Goaar people are today found living in twenty-one states and union territories in India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari except in the North-Eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.
Eventhough they are living in different states in India, their traditions, culture, their dialect called “Goaar Boli”, their social and religious customs and habits, their colorful dress and songs and so on are all alike. By their appearance and particularly by the colorful and gorgeous dress of their women folk, they could be easily recognized as Goaars in any part of India and the whole world. At the very outset, it would be necessary to point out some of the misconceptions and discrepancies in the versions of the Goaar bards and geneologists called Dhaadis and Bhaats and also in the writings of several authors on Goaar dynasty, its origin, spread and so on.
Since Goaars were a migratory tribe throughout till about 1700 A.D., when they started settling down in permanent encampments called “Tandas”, and were uneducated, one finds a lot of inconsistent traditions, beliefs and anecdotes about their origin, spread etc. The Dhaadis and Bhaats who were also uneducated have fabricated their own traditions, legends and versions of anecdotes. There are a number of inconsistent confusing and conflicting versions given by different Dhaadis and Bhaats in different areas.
This is natural because they repeat whatever they have learnt by heart from their equally illiterate fore-fathers. Some of them are also capable of adding their own imaginary versions. The fact is that Goaar dynasty is a very ancient dynasty having its origin much earlier than 3000 years and it is not a caste or a tribe recruited from a number of castes and tribes in the wake of conflicting armies and military expeditions in India as mentioned by some writers.
Colonel Tod remarks of this dynasty : “The Gaur tribe was once respected in Rajasthan, though they never attained to any considerable eminence. The ancient kings of Bengal were of this race and gave their name to the capital, Lakhnauty.”
This town in Bengal, and their kingdom of which it was the capital, were known as Gaur, and it has been conjectured that they were named after it.
Repeated mention of Goaars is found in the wars of Prithvi Raj as leaders of considerable renown, one of whom founded a small state in the centre of India. This survived through 7 centuries of Mogul domination, till at length fell a prey indirectly to the successes of British over the Marathas, when Sindhia in 1809 annihilated the power of the Gaur and took possession of his capital, Supur.
The second surge of the Muslim aggression began in 980 AD and lasted till 1020 AD. This was the time when the Shahi Kings of Punjab grappled with the invaders. By the year 1020 Muslim rule had been established in Afghanistan, Paktoonistan (NWFP) and West Punjab.
These Muslim invasions were led by Mahmud of Ghazni. The Rajputs ruling North India resisted further Muslim aggression. The third wave of a successful Muslim invasion led by Mahmud Shahabuddin Ghaury took place between 1191 AD and 1255 AD. This was the time the Muslims extended their occupation to Delhi. The lead role in resisting this invasion was played by Prithvi Raj Chouhan.This Muslim surge brought East Punjab, the Ganges Valley (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) and Bengal under Muslim Occupation. This invasion reached up to Bengal where the last Hindu Gaur Kingdom ruled by Laxman Sena was overrun by the Muslims.
Panini, an ancient historian, who flourished before the second century B.C., mentions in his writings Gaurpura.
According to the book “Memoirs of Gaur and Pandua” (by M. Abid Ali Khan and H. E. Stapleton):
Gaur, under the names of Ramavati and Lakshmanavati, was probably one of the royal capitals of the Pal and Sen Kings, but its recorded history does not begin until the Muhammadan conquest of western and Northern Bengal (Rarh and Varendra) by Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar Khalji, the lieutenant of Qutbuddin Aibak of Delhi, in the year 599 of the Hijra, corresponding with 1202 A.D. Rai Lakshman Sen (better known as Lakhan Sen) who had renamed Gaur Lakshmanavati after his own name, was then King of Bengal, and Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar, advancing rapidly by the south easterly road from Bihar, surprised him in his capital of Nadia on the Bhagirathi river (now represented by Nabadwip, a little to the west of Krishnagar).
Lakhan Sen escaped, first possibly to his other capital at Lakshmanavati, and then to Sunargaon in Eastern Bengal where his descendants continued to rule for another century. Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar followed him as for as Lakshmanavati, which was then established as the chief seat of Muhammadan power in Bengal and is henceforward known by a shortened form of the old name, viz., Lakhnauti.
Few traces of Sen rule in Gaur and Northern Bengal can now be found, but the name of Lakhan Sen’s father Ballal Sen probably still survives in the Ballal Bari or Baghbari, which is applied to the fortified area at the northern extremity of Gaur. Lakhan Sen is said to have been a King of considerable power in the earlier part of his reign. His territories invaded by the Musalmans when he was 80 years of age. He had three sons, Madhab Sen, Keshab Sen and Biswarup Sen, by two wives named Basudevi and Ballava Devi. Halayudha Misra was his Minister. The Tabqat-I-Nasiri says that a number of astrologers and counsellors presented themselves before the Raja, whom the author calls Rai Lakhmaniah, and represented to him, that in the books of their ancient sages, it had been foretold that the country would fall into the hands of the Toorks (Musalmans), and that when that should come to pass, the reigning Raja could do no better than consent to his subjects, as well as himself, fleeing elsewhere, so that they might escape from the molestation of the Mlehchas (unclean ones).
