M H Haider: “You have lost a father,” he said, turning to Mir Jumla’s son when they brought to him the news of the Viceroy’s death, “and I the greatest and most dangerous friend I had.”
– The Romance of an Eastern Capital.
Why did Emperor Aurangzeb deem his Viceroy in Bengal, Mir Jumla, as dangerous? So much so, it had been speculated that Aurangzeb sent Mir Jumla to Bengal partially because he wanted to keep him at a distance. And such was the reputation of Mir Jumla that many had opined it was only after his death that Aurangzeb could truly become King of Bengal.
But Mir Jumla had always been loyal. He came from Persia, in pursuit of fortune – like numerous others did. He eventually attached himself with Aurangzeb (he figured that among the brothers, it was Aurangzeb who had the most potential to ascend to the throne). Mir Jumla played a vital role in subduing the power of Shah Shuja, one of the brothers of Aurangzeb.
Dhaka was stripped of its status as a Mughal capital when Shah Shuja transferred it to Rajmahal. It was Mir Jumla who brought it back and renewed Dhaka’s position.
Another grave problem the Viceroy tackled was the attacks and harassments of Arakanese and Portuguese pirates. He put strong guard regimes at strategic points – renovating and building forts to form a triangular defence strategy.
Idrakpur Fort was built by Mir Jumla in about 1660 to guard water route. It stands on the bank of dried up Ichamati River at Idrakpur, Munshiganj. Teaming with other forts, it provided protection to Dhaka, Munshiganj and East Bengal at large.
Complete with battlemented parapets, bastions and series of holes for musketry and a gigantic circular platform, the fort itself looks very strong, robust and rather intimidating – as it should be!
Perhaps the most striking feature of this river fort is its enormous circular platform. You can enter the premises of the fort through a large, but quite simple, arched gateway. You will soon be met with a rather broad stairway that will take you to the top of the circular structure. At the end the flight of stairs, you will see a similar gate, entering through which, you will be on the top.
The impressive platform had once been used as a mount for a high calibre cannon as well as a watch tower. The grandiosity of the fort can perhaps best be understood from this position, if we only try to imagine the fortification back in those days, with soldiers, guards, artillery and of course, the river nearby.
The fort is basically under the open sky; almost everything about it is on the exterior. And today, in a semi-rural setting, it is a great place to visit.
Mir Jumla continued to crave for military glory; the adventurous warrior spent a bulk of time during his tenure trying to conquer Cooch Behar and Assam; although he was not entirely victorious.
His reign was for about 3 years. But in such a short span of time, he managed to do a lot for Bengal, and among them, Idrakpur Fort is arguably the crowned jewel.
Sources: The Romance of an Eastern Capital by F B Bradley-Birt and Discover the Monuments of Bangladesh by Dr Nazimuddin Ahmed.