Kamata-Koch Behar

Kamata-Koch Behar A connected account of Kamata-Koch kingdom may be obtained since the time of the destruction of the Khen dynasty by Alauddin husain shah (1494-1519). The successors of Husain Shah were driven out by Vishvasingha, a Koch chieftain, who is credited to have established Kamata-Koch Kingdom, (16th century AD), and this incident definitely marked the emergence of one of the tribal states in eastern India. In course of the century it consolidated its power over the entire region from the Karatoya to the Badanadi (in Kamarupa).

In 1562 the Koch army under the command of Chila Roy, reputed brother of Naranarayana, son and successor of Vishvasingha, marched to the Ahom capital, Gurhgaon and plundered and destroyed it. Afterwards the eastern part of the kingdom stretching from the Sankosa and beyond known as Koch-Hajo, better as Kamarupa (present day Assam) was placed under its governor, Raghudeva, son of Chila Roy and nephew of Naranarayana, who ultimately declared independence. Subsequently, Kamarupa became an integral part of the Mughal empire, and later on of the Ahom and finally, of the British empire. The main dynasty ruling in the western part of the former Kamta-Koch kingdom (also known as Cooch Behar) and the west of the river Sankosa, however, maintained its identity for several centuries.

The northern territories beyond pundravardhana (or Pundranagara) appear to have been ignored by the people although the place was not altogether unknown to them. In the Damodarpur Copper Plates (c 5th century AD) there are references to the temples of Shveta-Varahasvamin and Kokamukhasvamin situated in the Himalayas (Himavacchikhare). The Kambojas appeared on the political scene of northern Bengal in the first half of the 10th century AD. The identity of the Kambojas is a matter of controversy. Philologically it has been suggested that the term 'Kocha' is derived from Kamboja (Kamocha>Kawocha>Kocha). The tabaqat-i-nasiri (13th century AD) refers to a group of people (Tibeto-Burman) known as Koch-Mech-Tharu whom bakhtiyar khalji met while proceeding northwards after the conquest of lakhnauti. It is possible, as suggested by Suniti Kumar Chatterji, that the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Tibeto-Chinese race came to Indian side of the Himalayas to Nepal and North Bihar-Bengal and Assam and they possibly mingled with the Kol and Dravidian peoples already established there and their amalgam rapidly became Aryanised in contact with Gangetic culture.

The Khen rulers made Kamatapur (Gosanimari) as their capital. The Gosani-mangal contains a vivid description about the construction of the Khen capital city. But before long Alauddin Husain Shah destroyed the capital and captured the territory. He issued coins declaring himself as the 'conqueror of Kamru and Kamata'. The western parts of the Brahmaputra Valley upto the Karatoya previously known as Kamarupa, became Kamata.

In the 16th century the kingdom of Kamata-Koch Behar emerged as an entity. It survived the emancipation of the entity called Kamarupa in the territory east of the Sankosa. Subsequently it survived the wars with the Mughals and Bhutan, the conclusion of treaty of 1772-73 with the east india company, and eventually the kingdom was resurrected in an altered form after its merger with the Indian Union (1949) during the reign of the last ruler of the dynasty Maharaja Jagaddipendranarayana Bhup Bahadur, who died in 1972. However, it may be pointed out that the increasing liberality towards the migrated people from the neighbourhood territories on the part of the government, coupled with a growing antipathy towards them on the part of the people of the land, have outlived the kingdom.

Maharaja Vishvasingha and the elite of the newly formed kingdom of Kamata-Koch Behar invited Brahmanas from the neighouring territories. But mere presence of a large number of Brahmanas could not change the attitude of the people. The Brahmanas were set to build up theories for enhancing the respectability of the king. They realised that the association of Shiva with the people of the kingdom was very deep-rooted and old. Siva is connected here with the fertility of soil and cultivation. Hence, they floated a theory that Visvasimha, though had a mortal father namely Haridasa, was actually begotten by Mahadeva himself through Haridasa's first wife Hira. This has been given due recognition in the official records of Koch Behar like the Rajopakyana, the Darrang Rajvangshabali, the Sankaracharit of Ramacharan Thakur as well as in the akbarnamah and this vindicated the emergence of the concept of the divine right of kingship in Kamata-Koch Behar. The rulers knew the coins of the kingdom as Narayanimudra after the title 'Narayana' assumed. The coins were also known as Shiva-tanka.

Thus the kingdom of Kamata-Koch Behar became a territory of Siva. Even when the all pervading influence on Neo-Vaisnavism, aiming at the establishment of a classless and casteless society as propagated by Shankaradeva, swept the Brahmaputra Valley and the kingdom of Kamata-Koch Behar, and the powerful rulers like Naranarayana, the Vikramaditya of Kamarupa, Laksminarayana, Viranarayana, Prananarayana took refuge to Shankaradeva's Neo-Vaisnavism, it could not percolate deep into the heart of the people. The kings were obliged to build temples of Shiva and Shakti to honour the sentiment of the subjects. This ultimately resulted in the decline of Neo-Visnavism in the kingdom of Kamata-Koch Behar.

Similarly in the post Anglo-Koch Treaty (1773 AD) period the Brahma religion entered into the kingdom through the marriage of Nrpendranarayana with Sunitidevi, daughter of the great Brahma preacher keshab chandra sen, but it could not strike any root in Koch Behar. The decline of the Brahma religion in Koch Behar has been delineated in details in Savitri Devi's Kumar Gajendranarayana.

The city of Cooch Behar was the capital of the native state of Kamata-Koch Behar. Mir Jumla, the Mughal general, captured the capital for a short time and named it 'Alamgirnagar'. The famous Victor Jubilee Palace, a landmark in the city, was designed after the model of Buckingham Palace of London in 1887 during the reign of the celebrated Maharaja Nripendranarayana. The palace is not merely a royal residence but also a symbol of culture associated with the past history of a kingdom. [PK Bhattacharyya]

Bibliography Amanatulla Ahmed, Koch Beharer Itihas (Bangla), Cooch Behar, 1936; NG Rhodes and Bose, The Coinage of Cooch Behar, Calcutta, 1999; BN Mukherjee and PK Bhattacharyya (ed), Kamta Koch Behar in Historical Perspective, Darjeeling, 2000.