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Bareilly History

Ancient period

Historically, the Bareilly region has found mention since the times of the Mahabharata. The fortress of Ahichhattra was an important cultural, political and religious center through the ancient period.

Panchala Kingdom

Historically, the Panchala Kingdom occupied the region the east of the Kuru Kingdom between the upper Himalayas and the river Ganga. The country was divided into Uttara-Panchala (Northern Panchala) and Dakshina-Panchala (Southern Panchala). Ahicchattra, in the Aonla region of Bareilly, was the capital of Northern Panchala. The Bareilly region is said to be the birthplace of Draupadi.

Rule of Nanda, Maurya, Gupta and Maukharis Empire

The experiment in the non-monarchical form of Government in Panchala was soon engulfed in the growing Magadhan imperialism – first under the Nandas and then under the Mauryas. The fall of the Mauryan empire saw the emergence of numerous small and independent states in the whole Ganga Valley. It saw a remarkable revival in the fortunes of Panchala which once again came to occupy a very significant position in the history of northern India.

Panchala emerged at this time as one of the strongest powers in India. About 25 kings who ruled during this period left behind thousands of coins. During the period between the fall of the Mauryas and the rise of the Guptas, the Panchalas had two phases of power – first the pre-Kushan phase, i.e. from c. 150 BC to AD 125, and secondly about fifty years after the fall of the Kushanas, which ended c. AD 350 when Panchala was assimilated in the Gupta empire by Samudragupta. Under the Guptas, Ahichhatra was one of the provinces into which the Gupta empire was divided.

Evidence reveals that the Panchal coins were minted at Bareilly and the surrounding areas during 176–166 BC. Kushan and Gupta kings established mints in the region and this status was retained till the Christian era. The Adi Vigraha and Shree Vigraha coins of the Pratihara Kings that were minted here between the 4th to the 9th centuries were found at Ganga Ghati. Dating to this period are also the silver coins similar to those of Peroz III. Later, the city’s continued status as a Mint town since the beginning of the Christian era was helped by the fact that Bareilly was never a disturbed area (except at the time of the Independence Struggle).

The amalgamation of several religious and popular beliefs may be observed throughout the history of Panchala in ancient India. In addition to being associated with the activities of Pravahana Jaivali, Gargayayana, Uddalaka etc. responsible for giving a distinctive touch to the later vedic thought, the region was also a prominent centre of popular beliefs such as the cult of Nagas, Yaksas and Vetalas.

After the fall of the Guptas in the latter half of the 6th century the district of Bareilly came under the domination of the Maukharis. Under the emperor Harshvardhan (606–47 AD) the district was the part of the Ahichhatra Bhukti.

Rise of Buddhism and Jainism

In the 6th century BC, Panchala was among one of the sixteen mahajanapadas of India. The city was also influenced by Gautam Buddha and his followers. The remains of Buddhist monasteries at Ahichhatra are quite extensive. Folklore has it that Gautama Buddha once visited the ancient fortress city of Ahicchattra in Bareilly.

The Jain Tirthankara Parshvanath is said to have attained Kaivalya at Ahichhatra. The echoes of the Bhagavatas and the Saivas at Ahichhatrra can still be seen in the towering monuments of a massive temples, which is the most imposing structure of the site.

During Harsha’s reign the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang also visited Ahichhatra about 635 AD.

Medieval Period

After the death of Harsha this region falls under anarchy and confusion. In the second quarter of eighth century the district was included in the kingdom of Yashavarman (725–52 AD) of Kannauj and after him the Ayudha kings also Kannauj became the masters of the district for several decades. With the rise of the power of the Gurjara Pratiharas in the 9th century, Bareilly came under their sway. It continued under their subordination till the end of the tenth century.

Mahmud of Ghazni gave a death blow to the already decaying Gurjara Pretihara power. After the fall of the Gurjara Pretiharas Ahichhetra ceases to remain a flourishing cultural centre of the region. The seat of the royal power was shifted from Ahichhatra to Vodamayuta or modern Badaun as the irrefutable evidence of Rashtrakuta Chief Lakhanpalas inscription shows.

