal challenging the Mughal aggression and invigorated the Afghan strength in this region. Usman has been immortalised for his 'personal valour, dash and vigour, tenacity of purpose and above all his love of freedom, all of which combined to inspire and sustain him in his defensive war against the expanding Mughal power till his death in the field of battle'. [Muazzam Hussain Khan] ...He had two other fortified posts, one at Roailbari  and the other at Egarasindur, both on the eastern bank of the Brahmaputra which was the dividing line between the territories of Usman and the Mughals. But Isha Khan controlled Dhaka, half of Tripura, Mymensingh, Rangpur, and parts of Bogra and Pabna in East Bengal.
"An Afghan chief who waged a relentless war against the Mughals, Masum however, continued his fight against the Mughals in alliance with Isa Khan till at least 1597 and died in May 1599." [Muazzam Hussain Khan]  The Afghan hero Usman Khan Nohani of Bokainagar (Kellah Bokainagar), continued his political alliance with Isa Khan's son Musa Khan and proved always eager to attack the Mughals in the course of their campaign against Musa Khan. Usman maintained friendly relations also with the Afghan Chiefs Bayazid Karrani of Sylhet and Anwar Khan of Baniachang.
Akbar the great finally had to send his most powerful General Man Singh to bring Bengal under Mughal rule. The conquest of the Baro Bhuiyans took several years and their resistance led by Musa Khan, son of Isa Khan, is a glorious chapter for the Bengalis. At this turn of events Raja Man Singh hurried from Dhaka to Bhawal and inflicted a pending defeat upon Usman Khan. Shortly afterwards another pending encounter took place on the bank of the river Ichhamati between Man Singh and the combined forces of Musa Khan ,Usman Khan and Kedar Rai. In 1603 Man Singh was warded off with great difficulties by the attack of the Magh pirates on the Mughal fort at Tri-Mohani. Kedar Rai, helped by the Maghs, attacked the Mughal outpost of Shrinagar. A great battle was fought on the outskirts of Vikrampur.Having wounded and captured, Kedar Rai died within a short time. Mansingh turned back to Bhawal to deal with Usman Khan who, however, fled away. In February 1605, Mansingh left Bengal for Agra. As a governor of Bengal, Islam Khan won great fame because he succeeded, where his famous predecessors had been unsuccessful, in subjugating and bringing the whole of Bengal, except Chittagong, under Mughal control. Three factors helped the Mughals consolidate their power in the delta: their more effective use of military force, the diplomacy of Islam Khan, and the financial backing of Hindu merchant. Nasir Khan and Dariya Khan, two Afghan Chiefs of KellaTajpur, left Usman and joined the imperialists. In 1611 Islam Khan attacked Bokayanagar. Usman Khan was defeated and he fled to Sylhet. Later, in a battle with the Mughals at Daulambapur he was killed. The abandoned fort of Bokainagar was occupied by the Mughal army (7 December 1611).
The tragedy of Usman Khan in Sylhet     
The new Governor of Bengal, Islam Khan Chisti (1608-1613) understood that  well-equipped, well-trained, loyal and dutiful armed forces were needed to establish Mughal authority in the rebellious province of Bengal. It occurred to him that the main obstacle to the Mughal conquest of Bengal was the Bhati of the Bara-Bhuiyans and the Afghans under Khwaja Usman and his brothers.
After the fall of Musa Khan, Usman was the main target of the new Governor of Bangal, Islam Khan Chisti (1608-1613) who sent an expedition towards Bokainagar (1611). He also gathered a large army for the campaign against Usman. The land force towards Bokainagar was sent. The advance of the invaders with the help of small forts was opposed by Usman almost at every stage. Nasir Khan and Dariya Khan, two Afghan Chiefs of Tajpur in Gouripur upazila, left Usman and joined the invaders. He then gave his attention to Khwaja Usman and defeated the Afghans under him at Bokainagar. The Afghans fled to Uhar (in Maulvibazar) and continued their difficult resistance. On Islam Khan's request, the Emperor sent Shujaat Khan to lead the army against Usman.
Usman created a new centre of authority in the hilly tract in the southern part of Sylhet, with Uhar as the fortified capital. He stationed his son Khwaja Mumriz and brother Khwaja Malhi in the neighbouring tract of Taraf. Khwaja Wali was placed on the left wing with 1000 cavalry, 2000 infantry, and 30 elephants, and Shir-i-Maydan on the right wing with 700 cavalry, 1000 infantry and 20 elephants. The van was entrusted to Khwaja Malhi and Khwaja Ibrahim, brothers of Usman, and Khwaja Daud, his nephew, with 1500 cavalry, 2000 infantry, and 50 elephants. From his capital Uhar, Usman proceeded eastward for about 12 miles and reached the village of Daulambapur on 12 March 1612 when the invaders opened the attack on the right wing of Usman. But in the first phase of the battle confusion arose in the Mughal army. A strong and well-equipped army was sent against Usman under the Chief command of Shujat Khan. Usman opposed the advancing army at Daulambapur, a village about five miles south of Maulvi Bazar.
The Afghans fought bravely and the daylong battle was going to be indecisive or uncertain, but the sudden death of Usman gave the Mughals an unexpected victory. The Afghans fled under the cover of darkness, but later surrendered. There was another group of Afghans under Bayazid Karrani at Sylhet. They were also made to surrender. Thus the whole of Bengal came under Mughal control.
When the victory of the Afghans seemed certain, an arrow shot pierced through the left eye of Usman and this rolled back the tide of fortune. He became totally blind and soon succumbed to death. The Afghans continued desultory fighting till the end of the day, and at nightfall silently left for Uhar with the body of their General and buried it by the side of a hill. Usman has been immortalised for his personal valour, tenacity of purpose and love for freedom.
 Some historians have argued that Islam Khan (1608-1613) fought against many minor Afghan leaders before finally defeating Musa Khan in 1611 and Usman Khan in 1612.With the submission of Musa Khan and death of Usman Khan, the period of resistance of the Baro Bhuiyans came to an end.
(The writer is New Nation
Correspondent, Gouripur, )

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