Banglar Dakat

It is said that the dacoits of the old days despite being from lower classes were extremely devoted to Goddess Kali. Before leaving for committing dacoity, they would worship Kali. It seems that some of these gangs offered even human sacrifice. According to some, this human sacrifice originated from the practice of sacrificing prisoners of war. I have heard a story about this from an ancient gentleman who had heard it in his childhood from another ancient gentleman. The story is based on an incident in the life of that gentleman maternal grandfather.

We are creating different animated short stories to create a series of banglar dakat , such as raghu dakat, devi chowdhurani, bishe dakat etc.Hope bengali kids will love it.

Tales of Kapalik dacoits are heard in every other Bengal home. I do not know how true they are, but it is not proper to disbelieve and reject folk tales as a class altogether. Many such stories are heard in this region that in olden days taking advantage of these dacoits devotion to Kali, some dark-complexioned wives would stride forth naked, hair flying, chopper or sword in hand to repel dacoits, and seeing this scene dacoits overwhelmed by fear, would shout Maa and, making obeisance, leave the place. Is there not a shred of truth in all these stories? I do not know if there is, but it cannot be denied that in some dacoit gangs great devotion to Kali has been noticed.

Just as the pirates of old used slim longboats for speed, similarly the land dacoit used a type of Ron-paa for traveling. Ron here signifies battleï Ron-paa is made of two pieces of slim bamboo. In the centre of these bamboo staffs there is a knot. Placing their feet on these knots and rising far up dacoits could speed at twelve miles an hour on these battle-legs. With the help of these battle-legs they were able in a body to cross through canals, tanks, fields, plains and undergrowth very swiftly. When these dacoits traveled with battle-legs, they would appear like massive giants striding on huge legs. The use of the battle legs demands great practice. Just as besides the Finns none are able to master skiing on snow, similarly none but the Bengali has been able to use this Ron-paa. The dacoits expert in using it can be compared with modern mechanized troops. In the days of Ben

On enquiry, I have learnt that many in the dacoit gangs that came into being at the beginning of British rule were sepoys and lathials dismissed by Zamindars. During the Pathan rule, these Zamindars were fully autonomous with respect to internal government. For this reason they had to establish these sepoys and lathials in their areas for generations by gifting them land. By family tradition, their very profession became fighting for the Zamindar.

 Disturbed by the depredations of the Marathas the Nawab of Bengal Alivardi Khan had dispatched his family members for their safety to the Natore royal family. At that time, the army of the semi-independent Natore kingdom was constituted of the Bagdis of West Bengal and the Bhojpuris of Bihar. It is because of the great trust he placed in these Bagdi soldiers that Nawab Alivardi Khan made such arrangements. Every historian is well aware of the bravery of the Bagdi soldiers of Bishnupur. With their help, Bishnupur was able to safeguard its independence for long. The famous cannons of Bishnupur used to be handled by these Bagdi soldiers. But it is a matter of regret that some bands of these very Bagdis became dacoits in later times. Perhaps even today they have been unable to renounce the war-lust cultivated over time. That is why despite such long effort the nature of these criminal tribes could not be changed.

Besides spears with curved blades, these tribal people use a type of brass or bell-metal plate with serrated edges. These are spun and thrown with such force that they can slice off any person's head very far off. Placing pebbles in loops of string and whirling them about, they throw these in such a way that, speeding like bullets, they succeed in killing people. In the past, dacoits and warriors used such plates with serrated edges in battles and skirmishes. On studying all these matters, it is possible to find out much about the origin of today�s tribal dacoit gangs. Those of these mercenaries who, despite engaging in agricultural work, have been unable to change their life-style, it is they who made up the dacoit bands of the past and some of the criminal tribes of today.

Even at the beginning of British rule, many dacoit gangs made up of these martial people roamed the districts of Bengal. Among these dacoits Gaurey Bedey and Raghu Dakat were prominent. Both lived in Halisahar Parganas of the 24 Parganas. On the fringes of Madral village near Naihati the ruins of Raghu Dakat�s Kali temple still exist. The local people believe that even now, if the surrounding wasteland is dug up, the treasures buried by dacoits can be found.

In those days if any distant village were to be visited, villagers would usually leave home only after making their wills or having made permanent arrangements for their lands and property, because every moment of travel was beset with the fear of losing their lives at the hands of dacoits or thengaariyaa [staff wielding murderous gangs]. Even today tales of such thengaariyaa fields or dacoits� Kali can be heard in villages. When these dacoits came to eat at any zamindar�s place, they never took salt. That is, they used to take salt-less food, for they knew that good relations might not continue forever with these zamindars. Hunting for hidden treasure, they have tied men to posts and scorched them with kolkey (clay pipes for smoking tobacco), but as for women, let alone touch them, they never even tried to take a single ornament off their bodies. But this cannot be said about dacoits of today. Modern dacoits at times perpetrate unspeakable atrocities indiscriminately on women and men.

In rural areas there are many such dacoit gangs who are said to announce their location to one another by imitating animal calls. Leaders quite often convey instructions thereby to members of the gang to meet at a particular spot. There are many such criminal tribes as are said even today to commit misdeeds voicing such animal calls. For example the Bauri tribe of Bengal can be cited. Regarding this the following account is worth attention:

City criminals have adopted a novel tactic for robbery and looting these days. Regarding this the following account deserves note:

 I am a cloth merchant. The lack of supplies for over a month has nearly wound up my business. In the meantime, I got information through a middleman that such and such a person will sell cloth in the black market. After this, according to the arrangements, I arrived at the specified place with five thousand rupees. Immediately on arrival, a group of people with knives jumped upon me and snatching all my money, left. I was left with stab wounds on my hands and back.
In this manner, for buying a house or on the pretext of providing a prohibited item, they delude people to a lonely place and loot their money and belongings.

During the Muslim rule, these dacoit gangs had established a parallel government in many places. Of course, local zamindars had also helped them in this. Although, the Muslims had established supremacy in the towns and the capital of Hindustan, they had no powers in the villages or remote areas of the country. In those places, the Zamindars and dacoit leaders ruled unchallenged. Because of this, at the rise of Marathas, Jats and Rajputs etc., the Mughal Empire easily collapsed. 


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