Volume 5 Issue 33| November 19, 2011|


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Raja Sitaram Roy's 'Kachharibari'

Raja Sitaram Roy's 'Kachharibari' (tax office), an archeological site at Mohammadpur upazila of Magura, is on the verge of ruination due to sheer negligence of authorities and local people's irresponsibility. The structure has value as both an archaeological site and a heritage site and needs to be preserved.

By its physical appearance, Raja Sitaram Roy's Kachharibari's days are numbered. It's on the verge of ruination. At the moment, it is no more than a safe refuge for gamblers during the day, and worse illicit activities during the night.

Although time has caused the terracotta plaques of the Kachharibari building to wither, the relic of the Mughal regime still attracts visitors due its historical importance. The structure of the Kachharibari and 'dol-manch' (oscillation-stage where Sitaram used to pass leisure hours) located about 25 kilometers off from Magura town still serves as a testament to the flamboyance and creative essence of the Mughal period.

Part of Kachharibari has become a resort for gambling

Historical records say, Sitaram, by inheritance, first became the ruler of a small state under Bhushana in 17th century. Bhushana was a pargana (large area of land) comprising of the then Fatehabad and greater Faridpur districts of present time. Later, Raja Sitaram Roy was appointed Jaigeerdar (one enjoying a grant-free land) of the then Naldi pargana by the then Mughal emperor Shayesta Khan. The title of 'Raja' was given to him for his dedication and heroism in defeating mog-pirates and pathan rebels in Bhushana.

When Bhoumik Kings began dilly-dallying in paying taxes, Sitaram came to Mohammadpur following a directive from Shayesta Khan towards the end of the 17th century and brought the whole Bhushana pargana under his control through his power, influence and wisdom. After being defeated in battlefield, many of the pirates at the time became obedient to him and joined Sitaram's army strengthening his it.

Subsequently, Sitaram set up his capital at Mohammadpur and began to run state services. Within a very short time, he became reputed as a popular king due to his sincere devotion for the welfare of people irrespective of their religions. At one stage, he began to dream for establishing a universal Hindu-kingdom and started to build number of inaccessible fortresses which annoyed the Mughal family. After ascending to the throne Murshid Kuli Khan sent Abu Torab for collecting taxes from Sitaram. But Abu Torab faced his tragic end during the blood-shedding war with 'Monahati', the captain of Sitaram. Historical records say, the real name of 'Monahati' was Mrinmoy Ghosh. But he had been called 'Monahati' as his physical structure was like a small elephant. (Hati means elephant).

Entrance gate of Kacharibari in ruins
Podmopukur lake dug during the reign of Raja Sitaram

As the legends go, even sharp weapons could not able to injure his body as he used possess a talisman of invulnerability. The news of Abu Torab's death angered Murshid Kuli Khan. He sent many soldiers led by Box Ali Khan and Doyaram to punish Sitaram for his insolence. After a fierce battle, Monahati was arrested where he faced pitiless torture. Failing to bear the cruel torture, Monahati embraced death at will by throwing away his 'imperishable-talisman'.

Monahati could only be captured due to the betrayal of a faithful official of Sitaram. When Raja Sitaram learnt of the betrayal of someone he trusted, he became mentally weakened. But he vehemently fought against the soldiers led by Box Ali khan and Doyaram to save his capital. As he failed and was not eager to be caught by the opponent, he took all of his family members to a boat. All the doors and windows of the boat was sealed shut by the Raja and the boat was taken to a nearby lake named 'Ramsagar', where the family embraced a watery grave by making a hole at the bottom of boat with an axe.

Large ponds like 'Dudhsagar', 'Krishnasagar', 'Sukhsagar','Shetsagar' covering acres of land dug during the reign of Sitaram for arrangements of fresh water for the general people have overtime been devoured by the river Madhumati. Whereas, Kachharibari, Dolmanch and a large pond named 'Padmopukur' still bears the testimony of Sitaram's rule. Most of the land of Raja Sitaram Roy's 'Kachharibari' and its adjoining areas had been grabbed by the local people. Mohammadpur upazila land office records say the relic still possesses 163 decimals of land. A total of 18 poor families live on 54 decimals of land out of the total 163 decimals land belonged to the archeological site while the relic stands on only 35 decimals. The rest 74 decimals of land have been grabbed by influential local people.

In a recent initiative by Mohammadpur Upazila administration to recover the occupied land of Raja Sitaram Roy's 'Kachharibari', 18 ultra-poor people were served with notices to leave the land while the rich and influential who have been living there with constructed buildings found ways to avoid the eviction notice. The notices were served to evict the occupants following a letter from Khulna Divisional Archeological Department signed by its Regional Director Shihabuddin Mohammad Akbar.

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