Who Was Buxi Jagabandhu?
The Forgotten Hero: Buxi Jagabandhu and the Historic Paika Rebellion of 1817:
Buxi Jagabandhu is one of the rare known personality in the Indian history, isn’t it? Unfortunately this name is confined to only handful of Indians even after 75 years of Independence. He was none other than the main lead in ‘The Paika Rebellion’ (officially recognized as the 1st ever ‘Armed Revolt’ or ‘War of Indian Independence’ against the British in India) which occurred way back in 1817. This great freedom fighter was from Odisha and earlier it was known as Utkal Pradesh or The Kalinga Empire.
The Charismatic Leadership of Buxi Jagabandhu in Odisha’s History:
He was born in Rodanga, a place near Khordha district, Odisha in 1773 in a zamindar family. The actual name of Buxi Jagabandhu was Jagbandhu Vidyadhar Mohapatra Bhramarbar Ray, fondly known as Paika Buxi. Jagabandhu Vidyadhar received the title of ‘Buxi’ from his ancestors. He was the zamindar of Rodanga and the Gajapati King of Khordha, Mukunda Dev II had appointed him as the Commander-in-Chief in his army. He was a skilled fighter and specialized in ‘Guerrilla Warfare’. A charismatic leader with an extraordinary sense of wit, Buxi Jagabandhu was a true patriot in many senses.
Why Did The Paika Rebellion Take Place?
The Paika Rebellion: Triggers and Grievances of Odisha’s Uprising:
As per the Indian History, the reasons behind the Paika Rebellion was somehow connected to several social, economic and political causes. Shortly after taking over Odisha from the Maratha in the year 1803, the British introduced a new system that angered King Mukunda Dev II of Khordha. The Paikas (local wealthy administrators of Khordha) used to enjoy tax-free land possession since ages. But the criminal land revenue policy of the East India Company affected the peasants and the zamindars equally.
Discontent and Revolt: The Khordha Raja’s Rebellion and the Paika Uprising:
Abolition of ‘Cowrie’ currency system and imposition of salt tax created discontent and hardship among the commoners. So the Khordha Raja planned a rebellion with the help of Paikas against the British East India Company. His planned rebellion, with the help of Paikas, was soon discovered by the British and was dismantled soon. After that they confiscated the territory of Khordha Raja and the lands of the Paikas. The discontent over the policies of the Company was simmering everywhere in Odisha which later grew up to a bigger revolt in the year of 1817.
What Was The Major Role Of Buxi Jagabandhu In The Paika Rebellion?
Jagabandhu Leads Paika Rebellion:
Jagabandhu was a great military leader, a seasonal tactician and far-sighted statesman. He planned to take people of all categories irrespective of caste, creed and religion into his confidence. The revolt was organised under the banner of former King of Khordha – the ‘Thakura Raja’ to get compliance from Garjat Chiefs and people of Odisha. He sent letters on palm leaf to Ghumsar, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj Rajas to join the rebellion. Amongst them Buxi was their natural leader. In last part of March 1817 about 400 rebel Kondh Chohars equipped with their traditional arms reached Khordha. Paikas of Khordha and their leaders Dalabeheras joined them under the leadership of Jagabandhu. On the First of April, 1817, the rebels heralded the great Paika Rebellion, launching an attack on the Police Station of Banapur, setting fire to government quarters, killing 100 men, and looting Rs.15000/- from the government treasury.
Paikas Overpower British Forces:
Upon receiving this information, authorities in Cuttack dispatched two platoons of soldiers to Khordha and Pipili. On 1st April 1817 the Collector Cuttack marched towards Khordha with 60 Sepoys. When they reached Gangapada on the way to Khordha the Paikas intercepted them with grenade attack. The Collector fled to Cuttack with an injury leaving all his tents, ammunitions with elephants. The rebel forces defeated the army sent to Khordha and killed its leader. On 9thApril, 60 soldiers marched from Puri to Khordha who promulgated Martial Law. On 14th April, 1817 a batch of 500 rebels reached Puri, burnt the Court and Govt. quarters.
Resistance Spreads, Guerrilla Warfare Tactics:
The Gajapati king on request to assume leadership, out of fear he refused. The Pandas (Priests) of the temple joined them. Martial Law was proclaimed at Puri, Khordha and Gop and steps were taken to prevent the spread of revolt to the Tributary Mahals. At Pipili the rebels tried to rescue the Raja from the custody of the troops but failed, 19 rebels were killed. The Paikas avoided frontal attack and resorted to guerrilla Warfare, hiding in forests.
Rebel Victories and Underground Resistance:
When the Paikas captured Sarangagarh of Cuttack, the kings of Kanika and Kujanga had co-operated them. Narayan Paramguru and Bamadev Pattajoshi were the leaders of Paikas of Kanika and Kujanga. The British force proceeded to Kujanga in Sept. 1817 and occupied Paradeep and went to Nayagarh where they faced a fight of 2000 brave Paikas but lost. The king of Kujanga was surrounded and imprisoned in Barabati Fort for one year. Paramaguru and Pattajoshi were banished to Andamans. In the underground activities the rebels started arson, dacoity, murder and obstructed the collection of revenue. Buxi Jabagandhu felt convinced in a congenial situation, to enter into a workable compromise for the interest of all.
Jagabandhu: Rebel Icon and Legacy:
The Govt. exempted him from all punishments and arranged for honourable stay with a pension of Rs.150/- per month at Cuttack. Mukunda Dev II died in prison. Jagabandhu having an extraordinary personality, wise guidance and strong determination kept British administration in serious anxiety for a long period of 7 years. Buxi Jagabandhu, the hero of the first great political upheaval of Odisha breathed his last on 24th January 1829 leaving behind his two wives and the only son Gopinath Bidyadhar of nine year of age.
What Were The Effects & Outcomes Of The Paika Rebellion?
The East India Company also appointed a commission to inquire into the causes of the rebellion. The Company set about reorienting their administration under the newly appointed Commissioner of Cuttack, Robert Ker, to ensure such a rebellion would not repeat itself. These attempts remained half-hearted at best, with the Company authorities viewing Odisha largely as a convenient land-based link between their presidencies of Madras and Bengal. Odisha continued her campaigns against Company rule in Tapanga in 1827 and by involving herself in the Banapur Rebellion of 1835. Dora Bisoi and Chakra Bisoi led separate Kondh uprisings, followed by the Kol rebellion, Veer Surendra Sai’s leadership in the Sambalpur uprising, and the Bhuyan uprising under Dharanidhar Naik, all of which were major uprisings against the rule of the East India Company.
As per the assessment of historians – “History must correct itself to record ‘The Paika Rebellion’ (1817-1826) as the ‘First War of Indian Independence’ which was fought 40 years before the Sepoy Mutiny (1857)”. In October 2017, GoI officially recognized ‘The Paika Rebellion’ as the ‘First War of Indian Independence’ during the bicentenary celebration function held at Bhubaneswar, Odisha. Culture Ministry, GoI also launched postal stamps to celebrate this very occasion. In the recent past, various occasions have showcased the biography of Buxi Jagabandhu through portrayals in drama, stage shows, feature films, and serials. Recently Star Plus Network has launched ‘Vidrohi’, a historical series based on the Biography of Buxi Jagabandhu. The brave Buxi jagabandhu will be remembered for decades. As we say, “The Legacy of The Brave Never Dies And It Continues.”
Disclaimer:- Views expressed are the author’s own.