Maharaja of Jessore
Born 1561
Jessore, Bangladesh
Died 1611 (aged 50)
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
  • Sharat Kumari
Issue Udayaditya, Sangramaditya and Bindumati
Father Srihari
Religion Hinduism

Maharaja Pratapaditya (Bengali: মহারাজা প্রতাপাদিত্য) (1561–1611 CE) was the Hindu Kayastha King of Jessore and among the most prominent of the Baro-Bhuyan of Bengal, who declared independence from the Mughals. He established an independent Hindu state in Bengal, which, at its zenith encompassed the districts of Nadia, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas in West Bengal, as well as extending into modern-day Bangladesh from Kushtia district in north, Barisal in east and Sundarbans and Bay of Bengal to south.

Early life

His father Srihari (or Sridhar), was an influential officer in the service of Daud Khan Karrani, the last independent Sultanate of Bengal.[1] Daud Khan Karrani bestowed upon Srihari the title of 'Vikramaditya' and the zamindari of one Chand Khan, (referred to as Chandecan by the Portuguese) who had deceased without leaving any heir.[2] On the fall of Daud Khan in 1576, Srihari declared independence and assumed the title of "Maharaja". Pratapaditya was born to Srihari in 1561. Srihari divided his kingdom – 5/8th to Pratapaditya and 3/8th to his brother Basanta Ray.

Basanta Ray was his uncle and he affectionately brought up both Pratapaditya and his own son Laksmikanta. During this period he also taught them the lessons of zamindari as well as administrative inputs. Meanwhile, Lakshmikanta grew up and joined the administration at Jessore and proved a powerful and able ruler. It is generally agreed that Pratapaditya murdered his uncle near Budge Budge to claim himself to independent.[3][4][5] Disheartened and aggrieved, Lakshmikanta, resigned from the royal service and returned to Kalighat.[4]

Military campaigns

Contemporary sources like the Baharistan-i-Ghaibi, travelogues of Abdul Latif and other Europeans testify to the personal ability of Pratapaditya, his political pre-eminence, material resources and martial strength. When Mughal emperor Jahangir, learned that Pratapaditya murdered his uncle Basanta Ray and declared himself as a independent ruler of Bengal, he sent Raja Man Singh with an army to keep Bengal under control.[5]Descendants of Lakshmikanta claim that Raja Man Singh revered Basanta Ray greatly and after defeating Pratapaditya, he met his guru's son, Lakshmikanta.[6]

Alliance and campaigns against Mughals

Among the Bengal zamindars Pratapaditya was the first to send his envoy to the Mughal subahdar Islam Khan to win the favour of the Mughals. He sent his envoy Shaykh Badi and his youngest son Sangramaditya with a large gift to the Subahdar in 1608. The prince was left behind as a hostage on the agreement that Pratapaditya would personally attend on the subahdar at Alaipur. Accordingly, Pratapaditya met the Subahdar in 1609 on the bank of the Atrai and tendered personal submission.[1]

Pratapaditya agreed that immediately after his return to his kingdom, he should send 400 war-boats with his youngest son Sangramaditya to join the imperial fleet under Ihtimam Khan, and that he himself should proceed along the river Arial Khan with 20,000 paiks, 1000 cavalry, and 100 war-boats, to attack Musa Khan's possessions in Sripur and Vikramapura, a pledge that he did not keep. To punish Pratapaditya for his disloyalty as a vassal and to subjugate his territory Islam Khan made preparation for an expedition. Having realized an impending attack Pratapaditya hastened to make amends for his folly, and sent his son Sangramaditya with 80 war-boats to Islam Khan. But Islam Khan took up a stern attitude and decided to punish him by conquering his kingdom. He ordered the war-boats sent by the Raja to be destroyed.[1]

