Evolution of the position of the Nawab of Bengal
The decay and downfall of the Mughal Empire began in right earnest after the reign of Aurangzeb. The Peacock Throne in Delhi became a "musical chair" for the successors of Aurangzeb and fueled by court intrigues of numerous nobles the tenure between 1707 and 1719 saw no less than eight Mughal Emperors (more than the sum of the last 180 years) namely Bahadur Shah I, Jahandar Shah, Farrukh Siyar, Rafi ud-Darajat, Rafi ud-Daulah, Neku Siyar, Muhammad Ibrahim and finally some stability came in the form of Muhammad Shah in 1719.
Such instability saw the rise of three notable nobles; Saadat Ali Khan the Subahdar of Oudh, Murshid Quli Khan the Subahdar of Orissa and Nazim of Bengal and Qamar ud-din Khan (also known as Asaf Jah I) the Subahdar of Deccan.
The distinguishing factor in these three nobles were that all were decorated generals of Aurangazeb and were old timers and unlike the "newer" nobles in the Red Fort; never got actively involved in court intrigues and were always on the "right" side of the Mughal Emperor, however weak the emperor might be. In stead these three nobles concentrated in entrenching themselves in their respective territories. Gradually while Delhi became weaker Oudh, Hyderabad / Deccan and Bengal became strong and prosperous. This was the direct outcome of the resources in Delhi getting strained due to the frequent changes of Emperors in Delhi. Every Mughal Emperor henceforth became more and more dependent on the three nobles and the nobles cleverly and tactfully extracted more and more for their "loyalty" till the time they became de-facto and then the de-jure rulers or Nawabs of the territories. The final blow came in 1724, when Nizam ul-Mulk, Asaf Jah I declared himself the Nizam of Hyderabad.
Meanwhile Murshid Quli Khan was gradually consolidating his position. In 1717, he renamed his capital city from Makhsusabad to Murshidabad (after himself). The then Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar granted formal approval to this (symbolic) change of name, paving the way for Murshid Quli Khan to become the de-facto Nawab of Bengal. He however continued to "act and function" as the viceroy of the ever weakening Mughal Emperor.
There are quite a few versions of his early life. About his family and parenthood nothing is known for certain. One 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 Vazir Asad Khan. The other 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, and under the name Mirza Hadi entered the service of the Mughal Emperor as the Diwan and Faujdar of Golconda and received a Mansab or rank.
The third and most reliable version is that he was born a poor Brahmin in the Deccan, bought by Haji Shafi Isfahani, a merchant from Isfahan, converted and renamed Muhammad Hadi / Mirza Hadi. He entered the service of Haji Abdullah, Diwan of Berar, later transferring to Royal service under Emperor Aurangzeb.
Rise to Power
When Aurangzeb was looking for an honest and efficient Diwan for Bengal, his choice fell on this young man. He was transferred in 1701 to Bengal as diwan and was honoured with the title of Kartalab Khan meaning "the seeker of challenges" in Persian.
The Mirza was a sagacious (strictly Muslim) man, and an officer of honesty and integrity. He had already held the office of Diwan of the Subah of Orissa. In several Mahals pertaining to Orissa he had effected retrenchments in expenditure, and had thus become prominent amongst the Imperial officials. He was held matchless in probity and rectitude of purpose. Rendering eminent services, in periods of siege and war, he had got into the good graces of Emperor Aurangzeb. At that period, the reins of the administration of Financial and Revenue affairs, the power over the assessment and collection of revenue, and payments into and disbursements from the Imperial Treasury lay in the hands of the Diwan of the Subah. Imperial Treasury lay in the hands of the Diwan of the Subah. The Nazim had jurisdiction over the Procedure and Administration of Political affairs, such as the repression and chastisement of the refractory and the disobedient, and the extirpation of rebels and tyrants.
