Bengal shares to a very large extent in the historical traditions of the northern parts of India. The movements of population which settled the ethnological characteristics of those areas largely affected the province, and it was conspicuously associated with the great religious developments which so profoundly influenced the life history of the people. Generally speaking, the population of Bengal is of Dravidian and Aryan origin, though on the eastern side there are marked Mongoloid elements, pointing to a close association of those tracts with the stream of immigration which settled the character of Burma and the other parts of further India. The Aryan immigration is that which has left its deepest mark upon the life and literature of Bengal.

When the famous Chinese traveler Xuanzang or Hiuen Tsang visited India, he mentioned about Karnasubarna which included present Burdwan, Bankura, Murshidabad, and Hooghly. The ancient history of Murshidabad can be recorded from the period whenShashanka, the king of Gauda গৌড় (Gauda region is a historical country in eastern India, which included Gour in Bengal), established Murshidabad as his capital city. Following Shashanka, his Pala descendants also established their capital city in Murshidabad. During the Pala age, Murshidabad earned an unblemished glory in its unique culture. But the present history of Murshidabad, however is documented from the time when Nawab Murshid Kuli Khan shifted his capital from Dacca to Murshidabad. Siraj-ud-Daulla was the last sovereign ruler of Bengal who even had his capital in Murshidabad. Finally, when the British occupied Bengal, a new era started in the history of Murshidabad.

Pre Maurya (মৌর্য) Era

The history of Murshidabad so far known is deciphered from the archaeological excavation and the relics of the earliest buildings scattered in the district. The Mauryan influence was introduced with the conquest and the establishment of the Radha region and incorporated it with the territory of Murshidabad by Bimbisara. However there is a mention of the Radha region in the Jain scripture Acharanga Sutra in the 6th century B.C, which reveals that the history of Murshidabad traces back even in the 6th century B.C.
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Maurya Era

The Mauryan history of Murshidabad started during the reign of Mauryan Emperor Bimbisara (543 BC-491 BC). King Bimbisara of the Haryanka dynasty led an active and expansive policy, conquering Anga in what is now West Bengal. Later the Nandas in 424 BC overthrew the Mauryas and established their supremacy in the entire area of Murshidabad. Mahapadma Nanda illegitimate son of the last king Mahanandin of Shishunaga dynasty was the first king of the Nanda dynasty. When the Nandas came to power in Magadha they possibly held some form of sway over northern Radha in their dominion, Quintus Curtius Rufus and Diodorus Siculus mentioned that the Nanda King Agrammes (or Xandrammes ruled until 321 BC) was the ruler of Prasii and Gangaridae (Gangaridae is the name of a kingdom in 300 BC in what is now the Bangladesh and West Bengal region).Palibothra was the capital of the powerful kingdom of the Prasii, and identified with Pataliputra in modern day Patna (25°36'N 85°07'E). "Next came the Ganges, the largest river in all India, the farther bank of which was inhabited by two nations, the Gangaridae and the Prasii, whose king Agrammes kept in field for guarding the approaches to his country 20,000 cavalry and 200,000 infantry, besides 2,000 four-horsed chariots, and, what was the most formidable of all, a troop of elephants which he said ran up to the number of 3,000."-- Quintus Curtius Rufus (wrote between 60-70 AD about Alexander's invasion).

Finally the vibrant Maurya king Chandragupta Maurya defeated the Nandas and reinstated the Maurya supremacy in Murshidabad. As the ancient history of Murshidabad points out, the Maurya kings ruled Murshidabad for ages and the Ashokan stupas at Karnasubarna কর্ণসুবর্ণ (falls under present Murshidabad), the capital of Shashanka, indicates Murshidabad to be a part of the Maurya Empire for long. The accounts of the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang are also an important source regarding the history of Murshidabad.

Haryanka Dynasty (543 - 410 BC) : founded by Bimbisara
543 - 491 BC Bimbisara Murdered by his son.
491 - 459 BC Ajatashatru Son. He defeated the Lichchhavi kingdom north of the Ganges
459 - 443 BC Udayin / Udayibhadra Son of Ajatashatru.
443 - 439 BC Anuruddha Cousin of Buddha. Succeeded through assassination.
439 - 435 BC Munda Son. Succeeded through assassination.
435 - 410 BC Nagadasaka Son. Succeeded through assassination.
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Post Maurya Era

The post Mauryan history of Murshidabad was composed by a long session of the Shungas and the Kushanas. The reign of the Shungas cannot be ascertained because there is no extant evidence of their reign in Murshidabad. The Kushana coins, which have been excavated in the Rajbari Danga region of Murshidabad, indicate the existence of the Kushana kings in Murshidabad. The coins indicate that the Kushana kings conducted the business transactions throughout the Middle East and the southeast countries with Murshidabad as the core center.