Battle of Salka

A large Mughal contingent consisting of 1,000 cavalry, 5,000 matchlock men and a number of tried and experienced officers, such as Mirza Makki, son of Iftikhar Khan, Mirza Saifuddin, Shaikh Ismail Fathpuri, Shah Beg Khaksar and Lachhmi Rajput, and a fleet consisting of 300 men-of-war, besides the war boats of new vassals like Musa Khan and Bahadur Ghazi, was selected for the war. The Mughal forces were under the command of Islam Khan's brother Ghiyas Khan or Inayat Khan, while the fleet and artillery were under Mirza Nathan, son of Ihtimam Khan. Another force was sent against his son in law Raja Ramchandra of Bakla at the same time, so that he might not come to the assistance of Jessore. By December, 1611 the Mughal forces had been consolidated and they were proceeding towards Jessore along the Ichhamati and the Bhairab. They soon reached a place named Salka near the confluence of the river Jamuna and the Ichhamati.[1]

Pratapaditya meanwhile equipped a strong army and fleet and placed them under expert officers including Afghan dissidents (angered at loss of privilege to the foreign Mughals) and Portuguese (mostly mercenaries) and prepared to personally defend the fortified capital at Dhumghat. He deputed Udayaditya to defend the fort at Salka, strategically located having natural barriers on three sides. Udayaditya was assisted by Jamal Khan an Afghan, who commanded the cavalry and the elephants and Khwaja Kamal another Afghan tributary of Pratap who commanded the fleet of 500 war boats.

As the imperial fleet proceeded towards Salka, Udayaditya suddenly launched a vigorous attack and broke into the enemy rank, leaving Jamal Khan in charge of the garrison at the fort, and Khwaja Kamal backing up with a strong contingent of powerful war boats and ghurabs. With its overwhelming numbers the Jessore fleet managed to force the Mughals into backfoot, but steady artillery support from both the banks of Ichhamati and Mirza Nathan's breaching the enemy ranks at the back led to capitulation of the Jessore fleet. Udayaditya managed to escape while Khwaja Kamal was killed. Jamal Khan followed Udayaditya with all the elephants.[1]

Battle of Kagarghat

Pratapaditya prepared himself to fight a second time from a new base near the confluence of Kagarghat canal and the Jamuna. He made a big fort at a strategic point and gathered all his available forces there. The Mughals began the battle by an attack on the Jessore fleet (Jan 1612) and compelled it to seek shelter beneath the fort. But their further advance was checked by the heavy cannonade of the Jessore artillery. A sudden attack of the Mughals completely defeated the Jessore fleet and they fell upon the fort with the elephants in front, thereby compelling Pratapaditya to evacuate the fort and retreat.[1] His valiant army strategist Rudraditya was forced an exile after being captured during this war. The second defeat sealed the fate of Pratapaditya. After his defeat, Raja Man Singh requested Lakshmikanta to ascend the throne, but he refused.[4] Instead, Bhavanand Majumdar, who had been in the service of Pratapaditya as a Brahmin boy, was given the throne, and he subsequently became the founder of the Nadiya Raj family.[7]


Pratapaditya was an able administrator. During his reign there was a complete restoration of law and order.


Pratapaditya's kingdom included a greater part of the undivided districts of 24 Parganas, Jessore and Khulna. It also included parts of present districts of Kushtia, Barisal and Bhola.[8] Pratapaditya's capital was at Dhumghat, a city situated at the confluence of Jamuna and Ichhamati.


Pratapaditya built several forts. The principal fourteen of them were at Jessore, Dhumghat, Raigarh, Kamalpur, Vedkashi, Shibsha, Pratapnagar, Shalikha, Matla, Haidargarh, Araikaki, Mani, Raimangal and Chaksri. There were seven forts built by Pratapaditya in and around present day Kolkata. They were at Matla, Raigarh, Tala, Behala, Salkia, Chitpur and Mulajor. Apart from these Pratapaditya had built a fort near present day Jagatdal.

Pratapaditya's army was divided into six divisions – infantry, cavalry, artillery, archers and elephant division. The infantry consisted of the Dhali and Raibeshe soldiers, under the command of Kalidas Ray and Madan Malla. According to Bharatchandra, Pratapadaitya had 52,000 Dhalis under his command. There were many Kuki soldiers in his army and the Kuki regiment was under the command of Raghu. A cavalry of 10,000 were commanded by Pratapsingha Dutta, assisted by Mahiuddin and Nurullah. The archers were led by Sundar and Dhulian Baig. There were 1,600 elephants trained for war. Apart from these Pratapaditya had a network of spies, under the command of Sukha.

