Modern Bengal

This page is incomplete: it just provides a time line.

The modern period in Bengali history can be said to start with the rise of the European, especially British, influence in India.

Early Europeans

The British East India Company based on a Royal Charter, established factorie at Hooghly, Cassim Bazar and English Bazar, the first factorie in Bengal being established in 1633. In 1658, all settlements in India were administratively brought under the first British Settlement in India at Fort St. George of Madras (with agents: Andrew Cogan 1 Mar 1640–1643, Francis Day 1643–1644, Thomas Ivie 1644–1648, Thomas Greenhill 1648–1652 and 1655–1658, President Aaron Baker 1652–1655, Thomas Chambers 1658–1661, Edward Winter 1661–Aug 1665 and Sep 1665– May 22 1668, George Foxcraft Aug–Sep 1665 and May 22 1668–Jan 1670, William Langhorn 1670–1678, Streynham Master 1678–1681, and William Gyfford 3 Jul 1681–8 Aug 1684) though for two years, 3 Sep 1681–1684, William Hodges, the Governor of Bengal Agency was independent. John Beard succeeded him on 17 July 1684–1685, but the supervisory control was transferred to William Gyfford of Madras, where Elihu Yale was made president 8 Aug 1684–26 Jan 1685 and 25 Jul 1687–3 Oct 1692 (William Gyfford president in between), followed by Nathaniel Higginson 3 Oct 1692–7 Jul 1698 and Thomas Pitt 7 Jul 1698–18 Sep 1709. The factory at Sutanuti was created by Job Charnock on 24 Aug 1690, and the zamindari rights to Sutanuti, Govindapur and Kalikata were bought by the British (represented by Charles Eyre) from Suvarna Chowdhury family on 10th November 1698 by a lease signed at the bariSA AtcAlA. On 10 Jan 1693, Francis Ellis took over as President of Bengal from Job Charnock, and was so till 12 Aug 1693, when Charles Eyre, son-in-law of Job Charnock took over. In Jan 1694, Charles Eyre became the chief Agent of Bengal, and stayed so till John Beard took over in 1698. In Dec 1699, Charles Eyre took over again, but soon Bengal became a Presidency and was thus independent of the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay (the second British settlement in India), each of which was ruled by a President or Governorn in Council, subordinate only to the directors in London. On 26 May 1700, Sir Charles Eyre became the first President in the Bay and Governor. The post later also included the title of Commander-in-Chief of Fort William (established 1773) in Bengal for the United East Indian Company (formed from the merger of the two East India Companies). He was followed by Charles Eyre 7 Jan 1701–1705 and Edward Littleton, after which the Presidency was ruled by the Calcutta Council.

The Portuguese, whose first expedition to chittagong took place in 1517, had set up factories in Chittagong (Porto Grande; fort captured and Sandwip made into tributary in about 1590; Sandwip captured in 1602 and lost around 1605 regained in 1607 and lost again in 1616; early settlement in Dianga repulsed by king of Arakan in 1607, king defeated in 1615, wins back in 1616, portuguese and arakan become allies and portuguese took up piracy, resettled Dianga after 1615; Entire possession lost to mughals in 1665 and portuguese settled in Ferenghi Bazar near Dacca) and Saptagram (Porto Pequeno) by 1537 (regained in 1590), and Bandel de Hooghly in 1580 (Ugolim founded by Antonio Tavares; Bandel friary built by the order of Agostinians in 1599; held till 1632; resettled in 1633 by a land grant from Shah Jahan). They also had minor settlements in Dacca (1580), Sripur, Chandean, Bakla, Catrabo, Loricul, Bhulua, Hijili (1520, lost in 1636), Merepore (1838 claim: settlers from Goa), Tamluk (1635), and Balasore. Already by 1680, there were more than 20,000 portuguese mestiços in bengal.

The Dutch set up their factory in Chinsura (till 1825). See this link for more on dutch and portuguese colonial history.

The French were at Chandernagore in c. 1673 (intermittently till 1952). See this link for a short history of this settlement. In short, on 20 Jun 1949, they voted to join India, and B.K. Bandopdhyay was the Indian Commissioner. It was transferred to India on 2 May 1950 and Basanta Kumar Banerjee now continued as the Administrator till 1952, when Subilbaran Roy replaced him. On 2 Oct 1954, it joined West Bengal.

