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Munshigonj District

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Bikrampur (Munshigonj) the political and cultural centre of ancient Bengal survives only in the name of an area in the Munshigonj district of Bangladesh. The remains of the city of Vikramapur, the capital of the ancient kingdoms of southeastern Bengal, are lost and its location can only be guessed on the basis of available data. Bangla, Old History

The name of Bikramapur survived in the name of a pargana in the Mughal period. It appears in Todarmal's settlement in the 16th century yielding revenue of Rs 83,376. By 1728 the revenue had increased to Rs 1,03,001, and to decrease again in 1763 to Rs 24,568, partly due to creation of two new parganas, Rajnagar and Baikunthapur, out of it and partly due to the destructive activity of the Padma. Today the name does not exist even officially; but the inhabitants of a vast tract of land in the Munshigonj district still feel pride in saying that they belong to Bikramapur, which, of course, emanates from the past glory of the area.

In the ancient period Bikramapur was undoubtedly the most important political centre in the vanga janapada. Indeed, it was the capital city of the Chandra, Varman, Sena, rulers, from the beginning of the 10th century AD to the beginning of the 13th century AD. Bikramapur appears for the first time in the copperplates of Shrichandra as sa Khalu Shrivikramapura Samavasita Shrimajjayaskandhavarat (from the royal camp of victory or capital situated at Bikramapur) and it held that position through the rule of the subsequent Varman and Sena dynasties.

Even during the rule of the Senas, who held sway over practically the whole of Bengal, Bikramapur continued to be their capital, and laksmanasena came to this place after his defeat at Nadia at the hands of the Muslim invader bakhtiyar khalji, where his two sons, Vishvarupasena and Keshavasena ruled for a short period. Though the copperplates of Vishvarupasena and Keshavasena do not mention Bikramapur as the capital, but the land granted by them lay in Bikramapur bhage, indicating their hold over the area.Bikramapur's eminence continued till the early 1280s, when Danujamadhava Dasharathadeva or danuj rai of Ziauddin Barani transferred his capital to nearby Suvarnagrama (sonargaon). From then onwards, throughout the Sultanate period, it remained in oblivion, only to make a comeback as the name of a pargana in the Mughal revenue roll. The heroic resistance to Mughal aggression put up by chand rai and kedar rai, the zamindars of Vikramapur (two of the illustrious bara-bhuiyans of Bengal) added short-lived glory to Bikramapur.

Today Bikramapur is an extensive region of the Munshigonj district, and at some point of time it extended over some parts of Faridpur across the Padma. However, it must be said that it is difficult to ascertain the exact boundary of the territorial unit of that name. On the basis of the geophysical characteristics of the area an attempt can be made without any claim for exactitude. In the Thakbast Surveys map (1845-1877) there is no mention of the Kirtinasha (the Padma just before meeting the Meghna). Vikramapur comprised the area with the Padma on the west, the Dhaleswari on the north and east, and the confluence of the Arial river and the Meghna on the south. A local poet Lala Ramgati in his Mayatimirachandrika mentions that Brahmin Pundits abound in the beautiful rajya named Vikramapur, which lies between the Brahmaputra mahatirtha on the east and the Padmavati on the west.

The small river Kaliganga (shown in James Rennel's map of 1781) flowed through the middle of the tract, and on its either bank grew the prosperous villages of Idrakpur (Munshigonj), Firingibazar, Abdullapur, Mirganj, Serajdi, Sekernagar, Hasara, Sholaghar, Baraikhali, Thaodiya, Baligaon, Rajabadi etc on the north and Mulfatganj, Karatikal, Japsa, Kandapada, Shyamsundar, Khilgaon, Sarenga, Chikandi, Ganganagar, Radhanagar, Rajnagar, Ghagariya, Larikul etc on the south. The Padma, however, played havoc in the area in the 17th century and by devouring the glorious deeds of Chand Ray and Kedar Ray earned the epithet of Kirtinasha, the destroyer of relics. The Kaliganga cut through the middle of the tract dividing it into two parts: Uttara Vikramapur and Daksina Vikramapur. About 200 years ago Vikramapur was about 30 to 40 miles from east to west and about 8 to 10 miles from north to south.

