Friday, March 10, 2023

In the Land of Ethiopian Kings of Bengal, Gour & Pandua - Malda and Handicraft hub of Dinajpur

                                                 Mosaic of Lottan Masjid


Sealdah Stn 

1140 hrs









Malda Stn

0700 hrs










0830 hrs

Malda - Gajol-Itahar-Uttar Dinajpur (Kulator) - Dakshin Dinajpur (Mahishbathan ,  Beldanaga,    Sabdalpur) - Ushaharan, Dakshin Dinajpur-          Kunor-Durgapur-Malda







Malda Hotel

0900 hrs

Malda - Pandua (Ek Lakhi,Adina) -Gajol-Itahar-Durgapur-Uttar Dinajpur  (Raiganj     - Subhashganj) Durgapur-Adina Zoo-Adina Minar - Malda







Malda Hotel

08 30 hrs

Malda – Gour - Malda Museum- Malda








Malda Stn         

12.20 hrs










Sealdah Stn       

0745 hrs





Train : 1140 Sealdah (SDAH) to Malda Town (MLDT) 0625 hrs. 

Didi and I left for Malda, right in time, by Train. We reached Malda at around 7 am and reached hotel by 7.30 am

 Hotel : Golden Park Hotel and Restaurant on NH 34 , Malda

After freshening up in the hotel, we left for Dinajpur via Itahar at 0830 hrs for visiting the crafts hub of Dinajpur.

The whole tour plan of crafts hub was made with the help of Susenjit - +91 89109 44616 of , who looks after this region.  The whole region has been developed/ promoted by the pioneering work of with the help of Unesco. 

Route map of Craft hub of Dinajpur, Pandua and Gour region  :  


Route map of craft hub -

A. Kulator, Uttar Dinajpur –  famous for Dhokra or jute work

Dhokra mats are woven by almost every woman in the area to support the household expenditures. The mats are sold in local haats. The 1957 weavers from the 2 districts are organised under 2 collectives: Kulator Dhokra Shilpi Samity (Uttar Dinajpur) and Mahishbathan Gramin Hastashilpo Samabay Samity (Dakshin Dinajpur) . Total 1200 women Dhokra weavers from Dakshin Dinajpur are covered under the rural craft hub project.


The main contact person in Kulator, Uttar Dinajpur is helpful Sosthi Das 9733 254790. He is the Secretary of the Co-operative. Without his help you will be clueless about the artists home. So he is the main contact person. We went to the following persons houses in Kulator :

Tulsi Sarkar 8436 340 400

Ranjana Sarkar 7076 363 350

Buli Bala Sarkar 8768 950 423


Among the two blocks in South Dinajpur, Kushmandi is home to a larger number of Dhokra weavers, Basanti Sarkar - 6296 039359 , Sanchita Sarkar -9635 105355 (Sanchita has won the State Award in 2017) and Kabita Sarkar . However we did not go to their house, since it is not in Kulator.

 Also one can go to Chaya Mondal Sarkar’s house : 7098 117 592


B. Mahishbathan, Dakshin Dinajpur – famous for Gomira Masks

Our next destination was Mahisbathan for see the wooden masks. But since the main contact person Paresh Chandra Sarkar - 86709 50240 was travelling , we were escorted by  very helpful Anup Sarkar - 76029 23513   Paresh Chandra Sarkar has close contact with Mahishbathan Gramin Hasta Silpa Samabay Samity Ltd. is the Resource Centre with common work space, guest rooms, dormitory and meeting hall and display centre . One can stay at the Resource Centre at Mahishbathan amongst the artisans and experience their craft. A Community Museum has been developed to showcase the the Gomira masks made by local artists. Visitors can also stay at hotels and lodges in Kaliaganj – Ashirbad Anusthan & Lodge ( 25°38'21.6"N 88°19'26.5"E).Kushmundi also holds the Geographical Indication (GI) for the Wooden Mask art form.


Since Paresh Chandra Sarkar was travelling we could not stay at the Resource Centre. Address: Village: Mahishbathan, PS: Kushmundi, District: Dakshin Dinajpur, Pin: 733132

 Kushmandi block in Dakshin Dinajpur and Kaliyaganj block in Uttar Dinajpur district are the hubs of Gomira mask making. Around 250 artists live in these two blocks mainly concentrated in the villages like Mahishbathan, Sabdalpur, Beldanga etc. We met Sanju Lal Sarkar - 97349 58839  at Mahishbathan. His showroom is on the main road.


Then we went to the house of Tulu Sarkar - 9734 958 839, by car , around 15 minutes from the main road - who is the son of the late legendary artist Shankar Sarkar. He has won the district award.  Tulu stays with his family in his ancestral house in Beldanga village of Kushmandi. Unfortunately he was not at home. Finally we went to the house of  Shankar Das -  9593 358 360, who stays in Sabdalpur village of Kushmandi – which is around 10 minutes from Tulu Sarkar’s house. His mastery over his work is highly appreciated all around. Shankar learned the art of wooden mask from Shankar Sarkar, the legendary artist of Kushmandi. Shankar had travelled to France and London in 2015/216 to showcase his art. 


Other artists of this regions are :  UTTAM SARKAR -   95936 17166 , ANANTA SARKAR - 81451 57712, KRISHNADEB SHARMA- 77979 875 42

There are several places worth visiting around Kushmandi. We did not have time to go there. These are:


Bangarh where one finds the ruins of the ancient city. The citadel area revealed 5 cultural phases dating from the time of the Mauryas to the medieval period.

Mahipal Dighi is a manmade lake where migratory birds flock in during winter months.

The Aira forest, 2 kms from Mahipal dighi is also a wonderful retreat. There is a mythological tree which stands there by the name of ‘Shami Brikhshya’.  It is said that the Pandavas hid their arms in the bushes of this tree.


There is a ruin of ‘Neelkothi’ – bungalow of the infamous indigo (Neel) cultivator who was a close friend of William Kerry.


The Gomira dance festival is held within the months of Baishakh-Jaistha-Asharh, corresponding to mid-April to mid-July.