The famous Chinese traveler Xuanzang or Hiuen Tsang (হিউয়েন সাং), mentioned in his travelogues about Lo-to-mo-chi (Rakta-mrittikā রক্ত মৃত্তিকা "Red Soil") Mahavihara, an important centre of learning of Vajrayani Buddhists. It has been identified with Rajbari Danga.

Mauryan Empire (321 - 185 BC) : founded by Chandragupta Maurya. When Chandragupta encountered the Greek forces which Alexander the Great left in India, they knew him as Sandrokotos.
324 - 301 BC Chandragupta Maurya Founder of the empire in 321 BC.
301 - 269 BC Bindusara Maurya 'Amitraghata' Son. Gained Deccan plateau. Amitrochates to the Greeks.
Sushima Son. Defeated in the succession war by Ashoka.
269 - 232 BC Ashoka (Ashokavardhan) Maurya Brother. Buddhist.
Kunal / Kunala Son. Blinded by one of Ashoka's wives.
232 - 224 BC Dasaratha Succeeded when half-brother Kunal became blind.
224 - 215 BC Samrat Samprati Son of Kunal.
215 - 202 BC Salisuka
202 - 195 BC Devavarman
195- 187 BC Satadhanvan
187 - 185 BC Brhadrata Last Mauryan king - assassinated.
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"On the strength of the identification of Lo-to-mi-chi (Rakta-mrittikā) monastery with the excavated monastery at Rajbari Danga রাজবাড়ীডাঙ্গা (in village Jadupur near Chiruti railway station in the Sadar subdivision of Murshidabad district, West Bengal)Karnasubarna can now be located with greater exactitude in the neighbourhood of the excavated site".
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Gupta Era

The Gupta kings ousted the Kushanas from Murshidabad and they retained their supremacy for the longest period, till the 6th century A.D., as the history of Murshidabad reveals. The accounts of the Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang, who arrived during the Gupta era depict the cultural prosperity that Murshidabad attained under the patronization of the Gupta kings. The Gupta period constituted the glorious chapter in the history of Murshidabad.

However the sovereignty of the Guptas at the end of the 6th century A.D became nominal. The Vanga Kingdom had become independent, while the Gauda kings rose with their capital at Karnasubarna (Murshidabad). Shashanka, a vassal of the Gupta Empire became independent and unified the smaller principalities of Bengal (Gaur, Vanga, Samatata) and vied for regional power with Harshavardhana in northern India. The earliest history of Murshidabad is however codified in a written document only from the reign of Shashanka (শশাঙ্ক). Moreover the inscription of the kings of the time also mirrors the contemporary history of Murshidabad.

Shashanka (শশাঙ্ক) of Gauda (গৌড়)

After the fall of the Guptas, the dominion of Bengal gained its independence and was known as the Gauda kingdom, although this was far from including all of Bengal. The various regions which were later joined together as Bengal were known as Pundra Vardhana(now northern Bangladesh), Gauda (parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh),Dandabhukti (southern West Bengal),Karnasubarna (part of West Bengal),Varendra (northern Bangladesh),Rarh (southern areas of West Bengal),Summha Desa (south-western West Bengal),Vanga (central Bangladesh),Vangala (southern Bangladesh),Harikela (north-eastern Bangladesh),Chandradwipa (southern Bangladesh),Subarnabithi (central Bangladesh),Navyabakashika (central and southern Bangladesh),Lakhnauti (North Bengal and Bihar), and Samatata (eastern Bangladesh).

Before the advent of Shashanka, king Ishanavarmana invaded the entire area of Murshidabad and shattered the Guptas. Finally when the Guptas tried to conquer their former kingdom, Mahasenagupta however managed to snatch it away from them and installed his own realm over the extensive areas of Murshidabad. Shashanka was perhaps a vassal chief under him. When the Maukharis were engaged in warfare, Shashanka exploited the disturbed situation to its best and became the king of Gauda, withKarnasubarna as his capital. Karnasuvarna, the famous metropolis was situated near Chiruti railway station, close to Rajbaridanga (ie. the site of Raktamrttika-mahavihara, or modern Rangamati).

