Friday, March 19, 2010

Saptagram

Saptagram (colloquially called Satgaon) was a major port, the chief city and sometimes capital of southern Bengal, in ancient and medieval times, the location presently being in the Hooghly district in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is about 4 km from Bandel, a major rail junction. By the early twentieth century, the place had dwindled to a group of insignificant huts. The port had to be abandoned because of the silting up and consequent drying of the Saraswati River. It had an impact on the subsequent development and growth of Kolkata. H. E. A. Cotton writes, “Here then may be traced nucleus of the future city of Calcutta, and as time went on the silting up of the river opposite Satgaon still further favoured her fortunes.”
The word ‘Saptagram’ means seven villages. These are identified as Bansberia, Kristapur, Basudebpur, Nityanandapur, Sibpur, Sambachora and Baladghati.
There is an interesting mythological story attached to the name. King Priyabanta of Kannauj had seven sons – Agnitra, Medhatithi, Bapusman, Jyotisman, Dutisman, Saban and Bhabya. They were not happy with the royal life and so they set out in search of a place where they could carry out their meditation. When they came to the confluence of Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati, they liked the place and settled down in seven villages to a hermit’s life. Thus grew Saptagram around the seven villages.
Saraswati River, which used to take off from Hooghly River at Triveni, 50 km north of Kolkata, ran parallel to the Hooghly River on its west. It is believed that the Saraswati used to flow on the bed of the Rupnarayan River on which stood the port of Tamralipta.
Since the end of the 7th century, the Saraswati had begun to move towards the present course of the Hughli river. By the early twelfth century, the Saraswati had moved to a position when it flowed out of the Hooghly River at the Triveni junction (of the Ganges, the Saraswati and the Jamuna) and after a movement towards the west turned to the southeast to meet the Hooghly River again at Betore opposite present Garden Reach, thus forming a loop. Saptagram was situated on the upper part of the loop on the southern bank. Saraswati started drying up from the 17th century and ships, which navigated up the river, could no longer do so.
Once upon a time Saptagram was one of the tallest ports of eastern India. There were two brothers, Hiranya and Govardhan Mazumder, the owners of Saptagram. They use to pay twelve lakhs of Rupees as a tax to the Rular of Delhi every year. Both were very charifable and rich Brahmans, well-behaved, high-born, and foremost in piety, the support of the Brahmans of Navadwip, whom they helped with land and money. Their guru was Nilambar Chakravarti, who treated them like his brothers. As they had formerly served Purandar Mishra, they were well-known to the Master. Raghunath Das was the son of this Govardhan, and averse to the world from his childhood.
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