History of Basti

Ancient period

     In very ancient period the country around Basti was part of Kosala. The Shatapatha Brahmana speaks of Kosala as one of the countries of the Vedic Aryans and the grammarian ini mentions it in one of his Sutras. It was during the rule of Rama, the eldest son of Dasharatha, that the glory of the Kosala royal dynasty reached its culmination. According to the tradition, Rama's elder son Kush ascended the throne of Kosala while the younger son Lav became the ruler of the northern part of the kingdom with its capital as Shravasti. In the 93rd generation from Ikshvaku and 30th from Rama was Brihadbala, the last famous king of the Ikshvaku density who was killed in Great Mahabharata battle.

     With the decline of the Guptas in sixth century CE, Basti also began gradually to become desolate. At this time a new dynasty, that of the Maukharis, with its capital as Kannauj, assumed an important position on the political map of northern India and perhaps this kingdom in included present district also.

     In the beginning of the 9th century CE, the GurjaraPratihara king, Nagabhata II, overthrew the Ayodhyas who was then ruling at Kannauj, and made this city the capital of his growing empire which rose to its greatest height in the reign of the famous Mihira Bhoja I (836-885 A.D.). During the reign of Mahipal, the power of Kannauj began to decline and Awadh was divided into small chieftainships, but all of them ultimately yielded to the newly rising power of Gahadwals of Kannauj. Jaychandra (1170-1194 A.D.), the last important ruler of the dynasty was killed in the battle of Chandawar (near Etawah) fighting against the invading army of Muhammad of Ghor. Soon after his death Kannauj was occupied by the Turks.

     According to the legends, for centuries Basti was a wilderness and that greater part of Awadh was occupied by the Bhars. No definite evidence is available about the Bhars origin and early history. The evidence of an extensive Bhar kingdom in the district can be gleaned only from the ruins of ancient brick buildings popularly ascribed to the Bhars and found in abundance in a number of villages of this district. 

Medieval period

     In the beginning of the 13th century CE, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, the elder son of Iltutmish, became the governor of Awadh in 1225 and is said to have completely crushed all resistance on the part of the Bhars. In 1323, Gayasuddin Tuglaq march through Bahraich and Gonda on his way to Bengal but he seems to have avoided the perils of the forest of district Basti and went by river from Ayodhya. Till 1479 CE, Basti and its adjoining districts appeared to be remained under the control of the rulers of Jaunpur Sultanate. After annexing the Jaunpur Sultanate, Bahlol Lodi handed over the governorship of the area covered by the sultanate to his nephew Muhammad Farmuli (Kala Pahar) with the headquarters at Bahraich, which included this district and the adjoining areas. About this time, Mahatma Kabir, the well-known poet and philosopher lived at Maghar in this district.

    It is said that before the advent of the leading Rajput clans, there were the local Hindus and Hindu Rajas in the districts and they are said to have supplanted the aboriginal tribes like Bhars, Tharus, Domes and Domekatars, whom general tradition declares to have been the early rulers, at least after the fall of ancient kingdoms and this appearance of the Buddhist faith. These Hindus included the Bhumihar Brahmins, Sarvariya Brahmans and Visen. This was the state of the Hindu society in the district before the arrival of the Rajputs from the west. In the middle of the 13th century the Srinetra was the newcomer to have first established in this reign. Their chief, Chandrasen, expel the Domkatar from the eastern Basti. The Kalhans Rajput of Gonda province established themselves in Pargana Basti. South of the Kalhans country Nagar, ruled by a Gautam Raja. There was also an ailed clan in Mahuli known as Mahsuiyas are Rajputs of Mahso.

     Other Rajput clan of special mention was that of Chauhan. It is said that three chief Mukund fled from Chittaur who ruled on undivided part (now it is in district Siddharthnagar) of district Basti. By the last quarter of the 14th century Amorha a part of district Basti were ruled by Kayasth dynasty.

     During the reign of Akbar and his successor the district formed a part of the Gorakhpur sarkar of the Awadh Subah. In the earlier days of his reign the district served as the asylum for the rebel Afghan leaders like Ali Quli Khan, Khan Zaman, the governor of Jaunpur. During the Mughal period in 1680 Aurangzeb sent one Qazi Khalil-ur-Rahman as the chakledar (holder of the tract) of Gorakhpur probably to get the regular payment of revenue from the local chiefs. Kalil-ur-Rahman marched from Ayodhya to force the chieftains of the districts adjoining Gorakhpur to make payment of revenue. As a result of this move, the rajas of Amorha and Nagar, who had recently acquired power, promptly tendered their submission and confrontation was thus averted. The governor then proceeded to Maghar which he again garrisoned, compelling the raja of Bansi to retire to this fortress on the bank of Rapti. The town of Khalilabad, now headquarters of newly created district Sant Kabir Nagar, was named after Khalil-ur-Rahman, who tomb was erected at Maghar. A road leading from Ayodhya to Gorakhpur was constructed. In February 1690, Himmat Khan (son of Khan Jahan Bahadur Zafar Jang Kokaltash, Subahdar of Allahabad) was appointed Subahdar of Awadh and faujdar (military commander) of Gorakhpur who held the charge of Basti and adjoining districts for a long time.

