Dharanidhar Naik’s revolt against Dhanurjay Bhanja, a Bhuyan leader from Keonjhar, is another ignominious chapter in the history of British rule in Odisha. Under his leadership, the Bhuyans became more organised and posed a threat to the king. Of course, the British government suppressed it ruthlessly.
Factors that contributed to Dharani Naik’s revolt
The Bhuyans’ discontent stemmed from a variety of factors.
To begin, they were required to render bethi to the king. This was a burden that the Bhuyans were forced to bear. They desired to abolish this practise.
Second, King Dhanurjay Bhanja ruled with tyranny. His administration was another way of putting it: exploitation. The king exploited the tribal people to the point where they became violent.
Thirdly, Dharanidhar Bhuyan, the Bhuyans’ leader, was not pleased with Fakir Mohan Senapati’s appointment as a Diwan of Keonjhargarh. They believed, for whatever reason, that Fakir Mohan Senapati was a hindrance to their progress.
Fourthly, the situation was precipitated by the role of Bichitrananda Das, a constant adviser to King Dhanurjay. He directed the Bhuyans and other tribes to assist him in constructing a dam across the stream Machha Kandana. It was difficult for them to perform this forced labour after supporting their families with a meagre income. This sparked the revolt.
Finally, Dharani Naik’s dissatisfaction shaped the Bhuyan uprising in Keonjhar. The manner in which he was forced to lose his job through treachery inspired him to rebel, and thus began the ‘Dharani meli’.
Dharanidhar Naik’s life and work
Dharanidhar Naik was born in Kusumita village on 5 May 1864 to Baigani Devi and Laichhan Naik. After completing his education in the neighbourhood, Dharanidhar was assigned to Tulsipur in Cuttack for survey supervisor training. He returned to Keonjhar after completing his training and was eventually absorbed into the service of the State of Dhanurjay Bhanja. His commitment to work drew him closer to the administration. Bichitrananda Das, on the other hand, could not stand Dharanidhar. Meanwhile, Dharanidhar has been tasked with resolving a conflict between Lungikud and Godhuli. He completed the task and sent the map and other records to King Dhanurjay with a Paik. He then proceeded to his sister’s house in Padmapur. The astute Bichitrananda obtained all of these documents from the Paik and obtained an endorsement from an English officer that he had completed the work. He presented the papers to Dhanurjay, who was dissatisfied with Dharanidhar’s performance and relieved him of his duties. This betrayal infuriated Dharanidhar, who desired to exact revenge on Dhanurjay Bhanja and Bichitrananda.
Now Dharanidhar has gathered the Ehuyans, Kohlas, and Juangs around him and ascended to the position of leader. Dharanidhar accompanied him to Champakpur, where he assassinated Nanda Dhal, the king’s former Diwan. The king left the palace and travelled to Anandpur after receiving this news. Fakir Mohan Senapati, the Dewan of Keonjhargarh, proceeded to Cuttack to meet Commissioner G.Toynbee, but was apprehended on the way by Dharanidhar. Now, H.Dowson, Chaibasa’s Deputy Commissioner, marched to Keonjhargarh to put down the rebellion. Dhanurjay travelled to Cuttack in order to meet with the Commissioner. Furious, the rebels pillaged the homes of officers who opposed them. They broke down the royal prison’s gates and liberated the prisoners. Fakir Mohan Senapati, who had been held captive by Dharanidhar, wrote a letter to his friend Bholanath Dey, a Court Surveyor in Anandpur, requesting that he send 100 betel leaves and 200 betel nuts to the Queen’s son Dharanidhar, who was a great fan of betel. Irrigation of the sugarcane field will be accomplished by digging a canal from the north. Unless this is addressed, the sugarcane field will be destroyed. The letter was accompanied by a wire. Meanwhile, Dharanidhar had declared himself to be the adopted son of Keonjhargarh’s queen, who had never wanted Dhanurjay to succeed Dhanurjay as king of Keonjhar. This letter was correctly interpreted, and instructions were given to attack the palace from the north using sepoy bullets. Fakir Mohan advised Dharanidhar to meet Dawson Sahib in order to obtain his grace. Dharanidhar complied and met Dawson near the village of Ruchir. He was apprehended and arrested in accordance with the previous plan.
The Revolt’s Consequences
The meli came to an end with Dharanidhar’s and other rebels’ capitulation. Dharanidhar was tried and sentenced to seven years in the Cuttack Central Jail. Other insurgents were also imprisoned. Dharanidhar’s life changed dramatically after he was released from Cuttack Jail in 1897. He lived in a hermitage near Banki Muhana, near Puri, and died in 1944. With him, a chapter of revolt against the British Raj in Keonjhar came to an end. The Dharani meli had far-reaching consequences.
Initially, the British Government recognised the subjects of Keonjhargarh’s discontent. As a result, British agent H.P. Wylly arrived and assumed command of Keonjhargarh.
Fakir Mohan, on the other hand, resigned and left Keonjhargarh. Durga Das Mukherjee took his place. He concentrated on the kingdom’s developmental projects.
Thirdly, Keonjhar’s administration has become more humane. Subjects were not treated with contempt or scorn. Their grievances were heard fairly. Dharanidhar’s revolt opened the eyes of the authorities, who now took a keen interest in resolving the subjects’ problems.
Fourthly, Dhanurjay Bhanja petitioned the Commissioner to have his throne of Keonjhargarh restored to him. After considerable deliberation, his petition was accepted, and he regained his throne. A Political Agent, on the other hand, was to be appointed there to check on his authority. Ray Bahadur Nanda Kishore Das was appointed Political Agent as a result.
Fifthly, Dharanidhar Bhuyan’s followers, including Mani Mohapatra, Aguan Singh, and Banamali MahaNaik, were sentenced to life in prison. Others were sentenced to prison.
Finally, this rebellion caught the British Government’s attention. They desired to establish their rule through the effective implementation of their administration with a human touch. Thus, the British intervention brought the Dharani meli of Keonjhar to a halt. Of course, the injustice meted out to Dharanidhar Naik went unpunished. His efforts were commendable, and his legacy as a great son of the soils continues to shine.