Saga of fight for Independence!
Chapter 21: A forgotten chapter- Bhabani Pathak and Sannyasi Rebellion
The Sannyasi rebellion does not find place in the books of history all thanks to the marxist historians. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1882 novel, “Anandamath” a 336 page long novel is all about tribute to these heroes of the Indian independence movement. It is sad that the rest of the country seems to have forgotten many of the heroes who sacrified their life in the freedom struggle. The novel Anandamath is also otherwise famous for publishing our national song, “Vande Mataram” and sparking the first fire of nationalism in a heavily subjugated population. The novel itself was vehemently banned by the British government upon its publication, it only came back in print after 1947, long after the author’s death.
The British increased the Diwani amount by double in the first year they came to power and by ten per cent more the year after that. A number of their policy moves had a negative effect on the economy, one of which was the famine of 1770. The landlords could no longer afford to pay the travelling of the Sanyasi to the piligrimages. Moreover, the British looked upon these Sannyasis as nothing but robbers and dacoits who were out to get a share of their rightful taxes. Also they had a problem with so many men moving about in a band. It made them look suspicious to the foreign government. They actively tried to bar their entry into Bengal and severely restricted their movements within the state. This effectively put a ban on the kind of lifestyle the Sannyasis had been practicing since ancient times.
Shortly after the annexation of Bengal in 1776-77, Majnum Shah, the leader of the Faqirs, began to levy contributions on the zamindars and peasants and, defied the British authority. After Majnum Shah’s death, Chirag Ali Shah, supported by Pathans, Rajputs and the disbanded Indian soldiers extended the operations to the northern districts of Bengal. Two famous Hindu leaders who supported him were Bhawani Pathak and Devi Chaudhurani, a woman. The Faqirs led by-Chirag Ali Shah gained considerable strength and attacked English factories, seized their goods, cash, arms and ammunitions. There were a number of skirmishes between the Faqirs and Company’s troops. The Faqirs were finally brought under control at the beginning of the nineteenth certury.
The Hindu Naga and Giri armed Sanyasis once formed a part of the armies of the Nawabs of Awadh and Bengal, and also of the Maratha and Rajput chiefs. The immediate cause of the rebellion was the restrictions, imposed on the pilgrims visiting the holy places. The Sanyasis raided the English factories and collected contributions from the towns, leading to a series of conflicts between the large bands of Sanyasis and the British forces. After nearly half-a-century long strife, the Sanyasi Uprising ended in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The Sanyasi-Faqir resistance had some commons features. Both groups of mendicants lived on alms provided by their followers.
Bhabani Pathak was an unique personality and a historical figure in Sannyasi (Fakir) rebellion. Along with the rebellion leader Devi Choudhurani looted many ships packed up with goods of Rich merchants and of Englishmen in 1787. Their constant attacks devastated the British Rule in Mymensingh and Bagura. He could not be arrested even after issuing warrant of arrests and sending of infrantries. With a few followers he fought with British soldiers and sacrificed his life. He had close contact with Fakir rebellion leader Majnu Shah.
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