Alexa Gaur Nagar: The capital of early Bengal

Dhaka, Tuesday   22 October 2019


Gaur Nagar: The capital of early Bengal


 Published: 07:35 PM, 22 September 2019   Updated: 08:12 PM, 22 September 2019

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

Gauda, Gaur or Gour is a ruined city on the India-Bangladesh border. It is spilt between these two centuries. Some of the sights are inn India some in Bangladesh. The largest number of historical mosques are located in Gaur than any other area in Bangladesh.

It was the capital of this region of Buddhist Pala Dynasty, followed by the Hindu Sena Dynasty century, then Delhi Sultanate and Bengal Sultanate.


A brief history of Gauda

Gauda, Janapada an important geographical entity in ancient and medieval Bengal. The Gupta emperor Samudragupta (335 – 380 CE) made vast conquests to such an extent that he came to be called as the “Indian Napoleon” by historians. He gained suzerainty over many parts of India. Samudragupta’s conquests included Bengal, and only the kingdom of Samatata in eastern Bengal was spared as it became a tributary state. However, over time it became gradually incorporated into the Gupta Empire.


Northern Bengal under the reign of Emperor Kumaragupta I (414-455 CE) formed an important administrative division of the Gupta Empire Northern Bengal continued to form an integral part of the Gupta Empire until the end of the 5th century CE. The fall of the Gupta Empire and the absence of any other empire in its stead led to the political disintegration of northern India and the rise of a number of independent powers. In Bengal, two powerful independent kingdoms of Vanga and Gauda were created in the 6th century CE. The Gauda Kingdom comprised of the northern and most of the western parts of Bengal. Here, the imperial Gupta hold was stronger than in Vanga and so the Later Guptas continued to maintain their pre-eminence until the end of the 6th century CE.

In the 7th century CE Gauda became independent of Later Gupta rule. The only ruler known for the Gauda kingdom was Shashanka or Shashankadeva. The political conditions of northern and eastern India at time ensured that any ruler of worth had to strengthen his position first. Shashanka realized this and came into alliance with Mahasenagupta’s son Devagupta (c. 6th century CE – early 7th century CE), his hostility with his former overlord notwithstanding. The increasing power of the Maukharis, especially after their alliance with the Pushyabhutis, and the threat it presented to the Later Guptas necessitated that Devagupta accept the alliance with Gauda. After Shashanka’s death, between 637-642 CE, Bengal and the various kingdoms comprising it fell first into the hands of Bhaskaravarman and later Harsha. The death of Harsha and the political anarchy it created also badly affected Gauda. It continued as a kingdom but suffered invasions from many neighbouring kings and from many quarters.


Pala Dynasty

The Pala Empire was founded in Gauda during the rise of Gopala as king with the approval of an assembly of chieftains. The Pala Emperors carried the title Lord of Gauda. The empire ruled for four centuries (8th -12th Century) and its territory included large parts of northern India. The empire reached its peak under Emperors Dharmapala and Devapala, Nepal. Its territory stretching across parts of modern-day eastern Pakistan. The Pala period saw the development of the Bengali language, script and other aspects of Bengali culture. Indeed, the term Gaudiya (of Gauda) became synonymous with Bengal and Bengalis.


Sena Dynasty

Sena Dynasty ruled Bengal for little over a century (c 1097-1225). The emergence of the dynasty, who supplanted the Pala in Bengal towards the close of the 11th century AD, is a very important chapter in the history of ancient Bengal. The rule of the Senas in Bengal is usually connected with the emergence of orthodox Hinduism in a Hindu-Buddhist society which for long had enjoyed the peaceful coexistence of the two religions resulting in an atmosphere of amalgam of the two. The onslaught on the Buddhists in Bengal is believed to have started in this period, which resulted in large scale Buddhist migration to the neighbouring countries. The Sena period witnessed the development of Sanskrit literature.

Delhi Sultanate

By the end of the Sena dynasty whole Bengal came under the control of the Muslims. Gauda was conquered by the forces of the Delhi Sultanate led by Bakhtiar Khilji in 1204. But in the early 14th century, Delhi's rebel governors in Bengal formed their own sultanates. By 1352, Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah defeated other rulers in Bengal and united the region into one sultanate. Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the Sultan of Bengal. Ilyas Shah's earlier military campaigns also involved the sacking of Kathmandu and Varanasi; and an invasion of Orissa. In the battle Bengal Sultanate was established. After that Delhi and Bengal indicted as sovereignty.

Bengal Sultanate

Gauda was widely known as Gaur during the Bengal Sultanate. After the independent state from Delhi, Pandua became the first capital of the sultanate. In 1450, Sultan Mahmud Shah of Bengal announced the transfer of Bengal's capital from Pandua to Gaur. The transfer was completed by 1453. Gaur served as the Bengali sultanate's capital for over one hundred years until 1565. Gaur was one of the most densely populated cities in the Indian subcontinent. The region came to be widely known as Bangalah and Bengala. These two terms are precursors to the modern terms, Bangla and Bengal. In European and Chinese accounts, the Bengal Sultanate was described as a major trading nation in the medieval period.


Collapse of Gaur

In the 16th-century, Gaur was occupied by the Mughal emperor Humayun. He sought to name it as Jannatabad (heavenly city). The Battle of Rajmahal was a battle that took place between the Mughal Empire and the Karrani Dynasty that ruled the Sultanate of Bengal in 16th century. The battle resulted in a decisive victory for the Mughals. During the battle, the last Sultan of Bengal, Daud Khan Karrani, was captured and later executed by the Mughals.

The Mughals built several structures in Gaur, including the Lukochori Darwaza (hide and seek gate) built in the reign of viceroy Shah Shuja. An outbreak of the plague and a change in the course of the Ganges caused the city to be abandoned. Since then it has been a heap of ruins in the wilderness and almost overgrown with jungle.