The site of the city of Virampur has been identified with the Rampal area not far from the modern town of Munshigonj. It has been estimated on the basis of the archaeological exploration of the area that the ancient capital covered about 15 square miles, on which are situated some 17 or 18 villages. To the north is the Ichhamati river, and there still stand the remains of a very high parapet running east to west, parallel with the ancient course of the river. To the east is the ancient stream of the Brahmaputra. There are two wide moats, one on the west and one on the south, which in present times are known respectively as the Mirkadim canal and the Makuhati canal. The royal palace, known as the Vallalbadi, on high ground within the mud-fort citadel, with a 200 feet wide ditch around it, is now in ruins.

A large number of tanks, mostly dating from pre-Muslim period, can be seen around Rampal, but hardly any building of that period except the derelict ruins of temples; NK Bhattashali identified in 1929 the remains of as many as 30. Dhipur and Sonarang are the two important temple sites mentioned by him. RD Banerji also noticed structures in nearby Raghurampur. Vajrayogini, a nearby village, was the birthplace of famous Buddhist scholar atish Dipankar Srijnan. The whole area yielded highly valuable antiquities: sculptures of exquisite quality (both Hindu and Buddhist), objects of precious metals. A silver Visnu image from this area (Churain) is now preserved in the Indian Museum. An eleventh century divine nymph (surasundari) hewn out of a long wooden pillar and forming a part of a column (now preserved in the Bangladesh National Museum) is considered to be a unique find in the whole subcontinent. Two other wooden pillars with sculptural decorations were found from the famous Rampal Dighi (2200 ft x 840 ft). Though the present landscape around Rampal would not give any indication of the existence of a metropolis in the distant past, the find of the antiquities and the legends around speak of the past glory of the ancient city. The river system around might have also contributed to the extinction of the once prosperous city. However, the medieval ruins of a mosque and tomb of baba adam shahid at Rampal now stand as the only visible historical monuments in the area.

Whether the name of the village Rampal has any connection with the famous Pala king of that name is difficult to ascertain. It is known from epigraphical records that the Varman king Bhojavarman or Samalavarman propitiated the friendship of the Pala king, Ramapala by offering him elephants and chariots. It may be that Ramapala visited Vikramapur and the area near the palace where he was ceremoniously received was developed and named after him. It is unlikely that Ramapala had Vikramapur area under his control. There is a local tradition that the area was named Rampal after a local merchant. Ramananda Pal, popularly called Ramapala, was the grocer to the royal family during Vallalasena's rule, and he amassed wealth, settled down in the neighbourhood of the royal palace and came to be recognised as a respectable person. When Vallalasena dug his dighi, it stretched up to Ramapala's house. A local proverb goes like this: Vallal katay dighi name Rampal (the tank was excavated by Vallal, but it got the name of Rampal).

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With an area of 954.96 sq km, is bounded by Dhaka and Narayanganj districts on the north, Madaripur and Shariatpur districts on the south, Comilla and Chandpur districts on the east, Dhaka and Faridpur districts on the west. Main rivers are the Padma, Meghna, Dhaleshwari, Ichamati and Shitalakshya. The southern and eastern parts of the district often fall victim to erosion caused by the mighty Padma and the Meghna respectively. Main depression is Arial Beel covering an area of 4,330 hectare. Annual temperature- maximum 36°C and minimum 12.7°C; total rainfall 2,376 mm.

Munshigonj : (Town) consists of 9 wards and 42 mahallas.The area of the town is 14.17 sq km. The population of the town is 52071; male 51.62% and female 48.38%; density of population is 3674 per sq km. Literacy rate among the town people is 49.3%. The town has two dakbungalows.

