Pratapaditya, Raja

Pratapaditya, Raja Zamindar of Jessore and one of the Bara Bhuyans of Bengal. His father Srihari (Sridhara), a Kayastha, was an influential officer in the service of the Bengal sultan daud khan karrani. On the fall of Daud in the hands of the Mughals, Srihari misappropriated all the treasure of the sultan in his custody and absconded. He then set up a kingdom for himself in the marshy land to the extreme south of Khulna district (1574) and took the title of Maharaja. Pratapaditya succeeded to the kingship in 1584.

The Baharistan and the travel diary of abdul latif and the contemporary European writers, all testify to the personal ability of Pratapaditya, his political pre-eminence, material resources and martial strength particularly in war-boats. His territories covered the greater part of what is now included in the greater Jessore, Khulna and Barisal districts. He established his capital at Dhumghat, a strategic' position at the confluence of the Jamuna and Ichhamati.

Among the Bengal zamindars Pratapaditya was the first to send his envoy to the Mughal subahdar islam khan to win the favour of the Mughals. He sent his envoy Shaykh Badi and his youngest son Sangramaditya with a large gift to the Subahdar (1608). The prince was left behind as a hostage on the agreement that Pratapaditya would personally attend on the subahdar at Alaipur. Accordingly, Pratapaditya met the Subahdar in 1609 on the bank of the Atrai and tendered personal submission. It was arranged that immediately after his return to his kingdom, Pratapaditya should send 400 war-boats with his youngest son Sangramaditya to join the imperial fleet under Ihtimam Khan, and that he himself should proceed along the river Arial Khan with 20,000 paiks, 1000 cavalry, and 100 war-boats, to attack Musa Khan's possessions in sripur and vikramapura, a pledge that he did not keep. To punish Pratapaditya for his disloyalty as a vassal and to subjugate his territory Islam Khan made preparation for an expedition. Having intelligence of the impending danger Pratapaditya hastened to make amends for his folly, and sent his son Sangramaditya with 80 war-boats to Islam Khan with expression of regret. But Islam Khan took up a stern attitude and decided to punish him by conquering his kingdom. He ordered the war-boats sent by the Raja to be destroyed.

A large expedition was organised by Islam Khan which included 1000 picked cavalry and 5000 matchlockmen, and a number of experienced officers such as Mirza Makki, Mirza Saifuddin, Shaykh Ismail Fathpuri, Shah Beg Khaksar and Lachmi Rajput, while the fleet was composed of 300 imperial war-boats besides the war-boats of the vassal zamindars. The command of the entire force was vested upon Ghiyas Khan, and the imperial fleet and artillery was placed in charge of Mirza Nathan. Strategically, a force was sent at the same time against Raja Ramchandra of Bakla, son-in-law of Pratapaditya, so that no assistance might reach the Jessore king from that side. Ghiyas Khan with the land force started from Alapsingh, crossed the Padma near Alaipur, and then moving along the banks of the Jellinghy and its tributary the Bhairab encamped at Pakhwan. About the middle of December 1611, the entire force marched towards Jessore along the Bhairab and the Ichhamati and soon reached a place named Salka near the confluence of the river Jamuna and the Ichhamati.

The advance of the Mughal army put Pratapaditya also in action, and he equipped a strong army and a fleet and placed them under expert officers including Firingees (Portuguese), Afghans and Pathans. He sent his eldest son Udayaditya with the greater part of his land army, elephants, artillery and the fleet of 500 war-boats to hold the strategic point of Salka. Udayaditya made a big fort at Salka with natural barriers on three sides rendering it almost impregnable. Udayaditya was assisted by two able officers, Jamil Khan who was placed in charge of the cavalry and the elephants, and Khwaja Kamal who acted as the admiral of the fleet.

The Mughal force proceeded towards the fort of Udayaditya with two detachments of the land force, one on each bank of the Ichhamati. Udayaditya suddenly launched a vigorous attack on the enemies. Leaving Jamal Khan in charge of the garrison and the elephants at Salka fort, he advanced with the entire fleet putting Khwaja Kamal in the van with the stronger and more powerful war-boats and floating batteries, and himself leading the centre with the other boats. In the encounter that followed, the Jessore fleet by its overwhelming numbers gained an initial advantage and pressed the imperial navy very hard, the 20 war-boats of the advance guard bearing the burnt of the attack. Finding the Jessore war-boats almost cordoning the small advance guard, the Mughal archers and musketeers from the banks of the Ichhamati began action and succeeded in checking the advance of the enemy. Instantly, Mirza Nathan with his fleet made a rapid march along the western bank of the river thereby cutting off the Jessore fleet and making a breach in its ranks. The integrity and discipline of the Jessore fleet was virtually lost. In the melee that followed, the admiral Khwaja Kamal was killed. Udayaditya lost heart and hastily fled to his father narrowly escaping capture. Jamal Khan evacuated the fort of Salka and followed Udayaditya with all the elephants.'

Partapaditya prepared himself to fight a second time from a new base near the confluence of the Kagarghat canal and the Jamuna. He made a big fort at a strategic point and gathered all his available forces there. The imperialists began the battle by an attack on the Jessore fleet (January 1612) and compelled it to seek shelter beneath the fort. But their further advance was checked by the heavy cannonade of the Jessore artillery. A sudden attack of the imperialists completely defeated the Jessore fleet and the victors fell upon the fort with the elephants in front, thereby compelling Pratapaditya to evacuate the fort and retreat.

The second defeat sealed the fate of Pratapaditya. At Kagarghata he tendered submission to Ghiyas Khan who personally escorted Pratapaditya to Islam Khan at Dhaka. The Jessore king was put in chains and his kingdom was annexed. Pratapaditya was kept confined at Dhaka. His sons also appear to have shared his fate, and were later sent to Delhi court. No authentic information is available regarding the last days of Pratapaditya. Probably he died at Benares on his way to Delhi, as a prisoner. [Muazzam Hussain Khan]