The 50th Chakma Raja has written thus about the early history of the Chakma Rajas:
“The genesis of the line of the Chakma Rajas, like that of many others, is traced back to antiquity, where it becomes more legendary than historical. There is the traditional beginning with the story of the ruler in an ancient land, who belonged to the solar race. Such a beginning, however, does not, obfuscate the reality of the Chakma rulers and the Chakma nation since centuries past, as there are
several references to them in a variety of historical
literature covering the area and its neighbouring countries….”
[Raja Tridiv Roy, The Departed Melody (Memoirs), PPA Publications, Islamabad, 2003, p. 28. Raja Tridiv is the 50th Chakma Raja and father of incumbent Chakma Raja, Devasish Roy. The former is a Federal Minister, Government of Pakistan (see further, section on the Chakma Raj family)].
The Raja writes further:
“The indigenous peoples and nations of the Chittagong Hill Tracts were wholly independent, leading their traditional lives Under their traditional leaders from time immemorial. The first tenuous contacts with the outside world began in the time of The later Mughals, before which the region was terra incognita.
Akbar the Great only began his annexation of Bengal in 1574. Shah Jahan appointed his son Governor of Bengal in 1639, and Shaista Khan annexed Chittagong in 1660. In any case, it
is a historical fact that the larger parts of Chittagong and the Hill Tracts did not form part of the diwani of Chittagong that was transferred by the Mughals to the East India Company.”
(Raja Tridiv Roy, op. cit., p. 28)
Raja Bhuvan Mohan Roy’s History of the Chakma Raj Family
One of the earliest historical writings on the Chakma Rajas is the “History of the Chakma Raj Family”, written by Raja Bhuvan Mohan Roy (great grandfather of the incumbent Chakma Raja Devasish), who starts thus: “Long ago, there lived at the foot of the Himalayas, a Kshatriya king named Shakya, who had his capital at Kalpanagar. He was succeeded by his son Sudhanya. Of the three sons of King Sudhanya, one became an ascetic, another a Buddhist Bhikshu but the third son, Langaldhan, became king….”. (Raja Bhuvan Mohan Roy, “History of the Chakma Raj Family” in Muhammad Ishaq (ed.), Bangladesh District Gazetteers: Chittagong Hill Tracts, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, Establishment Division, Government of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1975, p. 33. ) Raja Bhuvan then narrates the story of several kings and describes himself as the 48th Chakma Raja. The full list of the Chakma Rajas, as given by Raja Bhuvan Mohan Roy, is reproduced below:
King Shakya is the first known name of an ancestor of the Chaka Raja (1st Raja). Then came Sudhanya (2nd), then his third son Langaldhan (3rd), then his son Kshudrajit (4th), then his son Samudrajit (5th), who became a Buddhist monk and thus ended his dynasty.
Next came King Shyamal (6th), originally Samudrajit’s minister, but also of the same clan as Samudrajit, who left Kalpanagar and founded a new kingdom on south-eastern border of the Himalayas. Then came Shyamal’s son, Champakali (7th), who founded a new city on the eastern bank of the Irrawadi and named it Champaknagar. Then came Champakali’s son Sadanggiri (8th), who is known to have left this world and attained salvation. His son, Chengyasur (9th) became the next raja, and then Chengyasur’s second son, Chandasur (10th). Then Chandasur’s eldest son, Sumesur (11th), became the king. Sumersur’s son Bhimanjoy (12th) and grandson, Sambuddha (13th), became king one after another.
A new chapter of Chakma history started with Sambuddha’s eldest son, Bijoygiri (15th), who journeyed for six days by water, with a large army, up to a place called Kalabgha, on the banks of the river Tewa, and by his efforts, and that of his general, conquered a new territory. The account goes, “He received news that his father had died and his younger brother, Udaigiri (14th ), had usurped the throne. At this news he remained in the new territory. But he left no descendant.”
