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Abdul Karim Khondkar, whos forefathers were engaged in state services of Roshang

By Dr. Abdul Karim

The poet Abdul Karim Khondkar was born in Arakan, and his forefathers were engaged in state services of Roshang. The poet writes about his genealogy as follows:

“Now hear how this kitab became a puthi (i.e. rendered in to Bengali verse). I will tell you something about it. In the town of Roshang, there is a beautiful and heavenly village named Bandar. In that place many Qazis, Muftis, teachers and students, Faqir and darvesh live. Wealthy Muslims live there and talk to the king in friendly terms. If any poor man comes to a house he does not go disappointed. The people there erected mosques to say prayer and thus left their names to be remembered. Muslim learned people were brought there, some were appointed Khatib, some Imam, some offer prayer as musulli. Some of the people were minister of the king, they all work for increasing the wealth. There was one man there who received title from the king, the title was Sadi-uk-Nana. He was the chief of the merchants, and he became in charge of the mint …….. His name was Atibar, he was so named by his parents, but the Magh king gave him the title of ‘Nana’ …….. One day he called me and heard the book DullaMajlis, read to him. He was happy and said that many persons cannot understand Persian, some understand, other hear it from those who can read and understand. So if it is rendered into payer (or in Bengali) people will bless you. At his order I promised to write the book in Bengali…….. The name of my great grandfather was Rasul Mia, the king was kind to bestow him wealth and title. His duty was to collect dues from boats or ships and to send state dues to the king. His son was Machan Ali, he was interpreter of ships. If he came across a good thing, he used presented it to the king. His duty was to present before the king all traders who came to Roshang. His son was good souled and good charactered Ali Akbar. I am Abdul Karim Khondkar, his son. I hope to compose this book in Bengali verse.”
In the above passage, the poet Abdul Karim Khondkar gives a good picture of Muslim Society in his area, Bandar, probably port area of Roshang, the capital city Mrohaung. There an officer established a settlement, his name was Atibar, he was given the little of Sadi-uk Nana, he was a mint officer, and probably had some control over the merchants. Atibar’s father name was Umar, it is not known whether Umar held any state service. Atibar’s Pir was Hamidullah. In the place of Bandar, where Atibar established a settlement, many rich Muslim families built their houses; Atibar built there a mosque. Alims or Muslim learned men were settled there, some were appointed as Khatib and some as Imam. The residents were busy in offering prayers and helped the poor, if any happened to come over there. Such a bright picture of the Muslim Society in Arakan is really encouraging because it shows how the Muslims lived there as an affluent people.

The poet gives the names of his ancestors. His great grandfather was Rasul Mia, he was a custom officer in the king’s service. His grandfather was an interpreter in the customs office of the same king, his duty was to present foreigners before the king and to interpret one’s views to the others. In this way he used to come in contact with all traders who came to Roshang and he must have been very trusted officer of the king. The poet’s father Ali Akbar was probably a private person, if he was in the state service, the poet would have mentioned it proudly. The poet himself was a learned man, probably he was also a private person and he adorned the court of Atibar, the Sadi-uk. It was at the requested of Atibar that the poet wrote his book Dulla Majlis.

Dulla Majlis was a book dealing with religious subjects, it was a big volume consisting of 33 chapters. The book was compose in 1200 A.H./1785 A.D. In this same year the Burmese king Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and annexed it to the kingdom of Burma. So the poet wrote this book in the last year of the independent kingdom of Arakan. Before that the poet wrote two other books Tamim Ansari and Hazar Masail.


Editorial Team

The Art Garden Rohingya

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