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in the height of the rains. But in old times, it was a great river, and formed the boundary between Bengal and Kámrúp. The western bank has apparently undergone little change. The old rampart, known as Bhímjangal, still runs alongside of the western bank, and the ancient mound and fortification of Mahásthán continues to overhang the sacred bathingplace at Síla-dwíp; but on the east the appearance of the country has been greatly changed. The old river-bed has been nearly filled up, and long and wide churs, "made blithe by plough and harrow", now cover the channel up which the ships of the famous Chánd Saudágar used to sail.
Though no longer a territorial boundary, the Karatoyá is still remarkable for the demarcation which it makes between two distinct kinds of soil. On the west, Bagurá is a veritable land of Edom, the soil being almost as red as blood. It is at the same time so hard and tenacious, that ditches cut in it retain their sharpness of outline for years, and that the walls of the peasants' huts are almost invariably made of earth. The anthills so common on the edges of the fields testify to the peculiarity of the soil, for they stand up in sharp and many-pointed pinnacles and are like Adens in miniature. On the east of the Karatoyá, however, all is sand and alluvium, and the ryots have to construct the walls of their houses with reeds or mats. This difference of soil is said to affect the crime of the district; for burglaries are reported to be rare in the western thánás, as it is no easy matter for thieves to break through and steal, when the walls of the houses are so thick and hard as they are in the "Khiar" land. The etymology of the word Karatoyá is indicative of the antiquity and sanctity of the river. The name is derived from kar the hand' and toyá water', and is held to signify that the river was formed by the water which was poured on the hands of Siva, when he married the mountaingoddess Párvati.
I find also that there is the same tradition in Bagurá as in Maimansingh about the origin of the name Das-kahániá as applied to Sherpur. The Bagurá Sherpur is called Das-kahániá as well as the Maimansingh Sherpur, and the explanation given is, that the Karatoyá was once so broad that ten káhans had to be paid for crossing it. The explanation, however, does not seem a very probable one, for ten káhans means 12,800 kaurís, ¿. e., one rupee, and I can hardly believe that any Bengali ever paid so much for crossing a river. It is just possible that the charge had reference not to the breadth of the river but to the fact that it separated two rival kingdoms. The charge may therefore have been in the nature of an embargo or an export-duty, and went for the most part into the pocket of the king or his representative, and not to the ferryman. It would be quite in accordance with the principles of native finance to levy such exorbitant duties on people leaving the country or taking merchandise abroad.
By the Hindus Bagurá is popularly identified with the country of king Virat, where the five Pánḍavas remained hidden for a year. Bagurá, they tell us, was the Dakshina Go-grih or southern cow-house (Scotticè byre) of king Virat, the northern one being in Ghorághát, i. e., Aswasála. Bhím, they say, disguised himself as Virat's herdsman, and built the rampart known as Bhím's Jangal to make a pen for the cattle. So say the Pandits, while the ryots improve the evidence got from this by pointing to the stone-pillar in the Badalgachhi tháná and calling it Bhím's pánti, i. e., Bhím's ox-goad. Additional corroboration is sought from the fact that there are villages in Bagurá, known by the names of Virat and Kichak (Virat's brother-in-law). Unfortunately, however, names of places are more likely to be the offspring of traditions than to be evidence of their genuineness, and even if the village of Kichak be old, it more probably derives its name from the wandering gypsies and robbers of the last century who were called Kichaks, than from the villain of the Mahábhárat.
A more convincing indication of the antiquity of Bagurá was obtained only last year when a tank was being dug in the middle of the town. The tank had been excavated to a considerable depth, when the workmen came on the top of a brick well. The well is still standing in the tank and may be seen by the curious. It is circular in form and solidly built with large, thin bricks which are so broad in proportion to their length as to be nearly square. The mode of building seems peculiar, for the bricks are arranged in layers which are alternately composed of flat and perpendicular bricks. The top now visible appears to me to be the real top of the well, and it is some fifteen feet below the present surface of the country. The remarkable thing is that the earth is not sand or chur-earth, but is solid, red soil. How the well came to be where it is, I cannot explain; but if the fifteen feet of earth were really gradually deposited above it, then the well must be many centuries old. Close to this tank, and only separated by the public road, there is an interesting proof of the antiquity of the soil in a magnificent Banyan tree. It is, I think, the finest tree I have seen next to that in the Botanical Gardens at Calcutta, and it is much more attractive than the latter, because it is still in the heyday of its career of beneficence. The Bagurá market is held under it and twice a week hundreds of men and cattle are sheltered by it from the sun and rain.
