Martyr Jayee Rajguru: The Forgotten Hero of Paika Rebellion

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Respected Chair Person & other dignitaries of the dash, my dear researchers, delegates & guests. I must be thankful to the Govt. of Odisha, the Intellect and the Indian Council of Historical Research who host this valuable National level Symposium and provide me an opportunity to present a paper on the Martyr Jayee Rajaguru & the Paika Rebellion in Odisha. I may title it as Martyr Jayee Rajaguru – The Forgotten Hero of Paika Rebellion which is based on the unparalleled bravery, commitment, sacrifice and spirit of patriotism of the great Martyr Jayakrishna Rajguru Mahapatra, popularly known as Jayee Rajguru and his fight against British imperialism which took place in 1804. It is most relevant and pertinent to remember the rebellion of Paikas of the then Khurda state under the leadership of martyr Jayee Rajguru when we discuss the 200th year anniversary of the Paika Rebellion of 1817 as the 1st rebellion under Jayee Rajguru and his martyrdom as the igniting force.

In the history of Odisha the Bhoi dynasty was established in 1568 at Khurda by Ramachandra Deva-I and he constructed a fort at Khurda in 1570 declaring it as the capital of his kingdom and 12 kings of the dynasty ruled over the kingdom for near about 226 years (1568-1805). When the king of Paralakhemundi Jagannath Narayan Deva, who claimed the title of ‘Gajapati’ as the real inheritor from the dynasty of the Gangas attacked Khurda, Bira Kishore Deva, the son of Rama Chandra Deva-II took the help of Marahatas and in liu of their service Marahatas demanded one lakh Rupees. After the war, the king of Paralakhemundi defeated and due to financial crisis Bira Kishore Deva unable to satisfy the prior condition of Marahatas and compelled to hand over four Praganas namely Rahanga (near Puri), Chabiskud (near Brahmagiri), Sirai (near Satyabadi) and Lembai (near Delanga) which were the good revenue earning praganas and mainly meant for maintaining the various rituals and expenses of Jagannath Temple. During the period of the king Dibyasingha Deva-II, Jayee Rajguru was appointed as the Rajguru at the age of 41 (Born on 29th October 1739, the auspicious day of Kartika Anla Nabami) in 1780. The rule of Dibyasingha Deva-II was not conspicuous, as he was unable to face the financial crisis. After his death in 1790, his brother Syam Sundar Deva staked his claim to the throne with the help of external power. But Jayee Rajguru, a great champion of justice and supporter of the king made substantial arrangements for the ascendance of the minor son of Dibyasingha Deva-II, named Mukunda Deva-II in 1798. Jayee Rajguru was bestowed with twin responsibilities of performing the functions of a Rajguru and controlling the administration of the kingdom of the minor king. There was unanimous support of the king and the council of ministers and all had great faith in Jayee Rajguru as he was not only a great exponent of sastras, but also an efficient and able soldier, quite capable of handling all sorts of arms and ammunitions, and above all he was a great diplomat.

The kingdom of Khurda covered near about 15000 sq. miles which was surrounded by 71 forts. In its military system there were the Dalabeheras, Dalais, Nayaks and Paikas. Dalabeheras usually headed the forts. Below the rank of Dalabeheras, Dalais were in charge of special forces, below them Nayaks were in charge of some villages. And finally there were Paikas, who constituted the real segment of the army to fight the battle by skillful use of arms and ammunitions. The lexical meaning of Paika is infantry and their nature of participation is voluntary and obligated. Paikas were not the part of regular royal army and were not paid any remuneration, but they were provided with landed property for their sustenance. They perform their duty as a part of larger armed contingent at the time of expedition or any threat from enemy. Besides, the Paikas under Dalabeheras and Dalais, the king used to have a special force consisting of near about 15000 soldiers under the direct supervision of Jayee Rajguru. The king had about 4000 horses and 2000 elephants besides the infantry.

