Long before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, a group of intrepid warriors came together in Khordha to raise the banner of revolt against the British after they deposed King Mukunda Dev II and took over his fort in 1804. The area was the last pocket of resistance for the British East India Company which wanted to establish connectivity between the north and the south in the region.
Further resentment prompted them to group under Jayee Rajguru to take on the British and invade territory held by them in Pipili. They were subsequently overpowered but these warriors, known as Paikas, set the tone for similar movements in the region and marked a golden chapter in the fight for freedom.
This was the era of the heroes of the Paika Bidroha – Biplabi Jai Krushna Rajguru Mahapatra popularly known as Jayee Rajguru (whose arrest and subsequent hanging by the British provided further momentum to the movement), Buxi Jagabandhu Bidhyadhar Mahapatra, Dala Behera Samanta, Madhab Chandra Rautaray and Samanta Krutibas Patasani.
In 1817, the Paikas came together under the leadership of Buxi Jagabandhu for the Paika Rebellion, attacking with a ferocity which took the British by surprise and forced them to retreat to Cuttack more than once. Though the Paikas were eventually overpowered, ex-MLA and historian Dr. Dillip Srichandan, who worked for the preservation of Khordha’s history, said, “The Paika Rebellion was the first-ever armed revolution against the British.”
A decade later, it would be the turn of Samanta Madhab Chandra Rautaray to continue the fight by giving a call to the Paikas of Tapang along with Narana Gada, Rathipur, Sadheigada, Mallahapadagada, Chhatrama Gada, Kaipadar Gada, Anda Jhinkijhari, Kanchilo and Bangida to challenge the British move to collect taxes. Local lore has it that when the British came to collect tax from the Nijigada Tapang village, they were rebuffed in the very first house that they entered. The rebuff came from Hiramani, Madhab Rautaray’s sister, who opposed their entry and flatly refused to pay any tax. Word of this resistance spread within the village and others including a large number of women also began opposing the British.
The word Paika derives from the word Padatika or foot soldiers, a militia which helped the King during a war. In peace time, they were farmers who lived off the produce from land given to them for cultivation by the King. They were well-trained in many ways of fighting including martial arts using traditional weapons both in open areas as well as in the jungle, a skill which made them a formidable guerilla force. This art of war is now known as the Paikaakhada, which involves acrobatic movements with swords, sticks, and shields.
The Paikas were divided into three categories. The Praharis (guards) carried a large wooden shield strengthened with iron and a long sword or khanda. The Banuas used small shields and swords and were the ones who travelled to fight when the need arose. The Dhenkiyas were armed with bow and arrows. There were women Paikas too and Rani Suka De seems to have been among the first!