To mark the foundation of his capital, he introduced a new calendar now known as 'Bangla Borsha' or Bengali Calendar. As he founded his capital in the month of Baisakh, so the Bengali Calendar starts from this month. During the Turk rulers of Bengal, in the 13th century AD, Bengali Calendar was replaced by theHijri Calendar. Bengali Calendar is a solar calendar and the Hijri Calendar is a lunar calendar. It became difficult to collect tax from the farmers of Bengal on the basis of a lunar calendar; so, the Mughal Emperor Akbar reintroduced the Bengali Calendar with some reformations. After becoming the king Shashanka extended his kingdom even to the distant west, for which the boundary of Murshidabad also underwent certain changes.

Gauda Kingdom of Bengal (600 - 625 AD) :
600 - 625 AD Shashanka / Sasanka
625 AD Manava Son. Ousted soon after his father's death.
625 AD Following his death, Shashanka's kingdom falls apart and the region descends into anarchy until it is conquered by Harshavardhana of Thaneshwar.
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Pala (পাল) Era

Shashanka (শশাঙ্ক), the violent conqueror, engaged in aggressive warfare to extend the kingdom of Bengal, which witnessed a period of long anarchy and internal discord for about 100 years. Shashanka was probably a feudatory of the later Guptas in the Gauda region, under the Gupta king Mahasena Gupta. Shashanka had asserted his independence in the closing of 6th century. Under Shashanka Bengal was destined to enjoy a period of regal supremacy. The death of Shashanka in 670 AD, was followed by a period of political turmoil, disunity and foreign invasion. Anarchy gripped Bengal; and that anarchy lasted for many years. The Period is known as "Matsya-nyaya" or "fighting like fish". Tired of ceaseless political chaos and anarchy (Matsya-nyaya), the various independent chieftains of Bengal, in 750 AD, selected a person named Gopalato put an end to this sorry state of affairs. Finally in the 750 AD, Gopala a feudal lord of Pundra or Pundrabardana (North Bengal) was elected the king of Gauda, who introduced the Pala dynasty in Bengal, with Pundranagara as its capital. About 400 years of the history of Murshidabad, was constituted by the Pala regime in Bengal. The remnants of the Pala king Mahipala at Balanagar, Sagardighi (Jiagipur sub-division) indicate that the king had capital in the Jiagipur sub-division of Murshidabad, which at that time probably was known as Mahipal Nagar. Since the Palas were Buddhists, during their reign, Buddhism became the predominant faith of the people.

Gopala (750 AD - 770 AD) was succeeded by his sonDharmapala (770 AD - 810 AD) who in turn was succeeded by his sonDevapala (810 AD - 850 AD). Each of them consolidated the dynasty's position in Bengal and the surrounding regions, making the Palas one of the most powerful dynasties during that period.

The rule of Narayanpala (855 AD - 908 AD) witnessed the beginning of the dynasty's decline. Mahipala I's (988 AD - 1038 AD) times saw a resurgence of the Pala powers. Though Mahipala I regained control of large parts of the territories annexed by foes, he was defeated by one of the Chola kings of from southern India.

The proto-Bangla language was born during the reign of the Palas. The Buddhist texts of the Charyapadawere the earliest form of Bangla language. Books on every aspect of knowledge were compiled during the Pala Rule.On philosophy: Agaman Shastra by Gaudapada, Nyay Kundali by Sridhar Vatt, Karmanushthan Paddhati by Vatt Vabadeva;On Medicine: Chikitsa Sangraha, Ayurvedidwipika, Vanumati, Shabdachandrika, Dravya Gunasangrahaby Chakrapani Dutt; Shabda-Pradip, Vrikkhayurveda, Lohpaddhati by Sureshwar;Chikitsa Sarsangraha by Vangasen; Sushrata by Gadadha Vaidya;Daybhaga, Byabohar-Matrika, Kalvivek by Jimutvahan. Atisha Dipankara Shrijnana (অতীশ দীপঙ্কর শ্রীজ্ঞান) compiled more than 200 books. The great epic Ramacharitam written by Sandhyakar Nandi the court poet of Madanpala was another masterpiece of the Pala literature. The most brilliant side of the Pala Empire was the excellence of its art and sculptures. Palas created a distinctive form of Buddhist art known as the 'Pala School of Sculptural Art'.

