Brief History of the Family
Prithimpassa is a small village situated few miles from Kulaura Upazila in Moulvibazar district. This place has a rich history and is a very popular place for people interested in heritage, history and visiting places of antiquity. This place is a tourist attraction because in this village is situated Prithimpassa Nawab Bari. The Nawab Bari has a rich history and the family is known and respected by the people in the region. The family has played many important roles and contributed hugely from time to time in the nation’s history – during the liberation war of 1971 the members of the family played a pivotal role and also when Pakistan became independent from India and later when Sylhet merged with East Pakistan through the 1948 referendum. The founder of the family was Sakhi Salamat who settled here from Persia in 1499. His son was Ismail Khan Lodhi titled Khan Jahan Khan who was called Khanja Khan in Bengalee. He was, during the reign of Sulaiman Shah father of Daud Shah, made governor of Orissa and was given the title Khanja Khan. When Daud Shah ascended the throne in A.D. 1573 or A.H. 980, he also confirmed him as governor of Orissa.
During the reign of Akbar he was given Jagirs and was under the Moguls. In the reign of Jahangir in 1612 A.D Eastern Bengal was conquered and during that period all the Umaras under the Bengal King were brought under the Moghul king and were settled in the area with assurances to live peacefully under the Moghul ruler. Shamsui-Din was the son of Amir-ul-Umara Nawab Khan Jahan Ismail Khan Lodhi who lived from 1624 to 1682 A.D. His son was Maulvi Mohammad Rabi Khan titled Danishmand. He was an erudite person and a highly respected and revered scholar of his time. He was the teacher of the children of Nawab Nazim of Bengal i.e., Nawab Sarfaraz Khan and Nawab Shahamat Jang and others. He obtained jagirs under sanad from Nawab Sarfaraz Khan and Nawab Ali Wardi Khan, Mahabat Jung’s nephew, Nawab Nawazish Muhammad Khan Shahamat Jang who was Naeb Subedhar of Dhaka. He obtained a Jagir from Nawab Qasim Ali Khan, Nazim of Bengal, also under a sanad and these sanads are still in the family in original. Maulavi Muhammad Rabi according to history emerges as a figure of considerable charismatic authority and organizational ability. He commanded considerable manpower in order to carry out his work. He received sanad from Moghul emperor Alamgir-II. He also obtained Jagir from Nawab Qasim Khan Nazim of Bengal. It was given by a Sanad. Ref: The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Richard M. Eaton.
Danishmand had gained the confidence and respect of the Nawab Nazim of Bengal in the State of Murshidabad. He received jagirs in 1141 BS and 1156 BS. In 1756 he established Rabir Bazar. The Nazim of Bengal in recognition of his intellect and erudition gave Danishmand tiltle to him. According to some reliable sources there was even a calendar in his honour in the reign of Nazims of Bengal. The capital of Bengal was then Murshidabad.
Moulvi Mohammad Ali Khan great grandfather of Moulvi Nawab Ali Amjad Khan was the son of Moulvi Mohammad Rabi, titled Danishmand. He was the assistant Qazi of Sylhet district in 1773 and afterwards became a Qazi of Taraf. In 1793 he put down the rebellion of Naga and Koki tribes for which he obtained a Jagir and some authority of keeping troops and other honours from the British Government. In 1819 the Jagirs were made permanent with the family.
In the sepoy mutiny of 1857 the family sided with the mutineers. Some 300 sepoys who revolted against the British looted the Chittagong Treasury and took shelter with Gaus Ali Khan the zamindar of Prithimpassa.
Maulvi Mohammad Ali Khan’s son was Ghaus Ali Khan; his son was Ali Ahmad Khan who in 1869 (1275 BS) helped the British Government in the battle of Loshai. The British Government thanked him and as a token of its gratitude and appreciation exempted him from Arms Act. During his period the Estates revenue reached its peak and the powers and authorities of the Estate grew enormously. Nawab Ali Ahmed Khan constructed the Chandni Ghat at Sylhet on Surma River. He helped the then government in Loshai expedition with logistics and manpower. He received arms exemption from the British.
He died in 1874. His son was Nawab Ali Amjad Khan and a daughter Latifa Banu. In 1278 BS- 3rd. Agrahan 1871. Nawab Ali Amjad Khan was born in Prithimpassa in the family Estate. His mother’s name was Umraonissa Khatun. Nawab Ali Amjad Khan was very successful in increasing the revenue of the Estate many fold. In 1304 BS i.e. 1897 there was a cataclysmic earthquake. The damage was colossal to the region and the Estate. The physiography of the region was seriously changed due to the earthquake, which struck on 12 July 1897.
Nawab Ali Amjad Khan was an expert hunter and undertook many hunting expeditions in which he usually invited other zamindars and Nawabs from as far away as Murshidabad and Rampur in India. According to record he alone shot 43 tigers from his own jungle and other forests of Assam and Tripura. He also won trophies for marksmanship. Among many achievements one was the establishment of Rungicherra Tea Estate. He was one of the pioneers in Tea cultivation. He established Ali Amjad Girls High School. He considered education as the most vital organ of society for development and progress. He was always in the forefront in this area. He sanctioned stipends and scholarships to Karimganj High School and other schools of Assam and Chittagong. He presented gold medals to outstanding students in Tripura and offered financial assistance to poor and deserving students. He was the member of The Aligarh University Committee. In recognition of his contribution towards the development of education in Sylhet he received citations and accolades from the British government. In Prithimpassa apart from his contribution towards the area’s development in various fields he established Ali Amjad High School, which is a co-education institution. There are letters and certificates from that time praising him for his services to the public. Among the myriad areas where he contributed with finance and logistics Communication, Postal system, Medical, were some of them. He employed outstanding personnel and applied best methods in the management of his Estate. The British in recognition for his contributions to the region, in various areas, declared Nawab Ali Amjad Khan Honorary Magistrate. In 1901 Lord Curzon who was the Governor General of India visited Silchar and Nawab Ali Amjad Khan played a prominent role during the visit.
