Past of Ctg holds hope for economy
Chittagong holds the potential to reveal its richness dating from the pre-historic era if archaeological studies and research are conducted here, academics have said.
Scholars participating in the two-day “The Daily Star-Heritage Chatigram History Conference” from home and abroad yesterday emphasised effective steps from the government for a proper preservation of the historical findings of different ages.
They said it would help the next generation easily know about the culturally rich past of the country.
The Daily Star and Heritage Chatigram jointly organised the conference at held at Theatre Institute, Chittagong, in preparation for “The Daily Star Odommo Chattagram” festival to be held from March 30 to April 10.
Referring to the fighting spirit and role of the people of Chittagong people in the anti-British movement, pre-liberation movement and the Liberation War, the speakers at the closing day yesterday hoped that the land would inspire the whole country towards economic development.
They claimed that Chittagong Port was one of the ancient sea ports in the world with 2,000 years of history behind it and hoped that it would continue to play a vital role in trade and commerce in the region for many more years ahead.
The second and last day of the conference was featured in three sessions -- 'Pre-history and Pre-mediaeval Chittagong', 'Mediaeval Chittagong' and 'Chittagong in the Colonial and Bangladesh Period'.
A total of 11 keynote papers were presented at the sessions.
Later, a cultural programme, including a group recitation 'Joy Nipirito Manusher Joy' by Abrity Sangathan, solo recitations and songs were performed in tribute to National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
In the first session, Prof Jayanta Sinha Roy, assistant professor of archaeological department of Jahangirnagar University, Prof Suchandra Ghosh, associate professor, Ancient Indian History and Culture, Calcutta University, Shariful Islam, assistant keeper of Bangladesh National Museum, and Prof Dr Shahnaz Husne Jahan, Department of General Education, University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh presented their papers. Prof Abdul Momin Chowdhury, supernumerary professor, Dhaka University, chaired the session.
The four papers focused on 'Prospects of Pre-historic Archaeological Research in the Hilly Regions of Chittagong', 'Agrarian Economy of Samatata and Harikela', 'Early Deva Kings of Harikela' and 'Trade and Technology of the Early Mariners of Chittagong'.
Prof Suchandra Ghosh in her paper mentioned that the history of the two adjoining sub-regions, Samata and Harikela, also known as trans-Meghna region, is always known for a host of similarities.
But later, separate identity of Harikela was found with more sources like land-grant chatters or copper plates, coins and Chinese traveller's accounts, she said.
This region was so rich in early mediaeval Bengal because of a very strong monetary and agro-based economy and a riverine port town in Samatata and a sea port in Harikela.
Prof Ghosh also mentioned both the private and the royal ownership of land in the locality during the era of the Dev kings in the 9th and 10th centuries.
Dr Shahnaz, while presenting her paper, claimed that the history of Chittagong Port is of around 2,000 years and the existence of such an ancient and yet alive and active port is very rare in the world.
She put forward a geological reason behind the port's active existence.
According to her, the Greco-Romans during the second century knew this port as Pentapolis, which was later termed Samandar by Arab and Persian traders during the 9th to 14th centuries, and Sudkawan, Shatijam or Che-ti-chiang from the 14th century to the first half of the 16th.
She said this port played a very important role in the trade network of the Indian Ocean while the trade route spread towards the Red Sea in the West. Trade also existed with the Sree Bijoy dynasty in the East.
Dr Shahnaz also mentioned the existence of productive hinterlands like Vanga, Pundrabardhan, Sreehatta, Bhutan, Kamrup, Tripura and Sultani Bangla due to the active use of the port.
Speaking about indigenous knowledge of present times, she said local people like boatmen, boat and ship builders and fishermen of this land in ancient times also used their knowledge for sea travel and boat and ship building.
Assistant Keeper of the National Museum Shariful Islam said the recovery of an incomplete copper plate inscription in 1920 and two metal vase inscriptions in 1993 revealed the existence of a rich kingdom in ancient Harikela Manadala Devatideva and Attakaradeva.
Prof. Jayanta Roy in his paper said it was very difficult to say anything about the individual pre-history of Chittagong since there had been no major archaeological studies on pre-historic culture or any other archaeological records in Chittagong and in Myanmar except for a few chance findings.
Mentioning the discovery of pre-historic weapons in the hills of Sitakunda in 1886, he hoped that a good number of specific pre-historical artefacts could be found if studies were conducted in Chittagong region and Myanmar.
Dr Shamsul Hossain, former curator of Chittagong University Museum, expressed his dissatisfaction, saying that many historical properties had been lost due to lack of proper preservation.
He urged initiatives in preserving the findings in a scientific way.
In the second session, three papers were presented. In the absence of Mohammed Ali Chowdhury, professor of history department at CU, the abstract of his paper on 'Arakan-Chittagong Relations during the Mediaeval Period' was read by Adnan Mannan Chowdhury, lecturer at CU's genetic engineering department.
Dr Sutapa Sinha, associate professor of Department of Islamic History & Culture at University of Calcutta, presented an article on “Coins of Mediaeval Chittagong” at the session.
In her article, Sutapa Sinha elaborated on the varieties of coins used in Chittagong region in the mediaeval period, especially during the Sultani regime.
She said although the standard weight of coins in that period was between 10.6 grams and 10.8 grams, there was a special type of silver coins in Chittagong from 1538 to 1575 and its adjacent region with the weight of 10.45 grams.
Dr Shamsul Hossain, retired deputy curator of CU Museum, presented a paper on “Recently Destroyed Mughal Tomb and Ruins in the City of Chittagong.”
He said four Mughal mosque-tomb complexes and one tomb have, so far, been located in Chittagong. Of the above tombs, two have recently been obliterated by their lay keepers.
These four mosque-tombs are Bagh-i-Hamza Masjid, Miskin Shah Mulla Masjid, Kadam Mubarak Masjid, Bayazid Bostami Masjid, while the tomb is Shahjahani Tomb.
Showkat Ara Begum, assistant professor of history at CU, presented an article on “Mughal Amal-e Shahar Chattagram (The city of Chittagong during Mughal regime).”
She illustrated on the origin of the names of different areas of Chittagong city, saying the city began to be built up in a planned way after it was conquered by the Mughals in 1666.
The name of different areas in the city, including Rahamatganj, Hamzer Bagh, Ghat Farhadbegh and Askar Dighir Par, were named after the Nawabs (local rulers) appointed by Mughal emperors.
Vice-Chancellor of Premier University Prof Dr Anupam Sen presided over the session. He said the Bangla language had been nourished and had flourished since the Sultani regime.
The third session was chaired by Prof Mofakkharul Islam, supernumerary professor of Dhaka University.
The presenters were Gholam Mustafa, associate professor, Department of Bangla, CU, Md Mahbubul Hoque, assistant professor of history department at CU and Md Shamsul Huq, a journalist of daily Prothom Alo.
They presented papers on 'Chattagram Jubo Bidroho: Mukti-Sangramer Agni Shopan', 'Muktijuddher Prathomik Protirodh: Chattagram' and 'Chattgram Biplobi Betar Kendro'.