Pala Empire (750 - 1174 AD) :
750 - 770 AD Gopala First Buddhist king of Bengal. Elected by regional chieftains.
770 - 810 AD Dharmapala Son.
810 - 850 AD Devapala Son.
850 - 854 AD Shurapala I / Mahendrapala Son.
854 - 855 AD Vigrahapala Son of Jayapala, grandson of Dharmapala's brother, Vakpala.
855 - 908 AD Narayanapala
908 - 940 AD Rajyapala
940 - 960 AD Gopala II
960 - 988 AD Vigrahapala II
988 - 1038 AD Mahipala I
1038 - 1055 AD Nayapala
1055 - 1070 AD Vigrahapala III The Hindu Sena dynasty gains control of the Radha region
1070 - 1075 AD Mahipala II
1075 - 1077 AD Shurapala II
1077 - 1130 AD Ramapala The last great Pala king.
1130 - 1140 AD Kumarapala Son.
1140 - 1144 AD Gopala III
1144 - 1162 AD Madanapala
1162 - 1174 AD Govindapala Ruled a small principality.
1174 AD The Sena king, Ballal Sena defeats Govindapala and fully unites Bengal under one ruler.
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Sena (সেন) Era

When the Sena dynasty rooted themselves in the extensive land of Bengal, the major parts of Murshidabad came under the sway of the Senas and they continued to be the last sovereign Hindu ruler before the Muslim Rule stared in Bengal. The Sena (Bengali: সেন, Shen) dynasty originally hailed from Karnat (Karnataka in South India). The Senas started as feudal vassals in the Radha region of the Palas, but soon usurped power to start their own royal dynasty under their founder, Hemantasena.

The first Sena king Hemantasena ascended the throne in 1070 AD and was probably a petty ruler under king Rampala. Since the Senas were Hindus "vaishnavites" (worshippers of Vishnu), Hindu traditions became stronger and more widespread in their kingdom. Probably after Rampala's death, Hemantasena established himself as an independent ruler. Under his son Vijaya Sena (1096 AD - 1159 AD) the Senas became a major power in Bengal. Vijaya Sena could not complete the process for conquest of Gauda, and left it to his son and successor Ballal Sena to complete this task and assume the title Gaureswara. Vijaya Sena's long rule of nearly sixty years, restored peace and prosperity to Bengal and made a deep impression among its people. The tributes paid to him in the beautiful poem of Umapatidhar in Deopara stone slab and the reference to him in poet Sriharsha's Vijay Prasasti (Eulogy of Vijay) no doubt reflected the people's feelings by and large in relation to him.Ballal Sena, who ascended the throne in 1158 AD, seized Gauda from the Palas. According to a tradition in Bengal, Ballal Sena's kingdom consisted of five provinces, viz., Banga, Barendra, Rar, Bagri (possibly a portion of lower Bengal) and Mithila. Lakshman Sena (লক্ষ্মণ সেন), the next ruler who succeeded Ballal Sena in 1179 AD. His reign lasted almost 20 years, with his headquarters at Navadwip (নবদ্বীপalso Nabadwip, Navadvipa or Nabadwipdham).

The period of the Palas and the Senas witnessed the growth of Bengali language. Jaidev (12th century AD), the famous poet of Bengal, was one of the Pancharatnas (literally 5 gems) in the court of Lakshman Sena. Jaidev composed the Geeta Govinda, one of the first literary works in Sanskrit.

Sena Empire (1070 - 1230 AD) :
1070 - 1096 AD Hemantasena / Hemanta Sena Founder of the dynasty.
1096 - 1159 AD Vijaya Sena Declared Bengal's independence from the Palas.
1159 - 1179 AD Ballal Sena Son.
1179 - 1206 AD Lakshaman Sena Son.
1206 - 1225 AD Vishvarupa Sena Son.
1225 - 1230 AD Keshava Sena Brother.
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The Murshidabad District Museum (মুর্শিদাবাদ জেলা সংগ্রহশালা) at Jiaganj has a large number of sculptures dating from 800 AD to 1200 AD belonging to the Pala-Sena period.
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Muslim Era

The Mohammedan sovereignty in Bengal, of which Murshidabad had not yet become the capital, was established about the year 1203, whenLakhnauti orLakshanavati, known as Gour or Gaur (গৌড়), a large city on the left bank of the Ganges, twenty-five miles south of Maldah, was the seat of Government. Lakshman Sena /Lakshman Sen (লক্ষ্মণ সেন) (1179 - 1206 AD), the Hindu King of Bengal (4th ruler of the Sena dynasty and Son of Ballal Sen), whose capital was at Navadwip (নবদ্বীপ also Nabadwip, Navadvipa or Nabadwipdham), is said to have been a King of considerable power in the earlier part of his reign. His territories were invaded by the Mohamedans when he was 80 years of age. He had been told by his Court astrologers and counsellors, that in the books of their ancient sages, it had been foretold that the country would fall into the hands of the Turks (Musalmans), and that when that should come to pass, the reigning Raja could do no better than consent to his subjects, as well as himself, fleeing elsewhere, so that they might escape from the molestation of the Mlehchyas (unclean ones).