In 1301 B (1895) Chaitra he visited Nawab Bahadur of Murshidabad Syed Wasif Ali Meerza who was his close friend. They had a very successful tiger hunt in the hills near Bahadurpur Station in Assam. Nawab Ali Amjad Khan was an expert horse rider, Polo player and sharp shooter. The Sylhet tower clock popularly known as Ali Amjad’s Ghari was presented by his father Nawab Ali Ahmed Khan which he later constructed and completed during his lifetime.
He was also a very generous and caring man and many stories relating to these qualities are still remembered. There is a popular story about him where he gave away his elephant to a small, poor boy of the area.
In 1304BS, 30th Jaistha (1898) a massive earthquake shook up the region. It was the 10th. Of Moharram the losses were huge. Many buildings and structures were destroyed.
During his trip to Kolkata in 1312 BS, 14 Ashin (1905) he was struck with Enteric fever and on 10th. Agrahan, 1312 BS (1905) at 11 am he passed away. He left for his heavenly abode at a young age of 34 years and 7 days. It was a big blow for Prithimpassa, his Estate and the entire region.
His sons Nawab Ali Haider Khan and Nawab Ali Asghar Khan also led exemplary lives. Nawab Ali Haider Khan was born in 1900 (Maagh 29, 1306) and died on June 30th, 1963. He and his brother married the daughters of the Honourable Ihtisham-ul- Mulk, Rais-ul-Dowla, Amir-ul-Omrah, Nawab Asef Kudr Syed Wasif Ali Meerza, Khan Bahadur, K.C.S.I, K.C.V.O. Mahabut, Jung; Premiere noble of Bengal, Behar and Orissa; he was 38th in descent to the Prophet of Islam Hazrat Mohammad (SM). Nawab Ali Haider Khan was a minister in the cabinet of Sir Syed Muhammad Sadullah who was Premier of Assam from 1937 to 1938; again from 1939-1941. He was also was a minister in the G. Bardalai’s cabinet. Bardalai was Premier from 1938-1939 and again from 1946-1950, of Assam. He held different ministries in the two separate governments (Agriculture and Power and Water Development. from 1937 to 1939, November). Nawab Ali Haider Khan was the leader of the Independent Muslim Party- In 1945 he was, in the Parliamentary Board which was formed with Assam Congress Coalition and Independent Muslim Parliamentary Party of which he was the leader, along with Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (who later became the President of India), and G. Bardalai. (Muslims in Assam Politics by M. Kar 1990, Pg. 251). After partition he continued in politics as leader of Muslim League and contested elections. The Prithimpassa Estate’s library was established in 1921.
In 1950 the Shah of Iran Reza Shah Pahalvi visited Prithimpassa Estate and stayed fro four days at the palace of the Nawabs and went to wild life hunting in the Estate’s forests. The then Governor General of Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin accompanied him in this trip.
His children were Ali Safdar Khan, Sahebzadi Syedatunnessa Begum and Nawab Ali Sarwar Khan. Ali Safdar Khan was the eldest son born in 1917 in the Murshidabad Palace of his maternal grandfather. He died in 1974 on 16th July at Dhaka. He was popularly known as Raja Saheb. He was a leader in Ballisara peasant movement of the 60s. In 1971 he led the liberation war as commander of his regiment from the Tripura borders.
Sahebzadi Sayeedunnessa Begum the only daughter was born in 1923 in Calcutta, died December 6th 1999. She was married to Prince Wahid Ali Mirza, direct descendant and heir apparent of ruler of Oudh Wajid Ali Shah. From him she had a son Sahebzada Asif Ali Mirza the great grandson of Prince Qamar Qadr and great greatson of Wajid Ali Shah the ruler of the Royal House of Awadh. After his premature death she married a very successful and honorable Police Officer, India Syed Amanat Hossain, who was a Barah Syed, the lineal descendant of the Prophat of Islam. He was superintendent of Special Police Department controlled by the Federal Govt. in Islamabad and in charge of East Pakistan.
Nawab Ali Sarwar Khan was the youngest child born on 15th. May 1924 at Kolkata, at Sylhet House. He died in 1995, 21st July, at Dhaka. He was elected member of Provincial Assembly, which later became Constituent Assembly following the independence of Bangladesh, on December 9th. 1970. In 1973 he contested the election again and was elected Member of Parliament by a landslide. He was a freedom fighter. He was at the Tripura front.
Nawab Ali Asghar Khan, was the second and youngest son of Nawab Ali Amjad Khan. He was born in 1903 (Poush 28, 1309 BS). He died in May 1984. He was MLC from Muslim League in undivided India. His son was Nawab Ali Yeawar Khan was born at Kolkata, India in 1925. He was MPA from 1958 to 1968 during the regime of Ayub Khan. He was the first chairman of No. 12 Prithimpassa Union.
Prithimpassa is still visited by people from far away places who want to see for themselves this historical place and learn about its history. It is rich in history and architectural designs and still reminds one of the days from the past and the people who contributed to its richness.