History of Sundarban Forest

The Sundarban within the state of West Bengal, i.e. Indian part of Sundarban is located just southern side of the Tropic of Cancer. The wonder of the World is situated within 21.35 – 22.30 latitude and 88.10 – 89.51 longitude. This is the lower part of the largest delta in the World, i.e. the delta of the holy river Ganges. This delta was formed around 7000 years ago. Present Sundarban includes 6 blocks of North 24 Parganas district and 13 blocks of South 24 Parganas district and so many isolated islands of impenetrable Mangrove forest and biosphere reserve occupied by various wild creatures able to survive there.

But, we have a controversial history of Sundarban.

The earlier historians and Greek travelers say that the ancient name of Sundarban was Gangaridi or Ganga Rastra. The word meaning of Ganga Rashtra is the Kingdom of Holy River Ganga. This is mentioned in the script of Megasthenis. And the capital of the Ganga Rashtra was Gangey or Gangey Rejia. This was situated at the east of river Bhagirathi and was a very famous port at that time. Presently this is the holy place of Hindu – Sagar Island. This port was rich – written in the travel script of Periclass. From the script of Deodobus and Siculas we came to know that the Gangaridi was famous at 300 B.C. and was the largest kingdom within India. They ruled nearly 600 years, period 300 B.C. to Christ 300 years.

Jatar Deul made in the year of Christ 1668, a unique Budhist temple was found at the bank of river Mani. The archeologists able to find stone idol of Lord Surya, Matri idol from Mourya dynasty to Pal-Sen dynasty, currency of Gupta dynasty, royal seal, demised thin brick houses, well, excavated temple at Mandir Tola of Sagar island, coins of Mourya dynasty at Ath Ghara – Hari Narayan Pur – Chandra Ketu Garh, ancient copper plate from Manir Tat of Lot no. 28 under Kul Tali Police Station, ornamented clay utensils, burned clay idols, varieties of ornaments, unique gold bangle, gold and silver coins, miniature gold bricks, goddess made of stone and brass, wooden work, human skeleton, skeleton of rhinoceros, wild buffalo, wheal, etc. Even weapons of stone-age also find at Deul Pota and Hari Narayan Pur of Diamond Harbour subdivision. Archeological items of Kushan, Mourya, Gupta, Paul and Sen dynasty are found from Sundarban. All these prove many rich and cultured human habitations were at the islands of Sundarban.

Though no description of this lower part of Bengal is at the Vedas, but in the Upanishad we have some events of this location. In Puranas we have the name of some kings ruled here. At the Purana and other Hindu theology we find the description of this coastal forest.

This southern part of Bengal is also mentioned in the famous holy epic of Hindu, named the Mahabharata at Bonoparba (means forest episode) chapter. Before reaching Kalinga, the Judhisthir bathe at the confluence of 500 rivers, probably the place was Sagar Sangam. At the time of eastern India tour, the Bhima faught with Samudra Sen, Chandra Sen and Tamralipta. They all were the rulers of Sundarban areas.

The Aryans first captured Pataliputra and started ruling. Then they spread towards Bengal by defeating non-Aryans. But Aryans were unable to capture the lower part of Bengal – the Sundarban. The Aryans have expert cavalry and highly trained in fighting from on horseback, so they easily defeated the rulers of Bengal who fought from on elephants. But the southern part of Bengal is dominated by rivers, canals and creaks. The non-Aryans have expert naval contingent and efficient in naval fighting, but the Aryans have poor naval force. So they failed. But they trained themselves in naval warfare and finally able to spread kingdom at the lower part of Bengal.

At the other holy epic of Hindu, named the Ramayana, this area is mentioned as Rasatal or Patal. The famous sage Kapil Muni was confined to Rasatal or Patal, as he disobey the opinion of the Aryans. The noble sage Kapil Muni is the founder of the Sankha Darshan and made hermitage at Ganga Sagar in Sagar island. This noble sage was the first Aryan co-habitant of south Bengal. This area was narrated as the kingdom of Mlechya kings, located at sea coast, communications through waterways and rich in wealth. The holy Srimadbhagabat Gita explained Mlechya as those people lived without Bramhin community and does not observe Brahmin activities.

