The Narayan Dynasty


The Narayan dynasty founded the principality on the ruins of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Kamarupa. The first Raja, Chandan Narayan, of Koch and Mech descent, established himself on Mount Chikna in 1510. His half-brother and successor, Maharaja Vishnu Narayan, greatly expanded his domains and established his capital in the plains. Vishnu's son, Maharaja Nara Narayan, conquered vast territories and subjugated most of the surrounding principalities. Their successors maintained their independence until the late seventeenth century, when Maharaja Mahendra Narayan faced repeated attacks by the Mughal Nawab-Nazims of Bengal. His successor ceded half his principality and became their tributary in 1711. The state came under British protection after the aquisition of the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, by Lord Clive of Plassey in 1765. Bhutanese intervention in succession disputes prompted a formal treaty between the rightful heir and the British in 1775. The family, belonging to the Rajbhansi and Sudra caste, was highly cultured and of modern outlook, championing education, Hindu reform and Indian literature. Maharaja Sir Nripendra Narayan, and his wife Maharani Siniti Devi, were court favourites of the Queen-Empress Victoria. Their children were educated in England and two of their daughters married Europeans. The state acceded to the Dominion of India in 1947 and merged with the state of West Bengal in 1950.


Purpure an annulet or, between a sword blade vert and a sword proper hilted of the second. Crest: Monkey sejant argent. Supporters: Lion and elephant proper. Motto: "Jato Dharma Stato Jaya" (Where there is virtue, there is victory). Lambrequins: Purpure and or.

The ruling prince: Sri Sriman Maharaja (personal name) Narayan Bhup Bahadur, Maharaja of Cooch Behar, with the style of His Highness (addressed as ‘His Highness the Maharaja Bhup Bahadur’).
The consort of the ruling prince: Maharani Sri Sri (personal name) Devi Sahiba, with the style of Her Highness.
The sons of the ruling prince: Sri Sri Maharajkumar (personal name) Narayan.
The daughters of the ruling prince: Sri Sri Maharajkumari (personal name) Devi.
The grandsons of the ruling prince, in the male line: Rajkumar (personal name) Narayan.
The grand-daughters of the ruling prince, in the male line: Rajkumari (personal name) Devi.
The more distant descendants of ruling prince, in the male line: Kumar Sri (personal name) Narayan*.
The consort of a Maharajkumar or Rajkumar: Ishorani (personal name) Devi*.
The consort of a Kumar: Srimathi (personal name) Ishorani*.

* Until the nineteenth century, the traditional practice in Cooch Behar was to use titles such as Kumar and Ishorani after the name (e.g. Sri (personal name) Narayan Kumar or Srimathi (personal name) Ishorani). However, as communication, travel and social interaction with Calcutta began to increase, this practice was dropped in favour of the more usual Bengali practice of using the title before the given name. Nevertheless, the practice seems to have continued in the case of a consort of a Kumar.

Durbar Medal: instituted by Maharaja Rajendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur to commemorate his installation durbar on 8th November 1911.

Accession Medal 1913 in silver - obverse (L) and reverse (R).

Accession Medal: instituted by Maharaja Sir Jitendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur to commemorate his installation on the 17th November 1913, but subsequently retained and conferred as a general decoration for meritorious services throughout his reign. Awarded in two classes (gold and silver).

Investiture Medal 1936 - obverse (L) and reverse (R).

Investiture Medal: instituted by Maharaja Sir Jagatdipendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur to commemorate the termination of the regency and his assumption of full ruling powers on 6th April 1936. Awarded in a single class, a circuler silver medal.

Silver Jubilee Medal 1947 - obverse (L) and reverse (R).

Silver Jubilee Medal: instituted by Maharaja Sir Jagatdipendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur to commemorate the silver jubilee of his accession to the throne on 20th December 1947. Awarded in a single class, a circuler silver medal.

Male primogniture.

Bhup: sovereign, ruler.
Cooch Behar: from Koch (the principal tribe of the area) and vihara (abode), thus ‘land of the Koch’.
Diwan Deo: hereditary title borne by the Chief Minister, held by a junior branch of the ruling family.
Hazuri: commander of 1,000 men.
Kanyaptri: a virgin who accompanied the bride of a ruler, and subsequently served in the Royal household as a companion. Her sons by a ruler could succeed, if he died without issue by his full wives.
Nawab: commander of 6,000 men.
Nazir Deo: Lord Guardian, hereditary title borne by the commander-in-chief of the Army, held by a junior branch of the ruling family.
Rajvansi: Hindu caste descended from the original Koch tribe, native to the area. For several centuries, they were not regarded as ‘pure Hindu’ by most other castes due to the consumption of pork, and the prevalence of certain forms of widow and gandharva marriage not sanctioned by the Hindu shastras. These practices being outlawed by state legislation, adherence to them died out within a generation.
Saikia: commander of 100 men.
Thakuria: commander of 20 men.
Umara (or Omra): commander of 3,000 men.

Khan Chowdhury Amanatulla Ahmed (comp.), Sarat Chandra Ghoshal (transl). A History of Cooch Behar (from the earliest times to the end of the eighteenth century A.D.). The State Press, Cooch Behar, 1942.
Annual Administration Report of the Cooch Behar State for the year 1877-78 to 1940-41. Cooch Behar State, Education Department, Cooch Behar. Hemanta Kumar Rai Barma. Kochbiharer Itihas. Second editon, 1988.
Burke’s Landed Gentry, Burke’s Peerage Ltd. In conjunction with Shaw Publishing Co. Ltd., London.
Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage. Burke’s Peerage Limited, London, 1900-1959.
Harendra Narayan Chauduri (comp.). The Cooch Behar State and its Land Revenue Settlements. Cooch Behar State Press, 1903.
Gayatri Devi and Santha Rama Rau. A Princess Remembers, The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur. J.P. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1976. The Cooch Behar Gazette. 1936 & 1947. Cooch Behar State Press.
Munshi Jadunth Ghose (translated by Rev. R. Robinson). The Rajopakhyan: Or, History of Kooch Behar. Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, 1874.
Russell Harris (comp.). The Lafayette Photographic Collection at the V&A Image Library, Kensington, London, 2000.
Major Francis Jenkins. “Sketch of the Connections of the British Government with Koch Behar”. Selections from the Records of the Bengal Government. No V, pp30-46, genealogical table. F.Carbery, Military Orphans Press, Calcutta, 1851.
Francis Jenkins. Diary and Notes of Captain F. Jenkins, Commissioner and Agent to the Governor General for Assam and the North Eastern Part of Rungpore, 1837-1841. Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, 1868.
Nicholas Mander. Varnished Leaves: a biography of the Mander family of Wolverhampton, 1742-1998.
D Nath. History of the Koch Kingdom, c. 1515-1615. Mittal Publications, Delhi, 1989.

Dr. Morris Bierbrier, FSA.
Marcus Mander.
Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
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Copyright© Christopher Buyers

Copyright©Christopher Buyers, June 2001 - May 2017