POST TIME: 4 January, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Ruins of Jainta Kingdom
M Mahmud Ali

Ruins of Jainta Kingdom

It feels thrilling when you are wandering at a place that has been abandoned for so many years, and you know all about its ancient history and folklore. My visit to Jaintapur gave me such an incredible experience.

Jaintapur is an upazila of Sylhet with rich heritage sites. It is about 40 km north of Sylhet city on the Sylhet-Tamabil road. Once, Jaintapur was the capital of independent Jainta kingdom. The total area of the ancient kingdom was about 207 sq km. According to historical records, the region of Jaintapur went under the control of Kamarupa kingdom during the 7th and 8th centuries, followed by rule by Chandra and Varman kings. After the fall of the Varman rulers, Jaintapur was once again ruled by Deva rulers for some time. The last ruler of the dynasty, Jayanta Ray, had a daughter, Jayanti, who married the Khasi chief. Due to the marriage, the Khasis got control of the Jainta kingdom in the beginning of 16th Century. The Khasi kings independently ruled the rich kingdom until 1835 AD.

There are many local legends about the lost kingdom which creates a feeling of fear not only among visitors, but also among the local residents. Rajendra Singh was the last independent king of Jaintapur. He ascended the throne in 1832. It is believed the king slaughtered three British men as a sacrifice in front of a temple inside the palace complex. Later, the East India Company occupied the kingdom on March 15, 1835.

The ruins of the ancient kingdom now lie scattered all over Jaintapur. These include Irabati Panthashala (travellers’ inn), Jainta Palace (Jaintiaswari Bari), Jainteshwari temples and a group of megalithic stone structures. The palace was built by Jainta King Lakshmi Narayana in 1680 and is now almost in ruins. The Jainteshwari temples are in a dilapidated condition.

The megalithic remains are the only ones discovered so far in Bangladesh. Megalithic structures are defined as graves or commemorative monuments made up of small and large stone chunks. Such structures can be seen throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. A total of 42 megalithic stone tombs have been discovered in Jaintapur. Among those, 19 are found in front of Jainta Palace, eight are near Jaintapur Shahid Minar, and five can be seen on the southern side of Sylhet-Tamabil road. There are 10 other stones lying within 500 metres of the temple near the northern side of Nayagang River.

The ruins of Jainta kingdom are of immense historical interest. Jainta Palace, Irabati Panthashala and the megalithic stones are protected monuments of the Department of Archaeology (DOA). The authorities should pay more attention to conserve the place in order to properly evaluate the area as one of the most significant heritage sites of Bangladesh.

 References: Megalithic O Ekti Kingbadanti by Md Foyjul Haque (2014), and History of Hazrat Shahjalal and Sylhet by Syed Murtaza Ali (Bangla Academy, 1965).

Photos: Writer