Murshidabad (Bengali: মুর্শিদাবাদ Murśidābād) is a historic town in West Bengal. It was the capital of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha during the Nawab rule. The last capital city of independent Bengal was named after Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, the Diwan of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. It is situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. A city of splendours and famous for its silk, it was made the capital of Bengal in 1717. The British East India Company starts its journey from that place. The British shifted the capital to Calcutta in 1773.
Murshidabad (MOOR-shih-dah-bahd) became the capital of Bengal under Murshid Quli Khan in 1727. He was the first independent ruler of the region, which consisted of present-day Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. Murshidabad was a flourishing trade and commerce centre and historical records even suggested that Murshidabad contributed about 20% of the Indian economy and a staggering 5% of the world GDP. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, Murshidabad was considered as prosperous as London. Sadly, Murshidabad has long lost its former glory and only traces of its glorious past survive to this day. Whatever has survived is still enough to turn Murshidabad into a leading tourism destination, but sadly the place lacks proper tourist infrastructure. Still, Murshidabad along with Bishnupur and Gour-Pandua are the three important historic tourist destinations of West Bengal.
Murshidabad is well connected from Kolkata by both rail and road.
1 is on the Ranaghat–Lalgola line of the Kolkata Suburban Railway. Other than local trains, there are three express trains from Kolkata to Murshidabad, namely Bhagirathi Express, Hazarduari Express and Dhano Dhanye Express. From Howrah, you can take Ganadevata Express, Balurghat Express, Malda Town Intercity Express or any other Azimganj-bound trains to reach Azimganj. Then you have to reach Murshidabad from Azimganj by ferry or road.
Regular long distance buses are also available from Kolkata. Volvo bus service is available for the Kolkata-Baharampur route.
By auto rickshaw. Cars are also available for hire. Horse-drawn carriage is also an option for short distances. There are no fixed rates so bargaining is required.
See and do
The historical sites of Murshidabad can be divided into five sectors:
- Hazar Duari Complex
- East of Hazar Duari Complex
- North of Hazar Duari Complex
- South of Hazar Duari Complex
- West of the Bhagirathi River
Hazar Duari Complex
- 1 Hazar Duari Palace (Palace of Thousand Doors). 9AM - 5PM. A palace of 1000 doors - 900 real and 100 fake. The palace was constructed by Duncan Macleod in 1837 on the orders of Sayyid Mubarak Ali Khan II, popularly known as Humayun Jah (reign: 1824 - 38) at the site of the old fort known as Nizamat Quila. It has a typicaI European style of architecture. This has now been converted into a museum. The Hazarduari Palace Museum is regarded as the biggest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India and has got 20 displayed galleries containing 4742 antiquities out of which 1034 has been displayed for the public. The antiquities include various weapons, oil paintings of Dutch, French and Italian artists, marble statues, metal objects, porcelain and stucco statues, farmans, rare books, old maps, manuscripts, land revenue records and palanquins mostly belonging to eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
- 2 Bara Imambara (Nizamat Imambara). The imambara is a congregation hall for Shia commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the remembrance of Muharram. It is situated just opposite the palace. Both are on the banks of the river Bhagirathi. It was built in 1847 by Nawab Nazim Mansoor Ali Khan Feradun Jah (reign: 1838 - 80), at the site of the old wooden imambara built earlier by Siraj-ud-daulah and damaged by fire. The present Imambara is 680 feet long. It is divided into three large quadrangles: the central quadrangle has the Madina Mosque and the Memberdalan; the eastern quadrangle has the Nowbat Khana; the western quadrangle has a two-storied mosque.
- 3 Clock Tower (Ghari Ghar). There is a Clock Tower between Hazarduari and Imambara. It was built by Sagar Mistri, assistant of Duncan Macleod. At the top of he tower is a big heavy sounding bell.
