The district of Bareilly lying between latitude 28 degree 1' and longitude 78 degree 58'k and 79 degree 47'E was once the part of ancient Panchala, which was bound by the river Gomati in the east, Yamuna in the west, Chambal in the south and on the north it approaches the Himalayan foothills. During the later Vedic period Panchala acquired considerable significance - in fact it became the matrix of Later Vedic Civilization.

From archaeological point of view the district of Bareilly is very rich. The extensive remains of Ahichhatra, the Capital town of Northern Panchala have been discovered near Ramnagar Village of Aonla Tehsil in the district. It was during the first excavations at Ahichhatra (1940-44) that the painted grey ware, associated with the advent of the Vedic Aryans in Ganga Yamuna Valley, was recognized for the first time in the earliest levels of the site. Nearly five thousand coins belonging to periods earlier than that of Guptas have been yielded from Ahichhatra.

According to the tradition the foundation of the modern town of Bareilly may be dated some time in the first half of the sixteenth century. It is said that one Jagat Singh Katehriya founded a village called Jagtpur about the year 1500. In 1537 his two sons Bas Deo and Barel Deo were responsible for founding Bareilly. The place was named after the two brothers as Bans Bareilly. The city of Bareilly was founded in 1537 by Basdeo, a Katehriya Rajput. The city is mentioned in the histories for the first time by Budayuni who he writes that one Husain Quli Khan was appointed the governor of 'Bareilly and Sambhal' in 1568. The divisions and revenue of the district "being fixed by Todar Mal" were recorded by Abul Fazl in 1596. The foundation of the 'modern' City of Bareilly was laid by Mukrand Rai in 1657. In 1658, Bareilly was made the headquarters of the province of Budaun. The name Jagatpur is still retained by one of the mohallas of the old city. During the reign of Mughal Emperor Mohammad Akbar the Katehriyas rose in revolt but it was crushed by the Mughal General Almas Ali Khan. Bas Deo of Bareilly who was then ruling over a considerable Mughal authority did not become effective here till the Afghan Rohilla nobles who were entrenched in these parts were overthrown. The development of the city was accelerated in 1657. When the Mughal Faujdar of Bareilly was Mukrand Rai. He is credited to have built the new city of Bareilly by clearing out the Sal forest. The mohalla Makrandpur Sarkar was named after him and that of AlamgiriGanj after Mughal Emperor Mohammad Aurangzaib Alamgir. The mohallas of Beharipur, Malookpur and Kazitola were also founded by him. He also built the Jamia Masjid and a large fort where the Qila Police Station is situated.

In the eighteenth century, the district of Bareilly (now a district of western Uttar Pradesh) was
a part of the administrative division known as Rohilkhand. The tract of land forming the subah or province of Rohilkhand was formerly called Katehr/Katiher. In the twelfth century it was ruled by different clans of Rajputs referred to by the general name of Katehriyas.[10] At the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the Delhi Sultanate was firmly established, Katehr was divided into the provinces of Sambhal and Budaun. But the thickly forested country infested with wild animals provided just the right kind of shelter for rebels. And indeed, Katehr was famous for rebellions against imperial authority. During the Sultanate rule, there were frequent rebellions in Katehr. All were ruthlessly crushed. Sultan Balban (1266-1287) ordered vast tracts of jungle to be cleared so as to make the area unsafe for the insurgents. The slightest weakening of the central authority provoked acts of defiance from the Katehriya Rajputs. Thus the Mughals initiated the policy of allotting lands for Afghan settlements in Katiher. Afghan settlements continued to be encouraged throughout the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707) and even after his death. These Afghans, known as the Rohilla Afghans, caused the area to be known as
Rohilkhand. The Mughal policy of encouraging Afghan settlements for keeping the Katehriyas in check worked only as long as the central government was strong. After Aurangzeb’s death, the Afghans, having themselves become local potentates began to seize and occupy neighboring villages. It was with the immigration of Daud Khan, an Afghan slave (Roh in Pakhtun/Pashto means 'mountaineer') in the region that the Afghan Rohillas had come into prominence. His adopted son Ali Muhammad Khan succeeded in carving out an estate for himself in the district with his headquarter at Aonla. He was ultimately made the lawful governor of Kateher by the Mughal emperor, and the region was henceforth called Rohilkhand i.e. "the land of the Ruhelas".

