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Alivardi Khan

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Alivardi Khan
Shuja ul-Mulk (Hero of the country)
Hashim ud-Daula (Sword of the state)
Mahabat Jang (Horror in War)
Nawab of Bengal
Nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
Reign29 April 1740 – March 1751
PredecessorSarfaraz Khan
SuccessorHimself (as Nawab of Bengal and Bihar)
(Raghoji I in Orissa)
Nawab of Bengal and Bihar
ReignMarch 1751 – 9 April 1756
SuccessorSiraj ud-Daulah
Deccan Plateau, Mughal Empire
Died9 April 1756(1756-04-09) (aged 79–80)
Murshidabad, Bengal
Shuja ul-Mulk Hashim ud-Daula Mahabat Jang Mirza Muhammad Alivardi Khan
FatherMirza Muhammad Shah Quli Khan Madani
MotherA descendant of the Afshar tribe
ReligionShia Islam[1][2]

Alivardi Khan (1671 – 9 April 1756) was the fourth Nawab of Bengal from 1740 to 1756. He toppled the Nasiri dynasty of Nawabs by defeating Sarfaraz Khan in 1740 and assumed power himself.

During much of his reign Alivardi encountered frequent Maratha raids under Raghuji Bhonsle, culminating in the surrender of the province of Orissa in a peace settlement in 1751. He also faced separatist rebellions in Bihar as well as a revolt from his grandson Siraj ud-Daulah, though these were suppressed.

Alivardi spent the latter part of his reign rebuilding Bengal. He was a patron of the arts and resumed the policies of Murshid Quli Khan. He maintained a politically neutral stance with the European powers in the subcontinent and prevented any infighting amongst them in his dominions. He was succeeded by Siraj ud-Daulah in 1756.

Early life[edit]

Originally Mirza Bande or Mirza Muhammad Ali, Alivardi was a native of the Deccan who was born in 1676.[3][4][5] His father Mirza Muhammad Shah Quli Khan Madani, who was the son of a Bahadur Khan Kokaltash a Moghul General and foster-brother of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb; Madani himself began his career as a cup-bearer under the latter's son Azam Shah.[6] Muhammad Ali's mother was a Deccani Muslim descending from the Iranian Turkmen Afshar tribe of Khorasan. Through her, he was a cousin of Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, also known as Mirza Deccani.[5][note 1][9][10]

Like their father, he and his elder brother Mirza Ahmad (later known as Haji Ahmad) found favour under Azam Shah. Muhammad Ali was named superintendent of the filkhana (elephant-stables) as well as being given responsibility over the zardozkhana (department of embroidered cloths). However, following Azam Shah's death in 1707, the family fell into poverty. They migrated to Cuttack in Orissa, then under the deputy-governorship of their relative Shuja-ud-Din. Finding employment with the latter, Muhammad Ali and Mirza Ahmad proved themselves capable in supporting his government, later even aiding Shuja-ud-Din in becoming Nawab of Bengal.[11]

Rise to power[edit]

Alivardi Khan with a courtier, Murshidabad, c. 1745

In 1728, Shuja-ud-Din promoted Muhammad Ali to Faujdar (General) of Rajmahal and entitled him as Alivardi Khan.[12] In 1733, he was assigned as the Naib Nazim (Deputy Subahdar) of Bihar. A year later, he was titled Shuja ul-Mulk (Hero of the country), Hassemm ud-Daula (Sword of the state) and Mahabat Jang (Horror in War) and the rank of Paach Hazari Mansabdar (The rank holder of 5000) by Nawab Shuja ud-Din and returned to Azimabad.

Alivardi aspired for larger authority. On 10 April 1740 in the Battle of Giria, he defeated and killed Shuja ud-Din's successor, Sarfaraz Khan.[12] Thus he took control of Bengal and Bihar. Then on 3 March 1741, he defeated Rustam Jang, deputy governor of Orissa and a relative of Sarfaraz Khan, in the Battle of Phulwarion.[12] Orissa also came under Alivardi's control. Alivardi Khan defeated a rebellion in Orissa led by Mirza Baqir Khan, and invading Orissa a second time, he subdued the Barha Sayyids with great difficulty,[13] and installed a brave warrior Shaikh Masum as governor.[14]


Capture of two prisoners at an important battle by Aliverdi Khan

Immediately after his usurpation of power, Alivardi had his takeover legitimized by the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah and resumed the policies of Murshid Quli Khan. He also chose Faujdars from various regions such as Patna, Dacca and Orissa.[15]

Since 1742, the Maratha Empire raided Bengal repeatedly, ravaging its territories. Alivardi almost immediately had a long ditch, called the Maratha ditch, dug around Calcutta. Alivardi was a brilliant artillery tactician, though his armies were overrun by the large force of the Marathas from Berar who had arrived to pillage and conquer the territories of Bengal under the command of Raghoji I Bhonsle.

