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On the Sena Rajas of Bengal, I

Naib-Nazim of Dhaka

The position of Naib-Nazim (Deputy Governor) was created to administer Dhaka Niabat since 1717. They were appointed by the Governors until Sirajuddaula, the last independent Governor of Bengal, lost control to the British in the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Here is a partial list of Naib-Nazims of Dhaka:

Khan Muhammad Ali Khan (1717),

Itisam Khan (1723 – 1726),

A son of Itisam Khan (1726 – 1727),

Mirza Lutfullah Tabrizi (a grandson-in-law of Murshid Quli Khan) (1728 – 1734),

Sarfaraz Khan 1734-1739,

Galib Ali Khan (1734-1738),

Murad Ali Khan (1738-1739),

Abdul Fattah Khan (1739-1740),

Nowazish Mohammad Khan (1740-1754),

Hossain Quli Khan (1740-1754),

Murad Dowlat (1754-1755),

Jasarat Khan (1755-1762 and again 1765-1778),

Mohammed Ali (1762-1762),

Mohammed Reza Khan (1763-1765),

Ghaziuddin Haider (1834 – 1843).

The office of Naib Nazim of Dhaka was officially abolished in 1843.
By Babu Rajendralala Mitra

[Received 5th July, 1865 — Read 5th July, 1865.]

Subjoined are the text and translation of a Sanskrit inscription of some interest lately found in a part of Rajshahi called the “Burrin,” close by the village of Deoparah, Thannah Grodagari. Mr. C. T. Metcalfe, to whom the Society is indebted for the original and the transla- tion, gives the following account of the place where the monument was found. “The tank where I found it,” he says, “is some 40 miles from Goa (Grour ?) ; hut it stands on the bank of a river which was the old Pwdda bed, and which river now flows 6 miles to the south, before Rampur Bauleah. The locality is evidently the site of some temple, and the stone records, I should say the inscription, the praises of the founder. While making some further examinations I came to the top of a series of black stone-steps leading underground; one monster stone was 1 yard in thickness. In the tank itself are 2 slabs which can be felt with a bamboo and which, a hoary-headed old man says, were above ground when he was a cholera (boy) and kept the village cattle, i. e. some 60 years ago.” The place was of some distinction, even during the Mahomedan period, for there still stands a magnificent masjid about 650 years old. Mr. Metcalfe describes it as “built entirely of stone without a bit of mortar, and put together like a child’s toy-house, the stones fitting the one into the other. The carving on it is beautiful.”

The stone slab upon which the inscription is recorded, was found in a dense jungle apparently away from its original position, but amidst a number of large blocks of stone half buried under the earth. It measures 3 ft. 2 inches by 1 ft. 9f . Its material is basalt carefully polished on the upper surface.

The letters of the inscription are of the Tirhoot or Grour type, similar to that of the Bakerganj plate of Kesava Sena, decyphered by James Prinsep. Bengali MSS. three centuries old, are written in very much the same characters, and the facsimile of the Yajnadatta- badha published by Chezy, bears some resemblance to it. It is in fact the first transition stage of the Kutila in its passage to the modern Bengali. Mr. Metcalfe found considerable difficulty in getting the record decyphered, owing to modern pandits not being familiar with its style of writing, but I have carefully compared his transcript with the original and satisfied myself that his reading is perfectly correct.

The language of the inscription is pure Sanskrit, but its style is highly inflated and hyperbolical. Umapati Mis’ra, the author of it, is never satisfied with an ordinary comparison. If he has to describe a high temple, he cannot stop without making its pinnacle stand as an obstruction to the course of the sun. His kings must upbraid the heroes of the Bd may ana and the Mahdbhdrata as vain boasters and insignificant upstarts, and his war-boats, even when stranded on a sand-bank in the Granges, must eclipse the glory of the moon. This style, common enough in oriental writing, was particularly remarkable in Northern India in the 9th, 10th and the 11th centuries of the Christian era. Whether at Grour or Benares or Kanauj or Oujein or Mathura, this straining after bombast was so universal, that no one familiar with the monumental literature of the period, can mistake it for a moment, and it may therefore be taken as characteristic of the time. I have myself met with it so often, that had I no other guide to ascertain the age of the record under notice, I would have taken its style to be a conclusive proof of its being of the 10th or 11th century. The subject of the record is, the dedication of a temple which is described to have “extended to all directions in space, and vied in loftiness with the Mount Meru round which the sun, moon and the stars run their course.” Its pinnacle of gold, which was shaped like a water-jar, was equal to the Meru in weight. Its locality was the margin of the tank where the inscription was found. Judging from the insignificant remains now traceable in that locality, I believe the edifice was by no means a very extraordinary one. Its presiding deity was Pradyumnesvara or S’iva as the destroyer of Cupid, a form in which he is not often worshipped by his votaries in Bengal. This divi- nity, who is generally represented as a vagrant mendicant, is said to have exchanged, by the favour of the dedicator of the temple, his tiger skin toga for silken dresses, his serpent neck-chains for garlands of jewels, his ashes for sandal wood powder, his rosary for pearls, and his human bone ornaments for precious gems.