The "Ajanu Lambith Bahu" আজানু লম্বিথ বাহু (arms reaching the knees) ofBakhtiar Khilji (ইখতিয়ার উদ্দিন মুহম্মদ বখতিয়ার খিলজী), the grandee of Ghor, who under the mandate ofQutubuddin, appeared before the gates of the Hindu capital with only eighteen horsemen, which resembled with the description given by the Brahmins about the Muslim Conqueror of Bengal. The panic stricken courtiers of Lakshman Sen abandoned him and fled through the back door of the palace to Bikrampore, in the eastern parts of the kingdom and the capital fell into Muslim hands without a struggle.


The banner of Islam then waved from the citadel of Navadwip (নবদ্বীপ). It was subsequently hoisted at Gour. During five long centuries, from the Mohammedan conquest of Bengal byBakhtiar Khiljiin 1203 AD, to the time of the imperial prince, Muhammad Azam Shah (মুহাম্মদ আজম শাহ) (1653 - 1707) son of Emperor Aurangzeb (আওরঙ্গজেব) and Dilrus Bano Bagum (দিলরাস বানু বেগম), when the seat of Mohammedan Government was removed from Dacca to Murshidabad, in 1704 AD, sixty eight rulers sat on the throne of Bengal. One of these was Raja Kansa, a Hindu, who wrested the reins of Government from the hands of his Mohammedan predecessor, Sultan Shums-ud-din. The reigning emperor then at Delhi wasFiroz Shah Tughlaq. Raja Kansa held the throne from 1385 to 1392 AD, when he was succeeded by his son, who became a convert to Islam, and assumed the name ofSultan Jalal-ud-din. Only once more in the history of the Mohammedan Government of Bengal, a Hindu convert to Mohammedanism became the ruler of the country. Again it was in 1704 AD, when Aurangzeb (1658 - 1707) yielded the imperial scepter at Delhi and the Marathas all over the empire were exhausting the resources of the Great Mughal. This convert was Muhammad Hadi or Mirza Hadi, in whose veins ran Brahmin blood. The history of Murshidabad opens withMuhammad Hadi (Who was later given the nameMurshid Quli Khan মুর্শিদকুলি খাঁ by Aurangzeb) as its first actor.

For the first half of the eighteenth century, the history of Murshidabad is the history of the progress of the Mohammedan Government of Bengal, while the latter half represents the history of the decline of the Mohammedan and the rise of the British power in that province. After the grant of the Dewani to the East India Company (ব্রিটিশ ইস্ট ইন্ডিয়া কোম্পানি) in 1765, Murshidabad still continued to be the capital of independent Bengal. From 1717 until 1880 AD, three successive Islamic dynasties namely the Nasiri, Afshar and Najafiruled Bengal from Murshidabad. The first dynasty, Nasiri ruled from 1717 to 1740 AD and its founder was Murshid Quli Khan. The second dynasty, the Afshar, ruled from 1740 to 1757 AD was established by Alivardi Khan. At last the Najafi Dynasty came into power through Mir Jafar and ruled from 1757 to 1880 AD.
 

The decline of Mughal dynasty started from the reigns of Aurangzeb and it enabled some regional powers to get strong. Bengal was one of them. The "Dewani" (Power of tax collection) of Bengal was handed over to Murshid Quli Khan by Aurangzeb in 1700 A.D. Murshid Quli Khan transferred his capital to the then "Mukhsusabad" later came to be known after Murshid Quli Khan as "Murshidabad" in 1704 A.D. Murshid Quli Khan was born in a south Indian Brahmin family, kidnapped and sold to a rich Muslim as a slave. He was converted to Islam and worded his way up by joining the Mughal army. Murshid Quli Khan's grit and determination as well as his valour, impressed Aurangzeb who finally gave him the title of Nawab of Bengal in 1706 AD. He prooved his loyalty to the Mughals and this promoted him to the rank of "Subahdar". He reigned his Subahdari till his death in 1727 AD.


After Murshid Quli Khan, his son-in-lawSuja-ud-Daulla came in reign of Bengal in 1727 AD and ruled up to 1739 AD. Like the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan this Turky origin ruler was fashionable. His mortal remains lies in Farhabag ('Garden of Pleasure') just opposite of Hazarduari Palace on the western bank of Bhagirathi.

