Sonargaon

sonargaon4Sonargaon (Bengali: সোনারগাঁও; also transcribed as Sunārgāon,[1] meaning City of Gold) was a historic administrative, commercial and maritime center in Bengal. Situated in the center of the Ganges delta, it was the seat of the medieval Muslim rulers and governors of eastern Bengal. Sonargaon was described by numerous historic travelers, including Ibn Battuta, Ma Huan, Niccolò de’ Conti and Ralph Fitch as a thriving center of trade and commerce. It served as the capital of Sultan Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah, Isa Khan and the Baro-Bhuyan Confederacy.

The area is located near the modern industrial river port of Narayanganj in Bangladesh. Today, the name Sonargaon survives as the Sonargaon Upazila (Sonargaon Subregion) in the region.[2]

History

Pre-Muslim period

The name Sonargaon came as the Bangla version of the ancient name Suvarnagrama.[2] Buddhist ruler Danujamadhava Dasharathadeva shifted his capital to Suvarnagrama from Bikrampur sometime in the middle of the 13th century.[2] In early 14th century, Bauddha ruling in this area ended when Shamsuddin Firoz Shah (reigned 1301–1322) of Lakhnauti occupied and annexed it to his kingdom.[3]
Muslim period
The 7th voyage of Zheng He’s fleet map based on analysis by Edward L. Dreyer shows that Hong Bao and Ma Huan visited Sonargaon in 1432.[4]

Muslim settlers first arrive in Sonargaon region in around 1281.[5] Sharfuddin Abu Tawwamah, a medieval Sufi saint and Islamic philosopher came and settled here sometime between 1282 and 1287.[6] He then established his Khanqah and founded a Madrasa.

Firoz Shah built a mint in Sonargaon from where a large number of coins were issued.[3] When he died in 1322, his son, Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah, replaced him as the ruler. In 1324 Delhi Sultan, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, declared war against him and after the battle, Bahadur Shah was captured and Bengal, including Sonargaon, became a province of Delhi Sultanate.[7] The same year, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq, son and successor of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, released him and appointed him as the governor of Sonargaon province.[8]

After 4 years of governorship, in 1328, Bahadur Shah declared independence of Bengal. Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq sent his general, Bahram Khan, to depose him. In the battle, Bahadur Shah was defeated and killed. Bahram Khan recaptured Sonargaon for the Delhi Sultanate and he was also appointed the governor of Sonargaon.[9]

When Bahram Khan died in 1338, his armor-bearer, Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah, declared himself the independent Sultan of Sonargaon.[5] Fakhruddin sponsored several construction projects, including a trunk road and raised embankments, along with mosques and tombs.[10] 14th century Moroccan traveller, Ibn Batuta, after visiting the capital in 1346, described Fakhruddin as “a distinguished sovereign who loved strangers, particularly the fakirs and sufis”.[10] After the death of Fakhruddin in 1349, Ikhtiyaruddin Ghazi Shah became the next independent ruler of Sonargaon.[11]

Ilyas Shah, the independent ruler of Lakhnauti, attacked Sonargaon in 1352. After defeating Ikhtiyaruddin Ghazi Shah, he became the sole ruler of whole Bengal for the first time in history and thus he became the founder of a sultanate of the unified Bengal.[12]

A squadron of the Chinese fleet of Zheng He, commanded by the eunuch Hong Bao, visited Sonargaon in 1432. The information about that expedition comes from the book of one of its participants, the Muslim translator Ma Huan.[1] In 1451 Huan wrote his experience in details in his book Yingyai Shenglan (The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores).

Sonargaon is the eastern terminus of the Grand Trunk Road, which was built by the Pashtun emperor Sher Shah Suri and extended approximately 2500 kilometres from Bangladesh across northern India and Pakistan to Kabul in Afghanistan.[5]

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