From the Hindu holy poetry of Monosha Mongal we know that the famous ancient merchant Chand Sadagar at his business fleet of 7 ships robbed Manosha temple at Adi Baruipur.

The name Baruipur (Baru means betel leaves and pur means residence) derived from the permanent residence of Barujibi (Baru means betel leaves and jibi means earn from that particular source).

Panini described this area as Kalikabon which was the western boundary of the Aryan kingdom. So it is implied that non-Aryans dominates the lower part of Bengal much before the Aryans.

In the year Christ 637 the famous traveler Hue-En-Sung described Sundarban as Baghra Tati Mondal (Baghra means tiger, Tath means coast, land and Mondal means a circular or spherical area, a sphere).

Chakra Pani Dey, commander-in-chief of Gour kingdom established Hari Navhi village. The present name of famous historic place Dharma Nagar is Dhopa Gachi near Baruipur.

King of Bengal of Pal dynasty Dharma Pal captured this place and includes this within his kingdom.

At the time of King Bijoy Sen (period Christ 1095 to 1158) and king Laxman Sen (period Christ 1179 to 1205) the Sen dynasty ruled over the entire Sundarban. At Sen period the river Adi Ganga was named as Jahubi. King Laxman Sen gifted Bashdev Sharma, a Brahmin, a village named Sashan near Baruipur.

After that at the time of 12 Bhuiyas, Mughal and Pathan the Sundarban was famous for agriculture. The highest agricultural product of this district was sugar cane. The ancient art of the district was clay products.

At the mediaeval period this Sundarban was the part of the kingdom of highly powerful Bhuiya great king Protapaditya. Baruipur was the western boundary of his Kingdom. To protect his descendants from Portuguese pirates his fleet of warship navigate round the rivers Adi Ganga, Bidya Dhari and Matla. The name river Matla derived from the word Matal, means entoxicated – beyond control. Due to unpredictable behavior of the water body of this river called Matla. He also made fort at Sagar island and Sarsoona near Behala to fight with the Portuguese. He gifted tax free land to Brahmin community at Homra presently under Canning Police Station. He also made Matla fort at Canning. In the year Christ 1612 Man Singha the commander-in-chief of Mughal Empire Akbar defeated king Protapaditya in the battle of Dhum Ghat / Dhoaa Ghata, now situated at Narayan Pur under Canning Police Station. A massive fort of king Protapaditya was situated at Bash Garar Garer Muth / Hut Khola. Friend, admiral of the naval force and Dhali force Madan Dutta alies Madan Malla able to escape and made his residence at Raj Pur. The name Rajpur (Raj means king and pur means residence) derived from the permanent residence of jamindar / king Madan Dutta. Sundarban was called as Garod Khana at the time of Mughal dynasty.

The founder of Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family at Barisha was Laxmi Kanta Majumder. He was a servant of king Protapaditya. In the battle with Subedar Man Singha he joined with Man Singha and deprived king Protapaditya. For this Man Singha appointed Laxmi Kanta Majumder as Jamindar (an estate landlord) of Kolkata.

In the year Christ 1590 Portuguese first came and settle themselve at famous Tarda Port at the bank of river Bidya.

At 16th century the Bengal rulers loose their strength and subsequently pirates from Arakan, Mog and Portugal dominates the entire Sundarban. They theft, robbed, harassed, arson, oppressed the local habitants of Sundarban, this turns into violence. In the year Christ 1629 to 1635 Sundarban was known as Moger Muluk, means area of Mogs. Present Mogra Hut was then the famous market of Mogs.