The majority of Pratapaditya's army are Bengali Kaysthas, Rajputs, Portuguese Sailors and Afghan Muslims. There was a sizable number of Kuki and Arakaneese soldiers in his army. Also Patapaditya had several Afghan officers in his service, including Jamal Khan, the son of Katlu Khan and Khwaja Kamal.His chief of strategic warfare was a Brahmin called Rudraditya Upadhyaya. Rudraditya was married to Pratapaditya's niece Baisakhi Devi. The frontiers of the capital were managed by Rudraditya. He also employed many Portuguese officers during his battles against Mughals.


Being quite familiar with the terrain of his kingdom and the frequent raids by the Portuguese and Arakanese pirates along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, a military genius of the like of Pratapaditya could have ignored the need of a strong naval fleet only at his own peril. Most of the Bara Bhuiyans of the time were well equipped in naval warfare and Pratapaditya was no exception. Historian Radhakumud Mookerjee observed thus:

These men-of-wars were usually made of timber, abundant in the mangroves of Sundarbans. Some of these vessels had more than 64 oars and most of them were equipped with artillery. There were several classes of vessels in the fleet, namely, Piara, Mahalgiri, Ghurab, Pal, Machoya, Pashat, Dingi, Gachhadi, Balam, Palwar and Kocha. According to Abdul Latif's travelogue the Jessore fleet consisted of hundreds of war boats. According to Dutch historian Jos Gommans, the Mughal fleet consisted of, at maximum about 500 boats, whereas the fleet of Raja Pratapaditya had twice as many.[9] The fleet was initially under the command of Bengali officers, but later Portuguese officers were entrusted with the duty.

Foreign relations and religious policy

Campaign against piracy

The island of Sandwip had gained strategic importance because of its salt produce, and because it was the most important gateway of trade in the Bay of Bengal & to Chittagong port. At the turn of the 17th century, Sripur and Arakan had fought two battles over the control of Sandwip and both the times Kedar Ray, the king of Sripur had wrested control over Sandwip, with the help of his Portuguese naval officer Domingos Carvalho. Kedar Ray had awarded the island to his able office as a recognition of his service. But when the Arakanese successfully took control of the island in 1602, Carvalho fled to Jessore. It is said that Pratapaditya arrested, tried and executed Carvalho and sent his severed head to the Arakan court at Mrauk U.


The Jesuits arrived at Jessore in 1599. They were received most cordially by the king and his Portuguese subjects, most of whom were in the naval services. The king granted them full permission to preach to his subjects and to baptise all those who wished to become Christians. The first Jesuit church in Bengal was opened in January 1600.

After 1602, the relationship between the Portuguese and the king of Arakan turned hostile. The Jesuit fathers were imprisoned and the Christians were ill-treated in Arakan as well as Sripur and Jessore. In the latter, the Jesuit church were razed to ground and the missionaries were expelled.


Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple

The patron deity of Jessore was Jashoreshwari. According to popular legend, one morning a general of the king, discovered a ray of light emanating from a nearby forest. When he was informed, he went to investigate the source of the light rays. Deep inside the jungle he found an idol of Mother Kali, that was emitting the light. He at once realized that it was the idol of the patron deity, the protector of his kingdom and his people. So he brought the idol to his capital and constructed a temple so that she may be worshiped by the faithful.


Pratapaditya built a bath at Bangshipur. It was six domed structure – two big and four small domes – called hammamkhana.

Settlement in the Sundarbans

At that time the mangroves of the Sundarbans constituted a much larger area than what it is now. When Srihari's father Bhabananda founded Jessore, forest land had to be reclaimed for fortification and human settlement. But during Pratapaditya forest land was successfully reclaimed for agriculture as well.[10] Indigenous communities like the Mundas and the Bawalis were settled in the Sunderbans.

