HomeVisual ArtsMapsBakhtiyarpur: In The Name of Naming Deconstructive History

Bakhtiyarpur: In The Name of Naming Deconstructive History

Making Headlines:

A small village in 1901 with a population of just 234 people, now a famous town, just 51 km from Patna and 55 km from Nalanda. A hometown of one of the best performing chief ministers of India, Nitish Kumar, Bakhtiyarpur is again in the news for increasing demand from BJP politicians to change the name of the town.  

The popular perception believes that the town Bakhtiyarpur is named after the vicious Muslim invader Mohammad Bakhtiyar Khilji who attacked and burnt down the university of Nalanda in the year 1197 AD. 

1776 Rennell Dury Wall Map of Bihar and Bengal India Geographicus BaharBengal dury 1776
Image: Map of region around Bakhtiyarpur in 1776.
1786 A map of Benga James Rennell William Faden
Image: Map of region around Bakhtiyarpur in 1786

Historical Maps

However, five geographical maps dating 1595 AD, 1772 AD, 1786 AD, 1830 AD, and 1883 AD do not mention Bakhtiyarpur while the same maps mention many other smaller locations neighboring the Bakhtiyarpur. This includes Barh which is just 20 km away from Bakhtiyarpur, Bekuntpur (Baikuthpur) which is just 12 km from Bakhtiyar, and Fatuha, Mokama, etc. which were never beyond the 50 km boundary of Bakhtiyarpur. 

Bihar 1830
Image: Map of region around Bakhtiyarpur in 1830.

This clearly indicates that either Bakhtyarpur never existed in any form till 1883 or hardly had any importance for the region. When Bakhtiyarpur first appeared in the census report of 1901 and the Light Railway Project between Bakhtiyarpur and Rajgir it was a small village with just 234 people. The British government not only brought a railway to this town but also a postal and telegraph office before the Patna District Gazetteer was published in 1907. This helped Bakhtiyarpur to be noticed in the atlas of India published in 1931.

India 1883
Image: Map of region around Bakhtiyarpur in 1883.
J G Bartholomew 1931 Gazateer of India
Image: Map of region around Bakhtyarpur in the 1931

Bakhtiyarpur Vs Bakhtiyar Khilji

This does not make any sense from any stretch of the imagination why and how either Mohammad Bakhtyar Khilji himself or his followers or admirers in the future would name a small village in the name of this famous invader who invaded many famous towns in India including Varanasi, Maner, Nalanda, Nadia, Lakhnauti, etc. 

Not a single historical source that mentions the invasion of Bakhtiyar Khilji over Bihar, talks about either Bakhtyarpur or any place located nearby Bakhtyarpur. The invasion route chart of Bakhtiyarpur suggests that he moved from Mirzapur to Maner which is 31 km west of Patna and from Maner he directly moved to Bihar Sharif—Nalanda. There was no land route till the 19th century that connects the Bakhtiyarpur region to Nalanda. 

Screenshot 2022 07 04 at 9.26.34 AM
Image: Tentative route map of Bakhtyar Khilji’s invasion in eastern India.

From Nalanda, he moved to Nadia through Bhagalpur and Vikramshila. In the second round of his expedition, he marched through Purnea, Devkot, Lakhnauti, and Chumbi valley in Bhutan to Tibet where he was assassinated in 1206 AD. Lakhnauti remained the capital of his empire during the reign of his heirs. 

Screenshot 2022 07 04 at 9.38.27 AM
Image: The current location of Bakhtyarpur and other important places. Source: Google Maps

Politics of Naming & Renaming

If we leave Bakhtiyar Khilji apart, there is not a single town across India that has ever been named after any important Muslim invaders who invaded India before the coming of the Mughals. This includes Mohammad Gazanavi and Mohammad Gaur. 

The historical trend in India to name or rename any village or small town seems a post Sultanate period trend and that was largely limited to the name of small Zamindar, Jagirdar, Subedar, or any Sufi saints. This include Salimpur in the name of Sufi Saint Salim Chisti, Khusrupur in the name of Khusrupur, Fatehpur Sikari, Bazitpur, Nizampur, Masud Bigaha etc. 

Image: The current settlement of Bakhtyarpur town in Bihar. Source: Google Maps

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In Bihar itself, the city of Hazipur is named after Hazi Iliyas and Samastipur town is named after Sultan Samsuddin and both were officials of Shershah in the region. There is every possibility that Bakhtiyarpur is named after either Sufi saint Bakhtyar Kaki (1173-1235) whose Silsila was very famous in the region during the Mughal Period or Bakhtiyar Tubek who was a military commander of Shershah Suri in the region between Patna to Munger or Masum Bakhtiyar Khan Dakhani whose son was Faujdar of Shahjahan in the Tirhut region. 

There is another town in the Saharsa district of Bihar which is called Simri Bakhtiyarpur which has much more historical documentation than Baktiyarpur located in the Patna district but not a single voice has been raised about renaming this town. But unlike Bakhtiyarpur, the Simri Bakhtiyarpur does not have any connection with either Nitish Kumar or any other prominent politician or historian personality from Bihar.

Bukhtiar Bihar Light Railway 27 Feb 1905
Image: Train Tickett of Light Railway between Bukhtiarpur to Rajgir Kund dated 27 February 1906

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Sweety Tindde
Sweety Tinddehttp://huntthehaunted.com
Sweety Tindde works with Azim Premji Foundation as a 'Resource Person' in Srinagar Garhwal.


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