After the fall of the Gurjara Pretihara, the City was under the rule of local rulers. In the twelfth century it was ruled by different clans of Rajputs referred to by the general name of Katehriyas (Kshatriya) Rajputs. The province was largely held by Rajputs of different clans such as Bachal, Gaur, Chauhan and Rathor.The tract of land forming the subah or province (of Rohilkhand) was formerly called Katehr/Katiher.

The Katehriyas are to be noted for their conspicuous role in persistently resisting the onslaught of the Delhi rulers till as late as the time of Akbar. The origin and the rise of the Katehar Rajputs in the region is a mystery and a matter of controversy

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the Delhi Sultanate was firmly established, Katehr was divided into the provinces of Sambhal and Budaun. But the thickly forested country infested with wild animals provided just the right kind of shelter for rebels. And indeed, Katehr was famous for rebellions against imperial authority. During the Sultanate rule, there were frequent rebellions in Katehr. All were ruthlessly crushed. Sultan Balban (1266–1287) ordered vast tracts of jungle to be cleared so as to make the area unsafe for the insurgents.

The slightest weakening of the central authority provoked acts of defiance from the Katehriya Rajputs. Thus the Mughals initiated the policy of allotting lands for Afghan settlements in Katiher. Afghan settlements continued to be encouraged throughout the reign of Aurangzeb (1658–1707) and even after his death. These Afghans, known as the Rohilla Afghans, caused the area to be known as Rohilkhand. This move by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir was aimed to suppress Rajput uprisings, which had afflicted this region. Originally, some 20,000 soldiers from various Pashtun Tribes (Yusafzais, Lodis, Ghilzai, Barech, Marwat, Durrani, Tanoli, Tarin, Kakar, Khattak, Afridi and Baqarzai) were hired by Mughals to provide soldiers to the Mughal armies and this was appreciated by Aurangzeb Alamgir, an additional force of 25,000 men was given respected positions in Mughal Army. However most of them settled in the Katehar region during Nadir Shah’s invasion of northern India in 1739 increasing their population up to 100,0000. Due to the large settlement of Rohilla Afghans, the Katehar region gained fame as Rohilkhand.

The city of Bareilly was founded in 1537 by Basdeo, a Katehriya Rajput. The city is mentioned in the histories for the first time by Budayuni who he writes that one Husain Quli Khan was appointed the governor of ‘Bareilly and Sambhal’ in 1568. The divisions and revenue of the district “being fixed by Todar Mal” were recorded by Abul Fazl in 1596. The foundation of the ‘modern’ City of Bareilly was laid by Mukrand Rai in 1657. In 1658, Bareilly was made the headquarters of the province of Budaun.

The Mughal policy of encouraging Afghan settlements for keeping the Katehriyas in check worked only as long as the central government was strong. After Aurangzeb’s death, the Afghans, having themselves become local potentates, began to seize and occupy neighboring villages.

In 1623 two Afghan brothers of the Barech tribe, Shah Alam and Husain Khan, settled in the region, bringing with them many other Pashtun settlers. It was with the immigration of Daud Khan, an Afghan slave (who originally hails from Roh in Afghanistan) in the region that the Afghan Rohillas had come into prominence. His adopted son Ali Muhammad Khan succeeded in carving out an estate for himself in the district with his headquarter in the region. He was ultimately made the lawful governor of Kateher by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir (ruled 1658–1707), and the region was henceforth called “the land of the Ruhelas.” Eventually after the end of the Mughal Empire many Pathans migrated from Rohilkhand.

Bareilly as a ruined city became crowded with unemployed, restless Rohilla Pathans. Many urban cities in Uttar Pradesh were experiencing economic stagnation and poverty. Naturally, this led to heavy migration overseas to Suriname and Guyana.

Meanwhile, Ali Muhammad Khan (1737–1749), grandson of Shah Alam, captured the city of Bareilly and made it his capital, later uniting the Rohillas to form the ‘State of Rohilkhand’, between 1707 and 1720, making Bareilly his capital. He rapidly rose to power and got confirmed in possession of the lands he had seized. The Emperor created him a Nawab in 1737, and he was recognised as the governor of Rohilkhand in 1740.