- 4 Madina Masjid. The old Madina Mosque built by Siraj-ud-daulah is in front of the Imambara. A new Madina Mosque was built as a part of the Imambara.
- 5 Bachchawali Topp. Located between Hazarduri and Imambara is the Bachchawali Topp. The barrel is 11′6″ long, with a girth in the middle of 7′9″. Made between 12th and 14th centuries, it weighs 7657 kg. Look out for brass inlay lines and designs on the cannon.
- 6 Zurud Masjid (Yellow Mosque). Zurad Masjid or the Yellow Mosque is located a few yards from the Hazarduari Palace and is on the banks of the River Bhagirati. It was built by Siraj - ud - Daula. It has three domes and is yellow in colour.
East of Hazarduari Complex
- 7 Katra Masjid. Built by Nawab Murshid Quli Khan (reign: 1717 -27) in 1723 AD. It is damaged but well maintained. The main mosque had five domes, out of which two collapsed in the earthquake of 1897. Many of the buildings in and around the mosque also collapsed during the earthquake. 2000 people could offer prayers in the mosque at the same time.
- 8 Fouti Masjid. Fouti Masjid is an abandoned mosque, only two of its five domes were completed. It was constructed by Sarfaraz Khan (reign: 1739 - 40)in 1740. After the defeat and death of Sarfaraz Khan the construction was abandoned and ever since then the mosque lies in that same state. It is 135 feet long and 38 feet broad. Centre of the western wall houses a triple mihrab.
- 9 Jahan Kosha Cannon (Destroyer of the world). The Topekhana was to the south-east of the Katra Masjid. There still is a huge cannon names Jahan Kosha (Destroyer of the world). The cannon is said to have been brought from Dhaka when Mushid Quli Khan shifted his capital.
North of Hazarduari Complex
- 10 Tomb Of Azimunnisa Begum. Azimunnisa Begum, was the daughter of Murshid Quli Khan. According to legend she was diagnosed with a incurable disease. To get cured she was advised to eat the liver of infants. She got addicted to it and continued the practice. Ultimately it came to the attention of her father and he had her buried alive. There are several versions of the story. She was buried under a mosque and only a small portion of the mosque wall stands to this day.
- 11 Jafarganj Cemetery. About half a mile from the Hazarduari Palace is Jafarganj Cemetery. The Cemetery contains the tombs of the Nawab's Nazim, from Mir Jafar to Humayun Jah. Mir Jafar's father Syud Ahmed Nazafi, Alivardi Khan's sister, Shahkhanum, Mir Jafar's widows, Munni Begam and Babbu Begam, Mohamed Ali Khan, the brother and Ismail Ali Khan and Asraf Ali Khan, the sons-in-law of Mir Jafar, lie buried here. This cemetery was built by Mir Jafar, over an area of 3.51 acres and houses about 1100 graves.
- 12 Nimak Haram Deorhi (Traitor's Gate). Nimak Haram Deorhi is the gateway to Mir Jafar's palace. The palace lo longer exist but the entrance gate still stands.
- 13 Nashipur Palace and Laxmi Narayan Mandir. The palace was built by King Kirtichand Bahadur in 1865. Within the palace compound are temples: the Ramachandra temple and the Lakshmi-Narayana temple. Closely situated is the Ashram of Mohandas and Jafraganj Deorhi. The two cannons present here are said to be gifted to Mir Jafar by Clive.
- 14 House of Jagat Seth and Pareshnath Temple. Jagat Seths were a business family and were involved in the business of banking and money lending. The last Jagat Seth was Fateh Chand in 1911 and the title was no longer inherited. Their house has been restored and converted into a museum. The complex also houses a Jain Temple dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankar Parshanath.
