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History & Archaeology Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
History of Bogra and Mahasthan Garh (Part-2)

"The City of Pundurunagar"


The Glory of Ancient Bangladesh:

The ancient kingdom of Punduru Bardhan was bordered by the Himalayas to the north, rivers Padma to the south, Korotoa to the east and Mahananda to the west. Seventh century Chinese traveler Huen Shang, mentioned that the perimeter of “Punduru Bardhan” was 8 hundred miles.  

By: Aziz-ul Huq


The Pundurus were destroyed as a result of the conquest by the Aryans. Punduru Bardhan broke up into five kingdoms one of which was called “Barendra” which was successively ruled by the Mauryas, the Guptas, the Pals, the Sens and finally became part of the Muslim kingdom of Gaur.

The Aryans were greatly impressed by the beauty of this land and named it “Barendra”, which means “Bar” (Gift) from “Indra”, thus “Punduru Bardhan” became “Barendra Bhumi”.

From the existence of an ancient settlement known as “Punduria”, it is known that the “the Pundurus” lived there. This settlement is located in the northern side of Tilokpur station located in Adamdighi of Bogra. The findings, preserved in museums, reveal arts, sculptures, and the sophisticated nature of this very ancient civilization.

In those days silk was cultivated in this area. One name of silk is “Polu”, the cultivation of which led to the name of “Polu Bardhan” which eventually became “Punduru Bardhan”. During the rule of the “Pundurus”, this area was densely forested with thin population density. Sherpur and Panchbibi of greater Bogra had tracts of “Shaal trees” (W.W Hunter: Statistical Account of Bengal (Bogra), London 1768).

Between the year 1281 CE and 1290 CE Gaur Barendra was ruled by Sultan Nasiruddin Khan Bogra, the second son of Sultan Giasuddin Balban, the ruler of Delhi. The place where offices were set up for administration was named Bogra, which became a part of Sherpur Shik during the rule of emperor Shershah.

III. MUSLIM RULE: Comes to Punduru Bardhan:

It is not clearly known when and how the Muslim rule came to Mahasthan. The most popular view with the local people involve Shah Sultan Balkhi Mahisawar and the last native ruler Porshuram. According to legend, in the year 1043 CE, Shah Sultan of Balkh, the famous preacher Shah Sultan Mahmud Balkhi came to Mahastahan accompanied by his disciples dressed as a Faqir in a boat shaped like a fish. It has been reported that initially Chilhon, the army chief of Porshuram and many others accepted the message of Islam and became Muslims but eventually there was conflict between Porshuram and Balkhi Mahisawar in which Porshuram was defeated and killed. Provash Chandra Sen, the writer of “Bogurar Itihash” wrote: “Narshingh or Porshuram, the Hindu king of the Mahasthan Bhoj Garh dynasty, was defeated and killed by Shah Sultan Balki in the year 1043CE”

Other historians have difficulty in accepting the date of 1043 CE as the time of Mahisawar’s battle with Porshuram because of the fact that this happens to be over 160 years before the conquest of Bangladesh by Bakhtiar Khalji. Such an important event taking place before the conquest of Bakhtiar Khalji could not have been overlooked by the historians.

Now the question is who is this Balkhi and the big question is when did the great conquest take place and who really was this Muslim conqueror and who was this Porshuram?

A: Who Was Balkhi Mahisawar?
History reveals the names of three Balkhis:

1. Ibrahim Adham Balkhi (RA), was a ruler of Balkh. During the period of his rule as the Sultan of Balkh, the Khalifa in Baghdad was Al-Mamun in the year 812 CE, Muhtasim Billah in 815 CE, Waseq Billah in 846 CE and Mutawaqqil Billah between 846 and 861 CE successively. It is reported that one day Khalifa Mutawaqqil Billah called Ibrahim Adham Balkhi to his court and asked him about his Tariqa and ideology implying that during the Khilafat of Mutawaqqil Billah, Balkhi was not the ruler of Balkh but a Sufi saint.

At that time, North India and Punduru Bardhan kingdom was under the Pal dynasty. Emperor Deb Pal ruled from 810 CE to 850 CE, who was a great conqueror. During his rule Pundurnagar witnessed substantial development. It is quite inconceivable that during this time any outside power would attack and conquer Pundurunagar. Besides that Ibrahim Adham Balkhi never came here and his grave is in Balkh.

2. Then comes the case of second Balkhi. Some historians and local scholars and writers say that Shah Sultan Mahmud Balkhi, son of Shah Asgar, Sultan of Balkh is the conqueror of Mahasthan. According to them, in the year 1043 CE he came to this land from Balkh and at one time conquered Pundurunagar. This group of historians say that Shah Sultan Balkhi Mahisawar first came to Hariram Nagar of Dhaka and then proceeded to Mahasthan Garh to preach Islam. These historians also believe that this is where lies his Mazhar.

