Odisha was ruled by Subahdars from Delhi during the early Mughal period. Todarmal, Man Singh, Mukram Khan, Muhammad Baqar Khan, Muhammad Zaman, Khan-i-Dauran, and others assumed the role of Governor of Odisha. During Aurangzeb’s reign, the Mughal empire was confronted with numerous hazardous situations posed by the Qutb Shahis, Adil Shah of Deccan, Sikhs, Rajputs, and a number of other local rulers. Therefore, he was unable to send Governors from Delhi to maintain the government in Odisha.
When Murshid Quli Khan assumed control of the government of Odisha, it effectively fell to the Naib Nizams of Bengal.
After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 CE, his weak successors were unable to focus on the administration of Odisha. Although they existed in name, they were unable to have any influence over the Nizams of Bengal. At that time, it was only inevitable that Odisha would be ruled by the Naib Nizams of Bengal until the Marathas took control.
- Murshid Quli Khan I
- Suja-ud-din Muhammad Khan
- Muhammad Taqi Khan
- Murshid Quli Khan II
- Alivardi Khan
Murshid Quli Khan I
Emperor Aurangzeb was well aware of Murshid Quli Khan’s abilities. The former named the latter Diwan of Bengal and Odisha. At that time, the Subahdar of Bengal was Prince Muhammad Azim-us-Shah (son of Bahadur Shah-I and grandson of Aurangzeb). He did not get along with Murshid Quli and devised a plan to kill him. Murshid Quli disrupted the prince’s plan by penning a letter to Aurangzeb. With the passing of Askar Khan, Murshid Quli was granted the responsibilities of Naib Subahdar and Faujdar of Odisha, and in 1703 CE, he was appointed Subahdar of Odisha. However, his tenure as governor of Odisha was not a smooth one. After Aurangzeb’s demise, when Bahadur Shah I became Mughal emperor, Prince Azim-us-Shah successfully exacted vengeance on Murshid Quli. In 1708 CE, Murshid Quli’s status was reduced by order of the emperor, and he was dispatched as Diwan to oversee the Deccan problem. He ingested this unpleasant medication. In the year 1712, Azim-us-Shah was murdered. Bahadur Shah passed away as well. Jahandar Shah ascended to the throne of Delhi following the continuation of the succession conflict among his sons. Farrukh Shiyar, who ascended the kingdom in 1713 CE, contested his title to the crown. Initially, he was unable to gain the trust of Murshid Quli. Farrukh Shiyar appointed Murshid Quli as deputy Subahdar of Bengal in 1731 CE and as Subahdar of Odisha in 1714 CE as a result of the latter’s gift-giving and provincial tribute to the former. The long-held wish of Murshid Quli Khan was granted. In the year 1717 CE, Murshid Quli added another feather to his crowned cap when he was declared the Subahdar of Bengal in addition to his normal responsibility of Odisha. Due to work demands, he appointed his son-in-law Suja-ud-din Muhammad Khan as the vice governor of Odisha. Murshid Quli had to rethink his decision when he discovered that Suja-ud-din and his daughter Zynatun-Nisa were not getting along (wife of Suja-Uddin). He pleaded with the emperor of Delhi to replace Suja-ud-din from Odisha with his grandchild Sarfaraz Khan (the son of Suja-Ud-Din). At that time, Suja-ud-din had pushed his influence at the royal court in Delhi, and Murshid Quli’s request was rejected. He died in 1727 CE out of frustration. His revamping of Odisha’s tax system was an important breakthrough in the field of financial reform.
Suja-ud-din Muhammad Khan
Murshid Quli Khan was succeeded on the throne of Bengal by his son-in-law Sujaud-din Muhammad Khan upon his death. As he was exceedingly skilled in dealing with the Mughals, he sent forty lakhs of rupees and excellent gifts to the court of Muhammad Shah, the new Mughal emperor, shortly after ascending to the throne of Bengal in 1727 CE. This strengthened Suja-ud-din Muhammad Khan’s status as Subahdar of Bengal and Odisha. His son Sarfaraz Khan was appointed Diwan of Bengal. His second son, Muhammed Taqi Khan, and his son-in-law, Murshid Quli Khan-II, were appointed as Deputy Governors of Odisha in his stead. He was a demanding taskmaster when it came to collecting taxes from the people of Odisha. Suja-ud-din Muhammad Khan exploited the people of Odisha by sending a considerable portion of their tax revenue to the Delhi Court in order to secure his position.
