History of Balurghat
Origin of the name of BalurghatBalurghat is famous for its natural beauty and pollution free environment. This is a small town if Dakshin Dinajpur District of State of West Bengal. The name Balurghat is derived from ‘Balukakirnaghat’, which means ‘Ghat’ full or Sand or ‘Balu’. One another story regarding the name of Balurghat is, there was a ghat near the temple of Burakali (still exists), the name Balurghat is derived from the same. This ghat once called ‘Barikalitala’ and has changed to Burakali with passage of time.
Formation of BalurghatThe town of Balurghat is spread in the east of the River Atrayee, Balurghat is surrounded by the border of 2 to 9 km from the centre of the city. In 1947 South Western part of old Dinajpur district in Bengal was split and the part which came under India was called west Dinajpur. This district then was again bifurcated into Dakshi Dinajpur and Uttar Dinajpur in 1992. Balurghat is the headquarters of Dakshin Dinajpur and the and important urban centre of the district.
Ancient History of BalurghatThe history of the small town of Balurghat will be incomplete without the mention of its District Dakshin Dinajpur. The district has a rich cultural heritage. Dakshin Dinajpur was the part of Dinajpur district of former Bengal and was known as Pundra Vardhan Bhukti in ancient times.
According to the Holy book Brihath Katha Kosh, the renowned Jain Guru of Chandra Gupta (the great Mauryan Emperor), was the son of a Brahmin in the place called Devkota in Pundra Vardhan area. Panchanagari was the eastern part of Dinajpur and Devkot was the capital of the area. The ruins in and around Bangarh and Gangarampur area of present Dakshin Dinajpur, backs this story.
The mention of this place is also in the Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Bangarh is a place near Balurghat, it is a large mound of bricks, which is believed to the palace in ancient times of King Bana.At a little distance from the northeast side of the city in Shivbati, there is another mound of bricks believed to be the ruins of Virupakshya Shiva temple. Raja Bana was a devotee and worshiper of Lord Shiva. He excavated a lake or Dighi in Tapan which is famously known by the name, Tapan Dighi in order to offer Tarpan (a Hindu ritual) to Lord Shiva, some also say that he offered Tarpan to his ancestors here.
King Bana had a daughter named, Usha. Usha use to live half a mile from the northern end of the Palace of Bana in a house. Usha was in love with the son of Krishna, Anirudh. Anirudh and Usha fled together and the road is still famous as Ushaharan Road. Usha’s love for Anirudh was a reason of great misfortune for her father and his empire. On the banks of river Brahmani, at Narayanpur, a great battle between King Bana and Krishna took place.
In Tapan about 10 miles away from the place Bangarh there is a place called Kardaha. Krishna is said to have destroyed the palms of Bana by cutting them. The stone relics of an ancient temple get visible in the river bed, when water of Tangon River near Bangshihari P.S recedes.
Many places in the district are associated with the epics of Mahabharata. According to one saga in Mahabharata during the term of disguise Pandavas took shelter in the palace of King Birat. The remnants of this palace can still be seen at Bairhatta village of Harirampur P.S near Balurghat. Army chief of King Birat, Kichak was also killed here by Bhima when he tried to establish illicit relations with his wife Draupadi. There is a tank by the name of Kichak at Bairhatta; Kichaka Kunda. An ancient tree, Shami is at the enterance of the village. This is unique specie of the tree, Nakula, one of the Pandavas is said to have hidden the arms of Pandavas on this very tree before entering the palace.
Also a village is names after Pandavas; Panch Bhaya means five brothers. Other places like Karnajora, Karandighi and Karanji are associated with the great warrior of Mahabharata, Karna.
Certain areas of Balurghat which are channelled by the holy River Atrayee became famous because of presence of Aryan legends. Amongst them two were mythological figures and are still worshipped; Maharishi Bhrigu and Lord Parshuram. Saint Bhrigu meditated in the area which is now known as ‘Chakvrigu’, for some time and Lord Parshuram chose the banks of River Atrayee as the placeto absolve himself of different sins.
Medieval History of BalurghatBalurghat history dates back to the era of Mauryas (321 B.C – 185 B.C). Later descendent of aGupta King,Chandragupta II (period of rule: c.A.D 380 – c.A.D 413), Kumargupta II ( period of rule c. A.D 437- 74) founded the town Kumarganj, about 24 km from the headquarters of the district Dakshin Dinajpur.
In mid 8th Century A.D and 12th Century A.D, during the rules of PALA dynasty, a time span when the area around the present day Balurghat came to achieve importance, King Mahipala II who ruled from 1070 A.D till 1075 A.D was assassinated by Kaibartyas in 11th century.
