Bhagalpur - two hundred years ago

Origin of the Name

Unfortunately, there is no authentic record as to the origin of the name of this city.Bhagalpur (the abode of refugees) is a name said to have been given by the Moghal officers, who collected a number of fugitives, and defend them in the plains from the violence and depredations of the chiefs of the interior part of the old division of Bhagalpur.
Distant view of the Ganges River at Bhagalpur
Water-colour painting of the Ganges River at Bhagalpur with Cleveland's house on a hill to the right by Robert Smith (1787-1873) between 1814 and1815. Inscribed on the mount in pencil is: 'Mr Cleveland's House at Boglipoore'.

Bhagalpur, in the year 1800 AD was excellently cultivated and finely planted.The town of Bhagalpur was two miles in length, and from one mile to half a mile in width
The houses of the Europeans and the Muslim places of worship were great ornaments; but the town consisted of scattered market places, meanly built and very inconveniently situated. Round it ,there were tolerable roads, and a few trifling bridges. The houses of the Europeans were more numerous than might be expected from their small society, several of them being unoccupied; and as some of them were large, and all scattered round the town . There were about 150 houses of brick. There was a jail and hospital of brick.North from the town was liable to the inundations of the Ganges, but extremely fertile. South from the vicinity of the town also the country was very low, and in the rainy season almost impassable. 

 In early Nineteenth century,the most compact part of Bhagalpur was the market place of Shujagunj, in which there were three or four streets closely built. The other market places were Saray, Yogeswar, Manshurganj, and Khanjarpur. The markets were not properly supplied, and the price of almost every thing was enormously high when compared with that demanded in other parts of the country. Lakshmiganj and Champanagar were one united town , very populous, and compact. They were containing about 1500 houses, mostly occupied by weavers, who had some religious buildings of brick. Nathnagar, a little south from Champanagar, was also a good town, containing 900 houses, and was the residence of traders.
Among the Hindus the main place of worship was the Ganges. On the full moon in the month Magh, about 25,000 people assemble on the banks near Barari, and bathe at Diara ghat. Formerly they used to bathe at Shakkapur on a Diara, or island in the Ganges; but, this having been carried away, they had retired to the high shores near Barari.
 Jagat Seth,a  noted banker of that time had also built a beautiful temple,erected between two ancient pillars.
There were many small mosques and other places dedicated to the Muslims built of brick. Although they were all small, and most of them were ruinous. In particular the monument of Ibrahim Husein Khan, at Khanjarpur in the east end of the town, said to have been built about 1650 AD, was in an excellent taste. It was a square building, roofed by five neat domes, and was built in a style of plain neatness. A fable said that the Nawab, by whom it was built, cut off the hands of the architect, lest he should ever design a rival to this favourite work.



Watercolors By Charles D`Oily dated 1820 AD

A noted Banker, Jagat Seth built a temple.The place of worship of Muslims were the brick monuments and mosques. The monument (Durgah) of Pir Shah jungi Shahbaj was a great place of worship, and enjoyed a remarkably fine situation on the top of a small hill
The place of worship that in general was considered as most holy by the Muslims was the brick monument (Durgah) of Moulana Shahbaz. A Fakir had the charge of it and was called Mozouwor. The monument (Durgah) of Pir Shah jungi Shahbaj was a great place of worship, and enjoyed a remarkably fine situation on the top of a small hill about a mile from the office of police. About 1000 people from the vicinity assembled on the day of the saint, and no less than 20,000 on the day of Karbala

The Cave of Mayaganj

One of the most remarkable place of Bhagalpur in 1800 AD was a cave and subterraneous gallery overhanging the Ganges at Mayaganj, a little east from the town. It was alleged that this was the abode of Kasyap Muni, the son Kasyap, who was made by Brahma at the creation of man. It was also said that it was the residence of a hermit, who lived about 350 or 400 years ago. The cave was dug in a dry hard clay containing calcareous concretions.In about 1810 AD, one of these was opened, and in it was found the skeleton of a man, supposed to have died in the spot.
The Roman Catholics had at Bhagalpur a small church.  The Jamindars of the district erected a monument of brick to the memory of Augustus Cleveland ,the first Collector of Bhagalpur, who organized the Bhagalpur Hill Rangers; an auxiliary force which pacified the entire area of the Santal Parganas during the 1780s, , This was a lofty building and at a distance made a good show. It consisted of a Hindu pyramid surrounded by a Grecian gallery. A monument of stone, with an inscription highly approving of his conduct, was sent by the Court of Directors from England, and was placed in front of the house which the same gentleman had occupied when alive. 



The old heretical sect of the Osawal jains had in this division- two remarkable places of worship. At Champanagar, there was a temple, where the Osawals worshipped Parasnath under the form of the Linga. There were two temples of considerable size, built of brick, and covered with plaster. The two buildings were nearly in the same style; they were square, and consisted of two stories. In the centre of each story was an apartment, which was surrounded by a narrow open gallery. In the lower apartment of the temple,were small images of white marble representing the 24 deities of the Jain religion, sitting cross-legged, and exactly resembling the images worshipped by the Buddhists. 

The other place of worship belonging to the Jain was at Kabirpur, at no great distance from Champanagar. In the neighbourhood it was usually called Vishnu Paduka, or the feet of Vishnu.The object of worship here represented the feet of the 24 deities of the Jain, those of Vasupujya, who was born at Champanagar or Champapuri. The inscription between the feet said that it was made by Singheswar Stati, Kundakundacharya Bhattaraka, Kumudachandra Stati, and Dharmachandra Upadesya of the fortunate place Tajapattar and of the Bagherwal.

Many pilgrims from western part of India and Marawar were frequently visiting the above two places over that period.
 In early Nineteenth century,between Champanagar and Bhagalpur was situated Karnagarh, the main residence of Karna Raja. The ruin consisted of a square rampart, surrounded by a ditch. There was no cavity within the rampart. At the end of eighteenth century,the hill-rangers  had made cantonment on the ruins. On the ruin at Karnagarh, there were two small temples, one of Siva and one of the Parwati,  Four small images of brass were found there  in about 1800 AD, representing Chamunda, Maheshmardini, and two considered, as strange gods. 
Bibliography-
  • The History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India: Behar (1838) By Robert Montgomery Martin Publisher W.H. Allen and Co.,London.
  • Archaeology of Champā and Vikramaśīlā,  Author Ram Chandra Prasad ,Publisher Ramanand Vidya Bhawan, 1987 ,Original from the University of Michigan
  • http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/index.html
Comments