The British East India Company which came to India for trade gradually evinced political interest, taking advantages of weakness of central authority and internal differences amongst the ruling dynasties. Thus they acquired some of the kingdoms one after another and by that time they have already set up their centers in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. They felt the need of acquiring the Khurda region for smooth and unhinderous movement from the Bengal in the north to Madras in the south. The clever Britishers made understanding with the Gajapati king of Khurda Mukunda Deva-II to derive free passage and support to defeat Marahattas. Though Jayee Rajguru being a visionary resisted the understanding of the British, but subsequently agreed to that under the pressure of the king. As per the agreement a sum of one lakh has to be paid in addition to restoration of four praganas which was the dream of the Gajapati Bira Kishore Deva and an advance of Rs 10000 was received by the king. As per the understanding company soldiers under the leadership of Kernel Harcourt moved through the territory of Khurda state in 11th September 1803 and on 14th October British occupied the Cuttack Barabati fort by evicting Marahattas who were having control in Odisha from the year 1751.

But as usual the treacherous Britishers did not act upon the conditions of the agreement initiated by them. Neither the balance money was given nor was the control of four praganas handed over to the Gajapati king of Khurda. Despite repeated follow ups and reminders the British settlement remained adamant. On the other hand in 29th November 1803, the Britishers announced a declaration stating that the king of Khurda should acknowledge the British authority and pay a fixed amount as tribute (salami). Surprisingly the declaration was silent about independence of the kingdom of Khurda and the payment of the compensation and restoration of four praganas to the king as promised. Rather the king was asked to sign the declaration unconditionally. This was a great shock and disappointment to the king and his dream of getting back the four praganas settled earlier. Jayee Rajguru made the king realise the reasons for which he was against any settlement with Britishers. At that point the king realised his mistake and sought the advice of Jayee Rajguru. Jayee Rajguru advised the king not to sign the declaration. However, as a conciliatory measure Jayee Rajguru decided to meet Kernel Harcourt at Cuttack. Accordingly, Jayee Rajguru met the kernel with 2000 Paikas on 11th March 1804 and caught the kernel by surprise and virtually under seize. Kernel Harcourt paid only Rs 40000 but did not agree for restoration of four praganas justifying that the four praganas were conquered from the Marahattas and hence they lawfully belonged to the British. Jayee Rajguru accepted the money with a strategy for spending it to organize more Paikas for a decisive war in future and regaining the four praganas. After his return from Cuttack Jayee Rajguru went ahead with a preparation for an ensuing fight with the Britishers.

Jayee Rajguru made an elaborate plan for armed resistance against the British. He increased strength of soldiers by inducting more Paikas to the force in the kingdom. Their divisions were strengthened with the awards of titles like Jagadeva, Tunga, Jhapat Singh, Uttar Kabat, Dakshina Kabat, Bahubalendra, Dian Bagha, Satrusalya, Bahinipati, Maharathi, Khadagray, Bhramarbar, Malla, Sandha, Mangaraj etc. on the basis of their skill and discipline. Marahatta Sardars were recruited to impart military training to the new recruits. The arms and ammunitions were procured and manufactured in large quantity and stored at safer places. Care was taken for the protection of Khurda fort from all sides by stationing more forces and cannons. He contacted other native rulers like Kujanga and Kanika to get their support. Also the Marahatta ruler of Nagpur was contacted to give final push for the defeat of the British. Marahattas sent their officer named Antoji Naik from Nagpur and discussed the larger strategy. Within short span Jayee Rajguru became a rallying point of our nationalism against the British.

