Purba Midnapur, Paschim Midnapur
Religions - Tribes
Drought - Disaster
Tamluk Contai Midnapore Kharagpur

Bengali original : PRANAB BAHUBALINDRA

Rendering into English : BULBUL GAYEN
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Ms. Ratnalekha Ray in her well-known book `change in Bengal Agrarian Society' has shown that even during the mighty Mughal rule Moyna as well as Tamluk was practically self-governed `almost an autonomous state'. Moynaraj also used to take the responsibility of playing the role of a `samajpati' (leader of society) through generations. Thus, these `rajas' had the rare quality of combing two important factors _ controlling the government as well as keeping a close contact with the common people. This was extremely rare in the background of the middle Ages. Mr. Bayley has mentioned that from the days of the Nababs till the first seven years of Hastings there was a custom. The foujdars used to send horses and gold annually to the Zamindars of kashijora, Moynachoura, Medinipur. Narayangarh. In a separate context while naming several zamindars he has referred to Tamluk, Narayangarh and Moynachoura as the real rajas. Before the ten year settlement Mr. James grant has mentioned eight families evaluating their revenue - collection and hereditary prestige, and Moynachoura is one of them.

Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik
Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik

There may be a geographical description of Moynagarh in Arabic, persian or Oriya and marathi, but I am in the dark about it. I have seen the first approved description of Moynagarh in the records of early `Residents' of the East India Company. Edward baber wrote a letter to warren Hastings dated 6th February 1773. This is a very important letter where he mentioned that Moynagarh is almost inaccessible. Towards the end of the letter he wrote : the fort in which the Raja lives is surrounded by two moats both of which are wide and deep; he used to shut himself up in his fort in order to put off unwanted persons and then it is impossible to reach him.

Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik
Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik

This angry Resident has also mentioned Moynagarh once more. he wrote to Hastings and his council from Midnapur in a letter dated 7th April 1773, a long letter concluding thus : I think dear sirs, that this castle is totally useless to the company. for this, the moats need to be made into flat land and the castle be razed to the ground. As it stands now, it is strong and secure and should not be allowed to keep it so. I am absolutely sure that had the Rajah not owned such a secure homestead he could never have showed such brazenness. If someday, an inconsiderate person inherits this castle, he will one day, definitely do something foolish and intractable. Luckily, governor Hastings and his Council did not accept such unwanted advice. Hastings took charge as the `governor and president of fort william' on 13th of April 1772 at the age of 40. He had seven advisors:Aldersey, dacres, Lane, Barwell, lawrel, goodwin, graham.

The first eulogistic picture of Moynagarh can be found in a historical treatise named " Memoranda of Midnapore" by the collector H.V. Bayley. Bayley wrote his report in 1852, five years prior to the great Mutiny of 1857. this report was kept unperused in a file of the Government for fifty years for fear of unwanted repercussions. It was finally printed in 1902. Baber described Moynagarh for indirect causes, but Bayley took up his pen for direct reasons. And herein lies the difference. He has heartily acclaimed the. Head clerk of the Midnapore Collectorate jagabandhu Banerjee, for his accumulation of detailed historical facts. But it is a matter of regret that the regional researchers have never mentioned his name, even once, bayley has taken two paragraphs and it seems that he has brought out a photograph of the place. He wrote : to keep life and property safe and secure the Chief landlords considered it essential to live in fortified castles, which are still extant by the name of "garh". killa moynachoura is very well-known amongst them.

It is surrounded by two wide and abysmal moats full of crocodiles. In the middle, there lies a deep forest of bamboo like a wall. leave alone the infantry, it is invincible for even an arrow. Sir William Wilson Hunter in his famous "A Statistical Account of Bengal" has depended largely on Bayley's opinions on Moynagarh. But for the poetic delineation of Moynagarh we are indebted to the Archaeological surveryor of Bengal, J.D. Begalar. It is with his help that the public works Dept. of the govt. of bengal had published in 1886 the `Revised list of Ancient Monuments in Bengal'. It is not only a poetic description but a detailed depiction of a specialist in the subject. He had this to write for a surprising technique of the Middle ages: Moynagarh is situated a further up from the confluence of Kangshabati and keleghai rivers on the western bank of kangshabati. "It practically stands on an island within an island", writes Beglar. It is not possible to translate this sentence without hampering its beauty. It is an eternal truth that a writer, having no insight, has no value at all. lewis stanley o'malley while publishing the District Gazetteer in 1911 has only followed Beglar. Baber - Bayley - Beglar are the trio who painted the earliest picture of Moynachourah Fort. Hunter, o'malley come after these three. Surendranath Jana definitely deserves acclaim for his work in Bengali "Brihattara Moynar Itibritta" written fifty years ago.

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If one wishes to get a real picture of the dauntlessness, the valour and gallantry of the king of Moynagarh one will have to skim through the pages of all the volumes of "bengal district Records, Midnapore''. It is the documentary exposition of the aggressive British of the earliest period. had these not been published in 1914 under the compilation of walter Firminger, a lot of important information would have remained unknown to the historians. Many of the original letters were already torn to pieces, some were eaten up by insects and many would crumble to pieces by a slight touch. The capital had been shifted from Murshidabad to calcutta and the first meeting of the `Revenue Committee' was held on 13th october 1772.

Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik
Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik

Many letters, regarding the defiance and insubordination of Moynagarh, were exchanged at that time. At last governor hastings sent an order : overnun the castle of Moynagarh, seize the Zamindari, imprison the rebel king and send him to Calcutta. it was a clandestine operation. It was the second time for Moynagarh, once again after 1767. on 20th February 1773 Lieutenant Robert Baillie, with the help of his troops, was successful to some extent, though he could not touch the Rajah. This marks the beginning of the opposition to the British in Medinipur; the first time it got the epithet `'rebel". The queen of karnagarh had to face an identical situation after 26 years on 6th April 1799. one was a man, the other a woman; one from the east, the other from the west; one could never be captured, the other was a detainee, Both are representative of ancient aristocratic families. The soldiers attacked both the places and their Zamindaries were confiscated. Did the `Baro bhuiyans' return after a lapse of 200 years? Jagadananda and Shiromoni lived in the pages of history.

Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik
Moyna Garh, East Medinipur. Photo: Arindam Bhowmik

A question lingers in the mind as to what is the source of the inner strength of the archaeologically rich Moynagarh? It has lost its glory as a result of continual negligence, yet it has its beauty intact. Benoy ghosh has solved this mystery. he has shown in his `paschimbanger sanskriti' that assimilation is the real bonding. The call for unity is the last word, nothing else. what is the significance of `Lokeswar' or the closed-eye eight - handed image of Bhadrakali holding a pitcher? The three temples of three different faiths - vaishnava, Shakta and shaiva stand side by side through the ages. A little further away stands the altar of dharma thakur, the crypt of the Mohanta, follower of Mahaprabhu and the Mazar-i-sharif of the sufi devotee. The place has nurtured the brotherhood of different faiths which has spung side by side - an eternal knot of fraternity among human beings. The tradition persists even today.

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