Siraj's nana Alivardi Khan becomes Nawab of Bengal

Shujauddin's administration include Siraj's dada Haji Ahmad

Murshid Quli Khan (also known as Muhammad Hadi) was appointed Diwan (revenue administrator) of Bengal in 1701 by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He became subehdar (governor, also known as nazim) of Bengal in 1717. With the emperor stationed in far off Delhi embroiled in court intrigues and revolutions, they hardly had time or inclination to interfere in the administration of Bengal. So the subehdar was left to his own device, as long as the surplus revenue was still sent to Delhi. Thus Murshid Quli Khan became the supreme authority in Bengal.

Then, the only income of the government was the customs duties. Naturally the Subahdars and Diwans pressurized the merchants, especially the European traders in Bengal who were the biggest traders buying and selling goods worth millions of rupees.

When Murshid Quli Khan passed away in 1727 he had no male heir. So the hereditary succession was broken and the nawabship of the two provinces of Bengal and Bihar passed on to his son-in-law Shujauddin Muhammad Khan, popularly known as Shuja-ud-Daulah.

Shujauddin kept himself in touch with the affairs at Murshidabad through two brothers, Haji Ahmad and Alivardi Khan - the dada (paternal grandfather) and nana (maternal grandfather) respectively of Siraj-ud-Daulah. He elevated Alivardi and his three nephews, Haji Ahmad's sons, to high posts. Alamchand, who was Shujauddin's diwan in Orissa, was now made the diwan at Murshidabad.

Shujauddin was guided by Haji Ahmad and Alivardi on all matters. Alamchand, who was conferred the title of 'Ray-i-rayan' by the imperial court, was a devoted office and able financier. He and Jagat Seth Fatehchand, a famous banker of Murshidabad, exercised great influence on Shujauddin. From this moment onward the Seths of Murshidabad began to play an active part in the history of Bengal - including the downfall of Siraj-ud-Daulah.

  • # Alivardi Khan ()
  • # Jagat Seth ()

1733: Alivardi becomes naib nazim of Bihar

In 1732 Emperor Nasiruddin Muhammad Shah added Bihar to the Bengal subah, which remained a part of Bengal government till 1912. Emperor Shah automatically placed Bihar under Nawab Shujauddin hence he became subahdar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. However, for administration convenience, in 1733 Shujauddin divided his territories into four divisions:

  • Central division comprising central, western and a part of northern Bengal
  • Dacca division comprising eastern Bengal, southern Bengal, and part of northern Bengal, Sylhet and Chitagong
  • Bihar division
  • Orissa division

The central divison was directly administerd by the Nawab Shujauddin himself along with his council of advisers. He appointed naib nazim (deputy governor) to administer each of the other three divisions. Dacca division was placed under his son-in-law Murshid Quli Khan II, known as Rustam Jang (the Hercules in battle). Bihar was placed under Alivardi. After the death of his second son Muhammad Taqi Khan, Shujauddin transferred Murshid Quli Khan II to Orissa as deputy governor and conferred the deputy governship of Dacca to his other son Sarfaraz Khan.

A year later, in 1734, Alivardi was summoned to Murshidabad where Nawab Shujauddin bestowed him the title of 'Mahabbat Jang' (Horror in War) and the rank of 'panch hazari mansabdar' (The rank holder of 5,000). Following this prestigious honour, Alivardi returned back to Azimabad, the 18th century name for present day Patna, the capital of Bihar.

Siraj's mum and dad Amina and Zainuddin Ahmad Khan (aka Mirza Muhammad Hashim)

Alivardi Khan (also spelt Ali Vardi Khan, his birth name was Mirza Muhammad Ali) had 3 daughters and no son. His eldest daughter was Ghaseti Begum (also called Mehar-un-Nisa Begum), followed by Munira Begum and finally Amina Khan, Siraj ud Daulah's mother.

Alivardi married all three of his daughters to his elder brother Haji Ahmed's (alias Mirza Ahmed) sons. Ghaseti married her cousin Nawazish Muhammad Khan whilst Munira married Sayyid Ahmed Khan and Amina married Zainuddin Ahmad Khan, Haji Ahmed's youngest son.

Zainuddin's real name was Mirza Muhammad Hashim. He was invested with the title of 'Khan' during the time of Nawab Shujauddin Khan.

