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Richness of History:

The district got its present name in the early eighteenth century and its present shape in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the earliest evidences of history in the district date back to the pre-historic days perhaps as early as circa 1500 B.C.

The capital city of Sasanka, the great king of Gouda (comprising the most of Bengal) in the seventh century AD and perhaps that of Mahipala, one of the later Pala kings of Bengal, were in this district too. The Nawab Murshid Quli Khan made Murshidabad the capital city of Sube Bangla, comprising of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The East India Company reigned from here for many years after the Battle of Plassey; Travellers extolled its glory through ages.

Here thrived the cultures of many races and of religions like Buddhism, Brahmanism, Vaishnavism, Jainism, Islam and Christianity. Here settled the European traders like the Dutch, the British, the French and the Armenians.
 

The Land


The great river Bhagirathi has bifurcated the triangle shaped district and has divided it into two broad historical and geographical regions.

I) The Radha Area This is the area on the right side of the Bhagirathi having the pre-dominant geographical character of a plateau. It was also known as Gouda.

II) The Bagdi Area This is the area on the left side of the river formed by the Gangetic alluvial deposits. It was also known as Bangal. This area was formed later than the Radha.

 
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The Age of Pre-History and Proto-History
During the excavation of the irrigation-cum-navigational channel from the Ganga in 1974, just to the North-East of Farakka Barrage, evidence of ancient civilization was found.

The excavations revealed remnants of habitation at four different strata:

Stratum

Relics

Type

Culture

Lowest

Evidence of ring wells with pottery-rings, primitive looking terracotta female human figurines

 

Neolithic Age

Second lowermost

Brown coloured pottery utensils

Similar to those found in Pandurajar Dhibi, Burdwan

Bronze-age culture complex

Third lowermost

Pottery, sixteen gold coins

Northern Black-polished pottery

Maurya-Shunga Age

Uppermost

Terracotta vessels

With Roman like spouts and lotus shaped designs

Kushana and early Gupta Age

 
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I) The Pre-Maurya Era 

The first mention of the Radha region is found in the Jaina scripture Acharanga Sutra. The scripture mentions a visit to the Radha by Mahavira in the 6th century BC. Probably he did not visit Murshidabad but possibly visited Radha areas under Birbhum and Bankura districts. However Bimbisara (6th century BC) or later the Nandas might have brought Radha and Bagdi areas of Murshidabad within their empire. 
 

II) The Maurya Era

Chandragupta Maurya (324-300 BC) established the Maurya Empire by ousting the Nandas. Though the Chinese traveler Hiuen-Tsang made references of Ashoka stupas at Karnasuvarna it cannot be said with certainty whether this district area formed part of the Maurya Empire at any time.
 

III) The Post-Maurya Era 

Whether this area was under the rule of the post-Maurya empires like the Shungas, Kanvas or Kushanas cannot be ascertained. However, some Kushana coins have been found at Rajbari Danga; but findings of these coins do not necessarily imply occupation. 

Excavations at Rajbari Danga: Excavations at Rajbari Danga near Karnasubarna Railway Station were done by the Archaeology Department of the Kolkata University in 1962, 1964 & 1979. They revealed evidence of civilizations in four layers dating back to the 2nd- 3rd Century AD and up to the 2nd- 3rd Century AD. 
 

IV) The Gupta Era (AD 4th Century to 6th Century) 

It can be said with some certainly that areas of this district were under the rule of the Gupta, which might have continued up to the early 6th Century AD. 
There is evidence of this in the chronicles of the Chinese traveler I-Tsing (AD 673 675), the Allahabad Pillar Edict of Samudragupta (AD 335 338), Damodarpur copper plate of Chadragupta-II, Brihatsamhita (5th century AD) of Barahamihira. Besides, there are archeological evidence within the district, like Gupta coins found at Rajbari Danga, Gitagram (near Salar) and Gouripur (near Mahipala).
 

V) The Gouda Kingdom and Sasanka 

The Gupta suzerainty over Gauda or Gaudaka (as mentioned in Brihatsamhita) became merely nominal by the 6th century AD. From the Haraha inscription of Maukhari King Ishanavarma dated AD 554, it is learnt that in course of his victorious campaigns he ravaged the Gauda people and forced them to retreat towards the sea (meaning southern Bengal). The later Guptas tried to occupy Gauda and perhaps Mahasenagupta briefly occupied it. In the latter part of the  6th century AD, Sasanka was perhaps a vassal chief under him. 

The long drawn war with the Maukharis, the Kalachuris and the rulers of the Kamarupa shattered the power of the later Guptas. Sasanka took this opportunity to build his own kingdom, perhaps also in the 6th Century AD.
Sasanka is the first known king of Bengal who extended his territories beyond the present boundaries of the state into the west. He integrated the Gauda Empire and established his capital at Karnasuvarna. 

After becoming king he attacked Kamarupa, he defeated the princes Supratishthita Varman and Bhashkara Varman;and  later he freed them by making the king his vassal. He then occupied the eastern parts of Bengal and by AD 619 extended his territories up to the Chilka lake of Orrisa in the South and up to Varanasi in the West. In the last part of his reign he had to face joint attacks by the great king of Northern India, Harshavardhana and the king of Kamarupa, Bhashkara Varman. But they could occupy Gouda only after the death of Sasanka (sometime between AD 630 637). 

 

Karnasuvarna:

Excavations as Rajbari Danga have helped to identify Karnasuvarna and the Buddhist Raktamrittika Mahavihara. After the death of Sasanka the famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang came to Karnasuvarna in AD 637 638. At that time it was a thriving city. The Mahavihara was in its full glory. Though Sasanka was himself a follower of Brahmanism both Hindu and Buddhist religions thrived during his time.
 

 VI) The Pala Era

After about a hundred years of anarchy in Bengal, Gopala (760 AD), the founder of the Pala kingdom, was elected the king. The dynasty continued for more than four hundred years. This district was under their rule for almost the entire period. Mahipala, one of the later Pala kings, perhaps had the capital at Mahipala Nagar (now village Mahipal) in Jangipur Sub-division. 
 

VII) The Sena Era

During the reign of the Senas, the most powerful dynasty after the Pala, this district was probably within their empire for some time. 

 
References :
Statistical accounts of Bengal - W.W. Hunter
History of the Murshidabad - Major Tool Walsh
Musnad of Murshidabad - P.C. Majumdar
History of Bengal - Sir Jadunath Sarkar
Murshidabader Kahini - Nikhil Nath Roy
Bengal Nawabs - Sir Jadunath Sarkar
House of Jagat Seth - J.H. Litl
Glimpses of Bengal - A.C. Campbell
West Bengal District Gazetteer  
   

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