|Zamindar of Jessore|
|Born||Jessore, Bengal, Indian subcontinent (present-day Bangladesh)|
|Father||Shrihari Vikramaditya (or Sridhara)|
Pratapaditya was a Mughal vassal of Jessore and one of the most powerful Zamindars of lower Bengal, before being crushed by the Mughal Empire. He was eulogized, in a non-historical manner, by 20th century Bengali nationalists as a Hindu liberator from foreign (Islamic) rule.
His father Shrihari (or Shridhara), was an influential officer in the service of Daud Khan Karrani. He had killed Daud Khan Karrani's trusted wazir, Ludi Khan to acclaim that position. On the fall of Daud Khan at the hand of the Mughals, Shrihari Guha fled to the marshy lands of the Khulna District, declared himself independent and assumed the title of "Maharaja Vikramaditya" Pratapaditya was born to Srihari in 1561 and assumed power in 1584. and divided his kingdom – 5/8th to Pratapaditya and 3/8th to his brother Basanta Ray.
Tradition asserts that Pratapaditya had his uncle murdered c. 1598 - 1600, with support from the Portuguese, and declared his independence. In return, he would allow the Missionaries to settle in his territories — the first Church in Bengal would be opened at Chandecan in about 1600.
In 1602, Dominique Carvalho — a Portuguese war-master of Kedar Ray — occupied the salt-rich port of Sandip. Rays were apparently avenging the take-over by Mughals around two years back but the inhabitants did not take kindly to Carvalho and rebelled. Soon afterwards, multiple parties — the Arakans, who had helped Carvalho to subdue the rebellion; the Portuguese, who had constructed a fort without consent of the Arkakans; the Rays, who had felt usurped at recent Portuguese expansionism; the Mughals — found them in a territorial conflict with each attacking the others. As the conflict drew to an end, the Mughals (with Man Singh I, having killed Ray) and Arakans (with Razagyi, having chased the Portuguese out of upper Bengal delta) appeared to be the ones who made the most. It is not clear what role (if at all) Pratapaditya played in these times but nonetheless, the seeds were already laid for the eventual destruction of Jessore's social syncretism.
Carvalho was invited to Jessore soon — only to be arrested, a fortnight later.[a] Local Afghans, bolstered by the absence of Carvalho, looted and massacred the Portuguese, the same night. Even the church was attacked but unsuccessfully. The next day, Pratapaditya destroyed Carvalho's fleet, arrested the surviving Portuguese, and confiscated all of their properties. Four were put to death and a ransom of eleven thousand rupees sought for returning the rest, meeting considerable resistance among the Portuguese. Local Hindus, who had long doubted of collusion between the Missionaries and Portuguese, suspected the former of having fueled the reluctance to pay the ransom: they raided the church, looking for treasures but found none. Nonetheless, Pratap ceased the opportunity: once the ransom was paid, he had the Missionaries leave Jessore permanently. The Portuguese were severely affected too; however, by 1612 they were again parts of Jessore army.
In 1609, Islam Khan was appointed as the Subehdar of Bengal. Pratap sent his envoy Shaikh Badi and his son Sangramaditya to greet Khan; the latter was taken in imperial service and it was suggested that Pratap follow suit. In 1609, Pratap — then, the most powerful Zamindar of lower Bengal — met Khan with fifty thousand rupees and other presents; he accepted Mughal vassalage. Khan was very favorable to Pratapaditya and in return, he promised military assistance in subduing Musa Khan and the Baro Bhuyans. These deals were executed at a time when the Mughals were fighting multiple forces in the Bengal front and in a desperate need for allies.
By 1612, most of the rebel Zamindars were subdued but Pratap had not sent the promised help; in response, Islam Khan decided to seize Jessore as well as the adjacent Bakla.[b] Pratapaditya requested that he be pardoned and 80 war-boats were immediately sent under Sangramaditya; however, Khan destroyed his fleet and captured Sangramaditya. This led him to start strategizing for the inevitable conflict. Udayaditya along with the majority of his force was sent away to take a defensive stance on the banks of one (un-identified) Salka river, north of the capital, where a fort was rapidly constructed: a well-equipped navy was put under the command of Khwaja Kamal while the infantry unit was put under Jamal Khan.
Despite strategically sound warfare on Udayaditya's part, the actual face-off ended in a devastating defeat — he, alongside Jamal Khan, barely escaped to Jessore where the rear-guard was already being mounted. The Mughals continued in their advance and chose to camp at Buranhatty, not far from the capital. Soon enough, Bakla fell. That Jessore was opened up from all sides, any further resistance was futile; Pratapaditya realised this and left Jessore for the camp to offer his submission. However, for reasons unknown, he chose to not appear before the Mughal commander and the conflict continued unabated. Pratapaditya built a second (and his last) fort about 5 miles north of his capital. Despite resisting the Mughal advances for some time, a sudden attack breached the defenses and he had to retreat to his capital. Where after consulting his son, Pratapaditya conceded defeat. He was treated with respect and taken as a war-prisoner to Dhaka, where Islam Khan had him imprisoned along with his sons.
The earliest mention of Pratapaditya in a non-contemporary source is Annada Mangal, a mid-18th c. historical epic by Raygunakar Bharatchandra. Pratap was a hero, blessed by Kali but vanity and pride hastened his end. This theme would grow popular with time and influence the first historical prose on the subject by Ramram Basu written Pratapaditya Charita. Drafted as a historical romance novel c. 1800, the author claimed to be among the heirs of Pratapaditya and claimed to have used (non-extant) family letters and a Persian manuscript (prob. Razmnama) among sources. In both these writings, which would significantly influence production of future literature on Pratapaditya, themes of communalism remained absent throughout; rather, caste played a defining role.
In 1856, Harish Chandra Tarkalankar published The History of Raja Pratapaditya: "The Last King of Saugar lsland" , modernizing off Basu's novel. Soon, the British administrators would start taking a keen interest in local history and naturally, Pratapaditya.
In 1857, Smyth was the first colonial official to chronicle Pratapaditya in context of certain ruins in Sunderban. 11 years later, Rainey read a paper on Pratapaditya in The Asiatic Society: the contents were borrowed from Tarkalankar's work and portrayed Pratapaditya as a hero. The first critical evaluation came from Westland's Report of the District of Jessore (1874) — in the words of Ray, it "cut Pratap's heroism to size". The same year, were published, three pioneering essays by Blochman.
By mid-1870s, Pratapaditya was no longer an unanimous hero — the colonial administration was pushing back against panegyrics. Beveridge's report in 1876 noted him to be a "cruel monster" for murdering Carvalho. Falkner deemed him to be an adventurer, not worth more than a footnote.