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The Rajbongshi (also known as Rangpuri, Rajbanshi and Koch Rajbongshi)[1][2] is a ethnic group inhabiting parts of Assam, Meghalaya, northern West Bengal, and some pockets on the eastern parts of Nepal, Bihar, Bhutan and northern Bangladesh.[3]

Rajbanshis
Total population
c. 16 – c. 18 million
Regions with significant populations
 IndiaAssam = 6,900,000[1]
Meghalaya = 21,381[2]
Religion
Hinduism, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Nashya Shaikh

EtymologyEdit

According to historian Kanaklal Barua, the term Koch is of aboriginal origin and is used to refer to an ethnic group from Kamarupa-Kamata kingdom. On the other hand, the term Rajbanshi, according to A. C. Choudhury is supposedly derived from Aryan or Dravidian word Rajvamsi meaning "Kshatriya or people belong to royal race or descendants of the king". Swarna Lata Baruah indicates that the word 'Rajvamsi' refers to a distinct Dravidian community.[4]

The Koch or Koch Rajbanshi tribe were ethnically and culturally related to the same Koch Dynasty who ruled their land, and vice versa, i.e., the Koch dynasty of Assam, northern Bengal, Rangpur part. Many however trace this etymological relation to the dynasties prior to that of the Koches.[5] In Assam the Koches are officially recognized by the Government of Assam as'Koch-Rajbanshi', in West Bengal they are known as 'Rajbanshi' and in Nepal they are known as 'Rajbanshi' and 'Koch'.

OriginsEdit

The origin of Koch (Rajbongshi ) dates back to the Vedas as stated by the Koch Scholar and Koch Ratna Sibendra Narayan Koch. The Koches were the ruler of Kamata Kingdom which developed on the western part of the older Kamarupa kingdom.[3][better source needed][4][6] In the Historical Book "The Cooch Behar State and its Land Revenue Settlements" Published by the Koch King of "Cooch Behar State" in the Year 1903, clearly states that Koch and the Rajvanshi are of Koch Origin and Rajvanshi or Koch is the same community of the State. A wide literature are available of the Koch Rajbanshi which were documented by the Koch King and their Princely State, however, their present homeland ranges from Pragjyotisha, Pundra and Kamarupa in various ancient texts like Vishnu Purana, Kalika Purana, Harivamsa, Yogini Tantra, Bhramari tantra, and even in the great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. References are also found in the later texts from the medieval times like the and. It is from such sources that the local traditions and myths about Koch Rajbanshi history developed. The very first proper ethnographic details were documented by Colonial ethnographers of erstwhile British empire, who aimed at 'scientifically' documenting various caste and tribal groups. Buchanan-Hamilton suggested that the Rajbanshi or Koch had a common ethnic origin and are from the same Old Koch Stock and when the Old Koch who were previously Agamas-Hindu converted to Vedic-Hinduism they were termed as either Rajbanshi or Koch Rajbongshi which was established since the time of the Koch King of Koch Dynasty. The Koch-Rajbanshi people are found in parts of Assam, Meghalaya, North Bengal, Bihar within India and is also present in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.[7][copyright violation]

About KamatapurEdit

Kamatapur is a historical and cultural region of South Asia, comprising present areas of Northeast India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. The Koch Rajbanshi people of South Asia, particular Northeast India consider themselves as Kamatapuri, since the historical memory of the Kamatapur is still alive in their imagination and they continue to protect and preserve the Kamatapuri culture, language and art despite many challenges. In the mid of the 13th century, Sandhya Rai established the Kamrup Kamata Kingdom comprising areas of present North Bengal, lower Assam and some areas of present Bangladesh. The Kamrup Kamata kingdom was the continuation of the old powerful Kamrup Kingdom. Kamrup Kamata Kingdom went through various ups and downs in its seven hundred years of existence (1250 to 1950). It also went through various names i.e. Kamata, Koch Kamata, Koch Country, Behar and Koch (Cooch) Behar. Kamata alias Cooch Behar became a princely State of British India. After the Independence of India, Cooch Behar joined Indian domain in 1948. In 1950 Cooch Behar was declared a District of West Bengal. Some important areas of the old Kamata Kingdom, like Bijni estate, Gauripur estate, and the Beltola Kingdom became part of present Assam and Rangpur became part of present Bangladesh. The traditional and historical identity of Kamatapur and the Kamatapuri people were lost in the post-independent scenario as both were adjusted in the new political and cultural identities of the Indian subcontinent. There has been a series of movements since the early of the 20th century for the cultural and political recognition of the Kamatapuri identity. However, very little attempt had been made to preserve and document the art, culture, history, and literature of Kamatapur and the Kamatapuris.[8]