To know more read and


We had our lunch (Muri with Ghugni and Omelette) at Ushaharan  which is another 10 minutes from the house of Sankar Das. Then we went to see the bamboo works of Baishyapara of Ushaharan.


C. Ushaharan, Dakshin Dinajpur – famous for Bamboo works

There are 74 crafts persons from Ushaharan, Dakshin Dinajpur. Basketry weaving is the primary source of livelihood of the community. First we went to the house of Gostho Baishya (+91 81675 17306- who has been making Mukha (masks) since his third grade. He has won the State Award twice in 2013-14 and in 2017-18. Unfortunately he was not at home.

Then he went to the house of Gautam Baishya (+91 93304 12015 ). He has won the District Award in 2013-14. We interacted with him. But he was busy with a marriage ceremony of his relative.

There are artists engaged in similar kind of work also in Bamongola, Malda, Kaliaganj and Gangarampur and Kushmundi in Dakshin Dinajpur. But Ushaharan is the main hub. 

Then we left for Pottery hub of Kunor. We thanked Anup Sarkar (he had lunch with us) for taking us to these places.  I paid him auto fare and some tips to go back to Mahishbathan . There is a shortcut to go to Kunor, as informed by Susenjit. But since part of the road is not good, we took a longish route to reach Kunor – which is probably a mistake.

D. Kunor, Uttar Dinajpur  famous for Pottery

Total 171 pottery crafts persons are covered from Kunor of Uttar Dinajpur. In nearly every household, people are involved in the craft at different levels. It runs through generations and is part of their lives. Dulal Chandra Ray - 97756 32391 is a potter from Uttar Dinajpur district. He belongs to a family of potters. He makes traditional pottery items, jewellery, bottles, jugs and decorative items. He has won both the District and State level Award and is a master craftsman and gives training to his fellow villagers. He is the main contact person and is in touch with 

Some of other potters here are :

Rabi Roy and Prafulla Roy of Kunor Haatpara in Dakshin Dinajpur district. Roy learnt from his uncle Dulal Chandra Roy. Roy has is also a recipient of the District Award.

Since it was already quite late, we decided to go back to our hotel in Malda, which is around 70 Km from Malda. Subhashganj region of Raiganj is covered later, below after Adina.



 Pandua & Gour / Gauda



Pandua is located North of Malda. It is around 17 kilometers North of Malda and the best way to go there is to book a car. The route passes through NH 34  and thus won’t take that long. One can include Jagjivanpur, which will be around 50 Km from Adina. But one can surely skip Jagjivanpur, since there is not much to see. Unlike Gour, Pandua has just 2 functioning Dargah and 3 ancient mosques. 

Gour is located 17 Km South of Malda. This is the  more interesting place than Pandua and has many Mosques, Darwaza/Gates to see. I thought that there are only few mosques in Gour and Pandua - which is completely wrong. The whole area in Gour is spread out around the mango orchards and Tanks/ponds by its side. The whole area is almost without any human settlement - which makes it very enchanting. You will feel like you are wondering around a lost kingdom, somewhat akin to Hampi. I think it is one of the most under rated places, I have ever seen.

Malda shares border with Rajshahi division (Mahadipur of Malda is the border crossing point with Nawabganj district of Bangladesh), Bangladesh,  South Dinajpur shares border with both Rajshahi division (Natore, Pabna , Rajshahi are part of this division) and Rongpur division (Dinajpur, Rongpur are part of this division), whereas North Dinajpur shares border with Rongpur division only.

 How To Reach Gour & Pandua

You take night train on Friday to reach Malda at 7.30 am or take Vande Bharat on Saturday morning to reach Malda at 8.30 am approximately and take Radhikapur Kolkata Station Express at 12.20 am to reach Kolkata at 7.45 am on Monday. This is a classic weekend tour.

The best place to make your base camp to visit both places would be Malda. I would suggest that you book a car for two days. 

Day I - you can cover Gour (after freshening up in Hotel) and in Day II , leave at 7.30 am : you can cover Pandua along with Craft hub of Dinajpur - Kulator (for Dhorka or Jute work),  Kushmandi (Mahishbathan, Beldanga,Sabdalpur - for Wooden Mask) and Ushaharan (if possible, for Bamboo mask). If you are intent to cover all the craft hubs, then you need another day.

Please fix the rates of the trip with the car agency or driver and make sure you specify and he is completely clear about the places that he would go. Our driver charged Rs 3000 per day or Rs 15 per hour - whichever is higher. The phone no. of our driver  Sujit is + 91 87680 76655. You can call him and tell him about us.

For sure the driver will not know the location of all these places thus I would urge you to use the google map provided in this blog to guide him or to share it with him for navigation. 

Stay at Malda

At Malda you will find several hotels and I will personally recommend the Hotel Amrapali which is run by West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. If you are taking a Toto (e-rickshaw) from the Malda station then please tell them to take you to Malda Tourist Lodge as this is what it was known earlier. This hotel has a parking space also so if you are coming by car or motorcycle, you can park here. This place has an attached restaurant and serves good food at affordable rates. Booking needs to be done online and remember that the GST needs to be paid at the hotel.

Apart from that you can stay at Hotel Kalinga  recommended by Lonely Planet. One can also stay at Hotel Purbanchal. But Hotel Kalinga is better. We stayed at Golden Park Hotel and Restaurant - which is probably the best hotel in Malda, on NH 34, opposite BSF camp. Our Chief Minister stays here, when he comes to Malda and there is even a helipad. We paid around Rs 3000 for 2 person per day. 

Time line of Gour and Pandua

Till 400 AD approx - Chandragupta II or Vikramaditya (of Navaratna fame)

Shasanka                                              590-625  AD                - 35 years

  .....    100 years of chaos   .......