During the tenure of Suja-Uddin as governor, Odisha’s territory shrank. On the north, Bengal conquered the Jeleswar division, while on the south, the Nizam of Hyderabad occupied Odishan territory up to Tekkali-Raghunathpur and the surrounding villages. Suja-ud-din was always concerned with the welfare of the Muslim community. In his massive work, Early European Travellers in Nagpur Territories, Thomas Motte claims that Suja-ud-din encouraged the merchants to abandon Pipli and establish their factories in Balasore since a significant portion of Pipli was being eroded by the water. For the convenience of the merchants, he constructed bridges over the rivers along the route between Cuttack and Murshidabad. He constructed the exquisite Qadam Rasul Mosque in Cuttack. In addition to taxing the people of Odisha, his rule was characterised by peace and calm.
Muhammad Taqi Khan
It is said that Suja-ud-din was preoccupied with the affairs of Bengal and appointed his son Taqi Khan to oversee the governance of Odisha. As the Deputy Governor of Odisha, Taqi Khan treated Raja Ramachandradeva of Khurda with disdain and contempt. During his time as deputy governor, Raja Ramachandradeva converted to Islam and was held captive in the Barabati fort. Taqi Khan’s passion for God Jagannath and desire to celebrate the god’s festivals drove him to repeatedly invade Khurda. During his reign, the Lords’ images were surreptitiously moved from the main temple of Puri to Banapur and Tekkali in order to escape the anger of Taqi Khan. Fearing for their safety and security at the hands of the Muslim police, the number of Pilgrims visiting the shrine of the god Jagannath declined significantly during this time period. Taqi Khan was helpful in constructing a Qadam Rasul with a pond and garden at Balasore. He was a staunch opponent of Hinduism. The Hindus of Odisha retaliated against him. Taqi Khan was allegedly poisoned within the fort of Barabati under the direction of Ramachandradeva.
Murshid Quli Khan II
Upon the death of Taqi Khan in 1735 A.D., Sujaud-din ordered Murshid Quli Khan II to Odisha as deputy Subahdar to oversee the government. He was the Suja-son-in-law. Uddin’s Odisha was liberated from his repressive control upon Taqi Khan’s demise. The arrival of Murshid Quli Khan II brought relief to the ills that plagued the people of Odisha during Taqi Khan’s tenure. Murshid Quli Khan II desired to be well-liked by the people of Odisha upon his arrival. Under the direction of the ruler of Khurda, he reestablished the worship of Lords in the grand temple in Puri. Now, pilgrims from every region of India were flocking to Puri. By his noble deeds, he earned the favour of the citizens of this region. However, his rule in Odisha was brief. He fell victim to a feud within the royal family of Murshidabad and fled Odisha permanently. The conditions have been outlined below. Nawab Suja-ud-din died in 1739 A.D., and his son, Sarfaraz Khan, succeeded him. Alivardi Khan, one of Suja-most Uddin’s trusted officers, defeated and killed him in the battle of Giria in the year 1740 A.D. Alivardi desired to eliminate all followers and supporters of Sarfaraz, among whom Murshid Quli Khan II loomed prominently, in order to secure his position.
To subjugate him, Alivardi assembled a formidable force. With the assistance and counsel of Mirza Baqar (Murshid Quli II’s son-in-law), Murshid Quli engaged in conflict with the Alivardi army. In 1741, the two factions engaged in combat near Phulwari, beyond the Budhabalanga River. At this time, Mukhail Ali Khan and Muqarrab Khan, two of Murshid Quli II’s military officers, committed treason and defected to the side of Alivardi. Although Mirza Baqar and his trusted warriors fought fiercely, he was injured during the conflict. Murshid Quli acted swiftly and, accompanied by his injured son-in-law and loyal companions, rushed towards Balasore. Murshid Quli and his companions reached Masulipatam in the ship of his trader friend Haji Moshin.
King Birakishoredeva of Khurda rescued Murshid Quli Khan II’s family and transferred them all to Icchapuram. This family was welcomed by Anwar-ud-din Khan, and Mirza Baqar transported them to Masulipatam. Now, Odisha was transferred to Alivardi Khan.
With the victory at Phulwari, Odisha was effectively under Alivardi’s control. Alivardi marched towards Cuttack to seize the family of Murshid Quli Khan II without accompanying him. However, the Raja of Khurda had rescued this family. The fort of Barabati and the abandoned wealth of Murshid Quli’s family fell into his possession. Alivardi selected Sayyid Ahmad as Governor of Odisha and left Gujar Khan, one of his most loyal generals, to help the Governor in administering the province. Sayyid Ahmad was never an effective leader. He collected funds from the local zamindars and reduced his soldiers’ pay. Due to his excessive use of alcohol and women, he gained a negative reputation in Odisha. Sayyid Ahmad was defeated by Mirza Baqar, the son-in-law of Murshid Quli Khan II, when he invaded Odisha with his men at this time. The people of Cuttack supported Mirza Baqar, as did certain Murshid Quli II-loyal men in the army of Ahmad. Sayyid Ahmad and his family were confined within the Barabati fort.
