Palace of the Rajas
|Founder||Raja Kamdev Rai|
|Current head||Legally Abolished (1950)|
|Part of a series on|
|Zamindars of Bengal|
|Barisal and Khulna|
|Dhaka and Sylhet|
|Rajshahi and Rangpur|
Rajshahi Raj was a large zamindari (feudatory kingdom) which occupied a vast position of Bengal (present day West Bengal, India and Bangladesh). It was the second largest zamindari with an area of about 33,670 km2, after the Burdwan Raj. The zamindari came into being during the early part of the 18th century when Nawab Murshid Quli Khan was the Dewan / Subahdar of Bengal (1704–1727).
The family ruled their dominions and estates from the Natore Palace in present-day Bangladesh. A member of this Raj family, Maharaja Jagadindra Narayan Ray, was a patron of cricket, and wanted to defeat the British in their own game of Cricket. His rival was the Maharaja of Koch Bihar.
The Rajshahi Raj family is descended from Kamdev Rai.The rulers and holders of this estate were Brahmins. Many old aristocrats and lords lost their estates during the rule of the Nawab Murshid Quli Khan. Besides, many zamindars lost their zamindari on account of their disobedience and rebellion. Murshid Quli Khan settled these zamindaries with his trusted followers. In this process of replacement the most fortunate beneficiary was the Rajshahi zamindari. The family also benefited by another feature of nawab's revenue policy of encouragement to the formation of big zamindaries.
The Rajshahi Raj family traced its origin to Kamdev Rai, a tahsildar of the Puthia Raj family. Kamdev had three sons Ramjivan, Raghunandan and Bishnuram. Raghunandan was the very promising and enterprising. Raja Darpanarain, the zamindar of Puthia, and Murshid Quli Khan had significant contributions behind Raghunandan's rise to prominence.
Raghunandan sided with Murshid Quli Khan in his entanglement with the Subahdar, the Prince Azim-us-Shan, the grandson of Emperor Aurangzeb and thus won the confidence of the nawab. Again, when the diwani was transferred to Murshidabad, he was appointed in a similar capacity as his master's representative there. During this time he came in close contact of Murshid Quli Khan and secured his confidence. Which is why the naib (later ruler of Bengal) trusted him and let him set up the dynasty.
Just a few zamindars controlled half of the total landed property of Bengal while the colonial state was forming in the last decades of the 18th century. The colonial state viewed these princely zamindaris as potential threats to the security of the new state, because their power were so great that they could at any opportune moment combine and put the colonial state in great jeopardy. Hence it became a policy of the government to weaken these estates, if not destroy them altogether. One of the strategies to implement this design was the ruthless operation of the sunset law (law which required the lords to submit their revenues by sunset). In 1788, in her old age, Rani Bhabani transferred the zamindari to her adopted son Raja Ramkrishna, then forty years old.
The fall of the Raj family
In April 1798, Raja Biswanath attained his majority and took over the management of the zamindari. Soon he fell in huge arrears for which mahal after mahal were sold for recovering public revenue. By 1800, the great Rajshahi raj was reduced to insignificance. Utter poverty descended on the family. In consideration of his past rank and status and present indigence, the Government granted him an allowance of eight hundred rupees per month in 1805. A zamindari which was the second largest in Bengal, just next to the Burdwan raj, in 1790 became almost extinct within the next ten years.
The Rajshahi Raj witnessed its rise almost throughout the 18th century, but its decline started before the end of the 20th century. It however maintained its existence during the 19th century. The zamindari was ultimately abolished under the East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act of 1950 introduced by the Democratic Pakistani Government after the fall of the British Monarchy just two years back (1947–1948).
- Jamini Kanta Bhaduri (1912) A Short History Of Natore Raj ISBN 0-04-394204-0