About Murshidabad

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MURSHIDABAD, the last capital city of independent Bengal is situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi and is known for its rich culture and heritage.

The region has witnessed some of the most significant events of Indian history including the erstwhile Nawabs of Bengal to the Battle of Plassey. The wealth, opportunities and significance of the region in the 1700s attracted the wealthiest merchants from across India to migrate to Murshidabad. This led to Murshidabad witnessing a confluence of cultures and giving birth to its very own, unique culture of mélange. Having contributed over 5% of the GDP of the World in the late 1700s and early 1800s, it is lost in time, today.

With Murshidabad being the wealth centre of the world, architecture, culture, art and other different tangible & intangible assets were created in the region leaving a never-to-be forgotten impact in the history of the world. The Nawabs were great patrons of art and culture. As such, the Murshidabad style of painting continues to be a hidden gem. The Sheherwali community (detailed later), during this time, built magnificent temples and palaces inspired from European and Mughal architecture which can be found in Azimganj and Jiganj. The Jain temples having Mughal architecture can only be found in this part of the world. The Kathgola palace is a living example of the grandeur of the Doogar family of Murshidabad. The Nawabs also built grand mosques, temples and palaces and the stories behind building the strucutres.

Murshidabad

Having contributed 5% of the GDP of the world at one point in time, Murshidabad located in East India (about 200 kms from Kolkata) is famous for its culture, architecture, food and royalty.

Transportation

Very easily accessible from Kolkata via a 5 hour drive, Azimganj can be accessed through rail and waterways too.

Community Living

Sheherwali, the resident Community of this region were known for their blended culture, food and entrepreneurship.

Architecture

The architecture in this region was majorly influenced by the Roman and Greek styles. The significant structures of this region still adorn and maintain such influence showcasing its royalty and opulence.

History

Murshidabad originally called Makhsudabad in the 16th century lies on the eastern side of Bhagirathi River and was founded by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Later in the 17th century when Murshid Quli Khan became the diwan, he renamed the town after his name, as Murshidabad.

Soon, the economic growth of the city attracted the British, French, Dutch and Danish companies to come and set up factories and head offices around the city. Consequently, Murshidabad mint became the largest in Bengal and important administrative buildings, palaces, mosques and temples were built.
Murshidabad was at its peak until 1757 when the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah was defeated in the Battle of Plassey against the Britishers. Despite getting assurance from the French troupe, the Nawab was betrayed by his own commander Mir Jafar and a wealthy Jain merchant Jagat Seth who had secretly joined hands with the Britishers. The battle consolidated the Company's presence in Bengal, which later expanded to cover much of India over the next hundred years.
History
People from Murshidabad region were actively involved in the Swadeshi and Quit India Movement. Leaders such as Subhas Chandra Bose and Kazi Nazrul Islam were imprisoned in Berhampore, WB. It also laid the foundation of the Hindu-Muslim Unity Association in 1937.

