Last updated

Titumir portrait.jpg
A portrait of Titumir
Syed Mir Nisar Ali

(1782-01-27)27 January 1782
Died19 November 1831(1831-11-19) (aged 49)
Movement Tariqah-i-Muhammadiya [1]

Syed Mir Nisar Ali (27 January 1782 – 19 November 1831), better known as Titumir (Bengali : তিতুমীর), was a Bengali revolutionary, who developed a strand of Muslim nationalism coupled with agrarian and political consciousness. He is famed for having built a large bamboo fort to resist the British, which passed onto Bengali folk legend. [2] [3] [4]


Early life

Titumir was born as "Syed Mīr Nisār ʿAlī" on 27 January 1782 (14 Magh 1182), in the village of Chandpur — or Haidarpur, per some sources — to Syed Mir Hasan Ali and Abidah Ruqayyah Khatun. [2] [3] The family claimed an Arabic ancestry, tracing their descent from Caliph Ali; Syed Shahadat Ali had migrated to Bengal to preach Islam and his son, Syed Abdullah was appointed as the Chief Qadi of Jafarpur by the Emperor of Delhi. [2]

Titumir was educated in a local madrassa where he became a hafiz of the Quran by the age of twenty, beside being accomplished in Bengali, Arabic, and Persian. [2] [5] A good wrestler and gymnast, he served as the bodyguard of a local zamindar for some time. [3] However, Titumir was jailed on account of a conflict and upon release, in 1822, left his job to embark upon Hajj . [3]

Religio-political activism

Islamic resurgence

In Mecca, Titumir was influenced by Syed Ahmad Barelvi, an Indian Islamic revivalist preacher, who advocated for Jihad to purge all non-Islamic corruptions and accretions from sociopolitical life and enforce Sharia. [3] [2]

Upon return from Mecca, he began to mobilize the Muslim peasantry by preaching against deviations from the Quran — veneration of pirs, construction of dargahs, charging of interest on loans, etc. were all frowned upon — and declaring the Zamindars — who were mostly, Hindu — to be in cahoots with the Company regime. [2] [3] [6] Titumir's diktats penetrated into the social life, as well: men were to have beards with trimmed moustaches and women adorn burqas; those who did not abide by were to be boycotted. [2] [3]

The lowest classes of the Muslim society responded favorably but his emphasis on Islamic fundamentalism ensured negligible support from Hindu peasantry. [3] However, the Zamindar community, irrespective of religion, objected to his activities. [3]

Confrontation with zamindars

In June 1830, Krishnadeva Rai, the Zamindar of Purha — in some sources, alternately described as the Talukdar of Sarfarazpur — imposed an annual tax on all bearded Muslim subjects to combat Titumir's influence. [3] On Titumir's advice, the peasants refused to pay and an enraged Krishnadeva led a bevy of armed men on a spree of arson, even destroying a local mosque. [3] The Muslims reciprocated but the melee remained inconclusive; complaints were filed at the Baduria police station by both sides and eventually, the subdivisional magistrate of Barasat dismissed the issue but only after getting a declaration from the peasants about committing to peace. [3]

Buoyed up by the lack of any punishment for Krishnadeva, fellow Zamindars — Ramnarayan Nag Chaudhuri of Taragonia and Guru Prasad Chowdhury of Nagarpur — instituted similar tax-regime on their subjects and imprisoned dissenters. [3] The peasants organised themselves and sued the Zamindars but to little avail. [3] This led Titu to advocate for a full-fledged armed resistance against what he felt to be the nexus of Zamindars and Company; Atis Dasgupta, a scholar of peasant rebellions in early colonial India, notes that here onward, what was essentially a socio-religious agitation morphed into a political-economic class-struggle. [3]

Confrontations with the Company and Zamindars

Titumir shifted his base from Chandpur to Narkelberia, and began organizing an armed militia. [3] In October 1830, one of his declarations proclaimed him to be the natural sovereign of the country, who — rather than the Company — had an unilateral right of remittance on local revenues collected by Zamindars; a Muslim landholder was raided in the same month for having disobyed him. [3]

On 31 October, Titumir set to avenge Krishnadeva along with 300 armed followers; his residence was ransacked, establishments of moneylenders in the local market were set on fire, and a cow was sacrificed in front of a temple. [3] In response, the Zamindars formed an alliance with the British Indigo planters to render mutual assistance in case of assaults by Titumir's militia. [3] Soon Kaliprasanna Mukherjee, the Zamindar of Habra-Gobardanga and a key member of the alliance, was targeted and though Davies, manager of a nearby plantation at Mollahati, came to aid with about 200 men, they were soundly defeated. [3] Davies escaped narrowly and was sheltered by Debnath Roy, the Zamindar of Gobra-Gobindapur; this precipitated a confrontation between Titumir's militia and Debnath's forces at Laughati in Nadia, where the latter was killed. [3] Several Indigo plantations were subsequently set on fire. [3]

