GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (25)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

Estêvão Cacela calls the river Torsa “Ganges,” a classification comprehensible at the time, since all the streams that flowed into the Bay of Bengal were Ganges or Gangá – literally “Indian river.” The author of the Relation immediately draws attention to the absence of the local monarch, who had sought refuge in a nearby city due to a particularly rigorous rainy season: “a few months before, disgusted by the floods the river in the city made, he went to live in place formerly called Colamborim, and the merchants of Behar made haste to give pleasure to the prince and to found a new city, that when we arrived there, it was very beautiful in the order and greatness of the streets, that were better than those of Behar.” Here the Jesuits had an audience with Gaburassa, and from there, accompanied by men of the confidence of the Rajah, they set out for Rangamati at the foot of the mountains of the kingdom of Bhutan.

Pran Narayan (1626-1665) – the Gaburassa mentioned in the Relation of Cacela – ruled in peace until 1657, at which time in the Mughal empire a dynastic struggle began between Aurangzeb and his brothers. Pran Narayan took advantage of the situation to invade Bengal, capturing, in 1658, Ghoraghat, important Mughal outpost, and, in 1661, Daca, its capital. However, Aurangzeb had already consolidated the power invading with its armies the regions of Behar (Cooch Bihar) and Assam. Pran Narayan retired to the mountains and there waged a guerrilla fight for three years, eventually signing a peace pact with the Nawab Khan Shaista, in 1664. During his rule the kingdom of Behar expanded to Tajhat Baharband Pargana, to the south; Basakpur, near Khutaghat, Goalpara district, to the east; and Bhatgaon, including the kingdom of Morang to the west. Pran Narayan, patron of the arts, rebuilt the temples of Baneswar, Shandeswar and Kameswari in Gosanimari. He ordered that architects from Delhi be brought in to complete the temple at Jalpesh, although he died before the completion of the work. It also built wide roads, bridges and beautiful buildings in its capital. In spite of the descriptive patent in the writings of Estêvão Cacela, of the celebrated Colamborim (present Kalabari) there are no vestiges left. As for Rangamati, it is a name that lingers in the vast area occupied by the tea plantations in the vicinity of the border Jaygaon. Half of the area of this city is located in Bhutanese territory and is named Puntsholing.

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