Tag: administration

Indian Princely State of Banswara

Indian Princely State of Banswara


Banswara was a princely state situated in the southern most Rajputana province and later became a part of British India. It is bound in the north by Partabarh and Mewar, on the west with by Dungapur and Sunth, in the south by Jhalod, Jhabua and a portion of Petlawad pargana of Indore, in the east by Sailana, Ratlam and Pratabgarh. Banswara is said to take its name from a Bhil chieftain name Wasna whose village was situated there.  In 1530 he was defeated and slain by Jagmal, the first chieftain of this State. Some claim the word means a country of bamboo (bans).


Coats of Arms, Banswara State


From the beginning of 13th to 16th century, Banswara State was ruled by the chiefs of Dungapur or Bagar. It later became a separate state in 1530. According to one account Udai Singh, the chief of Bagar, who was killed in the battle of Khanua in March 1527, ordered that on his death his territory should be divided between his two sons namely- Prithvi Raj and Jagmal. The other account states that Jagmal was left dead at Khanua, but he later recovered. On returning back he was labeled as impostor. He therefore conceded to the present town of Banswara and the strife between two brothers rose. Finding the continual border warfare intolerable, the two brothers agreed to divide their lands. The river of Mahi was accepted as a fixed border between the states of Banswara and Dungapur. Accuracy of the latter account is agreed to be more truth worthy since the chief of Banswara are a junior branch of the Dungapur family and consequently Sesodia Rajputs a part of Ahariya clan.

One of the most important chief was Kushal Singh, who towards the end of the 7th century is said to have driven the Bhils. The country of Kushalgarh is said to have been named after him. Prithvi Singh was another vital chief who plundered the neighboring state of Sunth and seized the districts of Chilkari or Shergarh in the south-west of Banswara. These two tracts were later held by two principal nobles Raos of Kushalgarh and Garhi. Towards the end of the 18th century Banswara became a subject of the Marathas and paid a tribute to the Raja of Dhar. In 1812, the Maharwal offered to become a tributary of the British Government if they expelled the Marathas from their land. But no definite relations were formed until 1818.

By the treaty then concluded Maharwal agreed to act in subordinate co-operation with the British and concurred to pay tribute to Shar or any other state, whichever the British deemed adequate, provided it did not exceed three-eighths of his revenue. Maharwal Lakshman Singh died in 1905 after a rule of sixty-one years and was succeeded by his son Shambu Singh. The chiefs of this state bore the title of Maharwal and were entitled to receive a salute of 15 guns.

Archaeological remains include the ruins of a fine jain temple at Kalinjara, a hindu temple and jain temple at Arthuna in the south-west. An inscription dated 1080, found in Mandanesh or Mandlesar temple at Arthuna indicates that the latter’s place was once an extensive city (Uchhunak Nagar or Patan), the capital of the Paramara chiefs of Bagar.

Left to Right: Maharawal Lakshman Singh, Maharwal Shambu Singh, Maharwal Prithvi Singh

Population, Agriculture and Trade

The Banswara State in 1901 was split up into large number of districts or thanas. Later it was divided into two divisions- the northern and the southern. The headquarters of the north were at Bhongra and the latter at Kalinjara. The main language spoken was Bhili or Vagdi. Other castes included that of Kunbis, Brahmins, Mahajans and Rajputs.

Agriculture did not flourish much though the soil for most part was excellent. The black cotton variety in the west, especially near the Mahi River was the most fertile and yielded produce without irrigation. The north side had a rich red loam soil but for most part was uncultivated by the Bhils living in that area. The Brahmins and Patels mostly confided to the west and were industrious cultivators who grew maize, rice, wheat, barley, gram and sugar cane. The Bhils cultivated through a system of walar or walra which consisted of a system of cutting down trees where they are left to dry till the end of summer. After the first rainfall the land was ploughed and sown with maize or inferior millets known locally as kuri or kodra. This method was the most injurious to the forests. Irrigation was mainly from wells and tanks.

More than half of the Banswara was covered with jungle. Trees that grew were teak, black-wood, ebony, pipal, haldu, salar, dhak and kadamb. These were unpreserved and hence no use to the darbar. The fruit trees comprised of mango, mahua, wold date-palm and bamboo. Manufactures of course cottom cloth, little silver jewellery, lac bangles and wooden toys were primitive.


Flag of Banswara State

The chief exports included of grain, wood, honey and mahua flowers. Salt and tobacco were imported. The four British post offices were at Banswara Town (telegraph office situated here too), Chhinch, Garhi and Kushalgarh. The Banswara palace stood on the rising ground to the south and on the crest of a low bridge. To the east among the low hills was the Bai Tal, which was a small summer palace. In its garden are the chhatris or cenotaphs of the rulers of the State.


Banswara State was governed by the chief with the assistance of a Kamdar or a minister and a thanadar who possessed limited powers in each of the districts. The territory was divided into two districts, each was under a tehsildar (third class magistrate). The judicial machinery consisted of a thanadar who imposed fines for offences. Their main duty was to arrest accused persons and to hold a preliminary inquiry and later forward the cases to the capital. The powers of the Faujdar (first class magistrate) were similar, and in this way all the criminal cases were decided by the Kamdar. Most of the civil suits were decided by the Panchayat. However the cases of the Session Court presided by the Maharwal held the final appeal.