The month of November was replete with such cases and the local police proved to be of little use in the face of increasing peasant resistance; many of the Zamindars fled to Kolkata. [3] The Commissioner of Presidency Division was solicited to tackle the situation and accordingly, on 15 November 1830, Alexander, the Joint Magistrate of Barasat — along with Ramram Chakraborti, Officer-In-Charge of Baduria Thana — set out for Titumir with a force of 120 policemen. [3] Outnumbered by a 500-strong militia, they were defeated; Alexander barely escaped to a neighboring village while Ramram perished alongside 14 others. [3]


By 1831, there was a political vacuum in large parts of the Parganas, and Titumir capitalized on it, styling himself as the Badshah and having thousands of Hindu and Muslim peasants among his followers. [3] People loyal to him were installed in official positions — his nephew Ghulam Masum Khan served as the Senapati , Muizz ad-Din as the Wazir etc. — and zamindars were compelled to either submit to his rule or vacate the land-holdings. [3]

With passage of time as the prospects of an all-out conflict with Company forces grew inevitable, he had a bamboo-fort (Banser Kella) constructed at Narkelberia. [3] On 17 November 1831, upon receiving instructions from Lord William Bentinck, the incumbent governor general of India, Smith, the district magistrate of Nadia moved towards Narkelberia with four other magistrates and accompanied by a 300 strong armed police force alongside several hundred private guards sourced from zamindars. [3] Yet, the plan went astray; Golam Masum became aware of the troop movement and outflanked Smith with a 500-strong militia at Baraghar, northeast of Narkelberia; Smith's forces fled to a plantation crossing the Icchamati and urging Lord Bentick to take aid from the Army. [3]

Final battle

On the evening of 18 November 1831, Major Scott, Lieutenant Shakespeare, and Major Sutherland led a military column — composed of a cavalry unit and infantry unit, having 300 armed personnel and two cannons — to lay a siege to Titumir's fort. [3] Nothing of significance transpired until the next morning when a concerted ammunition charge was mounted. [3] The resistance was breached in about three hours, with the fort giving way to cannons. [3]

Titumir was bayoneted to death, as were 50 fellow soldiers. [3] About 800 others were arrested and tried at Alipur Court; Golam Masum was hanged in front of the ruins of the fort and about 140 had to serve prison terms of varying lengths. [3] The commanding officer of the British forces not only noted Titumir's bravery in dispatches to London, but also commented on the strength and resilience of bamboo as a material for fortification, since he had had to pound the fort with artillery for a surprisingly long time. [2]

Contemporary reception

The newspapers and journals run by Englishmen and Christian missionaries took the government-line. [3] Samachar Chandrika , Reformer, Jnananveshan etc. sided with the zamindars and denounced Titumir as a law-and-order nuisance. [3]


In 2004, Titumir was ranked number 11 in the BBC's poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time. [7]


A play-drama Titumir-er Basher Kella, directed by Sheikh Kamal was broadcast in 1967 on Bangladesh Television (then PTV); a graphic novel of the same name was also popular in East Pakistan. [8] [9] In Dhaka, Jinnah College was renamed to Government Titumir College in 1971. [10] On 19 November 1992, the 161st anniversary of his death, the Government of Bangladesh issued a commemorative stamp in his honor. [11] The principal base of Bangladesh Navy is named as 'BNS Titumir'. [12]

India (West Bengal)

Mahasweta Devi wrote a novella Titumir that sought to recover subaltern history. [13] [14] In 1978, Utpal Dutt directed an agitprop drama Titumir which critiqued the crude representation of Titumir in colonial historiography; it received critical acclaim and was commercially successful. [15]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mir Mosharraf Hossain</span> Bengali writer

Meer Syed Mosharraf Hossain was a Bengali writer, novelist, playwright and essayist. He is considered to be the first major writer to emerge from the Muslim society of Bengal, and one of the finest prose writers in the Bengali language. His magnum opus Bishad Sindhu is a popular classic among the Bengali readership.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isa Khan</span> Chief of Baro-Bhuiyans of Bengal

Isa Khan was the Bais Rajput leader of the 16th-century Baro-Bhuiyan chieftains of Bengal and a zamindar of Khizrpur. During his reign, he successfully unified the chieftains of Bengal and resisted the Mughal invasion of Bengal. It was only after his death that the region fell totally under Mughal control. He remains an iconic figure throughout West Bengal and Bangladesh as a symbol of his rebellious spirit and unity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rajbari District</span> District of Bangladesh in Dhaka Division

