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Feb 19,2024

Murshidabad was the last capital of bengal before it came under the british rule . It was made the capital in 1704 by Murshid Quil Khan , the Mughal governor of Bengal under Aurangzeb , and was named after him . Once u get to Berhampore , the drive to Murshidabad takes 25 mins with the river on the left and rural scenery all around . The narrow streets of the old imperial area of Lalbagh are straight out of a poster for a rural idly. The mango orchads in these parts are famous , fields of crops are intrespersed with fruit laden trees . West of the river , there are mulberry groves where some of the finest silk in India is still cultivated . In 1757 , Robert Clive won the toss at the climactic Battle of Plassey . Its intresting to imagine the consequences had  fate flipped in favour of Murshidabad instead . At that time Murshidabad and London were roughly the same size and at the some levels of prosperity . If Bengals Nawab Siraj ud Daulah had won at Plassey in 1757 the battle which placed Bengal in British hands and gave them a decisive foothold into India would Murshidabad have somehow been transmuted into a multiracial , multi cultural metropolis with an Imperial herits age over the next 250 yrs . Probably not , but stranger things have happened . When the Mughal Empire fell apart , the Nawab of Bengal could well have ended up with an independent center of power in Hydrabad and Awad but they didnt . Murshidabad could have become a regional trade center due to its strategic location it didnt .  Other towns , such as Siliguri and Malda , became trading outpost , Murshidabad dwindled . It was as though the city was built just for one brief , glorious day . and then the fair had to pack off . Murshid Quil Khan , the governor of Bengal was ordered by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to shift his capitals here from Dhaka in 1704 . Not surprisingly , the new capital took his name . Before the shifting of the capital , it was known as Muqsudabad , possibly having been founded some time during the reign of emperor Akbar (1556-1605) . The area also bears traces of ancient Jain settlements . Today , it is difficult to imagine this semi rural settlement as a great city that onece matched London in size and opulence . After its brief broom , Murshidabad kept shrinking continuously due to successive exoduses . As people moved out , nature moved back in , with creepers climbing up the brickwork of the ancient mansions and weed choking the crazy- China walks of the pleasure gardens . 

Things to see and do : Jahan Kosha : Weighing in at seven tons it is no surprise the massive cannon Jahan Kosha is known as Destroyer of the World . This majestic piece of artillery originally rested on a carriage at the base of a peepal tree . The tree roots snaked under the cannon and lifted it four feet above the ground . The carriage crumbled with time and the cannon was moved to the Topekhana (artillery park) where it rest on a low rectangular plinth . The 17 ft long gun is still an imposing sight . But in 1637, during the reign of Shah Jahan , this mounted gun has six large doughnut sized iron rings on its body and the trunnions are still intact . An inscription on the body mentions the renowned gunsmith Janardan Karmakar , under whose supervision this cannon was constructed . The cannon offers tangible proof of the high level of metalwork during the Mughal era . 

Moti Jheel & Environs : The pearl lake Moti Jhel lies just off the main Murshidabad Berhampur road . This is a large oxbow lake , supposedly used for culturing pearls yet another unlikely local legend . The beauty of Moti Jheel is juxtaposed with a crucial yet dark history . Shiraj ud Daulahs marched to Plassey from Moti Jheel , ignorant of his commander in chief Mir jafars treacherous dethronement plan stiched together by Ghaseti Begum and the British . Today , the only surviving structures here are kala Masjid , the mosque of Nawajesh Muhammad , and a brick chamber with no doors or windows . Kala Masjid , according to a Persian inscription on the facade , was constructed . Its greyish walls , blackened domes and with doors or windows . Kala Masjid , according to a Persian inscription on the facade was constructed in 1740-41 . Ashoka trees in its surrounding . the mosque is topped by three hemispherical domes , atop which rest Kalasa and lotus finials . Surprisingly , Kala Masjid survived the onslaught of time unlike the Raesh Bagh mosque on the other side of the lake . Of the four tombs to the east of Kala Masjid , one of them contains the remains of Ikram ud Daulah , Siraj ud Daulahs brother . The mysterious sealed chamber at the side of the mosque is said to contain treasure and the local legend is that a curse prevent anyone from breaking in .