History of KamatapurEdit

The history of Kamatapur is not properly represented in modern day historical writings. Unfortunately, it's not part of any post-colonial nationalistic history of the Indian subcontinent. The history of Kamatapur is a partial history of present West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Meghalaya of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. The disappearance of Kamatapur as a region and the emergence of Assamese and Bengali, two language-based nationalism is the main reason behind the absence and non-representation of the History of Kamatapur. However, a glimpse into the pages of history books, particularly Assam, tells the rich and colourful history of Kamatapur without any doubt. Kamatapur is the other name of ancient Kamrup kingdom, medieval Kamrup Kamata or Koch Kamata kingdom and the native Koch Bihar (Cooch Behar) State of British India. When the kingdom of Kamrup of South Asia was invaded by Tughril Khan Malik Yuzbeg, the capital of the kingdom was transferred from Kamrup Nagar (North Guwahati) to Kamatapur (Koch Behar). From that time onward this kingdom was known as Kamata or Kamrup-Kamata Kingdom. At that time the Kingdom of Kamata comprised areas of Assam and undivided Bengal. Kamata was ruled by different rulers of different dynasties from the period of a mid 13th century to the 15th century, until the rise of the Koch Dynasty. Being at the entry point of present Northeast India the Kingdom of Kamata had to face the invaders coming from both Indian and Bhutan side. An attack on Kamata by Sultan Barbak in the mid 15th century was resisted by the then ruler of Kamatapur Chakradhvaj. Later at the end 15th Century during the reign of Nilambar (Son of Chakradhvaj), the Kingdom was attacked by the ruler of Bengal (Gaura), Hussain Shah. Hussain Shah destroyed the capital Kamatapur and established an Afghan colony over there. The people and the Bhuyans (Land Lords) of Kamata united under the able leadership of Bishwa Singha, an ambitious Koch youth from present Kokrajhar of Assam and throne way the Afghan colony from Kamatapur. Bishwa Singha established the Koch Dynasty in Kamatapur in the early of 16th Century and brought political stability in the Kamrup Kamata region. After Bishwa Singha, his elder son Nara Singha ruled Kamata for a while till his bother Naranaryan ascended the throne. Narnarayan, with the help of his bother Chilarai (also Minister and Commander in chief of the Koch Kamata Army), established the Koch sovereignty almost on entire Northeast Indian Kingdoms (Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Khasi, Jayantiya etc.) and established a cordial relationship with the Mughal. This period of Koch rule is regarded as the golden period in the history of the region since many valuable literary works were completed under the patronage of Narnarayan. Sankardev, the great scholar and saint of that time composed most of his major work under the patronage of these two brothers. After the death of Chilarai, Kamata Kingdom was split into two parts between Raghudev Narayan, son of Chilarai and Naranaryan as Koch Kamata (also Koch Behar) and Koch Hajo (Kamrup). The partition weakened the power of the Koches. The Koch Hajo Kingdom suffered several partitions in the later period and smaller kingdoms like Bijni, Darang and Beltola emerged from Koch Hajo. The Koch Kamata or the Koch Behar Kingdom became smaller and lost its sovereignty to the Mughals of India. It should be mentioned here that the independent-minded Koches always tried to retain their sovereignty. In 1773, during the rule of Dharmendra Narayan Koch Behar came under British India by a treaty were British agreed to drive away the Bhutiyas from the Kingdom. Thus Kamrup Kamata Kingdom became a princely state of British India. The territories were gradually lost to the British due to various conspiracy and politics and when Koch Behar joined the Indian Domain on 28 August 1949 it was only a symbolic version of the vast Kamrup Kamta kingdom of the 16th century. It was hoped that Koch Behar would soon become an Indian state like other princely states of British India, but unfortunately Koch Behar was merged as a District of present West Bengal of India, despite opposition from the people of Koch Behar.[9]