Rajbari is a district in central Bangladesh, located in the Dhaka Division. It is a part of the Greater Faridpur subregion of Bengal due to the historical and cultural identities of its inhabitants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ismail Hossain Siraji</span> Bengali writer

Syed Ismail Hossain Siraji was a Bengali author and poet from Sirajganj in present-day Bangladesh. He is considered to be one of the key authors of period of the Bengali Muslim reawakening; encouraging education and glorifying the Islamic heritage. He also contributed greatly to introducing the Khilafat Movement in Bengal, and provided medical supplies to the Ottoman Empire during the Balkan Wars. Anal-Prabaha, his first poetry book, was banned by the government and he was subsequently imprisoned as the first South Asian poet to allegedly call for independence against the British Raj. The government issued Section 144 against him 82 times in his lifetime.

Syed Ali Ahsan was a Bangladeshi poet, writer and university academic. He was awarded Ekushey Padak (1982) and Independence Day Award (1987) by the Government of Bangladesh. In 1987, he was selected as the National Professor of Bangladesh. He was credited as the official English translator of the National Anthem of Bangladesh.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Dhaka</span> History of the capital city of Bangladesh

Dhaka (Dacca) is one of the oldest inhabited mega cities of the World. The history of Dhaka begins with the existence of urbanised settlements in the area that is now Dhaka dating from the 7th century CE. The city area was ruled by the Hindu Gauda Kingdom, Buddhist and Shaivite Pala Empire before passing to the control of the Hindu Sena dynasty in the 10th century CE. After the Sena dynasty, the city was ruled by the Hindu Deva Dynasty. Dhaka was successively ruled by the Turkic and Afghan governors descending from the Delhi Sultanate, followed by the Bengal Sultanate, before the arrival of the Mughals in 1608. The city became proto-industrialised and declared capital of the Mughal Bengal and commercial (financial) capital of the Mughal India. The Dhaka natural riverine port has a recorded existence since the 16th century CE. Dhaka's strategic riverine location in Bengal made it a hub for Eurasian traders, including Armenians, the Portuguese, French, Dutch and British. The bustling old city was known as the Venice of the East. After Mughals, British ruled the region for 200 years until the independence of India in 1947. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, Dhaka became the capital of the new state.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1971 killing of Bengali intellectuals</span> War crime by the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1972

In 1971, the Pakistan Army and their local collaborators, most notably the extreme right wing militia group Al-Badr, engaged in the systematic execution of Bengali intellectuals during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Bengali intellectuals were abducted, tortured and killed during the entire duration of the war as part of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide. However, the largest number of systematic executions took place on 25 March and 14 December 1971, two dates that bookend the conflict. 14 December is commemorated in Bangladesh as Martyred Intellectuals Day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bishwanath Upazila</span> Place in Sylhet Division

Bishwanath is an upazila of Sylhet District in the Division of Sylhet, Bangladesh.

The Pagal Panthis were a socio-religious order that emerged in the late 18th-century in the Mymensingh region of Bengal. Adherents of a syncretic mixture of Hinduism, Sufism and Animism, the order sought to uphold religious principles and the rights of landless peasants in Bengal; under the leadership of Tipu Shah, the movement soon evolved into a popular, armed struggle against the British East India Company and the zamindar (landlord) system. It was crushed with the help of the army in 1833. It was a semi religious sect having influence in the northern districts of Bengal. Pagal panthi movement was of Hodi, Garo and Hajong tribes. It was led by Hodi leader Janku Pathar and Debraj Pathar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tetulia Jami Mosque</span>

The Tetulia Jami Mosque, also known as the Khan Bahadur Salamatullah Mosque, and the Tetulia Shahi Mosque, is located in village of Tetulia in Tala Upazila in the district of Satkhira in Bangladesh. The founder of the mosque was Khan Bahadur Maulvi Qazi Salamatullah Khan, of the zamindar (feudal-lord) Qazi family of Tetulia, who was also the founder of the mansion known as Salam Manzil in the vicinity. The six-domed mosque was built Mughal style in 1858–59 and resembles those built by Tipu Sultan's descendants, as does the Salam Manzil, now in virtual decay.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prithimpassa family</span> An Shia royal family from the Prithimpassa Union, Sylhet, Bangladesh

The Prithimpassa family, also known as the Nawabs of Longla, are an Shia royal family from the Prithimpassa Union, Kulaura Upazila, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Bangladesh. The family was of the erstwhile feudal nobility of East Bengal. They played important roles in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Partition of India and Sylhet referendum in 1947, and the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

Syed Nausher Ali was an Indian left-leaning politician in West and East Bengal during British rule. He was a cabinet member in the first A. K. Fazlul Huq ministry and later the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in the second coalition Ministry. He was renowned for his advocacy of abolition of British imperialism and his support of Hindu-Muslim cooperation in the form of an undivided India.