- 15 Kathgola Palace (Kathgola Bagan Bari). The palace garden of Raja Dhanpat Singh Dugar and Lakshmipat Singh Dugar and their famous Adinath Digamber Jain Mandir (Kathgola Jain Mandir) were built in 1873, by Harreck Chand. The walls of this temple are also intricately designed. A typically Jain style of ornamentation lends a unique beauty to this Jain temple. It is about half a km South-East of Mahimapur. Though some of its glory has been lost, it still remains a major tourist attraction, chiefly because of the beautiful temple with an admirable work of stucco. The complex also houses a small zoo and a statue by the famous sculptor Michelangelo.
South of Hazarduari Complex
- 16 Nara Bano Masjid. A small mosque located opposite the main entrance of the Hazarduari complex.
- 17 Tripolia Gate. The triple arched gate is topped with a nahabatkhana. The arches are high enough to let elephant pass. It is built by Nawab Shuja Uddin Khan who succeeded Murshid Quli Khan.
- 18 Chawk Masjid. The Chawk Mosque was built in 1767 by Munni Begum wife of Mir Jafar. The mosque has five domes and approached through an entrance flanked with minerates
- 19 Wasif Ali Manzil. The original palace was destroyed in an earthquake. The present palace is built by Nawab Wasif Ali Mirza Khan, the Nawab of Murshidabad. It has been beautifully restored.
- 20 Begum Mahal of Wasif Manzil. Behind the Wasif Manzil lies the ruins of Begum Mahal of Wasif Manzil. It is in total ruins
- 21 Safed Masjid (White Mosque). The white coloured Safed Mosque was built by Siraj ud Daulah in 1756 - 57. The three domed mosque lies on the banks of Bhagirati and is near the Dakshin Darwaza (South Gate).
- 22 Ghari Ghanta. Located just north of the Dakshin Darwaza, the Ghari Ghanta consists of a bell on top of a bastion.
- 23 Dakshin Darja (South Gate). The southern entrance of Quila Nizamat. The single arche entrance is surmounted by a Nawbat Khana where royal instruments were played. The entrance is large & high enough for an elephant to pass with howdah on its back.. It was built by Nawab Ahmad Ali Khan.
- 24 Motijhil. This beautiful horseshoe shaped lake was excavated by Nawazesh Mohammad, the husband of Ghasseti Begum. In the palace adjoining it (now in ruins) Lord Clive celebrated the acquisition of the Diwani of Bengal Subah (Bengal, Bihar and Odisha) in 1765. Motijhil was the home of Warren Hastings when he became the Political President at the Durbar of the Nawab Nazim (1771–1773). Sir John Shore, afterwards Lord Teignmouth, also lived here. Motijhil is also known as the "Company Bagh", due to the fact of it having been in the occupation of the East India Company. Today it has been converted into a park complete with toy train rides and children's activity centre. The lodge managed by WBTDCL is located within the park complex.
- 25 Motijhil Masjid (Mosque of Shahamat Jang or Jami Masjid) (Northern neck of the Motijheel oxbow lake). Located just outside the Moti Jheel park this masjid is the only remains of the nawab period in the Motijheel area. The mosque was built by Nawab Nawaei Muhammad Khan, husband of Ghasuti Begal and dates back to 1750. It consists of three domes and four corner minarates. There are five graves in front of the mosque and including that of Nawab Nawaei Muhammad Khan.
West Bank of Bhagirathi River
- 26 Khushbagh (Khoshbagh, Garden of Happiness). Cemetery of Alivardi Khan, his grandson Siraj-ud-Daulah and other members of the family.
- 27 Kiriteswari Temple. One of the 51 Shakti Pithas and the oldest temple in Murshidabad. It is believed that the crown (kirit) of Sati fell here. The present main structure of the temple complex dates back to 19th century. The complex houses a host of old and new temples and some of them are on the verge of collapse. The complex lies next to a pond and beyond it lies the structure of the original temple. The structure is abandoned and is hardly visited by the thousands of devotees visiting the temple complex. There is a legend that Nawab Mir Jafar on his death bed had requested the holy caraṇāmr̥ta (holy water) of Maa Kiriteswari while suffering from leprosy.