Then in October 1804, it came the final show down with the British. In 22nd November 1804 the Paikas resisted the Britishers at Pipli and Delanga. The confrontation was so terrible that the Britishers were panicked. The Britishers used 10 thousand soldiers of 2nd and 7th division of Bengal and 16th Battalion of Madras under the control of Major Fletcher, Kernel Harcourt, Captain Hickland and Stoner. There was also a strong resistance at Gangapada, Taratua and Tangiapada. The British authorities were alarmed at the astonishing speed of the war, which threatened their existence for about three weeks. At that juncture Jayee Rajguru was expecting the military help from Marahattas, but that did not reach as the messenger was captured at Sambalpur. Jayee Rajguru made his best efforts for the safety of the king as he was the source of unity for the people and Paikas of Khurda. He arranged the escape of the king to Gangamata Matha of Puri with some confidential instructions for his safety. Despite various resistances of Paikas under the able guidance of Jayee Rajguru, the Khurda fort collapsed. Jayee Rajguru was captured by treachery near the Jungles of Ranpur while he was organizing the Paikas for another onslaught and was sent to Cuttack Jail. The king was also captured on 3rd January 1805. It is a fact that the king of Kanika, Balabhadra Bhanja and Chakradwaja Sendha of Kujanga made resistance but subsequently could not match to the superior British forces. It was the darkest period of the historical temple of Lord Jagannath that the king’s name was prevented to be recited at the time of rituals and festivals. In a nutshell, with the capture of kingdom of Khurda, the British authority occupied the entire region of Odisha falling within Bengal and Madras.

The trial of Jayee Rajguru was a mockery and with the help of Harcourt’s preplanned King’s prepared letter and planted witness he was found guilty in a kangaroo court on 5th December 1806. It was surprising to note that Jayee Rajguru took all the blames on himself. He boldly accepted the fact being the custodian of the king he fought for the independence of the kingdom for the greater interest of its people. Whatever he had done was the duty of the loyal son of the motherland to protect its independence. He further stated that the kingdom of Khurda did not belong to Moghuls, Marahattas, English or any alliance and the land belonged to them and saving its independence and souvernity was his duty. There was nothing wrong on it and he did not consider himself having any sense of guilt for organising a revolt rather he felt proud of that cause with which he stood for. The greatness of Jayee Rajguru was further demonstrated that he never took the betrayal of his king into heart and was prepared for any punishment. Historian Pf. Narayan Rao compared Jayee Rajguru with the king Puru in bravery and his reply to the Alexander the great. He further wrote that the great Macedonian hero appreciated the bravery and restored the kingdom to him, but the British on the other hand played treachery and conspired to eliminate Jayee Rajguru by “hanging him to death”. The Judgment was written much before the trial and the trial itself was a parody of justice. The brave son of mother India, Jayee Rajguru was killed in a most heinous and cruel manner on 6th December 1806. Four sturdy men climbed into a thick banyan tree and knotted his ankles with a rope and slugged the other end with a thick branch and pulled. As soon as his body left the ground, the thick rope began cutting into his flesh and since his two legs were tied with two branches of the tree it parted his body into two parts and he died instantly. Jayee Rajguru sacrificed his life as a martyr for the sake of his motherland. It is said that he was the first martyr against the British rule who led a frontal war against the British. At the time of his brutal killing process he kept himself calm by reci       ting a sloka from ‘Bira Saptapadi’ and accepted the death bravely. With his martyrdom the territory of Odisha lost its independence and the chapter of the glorious history of Odisha came to an end.

On the occasion of celebrating the 200th year of Paika Rebellion we can’t forget the sacrifice of legendry fighter Jayee Rajguru and his martyrdom who impetus the Paikas to stand up against British and their exploitation with unparallel enthusiaism and courage which subsequently led to various Paika Revolts. The revolt of 1817 by Buxi Jagabandhu, 1827 of Tapang by Madhab Chandra Routaray, 1836 of Banapur by Saran Singh and Krutibas Patasani, 1857 by Chandan Hajuri and Chakhi Khuntia, Sambalpur by Veer Surendra Sai, Kandhas of Ghumusar and Boudh by Chakara Bisoi, Savaras in Parlakhemundi by Radhakrishna Dandasena, Santalas in Birbhum and Bhagalpur, Koya of Malkanagiri by Toma Dora, Mundas of Chhotnagpur by Birsa Munda and many more are some of the examples of the then revolts raised against Britishers. Jayee Rajguru became the role model of all freedom fighters of the country by his illustrious example of self sacrifice at the altar of the motherland. More specifically the revolt of 1804 by Jayee Rajguru was a direct attack in the intricate web of conspiracy, deceit and manipulation of colonial administration and in defence of national honour.

