The Wali who bailed CilaRai from prison

Syed Miraz Ahmed

Events in history influence the mental scape of the inhabitants of a place for generations and even become reasons for an admixture of love and hatred. In medieval Assam several stages of inner and outer conflicts has given rise to a number of identities with each essaying and reporting events and prejudices apparent from their vantage points. Though instances of subjectivity and exaggeration cannot be altogether ruled out, biographical leniency towards the royalty or an ideologue surfaces off and on.

From the earliest of times Assam acted as a cauldron for a number of belief systems and with the progression of time absorbed the changes once subtle eventually into a noticeable magnitude. Cultural criss crossings apart rampant inter community marriages have build up a population separated and distinguishable only by belief systems. In short the gene pool is quite mixed up then otherwise comprehended.

AD 1540: Malla Deb the eldest son of the brave Hinduised Koch King Biswa Singh assumed the name of NarNarayan and took over as King of the Koch Kingdom which constituted western portions of the Kingdom of Kamrupa comprising the Brahmaputra Valley, parts of North Bengal and present day Bangladesh and portions of presentday South Assam. His brother Sukladhwaj known to history as CilaRai the Brave was appointed the Commander-in-Chief.

Meantime in Mughal India, Emperor Akbar (AD 1556-1605) ruled his expanding empire from Delhi while Bengal (East and West) and Orissa were under the last of the Kararani Afghan brothers; Sulaiman Karrani – a Mughal vassal who served as the Governor (Nawab of Bengal) from AD 1563-1572 and was reputed as the King (Sultan) of Gaur. His upleap was becoming a grave matter of concern for Emperor Akbar.

Gaur also termed as Gauda – the medieval name of Bengal is the ruined city in the Malda District of presentday West Bengal on the west bank of the River Ganges 40 kilometres downstream from Rajmahal. Gaur lies on the Eastern Bank of the rivers Bhagirathi and Pagla. Sulaiman Kararani during his reign programmed to expand his territory towards the neighboring Koch Kingdom of NarNarayan more than once.

In a village near Rampur of the Koch Kingdom lived a few Brahmans (men of priestly Hindu class). Once while meditating they learnt of the presence of another Brahman in the forest when they proceeded en masse to welcome him to the village. The cordial reception of the Brahman into the village was termed in the vernacular as ‘Bamun bori ona’ and thenceforth the name of the village Bamun Bori. Historian Rofiul Hussain Baruah in his book Historical Background of Assam’s Significant Followers of Islâm has recorded this examplerary event which escaped mention in the Koch Chronicles and the later recorded histories of Assam that followed suit. The Brahman who took to live in Bamun Bori eventually became popular as a Wali (friend and helper). Named Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari he bore Caucasoidal features and is identified as a native of Baghdad by Rofiul Hussain Baruah in his book.

Sir Edward Albert Gait in his widely read A History of Assam made good with available facts when it came to describe CilaRai’s imprisonment and release by Sulaiman Kararani. According to Gait’s collected version CilaRai gained the favor of Sulaiman Kararani’s wife, eventually obtained his freedom and returned home. It is very much debateable a fact in history as to the kind of agreement that led to such an outcome and cannot be brushed aside as a minor oversight.

According to Guptajit Pathak in Assam’s History and its Graphics CilaRai obtained the favor of the Nawab of Gauda by curing the latters mother from snake bite. It is also written into history that the Nawab even gave his daughter in marriage to CilaRai alongwith the Parganas of Bhitarb, and Bahirband, Gayabari, Sherpur and Dasakaunia.

Sulaiman Kararani undoubtedly proved mightier than CilaRai the Barve capturing him back when he resorted to flee the battlefield. Sulaiman in about AD 1568 advanced to annex portions of the Koch Kingdom and circumvented its Capital when news of rebellion from Orissa forced him to stop beleaguering. He rushed to Orissa imprisoning CilaRai at Gaur. On returning Sulaiman learnt that his mother was bitten by a snake. CilaRai on getting wind of it from Sulaiman’s wife assured the revival from snake bite if Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari of Bamun Bori could be summoned from the Koch Kingdom – a fact disappearing in prevalent history.

According to Rofiul Hussain Baruah on an advice from CilaRai Sulaiman Kararani sent for Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari who actually healed Sulaiman’s mother. As agreedupon CilaRai was freed from prison and soon after his return to his homeland, King and elder brother NarNarayan granted 100 Bighas (40.05 acres) of la khiraj land (free from Government rent and public taxes) to Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari.

Sulaiman feared an impending confontration with the mighty Mughal Emperor Akbar but much before he decided to release CilaRai as a dire diplomatic need of having the Koch Kings as ally, CilaRai through the services of Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari earned his release. Protagonist Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari was not written into the Koch Chronicles and instead CilaRai was further portrayed the hero he was with another major achievement up his sleeves.

The 100 bighas of la khiraj land granted to Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari is in the possession of his descendants who sprang forth form the natives. The inhabitants of the Koch Kingdom were very inclined to Ansari’s way of life and a good number of them realised themselves in Islâm. Ansari lies buried in the compound of a Mosque built by him at Bamun Bori. The four stone pillars erected by King NarNarayan still stands firm as testimony to time and history. The Copper Plate Inscriptions however were stolen much later and the thief reported to have attempted to cross the River Brahmaputra with it, drowned and died. Ansari’s way of life influnced the people he lived among. With time the tenets of Islâm gradually spread under the successive tutorial governance of his descendants and contributes to the native bulk of today’s Moslem population in the Northern and Southern Banks of the River Brahmaputra.

Unpublised written accords of Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari are in the custody of his great-great-grandsons. NarNarayan made a number of grants which are summarised in history but surprisingly the incident that led to the allowance of a land grant to Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari escaped mention even figuratively. A jubiliant NarNarayan found it just too befitting to reward and retain the person who played the most vital role in his brother’s ultimate release beacause CilaRai was most indispensable to NarNarayan for the expansion and military strength of the growing Koch Kingdom.

Rampur Bamun Bori even today retains its former name and is situated about 10 kms from Mukalmua in the Nalbari District of modern Assam.

(Syed Miraz Ahmed is one of the great-great-grandsons of Syed Yar Muhammad Ansari and lives in Guwahati. This article was published in the bilingual Luit to Thames Volume XIII: Issue XIII 2012 edited by Dr. Karuna Sagar Das and published by Smt. Arundhati Das, West Midlands, U.K. CKRSD  thanks Mr. Ahmed for giving permission to republish the article in CKRSD’s website. The writer can be reached at syedmirazahmed@gmail.com)

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About ckrsd

Managing Trustee Centre for Koch Rajbnashi Studies and Development, Guwahati
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