Murshid Quli Khan মুর্শিদকুলি খাঁ (1706-1727 AD)

Murshid Quli Khan was the founder of the nawabi regime in Bengal. Murshid Quli Khan began his career in Bengal as the provincial dewan and ended as the nazim or governor of Bengal and Orissa, dewan of Bihar and faujdar of several districts, occupying all posts at the same time in the early 18th century.

About his family and parenthood nothing is known for certain. One version of his early life is that Haji Shafi of Ispahan, formerly a high-ranking Mughal officer, brought him up in Iran with paternal affection and gave him useful education. After Haji Shafi's death, he came back to India, entered the Mughal service under the name Mirza Hadi as dewan and received a mansab or rank. When Aurangzeb was looking for an honest and efficient dewan for Bengal, his choice fell on this young man. He was transferred in 1700 AD to Bengal as dewan and Faujdar of Golconda and was honoured with the title of Kartalab Khan (meaning "the seeker of challenges" in Persian). Another version is that he was grandson of the Maratha general Mohammed Quli Khan (formerly Netaji Palkar) by his Iranian wife Nusrat Banu, daughter of Mughal Wazir Asad Khan.

The third and most reliable version is that he was born in a poor Brahmin family in the Deccan, bought by Haji Shafi Ispahani, a merchant from Ispahan (City in the district of Jabal, Persia, situated on the Zendarud), converted and renamed Muhammad Hadi or Mirza Hadi. He entered the service of Haji Abdullah Khurasani, Dewan of Subah Berar [1] of Dakhin (Deccan), later transferred to Royal service under Emperor Aurangzeb.
go top

Reign

When Aurangzeb was looking for an honest and efficient dewan for Bengal, his choice fell on this young man. He was transferred in 1700 AD to Bengal as dewan and the faujdar of Mukhsusabad, and honoured with the title of Kartalab Khan, posted him to Dacca. Kartalab Khan came to Dhaka with the new assignment. He proved to be very efficient in matters of revenue and financial administration. He was honest and extremely faithful to the emperor. But while safeguarding imperial interests, the dewan came into conflict with Azim-ush-Shan (the grandson of the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb). Kartalab Khan was about to lose his life, but he faced the problem with courage and somehow escaped. Aurangzeb intervened and allowed him to shift his Dewani daftar (office) from Dhaka (Jahangirnagar / Dhaka) to Mukhsusabad, on the banks of river Ganges in 1704. The emperor also ordered his grandson Azim-ush-Shan to shift to Patna (which was renamed to Azimabad) and govern the province through deputies. By honest endeavor Kartalab Khan increased the imperial revenues. The Emperor being pleased with the collection papers prepared by him conferred upon him valuable Khilluts and the title of Murshid Quli Khan. He was appointed Deputy to the Prince in the Nizam at of the Subah of Bengal and Orissa, in addition to the office of Dewan, by the Emperor Aurangzeb.

Murshid Quli Khan changed the name of the city to Murshidabad মূর্শিদাবাদ (Moor-shi-da-bad); opened a mint; introduced the 'Zurbe Murshidabad' coin; threw open the responsible revenue offices to none but Bengali Hindus and Materially improved the administration for revenue, which secured to him the imperial title of 'Motamul-ul-Mulk Alauddowla Jaffer Khan Noseri Nasir Jang (Guardian of the country, promoter of the State, Helper in War, the Defender)'. In 1713 AD Murshid Quli Khan was appointed as the Naib Nazim of Bengal Subah and in 1717 AD he became the Subahdar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, after which he assumed an attitude of independence, never sending any remittances to Delhi. During his reign the revenue of Bengal, exclusive of the Jagir (smaller district within the empire) of the Nazims and other officers, and other duties, was Rs 1,40,88,000. The income of the Jagir of the Nazim from Bengal was 5,82,08,500 dams, and from Orissa 2,38,25,300 dams, aggregating 8,20,33,800 dams, which at forty dams to a rupee would amount to Rs 20,50,845.