Modern period

     A great and far reaching change came over the sense when Saadat Khan was appointed governor of the Subah of Avadh including the faujdari (commaandarship) of Gorakhpur on 9 September 1772. At that time Bansi and Rasulpur were held by the Sarnet raja; Binayakpur by the Chauhan chieftain of Butwal; Basti by the Kalhan ruler; Amorha by the Suryavansh; Nagar by the Gautams; Mahuli by the elder line of Suryavamsis; while Maghar alone was under the direct control of the nawab's deputy, who was strengthened by the Muslim garrison.

     In November 1801 Saadat Ali Khan, successor of Nawab Shuja Ud Daulah surrendered Gorakhpur, which then was inclusive of the present district Basti and other territory to the East India Company. Routledge had become as a first Collector of Gorakhpur. Some steps had been taken by Collector to inforce some order in the matter of collection of land revenue yet in order to assist the process a force was raised in March, 1802 by Captain Malcolm Mcleod. To cure the local chieftains of their obstinate attitude all their Fords, save those of Basti and Amorha Raja, were raise to ground.

     The part played by the Basti in the Freedom Struggle of 1857 (Indian Rebellion of 1857) is generally not ascribable exclusively; as the district was still forming but an outlying portion of Gorakhpur, possessing no civil station of its own. After capture of Gorakhpur by the English on January 5, 1858, the freedom fighter had moved west ward a form double entrenchment at Amorha in the south western part of the district, to obstruct the march of Rowcroft from Gorakhpur. The army opposed to Rowcroft was composed of about 15,000 men entrenched at Belwa this large army of the nationalists comprised troops led by Mehndi Hasan the Nazim of Sultanpur, the Rajas of Gonda, Nanpara, Atrauli and the Raja of Chaurda in the Behriech district and many other talukdars including Guljar Ali, the rebel Sayyed of Amorha. In this action at Amorha which was one of the most memorable events of the freedom struggle, the freedom fighters were able to encircle the British force oppose to them. In this struggle the loss freedom forces was estimated between 4 and 5 hundred killed and many others wounded. The position of the freedom forces at Amorha was reinforced by Mohammad Hasan of Gorakhpur who had join them later, with four thousand men. Rowcroft, hearing the arrival of Mohd. Hasan at Amorha, sent a detachment, under Major Cox. These were the events which had marked the conclusion of the freedom movement, so for the Basti was concerned.

     With the restoration of order and the discomfiture of the freedom fighters came the day of reckoning, and a heavy account had to be settled. Mohd. Hasan escaped the hard of the victors in consideration of his assistance once given to Colonel Lennox. The Bobu of Bakhira was hanged and the Raja of the Nagar avoided a similar fate by staving himself to death in prison with the bayonet of the prison guard. The Rani of Amorha lost her property for her complicity in the war independence which was given to Rani of Basti. The agent of Basti Rani was given land assessed at Rs. 1000=00 (sicsic). Similarly several others who had supported the British in some way or other betraying the freedom fighters, were awarded grants of land. The supporters of the freedom movement having been suppressed and the leaders annihilated, the alien rulers settled down to organized the civil administration. The peace of the district was secured by the maintenance of a garrison at Gorakhpur and also by the recognized police force. The one event of prime interest was the formation of the present district on May 6, 1865.

     The non-co-operation Movement began to appear in the district towards the close of 1920. In the preparation for this movement Mahatma Gandhi along with Jawahar Lal Nehru had visited the district on October 8, 1919. He addressed a large gathering at Hathiyagarh Rehar near old town of the district. Fortunately for India's struggle for freedom, the fatal inertia that had practically put an end, after calling off the Non-co-operative movement, to all its outwards activities, was removed by an action of the British government, namely the appointment of Simon Commission in 1928. The people of this district received a fresh impetus with the next visit of Mahatma Gandhi along with Jawahar Lal Nehru on October 8, 1929.

     The Quit India resolution pass by All India Congress Committee in its session at Bombay on August 8, 1942, marked the turning point in India's struggle for freedom. In Basti the movement had taken a serious turn. It was due to several causes, particularly the poverty of the people and nearness of the area to the B.H.U. at Varanasi, from where batches of students arrive with the message of Do or Die. The students of Walterganj staged demonstration and organized meeting on August 15, 1942. A few days later the railway station at Gaur was attacked causing damage to government property.

     In 1946 the Congress was again returned and it formed the Government. Independence came at midnight on 1415 August 1947. On the eve of Independence, thousands from the town and surrounding country side assembled at district headquarters in Basti to hail freedom. National flag was hoisted at the Collectorate and other government and semi government buildings, private buildings too, throughout the district were bedecked with flag.

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