Imperial Treasury lay in the hands of the Diwan of the Subah. The Nazim had jurisdiction over the Procedure and Administration of Political affairs, such as the repression and chastisement of the refractory and the disobedient, and the extirpation of rebels and tyrants. Except with regard to the Jagirs attached to the Nizamat and personal Mansabs and presents, the Nazim had no power to meddle with the Imperial revenue. Both the Nazim and the Diwan
Kar Talab Khan, being appointed by Emperor to be Diwan of the Subah of Bengal, arrived at Jahangir Nagar (Dhaka). After waiting on the Prince Azim-us-Shan , (the grandson of the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb; he devoted himself to the administration of the fiscal affairs. And the remittances into, and disbursements from, the Treasury being in charge of the abovementioned Khan, the Prince's control over the income and expenditure ceased.
This led him to the path of direct conflict with Prince Azim-us-Shan wherein the Prince attempted to assassinate Kar Talab Khan, who in all humility reported the matter to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. The emperor acted quickly shifting Azim-us-Shan to Patna (which was renamed to Azimabad) and Kar Talab Khan to Makhsusabad (later known as Murshidabad). This happened in 1703. This is sometimes erroneously referred to as the transfer of the capital of the Subah Bengal from Dhaka to Murshidabad. The whole process actually took fifteen years (1703-1717). Murshidabad was the capital from 1717 to 1780.
His efficient Revenue administration and in proving his good and faithful services, the Khan became the recipient of further Imperial favours. He was appointed Deputy to the Prince in the Nizam at of the Subah of Bengal and Orissa, in addition to the office of Diwan, by the Emperor Aurangzeb. He was also given the title of Murshid Quli Khan, and further received a valuable Khilat, with a standard and a kettle-drum. His mansab was also raised.
During the reign of Aurangzeb and after it, Murshid Quli's rise was meteoric. From the Dewan of Hyderabad, Bengal (1700-1708 and 1710-1713), of Bihar, and of the Deccan (1708-1710), Naib Nazim of Bengal (1713-1717), Subahdar of Orissa (1714), and Nazim of Bengal (1717). Removed his headqaurters from Dacca (Jahangir Nagar / Dhaka) to Makhsusabad in 1703, and renamed it Murshidabad in 1717. The then Mughal Emperor, Farrukh Siyar granted formal approval to this (symbollic) change of name and from then on Murshid Quli Khan became the de-facto Nawab of Bengal. He celebrated this by opening a mint in Murshidabad and introduced the Zurbe Murshedabad coin.
Murshid Quli never formally severed his links to the Mughals and continued to send annual tribute to Delhi. Although he laid the foundation of a well-run and economically viable state, it was his successor who made the rupture with Delhi.
Post 1717, Mushid Quli set about resolving matters of state, with an "iron fist", very aggressively most of the times and with an undue heavy hand on others. As an administrative decision, Midnapore was separated from Orissa and annexed to the Subah of Bengal.
On matters of Revenue Collection Murshid Quli was absolutely non-compromising to the extent of being ruthless. Hindu Zamindars especially suffered under his rule and were terrorized by the Nawab and his 'Amils' (Collectors of Revenue). In aggressively collecting revenue, both current and arrears he put a complete stop to the authority of Zamindars over the collection and disbursement of the Imperial Revenue, he limited their source of income to profits of Nankar (tax-free lands give in consideration for services rendered) tenures. Accordingly a new Revenue Roll (some say a "Perfect Roll" before the Permanent Settlement of Bengal) was drawn up.
Land and Agrarian Reforms
On matters of Land Reforms, the Amils (Collectors of Revenue) under his orders, sent Shiqdars and Amins to every village of the Parganas, measured the cultivated and waste-lands, and leased them back to tenants, plot by plot, and advanced agricultural loans (Taqavi) to the poorer tenantry, and put forth exertions for increase in the produce of the lands. Thus Murshid Quli affected not only increase in revenue, but also increase in their 'areas'.
He ensured that a part of the revenues were remitted to the Imperial Treasury in Delhi. Till the time of Aurangzeb the entirety was remitted to Delhi but post 1717 this remittance was limited to the annual tribute or nazrana.
His administration was so vigorous and successful that there was neither foreign incursion nor internal disturbance, and consequently the military expenditure was nearly abolished.
