About BUXI JAGABANDHU and the PAIKA Rebellion of 1817

  • By Prof (Dr) Narayan Rao
  • May 17, 2022
  • Article covers the resistance to British rule in 1804 and the big revolt under Buxi Jagabandhu in 1817. It includes the Martial tradition of Paika and the causes of discontent against British rule.

eSamskriti thanks Prof Rao for agreeing to share his work. Since the extract from Prof Rao’s thesis is long we present a precis. We also thank Smita B’s April 5 2022 tweet because it is her tweet on Buxi J that stirred the spirit of inquiry in us. Thanks to Rabi S for connecting us with Prof Rao. Errors are all mine. Pranams to Dr Narayan Rao - Editor.


There were uprisings against British colonial rule. The strong link between the popular insurrections during the pre-nationalist era in your long struggle should be established in a true perspective. The respectability and autonomy of such rebellions, however brief and abortive, is to be highlighted. We came across a series of such protests against British Rule during the 18-19th centuries, manifesting people’s resistance against British exploitation. Colonial rule has unsettled the traditional way of life and Government because of which the British faced serious challenge to their authority.


However, such rebellions were referred by colonial historians as local and the leadership posed no real challenge to British power. Similarly, the popular movements among tribals known as melis, hools and ulgulan were mainly against the colonial forests laws and encroachment of their tradition rites.


Historical Background

In 1568, after the defeat in Gharikita war the military strength of the once powerful Odisha lost its political supremacy and independence. Before the Afghans consolidated their hold the Mughals, under Man Singh, annexed Odisha to the Mughal Empire. The territories south to the Chilika Lake became the tract called Northern Sircar and was ruled by the Nizam of Hyderbad. This fell into the hands of the British in 1765.


In order to establish a link between Madras Presidency and Bengal, the British had to conquer Odisha from the Marathas. They wanted to ensure neutrality of the Raja of Khurda with the promise of Rs 1 lakh and restoration of 4 praganas.


Jayee Krushna Rajguru, who was the chief Priest and regent of minor king Mukunda Deva II did not back the proposal but eventually respected the desire of the king. He believed that British have no permanent friends or enemy. In the war against Marathas, Britishers in 1803 got the province of Cuttack including the port of Balasore from the Raja of Nagpur in perpetuity.

Odisha came to British bit by bit. This had a negative effect on the homogeneity of the Odiya people and jeopardised their integral development.

Jayee Rajguru. Pranams. 

First Resistance in 1804 and Jayee Rajguru

In the meantime, Bhoi dynasty was established in Khuda by Rama Chandra Deva I, who had constructed an impregnable fort at the foot of the Barunei hill. The king with the title Gajapati (Thakur Raja) had huge spiritual impact on the Rajas of feudatory states and the people of Odisha as a whole.


After the British defeated the Marathas in 1803, they did not honour their promise to the Raja of Khurda of returning the four Praganas as referred to above. Rajguru was upset and went to the court of Harcourt where his plea was dismissed. The British the Praganas belonged to the Marathas, who were now defeated. So these four praganas were legally under the possession of the British Govt. However, the British agreed to pay Rs 1 lakh as promised.


The Rajguru returned with a desire to drive out the Britishers. He reorganised the Paikas with modern technique of war, concluded a tripartite agreement with 2 other kings and declared war against the British in 1804, under the banner of the king. They lost the war. Rajguru was executed in a brutal way. The king was banished and Khurda under direct administration of Major Fletcher.


Thus, the armed resistance in 1804 against the British policy of deceit and treachery is regarded as a precursor to the great revolt of Paika in 1817 under the leadership of Buxi Jagabandhu.

Veer Surendra Sai - freedom fighter of Odisha.  

Martial Tradition of Paik 

The history of Odisha is the history of military and chivalrous people known for being sturdy, stubborn and adventurous. There is enough evidence to give an authentic account of the military tradition of the people of Odisha.


PAIKS constituted the main back of the army and enjoyed hereditary rent free land. They functioned as farmer and soldier in uniform. Besides defence, they were watchman of strategic forts, royal palace, arms depots, royal treasury etc. The paiks are described in a graphic manner by Kanhai Champatiroy in Paika Kheda. The book gives a detailed account of paik martial art including heritage, weapons, war drums and different strategy of operation. Mayadhar Mansingh in History of Oriya Literature wrote that “Paika Kheda should be taken as a military document in the entire field of Indian literature.”  There was no caste bar on who could join. In each village there were Akhadas for training and practice of martial art.