Kaibartyas rose in rebellion and overthrew PALAS. Kaibartyas united together in order to out throw Palas. About 27 Km south-west from Balurghat, the area called Mouradi Bar witnessed sectarian rulings by rebel leaders like Dibboka, Bhima and Rudaka, these rebels kept ruling the place until Emperor Ramapala who ruled from 1077 A.D till 1030 A.D, ruthlessly uprooted Varendra ( Chief of Kaibartya rebellion) and reannexed the area to his own Kingdom.
Historians in the light of the ruins recovered have revealed that around 19th Century A.D, the areas which comes under present Balughat and Gungarampur (45 Km from Balurghat) were included under the area called ‘KotiBarshya’ and the capital of which was Devkote, which was located near Gungarampur area. There was a group of people speaking language of the Indo- Aryan family and the entire area of Pundravardhana was home to them. Devkote, the capital town was also refered as Bangarh. The earliest mention of Kotibarshaya area is seen in ancent Hindu Holy book, ‘Vayu Purana’ (Written before 600 A.D).
In 12th century A.D, the primitive region around the current Balurghat town witnessed big battles between military personnel of King Lakshman sen (Ruled during: 1178 A.D – 1206 A.D) and the army of Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji, Tuekic general of Qutb-ud-din Aybak. Even after stiff confrontation from Sen soldiers,Afghan rule was established in Bengal around 1204 A.D. This Kingdom was named after its capital and was named Lakhnauti, but the capital was often shifted to Devkote. Around 1206 A.D Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji was probably murdered at Devkote by Ali Khilji and was buried somewhere near Gungarampur.
Under the keen supervision of the medieval Bengal Sultans Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah (Ruled during: 1490 A.D to 1494 A.D), his successor who also assassinated him Alauddin Husain Shah (Ruled during: 1494 A.D till 1519 A.D) and son of Hussain Shah, Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah (Ruled during: 1519 A.D to 1533 A.D) ancient villages and area around Balurghat was improved by clearing dense forests.
Name of Alauddin Hussain Shah is also been commemorated in present Balurghat’s Hoseinpur village. Kashinath Roy, the 16th century Hindu King also a collaborator Of Emperor Akbar (Mughal Emperor: 1542 – 1605) established his fortress on the banks of River Atrayee near Balurghat. In 1741 – 1751, when Bargi plundering was active in Bengal, Ramnath Roy , Maharaja of Dinajpur (1722-63) took corrective measures with the help of Bengal Nawab Alivardi Khan (1671 to 1746) against him.
And by the time Raja Radhanath Roy (1778 -1800) officially assumed power, the area of Dinajpur had already become the part of India under the British rule of East India Company).
Modern History of BalurghatThe history has witnessed that whenever the independence of the area has come in danger the people of and around Balurghat had displayed an aggressive mentality. Sannyasi were welcomed by the region in 1771-1802 during Monk’s Rebellion, they were also offered refuge during their fights with Englishmen. Majnu Shah and Bhabani Pathak who were two rebels and were originally from Kishangunge Bihar and Rangpur respectively, supervised their Guerrilla attack for some time from the region around Balurghat. Central Balurghat hence is named after one such rebel, Bhabani Pathak as Chakbhabani. He created a huge terror in the hearts of East India Company.
Rajenra Sanyal a caring but powerful landlord established his headquarters in 19th century at the are ‘Saheb Kachhari’. Dhanpat Singh another landlord from Murshidabad made his office at Kuthi Kachhari. Later on the landlordship was transferred to Bahadur Singh and Purnendu Roy from Sanyals. After Kalidas Chokroborty became first Sub Registrar on Commission of the subdivision in 1897, different social developments gained thrust. First ever post office of Balurghat was inaugurated at Saheb Kachcharipara and the first charitable infirmary of Balurghat was open at Congresspara.
Different banks were established in Balurghat in 20th century in order to save the farmers and peasants from the clutches of the landlords. Most of the banks failed to operate successfully in the area, some of the early banks in the region include; Balurghat Town Commercial Bank Company Ltd., Santosh Bank, Central Calcutta Bank and Central Cooperative Bank (still operating).
An active role was played by Balurghat dwellers in the anti- imperialist struggle. Mukund Das (rebellious Ballad singer) and Kaji Najrul Islam (Litterateur) visited Balurghat in 1925 to inspire and boost the prospective patriots. ACongress part office was inaugurated near the Atrayee by Subhash Chandra Bose himself in 1928 at Balurghat. In March 1940, the freedom struggle was further advanced by activist and member of the Revolutionary Social Party which was formed out of the rebellious organisation named Anushilan Samiti.