In the year 1747, the Marathas led by Raghoji began to raid, pillage and annex the territories of Alivardi. During the Maratha invasion of Orissa, its Subedar Mir Jafar completely withdrew all forces until the arrival of Alivardi and the Mughal army at the Battle of Burdwan, where Raghoji and his Maratha forces were completely routed. The enraged Alivardi then dismissed the shamed Mir Jafar.[16]

Alivardi's defending armies were overrun in Orissa in the year 1751, despite receiving some assistance from Shuja-ud-Daula. But Orissa was ultimately surrendered to the ravaging Marathas. These Maratha attacks continued until March 1751 when a peace treaty was settled between Alivardi and Raghoji.[17]

In 1750, Alivardi faced a revolt from Siraj ud-Daulah, his daughter's son, who seized Patna. Alivardi forgave him.[18] Alivardi also subdued the revolt of a few unruly Afghans who were trying to separate Bihar from his administration,[12] and chastised the Banjaras who were marauding through Bihar and chased them towards the Terai.[19]

According to some historians, Alivardi Khan's reign of 16 years was mostly engaged in various wars against the Marathas. Towards the end, he turned his attention to rebuilding and restoring Bengal.

Alivardi Khan's tomb at Khushbagh

He also saved Bengal from the effects of war of succession in Austria through proper vigilance and precautions, unlike south India, which got caught up in it. He maintained a policy of neutrality towards European powers and forbade the British, French and Dutch to have any hostility against each other in his dominion.[20]

Cultural and musical development[edit]

A young woman playing a Veena to a Parakeet, a symbol of her absent lover. Painting in the provincial Mughal style of the Nawab of Bengal.

Alivardi Khan was a patron of various musical instruments such as the Veena and Khol drums. He also patronized many manuscripts of the Shahnameh.

Death and succession[edit]

Alivardi Khan died at 5 am on 9 April 1756, aged at least 80. He was buried in Khushbagh next to his mother's grave.[21] He was succeeded by his daughter's son, Siraj-ud-Daula, who was aged 23 at the time.


Unlike many of his contemporaries, Alivardi had only one wife, Sharfunnesa.[22][23] They had three daughters,[24] of whom at least two married sons of his elder brother Haji Ahmad.[25][26] Alivardi outlived his sons-in-law and, having had no sons of his own, he was succeeded by his maternal grandson Siraj ud-Daulah.[27] Alivardi's issue are as follows:[25][26]

Alivardi also had a number of half-siblings, including Muhammad Amin Khan and Muhammad Yar Khan, who served under him as a general and governor of Hugli respectively.[28][29][30] His half-sister Shah Khanum was the wife of Mir Jafar, who later claimed the throne of Bengal in 1757.[31][32] The historian Ghulam Hussain Khan was also a relative.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historian Abdus Subhan reported that Muhammad Ali and Shuja-ud-Din shared the same grandfather, Nawab Aqil Khan.[7] However, Karam Ali's Muzaffarnama, a contemporary history, notes that he and Aqil Khan merely had the same ancestry "in their 3rd / 4th upward generation".[8]


