Journey Through Bangladesh
The Historical Raja Birat
Contemporary to Mohastangor, Raja Birat in Gaibandha is an archaeological site that is in danger of being complete extinction. Government initiative should be taken immediately to save this site, and conduct excavation for the sake of our next generation, and to add an asset to our tourism industry.
The Barendra area was once the pleasure-ground of ancient human civilization. The fort cities that were constructed through the ages are subverted in the course of time. Birat Nagar is situated to the west, 17th km away of Gobindagonj, a sadar upazilla (sub-district town) under Gaibandha district. Named as Birat Rajar Bari in Rajahar union of Gobindagonj thana is kept abandoned and is in miserable condition. Though the some structures of Raja Birat survived up to the 19th century, most at present are almost extinct. The very few parts of the historic patterns that are still standing are in danger due to government and local negligence. It is regretful that the young generation of this locality or rest of the country are keeping themselves ignorant of this important place.
A local, Mamunur Rashid, student of Jahangirnagar University, said “nothing is known about this place, but we are interested to learn about it.” In 1978, after having published a historic detailed description of 'Raja Birat' in a newspaper, archaeology department setup a signboard, declaring it as an “archaeological site”. The writing on that signboard read “this is the asset of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, any digging and demarcation here without permission is a punishable crime in accordance with the penal code.” But the signboard doesn't exist anymore.
From a recent research of historians, it is known that during the foundation of Pala kingdom in the north and north–east Bangla, a race of kings by the name of 'Debbangsho' reigned mightily in the late 8th century ( 743-800 A.D). 'Raja Birat' was a part of the 'Debbangsho' and 'Pandru Nagore.' There is a mention about “Birat Nagore” by name, in the 'Ban Parbo' and 'Birat Parbo' in the Mahabharata. From traditional stories, it is known that the area was named after a powerful king named Birat who once reigned over that area. Historian P.C Sen has written, Birat Nagor existed since 1122th A.D. According to the history of Mohastangor, Shah Sultan Balkhi Mahi Shawer assaulted Pandru Nagore. As a result, Parshuram II along with his family was killed, and thus his dynasty destroyed.
A local boy of the area said “in 1990's there were some glimpses of Birat dynasty among which there were four wells in vast size, four Khiri trees of thousand years and four royal palaces around the Raja Birat Bazar, but many are now obsolete –the local people have built houses and shops occupying almost all of these illegally”.
Aminul Islam, the chairman of the union council said, “I have sent all photos and descriptions of this places to archaeological department, demanding protection for this endangered site. Late Khaja M.A Kayum's research conducted for 40 years mentions that so many examples of Birat kingdom are still reserved in Barandra Museum in Rajshahi and Mohastangor; slab of name, peak of altar, elephant's head, stone's door, stone's inscription, Vishnu statue, Horguari statue, Gazalaxmi statue and so on are notable among these symbols. Besides, among the architectures, massive palaces, high rampart, deep ditches, drain-pipes, royal temples, guesthouses, theatres, metal roads, office rooms, thousands of canal-ponds as well as terracotta are mentionable. Historically, Raja Birat's history is very much significant for being contemporaneous of Mohastangor. But surprisingly no excavation and research has ever been conducted. Sirajul Islam, headmaster of Birat B.L High School, said, “ It is necessary to preserve these symbols and reanimate the history as there is no practical way to teach my students.”
It is still possible to protect the history of Raja Birat against extinction with considerate attitude from the government. It will be able to draw attention of tourists from home and abroad if it is excavated – to make it as spectacular as Mynamati and Mohastangor. It can generate much needed cash for our tourism industry, and also young generation of our country will know the history of this significant historical place.
(R) thedailystar.net 2012