There were different categories of Paiks like Gherua Paik, Checa Paik etc. Veda Paiks were part of the espionage system. Cheka Paiks were trained in guerrilla warfare. Pota Paiks were good at managing boats in the rivers and sea. Pota Paiks were like coastal guards. Paiks used weapons like Jambura, Banka, Katari and Saleli Peta Chita Landhuka flint guns, daggers, swords, shields etc. Swords were of different types. Bows were of 13 types. Military strategy (Vyuhas) had formulations like Chakra, Suchi etc.


The march to battle started with worshipping the ancestral deities (Ista Deva/Devis) accompanied by a chorus of music bands. Read military history of Odisha by Ramesh P Mohapatra etc. Hence, the Paik tradition goes back to the epic age and Kalinga war (261 BC). False views are being spread about Paiks. The truth is that Buxi Jagabandhu inherited a huge martial tradition, when he came forward to give leadership to the accumulated anger of all the segments of society against British maladministration and exploitation.


Causes of Popular Unrest

The British wanted to end the sovereignty of the Gajapati of Khurda and their influence over the feudatory states of Odisha. Though the king lost political power he continued to be the hereditary superintendent of the Jagannath Temple. The first victims of British rule were the Paiks who were deprived on their rent free land and asked to pay tax to the Government.


The short term revenue settlements affected the royats (peasants) due to repeated assessment. Many royats could not pay the tax in time and became impoverished. The British did not study the existing system and forcibly introduced new laws disrupting their traditional life pattern. This resulted in mass discontentment.


The zamindars too became a victim of heavy and ever increasing assessment. Their lands were auctioned, due to non-payment of taxes and bought by Bengalis and British officials. Non-Odiyas were appointed as Tehsildars and Darogas who utilised their position and amassed huge wealth illegally.


From time immemorial CAURIE (Shell) was the medium of exchange in Odisha. In 1804 the British demonetised Caurie and introduced silver (Shika) coins which were manufacturer in Bengal and Arcot of Madras. Revenue was collected in silver coins. Government fixed the exchange rate as 4 Kahanas and 2 Panas for 1 silver coin. Due to fluctuation of supply and demand, the market rate was about 7 Kahanas to the rupee. The royats (cultivators) suffered a loss from the exchange of cowries for silver. This move was anti-people.


During Maratha rule there was no restriction on the manufacture and sale of salt.

British introduced salt Regulation in 1804. Subsequently, the introduction of salt monopoly resulted in shooting of the price from 3-4 annas a maund to Rs 2 or more. The poor found it difficult. Thus, the salt policy added to the discontent of the people. This ignited the people at large to free themselves from the shackles of colonial rule.

Gopandhu Das-freedom fighter, social reformer & poet of Odisha 


He was born at Rorang Garh around 1769. He was commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Raja of Khurda. The post was held by his ancestors on hereditary basis. Because of his exalted position, wealth and formidable command he was respected by the people of Odisha, as next to the Raja. He had strong common sense and was a practical statesman. His full name of Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Bhramarabar Rau.


Soon after British conquest of Odisha and suppression of 1804 uprising, he lost his jagir lands, reduced to a common tax payer. Soon he had to forfeit Killa Rorung. This angered him. The temporary settlement, rigorous of collection of revenue, oppression of the unscrupulous Amalas and Darogas, entry of absentee landlords, excessive rise in the price of rice and salt and demonetiation of caurie created a chaotic state. The resistance came from all classes of people because traditional order and life were disturbed by the British. Buxi was determined to provide leadership with the support of disgruntled tribals of Ghumsar and Banapar esp. Panas and Kandhas.


His courage, determination, courage and personality kept the British in a state of anxiety for 7 years. He raised a revolt under the banner of Gajapati (former Raja of Khurda) in order to gather people support and of the Ganjam chiefs.


Spread of the Revolt

The revolt heralded in the last week of March 1817. The Khonss from Ghumsur marched too. They were displeased with British rule of the Forest Laws and encroachment on their traditional beliefs and rituals. They joined hands with Buxi as he was related to the royal family of Ghumsar, Badamba and Shergada. They were also joined with Souras, who were employed as agents carry out plan of revenge.