Local Attraction

Palaces
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Hazarduari Palace:
One of the most important and, perhaps the most significant tourist attractions of Murshidabad, this sprawling palace have been built on 41 acres of land. Built in 1837 by Duncan McLeod for the Nawab Najim Humaun Jah, descendent of Mir Zafar, Hazarduari Palace is popular for it's '1,000' doors, 900 of which are real and about 100 were later built ornamentally. The palace has been converted into a museum and boasts a collection of nearly 3,000 artifacts. It includes portraits of nawabs, pieces of ivory, Swords used by Shiraj-ud-Daulla and his grandfather, NawabAlivardi Khan and even some vintage cars used by various nawabs and their families.
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Nazamat Imambara:
Destroyed in the fires of 1842 and 1846, this restored building is divided into three large quadrangles – Central which has the Madina mosque, the Eastern which has Naubat khana and Western which has two-storied mosque.
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Kathgola Palace:
Located a few kilometers off Murshidabad, this palace complex, built in 1870 to entertain European and Muslim guests during trade visits, is a marvel of its own. The place Kathgola (wood war house) acquires its name from the lumber yard that used to be functional in the area before the palace was built. Built ahead of its times, the place is more than just a palace. The palace, endless gardens, ponds, a temple devoted to Adinath and a statue of michealangelo are few of the marvels that can be seen.
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Cossimbazar Palace:
A famous tourist place in Murshidabad, this palace houses the Lakshmi-narayan sila, clock tower, front courtyard, north porch, marble staircases, Andar mahal, Majlish ghar, Chandimandap, etc.
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Wasif Manzil:
Destroyed in 1897 earthquake, this residence was later repaired without second storey and turned into a museum which houses fascinating garden space, marble statues and beautiful staircases.
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Nasipur Rajbari:
Once the residence of Nasipur Raj family, this building is now a museum which is often referred to as the miniature version of Hazarduari Palace due to it similar features.
Mosque
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Katra Masjid:
Another striking tourist spot of Murshidabad and perhaps one of the most well maintained too, Katra Mosque was built in 1724 by Murad Farash Khan, a devoted follower of Murshid Quli Khan.The mosque is also a tomb of Quli Khan who is buried under the flight of stairs comprising the entrance to the mosque from the eastern end. It is believed that the mosque was built after MurshidQuli Khan expressed his desire to be buried in a mosque.
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Yellow Mosque:
Contrary to the white mosques that we see, this is a little yellowish in color which shines like gold in the sunlight. Located near Hazarduari Palace, this mosque is a must visit!
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Footi Mosque:
The structure that we see today was believed to be built by Nawab Sarfaraz Khan in a single night. It could not be completed as the Nawab died in a battle. Hence the people renamed it as Fauti Mosque. It has five domes and four spiral staircases at its four corners surmounted by cupolas. However, the domes are still incomplete.
Temples
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Char Bangla:
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple was built by Rani Bhavani of Nator. From mythological stories to daily lifestyles and incidents from Mahabharata and Ramayana, the terracotta tablets cover it all.
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Jain Temples:
The Sheherwali merchants and traders who migrated from Rajasthan, settled in and around Murshidaabd. With the wealth they created, they built many jain temples with large courtyards and beautiful idols. The most notable ones are: Kiriteshwari Temple - this 1000+ year old temple is considered to be the sleeping place of Mahamaya; Sanwalia Parasnath (popularly known as Rambagh); Sambhavanath and more.
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Kiriteshwari Temple :
One of the oldest and most scared temples of Murshidabad, built more than a 1000 years ago, this temple is believed to be the sleeping place of Mahamaya. It is known as Mahishamardini locally.

HANDICRAFTS

Murshidabad not only holds a long history in its heritage but also as a producer of exquisite handicrafts- Shola (Indian Cork), Kansa (Bell metal craft) and ivory and wood carving. One of the leading producers of handicrafts, Murshidabad is now struggling and showing a tendency to decline over the last few decades. We believe that creating awarenesss about these unique crafts can help improve their currtent scenario.

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SHOLAPITH (Indian Cork) :

Made from one of the world’s lightest woods, Sholapith is a spongey milky-white dried plant matter which can be pressed and transformed into different shapes. Shola crafts are very much popular In Murshidabad district. Its Flower designs, garlands, beautiful and decorative headress and figurines of gods and goddesses, peacock boats, elephant howdahs, palanquins are some of the exquisite Sholapith crafts produced in Murshidabad. Since sholapith craftsmen used to make garlands for idols and for the nobility, they came to be known as Malakar, meaning "garland maker".

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IVORY AND WOOD :

Ivory and wood handicrafts industry is considered to employ a major population of Murshidabad. The root of this craft can be traced back to the time when Murshidabad was under the rule of the Nawabs of Bengal who patronized the art of ivory and wood carving. These craftsmen were considered to be the best carvers and their products were often exported. However, with the downfall of the Nawabs, this industry started facing a crisis.