  1. ^ Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas (1986). A Socio-intellectual History of the Isnā ʼAsharī Shīʼīs in India: 16th to 19th century A.D. Vol. 2. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. pp. 46–47. OCLC 15406211. Ghulām Husayn Tabātabā'ī's account of 'Alīwardī's death reinforces the suggestion that he was a Shī'ī.
  2. ^ Rieck, Andreas (2016). The Shias of Pakistan: An Assertive and Beleaguered Minority. Oxford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-19-061320-4.
  3. ^ Datta, Kalikinkar (1939). Alivardi And His Times. University of Calcutta. p. 2.
  4. ^ Ivermee, Robert (2020). Hooghly:The Global History of a River. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-78738-325-8.
  5. ^ a b Sarkar, Jadunath (1948). The History of Bengal. Vol. II. Dhaka: University of Dhaka. p. 436. ISBN 978-81-7646-239-6.
  6. ^ Sensarma, P. (1977). The Military History of Bengal. Kolkata: Darbari Udjog. p. 172. OCLC 4776236.
  7. ^ Subhan, Abdus (1970). "Early Career of Nawab Ali Vardi Khan of Bengal". Journal of Indian History. XLVIII (III). Trivandrum: University of Kerala: 536.
  8. ^ Ali, Karam; Khan, Shayesta (1992). Tārīk̲h̲-i Bangāl va Bihār sadah-ʼi hīzhdahum [Bihar and Bengal in the 18th century: a critical edition and translation of Muzaffarnama, a contemporary history]. Patna: Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library.
  9. ^ Antunes, Cátia; Bethencourt, Francisco (2022). Merchant Cultures:A Global Approach to Spaces, Representations and Worlds of Trade, 1500–1800. p. 124. ISBN 978-90-04-50657-2. Another Deccani, Shuja succeeded Murshid Quli from 1727.
  10. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr. (2001). Encyclopaedia of Muslim Biography: I-M. A.P.H. Publishing Corporation. ISBN 978-81-7648-233-2.
  11. ^ Sarkar (1948, pp. 436–37)
  12. ^ a b c d Shah, Mohammad (2012). "Alivardi Khan". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  13. ^ Rāẏa, Bhabānī Caraṇa (1981). Orissa Under the Mughals:From Akbar to Alivardi : a Fascinating Study of the Socio-economic and Cultural History of Orissa.
  14. ^ Sahu, N. K.; Miśra, Prabodhakumāra; Sahu, Jagna Kumar (1981). History of Orissa. p. 347.
  15. ^ Markovits, Claude (2004). A History of Modern India, 1480-1950. Anthem Press. pp. 194–. ISBN 978-1-84331-004-4.
  16. ^ Jaques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A-E. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 137–. ISBN 978-0-313-33537-2.
  17. ^ Jaswant Lal Mehta (2005). Advanced Study in the History of Modern India 1707-1813. Sterling Publishers Pvt. ISBN 9781932705546. Archived from the original on 23 April 2023. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  18. ^ Dalrymple, William (2019). The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-4088-6440-1.
  19. ^ Ansari, Tahir Hussain (2019). Mughal Administration and the Zamindars of Bihar. ISBN 978-1-000-65152-2.
  20. ^ Datta, Kalikinkar (1948). The Dutch in Bengal and Bihar, 1740-1825 A.D. University of Patna. p. 12.
  21. ^ Dalrymple, William (2019). The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 84, 87. ISBN 978-1-4088-6440-1.
  22. ^ Skelton, Robert; Francis, Mark (1979). Arts of Bengal: The Heritage of Bangladesh and Eastern India : an Exhibition. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-85488-047-8.
  23. ^ Rahim, A. (1959). "Society and Culture of the Eighteenth Century Bengal". Bengali Literary Review. 4 (I & II). University of Karachi: 127. ISSN 0405-413X.
  24. ^ a b Islam, Sirajul (1997). History of Bangladesh, 1704-1971. Vol. 3. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 978-984-512-337-2.
  25. ^ a b Datta, K.K. (1967). Early Career of Siraj-ud-daulah. Bengal, Past & Present: Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society. Vol. LXXXVI. Calcutta Historical Society. p. 142.
  26. ^ a b Sen, Ranjit (1987). Metamorphosis of the Bengal Polity (1700-1793). Kolkata: Rabindra Bharati University. p. 87. OCLC 17918965.
  27. ^ Sengupta, Nitish Kumar (2011). Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib. New Delhi: Penguin Books India. pp. 162, 164. ISBN 978-0-14-341678-4.
  28. ^ Salim, Ghulam Hussain (1902). Riyazu-s-Salatin, A History of Bengal. Translated by Abdus Salam. Calcutta: The Baptist Mission Press. p. 335.
  29. ^ Sarkar (1948, p. 445)
  30. ^ Datta, Kalikinkar (1939). Alivardi and His Times. Kolkata: University of Calcutta. p. 69.
  31. ^ Mukhopadhyay, Subhas Chandra (1980). Diwani in Bengal, 1765: Career of Nawab Najm-ud-Daulah. Varanasi: Vishwavidyalaya Prakashan. p. 3. OCLC 8431066.
  32. ^ Rashid, Abdur (2001). From Makkah to Nuclear Pakistan. Lahore: Ferozsons. p. 143. ISBN 978-969-0-01691-1.
  33. ^ Askari, Syed Hasan (April 1978). "Saiyid Ghulam Hussain Khan". The Panjab Past and Present. XII (I). Department of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University: 257. ISSN 0031-0786.

Further reading[edit]

  • Decisive Battle of India, G. B. Malleson, ISBN 81-7536-291-X, published by Books For All, 2002.
  • Wikisource Buckland, C.E. (1906). "Aliverdi Khan". Dictionary of Indian Biography. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. Lim.
Alivardi Khan
Born: Before 10 May 1671 Died: 10 April 1756
Preceded by Nawab of Bengal
29 April 1740 – 9 April 1756
Succeeded by