The real glory of Bagurá perhaps is the Badalgáchhi pillar which bears. an inscription of the Pál Rájás, and which has been described by Sir Charles Wilkins and more recently by a native gentleman. I have never seen this pillar, and I hear that it is now so shrouded in jungle as to be almost inaccessible. As it is situated in the Government Estate of Jaipur, it is to be hoped that the authorities will look after its preservation. It is locally known as Bhím's pánti or ox-goad.
The most widely-known antiquity in Bagurá is Mahásthán, or the Great Place, which is situated seven miles north of the Civil Station. Mahásthán probably originally owed its importance to its being near a sacred bathingplace, and hence some have with a perverse ingenuity suggested that the true name is Mahásnán. Afterwards it became the habitation of a Kshatriya prince named Parasurám. Some traditions identify him with Parasuráma the destroyer of the Kshatriyas, though to do this, it is necessary to change his caste and make him a Bráhman. He was defeated and slain by a Muhammadan, named Muhammad Shah Sultán, and probably it is this circumstance which has done most to perpetuate his fame. Muhammad Shah Sultán is buried at Mahásthán, and his tomb is annually visited by thousands of pilgrims. There is no inscription on the tomb, and no one seems to know exactly who he was or where he came from. He bears the title of Máhí-suwár or fish-rider, and Hindus who swallow their own traditions wholesale, think they must rationalize this epithet by referring it to the figure head of the ship which brought the faqír. It is hardly worth while to do this when there are so many more marvels connected with him. The name Máhí-suwár probably has its origin in invention, pure and simple.
The only genuine inference which we can make, I think, from Muhammad Shah's history is, that he was the hero of a popular rising. He was not a fighting man apparently, and is never called a Ghází, like the famous Ismá'íl of Rangpúr. Parasurám was probably a bigoted tyrant, and was killed by those of his subjects who had turned Muhammadans. This view is supported by the local tradition that Parasurám could not bear the sight of a Musalmán. It seems also certain that Muhammad Shah was helped by Parasurám's own subjects; for the tradition is, that one Harpál, the Rájá's sweeper, used to convey information to Muhammad Sháh of what was going on inside the palace. The sweeper's tomb is still pointed out on the mound of Mahásthán, and until Muhammadans got more puritanical, they used to make offerings at it of sharúb and kabáb, i. e., meat and wine. Muhammad Shah's tomb is in good preservation and is lighted up every night. It is surrounded by a wall, and close to the doorway there is a large stone Gauripát (not a lingam) lying on the ground. Mr. O'Donnell has described Mahásthán in the Asiatic Society's Journal for 1875, Part I, No. 2, but there are some errors in his account. As far as I can learn, the legend of the beautiful Síla Deví has its origin in a mispronunciation. The original name of the place is Síladwip, i. e., the mound of stones, 'dwip' in Bagurá being used to mean any high place and the epithet Sila being applied to this one on account of the large stones lying about on it. The populace, however, have lost sight of this meaning, and so started the tradition of Síla Deví. There is no flight of stairs at Síla Deví's Gháț, only
two old trees. The sacred part of the river extends over 2 reaches or about two miles, from Skand (a name of Siva) ghát to Gobindghát in the village of Gokul. The place called Síla Devi's ghát lies about half-way between the above gháts. An annual fair is held in the month of Chait, but the most sacred time is when the conjunction of the planets admits of the bathing's taking place in the month of Pús (Pús Náráyani).