After the death of Suja-ud-Daulla his sonSarfaraz Khan became the "Subahdar" of the three Subah's i.e. "Bangla-Bihar-Orissa" (presently West-Bengal, Bihar & Orissa , the three states of India) in 1739 AD and was called "Nawab". So actually he was the first Nawab. Owing to his inabilities, his sub-ordinateAlivardi Khan (আলীবর্দী খাঁ), the "Nawab Nazim" of Bihar defeated him on 9th April 1740 AD. in the Battle of Giriya and became the "Nawab". Thus the power was shifted from the hands of the descendants of Murshid Quli Khan, to that of Alivardi. He was a Shiite Muslim and his father Mirza Muhammad Madani was an employee of Azam Shah (আজম শাহ), the son of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. During Alivardi's rule (1740-1756A.D.) people lived a peaceful life. The Nawab had no son but three daughters namely, Ghaseti Begum, Munira Begum and Amina Begum. So, Alivardi had selected his grandsonSiraj-ud-Daulla (সিরাজ-উদ-দৌল্লা) (Amina's son) in 1756 AD. as his successor.


The period , Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulla ruled, is the most important and crucial for the history of India. The rift between the rulers of Murshidabad and the British which continued to exist from the time of Murshid Quli Khan, widened during the rule of Siraj-ud-Daulla (সিরাজ-উদ-দৌল্লা). This led to the "Battle of Plassey" পলাশীর যুদ্ধ (June 23rd,1757) where Siraj-ud-Daulla was defeated by the British with the help ofMir Jafar (মীরজাফর) and others who prooved to be traitors. With this defeat India's light of freedom emerged in dark for about 200 years and the centre of power changed to Calcutta (Now Kolkata) from Murshidabad and thus started the decline of Murshidabad. Siraj-ud-Daulla was killed in the hands of Muhammad-i-Beg, by the order of Miran মিরণ (Mir Jafar's son) and is laid with his wife, daughter and grandfather at Khosh Bagh cemetery. The later Nawabs who were mere puppets in the hands of the British and lacked the resource and power needed to enhance the beauty of Murshidabad. The prosperity of Murshidabad once compared to London, started getting poor.

Mir Jafar, brother-in-law of Nawab Alivardi became the Nawab of Bengal-Bihar-Orissa twice (1757-1760 AD and 1763-1765 AD). He was immensely luxurious and was the main brain behind the conspiracy against Siraj-ud-Daulla. He died in 17th January 1765 AD, and Miran (মিরণ), his son, succeeded him till his death in 1770 A.D. Mir Qasim, had an own mind against the British, and became the Nawab in 1765 AD. To keep safe he transferred his capital to Mongyer in Bihar, from Murshidabad. He was defeated by the British and lost his life in the battle of "Bauxer" in 1764 AD.


Amidst all these, the learned and art loving Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah হুমায়ুন জাঁ (1824 AD - 1838 AD) built the 'Hazarduariহাজার দুয়ারি (Thousand doors), the magnificent Palace. Between the Palace and the imambara is a small mosque, 'Madina', a Clock Tower built by Feradun Jah and a large cannon, called Bacchawali Tope (বাচ্চাওয়ালি তোপ) belonging to 12 - 14th century AD. Another interesting cannon known as Jahan Kosha জাহান কোষা (winner of the world) made by Janardan Karmakar during the reign of Shah Jahan in 1637 AD, is now resting at a short distance from the Katra Mosque.

The British left India in 1947 A.D. but Murshidabad continued to remain in the hands of the descendants of the Nawabs till 1969 (Nawab Waresh Ali, the last Nawab of Murshidabad) when the Government finally took its possession. After Mir Qasim, from 1765 A.D. in which year the British gained the "Dewani of Bangla, Bihar, Orissa" the status of the Nawabs of Bengal started detoriating.

The British Government in 1933 AD, entrusted the Board of Revenue for proper maintenance of all antiquarian remains. in 1963, the Government of West-Bengal formed a Board of Trustees of Murshidabad Estate under the Judicial Department in 1980, it was again transferred to the Publicity and Information department, Government of West Bengal under the provision of Murshidabad Estate (Management and Properties) and Management Bill. Ultimately, in November 1985, the Palace was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India which besides maintaining the old grandeur of the Palace, has established a Museum, one of the greatest of its kind, for the public to have glimpses of its glorious past.

