Paika Rebellion or Paika Bidroha was the first armed rebellion against the British East India Company’s rule in Odisha during 1817.
Paiks were the traditional landed militia of Odisha, who served as warriors and were charged with policing functions during peacetime. The Paiks were organised into three ranks distinguished by their occupation and the weapons they wielded. These were the Paharis, the bearers of shields and the khanda sword, the Banuas who led distant expeditions and used matchlocks and the Dhenkiyas – archers who also performed different duties in Odisha armies.
East India Company dethroned Raja of Khurda in 1803 and occupied Odisha. This brought downfall of power and prestige of the Paiks.
The attitude of the company to the Paiks was expressed by Walter Ewer, on the commission that looked into the causes of the Rebellion, thus: “Now there is no need of assistance of Paiks at Khurda. It is dangerous to keep them in British armed forces. Thus they should be treated and dealt as common Ryots and land revenue and other taxes should be collected from them. They must be deprived of their former Jagir lands (rent free lands given to the Paiks for their military service to the state.)
In order to break their poisonous teeth the British Police must be highly alert to keep the Paiks under their control for a pretty long period, unless the Paik community is ruined completely the British rule cannot run smoothly.”
This alienation by British, along with extortion and oppression by the company caused unrest among the Paiks.
Another reason for much consternation for the common people was the rise in prices of salt due to taxes imposed on it by the new government. The company also abolished the system of cowrie currency that had existed in Odisha prior to its conquest and required that taxes be paid in silver. This caused much popular hardship and discontent.
In 1804 the Raja of Khurda planned a rebellion against the British in alliance with the Paiks, but the plot was soon discovered and the Raja’s territory confiscated.
Paika Rebellion lead by Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra Bhramarabar Ray in March 1817
Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra Bhramarabar Ray got the title of Bakshi in inheritance from his ancestors which represents the rank of the commander of the forces of the King of Khurda. He was the rank second only to the king.
His family estate of Killa Rorang was taken over by the British in 1814, reducing him to penury.
He lead the Paiks under his leadership during March 1817 in an armed rebellion against the East India Company.
Raja Mukunda Deva, the last King of Khurda was another leader of the Indian rebels. The rebellion enjoyed widespread support in Oriya society with feudal chiefs, zamindars and the common people of Odisha participating in it. The zamindars of Karipur, Mrichpur, Golra, Balarampur, Budnakera and Rupasa supported the Paiks. While the revolt started from Banapur and Khurda, it quickly spread to other parts of Odisha such as Puri, Pipili and Cuttack and to several remote villages, including Kanika, Kujang and Pattamundai. The Rajas of Kanika, Kujang, Nayagarh and Ghumusur aided Jagabandhu and Dalabehera Mirhaidar Alli of Jadupur was an important Muslim rebel.
In March 1817, a 400-strong party of Kandhas crossed over into Khurda from the State of Ghumsur, openly declaring their rebellion against the company’s rule. The Paiks under Jagbandhu joined them, looting and setting to fire the police station and post office at Banpur. The rebels then marched to Khurda itself, which the company abandoned, sacking the civil buildings and the treasury there. Another body of rebels captured Paragana Lembai, where they killed native officials of the company.
Company government, led by E. Impey, the magistrate at Cuttack, dispatched forces to quell the rebellion under Lieutenant Prideaure to Khurda and Lieutenant Faris to Pipli in the beginning of April. These met with sustained attacks from the Paiks, forcing them to retreat to Cuttack, suffering heavy losses, and Faris himself was killed by the Paiks. Another force sent to Puri under Captain Wellington, however, faced little opposition, and on 9 April a force of 550 men was sent to Khurda. Three days later they took Khurda and declared martial law in the Khurda territory.
Even as the British managed to wrest control of Khurda, Puri itself fell to the insurgents led by Bakshi Jagabandhu, and the British were forced to retreat to Cuttack by 18 April. Cuttack remained cut off from the now rebel-held portions of southern Odisha, and therefore the British remained unaware of the fate of the force they had dispatched to Khurda. The force’s successes in Khurda allowed the commanding officer, Captain Le Fevere, to pursue the insurgents into Puri. This British party defeated a thousand-strong but ill-equipped force of the Paiks as they marched to Puri, and they retook Puri and captured the Raja before he could escape from the town.
The uprising spread rapidly across Odisha, and there were several encounters between the British and Paik forces, including at Cuttack, where the latter were quickly put down. By May 1817, the British managed to reestablish their authority over the entire province, but it was a long while before the tranquility finally returned to it.
In May 1817, the British posted judges to Khurda and Paika Rebels were given sentences of death, transportation and long-term imprisonment. Between 1818 and 1826, the company’s forces undertook combing operations in the jungles of Khurda to capture and put to death rebels who had managed to escape. In these operations numerous Paiks were killed. Their leader, Jagabandhu, surrendered to the British in 1825 and lived as their prisoner in Cuttack until 1829, when he died.
On capturing Puri, Jagabandhu had offered to reinstate Raja Mukunda Deva – whom the British had dethroned in 1804 and exiled to Puri – as the Raja of Khurda. Although he turned down the offer and asked for British assistance, he was arrested when the British retook the town and was imprisoned at Cuttack. The Raja died a British prisoner in November, 1817.
British viewed Odisha largely as a convenient land link between their presidencies of Madras and Bengal.
Odisha continued to be wracked by localised insurgencies including at Tapanga in 1827 and the Banapur Rebellion of 1835.
Indian Government in 2017 honors descendants of Paikas in Odisha, 100 years after it took place.