It is not an exaggeration to call Murshidabad a time capsule. The small town, located about 220 kilometers north of Kolkata, the City of Joy, was the place where the British colonization of India was kickstarted by the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Named after Nawab (Mughal viceroy) Murshid Quli Khan, it was the seat of power of the Bengal Nawabs and later the capital of Bengal under the British. The British shifted the capital to Calcutta, the erstwhile name of Kolkata, in 1773. Situated on the bank of river Bhagirathi, Murshidabad remains ensconced in the nostalgia of the days of the yore, even more than two centuries later. The place boasts a rich historical legacy and is perfect for a weekend getaway, especially for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. When you plan a trip to eastern India, keep aside a weekend for the old-world charm of Murshidabad in West Bengal. And to help you plan your itinerary better, here is a list of the places that you must visit in Murshidabad!
The splendid Hazarduari Palace, the palace with a thousand doors (Hazar- thousand, duar- door), is the chief attraction of Murshidabad. Built in 1837 for Nawab Najim Humayun Jah, the palace has 1000 doors, out of which only 900 are real! The rest of the 100 doors were built to confuse the intruders if any. But even the ornamental doors are unmatched in their grandeur. Designed by architect Duncan Mcleod, the magnificent palace is spread over a staggering area of 41 acres and has 114 rooms and eight galleries.
The Archaeological Survey of India has turned the palace into a museum full of historical relics, artefacts, weapons, opulent paintings that will transfer you into a different era. Look out for the sword of Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah who died a tragic death at the Battle of Plassey due to treachery of his army chief, Mir Jafar, who joined hands with the British. Siraj ud-Daulah and his grandfather, Nawab Alivardi Khan, were both fascinating characters. You must implore your guide to divulge all there is to know about their lives and deaths. The museum also has an entire gallery with 18th-century vintage cars used by the Nawabs. It provides a sneak peek into the lavish Nawabi lifestyle. The Hazarduari Palace remains open all week from 9 AM to 5 PM. Pro tip: carry some food and water with you as walking around the sprawling palace can get tiring.
Located to the north of the Hazarduari Palace, the Nizamat Imambara is the largest imambara not only in West Bengal but also in India. Nawab Nazim Mansoor Ali Khan Feradoon Jah built this beautiful imambara in 1847 after the mosque complex built by Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah was destroyed in a fire. You can visit the Nizamat Imambara anytime between 8 AM and 6:30 PM. This should be the next stop on your itinerary after the Hazarduari Palace.
The Katra Masjid is a brick mosque built by Nawab Murshid Quli Khan in 1723. It is also the place where his mortal remains were buried in 1727. The Nawab’s tomb is located under a flight of stairs at the entrance of the Katra Masjid. One of the oldest mosques in West Bengal, the octagonal Katra mosque stands on an elevated square plinth, with an array of domes and two octagonal minarets that are 70 ft in height. There were originally four minarets in the four corners of the plinth; two of them got destroyed in an earthquake in 1897. Each minaret has a winding staircase that leads to the top and small holes on the walls which were used to keep weapons during prayer. The rustic Katra Masjid is large enough to house 2000 Namaz readers at the same time.
Only a kilometer to the south-east of the Katra Masjid lies the Nawabs’ artillery park where the Jahan Kosha Cannon occupies pride of place. A craftsman called Janardan Karmakar built this massive canon called Jahan Kosha, which literally means 'Destroyer of the World'. Made with eight metals - gold, silver, iron, tin, copper, zinc, lead, mercury - the Jahan Kosha Cannon weighs almost 8,000 kilograms and is 18 ft in length. It used to require 17 kilograms of gunpowder for one shelling!
The name Khosh Bagh means the garden of happiness. And the place, even though a cemetery, lives up to the name with its beauty and tranquility. Khosh Bagh is home to the mortal remains of Nawab Alivardi Khan, his mother, Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah and his beloved wife Lutfannesha along with many others of the Afshar dynasty of Nawabs. It also houses the tomb of Ghaseti Begum, Siraj ud-Daulah’s aunt who conspired with the British to dethrone him and got the ball rolling for the 200-year long British rule in India!
The nearest airport from Murshidabad is the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. You can book a private car beforehand to travel to Murshidabad from Kolkata. The journey takes about six hours. Buses are also available from the Babughat Bus Terminus (near Prinsep Ghat) in Kolkata, and in that case, you do not need any advance booking. The Murshidabad Railway Station is located in the heart of the city and connected to Kolkata via several express trains. So, you can also avail any Murshidabad-bound train from the Sealdah Railway Station in Kolkata to reach the place in three to four hours.
Murshidabad will make you travel to the bygone era of the Bengal Nawabs. The town’s illustrious past explains the splendor in its air. It was also the bastion whose fall changed the course of Indian history. So, pack your bags and head to the historical town of Murshidabad in West Bengal for a weekend getaway and explore your heart away!
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