Upon Bijoygiri’s death, the Chakmas chose a new king, whom they named “Shakalia” (16th), meaning “selected by all”. Shakalia had no sons, and was succeeded by his daughter, Manikbi (17th). Manikbi’s husband allied himself with the Bengalis and fought battles against the “Maghs” (sic) (1118-1119 AD). Manikbi was succeded by her son, Manikgiri (18th). Manikgiri was succeded by his son, Madalia (19th) and then by his grandson, Kamalchega (20th), under whose reign there was war and the Chakmas migrated into Roang (present-day Arakan/Rakhaing). Then came his son, Ratangiri (21st) and then his son, Kala Thongza (22nd). The next king was Sher Matya (23rd). During his time the Chakmas fought in Arakan under General Radhamon. The epical ballad “Chatigang Chaara” was composed. Then came his son, King Aranjug (24th), who had his capital at Maichagiri. Under his reign there were several engagements with the “Maghs” (1333-34 AD). He was succeeded by his third son, Chanda Thongza (25th), who was also known as Ghatya Raja or “Toll Collector”. Then came his son, Maisang (26th). Under King Maisang’s son, Marikya’s rule (27th), the Chakmas left Arakan and settled in Kadamtali.
In Kadamtali, the first new king was Marikya’s son, Kadam Thongza (28th), so named after the new capital. Kadam Thongza was succeded by his son, Tin Sureswari (29th) and then his grandson, Janu (30th). There were several battles with the “Maghs” during his reign. As King Janu’s two sons, Chanan Khan and Ratan Khan were murdered, King Janu’s Queen (31st) “took reins of government”. The next king was Raja Sathua (32nd), grandson of Janu (through his daughter, Rajembi) [see story on Raja Sathua by Raja Tridiv Roy]. Then came Dhabana (son of Raja Sathua’s daughter, Amangali) (33rd). Dhabana was succeded by his son, Dharamya (34th), who in turn was succeed by his son, Mogalya (35th). Mogalya was succeded by his son, Jubal Khan (36th). During Jubal Khan’s reign there were several engagements with the “Mughs”. Jubal Khan’s General Kalu Khan Sardar fought several battles with the Muslim Nawab. Jubal Khan being childless, his brother, Fateh Khan (37th), succeded him as raja. “Fateh Khan made peace with the Nawab in 1713 AD and obtained permission from the Mughal Emperor, Farrukshiyar (1713-19) and subsequently from Muhammad Shah (1719-48) to allow the [Bengali traders] to trade with the Jumias on payment of tribute of 11 maunds of cotton (about 440 kilograms).
Fateh Khan’s son, Shermust Khan (38th) became raja in 1737. “During his time, Mr. Henry Verelest, the Chief of Chittagong, proclaimed that the tract bounded by the Nizampore Road (Dacca Road), Kuki territory, the Feni and the Sungo rivers belonged to the Chakma Raja”. Fateh Khan’s adopted son, Shukadeva (39th), became raja in 1757. He was childless, and the next raja was Sherdoulat Khan (40th), grandson of Raja Fateh Khan in 1776. There was war with the English, and two separate “expeditions” under Messers Lane and Trummers failed. Then in 1782, Sherdoulat Khan was succeded by his son, Jan Bux Khan (41st). Battles with the English continued in 1783, 1784 and 1785. Finally, in 1787, the raja went to Calcutta and made peace with the Governor General, Lord Cornwallis, and promised a tribute of 500 maunds of cotton (about 20 metric tons).
After the death of Jan Bux Khan, his son, Tabbar Khan (42nd) became raja in 1800. He dug a big tank at Rajanagar. Tabbar being childless, he was succeeded by his brother, Jabbar Khan (No. 43rd) in 1801. Then in 1812, Jabbar Khan was succeeded by his son Maharaja Dharambux Khan (44th). Dharambux had no children. Therefore, upon his death, Shuklal Dewan of the Mulima clan was officially appointed as a Managing Trustee. However, since his management was not satisfactory, his chief Queen, Kalindi Ranee (45th), took over the affairs of state. “By her able and good administration Kalindi Ranee extended the zamindary. She built the Mahamuni temple, started the annual Mahamuni fair, dug the Mahamuni [tank] and thus became immortal by various other pious works”. In the Lushai Expedition, the Ranee sent her grandson, Harish Chandra (the future raja), to help the British, for which he received the title, Rai Bahadur. In 1873, on the death of Ranee Kalindi, Harish Chandra Rai Bahadur became the raja (46th). Harish Chandra moved his permanent residence from Rajanagar (in plains Chittagong district) to Rangamati. He died in 1885. Upon his death, his eldest son, Kumar Bhuvan Mohan being a minor, the Chakma administration was taken over by a Court of Wards, and finally in 1897, Raja Bhuvan Mohan Roy
(47th) took over.
