1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Murshidabad

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MURSHIDABAD or Moorsheedabad, a town and district of British India, in the Presidency division of Bengal. The administrative headquarters of the district are at Berhampur. The town of Murshidabad is on the left bank of the Bhagirathi or old sacred channel of the Ganges. Pop. (1901), 15,168. The city of Murshidabad was the latest Mahommedan capital of Bengal. In 1704 the nawab Murshid Kulia Khan changed the seat of government from Dacca to Maksudabad, which he called after his own name. The great family of Jagat Seth maintained their position as state bankers at Murshidabad from generation to generation. Even after the conquest of Bengal by the British, Murshidabad remained for some time the seat of administration. Warren Hastings removed the supreme civil and criminal courts to Calcutta in 1772, but in 1775 the latter court was brought back to Murshidabad again. In 1790, under Lord Cornwallis, the entire revenue and judicial staffs were fixed at Calcutta. The town is still the residence of the nawab, who ranks as the first nobleman of the province with the style of nawab bahadur of Murshidabad, instead of nawab nazim of Bengal. His palace, dating from 1837, is a magnificent building in Italian style. The city is crowded with other palaces, mosques, tombs, and gardens, and retains such industries as carving in ivory, gold and silver embroidery, and silk-weaving. A college is maintained for the education of the nawab's family.

The District of Murshidabad has an area of 2143 sq. m. It is divided into two nearly equal portions by the Bhagirathi, the ancient channel of the Ganges. The tract to the west, known as the Rarh, consists of hard clay and nodular limestone. The general level is high, but interspersed with marshes and seamed by hill torrents. The Bagri or eastern half belongs to alluvial plains of eastern Bengal. There are few permanent swamps; but the whole country is low-lying, and liable to annual inundation. In the north-west are a few small detached hillocks, said to be of basaltic formation. Pop. (1901), 1,333,184, showing an increase of 6.6% in the decade. The principal industry is that of silk, formerly of much importance, and now revived with government assistance. A narrow-gauge railway crosses the district, from the East Indian line at Nalhati to Azimganj on the Bhagirathi, the home of many rich Jain merchants; and a branch of the Eastern Bengal railway has been opened.