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Devkot


Devkot variants Deokot or Devikot, was one of the leading ancient cities of Eastern India. The city is also mentioned as Umavana or Usavana, kotivarsa, Shonitapura, Banapura etc which seem to be synonymous and identical with the ruined city of Bangarh (Bangad), capital of the legendary demon king Bana. In the Vaijayanti of Yadava Prakasha (c 11th century AD), 'Devikotta' and Kotivarsa are said to be names of the same city. Kotivarsa finds mention in some other ancient texts like Kalpasutra, Visnu Purana, Shrimadbhagavata, Vayu Purana and Brihat Sanghita. In the Vayu Purana it is mentioned as a town. In fact Kotivarsa was an important administrative centre during the Guptas and is mentioned in their land grant inscriptions, where there was an adhisthana (headquarter) of a visaya (district) under the Pundravardhana Bhukti. Kotivarsa continued as a district during the Palas of Bengal. Incidentally, sandhyakar nandi, the author of the ramacharitam mentions Shonitapura as a prosperous and magnificent city of varendra.

During the early years of the Bengal sultans, Devkot was an important outpost on the northern frontier of their kingdom. In fact during the time of bakhtiyar khalji and later Khalji Maliks Devkot enjoyed a prominent position and it is the place where Bakhtiyar established his capital before proceeding towards Tibet and on his return he died and was buried here.

An inscription dated 697 AH (1297 AD) fixed on the wall of the tomb of Maulana Shah Ata of Devkot indicates the significance of the place during the early years of the sultans of Bengal. The inscription narrates the erection of a mosque during the reign of Kaikaus (c 691-702 AH) and the governorship of Zafar Khan Bahram Aitgin, under the superintendence of Salah Jiwand of Multan. Incidentally, there are at least three other inscriptions from the reigns of sikandar shah (1358-89 AD), Muzaffar Shah (1490-93 AD) and husain shah (1494-1519 AD) fixed on the wall of the tomb. Although they do not mention the name of Shah Ata, they speak about the importance of the place. According to the report of buchanan, there was an empty panel on the wall that appears to have contained a fifth inscription, which still remains untraced.

Buchanan Hamilton, who visited the place more than one and a half century ago, has left an interesting account of the place and it may be relevant to know something more about the ruins of Bangarh/Devkot. According to him the ruins of 'Bannagar' occupied the east bank of the Punarbhava, which flowed from the northeast to the southwest for about 3.21km, beginning a little above 'Dumdumah'. He first examined the citadel, which was a quadrangle of about 549m x 457m surrounded by a high rampart of bricks, and on the south and east by a ditch. The remainder of the ditch had been obliterated or destroyed by the Punarbhava, which is said to have passed to the north of the present course of the Brahmani. KG Goswami, the archeologist in charge of the excavation at Bangarh, adds that to the northwest of the ruins of Bangarh, on the other side of the Punarbhava there is a small mound popularly known as Ushagarh (Usagad), named after Bana's daughter Usha (Usa).

Some scholars think that Buchanan confused Devkot with Gangarampur, a place three miles south of it. The report of cunningham may be considered to avoid confusion as to the exact location of Devkot. Cunningham has given an accurate picture of Devkot, a place of great importance in the beginning of the Muslim period in Bengal. According to him the old fort of Devkot was situated on the left or eastern bank of the Punarbhava, 53km to the northeast of pandua, 29 km' to the south-southwest of Dinajpur and 113km to the north-northeast of the citadel of gaur. To the north of Devkot was a walled enclosure of about the same size. Both were surrounded by massive earthen ramparts and broad ditches. To the south lay the 'Muhammadan quarter of Damdama'. From this point there was an embanked road leading to the east past the two great lakes called Dahal Dighi and Kala Dighi. [Ichhamuddin Sarkar]