Saturday 21 April 2012

The Sultans Of Bengal.

On 21 July 2011 Bangladesh issued a miniature sheet containing four stamps which featured coins issued during the reigns of the four Sultans of Bengal who reigned during the period 1334 to 1432. They were only issued in miniature sheet format and the stamps appear to be the first in a series on this theme since the upper border of the sheet bears the inscription "Coins of The Independent Sultans of Bengal".
But who were these rulers of Bengal? It is not easy to find information about these men but Wikipedia at least provides a list of the rulers of Bengal. The first coin depicted is one produced during the reign of Sultan Fakhr al-Din Mubarak Shah (1334-49). The Wikipedia list calls him Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah and dates his rule as 1338-49. He was an independent Sultan during the Delhi Sultanate of Tughlaqs in the Sonargaon region from where he extended his rule to the southeastern part of Bengal. He helped to spread Islam through the area and the city of Chittagong was brought under Muslim rule for the first time in 1340. He ordered a road to be constructed from Chandpur to Chittagong.
The next stamp in the sheet depicts a coin of the reign of Sultan Sharma al-Din Ilyas Shah (1342-57). He founded the Ilyas Shahi Dynasty which first held power through the reigns of five sultans from 1352 to 1414. He was the first sole ruler of the whole of Bengal which comprised Sonargaon, Satgaon and Lakhnauti. He was succeeded by Sikander Shah who is not represented by a coin in this set and he, in turn, was assassinated by his son and successor, Ghiyath al-Din A'Zam Shah in 1389 (1390 in the Wikipedia listing).
The reign of Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah lasted until 1410 (1411 according to Wikipedia). He was succeeded by 2 further rulers of the dynasty:- Saifuddin Hamza Shah (1411-2) and Shihabuddin Bayazid Shah (1412-14) but neither of these sultans are represented on the stamps.
A new house - that of Raja Ganesha - was founded when Raja Ganesha seized control of Bengal when Sultan Bayazid died in 1414. Qutb al Alam, a powerful Muslim holy man, called for an invasion of Bengal and when Raja Ganesha pleaded with him to withdraw his demand he agreed to do so providing Raja's son, Jadu, converted to Islam and ruled in place of Raja Ganesha. Thus Sultan Jalal al-Din Muhammed came to power in 1415 (the year of the Battle of Agincourt) and the final stamp in the set depicts a coin of his reign.
In 1416 Rana Ganesha deposed his son and seized the throne himself taking the title Danujarmarddana and converted back to Hinduism. However Raja Ganesha died in 1418 and Jalaluddin returned to the throne for a second reign over Bengal. He maintained peace in the country and extended his territories to the south and east of Bengal. A Chinese explorer, Cheng Ho, visited the capital city of Pandua from 1421 to 22 and 1431 to 33. Later the capital was moved to Gaur. He helped the king of Arakan to recover his kingdom which had been seized by Burma and thus became overlord of Arakan as well later also ruling over parts of Tripura and southern Bihar. He was also on good terms with the emperor ofChina and rulers of Herat and Egypt. He was a devout Muslim and this strengthened the legitimacy of his rule. He died in 1433 and was buried in the Eklakhi Mausoleum at Pandua. This miniature sheet is extremely attractive and interesting and well worth collecting especially as it seems to be the first part of an ongoing series. It will be of great interest to numismatists as well as those interested in the history of that part of the world. Bangladesh issued several interesting sets last year covering a number of subjects of relevance to the country and is currently in the top rank of Commonwealth countries for its stamp new issue programme,

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