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KANSA (Bell Metal) :

Another popular handicraft produced by the skilled craftsmen of Murshidabad is Kansa Bell metal craft. Utensils made from Kansa and brass are manufactured in huge quantities in Behrampore, Khagra, Kandi, Baranagar and Jangipur. These utensils have a huge demand in the local and are often exported to international markets. This industry is particularly declining due to problems in procuring the raw materials and shift of consumer demand to ceramic and stainless steel products.

Textiles

SILK, the queen of textiles has an unparalleled grandeur, natural sheen and high durability because of which it was initially worn by the Mughal nobility only. In the 18th century, with the growing demand of silk in the international market, the East India Company started a factory at Cossimbazar to meet the competition from the Dutch, French and Armenians; making Murshidabad the nerve-center of silk weaving.

It declined as did the city, when the capital shifted to Calcutta (now Kolkata). But, from past few years a lot of initiatives are being taken by the government and NGOs to restore Murshidabad as a center of trade and a producer of exquisite silk.

Textile Centres
TANTIPARA :

Since Murshidabad is world famous for its Silk, a visit to Tantipara i.e. Weaver’s Village is worth your time. Lying on the outskirts of Murshidabad, this small village is keeping the art of silk handloom alive.

While visiting this village you can experience the age old techniques and highly skilled weavers preparing the finest of silk sarees which are now being recognized in both national and international markets. The weaver’s community prepare the famous Bengal sarees (Garad, Baluchari, Silk Handloom, etc).

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(i)Baluchari Silk Sarees :
Baluchari sarees are pure silk sarees which are characterized by mythologiocal depictions in the pallu of the saree. These depictions are usually taken from scenes of Mahabharata or Ramayana. Production of a ‘Baluchar’ is an extensive process which involves a lot of steps and is woven on a jacquard loom. Baluchari sari has been given a Geographical Indication (GI) status for India.
(ii)Garad Sarees :
One of the finest and lightweight pure silk sarees produced in Murshidabad. Traditional Garad sarees are characterized with a white or off-white body with a red coloured border and a striped pallu. Often variations can be found in the colours of the border and pallu of the saree however the colour of the body remains to be white- or off white.
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ISLAMPORE :

Another place of interest for textile lovers is Islampore where one can experience Sericulture & weaving of 100% Pure Murshidabad Silk. One may also interact with the local artisans and try their hands in getting their initials stitched on Silk stoles.

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(i)Sericulture :
Murshidabad has a loing history of silk production which dates back to the 18th century. Sericulture refers to the practice of cultivating silkworms for the production of silk fiber. It involves a series of process to obtain a fine silk fiber. Come experience the transformation of a silkworm to a silk fiber with us and its further transformation into a silk masterpiece- stoles, sarees elc
Apart from Murshidabad, you should also visit the nearby districts to get a complete tour of the Silk Circuit of East India. Such as - Shantiniketan (Hundreds of artisans are involved in in producing the long-established products for generations - hand-printed, hand-embroidery, leather crafts and fine embroidery on luxurious silks); Phulia (Japan, West Asia and Europe are their main export markets) and Bishnupur (an important cottage industry where about 15% of its population is employed in the handloom sector)

Folk HERITAGE

West Bengal is an abode of culture and folk heritage. The culture of a place reflects its society and people. The district of Murshidabad holds a long lost folk heritage- Raibeshe Dance and Baul/Fakiri music. At Bari Kothi, we’re trying to bring back these unique folk performances to their glorious days and take a route back to our roots.