According to 1901 census of India, the total Pathan population in Bareilly District was 40,779, out of a total population of 1,090,117. Their principal clans were the Yusafzais, Lodis, Ghilzai, Barech, Marwat, Durrani, Tanoli, Tarin, Kakar, Khattak, Afridi and Baqarzai. Other important cities were Rampur, Shahjahanpur, Badaun, and others.

Hafiz Rahmat Khan, standing right to Ahmad Shah Durrani, who is shown on a brown horse.(during the The ‘Third battle of Panipat’) 14 January 1761

Ali Muhammad was succeeded by Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech (1749–1774), whom he appointed h¹fiz or regent of Rohilkhand on his deathbed.[15] Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech extended the power of Rohilkhand from Almora in the North to Etawah in the South-West.

Under Rahmat Ali Khan, Rohilla power continued to rise, though the area was torn by strife amongst the rival chieftains and continuous struggles with the neighbouring powers, particularly the Nawab Vazirs of Awadh,the Bangash Nawabs, and the Marathas.

The term Rohilla is derived from the Pashtu Roh, meaning mountain, and literally means a mountain air, and was used by the Baluch and Jats of the Derajat region to refer to the Pashtun mountains tribes of Loralai, Zhob and Waziristan regions. The Muslims in the area are chiefly the descendants of Yousafzai Afghans tribe of Pashtuns, called the Rohilla Pathans of the Mandanh sub-section, (but other Pashtuns also became part of the community), who settled in the country about the year 1720.[19] Rohilla’s Sardar like Daud Khan, Ali Muhammad Khan, and Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech were from the Afghan tribe the Barech, who were originally from the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. In Uttar Pradesh, it was used for all Pashtuns, except for the Shia Bangashes who settled in the Rohilkhand region, or men serving under Rohilla chiefs. Rohillas were distinguished by their separate language and culture. They spoke Pashto among each other but gradually lost their language over time and now converse in Urdu.

Bishop Heber described them as follows: – “The country is burdened with a crowd of lazy, profligate, self-called sawars (cavaliers), who, though many of them are not worth a rupee, conceive it derogatory to their gentility and Pathan blood to apply themselves to any honest industry, and obtain for the most part a precarious livelihood by sponging on the industrious tradesmen and farmers, on whom they levy a sort of blackmail, or as hangers-on to the wealthy and noble families yet remaining in the province. These men have no visible means of maintenance, and no visible occupation except that of lounging up and down with their swords and shields, like the ancient Highlanders, whom in many respects they much resemble.

Rohilkhand (under Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech) was on the on the winning side at the Third Battle of Panipat of 1761 and successfully blocked the expansion of the Maratha Empire into north India. In 1772 Rohilkhand was invaded by the Marathas; however the Nawabs of Awadh came to the aid of the Rohillas in repulsing the invasion. After the war Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula demanded payment for their help from the Rohilla chief, Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech. When the demand was refused the Nawab joined with the British under Governor Warren Hastings and his Commander-in-Chief, Alexander Champion, to invade Rohilkhand. The combined forces of Shuja-ud Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh and the Company’s forces led by Colonel Champion defeated Hafiz Rahmat Ali Khan in 1774. Hafiz Rahmat Khan Barech was killed in the ensuing battle at Miranpur Katra in 1774. His death finally closing the chapter of Rohilla rule.

Rohilkhand was handed over to the Nawab Vazir of Awadh. From 1774 to 1800, the province was ruled by the Nawabs of Awadh. By 1801, the subsidies due under the various treaties for support of a British force had fallen into hopeless arrears. In order to defray the debt, Nawab Saadat Ali Khan surrendered Rohilkhand to the East India Company by the treaty of November 10, 1801.

During this period too, Bareilly retained its status as a mint. Emperor Akbar and his descendants minted gold and silver coins at mints in Bareilly. The Afghan conqueror Ahmed Shah Durani too minted gold and silver coins at the Bareilly mint.

During the time of Shah Alam II, Bareilly was the headquarters of Rohilla Sardar Hafiz Rehmat Khan and many more coins were issued. After that, the city was in possession of Awadh Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah. The coins that he issued had Bareilly, Bareilly Aasfabad, and Bareilly kite and fish as identification marks. After that, the minting of coins passed on to the East India Company.