Buddhist, Pal                                     750-1070 AD                   - 300 yrs approx

Gopal 750-770                                  Gopal transferred the capital to Gour.
Dharmapal  770-810
Devpal 810-850
Shurpala 1075-1077

Hindu, Sen (Sena)                           1070-1206                   - 130 yrs approx

Hemanta Sen (1070 – 1096)
Vijaya Sen (1095 – 1158)           Rampal died in 1120
Ballala Sen (1158 – 1179)         of Ballal Dhipi fame
Lakshmana Sen (1179 – 1206) - The Khalji rulers of Bengal (1203–1227). Bakhtiar Khalji defeated Lakshman Sen in 1202. Baktiar Khilji was a Military general of Mohammad Ghori. The Sen ruler, Lakshman Sen retreated from Gauda and went towards the East. 

Delhi Sultanate (1204–1352)               - 150 yrs approx

Governors of Bengal under the Mamluk or Slave dynasty (1227–1287) founded in Northern India by Qutb ud-Din Aibak, a Turkic Mamluk, slave-general of of famous Mohammad Ghori   ( the Ghurid Empire ). Iltutmish was also a Mamluk King

Independent Balban dynasty of Lakhnauti (1287–1324)  - Balban was also a Mamluk King

Governors of Bengal under the Tughlaq dynasty (1324–1338)

Small sultanates (1338–1352)3 break away Sultanates emerged in the Delhi Sultanate's province of Bengal. These included  Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah (and later his son) in Sonargaon,  Alauddin Ali Shah in Gauda (also called Lakhnauti) and Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah in Satgaon. The Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta visited Sonargaon during the reign of Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah. Ibn Battua also visited the Sufi leader Shah Jalal in Sylhet, a celebrated Sufi figure of Bengal. His name is often associated with the Conquest of Sylhet and the Spread of Islam into the region, 

Bengal Sultanate - 1342-1576                           - 225 yrs approx

For around 100 years, from 1336 onwards, the Capital was transferred from Gour to Pandua, before it was again transferred back to Gour.

Ilyas Shahi dynasty (1342–1414) and 1435-1487                        - 70 yrs + 50 yrs approx

Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah (1342-1358) was one of the prominent rulers of Bengal Sultanate. Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah waged war against Delhi Sultanate to secure recognition of Bengal's independence. He defeated rulers of Lakhnauti (Malda), Sonargaon (Hooghly region) and Satgaon (Dhaka region). Before that these 3 States were under Delhi Sultanate (1204-1352).Shamsuddin  Ilyas Shah transferred the capital to Pandua in 1338 (as per Footprints book). 

House of Raja Ganesha (1414–1435)

Son of Ganesh , Jadu became Muslim and took the name of

Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah


Restored Ilyas Shahi dynasty (1435–1487) - Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah brought the capital back to Gour in 1453.

Ethiopian or Habshi rule /Abyssynia Rule (1487–1493)   - 7 yrs approx

They defeated Jalaluddin Fateh Khan of Ilyas Shah dynasty. 

Hussain Shahi dynasty (1494–1538)                           - 45 yrs approx

Hussain Shah ( 1494-1519) . He was the greatest of  all  kings. Gauda was at its pinnacle during this period. Shri Chaitnya came to Gauda in 1509 during tis period. This was the golden period of Bengal and brought Bengal  Renaissance.

 1538 signifies end of Bengal Sultanate.

Governors of Bengal under Sur Empire (1532–1556) (empire famous for Sher Shah , who ruled after Humayun and created GT Road). In 1537 Sher Shah  Suri sacked Gour and plague wiped out Gour. (It may be mentioned here , there is another Bengal connection to Mughal empire. Wife of Sher Afghan (died in 1607), who was jagirdar of Burdwan, Nur Jahan married Selim, Jahangir in 1611)

Muhammad Shah dynasty (1554–1564)

Karrani dynasty (1564–1576)

xxxxxxx   End of Bengal Sultanate xxxxxxx

Baro-Bhuyans (1576–1610) 

A confederation of twelve zamindar families resisted the expansion of the Mughal Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries. The zamindars included Muslims and Hindus. They were led by the Muslim Rajput chief Isa Khan. The Baro-Bhuyans defeated the Mughal navy during several engagements in Bengal's rivers. Eventually, the Mughals subdued the zamindar rebellion and brought all of Bengal under imperial control.

Mughal period / Mughal Subedar of Bengal Subah (1574–1717)

Subedars were the Mughal viceroys in Bengal. The Bengal Subah was part of a larger prosperous empire . The Mughals built the provincial capital in Dhaka in 1610 with fortifications, gardens, tombs, palaces and mosques. Dhaka was also named in honour of Emperor Jahangir as Jahangirnagar. Shaista Khan's conquest of Chittagong in 1666 defeated the (Burmese) Kingdom of Arakan and reestablished Bengali control of the port city. The Chittagong Hill Tracts frontier region was made a tributary state of Mughal Bengal. Members of the imperial family were often appointed to the position of Subedar. Raja Man Singh I, the Rajput ruler of Kingdom of Amber was the only Hindu subedar. One subedar was Prince Shah Shuja, who was the son of Emperor Shah Jahan. The East India Company established its first settlements in Bengal around Hooghly during the 1630s. It received an official permission to trade from Mughal viceroy Shah Shuja in 1651.During the struggle for succession with his brothers Prince Aurangazeb : Prince Dara Shikoh,Prince Murad Baksh, Prince Shuja proclaimed himself as the Mughal Emperor in Bengal. He was eventually defeated by the army of Aurangazeb.

Independent Nawabs of Bengal (1717–1757 CE) 

 By the 18th century, Mughal Bengal became a quasi-independent country under the nominal rule of the emperor in Delhi. The subedar was elevated to the status of a hereditary Nawab . The Nawabs maintained de facto control of Bengal while minting coins in the name of the emperor in Delhi. Nasiri dynasty (1717–1740) was founded by the first Nawab of Bengal Murshid Quli Khan. Afsar dynasty (1740–1757) was founded by Alivardi Khan. His grandson and successor Siraj-ud-daulah was the last independent Nawab of Bengal due to his defeat to British forces at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

Under Mughal rule, Bengal was a center of the worldwide muslin and silk trades. During the Mughal era, the most important center of cotton production was Bengal, particularly around its capital city of Dhaka, leading to muslin being called "daka" in distant markets such as Central Asia. Domestically, much of India depended on Bengali products such as rice, silks and cotton textiles. Overseas, Europeans depended on Bengali products such as cotton textiles, silks and opium; Bengal accounted for 40% of Dutch imports from Asia, for example, including more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks. From Bengal, saltpetre was also shipped to Europe, opium was sold in Indonesia, raw silk was exported to Japan and the Netherlands, and cotton and silk textiles were exported to Europe, Indonesia and Japan.