The system of land revenue was primitive and the assessment or collection is collected either in cash or kind. The lands of the jagirs could be seized if they failed to pay tribute (tanka). Khairat villages or religious and charitable allotments were rent-free. A police force consisting of cavalry and infantry men was constituted.


During most of the 19th century, Banswara used the ‘Salim Shahi’ coinage of neighboring the Pratapgarh State. But around 1870 Maharwal Lakshman            Singh, defying a British prohibiting order of that year, introduced a series of crude coins in copper, silver and gold for use within the state. The legends on these coins are in a secret script and said to have been invented by Lakshman Singh himself. The central word in these legends has been tentatively identified as ‘Samsatraba’ (for “Samba Satra”, a designation for the Hindu deity Shiva) in the longer form or ‘Samba’ for the shorter form. All the gold and silver coins, and a few rare copper ones, carry the longer form. The copper coins were made for circulation, but the gold and silver were produced mainly for presentation. In 1904 an attempt was made to introduce the British currency, but the exchange rate fixed by the government was below the actual market rate. During the period of conversion only 202 Salim Shahi rupees were tendered by the public for exchange.

Some examples of coins are:


Silver Rupee Coins of Lakshman Singh, script reads as Shahr Bansahpur and Sambsatra


Silver Rupee and ½ Rupee with Samsatraba legend


The Bengal Sultanate

The Bengal Sultanate

The Bengal Sultanate was an independent medieval Islamic state in the Indian subcontinent established on the coast of Bay of Bengal in 1342. Its dominion and influence extended across modern-day Bangladesh, East India and West Burma. The sultanate was dominated by numerous dynasties of Turkic, Arab, and Persian, Bengali and Abyssinian origin. It disintegrated at the end of the 16th-century and was absorbed into the pan-South Asian Mughal Empire and the Arakanese Kingdom of Mrauk U.

Brief History

The important kingdoms that ruled Bengal Sultanate were:

Illyas Shahi Dynasty: Bakhtiyar Khilji annexed the Bengal region as a province of the Delhi Sultanate, but in mid 14th century the governors of Bengal announced their independence. The Bengal Sultanate was then formed in 1352 by Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah when he conquered Lakhnauti, Sonargaon and Satgaon. The dynasty’s rule was interrupted by an uprising by the Hindus under Raja Ganesha. However the Ilyas Shahi dynasty was restored by Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah.

Ganesh Dynasty:  The Ganesha dynasty began with Raja Ganesha in 1414. After Raja Ganesha seized control over Bengal he faced an imminent threat of invasion. With the help of Qutb al Alam, the threat was seized but the Muslim influence continued. Raja Ganesha’s son converted to Islam who was known as Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah. Jalaluddin’s son, Shamsuddin Ahmad Shah ruled for only 3 years due to chaos and anarchy. The dynasty is known for their liberal policy as well as justice and charity.

Hussain Shahi Dynasty: This dynasty ruled from 1494-1538. Alauddin Hussain Shah was considered as the greatest of all Sultans of Bengal. He extended the Sultanate’s territory and trade links. In the later period, the Afghans sacked the kingdom’s capital Gaur and remained for several decades until the arrival of Mughals.


The Cultural heritage of the Bengal Sultanate had many Persian influences along with the traditional Bengali culture. The Sultans of Bengal were termed as the King of Kings in the East. Poetry was appreciated and encouraged in the period. The literature that was used in royal courts included works in Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit. In the 15th century, the Mosque City of Bagerhat was built under the Bengal Sultanate rule. This city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has more than 50 Islamic monuments. It has been called as an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble which illustrates a significant stage of human history. The Sufi Baul movement also took birth under their reign.


Literature prospered and grew by leaps and bounds in this era. Persian was the official language used in the region. Many scholars, teachers, lawyers and clerics relocated to the Sultanate. Several Persian manuscripts and books were published. The Rikhta tradition of Bengali Muslim poetry was first introduced by Nur Qutb Alam. These poems written were half in Bengali and the half in Persian. Sufi literature also flourished with the main theme of cosmology. Hindu writers were also encouraged by Sultans. Under the rule of Alauddin Hussain Shah the Bengali adaptation of the Mahabharata was written. Gaudiya Vaishanavism – the Vaishanava religious movement, which was started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also came into being in the period of the Bengal Sultanate.


Bengal Sultanate is known for its iconic architecture. A unique Bengali-Islamic form took form. It was inspired by styles from Persia and Byzantium. Single and multiple shaped domes were accessorized with stones and terracotta. One of the best examples of their work is Adina mosque. It looks similar to Great Mosque of Damascus.

The Mosque city of Bagerhat, a lost city in Khulna Division of Bangladesh was set up during the reign of the Bengal Sultanate. It was established by the warrior saint Turkish giant Ulugh Khan Jahan in the 15th century. It is a UNESCO world heritage site which was originally called as, “Khalifatabad” It was one of the major mint towns of Bengal Sultanate.