A quiet town on the banks of the Bhagirathi river, Murshidabad has stood witness to events that ultimately changed the course of Indian History. The Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulla lost the Battle of Plassey against Lord Clive (রবার্ট ক্লাইভ), the architect of the British Empire in India and gradually the power passed on to the hands of the British. Then Murshidabad was also a flourishing trading town between inland India and the port of Calcutta.

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Natural Division

Murshidabad was situated on what was known as the island of Cossimbazar (কাশিম বাজার), bounded by the Padma on the north, the Bhagirathi on the west and the south, and the Jalangi on the east. The soil of this delta is soft as compared with that of the country lying to the west of the Bhagirathi, which is hard. The Bhagirathi is said to represent the old channel of the Ganges, which latterly took an easterly course and formed what is now known as the Padma, a change which cut off the principal cities in Lower Bengal, reducing the river, which was the great trade route, through which the treasures of the country found their way to European marts, to a pretty stream, barred here and there by sand banks. Near about Murshidabad, that is between it and Saidabad, the river was indeed circuitous. Towards the commencement of the last century, it left its old bed and from near Amaniganj, made a straight cut towards the south-west, leaving Cossimbazar, Kalkapur and Farrashdanga, on the left or east bank. a change which contributed to the downfall of those three European factories. The abandoned bed, which became a hotbed of malaria, is traceable in the swamps now known as the Moti Jheel (মতি ঝিল), Bansbari Jheel (বাঁশবাড়ি ঝিল), Bisnupur Beel (বিষ্ণুপুর বিল) and Kati Ganga (কাটি গঙ্গা), down the relay house at Baharamganj.

The original foundation of the city of Murshidabad (মূর্শিদাবাদ) is involved in obscurity.Joseph Teiffenthaler  says it was built during Akbar's reign. The Afghans in the course of their rebellion in 1696 AD advanced as far as Mukwsabad. It finds no mention in the Ain-E-Akbari(আইন-ই-আকবরি), though in the Akbarnama(আকবরনামা), mention is made of one Muksus Khan, brother of a Governor of Bengal, who is credited by some with the foundation of the city. Being more conveniently situated at Dacca for the collection of revenue and the supervision of trade and being protected by two natural barriers, Murshid Quli Khan, the Great Dewan of Bengal, selected it as his headquarter and embellished it, giving it its present name after his own. It is supposed to be the Madasoubazarki of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605-July 1689) mentioned in 1666 AD.Muxudavad, Mukhsusabad, Muksudabad,Moorshoodabad, Moorsheedabad, Moorsbedabad,Moorshidabad and Murshedabad are some of the forms of the name which the city has borne, while the current and authorized form is Murshidabad.

The capital extended along both banks of the river from Amaniganj or Moti Jheel to Sadeq Bagh and from Khosh Bagh to Baranagore (বড়োনগর). Breadthwise, it extended towards the east up to Topekhana and towards the west, up to Kiriteshwari. Even distant Bhagwangola has sometimes been mentioned as the northern urban limit of the capital.
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Art & Culture

Murshidabad district, or to be more precise, the Rarh and the regions adjoining the banks of the Bhagirathi, can boast of a rich cultural heritage. The Vaishnava tradition of Murshidabad begins in the 16th century with Srinivasacharya. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the Vaishnava movement was one of the powerful influences which moulded the life of the majority of the people and reaped a rich harvest in the field of literature. Krishnadas Kabiraj Goswami (কৃষ্ণদাস কবিরাজ গোস্বামী), author of "Chaitanya Charitamrita" (চৈতণ্য চরিতামৃত), was born in Jhamatpur, which is technically within the Burdwan district, but his Sripat is just within the borders of Murshidabad. Among the host of Vaishnava poets and philosophers, mention may be made of Ramchandra Kabiraj (রামচন্দ্র কবিরাজ), Gobinda Das Kabiraj (গোবিন্দ দাস কবিরাজ), Syud Martuja (সৈয়দ মর্তুজা), Narahari Das (নরহরি দাস), Jadunandan Das (যদুনন্দন দাস), Biswanath Chakraborty (বিশ্বনাথ চক্রবর্তী) etc. who have left their imperishable mark in the history of Bengali Literature.

