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The Koch dynasty of Assam and Bengal, named after the Koch tribe, emerged as the dominant ruling house in the Kamata kingdom in 1515 after the fall of the Khen dynasty in 1498. The first of the Koch kings, Viswa Singha and then his sons, Nara Narayan as the subsequent king and Chilarai as the general, soon occupied the western portion of the erstwhile Kamarupa Kingdom as well as some regions of south Assam. The dynasty forked for the first time into two major branches that controlled Koch Bihar and Koch Hajo. Koch Bihar became a vassal of the Mughals, whereas Koch Hajo came under Ahom control and was subsequently absorbed. Koch Bihar became a princely state during British rule and was absorbed after Indian independence. A third branch of this dynasty at Khaspur disappeared into the Kachari kingdom.
After the fall of the Pala dynasty of Kamarupa, the kingdom fractured into different domains in the 12th century. In the extreme east the Sutiya kingdom emerged on the north bank of Brahmaputra river. The Ahom kingdom emerged in the south bank and to their west was the Kachari kingdom. Sandhya, a ruler of Kamarupanagara (Guwahati) moved his capital further west to present-day North Bengal in the middle of the 13th century and the domain he ruled over came to be called Kamata kingdom. The buffer region, between the eastern kingdoms and Kamata was the domain of the Baro-Bhuyans chieftains. Alauddin Husain Shah of Gaur defeated Nilambar of Kamata in 1498, occupied the region and placed his son, Daniyal in charge. Within a few years, the Baro-Bhuyans, lead
by one Harup Narayan of the Brahmaputa valley defeated, captured and executed Daniyal, and the region lapsed into Bhuyan confederate rule.
Meanwhile, an alliance was formed when a Mech chief, Hariya Mandal, married two sisters Hira and Jira, the daughters of Hajo, a Koch chief. Hariya Mandal's domain was in Chikna Mountains situated between the Sankosh River and the Champabati River, about 80 kilometers north of Dhubri in the erstwhile Undivided Goalpara district of Assam. Bisu, who was to later become Viswa Singha, was born to Hariya Mandal and Hira.
The first ruler of the Koch dynasty was Vishwa Singha, who established himself in 1515 as the ruler of the Kamata kingdom. According to J N Sarkar, Viswa Singha belonged to one of the dominant Koch tribes, which were a collection of Mongoloid tribes, loosely allied to the Meches, Garos, Tharus and also Dravidians. When Bisu, as Viswa Singha was then known, acquired power, the Brahmins found him out and conferred on him the status of the Kshatriya varna; and the subsequent interaction with Brahmans lead to the Hinduization of his tribesmen. The earliest known ancestor of Viswa Singha was his father Haria Mandal, from the Chiknabari village in Goalpara district, the head of the twelve most powerful Mech families. Haria Mandal was married to Jira and Hira, daughters of a Koch chief named Hajo, after whom Koch Hajo was named. Viswa Singha was the son of Haria Mandal and Hira.
Viswa Singha sought the alliance of tribal chiefs against the more powerful Baro-Bhuyans and began his campaign around 1509. Successively, he defeated the Bhuyans of Ouguri, Jhargaon, Karnapur, Phulaguri, Bijni and Pandunath (Pandu, in Guwahati). He was particularly stretched by the Bhuyan of Kanrnapur, and could defeat him only by a stratagem during Bihu. After subjugating the petty rulers, he announced himself the king of Kamata bounded on the east by Barnadi river and on the west by the Karatoya river in the year 1515. He moved his capital from Chikana to Kamatapur (also called Kantapur) which is just a few miles southeast of the present-day Cooch Behar town. Viswa Singha's two sons, Naranarayan and Shukladhwaj (Chilarai), the king and the commander-in-chief of the army respectively, took the kingdom to its zenith. Nara Narayan made Raghudev, the son of Chilarai, the governor of Koch Hajo, the eastern portion of the country. After the death of Nara Narayan, Raghudev declared independence. The division of the Kamata kingdom into Koch Bihar and Koch Hajo was permanent.
Nara Narayan was impressed by the bhakti saint Srimanta Sankardeva who became a member of his court in the last three years of his life and who established a sattra in the kingdom.
Beginning of the Koch dynasty