After Alivardi's assumption of office as the nawab of Bengal in 1740, he raised his favourite nephew cum son-in-law - and Siraj's father - Zainuddin Ahmad Khan to the post of naib nazim of Azimabad and gave him the title of 'Haibat Jang' (Awe in War). Nawazish was appointed diwan of crown lands and naib nazim of Dacca with Husain Quli Khan as his deputy. He was given the title of 'Shahmat Jang' (Arrow in War). And Saiyid was appointed naib nazim of Purnea and given title of 'Saulat Jang'.

Like his brothers Nawazish Muhammad Khan and Sayed Ahmed Khan, he [Zainuddin Ahmad Khan] contributed much in strengthening and infusing efficiency in administration and worked harmoniously with Alivardi Khan.

Bangladpedia - Zainuddin Ahmad Khan,

1733: Birth of 'fortunate child' Mirza Muhammad Siraj-ud-Daulah

A few days prior to the appointment of Alivardi as naib nazim his youngest daughter Amina gave birth to a baby boy - Mirza Muhammad Siraj-ud-Daulah.

Alivardi had no son of his own, he adopted the child [Siraj-ud-Daulah] as his successor, and made him an object of special favour and affection, as his birth was synchronous with his elevation to that high post.

Banglapedia - Alivardi Khan

He [Siraj-ud-Daulah] was born in 1733 and soon after his birth Alivardi Khan was appointed as the deputy governor of Bihar. So Siraj-ud-Daulah was regarded as a 'fortune child' in the family and his grandfather had special affection and favour for him. It is stated that Alivardi had given his heart to Siraj-ud-Daulah from the day of his birth and 'never kept him apart from himself'.

Banglapedia - Siraj-ud-Daula

Zainuddin and Amina also had another child, Mirza Mehdi Ikram-ud-Daulah. Since Ghaseti Begum and Nawazish Muhammad Khan were childless, they adopted their nephew Ikram-ud-Daulah.

However, it was not long before a fatal tragedy was about to strike the family.

  • # Siraj-ud-Daulah ()

1739: Shujauddin's son Sarfaraz Khan becomes Nawab, for now

During this phase the tension between the Nawab's officers and the foreign traders increased. The faujdars (officers) would occasionally interfere and make high demands on the merchants. The Calcutta Council of East India Company, under instructions from the Court of Directors to obtain favourable orders from the imperial court for business in Bengal, realised the need to avoid dispute and followed a policy of keeping the Nawab in good humour by sending him occasional presents.

Shujauddin died in 1739 and the masnad (throne) of Bengal was passed on to his son Sarfaraz Khan, who was given the title of 'Ala-ud-Daulah Haidar Jang'. But he was not considered fit to run the province. So Haji Ahmad, Alamchand and Jagat Seth came up with a cunning plan to remove him and replace him with Alivardi.

1740: Alivardi Khan becomes Nawab of Bengal

Ultimately, a fierce battle ensued between Sarfaraz's army and Alivardi's army in the field of Giria, a small village approximately 40 miles north of Murshidabad, in April 1740. Sarfaraz was killed by a musket shot on his forehead. Few days later, Alivardi marched into the city of Murshidabad and declared himself Nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

The Bengal revolution of 1939-40 synchronised with the more disastrous revolution in the Mughal Empire. All this showed how the political atmosphere in the country had been utterly vitiated by vices of treachery, ingratitude and boundless ambition. Alivardi's treatment of Sarfaraz, the son of his benefactor to whom he and his entire family had been indebted for prosperity was a conduct which was not only abominable but of the worst kind of ingratitude. Nemesis followed it when his favourite grandson Siraj-ud-daulah fell a victim to the forces of ingratitude, machination, and disloyalty that he had himself used to overthrow Sarfaraz. As Prof. Datta aptly remarks, "The Battle of Plassey was the reply of historical justice to the battle of Giria".

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Alivardi carried out immediate changes in the offices of the government. His nephew and son-in-law Nawazish Muhammad Khan was appointed Deputy Governor of Dacca and diwan of the crown land, while Sayyid was appointed Deputy Governor of Purnea and Zainuddin Deputy Governor of Bihar. Following the death of Ray-i-rayan Alamchand, his peshkar Chin Ray was appointed to the post of diwan of Murshidabad. Alivardi also secured a formal recognition of his new position as the Nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa by the emperor Muhammad Shah by profusely bribing him and officers like Qamar-ud-din, the wazir and others.