Of the dedicator of the temple, Vijaya, the record is, as usual in such cases, the most lavish in its praise. According to it, he was the great- est of kings that ever held sway on earth ; the most valiant, the most charitable, and the most virtuous. While describing the hero as a devout follower of Mahadeva, it does not hesitate to make him even superior to that dread manifestation of the divinity, for the one, says it, destroys all alike, while the other, killed his enemies and cherished his friends. There is, however, very little in the verses devoted to his glorification which may be taken for facts. The time of his reign is not given, nor the name of his caste, nor that of the place where he caused the temple to be erected. He is related to have invaded Assam (Kamariipa) and the Coromandel Coast between the Chilka Lake and Madras (Kalifiga), and to have sent a fleet of war-boats up the Granges to conquer the Western kings ; but nothing is said of the results of these invasions : the last is, in a manner, acknowledged to have proved a failure ; for the only thing noticeable in it, was the stranding of one of the boats on a sand-bank, poetically described as ” the ashes on the forehead of S’iva, changed to mud by contact with the water of the Granges.”

The genealogy of the king includes three names, those of Hemanta Sena, Sumanta Sena, and Vira Sena. The last was evidently the founder of the family, for he appears as a descendant of the moon, without any reference to his immediate progenitors. All the three were kings of Gour, but their names occur nowhere in history. Vijaya the last of the series was, according to tradition, known by the name of Suklia Sena, and under that name he occurs in the Aym Akbary, as the father of Ballala Sena. His name occurs in the Bakerganj plate as the first of a series of four kings, the last of which was Kesava Sena. Vijaya there appears as the father of Ballala Sena. Again, in a manuscript of the Ddnasagara, a treatise on gifts attributed to Ballala Sena, the author describes himself as the son of Vijaya Sena and the grandson of Hemanta Sena. These facts justify the assump- tion that the three records allude to the same family, and that Sukha Sena was an alias of Vijaya Sena. If this be admitted, the Sena dynasty of Bengal will have to be extended by the addition of the three names which occur in the inscription now under notice.

Of the descendants of Vijaya, the most distinguished was, no doubt,his son Ballala. “This prince,” to quote the words of an able writer in the Calcutta Review, “was held in such high estimation all over Bengal, that the most extravagant fancies have been indulged and the wildest tales invented in order to connect his memory with the mar- vellous and the sublime.” The same writer continues; ” Poets have invested him with the dignity of a divine original and described his infantile precocity in the most glowing colours. He has been represented as the son of the fluvial god Brahmaputra, who had deceived his mother by assuming the form of her own hus- band. His nativity is said to have taken place in the solitude of a thick forest, where his mother had been banished a few months before her parturition through the jealousy and treachery of his father’s two other wives. In these sylvan shades and under the especial protection of heaven he passed his infantile daj^s, undisturbed by the noise and distractions of towns and cities, and uncontaminated by the pleasures and irregularities of riotous society. His divine parent, ” the uxorious Amnis,” as Horace would perhaps call him, instructed him in the different branches of a Hindu’s education, and in the tactics of war and diplomatic policy. While yet a boy he is said to have exhibited extraordinary proofs of heroism and strength. He had discomfited unassisted and alone a whole host of disciplined troops commanded by princes and veteran captains, and armed with all the weapons of native warfare.” The whole of this statement, however, is founded upon vague traditions or modern records of doubtful authority. We may dismiss it, therefore, without a remark. The Bakerganj inscription of Ballala’s grandson does not allude to the facts noted in it with sufficient circum- stantiality to give them any prominence. From what it says, we may take for granted, however, that he was a great patron of learning and himself an author of some pretension. — Vedartha smriti sangrahadi purusha. The treatise on gifts alluded to above shews that his reading was extensive and his knowledge of the s’astras respectable.[1] He is however, better known in this country by the system of hereditary nobility which he established in his court than by his devotion to letters. The main object of that system was to give preeminence to the descendants of the five Brahmins and Kayasthas” who’ had been brought to Bengal by Adis’ura. The particular qualities ‘which_were to characterise his nobles were ” good manners, learning,’ Immility, reputation, pilgrimage, faith, fixed profession, austerity, and charity”* but as there was no standard measure for those qualities, and it was difficult to secure them without attaching penalties to personal delinquencies which could never be enforced, he had recourse to other and more definite means for their perpetuation. He availed himself o{ the popular notion that children invariably inherit the moral qualities of their parents, and hoped that by maintaining the blood of his newly created nobles pure and undefiled, he would attain his end. He forbad all intermarriage between the original Brahmans and Kayasthas of the country and the newcomers, and ordained various and complicated rules for the gradual degradation of those families which should permit any stain to fall on the gentility of their blood. Mis-alliances could not, however, be altogether prevented, and the successors of Ballala somewhat encouraged them, by raising the social status of those plebeans who succeeded in securing the alliances of kulinas. “Wealthy maulikas large- ly availed themselves of the opportunity which was thus given them of rising in social rank, and the cupidity of our nobility has of late encouraged them by a system of polygamy which has made kulinism in Bengal, a positive nuisance to society.