[NOTE ON RAJA BHUVAN MOHAN’S ACCOUNT: The Chakma Raja’s archives at Rangamati, there is an English and a Bengali version of the History of the Chakma Raj Family. In one, the author is described as the 48th Chakma Raja while in the other he is described as the 45th Chakma Raja. The difference may arise due to several reasons, including whether the “usurper”. Udaigiri is counted as one of the rajas. According to the Late Ashok Kumar Dewan, Shukdev Roy was a Chakma prince and landowner, but not a raja. ]
Raja Bhuvan Mohan Roy & Later Rajas
Raja Bhuvan Mohan Roy was educated at the Rangamati Government High School, which was established when he was a child. During his time several schools were established in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the benefit of formal education started to reach the people. He completed the construction of a new palace at Rangamati, along with the Gotammuni temple and expanded agriculture in Rangamati and Bandukbhanga. He attended the Delhi Durbar of King Emperor George V, where he was received with due honour. He took initiatives to get his sons married to members of educated and enlightened families of Bengal, Cooch Behar and Tripura. His eldest son, Kumar Nalinaksha Roy married Rani Benita Sen (born in Surrey, UK in 1902), daughter of Barrister Saral Sen and granddaughter of reformer Brahmananda Keshab Chandra Sen of Kolkata. Bhuvan Mohan died in 1934 at the age of 60.
Raja Bhuvan Mohan was succeeded by his eldest son, Raja Nalinaksha Roy, who graduated from Calcutta. Raja Nalinaksha consolidated the zamindary and other landed estates in Chittagong and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. During his time India was partitioned and the Chittagong Hill Tracts became part of Pakistan (1947). Before partition the Raja demanded to the British Constitutional Commission that the Chakma Chiefdom be accorded the status of a “state”, but the demand was not accepted. The Raja sent his children to be educated in English-medium institutions in West Bengal. His eldest son, Kumar Tridiv Roy was admitted to study for the English Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London. In partnership with his wife, Rani Benita, he undertook reforms in education, literature, dance and music. Rani Benita was a cabinet minister of the Government of Bangladesh and died in 1990. The Raja died in 1951.
Raja Tridiv Roy, the eldest son of Raja Nalinaksha, took over as Raja in 1951, abandoning his formal studies that he was to have commenced in the UK. During his time, education spread even further, and the first tertiary institution, the Rangamati Government College, was established in Rangamati in the 1960s. Franchise was extended to the CHT for the first time, for the legislative bodies in the 1950s, and for local government institutions at district and lower levels in the 1960s. The Raja himself was elected to the provincial and national assemblies several times.
In 1960, the Kaptai Dam was built, flooding a large part of the Chakma Chiefdom, including the palace. The Raja helped rehabilitate his people, who had to evacuate the future reservoir area. The Raja was a keen horticulturalist, and following his lead, thousands of his subjects took up the new vocation of fruit growers, planting pine-apple, cashew, banana for the market (their options were now limited with the loss of their land to the Kaptai Dam reservoir). The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development project on horticulture was established at his initiative.