1742 - 51: Long battle with Marathas and Bihari Afghans

Nawab Alivardi Khan's reign was blighted with rebellion. The Marathas conducted repeated raids and pillaged and sacked vast tracts of land in Bihar and Bengal.

Deputy Governor of Orissa, Murshid Quli Khan II, refused to recognise the authority of Alivardi following the brutal murder of Sarfaraz, his wife's brother. He fought against Alivardi in 1741 and subsequently lost. Alivardi handed Orissa to his nephew and son-in-law Sayyid Ahmad Khan (alias Muhammad-ud-daulah Saulat Jang) as Deputy Governor of Orissa. But he was unable to fight off the Maratha counter-attack and had to be rescued by Alivardi. So he appointed his friend Sheikh Masum Deputy Governor of Orissa and Durlabhram, son of Raja Jankiram, as his peshkar.

Alivardi found himself unable to maintain control over Orissa because of the frequent invasion to the province by Maratha chief Raghuji Bhonsale of Nagpur. Alivardi's weakness in administering Orissa encouraged the Marathas to invade Orissa. Raghuji was instigated and supported by Murshid Quli Khan II and his son-in-law Mirza Baqar. So, in 1742, Bhaskar Pandit, the Prime Minister of Raghuji Bhonsale, undertook the first invasion against Orissa. The ransacked various places including Midnapur (Midnapore) and Burdwan but were finally defeated at the hands of Alivardi Khan. They killed Deputy Governor Sheikh Masum but Alivardi mobilised his troops and drove the Marathas away. He appointed Abdul Nabi Khan as the new Deputy Governor of Orissa.

Raghuji attacked Orissa the following year and entered deep into Bengal. In 1744 he sent an army under the command of Bhasker Pandit to invade Nawab's territory. Weaken by regular attacks, Alivardi colluded with Mustafa Khan, the Afghan general in the Bengal army. During this time there was a large number of Afghans serving in the nawab's army. Alivardi invited Bhasker Pandit for a discussion about chauth (meaning one-fourth, it was an annual tax imposed by Maratha Empire in India levied at 25% on revenue or produce) and treacherously murdered him along with 23 of his camp followers. Frightened, the remaining Maratha troops fled away from Bengal and Orissa. After this Mustafa Khan expected that he would be remunerated by the nawab for his gallantry with the post of governorship of Bihar, held by Zainuddin. When he was deprived of it, he revolted.

Meanwhile, the murder of his Prime Minister only spurred Raghuji to invade Bengal and Orissa for a fourth time in 1745. By joining hand with the rebellious Mustafa Khan and the Bihari Afghans, the Maratha forces advanced as far as Midnapur and Hoogly. But Zainuddin defended the capital Patna and temporarily put down the revolt. Subsequently Nawab Alivardi Khan came from Murshidabad with a huge army and fought the invaders at Mehib Alipur. The battle was indecisive, but the invaders withdrew.

Eventually Alivardi was successful in driving out the Marathas from Bengal. But throughout 1747 the Marathas remained in possession of the territory up to Midnapur from where they continued to undertake plundering expeditions up to Dacca and Murshidabad. In one such attacks Mustafa Khan was shot and killed. Further encounters occurred between the nawab's army and the Marathas and Afghans during 1748. One insurrection would prove to be very costly for Alivardi.

Alivardi was not destined, to enjoy what he had gained by cleverly engineering plots and by hard fighting. The Maratha incursions all the more made complicated by Afghan rebellions at the same time gave Alivardi neither peace nor rest. The province of Bengal was devastated by the Marathas and added to this Afghan rebellions adversely affected the economy of the country. The economic decline became so alarming that Orissa ultimately had to be ceded to the Marathas.

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1748: Murder of Siraj's father Zainuddin and dada Haji Ahmad

In 1748 Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Durrani attempted first of his seven invasion of the subcontinent. This inspired the Afghans living in India to establish their rule in the eastern provinces by overthrowing Alivardi Khan. Two Afghan officers, Shamshir Khan and Sardar Khan came up with a plot to overthrow the nawab, however Alivardi promptly dismissed them from service. Consequently the two led an Afghan revolt, took control of Patna city and treacherously murdered Zainuddin Ahmad rendering Siraj-ud-Daulah fatherless aged 15. An Afghan named Abdur Rashid Khan stabbed Zainuddin with dagger and Murad Sher, one of the Afghan leaders and nephew (i.e. sister's son) of Shamshir Khan, cut him into two pieces with a violent blow of his sword. The insurgents also tortured Zainuddin's old father Haji Ahmad for many days. He subsequently died at their hands on 30 January 1748. The officers took members of their families captive, including Amina and her two sons captive. They usurped Patna and held it for 3 months, subjecting people to miseries and starting a reign of terror in Bihar.