Rani Bhavani (রানি ভবানি) of hallowed memory had a long association with Murshidabad. The temples of Baranagore, particularly the Charbangla (চারবাংলা) temple's mark the quintessence of Bengali art and architecture in the 18th century. She was a patron of Sanskrit learning and the Murshidabad district profited form her generosity. She and her husband Raja Ramkanta (রাজা রামকান্ত) granted rent-free lands and stipends to support Chatushpathis (চতুষ্পাঠী). The total amount of endowments of Rani Bhavani for the encouragement of learning in Murshidabad was from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per annum; these were resumed by the Company Raj on her death in 1795 AD. Her example influenced other Zamindars. Raja Harinath of Cossimbazar was a patron of Sanskrit learning. "There were several Chatushpathis at Cossimbazar where students flocked from other districts. The chief of the Pandits was Krishnanath Nyáyapanchánan Mahámahopádhyáy [1]. He was profoundly versed, not only in Natya Sastra, but also in Smriti. He had studied Nyáya at Nadia and was considered a first-rate Naiyayik."
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Trade & Commerce

The advent of Europeans at Cossimbazar in the 17th and 18th century produced far reaching consequences. Her silk and cotton trade attracted the Dutch, the French, the Armenians and the English who established settlements and factories. Adventurers from the Northern India flocked to seek their fortune. The hundis(হুন্ডী) of the banking house of Jagat Seth (জগৎ শেঠ); whose head office was at Murshidabad were accepted all over Northern India and even as far as Central Asia. Merchant capital thus began to accumulate and Murshidabad became the sink of the wealth of the country. Traditionally Murshidabad is famous for its Silk industries, Ivory carving, Textile Industries, Metal industries, Wood and Bamboo works, Clay models. The Bengal silk once drove all competitors, except Italian and China silks, out of English market at present had lost all their market failing to update the technology according to demand to the silk produced in other regions of India.

The Christian Missionary Society played an important role in the spread of education in Murshidabad district. As early as 1809 AD, Dr. Carey of the Baptist Mission had started sending missionaries to Murshidabad. Dr Stephen Sutton came to Murshidabad about 1818 AD, founded a School Society and raised Rs 1,500 annually through subscriptions for the maintenance of three schools with 200 pupils. One of these three schools was at Daulatganj. But the activities of the Baptist Missionary Society were short lived ant they soon retired from the district. With the arrival of Micaiah Hill and Mrs. Hill on March 8, 1824 AD, the London Missionary Society appeared on the scene and their activities have continued unabated for more than a century.

The battle of Plassey (পলাশী), the drain and plunder of the wealth of Murshidabad, the ruin of her industry and the decline of her trade and commerce, the Famine of 1770 AD, the haphazard experiments with the land revenue system in order to fleece the people, reversed the process of history and the social and cultural development of Murshidabad received a rude set back. But while the city of Murshidabad began to decline, specially after the transfer of the Sadar Nizamat Adalat (Civil Court) byLord Cornwallis to Calcutta, the relative importance of Berhampore increased as it was selected as the site for a cantonment in October 1757 AD immediately after the battle of Plassey.

Hardly a century and a half has elapsed since the days of Plassey, yet few monuments stand intact to tell the tale of Murshidabad's departed glory. It is today the great graveyard of buried greatness. The great scene of mighty revolutions is now covered with the dust of crumbling monuments. Yet these tell most eloquently, the history of Murshidabad for the eighteenth century.

History References :
  • The Musnud of Murshidabad - By Purna Ch Majumdar
  • Riyazu-s-salatin, a history of Bengal - By Ghulam Husain Salim
  • Imperial Gazetteer of India - Sir William Wilson Hunter 1840-1900
  • The History of Bengal - By J.N. Sarkar
  • Siraj-uddaula (in Bangla), Calcutta, 1304 - By A.K. Maitreya
  • The Prelude to Empire: Plassey Revolution of 1757, New Delhi, 2000 - By S Chaudhury
  • The history of British India: a chronology, 2006 - By John F. Riddick
  • Murshidabad - By Lewis Sydney Steward O'Malley (1914)
  • A history of Murshidabad District (Bengal) (1902) - By John Henry Tull
  • Ancient Indian History and Civilization - By Sailendra Nath Sen
  • [1] The title was conferred, as a personal distinction, on 24th May 1892 AD, in recognition of his eminence as a Sanskrit Scholar. It entitles him to take rank in Durbar immediately after titular Rajas. The title Nyáyapanchánan is a literary title or degree, conferred by the learned Pandits of the Sanskrit University of Navadwip or Nadiya, and refers to proficiency in the Nyáya school of logic.Back
    [ The golden book of India - By Sir Roper Lethbridge (1840-1919) ]

Page Updated : April 24, 2013 09:01 pm