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‘The untold story’; Paikas and the first armed struggle for independence

From time immemorial, the land of Odisha has set a paradigm in welfare. In the Mahabharata war, emperor Srutayudha fought in coalition with the Kauravas with the help of the armed Paikas. ‘The river Daya turned red’ represents the pinnacle of bravery displayed by Kalinga’s native military against Mauryan invaders. The territory was stretched to its most elastic limits under the leadership of Kapilendra Deva.

The British had established themselves in Bengal after the Battle of Plassey. With the defeat of the French in the south, the English East India Company laid a hawk’s eye to enjoin Calcutta to Madras. At that time, the dominion of Odisha comprised of many princely states. The British made an understanding with the king Mukunda Deva II to derive a free passage inside the state.

15,000 Paika infantry, including 2,000 horses and around 2,600 elephants struck the East India Company army. The confrontation was so terrible that the British panicked. The Khordha fort collapsed in front of modern warfare of the British army on December 4, 1804. King and Rajguru were captured by treachery and were sent to Barabati fort and Medinipur jail respectively.

Rajguru was sentenced to death in a most heinous and cruel manner on December 6, 1806. After the invasion of Odisha, the British government began committing uncountable atrocities against Paikas and common people. The company levied taxes on pilgrims who visited Puri’s Jagannath temple and tribals who collected forest produce.

In 1817, inflation and demonetisation sparked a pan-Odisha armed revolution led by Paikas led by Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar. Thousands of Paika soldiers were killed in this rebellion, while the East India Company lost the same number of men. 25 Paika leaders were hanged, 17 were imprisoned in Alipur for life, and 27 were exiled from Odisha.

The Banapur region of Odisha declared independence for three days in 1836, complete with coronation of the king and constitution. The British were pummelled for months at Tapanga Garh by Dalabehera Madhav Chandra Routray and Kritibas. Tribals, including Kondhs, Kolhas, and Santhals played critical roles in restraining British crews in guerrilla combat in all of these rebellions.

On the eve of the 75th independence year of the nation, it is time to reveal our past, know the unsung heroes, and chalk the unheard stories. Andrew Stirling, a 19th-century British administrator-historian who chronicled Odisha for the first time in his book Orissa: Its Geography, Statistics, History, Religion, and Antiquities. Within the span from 1804-1845, the British suffered massive tolls of deaths and artillery.


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