Some of the early patriots were; Dhirendranath Bandopadhyay, Satyen Munshi, Haribhajan Mukhopadhyay, Khagen Dey, Probodh Talapatra and Kali Sanyal. As ‘Quit India Movement’ gained momentum in 1942, Balurghat played an important role as sons and daughters of this region came out as one and protested against British rule. 14th September 1942 was the date when agitators burnt English supervised offices, post offices, treasury and other establishments under Colonial rule and throughout the day the area was free from English rule virtually.
Many groups of freedom fighting activists like Yugantar Samiti, Anushilan Samiti and Hitsadhan Mandali, used to operate from this tiny town of Balurghat. One more important incident worth noting took place on 24th Oct. 1933, when rebels from Hili and Balurghat looted the Darjeeling Mai at Hili Railway station and was a part of fatal shootout killing one person, rebels who were the part of this incidence were; Hrishikesh Bhattacharya, Prankishna Chakroborty, Saroj Bose, Madhav Roy and Satyabrata Chakroborty.
Freedom fighters were initially condemned to death and were captured at Samjhia but later on were imprisoned till 1947. One another incidence of freedom fight took place at the end of 1934 when freedom fighting activists attacked and destroyed administrative facilities at Bolla. Imperial forces engaged armed revolutionaries on 18th September 1941 and opened shootout at Parilahat near area of Tapan, 4 activists were killed in the shootout.
When wicked English administrators tried to split Hindus and Muslims under their Divide and rule policy, Balurghat people were quick to understand the ploy and acted intellectually. Though there was various incidents oof rioting all over the country not even a single such incidence was noticed in Balurghat.
Other freedom fighters who wrote their names with blood in the history of Balurghat were: Ranjan Chattopadhyay, Sushil Ranjan Chattopadhyay, Abdul Jobber Miah, Sarij Ranjan Chattopadhyay, Paresh Guha, Satindranath Basu, Jamini Majumdar, Nripati Chattopadhyay, Abinash Basu, Jyotishwar Sarkar, Tarakeshwar Guha and Pulin Behari Dasgupta.
Balurghat is also well known for its ‘Tebhaga Movement’.This military campaign was initiated in Bengal by ‘Kisan Sabha’ (Farmer’s front of C.P.I or Communist Party of India) in 1946. Prior to this movement the peasants were forced to give half of their harvests to Landlords or the owners of the land. The demand of 75% of the crops by the peasants was given the name ‘Tebhaga’ which literally means sharing by thirds. The movement was to reduce the share of landlords to 1/3rd and increase the share of the peasants to 2/3rd who use to give their sweat in growing crops. As the activists of Communist Party of India grew aggressive, English administration along with the landlords increased all possible measures to suppress the movement.
The activists retaliated against the English forces and on 21st Feb. 1947 just half a year before Independence, English forces went to the village Khapur which is 18 km from Balurghat, in order to arrest one of the Tebhanga leader, Chiarshaj Sheikh and found themselves lacking every mode of communication. As they failed in locating Chiarshaj Sheikh, they arrested the wife of the then party secretary, Jashoda Rajbanshi and 4 other party activists;Gopesh Das Mohanta, Ghutui Kolkamar, Sashi Burman and Md. Gajimuddin.
Furious at such an act C.P.I activists snatched them back from English forces, as a result they opened the fire and 120 rounds of fire was shot, killing 22 farmer activists. This fight was done in Unity by Hindus and Muslims. The activists who were killed in this massacre were Ciarshai Sheikh, Kaushalya Kamarni, Dukhan Kolmakaar, Kailsh Bhumalee, Hopan Mardee, Majh Soren, Bhuvan Burman, Bjolanath Kolmakar, Narayan Murmu, Bhavani Burman, Nagen Burman,Gohonua Mahato, Shyamacharan Burman, Gurucharan Burman, Yoshodaranee Sarkar, Fahua Kolmakar, Purna Kolmakar, and Khato Burman.
At the entrance road to Balurghat a statue is erected in honour and remembrance of these brave activists. Initially Balurghat was included in Pakistan as India was declared Independent on 15th Aug. 1947. And Pakistan flag was flown in Balurghat for three days, Balurghat again bevame the part of India on 18th August 1947, and the Indian flag was hoisted by the then I.A.S officer and District Magistrate Bipul Kumar Acharya before an administrative office.
Soon after Independence, Communal riots ravages in Bangladesh or East Pakistan, thousands of residents of Bangladesh crossed the border and settled in Balurghat.