Khurda Rebellion (1804-05 AD) and Jayi Rajguru

The resistance movement started in the form of insubordination against the British authorities by Nilakantha Mangaraj, the Raja of Harispur with whom the special Commissioner for Odisha had signed treaty engagement on December 1803. He was dismissed for defying the British authorities and placed under confinement till April 1805, and released on condition of good behaviour and regular payment of tribute. From the Maratha period the relationship between the British and Raja of Kanika was strained on account of practical activities on the coast of Odisha under the latter’s patronage. Very often the British traders had complained against the Raja ofKanika for the harassment they suffered. With the change of authorities governing Odisha in 1803, the Raja entered into an engagement with the British agreeing to pay tribute. There were signs of an improvement in relationship. But in 1804 troubles started concerning the Raja of Khurda and British apprehended a secret alliance between Khurda and Kanika. Even the Raja of Kujanga was expected to join this alliance against the British.

Causes of conflict with the Raja of Khurda
There were many causes which led to the Khurda rising which can be discussed bellow.
1. Deceit of the British towards the Raja of Khurda

The Raja of Khurda had surrendered the Mahals of Lambai, Rahang and Puri to the Marathas in lieu of some military help he had received for his war against the Raja of Paralakhemundi. After the expulsion of the Marathas, the Raja expected and Mahlas would be restored to him by the British. But the unwillingness of the British to oblige naturally angered the Raja. Colonel Harcourt categorically denied restoration of the Mahals.

2. Difference between Raja of Khurda and the British

During his march from Ganjam towards Puri in September I803 Harcourt and availed of the good-will of the Raja of Khurda for provision of troops and movement of convoys. He had assured the payment of Rupees one lakh to the Raja for allowing him smooth passage. The Raja received Rupees seventy thousand in two installments, but the payment of the balance of Rs. 30.000 was deferred indefinitely.

3. Attempt of Jayi Rajguru to restore the Parganas

Mukundadeva-II, the Raja of Khurdha (1795-1817) welcomed the British after their conquest of Orisssa in 1803. He hoped that the four Pargans (Rahang, Serain, Chaubiskud and Lembai) lost to the Marathas would be restored to him by the British. Since the king was a minor, his regent Jayakrisna Rajguru or Jayi Rajguru went to Cuttack to present his case for the restoration of the Parganas and a reduction of annual Peshkash. They refused both the demands. Instead, they pressurised the king to execute an agreement on lines dictated by them. Theywanted the king to dismiss Rajguru. Jayi Rajguru read the evil designs of the British. He made an alliance among the Chiefs of Khurdha, Kujanaga and Kanika states. The king of Khurdha made all preparations for confrontation with the British. The personal approach of Jayi Rajguru, the Dewan of Khurda proved unavailing. Rajguru’s request for a reduction of the amount of annual tribute was also summararily, rejected by Harcourt.

Efforts made by the King of Khurda and his associates

The above factors were responsible in compelling the Raja of Khurda to adopt a hostile attitude against the British in 1804. He felt reluctant to sign the treaty engagement with the Commissioners and did not hesitate to vent his feelings. In a bid to recover the Mahals from British possession. He even sought the help of the Marathas. He engaged Sambhu Bharati, a mendicant to go round the Odia zamindars persuading them to make a, common cause against the foreign Government. The Rajas of Kujang and Kanika responded to the call. The Raja of Kanika violating the agreement on the production and sale of salt seized the British Store houses and funds and declined to attend the Commissioners Cuttack as a tributary. He even raised a large army under a Maratha Commander for self defence.

British measures to suppress the resistance movement

Harcourt was naturally worried lest such disaffection might spread among other tributaries and sought the Governor General’s permission for a stern exemplary action against the Raja of Khurda so as to dissuade others turning hostile to the British. Under pressure, of the Home Government Lord Wellesley did not agree to escalate a conflict in Odisha. His war against the Maratha Confederacy was not yet over. He, therefore, suggested Harcourt to adopt conciliatory measures. Sambhu Bharati, the Agent provocateur was seized. An attempt to negotiate through Captain Blunt with the Raja of Khurda proved futile on account of the intervention of Jayi Rajguru. A contingent of 250 cavalry soldiers and 900 Barkandazes from Khurda entered into Lembai, Rahang and Puri. On hearing this news Captain Hickland, who was stationed at Pipili marched with an army of 120 Sepoys and defeated the Raja’s force on 22 November 1804. Harcourt also proceeded from Cuttack against the Raja of Khurda. The fort of the Raja was besieged by Capt. Storey. Harcourt engaged Shaikh Waz Muhmmad, a native of Cuttack to reduce the fort of Banpur and through him captured the Raja’s brothers and son.Subsequently, the Raja was also captured on 3 January 1805 and taken to Cuttack. After subduing Khurda, Harcourt despatched a small contingent towards Nayagarh to capture Antaji and Kannoji. Two Maratha agents of Nagpur through whom the Raja of Khurda sought help and himself proceeded towards Kujang and Kanika via Gop.

Support of the people and the chiefs to the Raja of Khurda

The Zamindars of Marichpur and Harispur were sympathetic to the cause of Khurda; they were even preparing to render help. But the arrival of Harcourt with army dissuaded them from such a course of action. Chandradhwaja Sendh, Raja of Kujang took to flight on hearing the approach of the Commissioner. He was arrested in May 1805. His brother Madhusudan Sendh was installed on the Guddi on condition that the Raja would account for all properties collected from wrecks of ships on the coast and would remain loyal to the British.

Thereafter, Harcourt moved towards Kanika. Robert Ker, the Collector of Balasore was also asked to proceed with a force and arrest the Raja on grounds of mere, suspicion. Harcourt asked, to take over the charge of Kanika estate for direct administration. Major Andrew and Captain Blunt were detailed to assist Ker in settling the affairs in Kanika. The Raja was taken a prisoner and shifted to Balasore. He was kept there till September 1805 and subsequently removed to Midnapure.

The removal of the Raja of Kanika, apparently for no reason, provoked the people of the estate to rebel. The uprising was lad by the Diwan. But it could be suppressed by the British through Subadar Shib Prasad who seized all the weapons of the rebels. It is difficult to justify the military action against Kanika. The Chief and his people were taken to task for resisting the British who considered the Raja as notorious for his earlier non-cooperation in trading activities and hostile antecedents. They suspected his connivance with the Rajas of Kujang and Khurda and were not prepared to leave anything to chance.

Results of the Khurda rising

  1. The British captured the fort of Khurdha in December 1804.
  2. The fugitive king was arrested by the treachery of one Fateh Muhammad in January
  3. 1805.The Raja of Kanika, Balabhadra Bhanja was made a prisoner.
  4. The Raja of Kujang was replaced by his elder brother.
  5. The regent of the king of Khurda, Jayakrisna Rajguru or Jayi Rajguru was hanged.
  6. Khurdha was confiscated and brought under the direct (khas) management of the British.
  7. The Raja was given an allowance for the administration of Jagannath temple.
  8. His headquarters was fixed at Puri.
  9. He retained the title of Maharaja without any kingdom.

Resistance movement of Khurda was a significant event in the history of modern Odisha. This was the first resistance movement in the country and Jai Rajguru was the first martyr of India. Although the movement was suppressed by the British Raj but it provided fuel to the future movements happened in the country.