At Banpur they attacked police station and other government buildings and ransacked them. At Khurda, they sacked the Tehsildar’s office. The insurgents attacked the government Treasury and confiscated money that would be used to implement their plans.  A section of the army entered Lemlai and killed one C Pattanail who was considered as the informer of the government. They entered Panchagarh. The Rani ran away but the Dewan was killed. Buxi apprehending government forces from Cuttack stationed a contingent of veteran paiks at Gangapada.


The British failed to suppress the rebellion at Khurda. British officials fled. Local chiefs were encouraged to join the fight against British rule. The government imposed martial law in Khurda.


The main contingent of rebels marched towards Pipil. The main body of paiks including the Khonds of Ghumsar entered Puriunder. Buxi etc were engaged in retaliating against British officials. Officials stationed at Puri fled. Rebels were priests and sevayats of Jagannath temple. King Mukund Deva II was approached to proceed back to Khurda and reclaim his kingdom. However, the king remembered his torture during the 1804 uprising refused. Instead he sent a message seeking military aid for his security. Buxi was not discouraged, he appealed to the rajas of Garjat states in the name of Thakur Raja for support.


The revolt spread and more took part in the uprising. It also spread to Baripada, Balasore, many parts of western Odisha including Sambalpur and Nagpur in central province also joined the movement. The tremor was also felt in the Odia tracts of Bengal and Andhra. Thus, the movement spread to a larger geographical area.


The rebellion was reported to have been crushed by the use of machine guns and gun powder. By April1818, the Britishers were in control of Khurda. But Buxi Jagabandhu could not be captured along with numerous companions.


Buxi and Guerrilla Warfare

The flight of Buxi to the forests and the witch hunt carried out by the British is a romantic chapter in the Pain revolt of 1817. The British believed that tranquillity in Khurda is incomplete without the capture of Buxi.


Guerrilla Warfare lasted for seven long years against adversity, shows the patriotic fervour. On 19/4/1819 Buxi wrote a letter to Lt Melville for restoration of minor king Ramachandra Deva to his gadi, which will solve all problems.


Ultimately Buxi was persuaded to surrender with the mediation of Bewartabarju Paikaray. He arrived in a procession on elephant back and signed an agreement on May 20, 1825. It was stated that Buxi would not leave Cuttack without the permission of the commissioner. He had to forfeit the title of buxi. He was allowed to stay with his family at Cuttack with a monthly pension of Rs 150/ per month life-long. The agreement was devoid of any impolite condition. Thus, the surrender was commensurate with his dignity.


In fact, the British accepted most of his demands. Buxi emerged as a hero without any indignity associated with the surrender. He breathed his last at Cutack on January 24, 1829. Thus, he lived for about sixty years.


Evaluating Buxi

Reviewing the course of events it is observed that Buxi possessed strength of mind, iron will, dogged resistance and determination to uphold the cause with unflinching devotion. For eight years he kept the British Government in perpetual anxiety.


He was a patriot and celebrated leader in the saga of Odisha’s freedom movement. The Revolt of 1817 was due to grievances and discontentment of the people against exploitative colonial rule. The Paik revolt of 1817 deserves its rightful place as the first war of independence.


To read Bibliography click on PDF    


Author Prof (Dr) Narayan Rao M A, M.Phil, PhD and Former Registrar Berhampur University, Odisha. The title of his thesis is, “Search for Identity of Odisha and Creation of a Separate Province.” Currently, he is National Fellow of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), New Delhi.  He has published 56 Research Papers and authored four Books.


Also read

1. Veer Surendra Sai – freedom fighter of Odissa

2. Gopabandhu Das was a freedom-fighter and poet of Odisha

3. Alluri Sitaram Raju, freedom fighter of Andhra

4. Vasudev Phadke – a torch bearer of the freedom movement

5. Tridev of freedom fighters of Tamil Nadu

6. Freedom struggle in Punjab

7. Lal, Pal and Bal the Tridev of India’s freedom movement

8. Album of Sun Temple Konarak

9. Album of Sudarshan Arts and Crafts Village

10. Handloom Saris of Odisha

11. 70 page book in PDF by Prof Mohanty on the Paika Rebellion


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