Khatra masjid : The founder of Murshidabad Nawab Murshid Quil Khan , Aurangzeb most favoured general , had Katra Masjid built in 1723 .With its imposing towers , bays and a massive coutyard , the oldest Islamic structures in town was constructed in a year time . Some of its domes collapsed during the 1897 earthquakes , but Katra Masjid is still a marvel to be hold .Two surviving 70ft high tapered minars are the high light of this mosque as they tower over everything else .  While u cannot climb the spiral staircases inside the minars the 25ft diameter of the structures will give u an idea of their scale . The mosque massive size will make u appreciate the engineering prowess of Murshidabad architects and masons . 

Fauti masjid : If u are looking for a place filled with history and intrigue, Fauti Masjid is the place for u . Vines seems to have slither into the very foundation of this incomplete mosque and the only way to enter is via a path at the side of the roads Once inside the sunshine, through the incomplete domes and basalt doorways illuminates the crumbling inner walls . The four cupolas on either end are nearly in ruins and only one spiral staircase remains . Take the staircases to the top from where u will be treated to marvellous views of the city of Murshidabad . Fauti Masjid might not survive for much longer as the jungle stakes its claim and shrubbery swallows this structures from the mid 1700s 

House of Jagat Seth : There is no escaping history as u explore Mursidabad . Every monument and structures exudes history and the house of Jagat Seth , now converted into a museum , is no different . Jagat Seth which translate to banker of the world , was the title conferred upon the wealthy Chand family that served as bankers and financier to the nawabs . This financial relationship was strained under Siraj-ud-Daulah and ultimately led to the Seth working with Mir Jafar and the British against the nawab .The house of Jagat Seth is a veritable goldmine for historyenthusiasts thanks to the number of artifacts on display . There are guides at the entrance who will give u a detailed account of the family history , Besides the ancient coins , cannons , furniture and utensils , the best part of the tour is when u get to explore the secret underground tunnels that were used as escape routes . The outdoor marbel status and Romanesque pillars add to the charm of this house . The family well maintained possessions transport you to a time of immeasurable splendour and wealth . 

Kathgola Gardens & Environs : The Kathgola Gardens are still owned by descendants of the Jagat Seth family who held that title . This is a vast complex of orchards , pleasure gardens , pavilions , marble status  crazy China paved walks and gazebos complete with several ornamental bathing tanks , a secret tunnel and a Jain temple . They were named after the wood rose planted here in profusion Kathgola is a corruption of Kath golaap . As you enter the main gate , an avenue of sal trees will lead you to the Kathgola Palace This four storeyed regal building is historically significant , as it was the meeting place for a number of wealthy nobelmen during Murshidabads golden age . Constructed by the Duggars , a prosperous Jain family, this palatial mansion has a marbel statue of Michelango in the coutyard and a baoli constructed from Mirzapuri stone that served the irrigation channels for the surrounding gardens . The palace is well maintained and the ground floor can be explored . The Zenana Mahal to the southeast , although descript , is worth checking out . Two greying pillars on either side , overgrown with shrubbery , stand out against floral bands on the  first storey . Further along is the Adinath temple is notable because of its European style facade with traditional Jain interiors . The marbel work in and arond this temple is testament to the fusion architecture prevalent in Kathgola Gardens . The plaster work in the temple is unique to Bengal . 

Jafarganj Cemetery : The tombs of Mir Jafar and his family lie in Jafarganj Cemetery . The graves of the begums are enclosed within crumbling walls . While shrubs and trees swathe large parts of the graveyard , it is still an intresting place to explore . Namak Haram Deorhi and Jafarganj Cemetry are usually overlooked by travellers but it is the perfect end to your tour of Mir Jafar place in Indian history .  A local guide will probably regale you with stories about Azimunnisa Begum who was buried alive because she consumed in secret , the livers of childrens in orders to be cured of a certain disease . While the veracity of this story is debatable the tomb of Azimunnisa Begum , housed in a ruined mosque that bears her name , is an archaeological highlight . Similar in design to Katra Masjid , this is the final resting place for the daughter of Murshid Quil Khan , the founder of Murshidaabd . Opposite Jafarganj Cemetry is Namak Haram Deorhi which translates to Traitor Gate  These are the ruins of Mir Jafars place . This is also said to be the spot where Siraj ud Daulah was murdered .

