HISTORY OF MALDA DISTRICT
The first mention of Malda is found in Abul Fazl’s “Ain-i-Akbari” where ‘Maldah’ was mentioned as an important centre of trade. Malda is also believed to have occupied an eminent position in ancient India as belonging to the kingdom of Gouda under Sasanka. It was also a famous place under the Palas. King Gopala was the man of Barendra. Bakhtieyar Khalji made his headquarters at Gouda and established Muhammedan rule over the greater parts of northern and central Bengal, and attempted to subjugate Assam and Bhutan. The Pala dynasty began at about 740 A. D. and continued till the invasion of the Sena dynasty (about 1097 A. D.) The exploits of Pala and Sena kings are still present at Gouda Malda. Later Shamsud-din-Ilyas Shah (Haji Ilyas) transferred his capital to Pandua. Sikandar Shah, the eldest son of Haji Ilyas, succeeded his father on the throne, and ruled there for thirty years. He built the great Adina mosque at Pandua, 30 km away from the Malda town.
There is a debate as to how the term Malda or ‘Maldah’ has come into existence. The word ‘Mal’ stands for goods or wealth and ‘dah’ means place. Therefore, Maldah symbolizes the place of wealth. G. E. Lambourn (the British Civilian who wrote first the District Gazetteers of Malda) had mentioned a story regarding the origin of the district name. According to him, once upon a time an old woman had purchased the entire stock of mercury from a merchant who had come to the place for trade. Naturally, she was in possession of a lot of mercury (mal> wealth) which she utilized to clean up a tank called the Parapukur (mercury tank) to this day, and thus the place name of Malda (place of wealth) has originated. This legend is popular among the local people.
Few scholars on the other hand believe that around two thousand years back when the Dravidian race moved all over Bengal the ‘Malpaharis’ (a branch of Dravidian race) accompanied them as they entered into Malda. Thus, the name ‘Maldah’ is derived from them.
As stated earlier, the first mention of Malda is found in Abul Fazl’s “Ain-i-Akbari”. He also mentioned that it (Malda) was an important centre of trade. However, the district also assumed importance under the Mughals.
The Mughal Empire in India was divided into several Subahs. Abul Fazal in his account Ain-i-Akbari had referred to the nineteenth Sarkars in Bengal namely, (1) Sarkar Purniah, (2) Sarkar Audamber, (3) Sarkar Sharifabad, (4) Sarkar Sulaimanabad, (5) Sarkar Salgaon, (6) Sarkar Madaran, (7) Sarkar Tajpur, (8) Sarkar Lakhnauti, (9) Sarkar Barbakabad, (10) Sarkar Mahmdabad, (11) Sarkar Khalifatabad, (12) Sarkar Panjra, (13) Sarkar Ghoraghata, (14) Sarkar Bazuha, (15) Sarkar Fathabad, (16) Sarkar Bakla, (17) Sarkar Silhat, (18) Sarkar Souargaon, and (19) Sarkar Chatgaon.
Each sarkar was further divided into several mahals. The names of some of the sarkars of North Bengal were Sarkar Tajpur, Sarkar Lakhnauti, Sarkar Panjara, Sarkar Ghoraghata and Sarkar Bazuha. Some parts of Sarkar Purniah and Sarkar Barakabad were also included within present North Bengal. Present Gour, Sarkar Lakhnauti
Abul Fazal wrote in Ain-i-Akbari:
“Jannatabadis an ancient city: for a time, it was the capital of Bengal and was widely known as Lakhnauti and for a while as Gaur. His Majesty the late Emperor Humāyún distinguished it by this title of Jannatābād. It has a fine fort and to the eastward of it is a lake called Chhatiāpatiā in which are many islands. Were the dam that confines it to break; the city would be under water. About a kós to the north of the fort, is a large building and a reservoir, monuments of great antiquity. From time immemorial, its water has been considered to be of a poisonous character. The place was called Piyāsbāri, (abode of thirst) and criminals condemned to death, were there confined who in a short time perished from the effects of this brackish water. At present in the blessed reign of His Majesty, this practice has been discontinued.”
With the grant of the Dewani in 1765, the revenue management of Bengal passed into the hands of the East India Company. The Select Committee of the British Parliament felt that to increase revenue collection local input for understanding the region was necessary. Accordingly, in their proceedings dated 16th August 1769, the Select Committee passed a general resolution that in every province or district a gentleman in the service should be appointed under the name of “Supravisor”. His duties were to carry out local investigations and to gather as much information about revenue as possible. They were found in several provinces and districts for collection and payment of revenue such as Dinajpur, Jessore, Rongpur, Dacca, Tippera, Nadia, Birbhum, and Rajshahi. The term “Supravisor” was soon replaced by the term ‘Collector’. Several Collectors were appointed at many places on the advice of the Select Committee on and from 13th October 1772. The Company set a criminal court in the same year at each district. The Collector was also vested with the power of a Magistrate and also of a Judge by the Regulations passed on June 27, 1787.
In 1773 a farming settlement was made by the same committee and accordingly entire Bengal was divided into the following five grand divisions. These grand divisions were (i) Calcutta. ii) Burdwan and iii) Murshidabad. iv) Dinajpur and (v) Dacca. Third grand division, i.e. Murshidabad had its jurisdiction over areas of Murshidabad, Rajshahi, Rokanpur, Chunakhali, Laskerpur, Jahangirpur, Khas Taluks of Rajmahal, Baglepur etc.
It is to be mentioned here that earlier in 1793 fifteen collectorships were recognized in fifteen districts by the letter of the Governor General dated 29.03.1793. At the time of the Permanent settlement, the Paragana was the basic unit of zamindar while the zamindari was regarded at the beginning as the unit of the district or province. At that time, Bengal was divided into sixteen districts.
Malda district was formed of outlined portions of the Purnea and Dinajpur districts in 1813, though it did not formally become an independent administrative unit till 1859. In 1832 a separate treasury was opened in Englishbazzar, the following year being that of the discontinuance of the Companies trade. And finally in 1859 a full Magistrate and Collector was appointed.
The district boundary was published by a notification in 1876. From 1876 to 1905 present Malda district was under Bhagalpur division. In 1905 the district was transferred from Bhagalpur Division to Rajshahi Division on the formation of the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Later it came under Jalpaiguri Division of Bengal up to 1947.
For first few days after 15th August 1947, it was unclear and undecided whether it will stay with India or go to East Pakistan. During these few days the district was under a Magistrate of East Pakistan. However, when the details of the Radcliffe award were published, the district came over to West Bengal on the 17th of August. 1947.
The then District Magistrate of Malda, Mr Gian Singh Kahlon,ICS, unfurled the national flag of Pakistan on August 15.Three days later, it was again announced from Delhi that Malda would remain a part of India. But five of the 15 police stations — Sivganj, Nachol, Bholahaat, Nababganj and Gomastopur — in the district would be added to Pabna district in East Pakistan, the announcement had said.
The Addl District Magistrate of Pabna, now in Bangladesh, Mangal Kumar Acherjee, had arrived in Malda after repatriation to Domain of India and temporarily took charge of Malda district on 28.08.1947. Mr Ashok Mitra, ICS was the first regular District Collector & District Magistrate of Malda District who took charge on 16.01.1948.