(Last Updated on : 31-07-2013)
The History of West Bengal
reveals that it was divided into many small states. The Buddhist and Jaina works and the coins prove that towards the middle of the sixth century B.C. independent sovereign states were established in Vanga and Radha. However in the beginning of the fourth century B.C., a state called Gangaridai as arose out of the unison of lower and western Bengal. The Bhagavata Purana discusses the primitive people of Bengal as sinners because they were considered Dasyus and not Indo Aryans. But the Vanga and Anga in Bengal are identified as Indo-Aryans in the Jain scriptures. The remains of the settlements of the Copper Age suggest that the region of Bengal dates back to four thousand years. Earliest evidences of human settlements are derived from the stone tools and such pre historic stone tools have been found in many regions of Bengal such as Medinipur, Bankura and Bardhaman. In the Mahabharata
there are references of Bengali kings like Chitrasena who was defeated by Bhima. The epic also suggests that Bengal was divided among various tribes or kingdoms such as southern, northern and western Bengal. Western Bengal was a part of Magadha. However it was under the Nanda Empire that the whole of Bengal came under the Indo Aryan rule.
According to belief Gangaridai was a part of King Ashoka's Empire. During the rule of the Kushanas the major part of the state was ruled by three agents. Over a period of time these rulers refused to accept the suzerainty of the Kushanas and thereby became independent. This was followed by a period of uncertainty and turmoil. According to an inscription Simha Varman and his son Chandra Varman were the rulers of Bengal when the Guptas had come to power (319-20 A.D.). As per the Allahabad
Stone Pillar inscription Samatata was a part of Samudragupta's kingdom. The inscription gives evidence that North Bengal was included within the Gupta Empire.
However during the decline of Gupta Empire
it appears that Bengal was ruled by independent rulers which include Gopachandra, Dharmaditya and Samacharadeva according to the copperplate grants. In the middle of the sixth century A.D. Gauda gradually became a powerful state under the rule of King Sasanka. In course of time it developed to an empire that extended upto Kanya Kubja in the west and Ganjam in the south. King Sasanka was deposed by Bhaskara Varma. However he retrieved his position after Bhaskara's death in 650 A.D.
After a long period of chaos, the people of Bengal elected Gopala as their king who is the founder of Pala dynasty. Dharmapala
, the successor of Gopala, is believed to have extended his empire from Kedar in the Himalaya up to Gokarna in Bombay. Deva Pala, son of Dharmapala established his control from the Himalaya Mountains to the Vindhyas.
Deva Pala was succeeded by Vigraha Pala and thereafter succeeded by Narayana Pala. The Pala dynasty was attacked by the hill tribe Kamboja which was revolted by king Mahipala. Mahipala conquered east Bengal, Tirabhukti and the whole of Magadha. The Tamil king, Rajendra Chola advanced through Orissa
and defeated Mahipala in 1023 A.D. The successors of Mahipala were weak which led to the revolt of the Kaivartas in north Bengal under the leadership of Divyoka. His successor, Bhima, was defeated by Ramapala
who was the last known king of Pala dynasty
Towards the end of the eleventh century the Varman dynasty came into power in east Bengal. Harivarmadeva was the most celebrated ruler of this dynasty. There is a probability that in the first half of the twelfth century, Vijayasena
of the Sena dynasty gave a death-blow to the Varman dynasty. Vijayasena assumed power and founded the Sena dynasty. His son and successor, Ballala Sena devoted himself to social reforms and literary activities. His son, Laksmanasena annexed Mithila and Gaya
to the kingdom of Bengal.
Towards the end of Laksmana's reign, Madhumathanadeva created an independent state on the eastern bank of the river Meghna. In the first half of the thirteenth century, the Deva dynasty ruled over that State. From 1227 to 1287A.D. fifteen rulers in succession occupied the throne of Bengal. Ten belonged to the Mamluk race among these fifteen who ruled Delhi
. The Mamluk rule in Bengal was supplanted by the Tughlaq; Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughlaq
conquered this State and it was under his rule. This regime gave way to the Iliyas Shahi rule.
Bengal had been ruled by Shahi and Afghan rulers. The Afghan rule was supplanted by Mughal rule also. In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese visited Bengal for business purposes and this made the English, French and Dutch visit Bengal. During the rule of Alivardi Khan Bengal was overrun by the Marathas. After the Battle of Plassey
the whole of India came under the imperial control of the British.