Nashipur Palace : Tall palm trees dot the premises of the Nashipur Palace , built in the mid 19th century . A grand staircase leads up to a two storeyed mansion with massive coloumns and high celling . Inside u will find potraits of the former zamindars amongst other item from that era . The Nashipur Akhara , walking distance from the palace , has a small collection of utensils and statuettes and is the centre for the Jhulan Yatra that takes place every year . The silver plated chariots used during the festival are stored here . The temple situated within the akhara premises has beautiful chandiliers , which are worth a dekko . 

Hazarduari Palace : When in Murshidabad save the best for last . Built between 1829- 37 , the sprawling Hazarduari Palace requires a solid three hours to explore . The Mansion with a Thousand doors also doubles up as Murshidabad museum . Contrary to its name , it has 900 real doors including the french windows as well as a french window as welll as a plethora of false doors . Located near the banks of the bhagirathi , it is a premier landmark in the Lalbagh area . Designed by british sapper General Duncan Macleod , the place was constructed in Italian marbel . nawab Nazeem Humayun Jha is reputed to have spent a whopping Rs 18 lakha on his official residence which would be an exorbitant amount today . By then Murshidabads relevance as a centre of political power was non existent so the Hazarduari was purely a nawabi indulgence . The Indo european architectural style is evident from the massive flight of stairs leading up to the palace portico the two Victorian stone lions on either side of the staircases and the Colossal order pillar supporting the pediment . Spread over three floors , Hazarduari has around 120 rooms and eight long galleries . The pink stucco walls are patterned in floral designs and lined with unending rows of a oil portraits of nawabs and East India company officials . Nawab Nazeem Humayun collection of deca ters and green dining plates was supposedly designes to shatter if poison was served in them one of the many charmingly weired legends floating around . The armoury wings contain a vast collection of weapons from the 18th and 19th centuries . Alivardi Khans sword sword are on display here alongside the dagger that was used to stab Siraj ud Daulah . As u pass the cannon used in the Battle of Plassey , there is row after row of guns ammuntion and light artillery weapons used by British and Indian Soilders of the era .  The Hall of Royal Exhibits contains a majestic ivory plan quin , which was used by Aurangzebs daughter . Massive oil paintings of the Nawabs are on display here and further along are landscape that depict colonial life . The Nawab Nazim Gallery contains portraits of the rullers of Murshidabad in all their finery . The  star attraction is the Durbar Hall with its twinkling chandelier , silver throne and massive candle stands . The Billiards Room with its muted lightning and marbel chessboards should not be skipped mainly because of the four arresting paintings . one of the which depicts a brilliant composition of the French countryside by Courbet . A u exit the palace museum , u wil notice a white rectangular building . The Nizamat Imambara , the largest in India was constructed in 1847 , a few feet from the original wooden imambara that was destroyed by fire . This 680 ft long Islamic congrgation hall is not open to the public , but the exterior is breathtaking to say the least . The structure looks picture perfect as it faces off against the elegance of the Hazarduari Palace . 

Where to stay : The Hazarduari Palace is located a few steps from Hotel Manjusha . This hotel sits on the banks of the Bhagirathi River , and the surrounding gardens make it the perfect pit stop  for the budget conscious traveller . The manager is extremely helpful and he will put u in touch with a tuk tuk driver who can take u around the city of Murshidabad so that u can visit the sights . Hotel Sunshine , The Fame , Hotel Samrat , Baharampur Tourists Lodge is a choice for more tourists .

How to Reach : By Air : Kolkatas Shubash Chandra International Airport is connected to major mertos and most big taxis . Fares vary depending upon the vehciles . 

                               By Rail :Murshidabad Railway Station is served by the Hazarduari Express , Chitpur railway Station is served by the Hazarduari Express , which leaves from Kolkata Chitpur Railway Station at 6:50 am and arrives at 10.30 am . The Ganadevta Express leaves Howrah at 6 ; 05 am and reaches Azimganj Station at 12.15 pm . This is 7 km away from Murshidabad . 

                                  By Roads : Murshidabad is around 6hrs by road from Kolkata down the well serviced NH12 . Drive into the town and just past Berhampur Court Station comes at point here Nh12 turns left towards Malda but you must turn left right for Murshidabad , 14km away . SBSTC Busses leave daily for Berhampur from Dharmatala . Hire taxis from Berhampur to visit spots around Murshidabad .