Murshidabad Knowledge Guide


The area was part of the Gauda Kingdom and Vanga Kingdom in ancient Bengal. The Riyaz-us-Salatin credited the initial development of the town to a merchant named Makhsus Khan. The merchant's role is also mentioned in the Ain-i-Akbari.During the 17th-century, the area was well known for sericulture. In 1621, English agents reported that large quantities of silk were available in the area. During the 1660s, it became a pargana of the Mughal administration, with jurisdiction over European companies in Cossimbazar.In the early 18th-century, Murshid Quli Khan, the prime minister of Bengal Subah, had a bitter rivalry with Prince Azim-ush-Shan, the viceroy of Bengal. The latter even attempted to have Khan killed. The Mughal court in Delhi was also rapidly losing authority in much of the subcontinent. Amid the decline of the central government, the Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar promoted Khan to the status of a princely Nawab. As Nawab, Khan was given the opportunity to create a princely dynasty as part of the Mughal aristocracy. Murshid Quli Khan shifted the capital of Bengal from Dhaka, which lost its strategic importance after the expulsion of the Arakanese and Portuguese from Chittagong. He founded the city of Murshidabad and named the city after himself. It became the center of political, economic and cultural life in Bengal. The jurisdiction of the Nawab included not only Bengal, but also Bihar and Orissa. Murshidabad was also located centrally in the expanded jurisdiction of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The presence of the princely court, the Mughal Army, artisans and multiethnic merchants increased the wealth of Murshidabad. Wealthy families and companies established their head offices in the city. The Murshidabad mint became the largest in Bengal, with a value amounting to two percent of the minted currency. The city witnessed the construction of administrative buildings, gardens, palaces, mosques, temples and mansions. European companies operated factories in the city's outskirts. The city was full of brokers, agents, workers, peons, messengers, naibs, wakils and ordinary traders.Murshid Quli Khan transformed Murshidabad into a capital city with an efficient administrative machinery for his successors. He built a palace and a caravanserai with a grand mosque, known as the Katra Masjid. The main military base was located near the mosque and formed the city's eastern gateway. The third Nawab Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan patronized the construction of another palace and military base, a new gateway, the revenue office, a public audience hall (durbar), a private chamber, the treasury and a mosque in an extensive compound called Farrabagh (Garden of Joy) which included canals, fountains, flowers, and fruit trees.Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah established a palace near the Motijhil (Pearl Lake). The Nizamat Imambara was built for Shia Muslims. The palace complex was fortified and known as the Nizamat Fort. The main entrances of the Nizamat Fort had musicians' galleries. The gates were high, imposing and tall enough for an elephant to pass through. The Khoshbagh garden was the burial place of the Nawabs. The city had a Bengali majority population, including Bengali Muslims and Bengali Hindus. There was an influential Jain community involved in trade and commerce. An Armenian community also settled and became financiers for the Nawab. The Jagat Seth were one of the prominent banking families of Murshidabad. They controlled money lending activities and served as financiers for administrators, merchants, traders, the Nawabs, the Zamindars, as well as the British, French, Armenians and Dutch. The merchants built many mansions, including the Azimganj Rajbati, Kathgola house and Nashipur house. The Nawabs of Bengal entered into agreements with numerous European trading companies allowing them to establish bases in the region. The French East India Company operated factories in Murshidabad and Dhaka. The British East India Company was based in Fort William. Murshidabad was a part of the Dutch Bengal Department. The Ostend Company of Austria established a base near Murshidabad. The Danish East India Company also set up trading posts in the Bengal Subah. The last independent Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah was overthrown in 1757. Despite receiving assurances of French support, the Nawab was betrayed by his commander Mir Jafar. The British installed Mir Jafar's family as a puppet dynasty and eventually reduced the Nawab to the status of a landlord (zamindar). The British continued to collect revenue from the area's factories. The merchant families continued to prosper under company rule in India. In 1858, the British government gained direct control of India's administration. Murshidabad was a district town of the Bengal Presidency. Warren Hastings removed the supreme civil and criminal courts to Calcutta in 1772, but in 1775 the latter courts were brought back to Murshidabad again. In 1790, under Lord Cornwallis, the entire revenue and judicial staffs were moved to Calcutta. The town was still the residence of the Nawab, who ranked as the first nobleman of the province with the style of Nawab Bahadur of Murshidabad, instead of Nawab Nazim of Bengal. The Hazarduari Palace was built in 1837 as a residence for both the Nawab and British civil servants. Murshidabad became a municipality in 1869. The population in 1901 was 15,168. The silk industry was revived with assistance from the government. The area also became notable for mango and litchi production. Art of Murshidabad