Decoding Bengal Subah ( Day 1)
Murshidabad… once known as the ‘Island of Cossimbazar’ , bounded by the river Padma on the north, Bhagirathi on the west and the south, and the Jalangi on the east, was the capital of independent Bengal in the 17th century. 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.
Like most of you out there, I hated History as a subject in school! But Historical places and antiques have always been my weakness and its a shame that I never knew this little place so near to my home had so much to offer! When we decided a road trip to Murshidabad in this burning heat I was not really sure I wanted to go. But I am glad I went. It was definitely not the best time to go in terms of weather but this summer heat had its advantages. There was hardly any tourist and I could afford to eat the head of the guide with my never-ending questions and he had the time to answer them. 😀 And I discovered Bengal shares to a very large extent in the historical traditions of Northern India.
While the first half of eighteenth century was the history of the progress of the Islam rule in Bengal , the later half was its decline and the rise of British power in that province. 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 ‘Muhammad Hadi’ by Aurangzeb in 1700 A.D. and he transferred his capital from ‘Decca’ to ‘Mukhshudabad’ . Muhammad Hadi was given the name of Murshid Quli Khan by Aurangzeb and Mukshudabad became Murshidabad… being named after Bengal’s first Nawab! Murshid Quli Khan was born a hindu brahmin and sold due to poverty to a Persian merchant who converted him to Islam. Who knew the first Nawab of Bengal would be a converted muslim, in whose veins ran Brahmin blood!
I sat in awe listening to him… he just had the answer to every tiny question I had! He gave me every possible detail I could ask for…even the dates! History of Murshidabad was his bread and butter but for me, he was one patient soul for my hunger to know more.A brilliant guide and a wonderful person.
This place had so much to offer… “the last nawab of the golden era ruled here.” History stupefies you – the glitter.. the gold.. the love.. the hate.. the friendship.. the politics.. the trust.. the betrayal – everything and yet so mysterious! My journey of this place was one of a kind.
The Road Trip
I am from a tiny little place in the outskirts of Kolkata , named Tamluk. And our road trip started from here. We started from our place at around 9am and we had plans to have our lunch at Mayapur, Iskon. And by 1:30 we were inside the temple campus having ‘prasadam’. We planned to stay back for the night and explore the beautiful campus and attend a puja. Next morning by 10am we were all set to leave for Murshidabad and hopefully we would reach there by lunch time.
From Tamluk we had taken the route towards Mayapur as follows –
(Distance – 214kms) :- Tamluk – Dankuni – Saptagram – Khamargachhi – Kalna – Nawadip – Mayapur
The road condition was good though it was single lane from Dankuni but you can easily cruise at a speed of 80 kms/hr.
The route taken from Mayapur to Murshidabad is as follows –
(Distance – 100kms) :- Mayapur – Plassey(via NH12) – Behrampur – Murshidabad
The road condition was good here too and NH 12 was a mixture of single and double lanes but we reached on time for lunch.
Plassey… does it ring a bell?! Yes… our history book… Battle of Plassey! When we were passing this place I did not want to let go the chance of visiting the spot where one of the most important battle of Indian history was fought. The battle where our mother land lost its independence to the British.
I was kinda disappointed. I imagined this place to be better restored for its immense historical importance, but it wasn’t.
We entered Murshidabad at around 1:30 pm and we were on a 2 days trip. As time was less I wanted to make the most of it. I skipped lunch and decided and seeing the Hazarduari( Thousand doors) palace.
Hazar duari palace
Definitely this place happens to be the main attraction of Murshidabad trip and you will not be disappointed. Unlike what I thought hazar duari has nothing to do with the last nawab of bengal, Siraj ud dulla.
Hazar duari was built 72 years after the death of the last independent nawab of bengal. It was founded by Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah and Col Mc leod Dunkan was the architect of this palace. The building is surmounted by a dome in the central part and is rectangular. This building has 50 halls, corridors, verandahs and porticos that cover an area of 127*62*27 metre. No cement was used to build this beautiful architecture… and still it stands strong mesmerizing u!
The guides are not allowed inside and photography was not allowed. So, I took my time reading any tiny detail I found written on the walls in the palace.
The entrance , there lies a huge cannon that was presented to Nawab Ali verdi Khan by the Dutch Govt for his help in the battle of plassey. As we walk ahead we enter the arms gallery. There lies a huge stuffed crocodile which is supposed to have been 13ft long and 6ft girth when it was shot by Nawab Humayun Jah.
The HazaarDuwari building, finished in 1837 has 100 real doors and 900 false doors. The false doors had a purpose. The lowest floor of the palace was a court. Anyone failing to pay taxes was tortured there. If he could manage to escape, he found it tough finding the right door through which he could escape.
I can go on and on about every little detail about Hazar duari … I loved this place so much that I wrote down every detail about it! But I don’t want to bore you guys 😀 but I would tell you few striking stuffs I found inside this iconic architecture because I did not find many people knowing about it.
When you enter the Prince Galary do notice ‘the painting of Prince Hasan Ali and Hussain Ali Mirza’. This painting is known as the ghost painting and it does send chills down your spine. Look into the eyes of the painting and walk by.. you will notice not only does their eyes follow you but their feet too rotates towards your side. Which was kind of creepy and at the same time you cant help but drool about the painter’s skill.
The Durbar has a beautiful chandelier which was gifted by Queen Victoria to Nawab Nizam Feradun Jah. This priceless and unique crystal chandelier of exquisite workmanship, is fitted in brass frame and has 95 lamps.
Night view of the Hazar duari
Just bang opposite Hazar Duari, inside the Hazar duari complex lies the Nizamat Imambara , Clock tower and the Madina mosque.
The foundation stone of this beautiful Imambara was laid by Siraj ud Dulla , the last independent nawab of bengal. It remains open for 10 days in a year during Muharram , for the people of every religion to visit. And is supposedly one of the biggest in the country.
The Madina mosque has the soil of the Haz – Extremely sacred to the Muslims, brought by Siraj Ou’Dulla’s mother after he became the nawab of Bengal.
Just Beside the old Madina, there is a canon. Popularly known as “Bacchewali Tope”, this canon was test-fired only once. The result was not a good one as it let to the miscarriage of several pregnant women within 10 km of the vicinity.
By the time I finished exploring the Hazar Duari complex and my never ending questions ended … it was time to end the day. Though was tired from the awful heat and sweating I was more than excited for the next day!