Cruelty Aspect in Administration
In this matter it is important to note that various records have suggested his extreme harsh treatment towards affluent Hindus in general and Zamindars in particular. There are records (in Riyaz us-Salatin) of his torture (to death??) of the Zamindar of Bishnupur for collection of revenue arrears.
His Diwan for sometime, Syed Razi Khan was especially known to be a bigot and short-tempered man (read: Riyaz us-Salatin), and in collection of dues was extremely strict, and by adopting harsh measures collected the revenue. It is said he prepared a reservoir full of filth (human excreta??), and he sneeringly named this reservoir 'Baikunth' (on Vaikunta the Hindu name for Paradise / the Muslim equivalent of Jannat). He used to thrust into this reservoir the defaulting Zamindars and defaulting Amils (Collectors of Revenue). After torturing them in various ways, and making them undergo various privations, he used to collect in entirety the arrears.
Legend (local word of mouth without documented support) also has it that Murshid Quli tore down eighteen Hindu temples to construct Katra Masjid, the mosque which was later to be his mausoleum. (More details follow in the Trivia section). Murshid Quli was in the service of the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb for quite some time and a big reason for his treatment of his Hindu subjects could be attributed to the influence of the policies of the former. It is also said that he adopted a moderate path on the last year of his rule. There are however no records suggesting repression towards the poor, be it Hindu or Muslim. It is also notable that there were quite a few important Hindu officers in the Revenue Administration of Murshid Quli Khan.
It is important to note that most of these (so-called) bigot and harsh practices were immediately discontinued by Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, on his ascent to the position of Nawab. Shuja was a practical man who had the experience and vision to adopt an inclusive policy towards the antagonized affluent Hindus.
Murshid Quli Khan was very powerful as a personality and his commands were so overawing, that his peons sufficed to keep peace in the country, and to overawe the refractory. And fear of his personality was so deeply impressed on the hearts of all, both the high and the low, that the courage of lion-hearted persons quailed in his presence. The Khan did not allow petty Zamindars access to his presence. The "Mutsadis" and "Amils" and leading Zamindars had not the heart to sit down in his presence; on the contrary, they remained standing breathless like statues. Hindu Zamindars were forbidden to ride on Palkis. The Mutasadis, in his presence, did not ride on horseback ; whilst the Mansabdars attended at state functions in their military uniforms. In his presence one could not salute another; and if anything opposed to etiquette occurred on the part of anyone, he was immediately censured. Every week he held court on two days to listen to complaints, and used to mete out justice to the complainants. Amongst his deeds of justice, it may be mentioned, that to avenge the wrong done to another, obeying the sacred Islamic law, he executed his own son. In administration of justice, in administration of the political affairs of the country, and in maintenance of the respect due to the Mughal Emperor, he spared no one. Murshid Quli Khan's uprightness in administration of justice (regardless of all family ties of attachment) is remarkable.
In brief Murshid Quli was no better or no worse than quite a few Muslim Rulers who set up kingdoms in India but most certainly he enhanced the material prosperity of Bengal in terms of Revenue.
Death and Succession
Katra Masjid (mosque), Murshidabad: Murshid Quli Khan lies buried under the stairs of this Mosque This content has an uncertain copyright status and is pending deletion. You can comment on its removal.
Murshid Quli Khan passed died in 1139 A.H. (30 June, 1727), (according to Riyaz-us-Salatin by Ghulam Hussein Salim). However some sources like the Encyclopaedia Britannica suggest that the year was 1726.
In absence of a direct heir he nominated his maternal grandson Sarfaraz Khan to succeed him. It is highly likely that Sarfaraz Khan ascended to the Masnad as Nawab Nazim before abdicating in favour of his father Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan. On hearing of Sarfaraz's accession to the Masnad, his fatherShuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, the Dewan Nazim of Orissa, marched at the head of a large army towards Murshidabad. To avoid a conflict in the family, the dowager Begum of Murshid Quli Khan intervened; and her son-in-law Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan ascended to the masnad of Bengal.
By the end of 1727, Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan was firmly established as the Nawab of Bengal.
Murshid Quli Khan lies buried below the steps of Katra Masjid (mosque) in Murshidabad. He laid the foundation of the Nasiri Dynasty which would last for another thirteen years.