As a proof of his influence at the Court of Delhi, it is stated that Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha (afterwards Abdullah Khan), one of the Syed brothers who helped Farrukhsiyar to secure his throne in 1713 AD, wished for the title of "Nasir Jang", which had been formerly conferred on the Governor of Bengal. As one title cannot be given to two men at the same time, an Imperial Mandate was issued in the name of Murshid Quli Khan to exchange it for another equally honourable, but the Nawab wrote that in his old age he was not desirous of new titles, and that he would never sell the title given him by the Emperor Aurungzeb.

Murshid Quli Khan was the Dewan of Hyderabad, Bengal from 1700 AD to 1708 AD, of Bihar from 1710 AD to 1713 AD, and of the Deccan from 1708 AD to 1710 AD, Naib Nazim of Bengal from 1713 AD to 1717 AD. He became the Subahdar of Orissa in 1714 AD, and Nazim of Bengal in 1717 AD. He Removed his headqaurters from Dacca to Makhsusabad in 1704 AD, and renamed it Murshidabad.
go top

Revenue Collection

On matters of Revenue Collection Murshid Quli Khan was absolutely non-compromising to the extent of being ruthless. He appointed his grand daughter's (Nafisa Begum's) husbabd, Syud Reza Khan, his Dewan, who in order to enforce payment of the revenues, caused the defaulting Zamindars (land lords) to be drawn by a rope under their arms through a pond of filth which he called 'Baikunt' বৈকুণ্ঠ (the Hindu name for Paradise / the Muslim equivalent of Jannat). The collections and the accounts for the year were finished in the month of Choit, the last month of the year; and in the month of Baisakh, the beginning of the year, having finished the ceremony of the Poonneah (rent-day collection), the Nawab generally despatched to Delhi the revenue, amounting to one crore thirty lakhs, chiefly in specie, in bags, and laden upon two hundred carts, escorted by a guard of three hundred cavalry and five hundred infantry, and accompanied by one of the sub-treasurers. The Nawab, attended by his principal officers, would accompany the convoy up to Jhapaida; and, in order to remove any further responsibility from himself, he had the event recorded, in addition to his own despatch to the Vizier, in the Royal Gazettes, by which all the Governors on the route were apprized of the circumstance, and were obliged, by the regulations, to have carts and escort ready to forward the treasure to the capital. Along with the revenue he sent, as presents to the Emperor and Ministers, a number of elephants, hill horses, antelopes, hawks,shields of rhinoceros hide, sword-blades, Sylhet mats, filigree work of gold and silver, wrought ivory, Dacca muslins, Cossimbazar silk, the "Gangajali" of Sylhet, also a number of European articles procured at the port of Hughli, or presented by foreign merchants.

Murshid Quli Khan reduced the expenses of the militia, forbad the exportation of grain, gave great encouragement to learning, remitted the pressing imports, effected great financial reforms and took delight in feeding the poor. He was sober and temperate. During his reign rice sold at five maunds a rupee and a man with an income of one rupee a month could have two meals a day with pollao and kalia.
go top

Character

He took no delight in hunting; He never indulged in wine nor in any intoxicating drugs; neither did he amuse himself with singers or dancers. He always kept constant to one lawful wife, and, out of excess of delicacy, would not suffer any strange woman, or even eunuchs, to enter the apartments of his seraglio - so much so, that any slave girl once out of the harem would not be allowed to re-enter it. He possessed very extensive learning, and paid great respect to men who were eminent for their piety or erudition. He was a brave soldier, a liberal benefactor, upright and just in his dealings, and a steady protector of the weak. He made no retrenchments in any royal grant, nor in those of any former Subahdar, for charitable purposes. He despised all the refinements of luxury, particularly in dress; no highly seasoned dishes were served on his table. He slept but little, and carefully observed the stated times for prayer. From breakfast till noon he employed himself in copying the Koran, and in administering justice; and every year he sent Korans of his own writing, with valuable offerings, to Mecca, Medina, Najaf, and other holy places.
go top

