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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Damodarpur (दामोदरपुर) is a village in Hoogly district of West Bengal. PIN: 721401



  • Damodarapura (दामोदरपुर) (बंगाल) (AS, p.431)


दामोदरपुर (बंगाल)

विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[1] ने लेख किया है ...दामोदरपुर (बंगाल) (AS, p.431) कुमारगुप्त प्रथम, बुद्धगुप्त तथा भानुगुप्त नामक गुप्त नरेशों के 6 दानपट्ट इस स्थान से प्राप्त हुए थे जिनमें उत्तरकालीन गुप्त नरेशों के इतिहास तथा तत्कालीन शासन व्यवस्था पर अच्छा प्रकाश पड़ता है.

Damodarpur Inscriptions

The copperplates, recently discovered at Damodarpur in Dinajpur district of Bangladesh are, from the historical point of view, far more illuminating.

Dinajpur District

The five Damodarpur Inscriptions come from the Dinajpur District. [21]

Damodarpur Copper-plate Inscription of the time of Kumaragupta I Gupta Year 124 (=A.D. 443)

Damodarpur (in Dinajpur District) Copper Plate No.1 of Kumaragupta I (443-444AD) is probably the most important for a knowledge of local administrative pattern and is the most popular source for historians. It refers to Visayapati Kumaramatya Vetravarman, who was appointed by (tanniyukta) the Uparika Ciratadatta, Governor of Pundravardhana Bhukti. Vetravarman being in-charge of Kotivarsa Visaya (dist.) administered the government of the locality in the Administrative Board in company of Dhrtipala, the nagaraśresthi, Bandhumitra, the Sarthavaha, Dhrtimitra - the Prathamakulika and Śambapala - the Prathama Kayastha. [22] They were seen to come together and consult on the sales of land.

Damodarpur Copper-plate Inscription of the time of Kumaragupta I Gupta Year 128

The second inscription was also issued in the times of Kumaragupta I in the Gupta year 128. [23] Apart from all the officials mentioned in the first Damodarpur Inscription we have the additional reference to the Pustapala Risidatta. Pustapalas are mentioned as record keepers and receivers as well as presenters of petitions. [24] The most interesting information gathered from this particular inscription is the reference to hattapanakaiśca: understood as marketplace along with shops and shed for watering cattle by D.C. Sircar, [25] who disagrees with F.W. Thomas’ reading of a word in line 10 in the second side as arahatta and his translation of the meaning of the set of words as- “drinking places with Persian wheels.” [26] The reference evokes a picture of local life and land use pattern.

Damodarpur Copper-plate Inscription of the time of Budhagupta Gupta Year 163 (=A.D.482)

The third inscription was issued in the time of Budhagupta, in Gupta year 163 (482 AD). [27] It describes the process of buying land by one individual - Nabhaka, a resident of the village Candagrama. He put in a request (for buying) of a plot of land, to the mahattaras, the astakuladhikarana, the gramika and the Kutumbinas of Palaśvrndaka (grama/visaya?), the brahmana and other residents after enquiring into their welfare. The information of buyer’s request went from Palaśvrndaka through its astakuladhikarana to the Mahattaras and Kutumbinah as well as gramikas and general population of brahmanas and śudras of Candagrama. Candagrama itself probably did not to have its own astakuladhikarana.

These Damodarpur Copper Plates [28] taken together, reveal the procedure with regard to buying and gifting of a land by an individual for charitable purpose: [29]

“First, the donor made an application to the government officers for the purchase of a specified piece of land. It was usually addressed to the Pusta Palas who were the keepers of the Records of the Government, and constituted a body of three persons. In the course of his petition, the petitioner was expected to state that his gift was to be according to nividharma, the land in question was Khila as an yet - non ploughed and not given to anyone, and was free of revenue and that the price to be paid was according to the rates prevailing in the village. As soon as the petition was received, the Pustapalas [30] placed the matter before four groups of people in the village concerned, namely the mahattaras, astakuladhikarana, gramikas [31] and the Kutumbinas. (These officials/important personnel were in Palaśvrndaka) and they informed the brahmanadi anya śudra prakrti and Kutumbinah of the Candagrama of this transaction. The inscription contains the information that when the plot of land was measured for the purpose of sale, it was done together by the mahattaras, officers and others, and householders –“mahattarastakuladhikaranamgramika – kutumbinaňca.” [32]

Apart from these administrative details, which again imply the possibility of visualizing a paradigm of hierarchy in settlement growing under the Gupta rule in this part of early historical Bengal, there are a few more interesting points to note: Again it is the waste land of the state that was being sold for donation purpose. But this time at an even lower rate: two dinaras (usual subsidized price was three dinaras). One of these khila tracts was located in the north of the Vayigrama Parśva. That may be situated adjacent to the Bogura District. These indicators may throw light on the geographical lay of the land. So far as actual archaeological data is concerned some ancient mounds like the Chalaner dhap, Naria Dhap, Godhar Dhap in village Palasbari near Mahasthan (because this inscription refers to land bordering on Vayigrama in Bogra District), have been held to possibly represent the cluster of villages in Palaśvrndaka unit of this inscription.