Katra Masjid (mosque), Murshidabad: The dome of this mosque was destroyed by lightning and earthquake This content has an uncertain copyright status and is pending deletion. You can comment on its removal.
It would be interesting to know a few things (trivia) on Murshid Quli Khan and his times.
1. The British East India Company, like the French, Dutch and Danes had the simple status of Zamindar or Bania (trader) during his rule. Things changed rapidly in the next two decades.
2. Murshid Quli Khan was a pious Muslim and it is believed that while on his death-bed, he deeply regretted the excesses committed by him. Accordingly his death wish was that he be buried under the stairs of the mausoleum 'Katra Masjid' he had constructed for himself in 1723. The hope was that the dust from the feet of worshippers would cleanse his sin and give him eternal peace.
3. It is believed that Murshid Quli tore down eighteen Hindu temples to construct the 'Katra Masjid', in 1723. The mosque which was later to be his mausoleum in 1727. Ironically it's domes and a large part of the mausoleum were struck down by lightning within years of his passing away. The remaining part was destroyed by an earthquake in 1897. The other ironic part is that the remaining part used for 'Namaaz' remained 'strongly' intact (unlike other contemporary buildings / structures) and is in use today. It is now one of the two sets of mausoleums in Murshidabad "protected" by the Government of India. The other being Khoshbag, the final resting place of Alivardi Khan and his grandson, Siraj-ud-Daulah.
4. It is believed that during the rule of Murshid Quli, rice sold at five "maunds" to the "rupiyah" or rupee and a man making a rupee a month could have had two full meals for his family with "pulao" and "kalia"; the former a Bengali rice delicacy and the latter a river fish delicacy.
5. Murshid Quli Khan is also known as "Jaffer Khan, Zinda Peer" or the "Living Saint". It is believed that cholera (common in Bengal till recently) never breaks out in the vicinity of this sacred building through its blessings and benedictions.
In absence of a direct heir, Murshid Quli KhanSarfaraz Khan to the Masnad of Bengal. Murshid Quli Khan passed away in 1727 and Sarfaraz Khan was to (had he??) ascended to the Masnad as Nawab Nazim. nominated his maternal grandson
Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan
Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan was the second Nawab of Bengal. He married Zainab un-nisa Begum, the daughter of Murshid Quli Khan and after the death of his father-in-law in June 30, 1727, he became the Nawab Nazim (Governor) of Bengal Subah (which became hereditary with his ascent to the throne).
Born at Burhanpur, Deccan, as Mirza Shuja ud-din Muhammad Khan (Mirza Deccani), son of Nawab Jan Muhammad Khan (Mirza Nur ud-din Muhammad), he was appointed Subahdar of Orissa 1719. Appointed as Nazim of Bengal and Orissa, July 1727. Subahdar of Bihar 1731. The title of Subahdar was bestowed by the Mughal Emperor of Delhi
Rise to power
Shuja ud-din Muhammad Khan was the 'Subahdar' of Orissa with 'Alivardi Khan' as his Naib (Deputy). Murshid Quli was not generally pleased of the inclusive and people friendly policies of Shuja.Alivardi Khan and his brother Haji Ahmed convinced Shuja that merit should be the deciding guideline for the position of Nawab and that Shuja was more than suitable for this position. With support from Alivardi and Haji he made preparations for a take over. He sent deputations (over the head of Murshid Quli) to the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah and his Vazir, Khan Dauran in Delhi to accord formal permission and request for support. All his trustees save Alivardi were asked to resign from their duties and take up 'positions' in Murshidabad if the need may arise. Alivardi was to be in stand-by with him. Accordingly when Sarfaraz Khan was announced heir, Shuja was disturbed at the idea of being in the employment of his son.
Shuja was stationed at Katak (Cuttack) and in preparation for action crossed the river Mahanadi. On hearing that Murshid Quli had but a few days to leave he secretly started his march. Three days into the march he heard of Murshid Quli's death. He doubled speed and reached Murshidabad in another three days and enthroned himself as the Nawab. In the interim a formal approval from Vazir Khan Dauran in Delhi had arrived and the Mughal Emperor had supported his cause.
