Ben: মুর্শিদাবাদ murśidābāda

‘Murshid’s Town’  [Mukshudabad]  City/District, West Bengal 

From Per: murshid, ‘(spiritual) guide’; and abad, ‘settlement’.

Murshid Quli Khan (a.k.a. Mohammad Hadi and Surya Narayan Mishra) was the first Nawab of Bengal (1717-1727). He was brought up as a Muslim in a Mughal court.

When he became Nawab of Bengal he transferred his capital to Mukshudabad  (named after a 16thC trader called Mukshud Khan who built a stop-over here). He did this because it had a more central location and also allowed him to keep a closer eye on the foreign traders (British, Dutch, Danish, and French) who were located nearby.

Emperor Aurangzeb, delighted with his revenue collection (Murshidabad was the richest city in Mughal India’s most prosperous province), showered him with gifts and titles, including murshid, and permission to rename his chosen city (which he did).

During the 18th century Murshidabad was a major financial and trading centre and it had a population of over 100,000. The arrival of the British and the development of Kolkata/Calcutta as regional centre sent the city into decline.

The Hazarduari Palace [Per/Ben: hazâr/hājāra, thousand; Ben: duyara, ‘door’] is on a 17 hectare site on the banks of the Bhagirathi river. It is a 3-storey rectangular building with Greek Doric columns, 8 galleries and 114 rooms. It has, as its name suggests, 1000 doors, but 100 of them are fake to confuse would-be intruders. It was designed by Mcleod Duncan for Nawab Nazim Humayun Jahin in 1837.

The modern city is famous for its sericulture (Murshidabad Silk is much sought after for making saris and scarves), handicrafts, painting and sculptures.

For related place names see Indian Place names and West Bengal place names.