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Bangladesh and Global Studies

The arrival of the Europeans in Bengal and the background of colonial rule

If any foreign power establishes its rule over any occupied country, generally it is not termed as a colonial rule. In a colonial system, the foreign occupying forces do not come to exercise their power permanently. They know very well that leaving all their territories one day they will have to go back from where they came.

But as long as they govern the country, they spend a huge amount of money and riches on their own countries. After a certain period when the local agitated people raise their voice against their rule and exploitation or if they think that it is no more convenient to exercise power over a foreign country, they go back.

This kind of imposing rule over any foreign country by the occupying forces is known as setting up a colony. And this system of government is called colonial rule. The British rulers occupied Bengal first and then the Indian sub-continent and started to rule over it. Their ruling system is similar to the aforesaid definition. For this reason, the British rule, exercised in Bengal and India, is known as a colonial rule.

Long before the arrival of the British, some other external forces started to arrive in Bengal. The reason was the attraction of wealth and riches belong fertile country. The Aryans arrived in Bengal before the Christian era. But they did not exercise their ruling power here.

The Maurya emperor of India Ashoka the great occupied the northern part of Bengal in 300 BC. At that time, the northern Bengal known as Pundra Bardhan Bhukti became the province of the Mauryans. After the Maurya rule, the Gupta dynasty takes over the rule of India.

During the next four centuries, North Bengal and some parts of South-East Bengal came under the rule of the Gupta dynasty. In the 7th century, after the fall of the Guptas, the first independent state was established in then Bengal. King Shashanko, the independent Bengalee king, did not rule for long.

After his death, great anarchy had been prevailing for almost one hundred years. In Sanskrit, this age is known as the age of Matsyanaya (the age of anarchy). Then a long-lasting Bengalee state was established in the middle of the 8th century. The Bengalee Pal kings reigned for almost four hundred years. After the fall of the Pals, Bengal went under the rule of the foreigners again at the end of the 11th century.

Coming from Karnatak of Southern India, the kings of the Sen Dynasty occupied the throne of Bengal. The rule of the Sens came to an end at the hand of the external Muslim forces. Turkish Military ruler Ikhtiaruddin Muhammad Bakhtiar Khiljee occupied a small section of Bengal after defeating the Sen king Lakshman Sen. The Nadiya region to the west of Bengal and some parts of Nothern Bengal were under the reign and control of Bakhtiar Khiljee from 1204 to 1206 AD.

After that East Bengal was under the rule of the Sen rulers for a long period. But through the reign of Bakhtiar Khiljee, the rule of the Turkey Sultans was made easier. Bakhtiar Khiljee died in 1206. From 1206-1338 A.D. the Muslim rule was expanding throughout Bengal.

By this time, three provinces for the Muslim Sultans of Delhi were established in three sections of Bengal. These provinces of sections were called ‘Iqleems’ in Farsi (the Persian language). These were respectively ‘Iqleem Lakhnouti’ established in Northern Bengal, ‘Iqleem Satgaon’ in Western Bengal, and ‘Iqleem Sonargaon’ in Eastern Bengal. In 1338, the ruler of Sonargaon Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah rebelled against the Mulsim Sultans of Delhi and declared independence.

Thus, he established the system of having an ‘Independent Sultan’ in Bengal which lasted for 200 years. In 1538 this independent Sultanate came to an end. Though the Sultans were non-Bengalee rulers; they exercised good governance and nobody returned to his own country. Before that foreign Mughals occupied Delhi. Mughal Emperor Humayun occupied Gaura in Northern Bengal i.e. ‘Iqleem Lakhnouti’ in 1538 AD.

But he could not establish Mughal rule in Bengal then. Because the Afgan ruler of Bihar, Sher Khan Sur, drove Humayun away first from Bengal and afterward from India. In this phase, the throne of Bengal went to the hands of non-Bengalee Afghans.

The Mughals organized themselves in India again. In 1576 during the reign of Emperor Akbar the great, many parts of Western Bengal and Northern Bengal came under the reign of the Mughals. But they could not occupy Eastern Bengal i.e. today’s Bangladesh very easily.

The twelve Zamindars of East Bengal, popularly known as ‘Baro Bhuiyan’, resisted Mughal attacks in a body. Man Singh, the commander of Mughal emperor Akbar, tried to defeat Isha Khan, leader of the Baro Bhuiyans, but he could not. In 1610 during the reign of Emperor Jahangir, Mughal Subedar Islam Khan defeated the Baro Bhuiyan and occupied Dhaka.

Thus the Mughals took possession of Bengal. This foreign Mughal rule continued till the middle of the 19th century. In 1757, with the fall of Nawab Siraj-Ud-Dawla in the battle of Plassey, the rule of the Mughal dynasty finally came to an end. In this period, the power of the ruling Bengal was captured by another foreign force. Thus, the European powers started to rule over this territory.

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