Glimpses of united Hindu resistance in mediaeval Bengal


During centuries-old Islamic rule in India there had also been the emergence of several Hindu empires led by fiercest, ablest Hindu monarchs and generals conveying desires of the subjugated Hindu community to attain freedom. Bengal was no exception to this too; several Hindu chieftains rose up through centuries and prime of them included Raja Pratapaditya and, Raja Sitaram with a few others. But none of them could match Raja Ganesha or Raja Kans or Raja Danujamardanadeva; his stupendous rise in the politics of mediaeval Bengal (in 1415 AD) by overthrowing the Ilyas Shahi dynasty or the first independent Muslim dynasty then fragmented Islamic hegemony in the region and this was based on his vengeful or rancorous activities. His supremacy perturbed Sufi saints or Darbesh such that Sheikh Nur Qutub-ul-Alam, well-known Muslim Chisti saint, sent a letter to Ibrahim Shah Sharqi or the Sultan of Jaunpur to raid Bengal and relieve them from the rule of this Kafir or infidel.
Raja Ganesha’s rule witnessed several ups and downs – his son was converted to Islam under compulsion and then reconverted to Hinduism. Nevertheless, with the help of other Hindu kings he formed a confederacy that posed severest challenges to the dream of establishing an Islamic empire. It is worth mentioning, Raja Ganesha assisted by other Hindu kings controlled entire Bengal even if for a brief period – remaining a dream for others in the following centuries only.
On the word of a British historian, “Raja Kans is the most interesting figure among the kings of Bengal. We feel that this obscure Hindu, who rose to supreme power in Bengal, and who for a time broke the bonds of Islam, must have been a man of vigor and capacity.”
An account of this battle, might of Sheo Singh has been narrated by Mulla Taqyya, courtier during the reign of both Akbar and Jehangir, and it has been translated into English from the original Farsi language by Sri Kishori Mohan Maitra of Asiatic Society.
It is in the following lines.
“When Raja Kans, the Hindu zamindar, became dominant over the whole of the province of Bengal, he determined to wipe out the Muslims, and made it his aim to exterminate the root of Islam from his kingdom. During that time, Sheo Singh, the zamindar of Tirhut, rebelled against his father, Raja Deva Singh, and made an alliance with Raja Kans and thus became an independent ruler of the province of tirhut. He grew in power and through the incitement of Raja Kans, he began to rob and plunder the muslims of his territory and caused most of the missionaries and leaders of Islam in Darbhanga to taste the beverage of martyrdom and thus made his holiness Makhdum Shah Sultan Hussain an object of his injury. At this time, the successor of Makhdum Shah was Alaul Auq at Pandua, when Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi sent an army in the year 805 (Hizira) at the request of Nur Qutubul-Islam, the worthy son of Alaul Huq with a view to wage war against the wicked Kafirs of Bengal in order to suppress Raja Kans. When the royal retinue reached Tirhut, Sheo Singh made a stand against him. Although the Sultan was on his way to Bengal, when heard the news of Sheo Singh reaching the neighborhood of his camps, the flames of Sultan’s anger rose high and with great courage, he turned the range of his attention in his direction. In the end, he (Sheo Singh) found that it was not possible for him to oppose him ((Ibrahim) in open battle. He escaped into some other direction till he reached Lehra, which was the strongest fort there and he took shelter there. After some tine, the fort was conquered and he was taken prisoner. The whole territory of Tirhut was again transferred to his father as a loyal servant of the Sultan. As all the roads, which were being blocked, were open again, the Sultan set out in the direction of Bengal in order to suppress Raja Kans.”
“Sheo Singh along with Raja Kans or Ganesh tried to form a Hindu brigade in Bengal, orchestrate a Hindu uprising to avenge the Hindu persecution. Singh, despite being defeated in the war against Ibrahim, demonstrated great valiance and it seemed once that the Hindu king would emerge victorious. Relations between Sheo Singh and Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi had been sour as Sheo Singh, no matter being a subordinate king, introduced coins in his own name.” (Source: Annual Report of the Archeological Survey of India; 1913-14, pp. 248-49)