He also invited eligible Brahmins, Kayasthas and Vaidyas to settle in Jessore. Shibnath Shastri's ancestors who hailed from South India were invited by the king to settle in the kingdom.[11]

Arts and culture

Pratapaditya was a patron of literature, music and fine arts. He patronized many artists, poets and learned men in his court.

Development of folk dances

The Dhali or 'shield dance' is a folk dance that originated and developed during the reign of Pratapaditya. It is believed that after winning a grueling battle, the fatigued soldiers of the king's army began dancing with their swords in the spirit of contentment, and to prepare themselves for the next war.


At end of Kagarghat battle the Mughals offered truce in spite of a marginal win, as both sides were fatigued of fighting. Pratapaditya tendered submission to Ghiyas Khan who personally escorted him to Islam Khan at Dhaka. Pratapaditya was put in chains and his kingdom was annexed. Pratapaditya was kept confined at Dhaka.[1] There is a lack of available authentic information regarding his last days, but per Mughal documents probably he fled at Benares while being transported to Delhi as a prisoner and died on his way back to Bengal while returning.[1]

After the fall of Pratapaditya, the Mughal army sacked Jessore. Srish Chandra Basu quotes historian Tapan Kumar Ray Choudhuri,

After his death, Bhavanand Majumdar, who had been in the service of Pratapaditya, was given the throne by Raja Man Singh, and he subsequently became the founder of the Nadiya Raj family.[13]


Pratapaditya's bravery and heroism became the subject of many ballads, Of mention is the Annadamangal, the magnum opus of Bharat Chandra the greatest medieval poet of Bengal. In the final of the three-part epic, Bharat Chandra introduces Pratapaditya as excerpted below:

Pratapaditya Roy has been recognized as a hero in several narratives of Hindu Nationalism where he has been placed alongside Shivaji. However Rabindranath Tagore in his first novel "Bou Thakuranir Haat" categorically condemned Pratapaditya for his high ambitions, treason with Akbar and the murder of his uncle Basanta Ray.[3]

In popular culture

  • Annadamangal, a historical epic by Raygunakar Bharatchandra.
  • Pratapaditya Charita, a historical novel by Ramram Basu, published in 1801.
  • Bangadhip Parajay, a historical novel by Pratap Chandra Ghosh, published in two volumes in 1869 and 1884.
  • Bou Thakuranir Hat, a historical novel by Rabindranath Tagore, published in 1883.
  • Banger Pratapaditya, a historical play by Kshirod Prasad Vidyavinod, published in 1903.
  • Vangiva Pratapa, a historical play in Sanskrit by Haridas Bhattacharya Siddhantabagisha, published in 1946.
  • Pratapaditya, based on Kshirod Prasad Vidyavinod's Pratapaditya, staged by Star Theatre on 16 August 1903.
  • Pratapaditya, based on Haran Rakshit's Banger Sesh Bir, staged by Classic on 29 August 1903.
  • Pratapaditya, based on Kshirod Prasad Vidyavinod's Banger Pratapaditya, staged by Natyamandir between 1926 and 1930.
  • Bou Thakuranir Hat, a Bengali film, based on Rabindranath Tagore's Bou Thakuranir Hat, directed by Naresh Mitra. Pratapaditya was played by Nitish Mukherjee.


  • Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, the second Chief Minister of West Bengal was a descendant of Pratapaditya.[14]
  • Guha Roychoudhurys of Taki (India), West Bengal are said to be descendants of Pratapaditya Roy.
  • Guha's of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal are said to be descendants of Pratapaditya Roy.
  • Aichs of Kolkata, West Bengal are said to be descendants of Pratapaditya.

Places and landmarks

  • Pratapaditya Road, Kalighat, Kolkata
  • Pratapaditya Nagar, Gorakshabashi Road, Dum Dum
  • Pratapaditya Road, Noapara, Barasat
  • Pratapnagar, Assasuni, Satkhira
  • Pratapaditya GP/Pratapaditya Bazar/Pratapaditya Nagar


  • APV Pratapaditya, an anti-pollution vessel at Haldia Dock Complex.


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