To stop the violence, Mughal prince Suja and Mirjumla the commander-in-chief of the Mughal emperor Aurangajeb chased away the pirates and Portuguese took shelter at Sagar island and Hijli. At that time this part of river Bhagarathi was called as Dassu Nadi (Dassu means dacoits and Nadi means river). In Mughal period the Sundarban was named as Garod Khana or Jorad Khana and upper part was called as Bhati Desh. The people of Sundarban were called as Chandals. The coastal belt Chandals prepare salt at that time.

In the year 1632 the Portuguese build a fort at Sagar Island with the help of Arakan king.

In the year Christ 1688 this area was smashed in heavy flood, but in the year Christ 1737 the total habitation was entirely vanished due to typhoon, extreme flood and earth quake.

In 17th century at the ruling period of Nabab (king) of Murshidabad – Murshidkuli Kha, Pir Mobarak Gaji of famous Muslim holy place Ghutiary Sarif made his hermitage at Narayan Pur village. At that time Keshab Chandra Majumder, grandson of Laxmi Kanta Majumder – the founder of Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family at Barisha, was the Jamindar (an estate landlord) of 24 Parganas and Khulna (presently at Bangladesh). And Madan Dutta was the small Jamindar there and was appointed by Nabab (king) Murshidkuli Kha. The hermitage was build on a plot measuring 1656 bigha at the cost and supervision of Jamindar (an estate landlord) Madan Dutta and later on the Nabab (Muslim King) of Dhaka granted Roy Chowdhury title to him.

The name Jai Nagar (Jai means win and Nagar means city) derived from the incident that the Pandits (a learned, well versed in scripture) of this city defeated the Pandits of Nabadwip town in Nai Sashtra (the art and science of reasoning).

The pilgrims to Ganga Sagar follow risky road way from Kalighat to Chatra Bhog at the bank of river Adi Ganga. This was known as Darir Jungle. From there by boat to Ganga Sagar. Chatro Bhog port was situated under Mathurapur Police Station of Diamond Harbour subdivision. The ancient name of Diamond Harbour was Haji Pur. Lord Shri Chaitanna on the way to Nila Chal halted at Attishra (within Barui Pur) at the residence of Ananta Pandit and from there to Chatra Bhog port by road. And from the port to Nila Chal (present name is Puri at our neighbor state Orissa) by boat. Some human settlement and habitation of that time was named as Chatra Bhog, Khari, Bara Shi, Ganga Sagar, Nachan Gacha, Barasat.

The name Garia derived from the massive availability of Garia trees at the banks of river Adi Ganga.

The name Boral derived from the name Boro Aal (Boro means big and Aal means the land divides single water area into two or more). At that time the entire area was under the tidal effect of river Adi Ganga.

After Portuguese, British came in India to spread business. On 15th July 1757 King Mirjafar deputed East India Company as Jamindar (an estate landlord) of 882 square mile area of 24 Parganas against a annual royalty of 2,22,958 rupees and that was written under clause no. 9 of that treaty agreement. The 24 Parganas was formed after 6 months of the Battle of Palashi, that was on 20th December in the year Christ 1757. In the year Christ 1759 Company allotted Lord Clive as sole landlord of 24 Parganas. In the year Christ 1765 they became the ruler of ancient India. In the year Christ 1770 Collector General Claud Russel leased land of Sundarban for cultivation. In the year Christ 1773 Russel settle the land of 24 Parganas. In the year Christ 1775 Major William Tali dredged river Adi Ganga from Hastings of Kolkata to Garia and later on upto Tadh Daha port. They started indigo plantation at Barui Pur, Mogra Hut and Bishnu Pur. They prevent the pirates and pay attention over Sundarban. Tilman Henkel in the year Christ 1783 first demarked the boundary of Sundarban. And on 7th February 1784 Lord Warren Hestings allowed to lease the jungle of Sundarban to Jaminders to protect and conserve the jungle.

