Dinajpur Zamindari

Dinajpur Zamindari tradtionally believed to have been founded by one obscure Dinaj or Dinaraj from whom the district derived its name. During the rule of Mughal Emperor akbar a holy man known as Kasi Thakur - also familiar as Brahmachari and Mohanto, claiming descent from raja ganesha, acquired considerable lands in Dinajpur and Maldah districts. He is reported to have bequeathed his whole estate to Srimanta Dutta Chaudhury, one of his favourite Kayastha disciples. Srimanta was succeeded by his daughter's son Sukdev who, besides inheriting vast zamindaris in parts of Rangpur, Bogra, Maldah. Dinajpur and Thakurgaon districts extended his estate to include Ghoraghat, Nawabpur, Khetlal, Shibganj, Panchbibi, Badalgachhi and Adamdighi thanas.

Considering the vast extent of his estate aurangzeb conferred on him the title of Raja in 1677. His youngest son Prannath succeeded him in 1682. He was the most famous and powerful potentate of the family who began the construction of the fabulously ornate terracotta rich kantanagar temple ('nava-ratna' temple) in 1722, but could not complete during his lifetime. It took 30 years to complete by his equally able adopted son Ramnath in 1752.

The Dinajpur zamindari was one of biggest zamindaris in Bengal in 1793, when the permanent settlement was concluded by the cornwallis administration. The public assessment on the zamindari was fixed at Sicca Rupees 14,84,000. It was then the third largest zamindari in Bengal, just next to those of Burdwan and Rajshahi zamindaris. Within ten years of the operation of the Permanent Settlement all the great zamindaris of Bengal including the Dinajpur zamindari were ruined. From the date of the sale of the first lot of land, the whole of the zamindari was sold in public auctions for default of revenue payment in the course of next fifteen months. The most immediate cause of revenue default was a severe drought in 1798. An added cause was the Fakir-Sannyasi resistance to company rule. Collisions among the zamindari and collectorate officials were other factors for the fall of the zamindari. The raiyats or peasants failed to pay their rents to zamindar and in turn the zamindar also failed to pay the public revenue in time. The government recovered the public revenue by selling the zamindari in public auctions. The zamindari was sold when raja Radhanath was the zamindar.

The Dinajpur zamindari that continued after 1800 was just a shadow of its past. The palace and the Kantaji temple were very badly damaged by the great earthquake of 1897 and had to be rebuilt by Maharaja Girijanath Roy Bahadur. During the time of his adopted son Jagadisnath, the zamindari was abolished under the east bengal estate acquisition act, 1950. Jagadisnath died in 1962 at Calcutta. [Nazimuddin Ahmed]

Bibliography KW Strong, EB District Gazetteer, Dinajpur, Allahabad, 1912; George Michell (ed), Brick Temples of Bengal, New Jersy, 1983; Nazimuddin Ahmed, Building of the British Raj in Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1986.