The Raja asked the astrologers whether any token had been given in the ancient books with regard to the identity of the leader of the Muslim troops, so that he might not be mistaken. The soothsayers replied that the indication of this leader would be that, when he stood upright and let his hands hang by his sides, his fingers would reach beyond the point of his knee-joints to his calves. On receiving this answer, Lakhan Sen deputed trustworthy persons to make investigations, who found in Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar the peculiarity mentioned, and informed the Raja accordingly. Their report produced a great commotion among the Brahmins and wise men, chiefs and lords of the country, who are said to have retired hastily into the province of Sankanat (possibly Northern Bengal), the cities and towns of Bang (Eastern Bengal), and towards Kamrud (Kamrup, i.e., Assam); but Rai Lakhmaniah was not then willing to abandon his kingdom. The following year after that, Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar prepared a force and, marching from Bihar, suddenly appeared before the city of Nadia. He had advanced so fast that no more than 18 horsemen could keep up with him, the other troops following far behind. He entered the city unopposed and, as has already been stated, captured it in the year 1202 A.D.
The Tabqat states that Rai Lakhmaniah was then sitting in his inner apartment with his food set before him on gold and silver plates, when the sudden onrush of Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar struck terror into his heart and Raja ran out barefooted and fled. His treasures, harem, slaves, servants and elephants all fell into the raiders’s hands. (There is an interesting drawing by Mr. Surendera Nath Ganguli of Calcutta which illustrates the memorable flight of Raja Lakhan Sen. It shows the venerable monarch hardly able to walk, wearing only a single sheet half covering his body, and leaning on a stick, stealing down his palace stairs to embark in a boat which was ready at the foot of the staircase to receive him. The bow of the boat is shaped like a 'peacock’ head.) Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar then caused the Khutbah to read, and coins struck in the name of Qutbuddin Aibak, his immediate superior at Delhi. After the conquest of Bengal, Muhammsd-I-Bakhtiyar established mosques, colleges and rest houses for dervishes in that province and made Lakhnauti the seat of his government.
In 1205 A.D. he led an expedition into Tibet, which was not successful. In this expedition he suffered much, and, after losing many of his soldiers and high officers, ultimately got back to Devkot, his northern military outpost near Gangarampur (18 miles south of Dinajpur). On arrival at Devkot he fell ill and shut himself up and no more rode out into the streets, for whenever he did so, widows and orphans of the soldiers and officers who had fallen in this unlucky expedition, used to curse and abuse him.
He died at Devkot after ruling as Governor of Bengal for three years. Some say that Ali-I-Mardan assassinated him. From the time of Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar Khalji (1202-05) down to that of Qadar Khan (1325-38) Bengal formed a dependency of the throne of Delhi, but after the death of Qadar Khan in 1338 Bengal was ruled by its own Kings who were quite independent of the Kings of Delhi. Within the 14 years following 1338 Haji Ilyas bought the whole country under his rule and made Pandua-the ancient Hindu city 20 miles north-east of Lakhnauti-the capital of Bengal.
It was after this change of the seat of Government that he made his stand against the powerful invasion of Firuz Shah of Delhi in 1354 at Ekdala, a great earthen fort surrounded by marshes, a possible site of which may be the present village of Murcha, about 14 miles up-stream from the junction of the Kalindri with the Mahananda. Sikandar Shah I, the son of Ilyas Shah, also made Pandua his seat of Government which remained with his family till about 1410 when Raja Kans (or Ganesh) set up a short succession of puppet kings beginning with Saifuddin Hamzah Shah in whose name he ruled.
The Raja’s son Jalaluddin Muhammad, who had embraced Islam, first came to the throne of Bengal in 1415 A.D., and held his court at Pandua, where his tomb-the Eklakhi Mausoleum-still forms one of the most picturesque objects of this deserted place. From Muhammad-I-Bakhtiyar Khalji to Qadar Khan the viceroys retained their capital at Lakhnauti (Gaur), but when the kings of Bengal established their independence they made Firuzabad (Pandua) the seat of Government.
“The causes of this transfer are nowhere stated; but it was obviously connected with the changes in the river courses, making Lakhnauti unhealthy and uninhabitable. The various civil wars, with repeated plunderings of the city, might have hastened the transfer. The return of the capital from Firuzabad to Gaur was probably effected in the reign of Mahmud I (1442-59). This transfer was again larger due to physical changes in the locality. “After much fluctuation, the Ganges seems to have found a comparatively stable course on the west of the city, and its floods probably raised the level of the city on its eastern part. By high embankments on the east and west, it became now practicable to make the city habitable; and the deep stream flowing on the west must have greatly facilitated trade. On the other hand, the river receded from Pandua and made it less accessible and more unhealthy. A change in the dynasty also facilitated the removal.”