Damodarpur Copper-plate Inscription of the time of Budhagupta (=A.D. 476-94)

The fourth inscription is even more interesting: It was issued in the time of Budhagupta (476–94 AD). [33] This time the land that was being earmarked for sale to the donor was located in the forest area it was demarcated by a pond in the east and the Ribhupala pond in the south. The land lay in the Dońga grama.

Damodarpur Copper-plate Inscription of the Gupta Year 224 (= A.D. 543)

The fifth Damodarpur Copper Plate [34] belongs to the Gupta year 224 (543 AD) The seal starts with a clear official note of issue “Kotivarsadhisthanadhikaranasya”– Once more the land to be sold to the donor, who will donate it later was chosen from samudayavahyaprahata – untilled and not yielding revenue; khila – ksetra or untilled. The land is bought for three dinaras a kulyavapa. But this land also included a vastu land. Probably an important departure from earlier practice.

The District saw the rise of one of the most flourishing urban sites in the Early Historical Bengal, which continued to exist as a nodal center in the Early Medieval period.

K.G. Goswami suggests that [35] Vaijayanti, Devikotta and Kotivarsa of the ancient and medieval fame were the same. He cites Bloch reporting (Annual Report of Archaeological Survey, Eastern Circle, 1900 – 01, Appendix A, p. v) that: “Debikot near Gangarampur Police Station was an important frontier post” in the Medieval times and that its ruins may represent an ancient settlement. When Buchanan Hamilton visited the site in 1833, he reported [36] that the ruins of ‘Bannogar’ occupied the east bank of the Punarbhava which at this point flew from the north – east to the south – west for about 2 miles, beginning a little above “Dumdumah”. Goswami reports the vast area to be full of mounds of various sizes. The citadel mound was identified with Devikot – about 2000 ft square according to Alexander Cunningham. [37] Goswami in 1938 reports the citadel to be about 1800 ft X 1500 ft and surrounded by a ditch on 3 sides – north, east and south. [38] The center of the area of Debikot was the Rajbari Mound at the heart of which probably the old palace was located. The main city may have spread to the north and east of the citadel. Excavations in the citadel area revealed five cultural phases representing MauryaSunga to the Medieval times. The city had a modest beginning but was clearly getting organized as an urban center in the Sunga – Kushan phase. Goswami comments about the distinct sign of prosperity at this stage (C 200 BC–C 300 AD), which according to him was linked up with “growth and development of trade and communications”. [39] The site is not merely an individual habitation but probably represents a centre in a conglomerate of settlements, possibly rural, as, in the words of B.D. Chattopadhyay, it qualifies as a nodal center. [40] It is possible that political and economic changes took effect within this time, where the relations within a hierarchy of settlements would be defined. In fact, as B.D. Chattopadhyay [41] has offered, the development of a hierarchy of settlement pattern indicates the evolution of urbanism in any given context K.G. Goswami, the excavator of Bangarh had linked up the prosperity noted at that site for the Sunga – Kushana phase with growth and development of trade and communications. [42] Here too the same logic of center – periphery or market center – productive hinterland model would have to be referred.

The Guptalate Gupta phase at the site was marked by decadence, particularly in structural features. The site picked up in the Pala times and grew in prosperity.

The first and the fifth Damodarpur inscriptions refer to certain features that may clarify the land use pattern within Kotivarsa Visaya illuminating farming and rural hinterland lay out in the Gupta times near Bangarh, when apparently the urbanity around Bangarh was on the wane but the locality stood as one of the major rural administrative headquarters. The fourth Damodarpur Copper Plate, however, refers to localities near Vayigrama in Bogra District, as we have already seen.

B.D. Chattopadhyaya in his more recent work has talked about this “regional rural network”. [43] He takes the case of Bangarh and Mahasthangarh as landmarks in the zonal complex of Varendra around which rural network has to be visualized.