His father Haji Ahmad was awfully tortured for 17 days continuously. The Afghans found out 70 lakhs of rupees in cash, and vast quantity of jewels and bullions, lying hoarded in the palace. Haji Ahmad died on the 30 January 1748 from the effects of inhuman torture.

The barbaric death of Zainuddin and his elderly father

A friend, Saiyid Muhammad Ispahani, took down Zainuddin's head from the eastern gate of the city and buried it with other parts of his decapitated body and limbs in a plot of land in Begampur, south of Patna city railway station. A tomb of black stone and white marble was built over his remains, enclosed in an open lattice-work shrine of black hornblende. It is known as the Nawab Shahid-ka-makbara (Tomb of the martyr Nawab) or Maqbera-i-Haibat Jang (Tomb of Haibat Jang), and is held in great reverence by the Shias. There are an imambara (mosque complex) and mosque in the garden, to which processions with tazias come during the Islamic month of Muharram. Tazia is a shi'ite Muslim ritual that reenacts the death of Hussein, prophet Muhammad's grandson, and his male children and companions in a brutal massacre on the plains of Karbala.

It is not known who constructed the tomb, Imambara and mosque. It is widely believed that Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah might have provided funds for the construction after becoming the ruler of Bengal. It is also an established fact that Siraj visited Patna after losing the battle of Plassey.

The tomb has beautiful jail work on black stone. Imambara and mosque however need renovation as the large garden surrounding the place has turned virtually into a field. The place buzz with activity during Muharram when Tazia and Alam processions wend their way to maqbara from various localities of Patna City.

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Having recovered from the first shock of hearing this heart-breaking news, Alivardi made a firm resolve to recover Patna and rescue his relatives who were then prisoners in the hands of the Afghans. The treacherous assassination of his nephew, the disgraceful end of his brother and the shocking humiliation of his daughter would not go unanswered. Alivardi Khan led a rescue mission by crushing the insurgents 'with iron-hand' and rescuing his daughter and grandsons. He reoccupied Bihar and appointed his grandson Siraj-ud-Daulah as deputy subahdar with Raja Jankiram to assist him. But even though Alivardi had nominally appointed the youth to his father's place, he vested the actual authority in Raja Jankiram.

In 1748 some Afghan rebels murdered Zainuddin Ahmad Khan Haibat Jang, the naib nazim of Bihar and father of Sirajuddaula. Alivardi Khan then appointed Siraj to his father's place and desired that Siraj would continue to stay with him in Murshidabad while Raja Janakiram would carry out the actual duties of the naib nazim.

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1751: Peace treaty with Marathas led to end of Muslim rule in Orissa

Frequent Maratha raids and incursions into the territories of Alivardi Khan brought financial strain to the Nawab and caused great destruction in the Bengal Subah, resulting in heavy civilian casualties and widespread economic losses. The eight years of repeated campaigns also brought no lasting benefit to the Marathas. Their primary aim of realising chauth was not fulfilled nor the wealth they plundered from the far away Bengal compensated their losses in men and money. Neither party benefited from the fights. It was mutually beneficial for them to come to an agreement. Plus, the 75-year-old Alivardi Khan also suffered from physical ailments due to his old age. As such both parties negotiated peace settlement.

According to the terms of the treaty, Mir Habib was regarded as a servant of Alivardi and had to rule Orissa as his deputy on his behalf. For his part, Alivardi agreed to pay 12 lakh rupees to Raghuji from the Bengal revenue as chauth. The treaty bought an end to a long period of storm and stress. It also paved the way for Maratha supremacy in Orissa and thus the Muslim rule in Orissa ended in 1751.

Nawab Alivardi Khan could now turn his attention to undoing the damages done to Bengal by the Marathas. He carried out some administrative changes, but the task of repairing Bengal would not be completed by him.

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