——- : Idb- 20—3. The work is divided into 70 Sections and devoted to a description of 1375 gifts, the mode of consecrating them, the pro- per persons to give them to, the time meet for making such gifts, &c. &c. The author enumerates in his introduction the different authorities he had consulted in compiling his work, and as his list gives an idea of the works which were reckoned as standard authorities in his time, 9 hundred years ago, I quote it entire.

Purdnas. Vishnu-dharma. Yama.
Brahma. Gopatha Brahmana. Y ogay aj n avalky a.
Varaha. Bamayana. Devala.
Agni. Mahabharata. Baudhayana.
Bhavishya. Manu. A’ngirasa.
Matsya. Vasi-shtha. Danavyasa.
Kurma. Samvarta. Vrihaspati ? ?
A’dya. Yajnavalkya. Sankha.
Upapurdna. Gotama. Likhita.
Adya, Katyayana. Apastamba.
Samba. Yavala. Satyayana.
Kalika. Sandana. Maha Vyasa.
Nandi. Vrihaspati. Laghu Vyasa.
A’ditya. Vrihad Vasishtha. Laghu Harita.
Narasmha. Harita. Ghhandoga perisishta.
Markandeya. Bulasta.
Vishnudkarmottara. Vishnu.
Sastras. Satatapa.

S’lokas are often repeated by panditas, which tradition ascribes to this prince. It is said that once when his son Lakshmana was long absent from home, his daughter-in-law brought the circumstance to his notice by writing the following s’loka on the wall before the place where he used to dine : —

“The clouds are pouring without intermission and the peacocks are dancing with joy; on such a day death or my darling alone can remove my suffering.” Touched by it he invited his son back to his home with the following stanza: — –

“O thou who art disposed as the second (the Bull — listen).” Alone and op- pressed is she with the breasts like the eleventh (pitchers-globes) of the elephant, by the approach of him who has the tenth (Makara on his flag Cupid), even as are the twelfth (fishes) and the fourth (crabs), on the approach of the shark (makara). That sixth (virgo), with eyebrows without compare, (lit. devoid of the seventh libra), who should belong to the royal fifth (lion-prince is suffering from the pangs of the eighth (scorpio). 0, first (aries — my son) hasten and be thou the third

(gemini). “The play on the names of the twelve signs of the zodiac in this s’loka cannot be preserved in the English translation.

On another occasion he was himself absent from home for a long time, having been detained in a forest by the charms of a lowly born damsel. The scandal was great, and his son, to stop it, requested his return with the following verse: —

“Generally cool art thou, O river, and transparent by nature. Of thy purity what can I say ? everything becomes pure by thy touch. What else need I tell in thy praise ? thou art the life of all living things. And yet strange to relate, thou flowest downwards and none can withhold thee.”

To it the king sent the following reply:—

“The elephant has not yet soothed its skin nor allayed its thirst; the dust on its borly still remains unwashed, and the tuberous roots of the lotus have hi- therto not yielded it a mouthful of food, much less an entertainment ; the lotus remains untouched by his far projectile arm: verily the bees have raised an unmeaning hue and cry by their murmurs.”

The authenticity of these s’lokas is, however, not such as may be relied upon. *A’charo vinayo vidya prafcishtha fcirfcha darsana, nishtlia vritti fcap’o danam. navadha kula-hikshanam.

The son and successor of Ballala was Lakshmana Sena. The author of the Bakerganj plate makes him erect altars and pillars of victory at Benares, Allahabad, and Jagannath, but “it may reasonably be doubt- ed,” says Prinsep, ” whether these monuments of his greatness ever existed elsewhere than in the poet’s imagination.” His prime minis- ter and Lord Chancellor (Dharmadhikara,) was Halayudha, son of Dhananjaya, of the Vatsya race, a Brahmin of great learning and a descendant of Bhattanarayana, the author of the Venisaiihara. His eldest brother, Pashupati, wrote a treatise on the srdddha and other ceremonials under the title of Pashupati Paddhati. His next brother was a great scholar and professor of Smriti and the Mimansa ; he wrote a treatise on the diurnal duties of Brahmins which still exists — Ahnilca Paddhati. Halayudha himself is said to have written several works on Smriti, of which the most important is the Brdhmana Sarva- sva. In it, he describes his patron in the usual grandiloquent terms of his time, but there is nothing in it to shew that he was other than a prince of mediocre merit. He is said by the Mahomedan historians to have greatly embellished the city of Gour, and called it after his own name Lakhnouty or Lakshmana-vati • but the inscriptions are silent on the subject, as they are as regards the popular belief of Ballala Sena’s having built the town of Gour.