Ranipasand
Baul/Fakiri Music :
The Bauls and Fakirs are an ancient group of wandering minstrels from Bengal, who believe in simplicity and sing about love, live and devotion influenced by the Hindu Bhakti movements and Sufism of the seventeenth century. They wear simple attires and carry an Ektara in one hand and sometimes a small drum called Bnaya around their waist and engross themselves in their music which represents a long heritage of preaching mysticism and celebrating celestial love.
They form an essential part of the culture of Murshidabad. Their songs depict the story and lives of the locals. We at Bari Kothi give an insight into the culture of Murshidabad through a performance of the famous folk dance by the Bauls. Experience an evening full of mesmerizing music which will definitely make you want to come visit us again.
Raibeshe Dance :
Raibeshe - a unique type of folk dance form hailing from West Bengal reflects the region's folk heritage. ‘Rai’ meaning royal and ‘bansh’ meaning ‘bamboo’ - this dance form resembles martial art techniques by using long bamboo sticks and enacting movements like waving a sword, drawing an arrow and throwing a spear. This dance form is usually performed by men who belong to the depressed castes of the Hindu community like Domes, Bauris etc. You will be surprised to know that this dance has never been associated with any song or verse.
Enaet-Pasand

Murshidabad Mangoes - King of Fruits

In a Sheherwali home, a sweet dish is not just limited to being a 'desert'. Preparations like 'kachche aam ka kheer', 'aam ka papad', are some real tasty dishes that can be consumed, any time of the day. And especially in the summer, a true Sheherwali cannot just afford to miss out the juicy and ripe mangoes. One is also spoilt for choices over the wide spread varieties of mango pickles & chutneys that are being made.

It is said that during Akbar's reign there were probably around 200 varieties of mangoes grown alone in the orchards of Murshidabad. Some of the popular mangoes were Ranipasand, Ananas, Bimli, Begumpasand and Kohitoor.