Mr. O'Donnell speaks of the grant for the lákhiráj of Mahásthán having been confirmed in 1666 by the Governor of Dháká. In fact, however, the confirmation is dated 7th Jumáda I, 1096, A. H. (1st April, 1685) in the thirtieth year of the reign. I have seen the original sanad, which is in the Record-room at Bogra. The deed bears the seal of Kokultásh Muzaffar-Jang [Husain]. It is in the form of an order addressed to the officials of Silbaris in Sirkár Bázúhá, and directs them to respect the lákhiráj of the saint Muhammad Sultán Mahí-suwár's Astán. The word 'ástán' suggests to me the idea that Mahásthán may after all be a Muhammadan name meaning the Great Astán. The Hindu name perhaps was Síladwip. The place is also often called Mastángarh and under this name it appears in the Survey Map. I send a copy of the Sanad along with these remarks. With regard to the resumption-proceedings, noted
* The following is a transcript of the copy of the Sanad
مير سيد سلطان محمود ماهی سوار
مقرر شد که متصدیان مهمات حال و استقبال و چودهریان و قانون گویان پرگنه سیلبرس سرکار بازوها بدانند چون بعرض رسید که بموجب فرمان والاشان
و خارج ، وخ و اسناد حکام سابق خادمی آستانه مقدسة سلطان العارفین حضرت جمع مستان گره و زمین در پیچ ندی مشموله پرگنه مذکور بسيد محمد طاهر وسيد عبد الرحمان و سید محمد رضا با فرزندان بلا مشارکت غیرے مقرر است می باید که مشار اليهم را خادم روضه منوره دانسته مستان گره و اراضي مسطور را بهومي اليهم را گذارند که در ورثه خودها رسیده نزر و نیاز آستانه مقدسه و واصلات آذرا خرچ خانقاه واردان و صادران و صرف معشیت خودها نموده بدعاگوئی دوام دولت اشتغال میداشته باشند و درین باب قدغن دانند و تحرير بتاريخ ۷ شهر جمادي الاول * جلوس مطابق سنة ۱۰۹٦ هجري قلمي شد فقط سنه ۳۰ ١٠٩٦
پادشاه عالم گیر غازي
مظفر جنگ بهادر
by Mr. O'Donnell, I must in justice to our Government observe that no attempt was made to resume the whole tenure. All the land within the garh or fortification (some thousands of bighas apparently) was admitted to belong to the lákhirájdárs. The dispute was only about 300 bíghas of chur-land which had formed between Mahásthán proper and the riverchannel. The resumption-proceedings, however, must have been rather harassing to the proprietors; for they began in 1824, and did not end till December 1843. Síla Deví's Ghát is in this chur which was sought to be resumed, and this perhaps is enough to show the baselessness of the story about her, for clearly the chur was formed long after Mahásthán was made.
It has been ordered that the Mutasaddís of all present and future matters of government, and the Chaudhurís, and Ķánúngos of Pargana Sílbaris in Sirkár Bázúhá should bear in mind that, inasmuch as it has come to the knowledge of government that according to the farmáns and sanads, granted by former rulers, the service of the sacred shrine of the king of saints, Hazrat. and income of Mastángarh and the land comprised within the bend of the river, in the said Pargana, have been settled on Sayyid Muhammad Táhir and on Sayyid 'Abdur-raḥmán and on Sayyid Muhammad Razá and on their children, without anyone else being a partner, it is necessary that the above-mentioned persons should be looked upon as the servitors of the illuminated shrine, and that they should be left in possession of Mastángarh and of the above described lands, so that the lands may go down to their heirs; that they may perform the vows and prayers as usual at this holy shrine; that they may apply the income to defraying the expenditure of the religious house, on travellers, and on themselves for their own livelihood, so that they may occupy themselves with loyal prayers for the continuance of the present government. Every care is to be taken in this matter.
Written on the 7th Jumáda I, of the 30th year of the present reign, corresponding to the year of the Hijra 1096.
(Signed) Muzaffar Jang Bahádur, foster-brother (kokultásh) of 'Alamgir Pádsháhi-Ghází.
It is impossible to reconcile the particulars given in the sanad copy with historical facts. First, the name should be Muzaffar Husain not Muzaffar Jang. It is possible that the copyist mistook for Kiş. Secondly, Muzaffar Husain Kokultásh (also called Fidáí Khán A'zam Kokah, kokah being the same as kokultásh) was governor of Bengal from the middle of 1088 H., [A. D. 1677] i. e., the 20th year of 'Alamgir, to the 9th (or 12th) Rabí' II, 1089 (i. c., the 21st year of 'Alamgir), when he died at Dháká.
But the 7th Jumáda I, 1096 [1685, A. D.] falls in the 28th year of 'Alamgir, whose 30th year commences with the 1st Ramazán 1097 [A. D. 1685].
The name of the saint is written at the top instead of in its proper place in the body of the deed, in order to do him honor. This is in accordance with Hindu customs, as may be seen in sanads for lands dedicated to an idol.