Nawabs of Bengal under East India Company (1757–1838 CE)

Short History of Gour/Gauda and Pandua

The term Gour probably came from Pundra Bardan of North Western Part of today's Bangladesh. The location of Malda is around the middle of Bengal thus making it an ideal capital for rulers ruling this part of India. 

The Gauda Kingdom came into being in the late 6th century CE in eastern India, as a result of the political disintegration of the Gupta Empire. The Gupta emperor Samudragupta (335/350 – 370/380 CE) made vast conquests to such an extent that he came to be called as the “Indian Napoleon” by historians. He gained suzerainty over many parts of India. Samudragupta's conquests included Bengal, and only the kingdom of Samatat in eastern Bengal was spared as it became a tributary state "acknowledging the suzerainty of the Gupta Emperor, but with full autonomy in respect of internal administration" . 

After the Vikramaditya or Chandragupta II (of Navaranta fame)  transferred capital Gupta empire (Magadh)  to Ujjaini, around 400 AD,  Gauda lost importance and for 200 years and  lost its glory resulting in Chaos  After the fall of the Gupta Empire, Western Bengal was ruled by two powerful independent kingdoms, the Gauda Kingdom and Eastern Bengal by the Vanga/Samatat Kingdom. The Gauda Kingdom comprised of the northern and most of the western parts of Bengal. Here, the imperial Gupta hold was stronger than in Vanga and so the Later Guptas continued to maintain their pre-eminence until the end of the 6th century .  

In the 7th century  Gauda became independent of Later Gupta rule. The only ruler known for the Gauda kingdom was Shashanka or Shashankadeva.   The inscription on the seal found at Rohtas fort (present-day Rohtas, Bihar state) shows that Shashanka was ruling there as a maha-samanta (high-ranking feudatory) “apparently under the Gauda king ruling from Karna-suvarna at the time” , who was probably the Later Gupta king Mahasena Gupta. Shashanka overthrew him in late 6th century  and became the first king of independent Gauda. Information about King Shashanka has been made available by his coins, inscriptions, and the Harshacharita, the biography of the Pushyabhuti emperor Harshavardhana or Harsha (606-647 CE), written by his court poet Banabhatta or Bana (c. 7th century CE).


During the decline of the Gupta Empire, feudal lords took over areas of India and declared regional war. During this time, the Pushpabhuti / Vardhan dynasty was formed by Prabhakara Vardhana. Prabhakara’s father, Aditya-vardhana, became a feudal lord by marrying the sister of Mahasena Gupta. After the death of Mahasena Gupta, Madhav Gupta took the throne. 

Madhav Gupta’s grand son was Dev Gupta. Whereas Dev Gupta had extended the declining Gupta Empire from Bihar to Madhya Pradesh, Mahasena Gupta’s brother’s great-grandson, Narenda Gupta, had been successful in uniting the whole of Bengal under one rule. This Narendra Gupta was none other than Shashanka, the second cousin of Dev Gupta and the future king of united Bengal under the Gaur Kingdom. Even though Dev Gupta and Narendra Gupta were second cousins, they shared a brotherly love and respect for each other’s accomplishments.

The Vardhan Dynasty also had new kings. After the death of Prabhakara Vardhan, his illustrious son Rajya Vardhan took the throne. The Vardhans had sworn loyalty to the Guptas, since it was the patronage of the Guptas which resulted in the kingly status of the Vardhans. 

Some say Narendra Gupta (aka Shashanka) killed Rajya Vardhan .Thus began an era of 30 years of enmity and expansion between Harsha Vardhan (younger brother of Rajyavardhana) and Shashanka. Harsha, the younger brother of Rajya Vardhan, ascended to the throne and vowed to bring Shashanka down. Narendra Gupta, with the support of Dev Gupta, then conquered the Banga dynasty and ascended the throne of the Gaur kingdom as Shashanka the Great.

Shasanka reunited , liberate Bengal and  Bengal reached its pinnacle of success during ShashankaPundra Bardan became Gauda in 602 and Gauda Kingadom was founded by Shashanka, one of the pioneering Bengali kings in history.Shashanka's reign falls approximately between 590 and 625. The origin of the Bengali calendar falls within the reign of Shashanka. Shashanka, is credited with creating the Bengali calendar. However Al Biruni who came to India in 1017 with Mahmud of Ghazni did not mention about Bengali Calendar year, though he talked about other Calendar year. During the the years Shashanka ruled, Bengal was in the peak of its glory. Despite constant attacks from Harsha-vardhan (north India) and Bhaskara-varman (Assam), Shashanka not only maintained and expanded his kingdom, he also promoted architecture, arts and culture.

In the 30 years that Shashanka ruled, he extended his empire from the foothills of Assam to the coast of Orissa. His gold coins had Shiva on one side and Mahalaskshmi on the other side. He made the present day Murshidabad his capital. He built numerous Shiva temples in Bengal. 

However, Harsha also expanded his territory, from Kashmir to Bihar. His dream was to attack Shashanka and capture Bengal. That dream remained unfulfilled while Shashanka was alive. Just eight months after the death of Shashanka, Harsha’s army trampled Bengal and with the help of the king of Assam, devastated everything that Shashanka had built.

Every great empire comes to an end. Shashanka’s death brought an end not only to the great Gaur Empire, but also to the illustrious Gupta dynasty, the last Hindu dynasty to rule India, and in particular, Bengal. 

The Chinese Buddhist monk-scholar Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang (602-664 CE) who visited India in the 7th century CE, states in his work Si-yu-ki that Shashanka, or She-sang-kia, was the king of Karna-suvarna, "Karnasuvarna having been the capital of the Gauda kingdom during the age in question. 