It is true that for understanding the continued evolution of settlements in the Varendra region, or the core region of the Pundravardhana Bhukti of the Early Historic times, one has to take in the two major settlements – Bangarh and Mahasthangarh together with Paharpur, as possible nodal points or rural headquarters (as from time to time we note decadence of urbanity but continuation of rural blocks) – as they may have fluctuated between, as fundamentally creating a zone of settlements in the Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Bogra Districts. But it is not only important to note how urban settlements were supported by the rural hinterland. One has also to note the clusters of rural settlements as productive units supporting religious centers like Paharpur, even if we are to accept that the ruins at Paharpur do not represent an urban enclave. We shall see later how even in the absence of major nodal centers clusters or linear patterns of rural settlements thrived in this part of ancient Bengal and studying this phenomenon would throw much more light on the general pattern of land use and efflorescence of material culture in a region like Bengal of old. In view of the available information in inscriptions it may be possible to look the other way round than focusing primarily on major archaeological sites as the starting points. We may try to start with the kind of rural organization hinted at in these sources and the land – use pattern often glimpsed from them. Goswami refers to a structurally poor strata at Bangarh at the Gupta level [44] and Mahasthan revealed indistinct structural features before the Gupta period, which indicate urbanism only in the Gupta phase. However, the regional history does not circulate only around the urban paradigm. Both Kotivarsa of the Gupta times and the Mahasthan of the pre – Gupta times were important in local history – as we see in the inscriptions.

Madanapala inscription of 2nd regnal year (1155 AD)

The information from inscriptions also throw light on the early medieval period scene in this District. Two inscriptions belong to the reign of Madanapala found at Rajibpur in the village Sibbari, adjacent to the Bangarh Mound. The first plate was issued in the 2nd regnal year of the King 1155 AD probably, if the 18th reganl year is held as 1161 AD). [45]

The land mentioned in this record was said to be situated in the village of Budhavada in the Avrtti of Śringatika in the Abhoga of Krta–hala–kula–bhumi. S. C. Mukherjee translates: the coastal land subjected to cultivation.”(side 1, line 37) This was an agricultural land and was said to yield a rent of thirty puranas– the Trimśatika bhumi. This is an indication that in the Pala period land to be donated was taken from rent paying agricultural land too. We also hear of a few new administrative units: Avrtti and Abhoga. Interestingly the King is said to donate the land in the name of Buddha, after taking a bath in Ganga, to a Brahmana priest belonging to the Aśvalayana Śakha of the Rgveda. (side 2, lines 49–51)

Madanapala inscription of 32nd regnal year (1185 AD)

In the second inscription of the 32nd year of the reign of Madanapala, the land that was donated was “bounded by the homestead land lying in the southern part of Budhavada palli which was attached the granary (kosthagara) of Devikota to the homestead land measuring 35 chains in the pallis of Yakha (Yaksha) Mundakha or Yaksa named Munda, Piśaca Kala and Yakha (Yaksha) Vidusa (Vidura?) and up to the land of Nandipala lying in the boundary of Varandapalli, attached to Vangadi. The gift–land was situated in the Halavarttam-andala of the Kotivarsa–visaya of the Pundravarddhana- bhukti (II, 33-4).

The names of the palli’ s, which may be smaller divisions than villages, are suggestive. Are they tribal units? Nandipala of Varandapalli, however, was within caste – fold, as the name indicates. The presence of the Kosthagara is obvious - Bangarh being a nodal center and a prosperous city in the Pala times, as evident from structural remains. Bogra District

Next go on to the Baigram Copper Plate inscription of the time of Kumargupta I after this. This record belongs to an earlier time than the 4th Damodarpur Copper Plate inscription, which refers to the region near Vayigrama as we have seen above. Since the two copper plates refer to adjacent regions they could yield a significant piece of information about land administration. The purchased piece of land in Chandagrama lay bordered on Vayigrama (Baigram).

Ref - Epigraphia Indica XV, p.142, Select Inscriptions by D. C. Sircar p. 346

Two of these plates, dated 124 G. E. and 128 G. E. ( 443 AD and 447 AD), belong to the reign of Kumara Gupta I. The first of these records points out that in 443 AD, when the Paramadaivata Paramabhataraka Maharajadhiraja Kumara Gupta was the ruling sovereign, an Uparika, named Ciratadatta, was the governor of Pundravardhana Bhukti in Bengal. Under him there was Kumaramatya Vetravarman, who served as the governor of the district of Kotivarsa. The copper plate records that a Brahmin, named Karpatika, applied to the local officials for the sale of a piece of waste land to him. The application was sanctioned and the sale confirmed by the inscription on the copperplate. The process mentioned herein is of considerable importance from the point of view of the revenue administration and the economic life of the Gupta period.

The second Damodarpur copperplate also mentions Ciratadatta and Vetravarman and is of great interest for the economic history of the period.

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