Sulaiman Kararani subsequently removed the capital from Gaur to Tanda (still further to the south-west) in 1565. This removal was similarly caused by changes in the course of the Ganges, the difficulty of communication, and unhealthiness of Gaur from its malarious surroundings.
Munim Khan, Khan-I-Khanan, the first Viceroy of Akbar, retransferred the seat of Government from Tanda to Gaur in 1575, but the rains of that year caused an epidemic from which numberless people died and the Viceroy himself fell a victim. The seat of Government was then hurriedly taken back to Tanda.
In 1595 Raja Man Singh removed the seat of Government from Tanda to Rajmahal on the other side of Ganges. Fluctuations in the river course were again probably the main cause of the transfer.
After the removal of the capital, TANDA dwindled away, and was ultimately destroyed by the floods of 1826. When Islam Khan was the Subedar of Bengal the seat of Government was transferred to Dacca about 1612. The main reasons for this removal was to deal with a fresh Afghan rebellion under ‘Usman, as well as to check incursions by the Arakanese. During the Viceroyalty of Prince Shah Shuja,’ Rajmahal became again the capital of Bengal. In 1660, Mir Jumla, the first Governor of Aurangzib, again transferred the capital to Dacca. In 1704 Murshid Quli Khan for the last time removed the capital from Dacca to Murshidabad, and this place remained the seat of Moslem rule till the battle of Plassey. After 1757, Calcutta finally became the capital of Bengal, as well as-until 1912-the capital of India.
TANDA, THE LAST CAPITAL OF GAUR: The first mention of this place by a European is Ralph Fitch’s in 1585: “Tanda is in the land of Gauren (Gaur). It hath in times of past been a kingdom but now is subdued by Zelbdim Echebar (Jelaluddin Akbar). Great trade and traffique is here of cotton and of cloth of cotton. The people goe naked, with a little cloth bound about their waste. It standeth in the countrey of Bengala. Here be many tigers, wild bufs, and great store of wilde foule: they are very great idolaters. Tanda standeth from the river Ganges a league, because in times past the river, flowing over the banks, in time of raine did drowne the countrey and many villages, and so they do remaine. And the old way the river Ganges was woont to run remaineth drie, which is the occasion that the citie doth stand so farre from the water.”
This agrees fairly well with Rennell’s map, made nearly 200 years later, where we find ‘Tarrah’ marked 1 mile N.W. of Maddapour (i.e.,Mahadipur), and a little more than this distance S.W. of the Citadel of Gaur, on the opposite side of the Bhagirathi.,br> Buchanan Hamilton in 1810 made the following observations on ‘Tangra’ as he called it. (Jackson’s edition of Purnea, pp.109-10) “The only ruin (in Kaliachak Division) is that of Tangra, a place of no considerable antiquity. When the family of Sheer Shah was deprived of the Government of India by the Mogul Hamayun, the kingdom of Bengal again threw off its subjection to Delhi and the new dynasty left Gaur and retired across the Old Ganges to Tangra. The distance is so small that they could not be said to have changed the seat of Government, but only to have built a new palace or country residence; and although Gaur is said to have been plundered by the first of these princes, it was by no means destroyed, nor did the people follow the court to Tangra, which would never appear to have been a large place, nor are there any considerable ruins to denote that these princes lived in splendour or erected great works.”Tanda was called Khawaspur to distinguish it from Tanra Tahsil in the Faizabad district of the United Provinces; but, owing to the destruction of Tanda by floods in-it is said-1826, the name Khawaspur has now been transferred to a place on the east bank of the Bhagirathi, about a mile west of Ramkeli, while the supposed site of Tanda is represented by the village ‘Jolua Badhal,’ just across the river from the village Khirki, which is less than a mile south of the modern Khawaspur.
Sulaiman Kararani is said to have transferred the capital from Gaur to Tanda in 1565, and it was a favourite residence of the earlier Mughal Governors of Bengal. In 1660 Shah Shuja, hard-pressed by Mir Jumla (Aurangzib’s General), retreated from Rajmahal to Tanda, in the vicinity of which town was fought the decisive battle in which he was finally routed.After this date Tanda is not mentioned in history. The word Tanda is generally applied by the people to Char-lands, which, if small, are called Tanri. The names of several villages of Maldah end with this name, as, for instance, Sat-Tanri and Bharti-Tanri.
Khajah, a well-known article of confectionary with a wide reputation, is said to have been first prepared in Bengal at Tanda-one Mir Malati, a faqir, whose tomb is still seen near the site of Tanda, having taught a local modi (grocer) how to prepare it. (Continued...)