King Noipal Deb, from the Pal dynasty, was the unchallenged ruler between the year 1038 CE to 1054 CE over Gaur Barendra and Pundurunagar. After him Bigrohopal III ruled between 1054 CE and 1070 CE. And during this period, the only one foreign incursion on Pundurunagar was the attack by Lakhsmicorn. It is also quite inconceivable that there would be any foreign attack during this period. The period up to 1160 CE, was the time when the Pal dynasty ruled Gaur Barendra. In the year 1162 CE, the Sen dynasty was initiated by Bijoy Sen. The Sen dynasty ruled Gaur Barendra Between 1162 CE and 1204 CE, for a long period of 42 years. The Sens were orthodox Brahmin and anti-Muslim. It is quite inconceivable that there would be Mazhar in Mahasthan of a famous Sufi saint during or before their rule. Probably it would not have been allowed to stand in its place by the members of the Sen dynasty.

Rampal Deb’s conquest adventure of Barendra has been narrated by contemporary poet named Shondhakor Nandi in his work: “Ramcharitom”. Poet Hulayud and Dhoyi also described several incidents from that period in their works. But the conquest of Mahasthan by Balkhi and his battle with Porshuram is not mentioned anywhere in their literature.

3. The third Balkhi, according to some other historians, is the real conqueror of Mahasthan. He was also a resident of Balkh and was also called Balkhi and he came to Mahasthan Garh with Shah Makhdum Ruposh.

B. When Did Mahisawar Come to Mahasthan Garh?

Bakhtiar Khilji conquered Gaur in the year 1204 CE. Since then many of the Pal and Sen kings of Bangladesh surrendered to the Muslim rule but continued to administer their kingdom almost independently, like Mukut Roy (Brahmin Nagar) Porshuram (Mahasthan Garh) and Ongshu Deo (Mahakal Garh, Rajshahi). These kings had very small territories to rule, yet they were free to practice their religion.

In the year 1288 CE, a Sufi saint by the name of Shah Turkan or Turfan Shah went to Mahakal Garh (Rajshahi) with the message of Islam. But he came into conflict with the Hindu king, hence he left Mahakal Garh and retreated to Sherpur where he had a battle with king Ballal Sen II, of the Sen dynasty and was martyred.

Soon after this, hearing the news of the martyrdom of Shah Turkan, Shah Makhdum (RA) of Baghdad set out for Mahakal Garh between 1325 and 26 CE. He went to Noakhali and then traveled to Mahakal Garh (Rajshahi) by boat . After coming to Mahakal he had a conflict with the Deo kings where they (the kings) were defeated and killed. Thus Rajshahi came under the Muslim rule making the way for the Islamic message to spread. In the year 1330 CE he died in Rampur Boalia. The name of this place is derived from Bui Aulia, becoming Boalia. The meaning of Bui Aulia is “ the Residence of the Aulia”..

He had four disciples with him named: Shah Abbas, Shah Dilal Bukhari, Shah Karam Ali and Shah Sultan. After conquering Mahakal, Shah Sultan traveled to Mahasthan Garh, along river Padma to Pabna and then to Mahasthan along Korotoa. On the way he had a battle with king Handilal who was also defeated. The boat used by Shah Sultan had the shape of a fish (in Persian fish is called “Mahi” and Sawar means the rider). Thus his title became “Mahisawar”, “The Rider of Fish”.

C. Why Did Mahisawar Come to Mahasthan Garh?

The legend with the local people is as follows. In the olden times there lived a poor Muslim in the vicinity of the city. His name was Burhanuddin who did not have any children. He made a Du’a to Allah, subhanahu wa-Taala to give him a child and made a “Manat” to sacrifice a cow. In time a son was born, when the son was born he set out to fulfill his vow and accordingly sacrificed a cow but at that time the Hindu king “Porshuram” , known to be oppressive and a Muslim hater was the ruler of Pundurunagar. Sacrificing a cow was not allowed in his kingdom. It was a forbidden act. Now Burhanuddin did the sacrifice in secrecy and he put all the guts and the internal parts of the cow inside the earth but an eagle took a piece of meat and accidentally dropped it in the royal court, seeing which the king became suspicious and employed spies to find the source of the cow meat and found out about the forbidden sacrifice of Burhanuddin. The king brought Burhanuddin along with his son to the royal court where he killed the son and exiled Burhanuddin.

In utter remorse, Burhanuddin made a pilgrimage to Makkah where he came in contact with a renowned saintly man whom he briefed about the tragic episode of his life. Hearing which this great man decided to go to Pundurunagar... more part-3»


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