During his reign Karnasuvarna, his capital came to prominence. But where is this place in modern Bengal? It is in present-day Murshidabad. The place still has ruins of the ancient university of Raktamirtika Mahavihar. The account is left by the famous Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang, in his itinerary Xiyu Ji, the only written record of the flourishing urban settlement of Karnasuvarna and Raktamrttika Vihar. According to his account Hiuen Tsang moved from Tamralipti (Tan-mo-li-ti), currently Tamluk in Medinipur, to the country of Karnasuvarna (Kie-lo-na-su-fa-la-na), near the capital of which was the Raktamrttika (Lo-to-mi-chih) Vihar.A glimpse of the religious life of Karnasuvarna can be obtained from the writings of Hiuen Tsang. People belonging to different religions lived there in harmony. Buddhism was a flourishing religion and Buddhists of the Sammatiya School resided in the 10 monasteries at Karnasuvarna. (

 It is from Gauda that we get the name Gour. He established his capital at Karna-subarna where you can still see some remains at Murshidabad. Shashanka ruled Bengal from 590 – 625 AD and after his death, his son Manava could only hold on to the throne for a mere 8 months before being deposed by Harshavardhana. Shashanka was a devout Hindu king who helped to propagate the religion. There are records that he had ordered to cut down the Bodhi tree as he opposed other religious beliefs.

After this, we get the Pala Dynasty which dominated these parts of Bengal. Gopala was the first emperor of this dynasty which found its root in Gauda around 750 AD. Their rule lasted till 1161 AD

The Buddhist Pal Empire  was founded in the Gauda region during the rise of Gopala as king with the approval of an assembly of chieftains. Gopala's empire was greatly expanded by his son Dharmapal and his grandson Devapal. During that period they ruled 25% of India. Pratihara of Gujarat (West) region ruled 25% and Rashtrakuta (South) ruled 25% of India approximately. The Pala Emperors carried the title Lord of Gauda. The empire ruled for 3 centuries and its territory included almost large part of northern India. According to historian D. C. Sicar, the term Gauda is an appropriate name for the Pala Empire itself. The Pala period saw the development of the Bengali languagescript and other aspects of Bengali culture.

The Sen/ Senas entered into the service of Palas as sāmantas in Rāḍha, probably under Samantasena. With the decline of the Pālas, their territory had expanded to include Vaṅga and a part of Varendra by the end of Vijayasena's reign. The Palas were ousted in totality, and their entire territory annexed sometime after 1665. 

This was followed by the Sena (Sen) Dynasty from 1070 ADBallala Sena was the most famous of them all to have conquered Gauda from the Palas. You can still find the foundation of the house of Ballal Sen at Gour. The Senas ruled Bengal till around 1230 AD.

Lakshman Sen succeeded Ballal Sen in 1179, ruled Bengal for approximately 20 years, and expanded the Sena Empire to Odisha, Bihar and probably to Varanasi. The name was in honour of the Sena ruler Lakhsman Sena. They ruled from 1070 CE–1230 CE. 
The Sena kings were also probably Baidyas, according to historian P.N. Chopra. 

It was during the Sena Dynasty that Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji had attacked this part of Bengal in 1203 AD and plundered it of its riches. The Sena ruler Lakshman Sen retreated from Gauda and went towards the East. During the rule of Lakshman Sen Guada was also known as Laksh-manadvati which later due to verbal corruption became LaknautiGauda became known as Lakhnauti during the Hindu Sen dynasty. 

In history, we get its mention, after Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah defeated Alauddin Ali Shah in 1345. Back then this place was referred to as Hazrat Pandua. Some historians suggest that Pandua was the capital even during the reign of Alauddin Ali Shah as there are coins dating back to 1342 AD stating that. Back that Pandua was also known as Firuzabad. Capital was shifted from Pandua back to Gour by Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah (1442 – 1459).  

Pandua was the first capital city of the Bengal Sultanate for 114 years (1339 - 1453). The capital later shifted to Gour in 1453

Historian Stan Gordon has recorded that during this period a large number of Abyssinian / Ethiopian slaves had been recruited in the army of the Bengal Sultans. They did not just work in the army, but also rose to get involved in major administrative tasks such as act as court magistrates, collecting tolls and taxes and involved in services of law enforcement.

Initially serving in the Army, the Habshis managed to seize power from the Tukic Sultans under the leadership of Ghiyasuddin Barbak Shah and conquered the throne of the Bengal Sultanate. Barbak Shahzada laid the foundation of the Habshi dynasty in Bengal in 1487 and became its first ruler under the name of Ghiyath-al-Din Firuz Shah.

He he was killed by Habeshi general and the successor Saifuddin Firuz is considered the best of the Ethiopian/Habshi rulers. He is said to have been a brave and just king, benevolent to the poor and needy, and a patron of art and architecture. Firuz is believed to have patronized the building of a number of religious and secular structures. Most well-known among these is the Firuz Minar at Gaur which still stands tall, in a good state of preservation. The Firuz Minar is often compared to the Qutub Minar in Delhi, both in appearance and its significance as a victory tower. He was killed in a palace coup and was replaced by his infant son, who was again murdered to make way for the last Africa Sultan of Bengal Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah, also a general. At one point there were over 10,000 Ethiopians/ Habshis in Bengal. Later Turko Afghans (Hussain Shah Dyansty) regained supremacy in Bengal (Gaud). Some of them settled down to lower profile and even agrarian professions. The mention of a Ethiopian/Habshi Imam Bux at the court of Raja Krishna Chandra Ray at Krishnanagar in an 18th century Mangalkavya, points to their continuing presence in Bengal. According to Reshmi Das Gupta "those who look askance at the idea of African rule in Bengal need to go to the Indian Museum in Kolkata to see its builder Saifuddin Firuz Shah's inscription displayed there". However the most famous Ethiopian in India is probably Malik Ambar or Yaqut - alleged 'slave-soldier' lover of Raziya Sultan

The Habshi rule of Bengal came to an end in 1493 AD, when Sayyid Husain Sharif Makki seized the throne and founded the Husaini dynasty.