Administration : Munshigonj district, formerly a subdivision under Dhaka district, was established in 1984. It consists of 6 upazilas, 67 union parishads, 662 mouzas, 906 villages, 18 wards, 73 mahallas and 2 municipalities. The upazilas are Gazaria, Tongibari, Serajdikhan, Lohajang, Sreenagar and Munshiganj sadar.

Archaeological heritage : Idrakpur Fort (1660) in Munshiganj town, Panditer vita (birth place of atish Dipankar Srijnan) at Bajrayogini, Baba Adam's Mosque, Dighi of Raja Haris chandra, home stead of Raja Ballal Sen, home stead of Raja Sreenath at Rampal, Rampal Dighi, Kodal Dhoar Dighi, Shyamsiddhi Math at Sreenagar, Hasara Dargah, Sholaghar Math, Bhagyakul Rajbari, residence of Jagadis Chandra Basu at Radhikhal, Jora Math at Sonarang, Kalibari at Tongibari, Taltala Pancha-shikhara Mahadeva Temple, Talukdarbari Mosque at Kusumpur, Tajpur Mosque, Patharghata Mosque, Kazishal Mosque, Pulghata Bridge, Panch Pir Dargah, marble statue of Ashutosh Ganguly inside the library room of Haraganga College.

Historical events : The area comprising the districts of Munshiganj stretching on the west of the Meghna and Dhaleshwari had been included in the kingdom of vikramapur in the ancient period. During the Sena rule Vikramapur in East Bengal had been the second capital of the Senas in addition to their capital at Nadia. After the fall of Nadia in the hands of bakhtiyar khalji (1204) the Sena King lakshmanasena fled to Vikramapur and began to rule East Bengal. After the death of Lakshmanasena (1206) his descendants Visvarupasena and Kesavasena ruled in Vikramapur till at least 1223 AD. Some historians postulate that the sons of Lakshamanasena ruled in Vikramapur up to 1243-45 AD. Raja Dasarathadeva Danujmadhava (Danuj Rai), the Deva king of Chandradvipa, ousted the Senas from Vikramapur in the third quarter of the thirteenth century and ruled the south-eastern Bengal till the end of the thirteenth century.

During the Mughal rule the present Munshigonj town including the outlying areas was known as Idrakpur which was named after the then Mughal faujdar Idrak. A village on the outskirts of Munshigonj town is still known as Idrakpur. During the British rule Idrakpur was renamed as Munshigonj after the name of Munshi Enayet Ali, the local zamindar and the inhabitant of the village Kazi Kasba in Rampal.

During the war of liberation of 1971 the Pak army raided Munshigonj and Kewar on 9 and 14 May respectively and killed some youths there. They launched an attack on the innocent villagers at Gazaria upazila on 5 May and killed about four hundred villagers by gun-shot. The people of Narayanganj in alliance with youths of Munshigonj resisted an attack of the Pak army on Narayanganj on 31 March. Hundreds of youths were recruited as freedom fighters and were given military training at Dhalgaon area in the month of July and they took part in various operations against the Pak army. The freedom fighters raided Sreenagar police station on August 11, Lauhajang police station within a few days and the Tongibari police station at the end of September, procured huge arms and ammunitions and Lohajang police station was set on fire. The freedom fighters attacked the motor-launches of the Pak-army on 24 September at Galimpur and Goalimandra and killed more than one hundred Pak soldiers. On the night of Shab-e-Qadr the freedom fighters numbering only 115 launched a combined attack on the Pak army stationed at Munshigonj and captured the town.

Marks of War: Liberation Mass killing site 3, memorial monument 3, mass grave 1.

Population : 1,388,605 (male 50.09%, female 49.91%), Muslim 90.78%, Hindu 8.01%, Christian 1.2%, Buddhist 0.01%. Ethnic nationals include Snake charmers, Cobblers (Rishi) and Scavengers of Munshir Hat.

