Bengal Sultanate

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The Sultanate of Bengal (also known as the Bengal Sultanate; Bangalah) was a Muslim state in Bengal during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. The empire was known as one of the major trading nations of the medieval world.[1] The Sultanate was described by contemporary European and Chinese visitors as a relatively prosperous kingdom. Due to the abundance of goods in Bengal, the region was described as the "richest country to trade with". The Bengal Sultanate left a strong architectural legacy. Buildings from the period show foreign influences merged into a distinct Bengali style.[2] The Bengal Sultanate was also the largest and most prestigious authority among the independent medieval Muslim-ruled states in the history of Bengal.[3]

During the 16th-century, Bengal suffered two major defeats by the Suri Empire and the Mughal Empire.


  • “Kalapahar, by successive and numerous fightings, vanquished the Rajah's forces, and brought to his subjection the entire dominion of Odîsah (Orissa), so much so that he carried off the Rani together with all household goods and chattels. Notwithstanding all this, from fear of being killed, no one was bold to wake up this drunkard of the sleep of negligence, so that Kalapahar had his hands free. After completing the subjugation of the entire country, and investing the Fort of Barahbati, which was his (the Rajah’s) place of sleep, Kalapahar engaged in fighting… The firm Muhammadan religion and the enlightened laws of Islam were introduced into that country. Before this, the Musalman Sovereigns exercised no authority over this country. Of the miracles of Kalapahar, one was this, that wherever in that country, the sound of his drum reached, the hands and the feet, the ears and the noses of the idols, worshipped by the Hindus, fell off their stone-figures, so that even now stone-idols, with hands and feet broken, and noses and ears cut off, are lying at several places in that country. And the Hindus pursuing the false, from blindness of their hearts, with full sense and knowledge, devote themselves to their worship!
    It is known what grows out of stone:
    From its worship what is gained, except shame?
    “It is said at the time of return, Kalapahar left a drum in the jungle of Kaonjhar, which is lying in an upset state. No one there from fear of life dares to set it up; so it is related.”
    • Sulaiman Karranj of Bengal (AD 1563-1576) Orissa. Riyazu’s-Salatin Riyuz-us-Salatin, translated into English by Abdus Salam, Delhi Reprint, 1976 p.17-18
  • Vijaya Gupta wrote a poem in praise of Husain Shah of Bengal (1493-1519 AD). The two qazi brothers, Hasan and Husain, are typical Islamic characters in this poem. They had issued orders that any one who had a tulsi leaf on his head was to be brought to them bound hand and foot. He was then beaten up. The peons employed by the qazis tore away the sacred threads of the Brahmans and spat saliva in their mouths. One day a mullah drew the attention of these qazis to some Hindu boys who were worshipping Goddess Manasa and singing hymns to her. The qazis went wild, and shouted: “What! The haramzadah Hindus make so bold as to perform Hindu rituals in our village! The culprit boys should be seized and made outcastes by being forced to eat Muslim food.” The mother of these qazis was a Hindu lady who had been forcibly married to their father. She tried to stop them. But they demolished the house of those Hindu boys, smashed the sacred pots, and threw away the puja materials. The boys had to run away to save their lives.
    • Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. ISBN 9788185990231
  • Haig writes that “it is evident, from the numerical superiority in Eastern Bengal of the Muslims… that at some period an immense wave of proselytization must have swept over the country and it is most probable that the period was the period of Jalaluddin Muhammad (converted son of Hindu Raja Ganesh) during whose reign of seventeen years (1414-1431)… hosts of Hindus are said to have been forcibly converted to Islam”.81 With regard to these conversions, Dr. Wise writes that “the only condition he offered were the Koran or death… many Hindus fled to Kamrup and the jungles of Assam, but it is nevertheless probable that more Muhammadans were added to Islam during these seventeen years (1414-31) than in the next three hundred years”.
