One of the prominent rising of the tribal in Odisha history was the Bhuyan rising of Ratna Naik of Keonjhar. Ratna Naik organized the tribal of Keonjhar to fight against the British Governement.
Quarrel for succession to the throne
After the death of Maharaja, Gadadhar Bhanja of Keonjhar, his eldest son Dhanurjay became the king in 1861. At that time he was minor. He was the son of his phulabivahi or concubine wife. This was taken with a pinch of salt by Pattamahadei (chief queen) Bishnupriya. She submitted a petition before T.E. Ravenshaw that before his death, the king of Keonjhar had proposed to accept Brundaban Bhanja as the legal hair to the throne of Keonjhar.
British approach towards the issue
T.E. Ravenshaw went through the petition of queen Bishnupriya and rejected it. The queen sent a petition to the Calcutta High Court but it was also rejected. Being depressed the queen appealed to the Privy Council at London. It also went unheard. After this incident, the queen got revolted.
Queen’s request to the tribal leaders
Being disgusted, the queen appealed to Ratna Naik to do the needful. The Bhuyans and the Juangs were now ready to fight for the cause of the queen. This was a great challenge to the British authority. The queen’s appeal was well responded.
Leadership of Ratna Naik
Ratna Naik was born at Tarpur village of Keonjhar district in 1820. He was very brave from the beginning. He was quite aware about the autocratic rule of Dhanurjay. As the leader of the Bhuyans, he organized them and raised them to fight against Dhanurjay. The new king had taken away their rights and privileges. Their plights were not heard by the king. They suffered a lot under the new regime. As, T.E. Ravenshaw had performed the coronation ceremony of Dhanurjay, he had no fear to anybody. Ratna Naik emerged to put an end to the regime of Dhanurjay.
Plan of Bhuyans
Ratna Naik organised the Bhuyans. All of them with the queen Bishnupriya wanted to have a plan. So, the queen left the palace of Keonjhargarh and came to Basantpur. She met Ratna Naik and other Bhuyans and Juangs. All of them took a vow to oust Dhanurjay Bhanja from the throne of Keonjhar. They became ready to have a tough fight with the king.
T.E. Ravenshaw’s mediation for negotiation
The informers gave news to T.E. Ravenshaw that a meli was going to take place against Dhanurjay. T.E. Ravenshaw was very clever. He wanted to settle the dispute of the royal family in a peaceful means. He persuaded the king and the queen to come to a negotiation. Accordingly, the queen came to Keonjhargarh palace. Dhanurjay was again coronated and the queen blessed him.
Revolt of Ratna Naik
This activity of the queen appeared as a betrayal to Ratna Naik. He organized the Bhuyans, Juangs, Kohlas and declared that until they place King Brundaban Bhanj, they would not leave the fight. In his venture other leaders like Nanda Naik, Nanda Pradhan, Babu Naik, Dasarathi Kuanr, Padu Naik and others helped him. On 28 April 1868, he entered into the palace with his supporters and kidnapped the Dewan and many officers of the Court of Dhanurjay Bhanja.
British measures to suppress the rebellion
The British Government took steps to putdown the rebellion. Dr. W. Hayes, the Deputy Gommissioner of Singhbhum visited Keonjhargarh on 7 May 1768 with a contingent of armed forces. The followers of Ratna Naik had killed the Dewan. Dr. Hayes shouted for the surrender of the rebels. Ratna Naik did not care for that and escaped the notice of the Deputy Commissioner. On the other hand, they captured some policemen. They cut off the postal service between Chaibasa and Cuttack. This move of the rebellious leader put the British administration in trouble. Now Colonel E.T. Dalton, the Commissioner of Chhotnagpur marched with contingent to Keonjhargarh palace. He was opposed on the way and it became difficult on his part to reach Keonjhargarh in June. Then Dalton opened the Pandora‟s box. The Bhuyan houses were sat on fire. On the demand of the British Government, the kings of Bonai, Mayurbhanj, Pal Lahara and Dhenkanal sent their Paiks to help Dalton. The Bhuyans under the leadership of Ratna Naik fought back to the wall. T.E. Ravenshaw also reached Keonjhargarh. Ratna Naik and Nanda Naik surrendered and the ‘Ratna meli came to an end.
Result of Ratna’s revolt
The result of the Ratna Naik’s rebellion was far reaching. It enraged the Bhuyans of Keonjhar. Queen Bishnupriya lived at Cuttack for the rest of her life. Ratna Naik was awarded capital punishment with six others. Thus, Ratna meli came to an end. Thus, the Bhuyans under Ratna Naik gave a toe challenge to the British regime. Although Ratna Naik’s rebellion ended in a smoke but the Bhuyans did not stop there. They revolted against the British authority more vigorously under the leadership of Dharani Naik.