Administrative Centers

The Bengal Sultanate governed its territories through a network of administrative centers known as Mint Towns. These towns hosted a mint which produced the taka. They were district headquarters and contributed to urbanization. They received migrants from other parts of the Muslim world, including North India, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Mint Town Modern areas
Lakhnauti Maldah District and Rajshahi District
Sonargaon Dhaka District and Narayanganj District
Satgaon Hooghly District and Calcutta District
Chatgaon Chittagong District
Mrauk U Sittwe District
Fatehabad Faridpur District
Khalifatabad Bagerhat District
Ghiaspur Mymensingh District
Barbakaabad Dinajpur District
Sharifabad Birbhum District
Nusratabad Rangpur District and Bogra District
Chandrabad Murshidabad district
Rotaspur Located in Bihar state, India
Mahmudabad Nadia District and Jessore District
Jalalabad Sylhet District
Muzaffarabad Maldah District
Husaynabad 24 Parganas
Tandah Maldah District



Bengal was a high yielding land where agricultural activities flourished. The clothing industry consisted of textile weavers. When the Chinese traveler Ma Huan wrote about the region, he mentioned about the booming shipbuilding industry. Trading activities extended up to different parts of the world such as East Africa. Bengal was connected to the caravan routes of West and Central Asia, through the Grant Trunk road. Items that were exported included salts, fruits, liqueurs, wines, grain, ornaments, handloom items and precious metal. The maritime and land trade routes of the sultanate extended far and wide from Central Asia to the West.


Earlier, coins were issued in the name of the Delhi Sultan. However, that caused a lot of difficulties due to the rulers in Bengal. The first independent sultanate was established in Bengal for the next 300 years after Balban died in 1287 CE. Things took a turn in 1576 CE when Delhi brought Bengal under complete control as a part of the Mughal Empire. When the Muslims ruled, they introduced taka as the standard form of currency. Bengal was considered the richest country to trade with by European traders. The uniqueness of the Bengal Sultanate coinage stands out mainly because of the monometallic design based on the silver tanka. This denomination was based on the tola of 11 grams.

An example of the first Islamic coin struck in the Bengal Sultanate is the Muhammad Bin Sam 20 ratti gold coin. It shows a horseman galloping on the left while he holds a mace. A Nagari legend surrounds it. When Muhammad Bin Sam set up the Delhi Sultanate, his rule extended up to Bengal and he issued coins under the Delhi Sultan’s name.

Fractional Gold Tanka in the name of Muhammad Bin Sam

Later, the Bengal Sultans modeled their coin designs on those of the Delhi sultanate. Most of the coins of the Bengal sultans have several types of test cuts. For example, the big pit in the centre plus the cuts on the rim of reverse sides. This could mean that counterfeiting was a common occurrence.

One of the most iconic coins was issued by Jalal-al-Din Muhammad. It was a silver tanka featuring a standing lion to the right and an inscription. The legend carries the ruler’s titles and is accentuated with an ornamental border. The design of this coin was copied by later Kings and sultans of Bengal.

Most of the coins were inscriptional only written in between geometric shapes such as squares and circles.

Their four main types were:

  • Features the ruler’s name and titles on obverse side. Shahada (a form of expression of faith) on the reverse side sometimes with the “Abbasid Caliph” name.
  • Had the ruler’s name and titles on the reverse side and obverse carried the words “Abbasid Caliph” on reverse.
  • Reverse side same as above but the obverse side contained religious titles.
  • Ruler’s name titles on both sides.

Rare and Scarce Coins:

Hamzah Shah Coins: Hamzah Shah was in power for a short period. Most of his coins are rare to find. An example is the Silver Tanka, that bears the legend “al-mu’ayyad bi-ta’yid al-rahman saif al-dunya wa’l din abu’l mujahid  hamzah shah ibn a’zamshah al-sultan / “ and nasir al-islam wa’l muslimin yamin amir al-mu’minin in a ruled circle. The coin style is similar to those attributed to Muzzamabad. Another rare coin of his is the silver tanka with a scalloped circle on the reverse.

Silver Tanka of Hamzah Shah

Jalal-al-Din Muhammad Coins: His coins are generally believed to have been minted at Sonargaon. One of his rare type of Silver Tanka issued by him is with the legend al-sultan al-‘adil jalal al-dunya wa’l din abu’l muzaffar muhammad shah al-sultan/ in a scalloped circle and the legend asir amir al-mu’minin ghawth al-islam wa’l muslimin in an inverse scalloped circle. It also has a marginal legend with the prophet’s names and probably an AH date.

Silver Tanka of Jalal-al-Din Muhammad

Jalal al-Din-Fath Coins: A silver tanka issued by Jalal al Din-Fath carrying the legend al-sultan ibn al-sultan jalal al-dunya wa’l din abu’l muzaffar with sola countermarks and obverse side with legend fath shah al-sultan ibn mahmud shah al-sultan is one of the scarcest types of Bengal Sultanate coins. It has countermarks that are unlike the standard chop and test marks.

Surya or Chakhra Silver Tanka of Jalal-al-Din-Fath