    • Wolseley Haig, C.H.I., III, p. 267. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6
  • The details of the conversion of Raja Ganesh bring out the importance of the role of force, of persuasion and of the Ulama and Sufis in proselytization. In 1409 Ra a Ganesh occupied the throne of Bengal and sought to establish his authority “by getting rid of the prominent ulama and Sufis”. Qutb-ul-Alam Shaikh Nurul Haqq wrote to Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi to come and save the Muslims of Bengal. Ibrahim Sharqi responded to the call, and Raja Ganesh, finding himself too weak to face the challenge, appealed to Shaikh Nurul Haqq for help. The latter promised to intercede on his behalf if he became a Musalman. The helpless Raja was willing, but his wife refused to agree. Ultimately a compromise was made by the Raja offering to retire from the world and permitting his son, Jadu, to be converted and ascend his throne. On Jadu being converted and enthroned as Jalaluddin Shah, Shaikh Nurul Haqq induced Sultan Ibrahim to withdraw his armies.87 If a Raja of the stature of Ganesh could not face up to the Ulama and the Sufis, other Rajas and Zamindars were still worse placed. Petty Rajas and Zamindars were converted to Islam, with their wives and children, if they could not pay land revenue or tribute in time. Such practice appears to be common throughout the whole country as instances of it are found from Gujarat88 to Bengal.
    • Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6
  • “In this year also Sulaiman Kirrani, ruler of Bengal, who gave himself the tide of Hazrati A’la, and had conquered die city of Katak-u-Banaras, that mine of heathenism, and having made the stronghold of Jagannath into the home of Islam, held sway from Kamru to Orissa, attained the mercy of God…”
    • About Sultan Sulaiman Karrani of Bengal (AD 1563-1573) Puri (Orissa) Muntakhabu’t-Tawarikh, translated into English by George S.A. Ranking, Patna Reprint 1973, Vol. I, p. 166 ff
  • “…During the Husain Shahi period the stone cutter’s art was thoroughly practised and perfected, as walls of gates and mosques were adorned with stone, either quarried from Rajmahal hills or obtained from some existing buildings… “…The British Museum, London, has in its collection two sculptured pieces from Bengal, namely, the seated Buddha figure (Pl. XLIIa) and the image of Brahmani. Both these images have on their obverse exquisitely carved diaper work of unmistakable Muslim workmanship. The Indian Museum, Calcutta, has a stone slab carved on the one side with the image of Durga, destroying Mahisha or Buffalow-demon, and on the reverse arabesque. The panel consisting of a scalloped arch with a lotus rosette on each of its sides, surrounded by richly foliated devices, is undoubtedly a Muslim work...“The Muslim calligraphers did not feel any scruple to utilize fragments of Hindu or Jaina sculpture in carving out beautiful inscriptions in elegant Naskh, Thulth and Tughra, keeping the images inside the wall…”“The famous Mosque of Baba Adam, the patron saint of the locality in the ancient Hindu site of Rampal where Raja Ballal Sena built his palace in the district of Dacca is an impressive architectural monument of pre-Mughal Bengal. “…Measuring 43 feet by 36 feet externally and 34 feet by 22 feet internally, the Mosque incorporated a number of beautifully carved stone pillars of unmistakable Hindu workmanship… “In the construction of this 6-domed mosque, measuring 36 feet by 24 feet, considerable amount of locally available materials from dilapidated Hindu monuments were employed as evident in the black carved basalts of the pillars, mihrabs, epigraphic slabs, etc… Sadipur (Bengal).“…A.K. Bhattacharya points out that an inscription in Arabic, carved in Tughra is found on the reverse of an image of Adinath, which is recovered from a ruined Dargah in the village Sadipur, P.S. Kaliachak, Malda.”
    • Syed Mahmudul Hasan, Mosque Architecture of Pre-Mughal Bengal, Dacca (Bangladesh), 1979.

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  3. Barbara Watson Andaya; Leonard Y. Andaya (19 February 2015). A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia, 1400-1830. Cambridge University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-521-88992-6.