Bargi

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Bargis were a group of Maratha people who indulged in large scale plundering of the countryside of western part of Bengal for about ten years (1741–1751). Bargi invasions took place almost as an annual event.

Etymology[edit]

The Hatkar formerly when going on any expedition, took only a blanket seven hands long and a bear-spear (Barcha/Barchi in Marathi), and that on this account they were called Bargir, or Barga Dhangars or Bargi.[1][2]

Bargi is corruption of a Marathi word Bargir which meant Horsemen who were provided with horses and arms by the Maratha Empire who were exclusively Hatkar in contrast to the Shiledar, who had their own horses and arms.[3] The temper of Hatkars is said to be obstinate and quarrelsome.[1][2]

Impact[edit]

The repeated raids played on the creative impulse of the people.

khōkā ghumālō pāḍ.ā juḍ.ālō bargī ēla dēśē
bulabulitē dhān khēy.ēchē khājnā dēba kisē
dhān phurōlō pān phurōlō khājnār upāy. ki?
ār kaţā din sabur kar rasun bunēchi

খোকা ঘুমালো পাড়া জুড়ালো বর্গী এল দেশে
বুলবুলিতে ধান খেয়েছে খাজনা দেব কিসে
ধান ফুরোলো পান ফুরোলো খাজনার উপায় কি?
আর কটা দিন সবুর কর রসুন বুনেছি।

When the children fall asleep, silence sets in, the Bargis come to our lands
Bulbulis (birds) have eaten the grains, how shall I pay the rent?[4]

History[edit]

Alivardi Khan became Nawab of Bengal in April 1740, after defeating and killing Sarfraz Khan. His rule was challenged by Sarfraj Khan’s brother-in-law Rustam Jung, who was naib nazim (deputy governor) of Orissa. Alivardi defeated him in a battle at Falwaei, near Balasore, placed his own nephew as naib nazim of Orissa and left for his capital, Murshidabad. Rustam Jung sought the assistance of the Maratha ruler of Nagpur, Raghoji I Bhonsle. He regained control of Orissa with the assistance of Marathas, who in the process discovered how easy it was to plunder the rich countryside in Bengal. Alivardi returned to Orissa and again defeated Rustam Jung, but before he returned to Murshidabad, a Maratha cavalry under Bhaskar Pandit was sent to Bengal by Bhonsle. They entered through Panchet and started looting the countryside. Bhaskar Pandit had decided to build Dainhat (a small town of Burdwan district, West Bengal) as his main camp to attack enemies. He had dug several trenches to protect his camp. Temple created by Bhaskar Pandit still exits near the place Swamaj Bati of Dainhat. Currently that temple is known as Kisore Kisori Mandir.[3][5]

For about ten years, the Bargis raided and plundered Bengal every year. Contemporary chroniclers have left behind vivid descriptions of Bargi terror, their hit-and-run tactics and the helplessness of the Nawabab's army in checking them. Alivardi showed exemplary courage and military skill in every frontal battle that took place, but the objective of the Bargis was not occupation of territory but plundering; they looted and burned bazaars.[3][5] The Nawab's soldiers could not match the Maratha horsemen in speed and manoevureability. Only the Ganges -Bhagirathi river line proved a barrier to their movement. They crossed it only on a few occasions.[3]

The Bargi invasions came to an end in May 1751 after the Nawab and the Marathas reached an agreement, including the secession of Orissa.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, by Syed Siraj ul Hassan
  2. ^ a b The Tribes and Castes of Bombay by Reginald Edward Enthoven
  3. ^ a b c d e Sengupta, Nitish, History of the Bengali-speaking People, 2001/2002, pp.132-137, UBS Publishers’ Distributors Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-7476-355-4
  4. ^ Ahmed, Wakil (2012). "Folk Literature". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 
  5. ^ a b Shah, Mohammad (2012). "Maratha Raids". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.