- 28 Rosnaiganj. Houses the tomb of Nawab Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, son-in-law and successor of Murshid Quli Khan. There is a mosque known as Shuja-ud-Din's mosque, which was most likely built by Alivardi Khan after Shuja-ud-Din's death.
- Murshidabad Heritage Festival: The Murshidabad Heritage Festival aims at reviving the tangible and intangible heritage of Murshidabad along with those nearby heritage tows of Jiaganj Azimganj and Cossimbazar. The festival aims at preserving the past and integrating it with the present and to bring Murshidabad back in the tourism, cultural and heritage map of India. It is an initiative of Murshidabad Heritage Development Society (MHDS). The festival began in 2011 and has been celebrated ever since. There are no fixed days for the festival but it is celebrated during the winter season, especially during January or February. The festival is complete with cultural performances, heritage walks, cruise along the Bhagirathi River and exotic food. The food served during the festival is purely vegetarian, with special emphasis on Sheherwali cuisine.
- Baluchari Sarees. These are figured silk sarees produced in the town of Baluchar in Murshidabad district. Baluchar sarees essentially have a silk base with silk brocaded designs with respect to their colours, where in spite of a rich composition, the Baluchar bootidars almost avoid strong contrasts. Each pattern is treated in a colour which harmonises with the ground on which it is laid. The most popular colours used are red, blue, yellow, green and scarlet. The Baluchari sarees have large floral motifs interspersed with flowering shrubs. Traditionally the Muslim community was also known to produce these Baluchars with figured patterns depicting court scenes, horse with a rider, women smoking hookah. The Kalka design or the cone motif is often surrounded with floral borders.
- Murshidabad Silk. Most Baluchar artisans have long migrated to Bishnupur. Hence Murshidabad is no longer famous for the Baluchari sari. Rather one can purchase a Murshidabad silk kora sari than particularly for different types of embroidery works in Kolkata. These things are available in most Khadi shops in Berhampore and Khagra. But purchase it if they provide a rebate of 20% on its printed price. Most of them give it throughout the year even when the government subsidy is not available.
- Other things include Shola art, brass, copper and Kansha items.
Eat and drink
Nothing special in Murshidabad particularly for Kolkatans. Nawabi Ghee-e bhaja chhanabora has been replaced by Dalda-bhaja one. Still Kolkatans can relish sweets and curd of Murshidabad because those are much cheaper here.
If you sit for lunch in a roadside ordinary hotel near Hazarduari, first ask whether the menu follows meal-system or a la carte and the rate. Otherwise, you may feel cheated after the lunch is over.
The ground water here is contaminated with arsenic, so you are better off drinking from the municipal supply of surface water or bottled drinking water of reputed companies, not of ordinary companies, here and there in Murshidabad, even if those are cheaper by ₹2 per litre.
- 1 Hotel Manjusha, Lalbag, ☏ . On the bank of Bhagirathi and very close to Hazarduari. ₹350-₹500.
- 2 Hotel Indrajit, ☏ . AC Non AC Rooms * Bar Cum Restaurant ₹550-₹1150.
- 3 Netaji Abas, Lalbag, ☏ .
- 4 Lalbagh Youth Hostel, ☏ , , . 50 seats in dormitory.
- 5 Hotel Sagnik, 77 Omrahaganj, Lalbag, ☏ , , . ₹450-₹1500.
- 6 Hotel Anwesha, Lalbag (near Hazarduari), ☏ .
- 7 Motijhil Tourist Cottage, Motijhil.
- Baharampur (Berhampore) — about 24 km (15 mi) from Murshidabad.
- Gour — a historical and heritage town.
- Jiaganj Azimganj
- Tarapith — a Hindu pilgrimage site. Best known for the Maa Tara Temple built by Sadhak Bamakshyapa. It is a major Hindu pilgrimage centre, and several thousand devotees visit the temple every day.