One of the main reasons sighted for the shift was the shifting of the main water flow of the Ganges. Unlike Gour where we see several mosques only a few remain here today in Pandua. 

Our plan was to see Pandua first and then we would go to Raiganj, which we could not cover yesterday.


On the way to the Adina, we saw an interesting bi weekly goat haat/market. They are are sold depending upon the size - a big one costs Rs 10,000-12,000 and a baby goat cost around Rs 1750. 

The first one which comes while coming from Malda is Bari Dargah. 

Bari Dargah

This Dargah is in memory of Hazrat Shah Jalal Tabrizi. This shrine, historians believe, was constructed by Sultan Alauddin Ali Shah around 1342 AD. At the moment you can see the main mosque, tombs, grand kitchen, and several other rooms around the compound.

A little further down there is another structure known as Salami Darwaza (Saluting Gate) ironically not built like any Islamic structure instead resembles a Charchala temple.

 Choti Dargah

Very near Salami Darwaza, there is another Dargah. This dargah was built in 1427, after the death of the saintHazrat Nur Qutbul Alam who died in 1415 AD ; it was active at a time when this region was getting very volatile. Even with a majority Muslim population, 2 Hindu kings (House of Raja Ganesha :1414–1435)  had ruled this region.

He was the one who had converted (Jadu) Jalaluddin Mohammad Shah the son of Raja Ganesh to Islam. This Dargah was constructed after his death.

 Eklakhi Mausoleum

This is the first heritage structure (Under ASI) that we see at Pandua. Its located very near Choti Dargah. This is a single dome mausoleum built-in classic terracotta brick style. As the name suggests it took one lakh Rupees (1,00,000) to build this structure back then. However there is another version to it, which says it can accomodate 100,000 worshippers. The structure contains three tombs are that of Sultan Jalaluddin (Jadu), his wife, and his son (Ahmad Shah). The structure is dated to be constructed around 1412 – 1415 AD.


Qutb Shahi Masjid

This mosque is located right behind Eklakhi Mausoleum (almost the same complex) and to reach this you have to go through the back gate which will take you to Qutb Shahi Masjid.

This mosque is also known by its other name “Sona Masjid” due to the gold-gilded walls and turret crowns. Built in 1582 AD this mosque was built to honor Nur Qutub-Ul-Alam by Makhdum Shaikh.

Adina Masjid

This is the most famous mosque in this entire region and its massive. Make sure you have at least one hour dedicated if not more to get to see all around the ruins of this great mosque.

This is considered the largest mosque in the whole of Bengal. It was built by Sultan Sikandar Shah ( son of Ilyas Shah of Ilyas Shahi dynasty) between 1364 and 1374 AD. The Sultan later after his death was buried here. This mosque has a large rectangular open courtyard that is surrounded by domed structures. None of the domed structures are visible but the walls still stand.

There is an elevated lady’s section which has a separate entrance and this once had an elevated floor made of rock slabs. Some of them are still very much visible while the rest of them have been replaced by a wooden platform. There are 3 mihrabs at the gallery.

The main mihrab is very much seen right next to the western section right next to the main entrance from the western wall.

A lot of the raw materials used in the construction of this mosque had come from Hindu temples and the remains of them can still be seen with random pieces of Hindu gods and goddesses visible.

( the inputs (in Italics) are from a wonderful blog :

Then we left for Raiganj. Since  we could not cover it yesterday,  we went to Subhashgaj of Raiganj. It is almost on the same NH 34 on which our hotel is located . Actually, first we went to Ek Lakhi mosque, Adina, North of Malda first, before going further North to Raiganj. 

 E. Subhasganj, Raiganj famous for Basketry

Total 63 crafts persons from Raigunj of Uttar Dinajpur are covered under the project. They mostly make bamboo baskets and are now trying to incorporate new designs in their products.

Minati Das -  9614 557 745 , a resident of Das para of Raiganj, and has been practising bamboo basketry since childhood. She is the main contact person of here. Since she was not there, we met her son Raja Das and he showed the workshop. But he does not know much about this. Some crafts woman were working on their terrace. She is quite well known here. She is the main contact person and is in touch with

Then we left for the house of potter Sukumar Pal. He is the main contact person and is in touch with He gave demonstration of work to us and took us to another potter's house. After this we left for Malda and on the way back we saw Adina Minar.

There is another group of potters in Malda as per the website of craftshub - but we did not go there. 

Malda :  Manik Rabi Das   7908 735 272 , Jatin Tudu  7602 126 100 , Srinath Tudu  9064 766 615, Lakshi Rani Pal  9932 176 528 , Sujata Das  7430 066 126

On the way back to Malda from Raiganj, first we went to the mini Zoo which was already closed. Then we went to see the Adina Minar - which is quite interesting. 

 Hardly anybody goes there.


Route map :

If you are coming from Malda then take right turn to reach Gour and Hati Badha Stombho would be on your left side, right next to the main road. You will spot a fenced spot with two lone standing pillars. People refer to this as Hathi Bandha Stombho which literally means pillars where elephants are tied. 


Stepping aside from the Islamic history of Gour this is a very significant Hindu pilgrimage site. You have 2 temples out here the first smaller one being Chaitanya Charan Mandir and the other being Madan Mohan Jiu Temple.

Historically Ramkeli has a big significance as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had come to this place during the famous Hussain Shah in 1509. The small temple has a stone slab that has footprints that are said to be that of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Every year there is a big festival that takes place and devotees from all over Bengal come here to celebrate.

Boro Sona Masjid (Baraduari)

From this point onwards we will start seeing heritage sites from the Muslim rule of Gauda. The first one being Boro Sona Masjid or Baraduari. Boro means big and Sona in Bangla means gold so it refers to this as the big golden mosque. This mosque once had 44 domes that had gold gilded tops. Now, much of it is in ruins you get to see only the front portion of the mosque which still has the domes intact. Two doorways are still visible while the third one is in ruins. This temple is also known as Baraduari or the mosque with 12 doors but if you count you will find only 11 doors.