The Danish held Fredercknagore (Serampore) from 1699 till 1845.

From Mughals to British East India Company

After Mohammad Azim Al Din (1698–1700), Azim-us-shan, the viceroy of Bengal, appointed Murshid quli Khân ´Alâ´ ad dawla as the diwan of Bengar. After a brief interlude in 1707 under Azam Shah and Kam Baksh, two sons of Aurungzeb, the mughal empire passed to the third son shâh ´âlam bahâdur who ruled as bahadur shah (1707–1712, shia in belief, though did not make that the official creed), and then after a brief stint in 1712 under his eldest son Azim-us-shan, to his second son jahândâr mu´izz ad din shah (1712–overthrown in 1713). Farrukh siyar, son of Azim-us-shan revolted in Bengal in 1713 and captured power in Delhi (1713–deposed in 1719) with the help of syed brothers (qutb-ul-mulk hasan ali and amir-ul-umra hussain ali), and Murshid Quli Khan became viceroy or subedar of Bengal. Murshud Quli Khan founded Murhsidabad and moved his capital there; and started the land ijara system (tax a flat rate, not dependant on production). In the mughal empire, the syed brothers put shams ad dîn Râfi´ ad Darajât for one month, Râfi´ ad dawla as shâh jahân II, and nîku siyar muh.ammad on the throne in 1719. In 1720? 19?, they finally put Roshan Akhtar, son of jehan shah, younger brother of jahandar shah, as Muh.ammad Shâh nâs.îr ad dîn (1720–48) on the throne. In 1722, he started supporting the turanians, was deposed, the syed brothers killed, and regained his throne. In 1739, Nâdîr Shâh of Persia massacred Delhi. Minister Ghazi-ud-din became the kingmaker and raised muhammad shah's son Ah.mad bahâdur Shâh (1748–54), ´Azîz ad dîn ´Âlamgîr II, son of jahandar shah (1754–59; supported sikhs and marathas), Shâh Jahân III (1759–71). Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali Durrani installed Shâh ´Âlam II, son of Alamgirh II (1759–1806) as mughal emperor in exile (bîdâr bakht in 1788 as well?). He was followed by his son, mu´in ad dîn Akbar Shah II (1806–1837) and then his son sirâj ad dîn Abu Bahâdur Shâh Zafar II (1837–58) whose male line of descent (son mirza mughal, and grandson mirza abu-bakr) died out, and who were puppets of the British East India Company.

In 1717, Mughal emperor Faruksiyar granted the rights to duty free trading in Bengal to the British (a british surgeon Hamilton had treated the emperor). Murshudquli Khan was displeased, and as Nawab of Bengal, became effectively independent of the Mughal empire. He ruled till 1727? 25?, and was succeeded by Shujâ´ad dîn Muhammed Khân shujâ´ ad dawla (1727–1739; started exerting power over Bihar and Orissa) and Sarfrâz Khân ´alâ´ ad dawla (1739–1741; read the khutba in the name of Nadir Shah, overthrown). The last two kings of independent Bengal, ´Alîwirdî Khân hâshim ad dawla (1741–1756) and mîrzâ mah.mûd Sirâj ad Dawla (1756–1757) are still remembered for their struggle against the British under Rovert Clive; which happened primarily when the British supported Ghasiti Begam against Siraj-ud-Daulah. After the British threw the French out of chandannaore in 1756 and won against Siraj-ud-daula on Jun 23 1757 in the battle of palasi, the Nawabship of Bengal continued after that under the British, the rulers were Mîr Ja´far muh.ammad khân hâshim ad dawla(1757–1760 and 1763–1765), Mir Qasim ´alî (1760–1763), Najm-ud-daula (1765–67), Saif-ud-daula (1767–1770), and mubarak-ud-daula (1770).