The speed of Shuja took Sarfaraz Khan by surprise. In the interim Alivardi had arrived with an army in support of Shuja. Sarfaraz might have decided to contest however to avoid a conflict in the family, the Dowager Begum of Murshid Quli Khan intervened, Sarfaraz Khan in favour of his father, Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, and her son-in-law Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan ascended to the Masnad of Bengal.
It is certain that by August, 1727 Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan was firmly established as the Nawab of Bengal.
As a sign of gratitude for supporting him, he sent a huge amount of money from his revenue collection to the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah and in return received the title of "Mutaman-ul-Mulk Shuja-ud-Daula Asad Jang". He also received the personal Mansab of a Haft Hazari, with seven thousand troopers, besides a fringed Palki, together with the insignia of the Mahi Order, and a Khilat consistiug of six pieces of robes, precious stones, a jewel-mounted sword, and a Royal elephant with a horse. He was further confirmed in the office of Nazim of Bengal.
Shuja ud-Din was known to be brave, liberal and generous. The only factor that went against him in terms of having a long rule, was his age.
The Siyar-ul-Mutakherin mentions that with regard to private disputes between man and man, he trusted no one ; but sending for the parties, he would listen patiently and leisurely to the story of each, and with much judgment drew his conclusion, and pronouncing the decree, caused it to be executed with punctuality. Constantly animated by a scrupulous regard for justice, and always inspired by fear of God, he uprooted from his realm the foundations of oppressions and tyrannies.
It is important to note here that Shuja detested the high handed policies of Murshid Quli Khan and had them reversed (in totality) immediately. His detest was so extreme that he went to the extent of auctioning the household goods of Murshid Quli Khan to his arch enemies, the Hindu Zamindars. By this act he raised four million rupees. He had Nazir Ahmad and Murad Farrash, the employes of Murshid Quli Khan, who were notorious for their highhandedness, were executed and he confiscated their effects. He tore down most of the buildings cunstructed by Murshid Quli and had newer and bigger constructions done in their place. He allowed the growth and prosperity of his subordinates who respected and gave him fullest loyal services in return. Unlike Murshid Quli, he was not feared and never extracted loyalty but rather commanded the sam
Re-alignment of Administrative Districts
In 1733, he merged Bihar Subah with Bengal and divided the merged territory into four administrative divisions: (a) Central division consisting of west Bengal, north Bengal and central Bengal; (b) Dhaka division consisting of east and south Bengal, a small portion of north Bengal and the districts of Sylhet and Chittagong (c) Bihar and (d) Orissa.
The Central division was administered directly by the Nawab who was assisted by a council of advisers. Other divisions were placed in charge of a Naib Nazim or Naib Subahdar.
He made the following changes in the administrative positions:
1. Elder son, Sarfaraz Khan: Nazim (Dewan) of the Subah of Bengal
2. Younger son, Muhammad Taqi : Naib (Deputy) Subahdar of Orissa
3. Younger son-in-law, Mirza Lutfullah: Naib (Deputy) Nazim of Dacca
4. Haji Ahmed (brother of Alivardi Khan): Chief Counsellor
5. Nawazish Muhammad Khan: Mir Bakshi (Paymaster General)
6. Syed Ahmed Khan: Faujdar of Rangpur
7. Zain ud-Deen Ahmed Khan: Faujdar of Rajmahal (Akbar Nagar)
8. Pir Khan: Faujdar of Hooghly
By the end of his reign major re-allignments in positions had to be affected. They were very important in context of the times to come.