Religious institutions : Mosque 1,478, Temple 108, Tomb 10, Church 9.

Literacy and educational institutions : Average literacy 35.8%; male 40.3%, female 31.1%.

Educational institutions : College 16, High School 82, Junior high school 11, Primary training institute 1, Technical Training Centre 3, Madrasa 87, Government Primary School 423, Non-Government primary school 78, Kindergarten 5, Mass-education centre 688.

Newspapers and periodicals Daily : Munshigonjer Kaghaz, Weekly Munshigonj, Weekly Munshigonj Sangbad, Monthly Vikrampur;

Defunct papers: Monthly Palli-Vijnan, Hindu Intelligencer, Mukti, Vikrampur Patrika (1920), Gramer Katha (weekly, 1962), Anusandhan, Chetana, Kaler Vela, Sangsaptak, Sarab, Kavitapatra, Vikrampur Mukhasri, Weekly Vikrampur Barta, Vikrampur.

Cultural organisations : Club 267, Public library 16, Various organisations 378, Women's association 47, Theatre group 10, Jatra party 2, Drama stage 1, Cinema hall 15, Stadium 2, Museum 1, Musical Academy 2, Art School 1.

Main occupations : Agriculture 27.43%, agricultural labourer 21.96%, fishing 2.25%, hawker 1.02%, construction 1.57%, commerce 19.46%, service 9.28%, transport 1.67%, wage labourer 2.87% and others 12.49%.

Land use : Cultivable land 56,594 Hectares; Single crop 23%, Double crop 44%, Triple Crop land 33%. Arable land under irrigation 36%. Land control Among the peasants, 13.2% are landless, 27.06% marginal, 35.26% small, 18.65% intermediate, 5.83% rich; cultivable land per head 0.047 hectare. Value of land The market value of the first grade arable land is Tk 22,800 per 0.01 hectare.

Main crops : Potato, jute, rice, betel leaf, wheat, mustard, sesame, gram, lentil, pea, chilli, coriander, ground nut, maize, patal, karalla tomato, sweet pumpkin, vegetables. Extinct and nearly extinct crops Indigo, kaun, linseed, arahar (pulse), kalai (pulse).

Main fruits : Banana, mango, papaya, jackfruit, litchi, melon, watermelon, black berry, pomegranate, guava, wood apple, shaddock, plum, palm, coconut, elephant apple. Fisheries, poultries and dairies Livestock and dairy 309, poultry 237, fishery 179, hatchery 6. Communication facilities Roads: pucca 242.27 km, semi pucca 127 km, mud road 1339 km; launch ghat 29, ferry ghat 16, boat mahal 5.

Traditional transport : Palanquin (extinct), horse carriage and bullock cart (nearly extinct), boat. Manufactories Large industries 6, medium industries 20, ice mill and cold storage 60, rice mill 19, saw mill 27. Cottage industries Cottage industries of various categories 727. Hats, bazars and fairs Hats and bazars are 101, fair 34.

Main exports : Potato, banana, paddy, pathal, jute, betel leaf, sweet pumpkin, vegetables, milk, milk food, sack, cotton yarn, copper utensil, bamboo and cane materials.

NGO activities : Operationally important NGOs are asa, brac, grameen bank, caritas, World Vision, proshika, Samaj Parivartan Kendra, Country Mission, CARE, RSD, Vikrampur Ayn Sahajya Sangstha, Yuba Sangha, Mahila Angana.

Health centres : Hospital 1, Upazila Health Complex 5, Family Planning Centre 48, Satellite Clinic 22, Mother & Child care Centre 1, Charitable Dispensary 4, Private Clinic 4, Pathological Laboratory 3, Artificial Breeding Centre 1, Veterinary Hospital 7.

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Contact

Taiyab A. K. Sheikh


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