British India

In 1764, the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II formally gave revenue rights (diwani) to Bengal to East India Company in return for Rs. 32,00,000 per annum. In 1769, Bengal citizens are prohibited from trading in certain items; and that year and the next saw a famine (The still remembered famine or manvantara of Bengali year 1176) in which one-third of the population (about 10 million people) died. The later history of Bengal is tied to the history of British India. In 1773, the Regulating Act of Lord Nort made the Bengal Presidency admisitratively over the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay, and Warren Hastings, the Governor of Bengal since 1772 was made the Governor General of Fort Wolliam in Bengal in 1774. From this period India was effectively ruled by the British East India company through its governor generals:

1782 saw a India-wide famine. Printing started in 1778, newspapers in 1780s, Asiatic society was founded in 1784 by Wiliam Jones, Serampore baptist mission in 1800 by William Carey, and Hindu college founded in 1816. Brahmo samaj was started by rAmamohana rAYa in 1828, dharma sabha by rAdhAkAnta deva in 1830.

1857 saw a widespread revolt against the British, which was crushed. This was what ultimately brought the Mughal empire to an end. The immediate cause was the widespread unhappiness from the East India company forcibly annexing puppet kingdoms. For example, Abul Mansoor Mirza Muhammad, Padshah-e-Oudh Shah-e Zaman Wajid Ali Shah (واجد علی شاہ) was deposed on 7 Feb 1856 and exiled with a very generous pension to Garden Reach a few miles south of Kolkata. The large earthen embankment gave rise to the name Matiya Burj (‘earthen fortress’), and here he pursued his scholarly pursuits of the arts and music. As nawab of Awadh, he was a very cultured man: Under the pen names of Qaisar and Akhtarpiya, he composed many pieces including thumris and invented new ragas. Kathak saw its revival under him, as did theater. His exile made this suburb of Kolkata, however briefly, into a second Lukhnow including its delectable cuisine. In particular, the famous Awadhi Biryani (‘roast’), due to the shortage of meat, basmati and spices, evolved to the unique taste of Calcutta Biryani with its potatoes, light spices, Pandan extract, and saffron.

East India Company sold India to the British Crown (with money the Crown treated as loan to India, and on Nov 1 1858, the Government of India went to the British Monarch, Queen Victoria, who made Calcutta the Royal Capital and ruled it through viceroys (who remained Governor Generals as well):

The queen declared herself Empress of India on 1st January 1877, made Calcutta the Imperial Capital, and had the viceroys:

King Edward VII of Britain then ruled India (1901–1910) and had the Viceroys

and in 1905, Bengal was partitioned under Lord Curzon sparking massive anti-British protests, enough that the partition did not last. He was followed by King George V (1910–1936), who provided for a council for the Governors, under whom the imperial capital moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912, and who had the Viceroys

When the capital moved, the lieutenant-governor with council for Bengal was made a Governor with council:

The next emperors were Edward VIII (1936) annd George VI (1936–1947) who were represented by the Crown representatives

and Bengal Governors were:

Rise of the nations

Indian society under the British rule was divided into various geographic, linguistic, religious, and cultural groups. Numerically, the two largest religious groups were Hindus and Muslims, though it would be anachronistic to assume a conscious identity for either of the two groups in the early British period.

Even though Islam originated in Arabia, the combination of its beliefs in absolute Good and Evil, the Goodness of the one God, the religious duty of Man to side with Good over Evil in all matters, and the resulting injunction to fight political authority that interfered in this — none of which singly was new in the religious landscape of humanity — lead to its zealous spread around the world. The religion forbade them from residing permanently under political power that could conflict with their religious allegiance and its extremely democratic roots appealed strongly to the oppressed classes in the by then barrier ridden cultures around the world. As it moved it imbibed the existing knowledge — from Byzantium (Rumi), Persia, India, Egypt, — and created a distinctly Islamic, even though not entirely homogenous, culture. On the religious front, the eternal thirst for the Truth lead to extensive investigations — with the Qalamis studying the Quran using Greek philosophy and mysticism, the Mutajilas trying to understand the nature of God and afterlife, the Kadaris and the Jabaris analyzing the independence of Man, and the Kiramitas questioning the idolization of even the Kaba.

