Historical Bhawal Estate

The year 1920. A sanyasi, covered in ashes, appeared in Buckland Bund in Dhaka. For the next four months he sat on the street attracting attention because he was of unusually good physical stature. Rumours started spreading that the second kumar had returned, even when the man said that he had renounced his family. Some of the locals arranged for the man’s visit to Joydebpur where he arrived on 12 April 1921 on an elephant. Under public pressure, the sanyasi finally disclosed that he was Ramendranarayan Roy, the raja of Bhawal. The sanyasi later claimed that while in Darjeeling he was poisoned and a cremation was attempted. But the people hired to cremate the raja left his body unattended because of a strong hailstorm had started raging at that time. Seeing him lying unconscious, a group of naga sanyasis took him to their abode and nursed him back to recovery. He recovered, but had suffered memory loss, and wandered India for the next 10 years. While returning from Chittagong to Dhaka in 1920, he recovered his memory, and was instructed by his guru to return home. Some may be thinking about a superb cinmatic plot but that was how the real story goes on the estate of Bhawal Rajbari unfolded. Bhawal Rajbari was an undivided Bhawal estate in the Indian province of Bengal. Currently this Rajbari is located in Gazipur district of Bangladesh. In the early twentieth century, a famous case was registered, which is known as the monastic case of Bhawal’s zamindar dynasty surrounding Rajkumar Ramendranarayan.

Bhawal Estate was the second largest zamindari in Eastern Bengal, just next to the Dhaka nawab estate in extent and income. All the rulers and holders of this estate were Srotriya Brahmin. It is known that the ancestors of Bhawal landlord family were residents of Bajrangini village under Munshiganj. Balram, a descendant of this dynasty, used to be the diwan of Daulat Ghazi, the zamindar of Bhawal Pargana in the second half of the seventeenth century. Balaram and his son Sri Krishna became very favorite of Murshid Quli Khan, the diwan of Bengal, and tactically captured the zamindari. In order to facilitate revenue collection, Murshid Quli Khan expelled many Muslim zamindars and appointed Hindu zamindars. Dewan Bala Ram took the opportunity and convinced Murshid Kuli to install his son, Sri Krishna, as the zamindar of Bhawal in 1704 instead of Daulat Gazi. His family ruled Bhawal until the abolition of the zamindari system in 1951 at Choira Meah Bari, which was the capital of Bhawal.

Raja Rajendra Narayan Roy Chowdhury, was the last powerful zamindar of the Bhawal estate. Kaliprasanna Ghosh was his diwan. It should be noted that Kaliprasanna Ghosh was a famous writer of the nineteenth century. Rajendranarayan Roychowdhury had three sons. They are Ranendranarayan Roy Chowdhury, Ramendranarayan Roy Chowdhury and Rabindranarayan Roy Chowdhury. Rajendranarayan died in 1901. At this time his three sons were minors and consequently the estate was brought under the Court of Wards. All the children of the raja, as attested by a European house tutor, were utterly inattentive to education and moral training. All of them were growing sensuously and in ignorance. The second son, Ramendra Narayan, went to Darjeeling in 1909 for treatment. He was announced to be dead and cremated there. The other two sons died within a very short time, and the family was short-lived without sons. But in reality the second son had gone missing and he lived for a long time as a monk. Until towards the end of 1920 he made a dramatic and sensational come-back after twelve years to claim his rights as an heir to the estate of Bhawal. Thus, the famous Bhawal monastic case started in 1935.

The incident made news and gossips all over Bengal. For more than a decade the incident became the subject of literature, theatre and cinema in many languages of India. Ever since the Bhawal Case the zamindari succession became an extremely complex affair and consequently the management of the zamindari continued to remain under the Court of Wards down to 1950 when the zamindari system was abolished. The popular Bangla film “ Sannyasi Raja” starring Bangla filmmaker Uttam Kumar was based on the story of Bhawal Estate.

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