In 1956, Raja Tridiv Roy represented his people at the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Celebrations in New Delhi and then in Rangoon (now Yangon). In 1963, he represented Pakistan at the United Nations and travelled around the world. In 1970, the Raja was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan from the entire Chittagong Hill Tracts, the lone successful independent candidate in the then East Pakistan. In 1971, Raja Tridiv Roy left the Chittagong Hill Tracts as a Special Envoy of the Government of Pakistan and has since not returned to his homeland, having settled down in Islamabad, Pakistan (later his son, Raja Devasish, succeeded him). He now lives in Islamabad, and holds the office of Federal Minister-without-Portfolio in the Government of Pakistan. Hitherto he has held other offices in the Government of Pakistan, including Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs (1971-1976?), Adviser on Tourism (1979-1981?), Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile (1981-1996?), and Ambassador-at-Large (1996-2005?). Raja Tridiv Roy has published several books and articles, including a biographical account entitled The Departed Melody (Memoirs) [PPA Publications, Islamabad, 2003].
Since Raja Tridiv Roy had taken up residence in Pakistan, at the request of the Chakma leaders, including the late Kamini Mohan Dewan (former legislator), the Government of Bangladesh declared Kumar Devasish Roy, eldest son of Raja Tridiv Roy, then 14, as the future Chakma Raja, and his eldest uncle, Kumar Samit Roy (passed away in 2008), as the Regent ( to be relinquished on the raja attaining his majority). While still a student, with his father’s blessings, Raja Devasish Roy was installed as the 51st Chakma Raja at an investiture at Rajbari, Rangamati on 25 November 1977, attended by members of the cabinet. A representative of the Government of Bangladesh presented a sword to Raja as customary.
Raja Devasish had his early schooling in Chittagong, and concluded his secondary and higher secondary education at Rangamati. He graduated from Rangamati Government College in 1981 with a BA, and from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, in 1985, with a BA Honours. In 1986, he was called to the English Bar (Lincoln’s Inn). He joined the Dhaka District Bar in 1987 and the High Court Bar, Dhaka, in 1988.
Raja Devasish Roy has represented his people in several forums, including in talks with the Government of Bangladesh’s National Committee on the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the 1980s and abroad. At the request of the Government of Bangladesh and of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samit, he facilitated the negotiations between the aforesaid parties, leading to the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997. He has participated in several United Nations and international forums dealing with human rights, environment and development. He took a leading role in the drafting process of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007), including by being the Co-Chairperson of the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus at the last session of the Working Group on the Draft Declaration at Geneva in 2006.
Within Bangladesh, he has played an active role in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples. He chaired the first national conference on Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh in 1993, and chaired the meetings leading to the adoption of the Adivasi Declaration of 1997 and the Rangamati Declaration of 1998. He is the founding chairperson of the Hill Tracts NGO Forum and is a member of several civil society organizations within Bangladesh and abroad.
From January 2007 to January 2008 he was a member of the Bangladesh cabinet as Minister of State with the portfolios of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs and Environment & Forests. As Minister of Environment he led the Bangladesh delegations to the ___ th meeting of Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, to the __ th meeting of the Ozone Treaties in Doha and to the __ th meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznan. He also chaired the SAARC Environment Minister’s meeting in Dhaka in 2008.
Raja Devasish Roy was married to Rani Tatu Roy, daughter of Late Tripura Kanta Chakma of Kaokhali, Rangamati (retired as Deputy Superintendent of Police, a freedom fighter). Rani Tatu did her MA in English at Dhaka University. In partnership with her husband, Rani Tatu promoted development and education in remote areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. She also helped manage the Chakma Raj estate lands, and proved herself to be an able administrator. She died of liver ailments in 1998 at the age of 33, leaving behind a son, Rajkumar Tribhuvan Aryadev (born 11 January, 1990) and a daughter, Rajkumari Aradhana Ayetri (born 16 October, 1994). Rajkumar Tribhuvan was installed as the Chakma Yuvaraj at an investiture at Rajbari, Rangamati in 2003 (at which event Silver Jubilee of Raja Devasish’s reign was also celebrated).
After long 12 years since the death of first wife, Chakma Circle Chief Barrister Raja Debashish Roy wedded the second time on 4 July 2014, he married Yan Yan, an ethnic Rakhine. They have a son named as “Yoddha Devayana” who was born on 16th April, 2015.