The first departmental head of Sundarban appointed by British Government is Deputy Forest Officer named Sir M. U. Green. The Governor of Bengal Andrew Frezer made a sea beach resort at Frezer Gunje near Bak Khali. In the year Christ 1802 Lord Waylessli made rule to stop sacrifice of young son to the sea at Ganga Sagar. In 1808 the light house at Sagar island was made. In the year Christ 1812 Mr Troied established Sagar Island Society. The first Commissioner of Sundarban was William Dampier in the year Christ 1817. In 1822 – 1823 Sir Princep divided Sundarban in blocks / lots. In the year Christ 1828 the British – East India Company declared the forest and wealth at Sundarban as their property. In the year Christ 1830 the British survey officer Mr. Dampier and Mr. Hedges draw a straight line to mark the northern boundary of active delta of Sundarban – this is called Dampier-Hedges line. In the year Christ 1851 the first Electric Telegraph Department of India was established at Diamond Harbour. The draft of river Bhagirathi  was reducing, so to import and export goods through Canning Port started Sonar Pur – Champa Hati Railway service and later on extended at both ends into Seal Daha to Canning in the year Christ 1862. In the year Christ 1863 the 1st Viceroy of British India Lord Canning built Canning Port and township at Matla village beside the river Matla. His royal residence at Canning was named as Nil Kuthi (Nil means colour blue and Kuthi means cottage). After completion of township Lady Canning, wife of Lord Canning, at her visit tasted a fried sweet of Bengal called Pantua, liked it very much and consumed a lot. From then onwards Pantua is famous as Lady Kini (Lady means wife of Lord and Kini means purchase). In the yar Christ 1868 East India Company constructed a fort at Chingri Khali located at the south of Diamond Harbour to control the pirates. Students of army school learn to fire cannon at this fort, because the width of river at the place was 8000 feet. The largest rice mill of Asia was stablished at Canning in the year Christ 1870. On 19th February 1897 famous sent Swami Vivekananda disembarked at Budge Budge on return from World Religion Comference at Chicago.

As per Renel’s opinion at the end of 18th century the Mogs highly oppressed the local habitants of Sundarban. Mogs forcefully send mele female both to other countries and sale them as slaves and Sundarban became desolate, Forest grown and spread at entire Sundarban. Renel first prepared the map of Sagar island.

Approximately 200 years ago, 22 heads of Muslim mendicant ascetic again started living on cutting a part of forest for their better habitation. Then onwards people came, started living, create rural market and all civilized activities.

In the year Christ 1903 Sir Hamilton arrived at Gosaba and developed the village into town. This time he first started 1 rupee note there. In the same year Kolkata cut off from 24 Parganas and declared as a separate district. The last and most authentic map of Sundarban region was prepared by Mr. Stuat in the year Christ 1905. Presently altogether 56 numbers of islands, rather we can say 119 isolated Mangrove landmarks and 31 number of rivers and many canals – creeks and estuaries, long sea coasts are the present capital of Sundarban. 48 number of Mangrove islands are absolutely ruled by the world famous Royal Bengal Tigers and crocodiles at water. Human habitation at 54 number of islands. Rest 17 islands are forming and in future developed into Mangrove forests. In the year Christ 1931 Mr. Kalidas Dutta prepared the map of Adi Ganga within this district. On 29th December 1932 our noble laurite Rabindranath Tagore was arrived Canning by train to visit Gosaba.

The present name of Changri Pota is Subhash Gram and the earlier residence of famous freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is still standing there.

The entire shooting of famous Bengali cinema Pather Pachali of writer Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay was taken at Nischindi Pur village near Subhash Gram railway station.

Now within the state of West Bengal the largest district is South 24 Parganas and the area is 9,960 square kilometer. The name of 24 parganas are: Akbar Pur, Amir Pur, Ajima Bad, Balia, Barid Hati, Basan Dhari, Kolikata, Dakhin Sagar, Garh, Hatia Garh, Iktihar Pur, Khari Juri, Khash Pur, Medan Malla, Magura, Man Pur, Moida, Mura Gacha, Pai Kan, Pecha Kuli, Satal, Saho Nagar and Uttar Pargana.


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