1. Alivardi Khan: Naib Subahdar of Azimabad (Patna / Bihar)
2. Elder son, Sarfaraz Khan: Naib (Deputy) Subahdar of Dacca
3. Younger son-in-law, Mirza Lutfullah: Naib (Deputy) Subahdar of Orissa
Revenue Releif and Settlement
Re-settlement of Deprived Hindu Zamindars
The Siyar-ul-Mutakherin also mentions that his equity was no less conspicuous towards the Zamindars and other landholders of Bengal. These persons, under Murshid Quli's administration (see: Murshid Quli Khan), had been mostly kept in confinement, and tormented in such a variety of ways, that it would be a pity to spend paper and ink in describing them. Shuja after having firmly established his government, released such of the Zamindars and other landholders as he found on enquiry free from crime or fraud ; as to the others, he ordered them to be all brought into his presence, and to form a circle round his person. This being done, he asked them, how they would behave in future, should he release them. These poor people, who had been for years languishing in dungeons, surprised at this address, burst forth into encomiums on his goodness, and after supplicating heaven to grant him a long and prosperous government, promised that henceforward they would pay the revenue with punctuality, and would prove obedient and dutiful servants. Engagements in their own handwriting, authenticated by the proper formalities, being taken from them, they confirmed them by the most solemn oaths. Shujah now sent for a number of rich dresses for each, according to his respective rank and station, so that there was not one in that assembly who did not receive a suitable present. This ceremony being over they were all released, with injunctions to transmit henceforward the revenue through the house of Jagat Seth, Fateh Chand.
By this stroke of policy, over and above the profits of 'Jagirs' and fees on ware-houses and factories, he easily raised one crore and fifty lakhs (fifteen million) of rupees, which he remitted to the Imperial Treasury through the Banking Agency of Jagat Seth Fatih Chand. By selling off at fancy prices to Zamindars the jaded horses, cattle, and other live-stock, as well as damaged carpets and curtains belonging to the private estate of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, he sent another forty lakhs (four million) of rupees, besides elephants, to Emperor Muhammad Shah. And after the Abstract Balance Sheet of the Annual Accounts was prepared, he remitted to the Imperial Capital the stipulated annual tribute of the Nizamat, besides the Imperial Revenue, according to the established
Prosperity and Public Welfare
Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, inherited (from Murshid Quli Khan) a treasury which was full. He enhanced it further and spent liberally on public welfare.
He surpassed his predecessors in office in paraphernalia of royalty and armaments, and though his prime of life had passed, he did not scorn life's pleasures. Dismantling the public buildings erected by Murshid Quli Khan, as they seemed too small according to his lofty ideals, he built instead a grand and spacious Palace, an Arsenal, a lofty Gateway, a Revenue Court, a Public Audience-Hall, a Private Office, a Boudoir for Ladies, a Reception-Hall, a Court of Exchequer and a Court of Justice.
He lived in magnificent splendour, and used to ride out in right regal state. He attended constantly to the well-being of his Army, and to the happiness of his subjects. On his officers, he lavished largesses amounting to no less than one thousand or five hundred rupees in each case.
Nazir Ahmad (an official of Murshid Quli) had laid the foundation of a Mosque with a garden on the banks of the river Bhagirathi. Shuja, after executing him, finished the mosque and garden, and named them after himself. He tastefully embellished the garden by building therein grand palaces with reservoirs, canals and numerous fountains. It was a splendid garden, compared with which the spring-houses of Kashmir paled like withering autumn-gardens ; nay, the garden of Iram itself seemed to draw its inspiration of freshness and sweetness from it. Shuja ud-Din used frequently to resort for promenades and picnics to that paradise-like garden, and held there pleasure-parties and other entertainments. Every year in that beautiful garden, he used to give a State Banquet to the educated section of his State Officers.
Rise of Powerful Advisors
This period saw the rise of important state officials like:
* Alivardi Khan who was the Naib Nazim of Azimabad (once annexed to Bengal)
* Haji Ahmed (brother of Alivardi Khan) who was the Chief Counsellor to the Nizamat
* Rai Alam Chand who became Diwan of Bengal (was given the tille of Ray-Rayan)
* Jagat Seth, Fateh Chand became the Banker to the Nawab
Their power came from the fact that the Nawab trusted them and mostly left them unsupervized concentrating on matters of his please. These aides turned out to be very able, efficient and loyal and executed their responsibilities to the satisfaction of the Nawab. The experience would come in good stead as they would play a very active role in the future of Bengal for the next two to three decades. Shuja trusted and rewarded their loyalty but was wise enough to keep their ambitions under a check through proper balances. He was largely unsuccessful and this his successor Sarfaraz Khan would experience in 1740.
|< Prev||Next >|