Located at a distance of about one hundred and ninety six kilometres from the city of Kolkata, it is a small town with a very fine heritage of historical monuments from its days of greatness during the mid-eighteenth century. The Palace of the Nawab or Aina Mahal, designed by General Duncan Macleod of the Bengal Engineers, is loosely based on Government House, Kolkata. It stands in a large compound, together with several other buildings, enclosed by a wall. The palace, which is Italian in style, is an imposing edifice intended to convey the importance and power of the Nawab at a time when, in reality, that power was little more than nominal. It is a magnificent building over four hundred and twenty five feet long, with a banqueting hall of 290 ft. length, having sliding doors faced with mirrors, at the west end of which is a painting of Sir John Moore by Marshall. The centrepiece is a dome from which hangs a fine chandelier of 150 branches, presented by Queen Victoria, over an ivory throne with painted and gilded flowers. There is a fine circular Durbar room, an armoury and a library containing rare manuscripts. The zenana is placed to the right of the main entrance at the rear of the palace.
The Imambara stands within the same enclosure and holds the inscription 'the Grove of Karbala'. Erected in the year 1847, in a similar European style to the palace, it is an enormous structure, the largest in east India. It replaces an earlier structure reputedly constructed by Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daulah and was erected under the instructions of Nawab Feredunjah. The facade is of two storeys, with a semi-circular central entrance arch with cusped surround flanked by Tuscan columns. Beyond is a high, plain dome.
The Medina is a free-standing pavilion located in between the Imambara and the palace. It is alleged to have foundations having earth from the Karbala at Mecca and is the only surviving remnant of Suraj-ud-Daula's original Imambara. It is square in plan with a veranda, central dome and corner minarets. Also within the palace compound are two small 18th century mosques. The Safid Mosque is in painted stucco with basalt dressings. The Zarad Mosque is raised on a lower platform and bears a large central dome flanked by two smaller outer domes.
On the suburbs of the city is the Katra Mosque, completed two years before the death of the great Murshid Quli Jafar Khan, whose tomb is located here under the entrance of the courtyard. Now in ruins, it is an interesting structure with rectangular ornamental panels decorating the outside. Two of the original four corner octagonal minarets survive and may be derived from Mughal precedents, such as the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, erected in the year 1674. A little distance off the road is the Great Gun, measuring 5.33 meters long, l.52 meters round at the breech, with a 15 centimetre calibre. It is one of the pairs, the other being in Dacca, and it is supported high above the ground on a Peepal tree which has grown up beneath it.
Situated at a distance of thirty two kilometres to the south of the city of Murshidabad is the Moti Jhil or Pearl Lake, believed to have formed as a result of the excavations for brick earth. It is a beautiful spot, but very little is there to be seen of the famous palace of Suraj-ud-Daula, where Robert Clive held the first revenue collection after the Battle of Plassey and where Warren Hastings and Sir John Shore later resided. To the east of the Moti Jhil is the Mubarak Manzil or Old Court House of the British East India Company.
Immediate opposite to the lake is the Khushbagh or Garden of Delight, the old cemetery of the Nawabs of Bengal. It consists of three separate enclosures. The outer one is entered from the east, past an old ruined ghat. The river wall is fortified and loop holed. In the outer enclosure are eighteen tombs. The central enclosure possesses the Tombs of Alivardi Khan and Siraj-ud-Daula, his son-in-law. Alivardi's tomb is a square, flat-roofed structure having a central chamber encircled by an arcaded veranda, European in influence. The third enclosure contains a tank. To the right shore of the river, opposite to the main palace, is the Roshnibagh or Garden of Light. The Tomb and Mosque of Nawab Shuja - Ud - Din Muhammad Khan is located at this place. The tomb is a heavily restored, squat, flat-roofed structure set in a walled enclosure. To the north of the tomb is a small mosque constructed by Alivardi Khan, with engaged corner turrets and a central dome flanked by smaller vaults.
The Nizamat College, once reserved for the family of the Nawabs, is now open to all. At a distance of about one mile to the north of the palace is the Jaffarganj Cemetery, which bears the graves of all the Nawabs Nazim from the year 1765 to 1838. Directly to the west of the cemetery is the Mosque of Shah Nisar Ali, a plain, three-domed, rectangular affair. The Jaffarganj Deorhi was the residence of Mir Jafar before he became Nawab.
The city of Murshidabad contains a number of other notable buildings. The Chowk Mosque is at the central part of the town and is the major attraction. It is a large, seven-bay building with five graduated domes and two outer char-chala vaults flanked by slender minarets. The exterior is richly ornamented, with moulded stucco niches and arabesques. The Chowk Sarai Mosque is a small part of a wider complex intended as a sarai for travellers. Architecturally, it is based on the nearby Mian Holal Mosque, a fine affair with fluted, bulbous domes and detailed stucco ornament. Situated close to the Chowk Mosque is the Mosque of Nusari Banu, the wife of Murshid Quli Khan, famously constructed in the year 1735 but most of the buildings appear to date back to 1881. The tomb of Nusari Banu lies under the steps leading to the mosque.
Various notable mosques include the Mosque of Saif Allah, the Mosque of Abd Allah, the Mosque of Farhat Ali Khan, the Gulab Bagh Mosque, a picturesque ruin located 274 meters to the west of the Pil Khana, and the Qadam Sherif. The remains of the Mosque and Tomb of Azim Al-Nisa Begum, daughter of the great Murshid Quli Khan, and the Mosque and Tomb of Badr Nisa Begum are also of interest.
The Old Dutch Cemetery at Kalkapur has tombs dating back to 1721. In the Old Residency Burial ground is the tomb of Mary Hastings, the first wife of Warren Hastings, and her daughter. The tomb was restored in the year 1863. To day, Murshidabad is a prosperous district of the state of West Bengal having its head quarters in Berhampore. The city, apart from being famous for its monuments is well-known for the sarees and scarves.
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