Lakshmana was followed successively by his two sons, Madhava Sena and Kesava Sena. The Rajdvali brings in a Su or Sura Sena after Kesava, and Mahomedan writers have a Noujib, a Narayan, a Lakh- mana, and a Lakhmaniya to follow him ; but no monumental record has yet been found to prove their ever having existed. An As’oka Sena also occurs as one of the kings of Gour, but his position in the list is nowhere defined. Of these therefore I have nothing to say. I shall make an exception, however, in favour of the last of the series. The Tabkdt i Ndsiri of Minhajuddin Jowzjani says that the last king of the Sena dynasty was Lakhmaniya, and this authority must be accepted as correct, as the work was written within fifty-eight years after the conquest of Bengal by Bakhtiar Khilijy, and its author had ample opportunities, during his sojourn in Bengal, of conversing with the contemporaries of Lakhmaniya who had taken part in that conquest, and of collecting the most authentic information available in his time. The account given in that book is as follows : —


Translation. — Contemporary historians, on whom be the blessings of God, have thus related : ” That when the news of the valour and the wars and subjugation of kingdoms by Mohammed Bakhtyar, may the mercy of Grod be on him, reached Lakhmaniya, the capital of his kingdom was Nuddea. The Raya was very learned and had sat on the throne for 80 years. It will not be amiss to mention here an anecdote of the Raya which has come to my knowledge ; it is this : When the father of the Rtiya passed away from this world, Raya Lakhmaniya was in his mother’s womb. The crown was therefore placed on the womb, and the officers of State all girt themselves and stood round and behind the mother. The family of this prince was known as the Raya of Rayas of Hind by the wise men of the time, and reckoned as the viceroys (khalifa) of India. When the time for the birth of Lakh- maniya approached near, and the mother felt the pains of delivery, the astrologers and Brahmans were assembled together, so that they may watch the auspicious moment of birth. They unanimously said that should this boy be born immediately, it will be unfortunate in every respect, and he will never attain to royalty. But should he be delivered two hours hence, he will reign for 80 years. “When the mother heard this from the astrologers, she ordered that she may be hung up by her two feet as long as the auspicious moment should not come, and that the astrologers should be in attendance to watch that moment. When the proper time arrived and the astrologers said that it was at hand, she was taken down. Thus was Lakhmaniya bom, but his mother immediately died of the pains she had been subjected to. Lakhmaniya was immediately placed on the throne, where he reigned for eighty years.”

Three things may be taken for granted in this statement ; first that the name of the last king of the Sena dynasty was Lakhmaniya ; second, that he was a posthumous child ; and third, that he reigned for eighty years. It must be admitted, however, that the word Lakhmani- ya is very unlike a Bengali proper name. The only Bengali or San- skrit word to which it bears any resemblance is the patronymic[2] Ldhshmaneya, “a son, grandson or descendant of Lakshmana,” and if it be admitted that the Lakhmaniya of the Mahomedan historians is a cor- ruption of the Sanskrit Ldkshmaneya, it would not be too much to assume that the prince under notice was the grandson of Lakshamana son of Ballala.


[1] The prominent mention made in the work of the author’s tutor, Anirudha, would waken a suspicion that, like many other crowned heads in India and Europe, BallAla had assumed to himself a credit which rightly belonged to another. How- ever that be, the authenticity of the work is undoubted. It has been quoted by the author of the Scimaya Prakdsd who lived several hundred years ago, and Raghu- nandana who flourished at the end of the 15th century, alludes to it in two places in #his Suddhitattva : ——–: Serampore edition, p. 194. Again: ——–

[2] The affix dhah is ordinarily used after feminine nouns, ^t’KlT ^^i Panini iv, I. 120, but under the especial rule s’ublwd-dibhyas’cha (P. iv, 1. 123.) Lakhsh- mana of the Vasishtha gotra takes that affix. ” Lakshmana sydmayorvdsish- the.” I know not whether the Senas were of the Vasishtha gotra, but such niceties of grammar were so little attended to in the middle ages that I do not think that anybody would have objection to its use in the case of persons not of the Vasish- tha gotra. If such an objection be raised, we must take Lakshnianiya to be a matronymic and assume the name of our j^’ince’s mother to have been Lakshmana.

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