The fire of patriotism burnt so fiercely in Jayee Rajguru that he embarked on the most stirring adventure. This resistance movement under the leadership of the great nationalist hero was more surcharged with patriotic fervour. Now the time has dawned to ruminate and revive the memory of the brave Paikas of Khurda Garh under the scintillating leadership of their lieutenant Jayee Rajguru who devastated the British in Odisha with his skillful acumen and clever manipulation with wars and ammunitions. The life and achievements of Jayee Rajguru is the astounding saga of thrilling heroism of uncompromising patriotism and selfless sacrifice. His challenge to colonial authority was based on astute diplomacy, undaunted courage and chivalry. Protection of the motherland was paramount in his operation and mission. His lifelong resistance to British rule has not been given its due place in the history. Jayee Rajguru was truly the pioneer and precursor of the emerging nationalism and the springing tiger of Odisha. Indeed, he is a living legend. It’s time not to celebrate, but to act upon his ideologies, in a realistic way. Let’s take a vow to replenish his shedding of sweat and blood for the protection of our motherland with our selfless dedication, devotion, perseverance and fighting spirit for all round development of our beloved nation.

Finally, without substantial reference and emphasis on the Paika Rebellion of 1804, the claim to embellish the Paika Rebellion as the First Freedom Struggle would lose the spices of its heroic exploits. The Paika Rebellion of 1804 has been engraved in the shrines of the history for its 21 day frontal war with the battle of the Paikas for three months  that fuelled impetus subsequently to all sorts of rebellions in dependant India. So, without deliberating a wink we have admittedly embrace the legendary resolution strengthening the fact that Jayee Rajaguru was the “Real Hero” & “True Champion” of the Paika Rebellion who was the architect behind the monumental recognition of Khurda Garh as the last Independent Fort on India. In other words Paika Rebellion was initiated under the able leadership of Jayee Rajguru since 1804 and demonstrated in different rebellious forms at different places till India got her Independence. So my words will fall short to acclaim the freedom fighter of Odisha better known as “Paikas” who carved a niche in the golden chapters of history for their immaculate and selfless contribution to the freedom struggle of India being propelled by Martyr Jayee Rajguru. Let us demand in consensus to impart due importance to all the rebellions mostly from the period of the able leadership of Jayee Rajguru in 1804 till the Paika Rebellion held  in 1827, before the last breath of the Paika Sardar Buxi Jagabandhu.

References : 1.    Jayee Rajguru – A profile of great patriot of Odisha, 2016 by Dr. Narayan Rao.

  1. Mahan Sangrami Jayee Rajguru (Odia), 2009 by Dr. Prafulla Kumar Pattanaik.
  2. Firingi Kali Bharat (Odia), 1835 by Madhu Sudan Bipra.
  3. Paika Kheda (Odia) by Kanhai Champatiray.
  4. Khurda Darpan (Odia) by Digambar Harichandan.
  5. Khurda Itihasara Antarale (Odia), 1999 by Fakir Harichandan.
  6. Odishara Sashastra Mukti Sangram (Odia) by K. C. Das.
  7. Odishara Pratham Saheed Jayee Rajguru (Odia) by Jatadhari Mishra.
  8. History of Odisha, Vol-II by Harekrushna Mahatab.
  9. Freedom Struggle in Odisha, 2006 by Pf. Bhabani Charan Ray.

Dr Dhirendra Nanda, Chairman, Jayee Rajguru Smruti Sansad, Odisha.

Khordha-752057, Ph.- 9437006725, e-mail : [email protected]

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Important : This Paper is the true copy of the Paper presented by ‘Dr Dhirendra Nanda, An Activist & Researcher’ in the National level History Symposium on “Paika Rebellion – A Forgotten Era of Indian Freedom Struggle” by the Intellect with the help of  the Govt. of Odisha and the Indian Council of Historical Research at India International Center, New Delhi.

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