Masum Khan was a zamindar of Bengal. He was the eldest son and successor of Baro-Bhuiyan leader Musa Khan and the grandson of Isa Khan.

Leila Arjumand Banu was a Bangladeshi singer and social activist.

Prof. Dr. Syed Ali Ashraf was a Bangladeshi-born Islamic scholar and academic. He was the Professor of English and Head of the Department of English, Karachi University, and later became Director-General, World Centre for Islamic Education at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1980. He was also the founder and director-general of Islamic Academy, Cambridge. He was also the founder vice-chancellor of Darul Ihsan University from its founding to before his death in 1998 in Bangladesh.

Syed Muhammed Taifoor was a Bangladeshi historian, antiquarian and writer.

Wajed Ali Khan Panni was a Bengali politician, educationist and the zamindar of Karatia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shia Islam in Bangladesh</span>

Shia Muslims are a minority in Bangladesh, with roughly 2% of the population being Shia. Many Bangladeshi Shi'a Muslims belong to the Bihari community. Even though there are only small numbers of Shi'as, the observance commemorating the martyrdom of Ali's sons, Hasan and Husayn, are still widely observed by the nation's Sunni community; highlighting the historical influence that the Shi'ites had in Bengal.

Muhammad Naimuddin was a Bengali Islamic scholar, writer and journalist. He was the chief editor of the Akhbare Islamia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zamindars of Mahipur</span>

The zamindars of Mahipur were a Bengali aristocratic family of feudal landowners. The zamindari estate encompassed the Chakla of Qazirhat under the Cooch Behar State since the Mughal period. Although their aristocratic status was lost with the East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act of 1950, the Mahipur estate remains an important part of the history of Rangpur and belongs to one of the eighteen ancient zamindar families of Rangpur. The zamindari palace was lost as a result of flooding from the Teesta River, although the mosque, cemetery, polished reservoir and large draw-well can still be seen today.


  1. Sirajul Islam; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir, eds. (2012). "Tariqah-i-Muhammadiya". Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN   984-32-0576-6. OCLC   52727562. OL   30677644M . Retrieved 2 September 2023.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Khan, Muazzam Hussain (2012). "Titu Mir". In Sirajul Islam; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN   984-32-0576-6. OCLC   52727562. OL   30677644M . Retrieved 2 September 2023.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 Dasgupta, Atis (1983). "Titu Meer's Rebellion: A Profile". Social Scientist. 11 (10): 39–48. doi:10.2307/3517042. ISSN   0970-0293.
  4. Sarkar, Sumit (1985). "Social History: Predicaments and Possibilities". Economic and Political Weekly. 20 (25/26): 1083. ISSN   0012-9976.
  5. Khan, Muin-ud-din Ahmad. Titu Mir and His Followers in British Indian Records, 1831-1833 A.D. Islamic Foundation Bangladesh.
  6. Bose, Neilesh (2009). Anti-colonialism, regionalism, and cultural autonomy: Bengali Muslim politics, c.1840s–1952 (Thesis). Tufts University. p. 58-59.
  7. "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". BBC. 14 April 2004. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
    Habib, Haroon (17 April 2004). "International : Mujib, Tagore, Bose among 'greatest Bengalis of all time'". The Hindu .
    "Bangabandhu judged greatest Bangali of all time". The Daily Star. 16 April 2004.
  8. "OP-ED: The legacy of Sheikh Kamal". Dhaka Tribune. 15 August 2020. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  9. "Let's go graphic!". The Daily Star. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  10. "Jagannath College". Banglapedia. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  11. "Meer Nisar Ali Titumeer". Bangladesh Stamps. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012.
  12. "BNS TITUMIR". Bangladesh Navy. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012.
  13. "Mahasweta Devi lived like she wrote: Fearlessly and without restraint". Hindustan Times. 28 July 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  14. Dewan, Preeti Gupta (2013). Jain, Jasbir (ed.). "Resistance in Culture and Literature". Indian Literature. 57 (3 (275)): 235. ISSN   0019-5804.
  15. "Full of energy: Reviving 'Titumir'". The Telegraph. Kolkata. Retrieved 8 February 2021.