Administration

His judicial decisions were so rational and just, that they were as much respected and obeyed as the decrees of those monarchs whose names are most renowned for equity and justice. No zamindars or rent collectors could, with impunity, oppress anyone; vakeels of zamindars were constantly in search of complainants, and whenever they met with anyone who had reason to be dissatisfied, they used every endeavour to pacify him; but if it happened that a well-founded complaint reached the ears of Murshid Kuli Khan, the offender was sure to suffer severely.

In the beginning of his administration, the Katwal (Senior Police Officer of the town) of Hughli forcibly took away a young girl from the house of her father, and Ahsanullah the Foujdar of that place let the offender to pass unnoticed. The father carried his complaint before the Nawab, who commanded that the offender should be stoned to death, conformably to the ordinance of the Koran; and notwithstanding all the entreaties of Ahsanullah, who was a great favourite, the sentence was actually carried out. go top

Trade and Commerce

In Murshid Quli Khan's time Bengal's internal and international trade grew enormously. Arab, Persian and Armenian merchants were very active in Bengal. From the 17th century European companies were prepared with ready money to buy any amount of Bengal goods, particularly cotton and silk and their by-products. They imported gold and silver bullion and thus the country earned good profits. Along with the traders of goods, the traders in coins, the Sahus or moneychangers and moneylenders, banians or brokers, also did brisk business. There were many such moneylenders, but among them Jagat Seth became very prominent. Murshid Quli Khan was aware of the importance of trade and encouraged traders and companies in fair trade but punished unfair traders very severely.

Murshid Quli Khan started building his palace named 'Chahel Setun' at Kulhoria (near present Hazarduari Palace) when he first reached Mukhsusabad. Murshid Quli Khan also built the magnificent Katra Masjid (mosque). It was built in 1137 A.H., 1723 A.D. After his death in 1139 A.H, 30th June 1727 AD he was buried below the steps of the Katra Masjid. He had one son Nawabzada Yahya Khan and two daughters : Azmat-un-nisa Begum (Zinat-un-nisa) and Zainab-un-nisa Begum. Murshid Quli Khan, who possessed all the qualifications of a legislative financer, administered the most brilliant period of the financial history of Bengal.

Download Plan of Katra Mosque : katra-mosque-plan.pdf

Katra Mosque Gallery


go top

Family Tree :: Nasiri Dynasty

Murshid Quli Khan married Nasiri Banu Begum Sahiba (died at 'Chahel Setun' Kulhoria Palace, Murshidabad, before 13th June 1733 (burried at Jutapatty). He had one son and two daughters. [2]
  1. Nawabzada Yahya Khan. Who entered the service of the Nawab of the Carnatic
  2. Azmat-un-nisa Begum Sahiba [Zinat-un-nisa] (d/o Nasiri Banu Begum) married to Suja-ud-Daulla or Suja-ud-din Muhammad Khan Bahadur before 1712, as his second wife. She died at Murshidabad (burried at Azimnagar Masjid)
  3. Zainab-un-nisa Begum Sahiba [Azim-un-nisa Begum] (d/o Nasiri Banu Begum) married to Suja-ud-Daulla or Suja-ud-din Muhammad Khan Bahadur, as his first wife



References :
  • [1] Berar Subah was the one of Subahs of Mughal Empire from 1596 to 1724. Berar came under Mughal administration in 1596. Todar Mal's famous system known as bandobast was made applicable to the Berar Subah. In Ain-i-Akbari, the original name of Berar is mentioned as Waradatat (the banks of Varada River) Back
  • [2] Christopher Buyers, Murshidabad, The Najafi Dynasty Genealogy, Royal Ark Back

Page Updated : April 05, 2013 01:37 pm