Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 56


BY: SUN STAFF - 28.4 2021

Map of Ancient Vikramapura

A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.


The Varmans

Excerpted here from Banglapedia is an excellent historical summary of ancient Vikramapura, the capital city of the Varmans of Bengal. The history of this place has been recorded back to the 10th Century, and no doubt preceded that by long years. During the time of the mahajanapadas, Vikramapura was an important center of politics and commerce in the Vanga janapada, and was the capital city of the Chandra, Varman and Sena rulers from the early 10th to early 13th Centuries.

"Vikramapura, the political and cultural centre of ancient Bengal survives only in the name of an area in the Munshiganj district of Bangladesh. The remains of the city of Vikramapura, the capital of the ancient kingdoms of southeastern Bengal, are lost and its location can only be guessed on the basis of available data.

The name of Vikramapura survived in the name of a pargana in the Mughal period. It appears in Todarmal's settlement in the 16th century yielding revenue of Rs 83,376. By 1728 the revenue had increased to Rs 1,03,001, and to decrease again in 1763 to Rs 24,568, partly due to creation of two new parganas, Rajnagar and Baikunthapur, out of it and partly due to the destructive activity of the Padma. Today the name does not exist even officially; but the inhabitants of a vast tract of land in the Munshiganj district still feel pride in saying that they belong to Vikramapura, which, of course, emanates from the past glory of the area.

Vikramapura appears for the first time in the copperplates of Srichandra as sa khalu xrivikramapura samavasita xrimajjayaskandhavarat (from the royal camp of victory or capital situated at Vikramapura) and it held that position through the rule of the subsequent Varman and Sena dynasties.

Even during the rule of the Senas, who held sway over practically the whole of Bengal, Vikramapura continued to be their capital, and Laksmanasena came to this place after his defeat at Nadia at the hands of the Muslim invader Bakhtiyar Khalji, where his two sons, Vishvarupasena and Keshavasena ruled for a short period. Though the copperplates of Vishvarupasena and Keshavasena do not mention Vikramapura as the capital, but the land granted by them lay in Vikramapura bhaga, indicating their hold over the area.

Vikramapura's eminence continued till the early 1280s. From then onwards, throughout the Sultanate period, Vikramapura remained in oblivion, only to make a comeback as the name of a pargana in the Mughal revenue roll. The heroic resistance to Mughal aggression put up by the zamindars of Vikramapur added short-lived glory to Vikramapura.

Today Vikramapura is an extensive region of the Munshiganj district, and at some point of time it extended over some parts of Faridpur across the Padma. However, it must be said that it is difficult to ascertain the exact boundary of the territorial unit of that name. Vikramapura comprised the area with the Padma on the west, the Dhaleswari on the north and east, and the confluence of the Arial river and the Meghna on the south. A local poet Lala Ramgati in his Mayatimirachandrika mentions that Brahmin Pundits abound in the beautiful rajya named Vikramapura, which lies between the Brahmaputra mahatirtha on the east and the Padmavati on the west.

The small river Kaliganga (shown in James Rennel's map of 1781) flowed through the middle of the tract, and on its either bank grew the prosperous villages of Idrakpur (Munshiganj), Firingibazar, Abdullapur, Mirganj, Serajdikha, Sekernagar, Hasara, Sholaghar, Baraikhali, Thaodiya, Baligaon, Rajabadi etc on the north and Mulfatganj, Karatikal, Japsa, Kandapada, Shyamsundar, Khilgaon, Sarenga, Chikandi, Ganganagar, Radhanagar, Rajnagar, Ghagariya, Larikul etc on the south.

The Padma, however, played havoc in the area in the 17th Century, and by devouring the glorious deeds of Chand Ray and Kedar Ray, earned the epithet of Kirtinasha, the destroyer of relics.

The Kaliganga cut through the middle of the tract dividing it into two parts: Uttara Vikramapura and Daksina Vikramapura. About 200 years ago Vikramapura was about 30 to 40 miles from east to west and about 8 to 10 miles from north to south.

The site of the city of Vikramapura has been identified with the Rampal area not far from the modern town of Munshiganj. It has been estimated on the basis of the archaeological exploration of the area that the ancient capital covered about 15 square miles, on which are situated some 17 or 18 villages. To the north is the Ichhamati river.

A large number of tanks, mostly dating from pre-Muslim period, can be seen around Rampal, but hardly any building of that period except the derelict ruins of temples; NK Bhattashali identified in 1929 the remains of as many as 30. Dhipur and Sonarang are the two important temple sites mentioned by him. RD Banerji also noticed structures in nearby Raghurampur. The whole area yielded highly valuable antiquities: sculptures of exquisite quality (both Hindu and Buddhist), objects of precious metals. A silver Visnu image from this area (Churain) is now preserved in the Indian Museum.



DK CHAKRABARTI, Ancient Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1992; YOGENDRANATH GUPTA, Vikramapurer Itihasa (in Bangla), Kolkata, 1405 BS.