Agartala: Tracing the Etymology and Evolution of a Historic Capital

By Pankaj Debbarma

October 24, 2023

Agartala, the capital of Tripura, boasts a rich history that not only reflects its name’s enigmatic origins but also encapsulates the essence of its strategic importance and evolving political landscape. The etymology of “Agartala” remains intertwined with local folklore, where it is believed to be derived from the abundance of ‘Agar’ trees or connected to Agar-Fa, the son of Maharaja Dangar Fa, reflecting the cultural heritage and legends of the region (Sur, 2010, pp. 13-14; Nath, 2020, p. 57).

The city’s narrative unfolds with Maharaja Krishna Manikya’s pivotal decision in 1760 to relocate the Tripura capital from Udaipur (Rangamati) to Old Agartala or Puran Haveli, marking the commencement of Agartala’s transformation into a significant urban centre (Sur, 2010, pp. 13-14). Over time, the capital shifted multiple times, driven by considerations of defence, communication, and political expediency, including Krishna Kishore Manikya’s move from Old Agartala to New Agartala or Natun Haveli in 1838 (Sur, 2010, pp. 13-14).

During the British colonial era, Agartala’s ascent as the capital of the ‘Hill Tipperah’ state further solidified its strategic significance. The reconstruction of the Ujjayanta Raj Palace after the devastating earthquake of 1897 by Radha Kishore Manikya not only exemplified architectural prowess but also underscored the city’s resilience and enduring importance as a political and cultural centre (Roychoudhury, 2023, p. 98).

The establishment of the Agartala Municipality during the reign of Maharaja Bir Chandra Manikya in 1871, within an area of 3 square miles, was a crucial milestone in its administrative history, as it laid the foundation for structured governance and development (Chaudhuri, 1995, p.9). The municipality’s formation marked a significant step in Agartala’s journey towards urbanization and modern governance, further shaping its identity as a significant political and administrative hub.

The planned reorganization of Agartala during the 1940s, under the leadership of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, emphasized the city’s pivotal role in the evolving political landscape and its potential as a hub for cultural and economic activities (Dey, 2020, p. 96).

Agartala’s journey from a modest village (Chaudhuri, 1995, p.9) to a vibrant urban hub attests to its adaptability and perseverance. The shifts in the capital’s location mirrored the city’s dynamic role in regional politics and trade, leaving a lasting mark on its cultural identity and historical narrative. Agartala’s history exemplifies the intricate interplay between political dynamics, geographical considerations, and the ever-evolving aspirations of its people, shaping its narrative to this day.

References:

Chaudhuri, D. K. (Ed.). (1995). Administration Report of the Political Agency, Hill Tipperah (1872-1878) Volume 1. Tripura State Tribal Cultural Research Institute & Museum, Govt. of Tripura, Agartala.

Dey, B. B. (2020). Glimpses in the Socio-Political Affairs of Tripura: Past and Present. Swagatam Prakashani, Agartala.

Nath, N. C. (2020). Sri Rajmala Volume I to IV. Tribal Research and Cultural Institute, Govt. of Tripura, Agartala.

Roychoudhury, N. (2023). Tripura through the Ages. Jnan Bichitra, Agartala.

Sur, H. K. (2010). British Relations with the state of Tripura (1760-1947). Nabachandana Prakashani, Agartala.

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