The mosque was built in 1526 by Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah, but was originally started by his father Allaudin Husain Shah, during the golden age of Bengal Sultanate of Hussain Shahi dynasty.

Dakhil Darwaza (Salami Darwaza)

The next of the stop very near to Boro Sona Masjid is Dakhil Darwaza. This impressive gateway is to the north of the citadel and is set to be built by Barbak Shah (1459 – 1474 AD). This gateway is also known as Salami Darwaza which means saluting gateway. This is regarded as one the most beautiful Gates anywhere in the world.

The structure has details terracotta works and make sure you pass through the gate and go to the other side of the gate as that is equally beautiful. The interior chambers inside the gate are infested with bats so stick to the main hallway and avoid venturing inside the side rooms.

Firoz Minar

This tower was built by Ethiopian or Habshi or Abyssynian King Saifuddin Firoz Shah (1487 – 1489) after his victory over Barbak Shah (of  famous Ilyas Shahi dynasty). The tower has 5 stories and is on a mound with spiral staircases inside which is not accessible to tourists. The height of the tower reached up to 25.60 meters. It is somewhat similar to Qutub Minar.

Kadam Rasul Masjid complex

This mosque was built by Sultan Nasrat Shah (of famous Hussain Shahi dynasty)  in 1531 AD details of which are mentioned in an inscription on the black basalt slab located on the back of the main entrance.

The mosque earlier had the footprints of the Prophet but that now has been moved to Mahidpur which stays with the Khadim.

Apart from the main structure, there are some tombs and the remains of a rest house which is in ruins. The main mosque has a single dome surrounded by four minarets on each side. 

There is another structure inside the compound of the mosque is the Tomb of Fateh Khan (1658 – 1707). The design of this structure is similar to any Hindu Charchala temple. Fateh Khan, son of Dilawar Khan was the general of Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb had sent him to kill Saint Shah Naimtullah as he was suspected to have advised Sultan Shuja to rebel against him. Fateh Khan vomited blood and died on this very spot.

Chika mosque is around 150 metres of Kadam Rasul mosque.

Chika (Chamkan) Masjid

Built around 1450 the mosque or some debate it to be a mausoleum got its name for the numerous bats that infested this structure. It’s a single domed structure and inside you get a lot of structures that have come from an earlier Hindu temple. At one point this mosque was also used as a prison by Sultan Hussain Shah (1493 – 1519).

In the same compound lies Gumti Darwaza.

Gumti Darwaza

This is another gateway located almost parallel to Lukochuri Darwaja (Sahi Darwaza), but to visit Gumti Darwaza you have to enter through Chika Masjid. This is size is much smaller and once had the outer face covered with colorful enameled tiles. Some of these tiles are still very much visible around the structure.

Lukochuri Darwaja (Sahi Darwaza)

Located right next to Kadam Rasul Masjid is another gate which is known as Lukochuri Darwaja (Sahi Darwaza). This gate is located in the south of the citadel of Gouda.

This is a double-storied gateway set to have built by Shah Shuja (son of Emperor Shahjahan) in 1655. The gate has a flat roof with space for drummers (Naqqar Khana) who would play on the arrival of any royal. The design a typical of Mughal architecture.

The word Lukochuri means the game of hide & seek so there is a saying that the king used to play hide and seek with his queens here at this gate. 

Baisgazi Wall

This massive wall was built by Barbak Shah (of famous Ilyas Shahi dynasty) around 1460 to protect the palaces. To reach this place you go through the mango orchards and cross the big Ponds/water tanks beyond which you will see several sections of this wall still standing. While some portions are in bad shape some have remarkably survived the test of time.

The walls are tapper from bottom to top, the base has a width of around 15 feet which tapers to 9 feet at the top.  A portion of the wall has been restored to what it had actually looked and this can be seen right next to Ballal Bati which is our next destination.

Ballal Bati

At the beginning of this post, I have shared a timeline and you can see when Gouda was ruled by the Sena (Sen) DynastyBallal Sen (1160 – 1179) was the one who had captured the Gauda from the Pal. Recent excavation of this section led to the discovery of the foundation which the archaeologist says was the grand house of Ballal Sen. However, another set of historians believe this to be the foundation of a Buddhist monastery something similar which you can also see at Jagjivanpur.

Within fifty meters of Ballal Bati, one can see the section of the Baisgazi Wall which has been restored.

Jahaj Ghata

As the name suggests this was a river jetty and back then it is believed that the Ganges used to flow right next to it. This was a trading point for ships to come and dock. Not much of the structure remains but by its topography, it can be easily be figured out that it was once leading to the river.

Chamkati Masjid

Now we come out from the mango orchards back to the main road where we will find Chamkati Masjid. It is said to have been built in 1475 by Sultan Shamsuddin Yusuf Shah (of famous Ilyas Shahi dynasty). This is a single domed mosque with a veranda with three entrances. The name Chamkati according to some refers to the social caste of Muslims who were skin (cham) cutters (kati).

Tantipara Masjid

As the name suggests this mosque was for the Muslim weaver community. Constructed in 1480 by Mirshad Khan (of famous Ilyas Shahi dynasty) the mosque structure comprises 10 domes in a 5 X 5 pattern. The sign board of ASI has sadly been stolen.

Lottan Masjid

A little further down from Tantipara mosque we get Lottan Masjid. The mosque was built by Sultan Yusuf Shah (of famous Ilyas Shahi dynasty) in 1475 as a tribute to a royal courtesan. The mosque still has some visible colorful tiles on its outer walls. It has a single large dome and the floors inside have colored tiled mosaics. It is one the best mosques to my mind. If it can be restored, it can be one of the top tourist attractions.

Gunamanta Masjid

You are most likely to miss this mosque, if you are not careful. Ask for guidance or see google map. This is the last mosque in this series at Gour in India, there are a few more such mosques but they are now across the border in Bangladesh. Keep in mind that we are very near to the border now as you can see from the map. This mosque was built by Sultan Jalaluddin Fath Shah (of famous Ilyas Shahi dynasty) in 1484. The 24 domed mosque consists of a vaulted central nave along with three aisles and four openings. This mosque is just after the Lottan mosque.