Lifestyle and cultureEdit

The Koch Rajbongshi community had traditionally been a largely agricultural community, cultivating mainly rice, pulses, and maize. Rice is the staple food for the majority of the population. Even in the 21st century, a large portion of this community still adhere to a rural lifestyle, though urbanization is on a constant rise. The food consumed and the diet pattern is similar to all the Koches of Assam, West Bengal, Nepal, Bangladesh, Meghalaya. Rice and Pulses are consumed on regular basis along with vegetables and bhajis (fries- mainly potatoes). Typical is the Dhékir sāg and naphā sāg, two types of leafy vegetable preparation, mostly boiled with very little added oil, out of newly-born shoots of fern leaves. In lower Assam, a vegetable preparation of bamboo shoots is also consumed. Consumption of stale rice or pantha bhāt is common within Koch Rajbongshi. Cooking is mainly done using mustard oil, though sunflower oil is sometimes used. As far as non-vegetarian foods are concerned, the Koch Rajbongshi population consumes a large amount of meat and eggs unlike other neighborhood populations from Bengal region, who consume a large amount of fish. Goat meat and sheep (if available) is generally consumed, and consumption of fowl meat is discouraged, as a result of Sanskritization, though such barriers now cease to exist. There were rituals involving sacrificing pigs in Ghordew puja, and ducks in Laxmi puja. Eggs of Ducks and poultry are consumed. Ducks and Fish is also consumed but not in very large number. The rivers of northern Bengal does not sustain large varieties of fishes because of its non-perennial nature. However, in lower Assam areas, large rivers like the Brahmaputra sustain large varieties of fish which becomes an important part of the dietary habit of the Koch Rajbanshi living there.

A typical Koch Rajbanshi home is essential of the rectangular pattern, with an open space (egina) in the middle. This is done mostly for protection against both wild animals and strong winds. The north side holds the betel nut and fruit gardens, the west contains Bamboo gardens while the east and the south is generally left open to allow sunshine and air to penetrate into the household. Though such a pattern is more prominent among the landed gentry. Koch Rajbongshi traditional attires are mainly Patani, Agran, Angsha, Chadar, Lifan, Phota and various other traditional costumes being weaved at their traditional hand loom in their home. The traditional clothing for men is Angsha and Jama or inners, while for women is bukuni-patani; Agran; Angsha; Chadar a piece of cloth tied around the chest that extends up to the knee. Lifan or Phota are worn like a wrapper. Regarding the traditional attire of the Koch Rajbongshi Tribe, it is clearly mentioned in the Historic Book which was published by the Koch King in 1903, "The Cooch Behar State and its Land Revenue Settlements". The Koch Rajbongshi Tribe has still preserved their age-old ethnic attires and is being used on a regular basis as their common costumes, The Koch Rajbongshi (Koch) Tribe prefer to wear their traditional attires in-spite of the fact that the modern costumes are widely available.[10]

Music forms an integral part of Koch Rajbongshi (Koch) culture. The main musical forms of Koch Rajongshi(Koch) culture are Kamatapuri Folk Song, Bhawaiyya, chorchunni, palatia, lahankari, tukkhya, among many others. Various instruments are used for such performances, string instruments like-dotora, sarindra and bena;double membrane instruments like- tasi, dhak, khol and mridanga; gongs and bells like-kansi, kartal; and wind instruments like- sanai and kupa bansi.[11]

Famous peopleEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Kaushik Deka (27 May 2016). "Narendra Modi may turn Assam into a tribal state". India Today. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Census 2011 - Meghalaya" (PDF). Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b "The Portal of North Bengal Development Department". wbnorthbengaldev.gov.in. Retrieved 2019-04-28.
  4. ^ a b Halder, Tarun Kr. (2017-06-25). "Koch Rajbanshi identity question - An analysis from historical perspective" (PDF). International Journal of Applied Research. The Koch and The Rajbanshi both the terms refer to some groups of people but the basic difference between the two terms- the former is aborigine; while the latter is Aryan or Dravidian origin. The term Koch or Mech used in order to identify one of the plain ethnic groups from Kamrupa-Kamata kingdom (Barua 2008 189) [1]. On the other hand the term ‘Rajbanshi’ presumed to be derived from the Sanskrit or Dravidian word ‘Rajvamsi’ means Khsartiya or people belong to royal race or descendants of the king (Choudhary 2011 09) [4], whereas the term ‘Rajvamsi’ also refers to a distinct community of Dravidian affinities (Baruah 2007 203) [2].
  5. ^ Nath, D. (1989). History of the Koch Kingdom: 1515-1615. Delhi: Mittal Publications.
  6. ^ Nath, D. (1989-01-01). History of the Koch Kingdom, C. 1515-1615. Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170991090.
  7. ^ "Origins". CKRSD. CKRSD. 25 June 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  8. ^ Das, Arup J. "History of Kamatapur". kamatapur.com. CKRSD. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  9. ^ Arup J, Das. "History of Kamatapur". CKRSD. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  10. ^ Chaudhuri, Harendra Narayan (1903). The Cooch Behar State and its Land Revenue Settlements. Princely Cooch Behar State: The Cooch Behar State Press. p. 135.
  11. ^ Sanyal, Charu Chandra (1965). The Rajbansis of North Bengal. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society.