This enhanced Alivardi’s unpopularity to a larger degree. With a vindictive disposition, he travelled to Cuttack to confront Mirza Baqar and rescue Sayyid Ahmad. In Cuttack, they engaged in a fistfight, after which Mirza Baqar fled the battlefield for the Deccan. Sayyid Ahmad was successfully rescued. Alivardi chastised the local chieftains who had assisted Mirza Baqar. He then departed for Murshidabad after appointing Shaikh Masum as the Deputy Governor of Odisha. With the Maratha invasion, however, his administrative setup in Odisha broke totally. In 1751 A.D., Odisha fell into the hands of the Marathas as a result of Alivardi’s failure to stop the Maratha advance.
During Murshid Quli Khan’s Subahdarship in Odisha, the Mughal method of tax administration underwent a transformation. From an administrative standpoint, he split Midnapur from Odisha’s Subah. In six Sarkars, namely Jaleswar, Remuna, Basta, Golapara, Malghetia, and Mazkuri, he made income settlements. He appointed efficient and trustworthy revenue officers to collect taxes. He measured abandoned fields and made them available to farmers.
He also provided farmers with taqavi (agricultural) loans for land improvement. Suja-ud-din imposed two new immigrants (abwabs): Abwab Jaffar Khan and Abwab Khasnawisi. Muhammad Khan imposed four types of abwabs on the Odishan people. Viz.Nazar Pooniah (Annual gifts from the zamindars), Baha-i-Khilat (price for robes donated to zamindars), Pustabandi (For maintaining the river banks close to Lalbagh and the fort of Murshidabad), and Russom Nazarat (realisation from rural area). All four of the aforementioned abwabs were subordinate to Zar Mathaut.
In addition, he amassed three other abwabs, such as Nazrana Mokurrari (a fixed sum given by the zamindar for the rights he enjoyed), Mathut-Fil-Khan, and Mathut-Fil-Khan (contribution to meet the feeding expense of elephants of Nizam and Diwan of Murshidabad). Murshid Quli II was quite generous with revenue collection. He established an excellent reputation by exempting numerous abwabs from the zamindars. During the reign of the Naib Nizams of Bengal, the governance of the god Jagannath was also a focus. During the reign of Taqi Khan, there was a significant disruption in the management of temple administration. The Gods’ statues were removed from the temple and transported to Banapur and then Tekkali.
During the reign of Murshid Quli Khan II, however, the idols were returned to the temple and a great number of pilgrims came.
Others, following Taqi Khan, paid little attention to it. During the reign of the Naib Nizams, the Muslim monuments in Cuttack and Balasore were constructed. The local zamindars were required to also oversee the Hindu and Muslim celebrations. This demonstrates that absolute religious harmony was preserved in Odisha throughout the reign of the Naib Nizams of Odisha. Balasore, Jajpur, and Cuttack were the most important Islamic centres in Odisha during the reign of the Naib Nizams.
Local participation in government was a prevalent characteristic of this period. In military administration, soldiers from this region were recruited. The local officials were selected on the basis of their efficiency in collecting taxes and maintaining peace. Frequently, local zamindars were tasked with addressing local issues and resolving crises in their own communities. In order to carry out administration effectively, the Naib Nizams of Bengal relied on the local populace to a larger extent.
As a result of the Mughal emperors’ incompetence, the Naib Nizams of Bengal oversaw the governance of Odisha. From Bengal, near to the Odisha border, they could keep a close eye on the government that ruled in this region. Occasionally, they quashed the revolt and warned the Odisha local chiefs of grave repercussions. The citizens of Odisha desired independence from Alivardi Khan. Odisha fell into the hands of the Marathas when the Marathas entered the political scene of Odisha at that time, fulfilling their objective.
Sources and References
1. History of Odisha Vol-I by Dr Manas Kumar Das
2. History of Odisha Vol-II by Dr Manas Kumar Das
3. History of Odisha Vol-III by Dr Manas Kumar Das
4. History of Odisha Sahu, Sahu, Mishra
5. History of Odisha Vol-I by Y.K. Sahu
6. History of Odisha Vol-II by Y.K. Sahu
7. History of Odisha by RD Banerjee
8. Odishara Itihasa by Satyanarayan Rajguru