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Naranarayan (1540–1587)

Naranarayan (1540–1587) was the last ruler of the undivided Koch kingdom of Kamata. He succeeded his father Biswa Singha. Under him, the Koch kingdom reached its cultural and political zenith. Under his rule, and under the military command of his brother Chilarai, he was able to subjugate the entire Brahmaputra valley, including the Ahom kingdom; besides the Kachari, Tripura and Manipur kingdoms, as well as the Khyrem, Jaintia and others. This influence was halted when he faced Suleman Karranni of Bengal.

He introduced a silver coin, called the Narayani, that greatly influenced the numismatics of Assam. His gave Srimanta Sankardeva the first royal patronage to Ekasarana Dharma.


At the time of his father's death, Naranarayan and his stepbrother, Chilarai, were in Varanasi and another brother, Nara Singha, succeed the throne. Malladev, as he was then known, hastened back with Chilarai and with the help of their supporters among the courtier, took over the throne. Nara Singha was pursued, who escaped first to the Morung kingdom, and thence to Nepal and finally Kashmir.

Malladev ascended the throne in 1540, in the same year that his father had died, and acquired the title Narayan, which was to become the dynastic title of his succeeding kings. He issued coins, and his seal was made. He appointed his step-brother Chilarai (then known as Sukladhwaj) the Yuvaraj (somewhat akin to the prime minister) and the commander-in-chief of the military.

Kingdom Expansion

The Koch kingdom was a tributary the eastern Ahom kingdom and soon after his ascension began preparing to throw off the vassalage. A border tiff at Sala, just above Kaliabar escalated in 1546 with three step-brothers forging ahead into the Ahom kingdom, to meet with their deaths. After a series of battles with varying fortunes, the Koch army was defeated by the Ahoms, then under Suklenmung (1539–1552) who personally led the military, at the Battle of Pichala in 1547. This was followed by a period of calm and preparation.

The preparations for a push east was made slowly and deliberately. After the reverses of Biswa Singha in 1547 due to logistics and his own in 1547, he made calculated moves. He sent a diplomatic mission in 1555 to the court of the new Ahom king Sukhaamphaa (1552–1603) to gather information about its state. Nara Narayan had his step-brother, Kamal Narayan, surreptitious lay a road (called Gohain Kamal Ali) along the foothills of the eastern Himalayas from the capital to the eastern frontier. He consolidated his alliance with the tribal groups, with the help of whom his father had established the kingdom and decreed that their religious practice should prevail north of the Gohain Kamal Ali. He also was able to receive the alliance of the Bhuyans, who were inimical to his father, Biswa Singha. Finally, in the latter part of 1562 Chilarai, the commander, marched at the head of a 60,000 strong force, with Naranarayan at the rear. And as he marched, he obtained the support of the Mech-Kacharis, Bhutiya, Dafla, Bhuyans and Brahmins and reached Some princes of the erstwhile Chutiya kingdom also submitted their support. Naranarayan forced his way strongly into the Ahom kingdom and set up camp at Majuli.


By April 1563 the Ahom king Sukhaamphaa had to abandon his capital, which was then occupied by the Koch Koch army. The Treaty of Majuli was settled, which established the Koch hegemony in the Brahmaputra valley and extended the boundary in the east to Narayanpur. On the way back, Chalarai halted at Marangi, where the Kachari king, Durlabhnarayan (1525–1580) submitted without a fight. Chilarai established Gohain Kamal as a governor at Brahmapur (Khaspur) and left a contingent of soldiers, who later came to be called Dehan. This was followed by the submission of the Manipuri king. The Jaintia king gave a fight and was slain, and his son was established as the king. After the Jaintia campaign, Chilarai marched against the Tippera kingdom. At Langai in 1567, the Tripura king, Ananta Manikya, was killed along with 18,000 of his soldiers, and his brother was placed on the throne. The Khairam raja, a Khasi chief of Nongkhrem, too submitted. Chilarai found a tougher foe in the Governor of Sylhet, allied with Suleiman Karrani then engaged in an expedition in Odisha; but he was killed after a prolonged three-day battle via a stratagem, and his brother was placed after extracting tribute from him. The two brothers then returned to their capital via Dimarua and Raha.

Division of the Kingdom

In 1581 Raghu Deva, the son of his brother Shukladhvaj became the de facto ruler of the eastern part of his kingdom Koch Hajo, though under the suzerainty of his uncle. After the death of Nara Narayan, he declared his independence. Nara Narayan's son Lakshmi Narayan succeeded him after his death, but only inherited the western part of his kingdom Koch Bihar. On 23 December 1596 Man Singh I married Naranarayan's daughter Kshamadevi.

Maharaj Nara Narayan is known as the 'Vikramaditya' of Kamrup. Nara Narayan was a noted patron of literature. Apart from Sankardeva, a galaxy of saints and scholars freely studied art, culture and literature at Coochbehar making it a centre of Vaishnavite learning and teaching. They also brightened Maharaja Naranarayan's Royal court. For the housewives, Madhabdeva wrote Janma Rahashya following the request of Kamalapriya, the wife of Chilarai. Chilarai, younger brother of Nara Narayan requested Ram Saraswati to translate the verses from the Mahabharata. He also encouraged asked Sridhar to write Jyotish Sastra. Following his request, Bakul Kayastha wrote Lilavati, a landmark on mathematics. During Nara Narayan's reign, Purushottam Vidyavagish wrote the Prayogaratnamala, a treatise on Sanskrit grammar. A scholar par excellence, Chilarai himself wrote an analytical annotation of poet Joydeva's Geet Govinda as Sarabatisar and left an indelible imprint in Sanskrit literature.