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Murshidabad district,West Bengal

Murshidabad district is a district of West Bengal, in eastern India. Situated on the left bank of the river Ganges, the district is very fertile. Covering an area of 5,341 km² (2,062 sq mi) and having a population 5.863m (according to 2001 census), it is a densely populated district[2] and the ninth most populous in India (out of 640). Baharampur town is the headquarters of the district.

The Murshidabad city, which lends its name to the district, was the seat of power of the Nawabs of Bangla. All of Bengal was once governed from this town. A few years after Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula lost to the British at the Battle of Plassey, the capital of Bengal was moved to the newly founded city of Calcutta.

It borders West Bengal’s Malda district to the north, Jharkhand’s Sahebganj district and Pakur district to the north-west, Birbhum to the west, Bardhaman to the south-west and Nadia district due south. The international border with Bangladesh Rajshahi Division is on the east.

History
Prehistory

The capital city of Shashanka, the great king of Gauda (comprising most of Bengal) in the seventh century AD and perhaps that of Mahipala, one of the later Pala kings of Bengal, were in this district. The earliest evidences of the history of the district date back to the pre-historic days, perhaps as early as circa 1500 BCE.

18th century

The district got its present name in the early eighteenth century and its present shape in the later half of the eighteenth century. Murshidabad town, which lends its name to the district, derived its name from its founder, Murshid Quli Khan. Travellers marveled at its glory through the ages. The city, lying just east of the Bhagirathi River, is an agricultural trade and silk-weaving centre. Originally called Makhsudabad, it was reputedly founded by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century.Kartalab Khan was appointed as Diwan of Bengal Subah in 1701 CE by Aurangzeb. He shifted his office from Dacca (present day Dhaka) to Maksudabad in 1702 CE. In 1703 CE, Aurangzeb honoured him with the title of Murshid Quli Khan and granted the permission to rename the town as Murshidabad in 1704 CE after his newly acquired title.

In 1704 the nawab Murshid Quli Khan changed the seat of government from Dacca to Maksudabad, which he called after his own name. The Nawab Murshid Quli Khan made Murshidabad the capital city of Sube Bangla, comprising Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. The family of Jagat Seth maintained their position as state bankers at Murshidabad from generation to generation. The East India Company reigned from here for many years after the Battle of Plassey.

Warren Hastings removed the supreme civil and criminal courts to Calcutta in 1772, but in 1775 the latter court was brought back to Murshidabad again. In 1790, under Lord Cornwallis, the entire revenue and judicial staffs were fixed at Calcutta. The town is still the residence of the nawab, who ranks as the first nobleman of the province with the style of Nawab Bbahadur of Murshidabad, instead of Nawab Nazim of Bengal. The Murshidabad palace, dating from 1837, is a magnificent building in Italian style. The city still bears memories of Nawabs with other palaces, mosques, tombs, and gardens, and retains such industries as carving in ivory, gold and silver embroidery, and silk-weaving. An educational institution is named after Nawab family.

Modern era

The first wave of movements for freedom from the rule of company was led by the Ulema until the middle and late 19th century. In the 19th century the nature of the struggle changed, and all communities joined forces for Independence from British rule.

Like other areas of Bengal Murshidabad also made its contribution to the freedom struggle of India. The Murshidabad District Committee of the Indian National Congress was formed in 1921. Brajabhushan Gupta was its first President. The students participated in movements like the Boycott of Foreign Goods and had links with the revolutionaries. In the Krishnanath College of Berhampore revolutionaries like Surya Sen and Niranjan Sen spent their college days. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Kazi Nazrul Islam spent some of their prison days. Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Rajendraprasad, C. R. Das and Netaji had also visited the district of Murshidabad during the freedom struggle days.

The efforts of Nawab Wasif Ali Mirza in forming the Hindu Muslim Unity Association in 1937 were also noteworthy. In 1943 a conference of the Association in Kolkata was arranged, at the request of Fazlul Haque. In 1940, the Revolutionary Socialist Party was formed by Tridib Choudhury in the district. The presence of the Quit India movement was also felt here.

India became independent on 15 August 1947, after being bifurcated into two nations, viz., India and Pakistan. Murshidabad, on the basis of the fact that Muslims were a majority, was part of (East) Pakistan for two days. Then it became part of India on the basis of the final award of the Radcliffe Commission

Tourism
The district, especially Murshidabad town is very important in Bengal’s history. The place draws a good number of tourists every year.
The Hazarduari Palace

The Hazarduari Palace, or the palace with a thousand doors is the chief tourist attraction of Murshidabad. This three-storey palace was built in 1837 by Duncan McLeod for the Nawab Najim Humaun Jah, descendent of Mir Zafar. It has thousand doors (among which only 100 are real) and 114 rooms and 8 galleries, built in European architectural style. The total area of Hazarduari Palace is 41 acres (170,000 m2). It is now a museum and has a collection of armoury, splendid paintings, exhaustive portraits of the Nawabs, various works of art including beautiful works of ivory (Murshidabad school) of China (European) and many other valuables. The Armoury has 2700 arms in its collections of which only few are displayed. Swords used by Shiraj-ud-Daulla and his grandfather, Nawab Alivardi Khan, can be seen here. The other attractions in this floor are Vintage Cars and Fittan Cars used by the Nawabs and their families.

Madina

Between the palace and the Imambara is a small mosque, ‘Madina’, with colourful tiled verandahs. The Mosque has an ornamented replica of Hazrat Muhammad (SM)’s tomb at Madina.

Wasef Manzil and other buildings and sites

Around the palace are other attractions like the Wasef Manzil (the New Palace) by the bank of the Ganges, Tripolia Gate, the Dakshin Darwaza, the Chak Darwaza, the Imambara, the Gharighar (the Clock Tower), the Bachchawali Tope (a canon) and the Madina, the only surviving structure built by Siraj-ud-Doula. The Bachchawali Tope (canon) was made between the 12th and the 14th century, probably by the Muslim rulers of Gaur, and required about 18 kg of gunpowder for a single shelling.

The Royal Library

The library containing rare collections is not accessible to the public unless special permission is obtained. The building, rectangular on plan (424 feet Long and 200 feet (61 m) broad and 80 feet (24 m) high). The Palace was used for holding the “Durbar” or meetings and other official work of the Nawabs and also as the residence of the high ranking British Officials.

Festivals

Durga Puja, a five-day-long puja is the most important festival of the Hindus. Other pujas like Diwali, Kali puja, and Saraswati Puja are also celebrated here. Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha (Bakri-eid, locally), Ashura are prominent Muslim festivities in this district.

Notable personalities
Literature

  • Nirupama Devi
  • Moniruddin Khan
  • Mahasweta Devi
  • Syed Mustafa Siraj
  • Manish Ghatak
  • Nabarun Bhattacharya
  • Ramendra Sundar Tribedi
  • Paban Das Baul