Kotwali Darwaza

This is the border between India and Bangladesh. This structure is in no man’s land and if you look down, a portion of the wall further down is on the other side of the border.

When you reach this place, you need to first take permission from the BSF check post . There was no need to deposit an ID card like Aadhar, Driving Licence, etc. After that do inform that you are going to click photographs and proceed to visit the structure.

This is not a mosque but a massive wall. The wall along with the gateway (which does not exist now as it had collapsed) is 30 feet high and has a thickness of 16 feet. It is said that this was constructed somewhere between 1235 and 1315 (during the death of famous  Alauddin Khalji).

(the inputs (in Italics) are from a wonderful blog :  and )

It was time for us to go back to our hotel. First we went to see the Malda Museum, which was closed due to Dol. Then we left for our hotel.


We left our hotel at 11.30 pm and reached train station in time. The Radhikapur express left at 1220 am and reached Kolkata in time at 7.45 am.

To know more about ancient Bengal once can read this blog :

At the ancient time Bangla was not a united State/country like today. Different parts of Bangla were divided into different small regions. The ruler of each region ruled separately as their will. These small regions of Bangla were aggregately called as ‘Janapad’. 


 Starting From 4th century AD,  from the stone inscription and the literature of the Gupta era, post Gupta era, Pal, Sen and from others we found the names of the Janapads. The actual areas of  Janapads is difficult to say . But from different historical element their position can be imagined.


Though Gauro or Gauda name is quite familiar but there are much controversy about which area was the actual Gauro and how they named it. The first mention of Gauro was found in Panini’s book. Kautilya's Arthashastra mentions the industries and agricultural products of this town.  The inscription of Harshavardhana proves that the country of Gauro was not far from the coast.  In the 7th century, Karnasuvarna of Murshidabad district was the capital of Shashanka, the king of Gauro. Gauro was most famous under Pala dynasty.


In modern times Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum and some parts of Burdwan are considered to be the borders of Gaur.  In the 7th century, Karnasuvarna of Murshidabad district was the capital of Shashanka, the king of Gauro.


Among ancient Janapads, Pundra is very important. It has been said that a tribe named “Pundra” build up this Janpads.  This nation is mentioned in Vedic literature and Mahabharata. The name of the capital of Pundra was Pundranagar. Later that its name changed to Mohasthangar. Possibly at the time of Maurya King Ashok (273 AD.-232 AD) this ancient Pundra lost its independence. With the growth of prosperity it turns into Pundrabardhan at 5Th-6Th century AD. Experts claims that Mohasthangar (7 miles from Bogra) is the ruins of ancient Pundrabardhan. From the historical prospect Pundra was the most enriched Janapad.

Bangla is a very old Janapad. In very ancient book it has been said that Banga was the neighbor of Magadh and Kalinga. The description of this Janapad also find in king Chandra Gupta, Bikramaditya,Chalukya and others inscription and  the books of Kalidas. At the south-east side of the present Bangladesh a Janapad named Banga had build up. From different sings and other things it Seems  that the place between Ganga and Bhagirathi was called Banga. At the time of Pala and Sen dynasty the area of Banga had been reduced.

Greater Dhaka, Mymensingh, Comilla, Barisal, Pabna, Faridpur, Nayakhali, Bakerganj and Patuakhali's lower wetlands and the western highlands of Yasher, Kushtia, Nadia, Shantipur and the adjoining areas of Bikrampur in Dhaka belonged to Banga Janapada.

According to the Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang , Samatat was a new kingdom in the Southeastern part of Bengal. Some experts believe that Somototh or Samatat was the ancient name of Comilla. The present Comilla and Nayakhali areas, including the Mehna, are included in the Samatat.  One of the ancient monuments found in Comilla : Mainamati is 'Shalban Bihar'.


In Bangla we come to know another janapad named Barenda land. Barendra was the most popular area of pundra Bardhan. This famous janapad was situated in between Ganga and korotoya river. Bogura, Dinajpur and a large area of  Rajshahi and Pabna belonged to Barendra. There is a Barendra museum in Rajsahi.


Tamralipta was a famous port of ancient Bengal. The Tamluk area of ​​the present Midnapore district was the center of the Tamralipta town. For maritime trade it was  a famous place. From the seventh century onwards, it came to be known as Dandabhukti. The prosperity of the copper-plated port was lost after the eighth century.


Rarh is an ancient town in Bengal. From the west bank of the river Bhagirathi, the southern part of the river Ganges belongs to the Radha region. The river Ajay divides the Rarh region into two parts. North Rarh and South Rah. The whole of Birbhum district, in the western part of the present Murshidabad district, Burdwan, Hughli and the Howrah district.


Trade and Commerce: Bengal enjoyed prosperity through trade and commerce in ancient period . The rivers afforded easy communication for internal trade and Bengal’s location on the Bay of Bengal offered her the opportunity of participating in International trade. For an example, Bengal used to import spices and silk clothes in Greece and Rome .



Name of ancient Janapads

Current Location



Parts of greater Bogra, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Dinajpur districts are special.



North – western part of Bogra, Pabna, Rajshahi division and some parts of

Rangpur and Dinajpur.



Kushtia, Jessore, Nadia



Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Burdwan and Chapainawabganj


Somototh or Samatat

Greater Cumilla and Noakhali regions



Burdwwan district in the southern part of West Bengal


Harrkul or Harikel

Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Tripura, Sylhet


Chandra Dip

Barishal, Bikrampur, Munshiganj district and its adjoining areas.



Khulna and Coastal Areas



Jalpaiguri, Greater Goalpara District of Assam, Greater Kamrup District



Medinipur District



Cox’s Bazar, Parts of Myanmar, South of the Karnafuli River



The southern part of the west bank of the Ganges – Bhagirathi modernly the

southern part of Burdwan, the greater part of Hughli, the Howrah and the

Birbhum districts.



Munshiganj and surrounding areas



Barishal, Khulna and Bagherhat


Bangla or Bangala

Khulna, Barishal, Sundarban forest areas of Patuakhali



Chronological order