Barunei & The first war of independence in India

Updated: Aug 9

Located just 26KM from Bhubaneswar as one drives towards Khurda along NH5, the small hillock is teeming with history. Named after goddess Barunei one of the two presiding deities of the Paika’s- the warrior clan from the erstwhile- the other being Goddess Barunei. The hillock is home to the Khurdagarh (Khurda fort) which has the distinction of being one of the last independent fort of India until it was annexed by the Britishers in 1827 after they successfully quelled the Paika uprising.


Brief history of Khurdagarh and the Paika Uprising


Paika’s – the warrior clan of Odisha are second to none when it comes to valour. Their chequered history though very much undermined stands testament to this fact. Had the various kings of Odisha organised a proper army of the Paika’s and equipped them with proper weaponry, Odisha would never have fallen to invaders.


Khurdagarh


Current day Khurdagarh doesn’t give a fair indication of rich bravery and valour. The ruins of the fort pales in comparison with the magnificence of gigantic forts found elsewhere in India. But this fort served its purpose, defended the territory to the last stone on its foundation and to the last man. The dust settled on the ruins shroud the resplendent bravery of the men who once called it their citadel.


After the King Mukunda Deva I, was killed in 1568 at Gohiratikra, Rama Chandra Dev son of Danai Vidyadhar- a senior counsel of Bhoi Dynasty- established his kingdom in the foothills of the Barunei and named it Jagannathpur Katak and built the Barunei temple.


The fort was built by King Divyasingh Dev in the 16th Century. The fort was well protected from two sides by the Barunei hills and the dense forest on the other.


The kingdom of Khurda has the distinction of being one of the last independent kingdom of the country. Even though Kalinga fell to Afghans, Mughal’s and later the Maratha’s, they couldn’t annex the kingdom of Khurda despite many attempts. The kingdom fought a pitched battle with the Britisher’s from 23 years until its annexation in 1827- when the Britisher’s could finally establish a firm hold on Khurda.


Khurda went to war with the Britisher’s as early as 1804.The leader was Jaykrushna Rajguru Mohapatra popularly known as Jayee Rajguru- Rajguru was a titled bestowed on his family for their role in advisory capacity to the King of Khurda. He was the chief advisor to King Mukunda Deva II. Disowning the letter of subjugation issued by the British, Rajguru assembled the army of Khurda comprising of Paika’s and fought the British army first on the banks of Mahanadi river and defeated them. The second battle was fought on the foothills of Barunei, even though the

British army had reinforcements from Chennai and numbered around 7000, they still tasted defeat.


However as was the case in most such instances in Indian history, the divide and rule policy of the British paid off. With the help of traitors, the Britisher’s were able to capture Rajguru but not before he helped the King escape. After a prolonged trial, Rajguru was declared guilty and given capital punishment. On 6th Dec 1806, Rajguru was killed in a brutal manner with his legs tied to two branches of a banyan tree and the branches let off, splitting his body into two.


Paika Uprising


After the Britisher’s took over Orissa from the Maratha’s in 1803, they followed a systematic process of marginalising the Odiya people of their fundamental rights. The language was not accorded official status and instead Hindi, Persian and Bengali languages were enforced. Alien to these new linguistic jargons, the Odiya’s lost ground to their counterparts. The last straw was when they were denied to manufacture salt and the new land reform took away the lands of the Paika’s who took to farming and policing during peace times. In return they were given land by the princely states to earn their livelihood.


The Paika uprising of 1817 which spread across most of Odisha and was the first mass uprising against the colonial imperialism of the Britisher’s, some forty years before what is regarded as India’s first war of Independence, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.


The Paika leader of Khurda Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mahapatra Bhramarbar Ray- was the General of King Mukunda Deva II of Khurda. When the land reforms set in, Buxi Jagabandhu found that all his landed property was seized with immediate effect and he was reduced to survive on alms given by locals.


Feeling insulted Buxi Jagabandhu was looking for an opportunity to strike back and it came when some four hundred Kandha’s of Ghumusar owing their allegiance to King Srikar Bhanja marched towards Khurda and declared rebellion against the British Rule as they had imprisoned Srikar Bhanja. Ably supported by his trusted lieutenant Mirhaider Ali- the Dalabehera of Duduma (a colony in present day Bhubaneswar) - Buxi Jagabandhu vent his fury against the sinister design of British Imperialism. All the Daleis, Dalebhera’s and Paika Sardars joined Buxi Jagabandhu in his fight against the British.


The Paika’s led by Buxi Jagabandhu captured Khurda and marched towards Puri, there after overthrowing the British resistance, they proclaimed Mukunda Deva II as the King of Kalinga and declared and all out war against the British Colonialism.


The bravery of the Paika’s is aptly described in the book -“A sketch of the history of Orissa 1803-128” by British Historian George Toynbee -“ It was not long however before we had to encounter a storm, which burst with such sudden fury as to threaten our expulsion if not form the whole of Orissa at least from territory of Khurda."


That the Paika’s were largely an assembled army with scarce resources and archaic weapons plus the traitors as is the case often in Indian history- proved to be their major undoing against the well oiled British army. Soon the tables turned and the Britisher’s were able to reestablish their hold on Orissa.


After Jagabandhu’s surrender in 1825, the rebellion was carried forward by Krutibas Patasani- the Dalabehera of Arang who led the Banapur rebellion and was captured and given death sentence in 1836.


Though the Paika rebellion was crushed by the Britisher’s, it made the later realise its faulty administrative policies and ushered in a slew of welfare schemes and the faulty land reforms abolished. They also opened the doors for Odiya’s in administrative jobs and included Odiya language in their official communications.


Besides The fort and the Barunei temple, there is a perennial stream Swarna Ganga which flows through the hills. There is a hot spring Atri, Sufi shrine at Kaipadadar, Nikunja Bihari and Radhanath Deb temple near the fort.


There is a tourist interpretation centre to disseminate information to tourists about the significance of the various places mentioned above.


It’s a good place for trekkers and overall a nice picnic spot for the entire family. However avoid trekking during the rainy seasons.


Important Information

One can hire a cab to reach Barunei hills; one can take the bus 801 Master Canteen- Khurda of city roadways to reach Barunei hills. The nearest railhead is Khurda Road.


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