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Birbhum as constituted in the present day was divided in the distant past into two tracts; according to the Jaina scriptures the eastern part which was built up with alluvial soil and was well drained by rivers, formed a part of ‘Rarh’ where as the undulated and forested part in the west was known as ‘Vajjabhumi’ i.e. the country of thunderbolt. As the Jaina tradition goes, Mahavira, the 24th Thirthankara of Jaina religion passed through the district to visit Pundravardhana in the 5th century B.C. Later the land mass underwent the rule of the Mauryans, Guptas and Pala kingdom and until 12th century A.D. formed a part of Sena empire. In the 13th century, the landmass passed under the rule of Muhammedans. After this, for many centuries the controls of the Mohammedans over the Western part of the district appears to have been merely nominal, and the country was left under the rule of Hindu chiefs, called Bir Rajas. After the cession of the Diwani to the East India Company in 1765, Birbhum was administered from Murshidabad until 1787. In that year in consequence of the unsettled state of the country, which required a separate administration, it was constituted as district with Vishnupur ( i.e. eastern portion of Bankura), and this arrangement continued till 1793, when Vishnupur was transferred to the Burdwan Collectorate. In 1809, the collectorship of Birbhum was abolished, and the district was again administered from Murshidabad, an Assistant Collector remaining in charge at Suri. In 1820, Birbhum was reconstituted as a separate district and restored to its former area, with the exception of a few estates were transferred to the Jungle Mahals. After the Santhal rebellion, the upland tracts on the West, which had been a rallying point of the rebels, were transferred to the newly constituted district of Santhal Paraganas and in this way four paraganas and a part of the fifth were detached from Birbhum. In 1872 the district consisted of 8 thanas with a total area of 1,344 square miles. In 1879 Barwan with an area of 108 sq. miles was transferred to Murshidabad, while the thanas of Rampurhat and Nalhati ( including the present thana of Murarai) were transferred from Lalgunj subdivision of that district to Birbhum.

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