There are different types of mangoes in Murshidabad as follows:
Ranipasand
Ranipasand :
An age old mango from the era of the Nawabs who ruled Bengal in the 18th century, Rani pasand is popular in Murshidabad and is part of the district’s heritage. It is so named, as the erstwhile nawab’s best wife liked it. Its characteristics include early maturing, sweet flesh, yellow coloured skin when it ripens but nonetheless exquisite.
Enaet Pasand :
It is a beautiful mango that is part of the 'pasand'series of Murshidabad mangoes popularised by the nawabs. Enaet Khan, a jagirdar or a local ruler or omrah, liked this variety of mango and patronised it and thus it got its name. It is a medium-sized mango, weighingn 200-300gram,isthin-skinned, juicy and has a flavourful pulp.
Enaet-Pasand
Bimli
Bimli :
During the rule of Mir Jafar, a maid named Bimli was employed for cultivating new mango varieties. Pleased by her hard work a new mango variety was named after her and thus its name Bimli. This variety is reddish yellow in colour and has a sweet, juicy flesh and weighs 200-250gms.
Anaras :
As the name suggests, this mango has a pineapple flavour. This one is a “bira” look-alike though is smaller in size. The pulp is whitish like a pineapple and it smells like one too. It is easily digestible and is a favourite with the people for its unusual and interesting taste.
Anaras
Kalapahar
Kalapahar :
Its appearance is that of a big, blackish green coloured skin which remains so even upon ripening and it is named after the mythical bad boy, Kalapahar. Hence this variety of mango finds reflection in its big, blackish colour. However, the mango has a sweet flesh.
Saranga :
Legend has it that these mangoes were dedicated to the musicians who played “sarangi” at the door of the Nawab’s haveli. It is smallish in size, weighing about 100 to 150gms and really looks very beautiful on the trees. The skin is thin and it is very pulpy too.
Saranga
Himsagar
Himsagar :
Found mostly in Murshidabad, Malda, Nadia and North 24 Parganas, these mangoes are as sweet as they come. It is green when raw but on ripening, it has a golden tinge to its skin. Not many mangoes can come down to its taste. The mango is devoid of any fibers and is said to be as sweet as Amrit.
Molamjam :
Among the Murshidabad mangoes, one exclusive prized breed is the Molamjam. It is said that this variety should be consumed at the very moment it is ripe.
Molamjam
Kohitoor
Kohitoor :
Golden yellow in colour, the Kohitoor has to be kept wrapped in cotton wool to keep it fresh. As its name suggest, it is soft, juicy mango. Unlike other mangoes, this one is whitish in colour and very tasty indeed. Each mango weighs about 300-400gms.
Bira :
Bira, also called Sardarpasand, is long in shape and is one of the first mangoes to hit the market in Murshidabad, resulting in vendors making a lot of money out of it. It is green when raw but turns yellow when fully ripe.
Molamjam
champa
Champa :
This exquisite variety of mango occupies a pride of place in Murshidabad. Its beautiful yellow coloured flesh smells like the Champa flower. There are various theories related to its name. Popular among these is the tale that states that the mango is named after the famous yesteryear dancer, Champabati, of the Mughal era.The variety fetches a high price due to its special flavour and quality. Its appearance is small, yellow coloured skin and a flavoursome and juicy pulp. It is exported to the Gulf countries.
Gulabkhas :
Since the Mughal era, these particular mangoes have been patronised by many rulers. Gulabkhas, as the name suggests, has a mild flavour of the gulab or rose along with the colour of the rose petals on the top part of the mango. These premium sized (250-300 gms) mangoes find their way to the export fruit markets of Dubai and Oman.
Gulabkhas
Chandankosa
Chandankosa :
Chandankosa It was said that during the rule of the nawabsin Murshidabad,the mejaji(connoisseurs) nawabs were fond of theseflavouredmangoesthathadexquisite taste and scent.Thesmallanslight coloured mango weighing below 200gms is thin skinned, juicy and has a flesh which smells of sandal wood.
Bombai :
This variety of mango derives its name from the city of Bombay or Mumbai, as it's now called. It was an important port and a hub for export-import of goods during the Mughal era. The nawabs of Bengal too used the Bombay port for trade activities. This variety of mango is greenish yellow in colour, has a good, juicy and sweet pulp and weighs around 300 gms.
Bombai
Sabdar-pasand
Sabdar pasand :
One of the famous ones from the ‘pasand’series of Murshidabad mangoes, it is commonly known as bira. Popular lore said that a local ruler, Sabdar Khan, liked the mango and thus this variety got its name. The ruler scientifically propagated this variety and it is because of his effort that you can still find these mangoes in this region. Its characteristics include a juicy flesh with bright yellow coloured skin.
Sarikhas :
Locals also refer it to as Sonakhas owing to its golden yellow colour when the mango ripens.One of theage-old variety of mangoes that occupies a pride of place, these medium-sized mangoes weigh 250-350 gms each approximately and have a sweet pulp that makes it ideal for export. Old tales from the region state that this particular variety of mango was used to prepare premium quality drinks and cocktails.
Bombai
Mohanbhog
Mohanbhog :
The Hindus of Murshidabad offered this beautiful variety of mango to Lord Krishna and thus originated its name, Mohanbhog. This medium to large sized mango, weighing 300-400gms is greenish-yellow in colour and is extremely sweet in taste and is of premium quality. It is said that one who eats this mango will find their tastebuds feelcompletely satiated.
Damdam Misri :
Its sweet pulp that tastes like sugar candy and the fact that it became famous in Dum Dum, an area in suburban Kolkata, made it derive its name. Another theory states that this variety of mango got its name from the word dumdar, which means fabulous.
damdam
shahdulla
Shahdulla :
This variety is similar to the Himsagar and gets its name due to its patronisation by the shahs and nawabs of Murshidabad.A preferred mango of the elite class, its medium to bigger size, weighing 400gms approximately, has a green coloured skin when ripe and yellow flesh.
Bhavani :
This mango variety is dedicated to Rani Bhavani of Murshidabad. Rather small in size, the ripened mango is yellow and is so called as it glows like the skin of a queen. It is not very pulpy as the seed is rather big.
bhavani
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