The proprietary settlements of the district during the period between 1191 to 1701 is difficult to ascertain as most of them were uprooted by the Rohillas. Persian king Nadir Shah invaded and sacked Delhi in 1739, giving a mortal blow to the Mughal Empire. Chief Ali Mohammad (1721-48) of Rohilla tribe, a Pakhtun tribe from Afghanistan, were allies of Nadir Shah and was awarded Bareilly and surrounding territories. Rohillas settled in Bareilly and surrouding districts with 40,000 Afghans. This Rohilla state was based in Bareilly, and it was called Rohilkhand.

When the Marathas invaded Rohilkhand in November 1772, they were repulsed by the Rohillas with the help of the Nawabs of Avadh. After the war when Nawab Shuja-Ud-Daula of Avadh demanded the indemnity from the Rohilla Chief Hafiz Rahmat Khan for the help given to him, but the demand was rejected by the Rohillas. The annoyed Nawab then with the help of Warren Hastings of the British East India Company invaded Rohilkhand. In the ensuing battle of Mirranpur Katra in 1774, Hafiz Rahmat Khan was killed and the authority of the Avadh was established over the entire territory of the Rohillas. The Avadh supermacy did not continue for long due to the mounting debt on account of the maintenance of British forces in the region led to the surrender of the whole of Rohilkhand (including Bareilly) to the British East India Company by the treaty of November 10, 1801. The news of the outbreak of the struggle of independence which started at Meerut reached Bareilly on May 14,1857. The people rose in revolt, occupied treasury and burnt the records of Kotwali, Khan Bahadur Khan, the grandson of Hafiz Rahmat Khan was able to form his own government by appointing Sobha Ram Diwan, Madar Ali Khan and Niyaz Muhammed Khan generals and Hori Lal as paymaster. With the failure of this first war of the independence everywhere, Bareilly too was completely subjugated by the British on 7th May 1858. Khan Bahadur Khan was sentenced to death and was hanged in the Kotwali on February 24, 1860.

The question of Muslim identity, assumed seriousness during the decline of Muslim power in South Asia. The first person to realize it's acuteness was the scholar theologian, Shah Waliullah (1703-62). He laid the foundation of Islamic renaissance in South Asia and became a source of inspiration for almost all the subsequent social and religious reform movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His immediate successors, inspired by his teachings, tried to establish a modest Islamic state in the north-west region of South Asia and they, under the leadership of Sayyed Ahmad (1786-1831) of Bareilly, popularly known as Sayyed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi, persevered in this direction. Sayyed Ahmad Barelvi led a poorly trained but highly motivated Muslim army from Bareilly to Punjab to fight the Sikhs who have occupied Punjab and were persecuting Muslims. The French trained and equipped modern Sikh army defeated and massacred thousands of brave Bareilly Muslims soldiers at Balakot near Kaghan Valley, Pakistan. The mausoleums of two great Muslim warriors, Sayyed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi and his general Shah Ismail, and the graves of the thousands of Muslim soldiers from Bareilly are located at Balakot.

In the early part of the twentieth century, Bareilly was again the focus of another Muslim movement, this time it gave rise to a new backward Muslim sect, that resulted in furthur splitting the unity of Islam. The Barelvi theological movement was inspired by Ahmad Raza Khan of Bareilly (1856-1921). The Barelvis justified the meditational and custom-laden Islam, closely tied to the intercession of the Pirs (saints) of the shrines. They believe that Prophet Mohammad was made of Divine Radiance (Noor) and had knowledge of the unknown (Ilm-ul-Ghaib). Both these beliefs are contradictory to the Islamic teachings since it gives the divine attributes to humans and the worship of tangible objects. These Barelvi beliefs has resulted in the 'worship' of the graves' (Qabar Parasti) of Muslim saints and the year round celebration of the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, known as Milad-un-Nabi.

Page Last Updated: Friday, March 28, 2008 17:21:00 -0400