But possibly the most far reaching divides occurred when Islam overran the traditionally deeply hierarchical society of Persia, a society with both a strong belief in the eternal fight between Good and Evil and in the almost divine status of the ruler. It stood to logic in this collective mind that in ambiguous matters, the actions and statements of the leaders, Ali in particular, were the chief religious guide; whereas in the democratic spirit of Islam, elsewhere no none person could be considered infallible. Goodness of God, however, was reflected in Ijma, or collective wisdom of the thinkers, and this was a surer guide to truth. This initial split between the Shi'a and Sunni schools proved to have a lasting impact on the religion. The form of Islam that dominated Indian political thought in the medieval age came through Turkey and Afganisthan, and was distinctly Sunni, though strongly affected by the Persian court and culture. Its medium was Urdu which was mainly a local dialect with large amounts of vocabulary borrowed from strongly semitized Persian. But the basic sunni nature lead to a larger emphasis on the original texts in India, and it became a center for production of such manuscripts.

A Persian stream of thought, however, was to have an ultimately much larger effect on the religious consciousness in Bengal. The stirrings of this mystic school of thought can be seen as the Noor (light) of God in the Quran itself, but we find it as a fully formed Sufi thought somewhat later. It is unclear today where all the different components arose — the striving for the merger of the inner light with the universal, the asceticism that can lead to that goal, the strong emphasis on the Murshid (teacher) in making this possible, the almost infallibility of the Imam and the Hujjat (religious guide), and the concept of Ana-l-haq (the unity of Man and God) — but influence of existing religions, including Persian Zoarastrianism and Hindu and Buddhist philosophy that had diffused from India, can certainly not be excluded. In any case, when this came to India, it so identified with the Bhakti (devotion) movement in Indian religions which originated in the South and the East, that it was common for people to simultaneously revere both the Sufi and the Hindu saints. Indian culture hungrily accepted the wonderful poems of Maulana Jalal uddin Rumi, of Firdausi and Sadi, of Hafiz and Saki, and even the almost agnostic Umar Khayyam.

This, by no means, represent the only approach at a religious synthesis: apart from the historical examples such as Dara Shikoh and Akbar, and of movements by Shri Chaitanya, we find isolated sects like the Khojas lead by Aga Khan who originated as Shias but accepted the avatars of Visnu; the Matiyas of Naosari who accept the fast on Ramadan and the burial of the dead but Brahmins performing marriage ceremony; and the Rajputs of Malekana who cannot be classified cleanly either. But such sects remained isolated: The reality of muslim domination guranteed the well-born muslim economic and political power that often united them as a class; people of other religions stayed as dhimmi in the muslim kingdoms, sometimes, but not always, taxed with the jijiya.

With the advent of the modern era, muslims worldwide started loosing this dominance: dar-al-islam started reverting back to dar-al-harb. The explicit conflict with the ultra-orthodox interpretation of their religion that this engendered led to the Wahhabi movement — a return to Muhammad's direct ideals — and a pan-Islamic movement started by Syed Jamal-ud-din al-Afghani. They found a resonance among the Indian muslims

Independent India

On August 15, 1947, India became independent and had the Governor-generals of India:

(transfer of power Chief minister: Hajji Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin 1943–1945, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy 1946–). A massive famine hit Bengal in 1949 (Bengali 1355–6). The states that were nominally independent and territories that were under non-British European colonies continued to do so (see here and here for some states) and only in 1962 did India become unified, except for territorrial disputes with its neighbours, Pakistan and China.

On January 26, 1950, India became a multi-party bicameral parliamentary democratic republic and had the prime ministers:

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru of Congress: August 15, 1947–May 27, 1964;
    Gulzarilal Nanda of Congress: (caretaker) May 27–June 9, 1964 and Jan 11–24, 1966;
  2. Lal Bahadur Shastri of Congress: June 9, 1964–Jan 11, 1966;
  3. Indira ‘Priyadarshini’ Gandhi (née Nehru) of Congress: January 24, 1966–March 24, 1977
    and of Congress(Indira): January 14, 1980–October 31, 1984;
  4. Morarji Desai of Janata Party: March 24, 1977–July 17, 1979 and July 17, 1979 – July 28, 1979 (caretaker);
  5. Charan Singh of Janata Party: July 28, 1979–August 22, 1980 and August 22, 1980 – January 14, 1980 (caretaker);
  6. Rajiv Gandhi of Congress(Indira): October 31, 1984–December 1, 1989;
  7. Vishwanath aratap Singh of Janata Dal: Dec 2, 1989–November 7, 1990 and November 7, 1990–November 10, 1990 (caretaker);
  8. Chandrashekhar of Janata Dal(Secular): November 10, 1990–Mar 6, 1991 and Mar 6–June 21, 1991 (caretaker);
  9. Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao of Congress(Indira): June 21, 1991–May 16, 1996;
  10. Atal Behari Vajpayee of Bharatiya Janata Party: May 16, 1996–May 28, 1996; May 28, 1996–June 1, 1996 (caretaker);
    and March 19, 1998–April 17, 1999; April 17, 1999–October 13, 1999 (caretaker); October 13, 1999 –May 13, 2004; and May 13, 2004–May 22, 2004 (caretaker);
  11. Haradanahalli Dodde Deve Gowda of Janata Dal: June 1, 1996–April 12, 1997 and April 12, 1997–April 21, 1997 (caretaker);
  12. Inder Kumar Gujral of Janata Dal: April 21, 1997–March 19, 1998;
  13. Manmohan Singh (né Kohli) of Indian National Congress: May 22, 2004–May 26, 2014;
  14. Narendra Damodardas Modi of Bharatiya Janata Party: May 26, 2014–

and presidents:

  1. Dr. Rajendra Prasad Jan 26, 1950–May 13, 1962 (before first election and then two terms);
  2. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan May 13, 1962–May 13, 1967;
  3. Dr. Zakir Hussain May 13, 1967–3 May 1969;
  4. Varahgiri Venkatagiri May 3, 1969–July 20, 1969 (acting) and August 24, 1969–August 24, 1974;
  5. Mohammad Hidayatullah July 20, 1969–August 24, 1969 (acting);
  6. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed August 24, 1974–February 11, 1977;
  7. Basappa Danappa Jatti February 11, 1977–July 25, 1977 (acting);
  8. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy July 25, 1977–July 25, 1982;
  9. Giani Zail Singh July 25, 1982–July 25, 1987;
  10. Ramaswami Venkataraman July 25, 1987–July 25, 1992;
  11. Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma July 25, 1992–July 25, 1997;
  12. Kocheril Raman Narayanan July 25, 1997–July 25, 2002;
  13. Dr. Aavul Pakkiri Jainulabiddin Abdul Kalam July 25, 2002–July 25, 2007;
  14. Pratibha (Kumari) Devisingh Patil July 25, 2007–July 25, 2012;
  15. Pranab Kumar Mukherjee July 25, 2012–July 25, 2017.
  16. Ram Nath Kovind July 25, 2017–July 25, 2022.
  17. Droupadi Murmu July 25, 2022–

West Bengal is a state of India [province till 26 Jan 1950; joined with Cooch Behar in 1950; Chandernagore voted to join India from French on 20 Jun 1949 and was placed under commissioner B.K. Bandyopadhyay on Jul 1949, transferred to India on 2 May 1950 (and under administrator Basanta Kumar Banerjee), though formally only on 11 April 1952 (under administrator Sunilbaran Roy) and to West Bengal on 2 October 1954] and has a unicameral (used to be bicameral) parliamentary form of government with a chief minister as the main executive (when not under President's rule)

and a governor (see site on Indian rulers; I do not have the full forms of the initials of some of the South Indian names as the full ceremonial form of the names are rarely, if ever, used in public life)

as head of state representing the central government. Except for informing the president of India when state governance has broken down (and, thereby, inviting president's rule), it is mainly a ceremonial position, and governors often go on leave with neighbouring governors acting in stead. Thus, sometime in 1956 P.B. Chakravarthy was acting, in July 1969, D.N. Sinha was acting; in August 1999, Shyamal sen was acting; in Dec 1999 and Jun 2000, the Bihar governor Vinod Chandra Pande was acting; in May 2001 the Assam governor SK Sinha had a similar role; in April 2005, Bihar governor Buta Singh took over; and Arvind Dave in July 2006. I do not have the list of these acting appointments.

Up to history of Bengal

Valid HTML 4.0! Valid CSS!