Cooch Beharer Itihash, Assam and finding the roots – By Partha Pratim Hazarika

“Out of the State’s population of Cooch Behar between 6 and 7 lacs, the Bengali members a mere 30 thousands; yet the Bengali propaganda would make it appear as if Bengalis constitute the greater portion of the population…. Any attempt to bring Cooch Behar under the wing of Bengal Provincial Congress Committee would be violently resisted…. The best solution in the present circumstances would be to let Cooch Behar come under the wing of Central Congress, but if that is not possible, the second best would be to let it be affiliated to Assam Provincial Congress Committee….” That was a letter in the most clear terms written by Sir Akbar Haidari, the first Governor of Assam, to the then Deputy Prime Minister of India, Sardar Ballabhbhai Patel on June 29, 1948. In spite of this and the fact that the unanimous resolution taken in the executive body of the then Assam Provincial Congress Committee welcoming the merger of Cooch Behar with Assam, it was due to the political conspiracy hatched by the strong Bengal Congress leadership, led by its Chief Minister Dr Bidhan Chandra Ray, Atulya Gosh, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and others, Cooch Behar, which otherwise ought to have been with Assam, was included in West Bengal.

There is no doubt that Cooch Behar was never a part of Bengal – historically, politically and socially. Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev lived the later part of his life and passed away in Cooch Behar. Cooch Behar was an independent state even after the country’s Independence in 1947. It was in 1950 only that the hitherto independent Cooch Behar was merged with the Indian Union. An inseparable part of the history, language, literature and culture of Assam, Cooch Behar had to bear the brunt of the devious political manoeuvres by a few ambitious and cunning Bengal Congress leaders.

The history of Cooch Behar, mostly known as the capital of the state of Kamatapur, now in the present day Indian State of West Bengal, is synonymous with the history of the ancient land called Kamrupa. To know and understand the people and their culture in the ancient Kamrupa, learning the history of Cooch Behar is indubitably necessary. Long before Biswasingha, Naranarayan or Chilarai ruled and expanded the vast land of Cooch Behar, the entire land mass was a part of the ancient Kamrupa. It was official during the Ahom reign – “Karatiya gonga sima kori amarese rajya (Karatowa river is the border of our kingdom)”. There is no doubt that Cooch Behar was included in both the maps of ancient political Kamrupa as well as the later Assam’s linguistic-cultural one.

Most of the historical texts of Assam are based on the ancient treatise like the Puranas and, in the more recent times, the buranjis written in the Ahom era. Notwithstanding the fact that the buranjis remain extremely crucial reference points to know the past and the growth of modern Assam, they also are inconclusive as far as the history of the lower and western Assam land mass, its people and their civilization. Even Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaroa once wrote that to know the history of Kamrup, one has to go beyond Edward Gait’s classic A History of Assam, as the book was inconclusive and more reflective of the reign of the mighty Ahom dynasty. Moreover, the person who had brought in a renaissance as far as the people of Assam and their culture is concerned, Srimanta Sankardev, spent a valuable part of his life in the most creative way in Cooch Behar under patronage of the then king of Cooch Behar, Naranarayan and his generalissimo brother Chilarai. And without Srimanta Sankardev and his equally famous disciple Madhavdev, the history of the State of Assam is incomplete. Rongpur, an important part of the then socio-political Assam since long, well-known as the ‘Dehuri’ or ‘Dari’ (drawing room) of the ancient Koch kingdom, was ceded to East Pakistan during the Bardoloi regime. Will not it be quite self-contradictory to consider that Cooch Behar, a part and parcel of our State since time immemorial, holds no importance in the present day polity of Assam?

Here, the need of a written history of this part of Assam land, exclusive of the more dominating Ahom kingdom, is crucial to understand the growth and development of the socio-economic and political conditions of the people.

Although there were several treatise on Cooch Behar based on legends and traditional tales, no such history of the land was scientifically prepared till the third decade of the 20th century. This crucial work was undertaken by Khan Chowdhuri Amanatulla Ahmed, a renowned scholar of that time, following the royal decree of the then king of Cooch Behar Jagadipendranarayan. The untiring efforts and hard work of Amanatulla Ahmed resulted in the magnum opus, Cooch Beharer Itihash. Now available in Assamese translated from the original by Anjan Sarma, this is a book replete with in-depth (the range covered is unbelievable, to say the least) research works related to the history and growth of the erstwhile Koch kingdom. It is an invaluable treatise, a priceless work of historical documentation not only of Cooch Behar but also of the entire eastern India including our own Assam.

This is important because our very own Srimanta Sankardev, Madhavdev and Damodardev took shelter and wrote many a classic under the patronage of the several Koch kings like Biswasingha, Naranarayan, Chilarai and their successors, and passed away in the land. How can we forget that the scholars like Ram Saraswati, Ananta Kandali, Bakul Kayastha, Purusottam Bidyabagish contributed a lot to the literary arena of this part of the country (read Assam) under the direct patronage of the Koch kings? How can we fail to consider the benevolence of the Koch kings in rebuilding the famous seat of Sakti cult, the Kamakhya temple and the Haigrib Madhav temple at Hajo that have enriched the socio-religious aspects of the broader Assamese nation? Will it not be self-defeating to forget the monumental contributions of the Koch rulers in developing the communication system, with the Gohain Kamal Ali connecting Rajgarh (Dafalagarh) in Tezpur with Prashuram Kunda remaining a major example?

Cooh Beharar Itihash is reflective of the author Amanatullah Ahmed’s expertise in methodology in compiling historical facts, figures and characters, a contemporary outlook and above all, his concern for the common masses. The painstaking efforts of translator Anjan Sarma have resulted in making this magnum opus now available in Assamese. Not only the connoisseurs of history, but the policy-makers also should go through the book to realize the resentments, agitations and demands of a community that have precipitated due to the wrong policy and lack of vision of the people in power.

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