The Rohillas, after fifty years’ precarious independence, were subjugated in 1774 by the confederacy of British troops with the nawab of Oudh’s army, which formed so serious a charge against Warren Hastings. Their territory was in that year annexed to Oudh. In 1801 the nawab of Oudh ceded it to the Company in commutation of the subsidy money.

Modern Period

A 1912 map of ‘Northern India The Revolt of 1857–59’ showing the centres of rebellion including the principal ones: Meerut, Delhi, Bareilly, (Kanpur), Lucknow, Jhansi, and Gwalior
After the Rohilla War, the change of the power structure did little to soothe the troubled strife torn area; rather the change had the effect to aggravate a precarious state of affairs. There was a general spirit of discontent throughout the district. In 1812, an inordinate enhancement in the revenue demand[22] and then in 1814 the imposition of a new house tax caused a lot of resentment against the British. “Business stood still, shops were shut and multitudes assembled near the courthouse to petition for the abolition of the tax.” The Magistrate, Dembleton, already an unpopular man made things worse by ordering the assessment to be made by a Kotwal. In the skirmish that took place between the rebel masses and the sepoys under Captain Cunningham, three or four hundred people died. In 1818, Glyn was posted as Acting Judge, and the Magistrate of Bareilly, and the Joint Magistrate of Bulundshahr.

In research ordered by Glyn asking Ghulam Yahya to write an account about ‘craftsmen, the names of tools of manufacture and production and their dress and manners’, eleven trades found out to be most popular means of livelihood in and around Bareilly in the 1820s were glass manufacture, manufacture of glass bangles, manufacture of lac bangles, crimping, gram parching, wire drawing, charpoy weaving, manufacture of gold and silver thread, keeping a grocer’s shop, making jewellery and selling kababs.

Bareilly (Rohilkhand) was a major centre during The Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as India’s First War of Independence). The Rebellion which began as a mutiny of native soldiers (sepoys) employed by the British East India Company’s army, against race and religion based injustices and inequities, on 10 May 1857, in the town of Meerut, soon erupted into other mutinies and civilian rebellions which were mainly centered on north central India along the several major river valleys draining the south face of the Himalayas [See red annotated locations on Map at right] but with local episodes extending both northwest to Peshawar on the north-west frontier with Afghanistan and southeast beyond Delhi. Communal hatred led to ugly communal riots in many parts of U.P. The green flag was hoisted and Muslims in Bareilly, Bijnor, Moradabad, and other places the Muslims shouted for the revival of Muslim kingdom.

During the Mutiny of 1857 the Rohillas took a very active part against the English, but since then they have been disarmed.[19] Khan Badur Khan Rohilla, the grandson of Hafiz Rahmat Khan formed his own government in Bareilly in 1857 Indian revolt against British. There was a widespread popular revolt in many areas such as Awadh, Bundelkhand and Rohilkhand. The rebellion was therefore more than just a military rebellion, and it spanned more than one region.
During the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, Khan Bhadur Khan issued silver coins from Bareilly as an independent ruler. These coins are a novelty as far as the numismatist is concerned.

When the Indian Rebellion of 1857 failed Bareilly, too, was subjugated. Khan Bahadur Khan was sentenced to death and hanged in the Kotwali on February 24, 1860.

The main conflict occurred largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region.[25] The rebellion posed a considerable threat to British East Indian Company power in that region,[26] and it was contained only with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858.[25] Some[who?] regard the rebellion as the first of several movements over ninety years to achieve independence, which was finally achieved in 1947.

Bareilly also holds a recognition for being a seat of Islamic scholar and sufi Ahmed Raza Khan Fazil-e-Barelvi(1856–1921 CE),whose works influenced the Barelvi movement of South Asia and his son, Mustafa Raza Khan, commonly known among the Muslims of South Asia as Mufti e Azam e Hind, was born in Bareilly. Ahmed Raza Khan was an authority on numerous topics, including Islamic law, religion, philosophy and the sciences. He was a prolific writer, producing nearly 1,000 works in his lifetime.

The population in 1901 was 1,090,117. Bareilly, also, was the headquarters of a brigade in the 7th division of the eastern army corps in British period

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