The Nawabi rule in Bengal was founded by Murshid Quli Khan. Murshid Quli Khan began his career in Bengal as a provincial dewan and rose through the ranks to become the Nazim or governor of Bengal and Orissa, the dewan of Bihar, and faujdar of many districts, all in the early 18th century.
About Murshid Quli Khan
Nothing is known for definite about his family or parents. According to one version of his early life, Haji Shafi of Ispahan, a former high-ranking Mughal official, raised him with paternal fondness and provided him with a suitable education in Iran.
After Haji Shafi’s death, he returned to India and joined the Mughal service as a dewan under the name Mirza Hadi, receiving a Mansab or rank.
When Aurangzeb needed a trustworthy and efficient dewan for Bengal, he chose this young man. In 1700 AD, he was transported to Bengal as dewan and Faujdar of Golconda, and he was given the title of Kartalab Khan (meaning “the seeker of challenges” in Persian).
He was the grandson of Maratha general Mohammed Quli Khan (previously Netaji Palkar) through his Iranian wife Nusrat Banu, daughter of Mughal Wazir Asad Khan, according to another source.
The third and most reliable version is that he was born into a poor Deccan Brahmin family, was bought by Haji Shafi Ispahani, a merchant from Ispahan (City in the province of Jabal, Persia, situated on the Zendarud), converted, and dubbed Muhammad Hadi or Mirza Hadi.
He began his career in the service of Haji Abdullah Khurasani, Dewan of Subah Berar of Dakhin (Deccan), and was later transferred to Emperor Aurangzeb’s royal service.
He had a wide range of knowledge and admired men who were well-known for their devotion or erudition. He was a valiant soldier, a generous donor, a trustworthy and just businessman, and a steadfast protector of the weak.
He did not make any benevolent retrenchments in any royal grant or those of any past Subahdar. He detested all the finer points of luxury, especially when it came to clothing.
He was a very simple man who religiously followed Islam. He had only one wife and never indulged in hunting, entertainment or adultery.
Reign of Murshid Quli Khan
Around 1700, Aurangzeb made Quli Khan the Diwan of Bengal. Azim-us-Shan, a Mughal emperor’s grandson, was the province’s subahdar at the time. He was dissatisfied with this appointment because he intended to utilise the state’s money to fund his battle to reclaim the Mughal throne following Aurangzeb’s death.
Quli Khan moved to Jahangirnagar (modern-day Dhaka) immediately after being assigned to the post and moved people from Azim-us-service Shan’s to himself, angering Azim-us-Shan.
Quli Khan transferred the Diwani office to Mukshudabad because he felt uncomfortable in Dhaka. He explained that he moved the office since Mukshudabad is in the heart of Bengal, making communication throughout the province simple.
European trading businesses had established facilities in the city since it was located on the banks of the Ganges. Quli Khan believed that keeping a close eye on their actions would be simple.
The bankers were also relocated to the new city. Because this was done without his authorization, Azim-us-Shan felt deceived. Quli Khan was able to accomplish this, according to historian Chowdhury, because he had Aurangzeb’s “support.”
In 1703, Aurangzeb relocated us-Shan from Bengal to Bihar, and Farrukhsiyar was named the province’s titular subahdar. Murshidabad was chosen as the new location for the subah office. The city became a focal point for all of the region’s activities.
Quli Khan travelled to Bijapur to meet with Aurangzeb and provide him with the province’s revenue. The emperor praised his work and presented him with clothing, flags, Nagra, and a sword. He also bestowed the title of Murshid Quli on him and permitted him to call the city Murshidabad (Murshid Quli Khan’s city), which he did when he returned.
He was the first to introduce the ‘Zurbe Murshidabad‘ coin.
He threw open the responsible revenue positions to Bengali Hindus only, and materially improved the revenue administration, earning him the imperial title of ‘Motamul-ul-Mulk Alauddowla Jaffer Khan Noseri Nasir Jang (Guardian of the Country, Promoter of the State, Helper in War, Defender)’.
Murshid Quli Khan was named Naib Nazim of Bengal Subah in 1713 AD, and Subahdar of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa in 1717 AD.
The Mughal Jagirdari system was replaced by Quli Khan’s mal Jasmani system, which was akin to France’s Fermiers generals. He obtained security bonds from the contractors, or Ijardaars, who were later in charge of collecting the land tax. Though many Jagirdars remained initially, they were quickly pushed out by the contractors, who were known as zamindars.
In 1720, he built a mint in the city. In 1724, he erected the Katra Masjid mosque in the city’s eastern outskirts, where he was interred following his death.