Murshidabad is a town in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, a distributary of the Ganges River. It forms part of the Murshidabad district.
The District of Murshidabad has an area of 5,550 square kilometres. It is divided into two nearly equal portions by the Bhagirathi, the ancient channel of the Ganges. The tract to the west, known as the Rarh, consists of hard clay and nodular limestone. The general level is high, but interspersed with marshes and seamed by hill torrents. The Bagri or eastern half belongs to alluvial plains of eastern Bengal. There are few permanent swamps; but the whole country is low-lying, and liable to annual inundation. In the north-west are a few small detached hillocks, said to be of basaltic formation.
During the 18th-century, Murshidabad was a prosperous city. It was the capital of the Bengal Subah in the Mughal Empire for seventy years, with a jurisdiction covering modern-day Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It was the seat of the hereditary Nawab of Bengal and the state’s treasury, revenue office and judiciary. Bengal was the richest Mughal province. Murshidabad was a cosmopolitan city. Its population peaked at 700,000 in the 1750s. It was home to wealthy banking and merchant families from different parts of the Indian subcontinent and wider Eurasia, including the Jagat Seth and Armenians.
European companies, including the British East India Company, the French East India Company, the Dutch East India Company and the Danish East India Company, conducted business and operated factories around the city. Silk was a major product of Murshidabad. The city was also a center of art and culture, including for ivory sculptors, Hindustani classical music and the Murshidabad style of Mughal painting.
The city’s decline began with the defeat of the last independent Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daulah at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The Nawab was demoted to the status of a zamindar known as the Nawab of Murshidabad. The British shifted the treasury, courts and revenue office to Calcutta. In the 19th century, the population was estimated to be 46,000. Murshidabad became a district headquarters of the Bengal Presidency. It was declared as a municipality in 1869.
How to go?
Murshidabad is well connected to the rest of India by rail & road. Regular rail, as well as bus services, ply to and fro Murshidabad junction, well connected by several passenger and express trains. There are no direct buses for Murshidabad; you need to break your journey at Malda for a taxi to the same. There is no direct flight connectivity for Murshidabad. The nearest airport is the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata.
Main attraction – Hazarduari Palace
As the name suggests, Hazarduari is a palace with thousand doors. The palace was built in the nineteenth century during the reign of Nawab Nizam Humayun Jah who ruled Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. The architect of this masterpiece was Duncan Macleod.
What makes the palace unique?
It is not just the number of the doors that make the palace different from the rest, it is interesting to know that out of these thousand doors, only 100 of them were real doors, and the rest 900 were fake ones. You may wonder what the mystery behind the fake doors is. Well, the doors were built this way to protect the palace from predators. The idea was to confuse the attackers who attack the palace and try to escape, giving the Nawab’s guards enough time to catch them.
The palace enclosure is known as Nizamat Kila or Kila Nizamat. Apart from this stunning structure, the palace complex also has Nizamat Imambara (a Muslim congregation hall), Wasif Manzil, Bacchawali Tope, Nawab Bahadur’s institution and three mosques that include the Madina mosque. Built just 40ft away from the banks of Bhagirathi River, the foundation of the palace was laid very deep, so the structure stays strong. The grand staircase to the palace and the Indo-European architectural style are other highlights of this magnificent structure. The palace was used as a venue for royal meetings and official discussions between the British and the Nawabs, and also as a residence for high-ranking British officials. However, today the palace is a museum that preserves the precious collection of the Nawabs that include furniture, paintings and antique pieces.
The palace museum is today the biggest site museum managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The antiquities of the palace museum include the belongings of the royal family, which include a stunning chandelier of the Durbar hall which is the world’s second largest chandelier in the world, the first being one in the Buckingham Palace. This chandelier was gifted to the Nawab by Queen Victoria. The museum galleries include Armoury wings, Royal Exhibits, Landscape Gallery, British Portrait Gallery, Nawab Nazim Gallery, Durbar Hall, Committee Room, Billboards Room, Western Drawing room and Religious Objects’ Gallery to name a few. The palace is located at Murshidabad at West Bengal, and here’s how you can reach Murshidabad.
Overall, it’s a really nice place to have a refreshing weekend. You can enjoy the rich heritage of Indian history and have a quick glance into the Mughal era. So what are you waiting for? Pack up your bags and set out to seek the unknown!