Siraj ud-Daulah

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Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah
Mansur-ul-Mulk (Victory of the Country)
Siraj ud-Daulah (Light of the State)
Hybut Jang (Horror in War)
Siraj ud-Daula.jpg
Nawab Nazim of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
Reign9 April 1756 – 23 June 1757
PredecessorAlivardi Khan
SuccessorMir Jafar
Murshidabad, Bengal Subah
Died2 July 1757(1757-07-02) (aged 23–24)
Murshidabad, Company Raj
Khushbagh, Murshidabad
IssueUmme Zohra (Qudsia Begum)
Nawab Mirza Muhammad Siraj ud-Daulah
FatherZain ud-Din Ahmed Khan
MotherAmina Begum
ReligionShia Islam[1][2][3]
Military career
AllegianceAlam of the Mughal Empire.svg Mughal Empire[4]
Service/branchNawab of Bengal
RankNawabzada, Nawab
Battles/warsBattle of Plassey

Mirza Muhammad Siraj-ud-Daulah (Persian: مرزا محمد سراج الدولہ‎, Bengali: মির্জা মুহম্মদ সিরাজউদ্দৌলা; 1733 – 2 July 1757), commonly known as Siraj-ud-Daulah[a] or Siraj ud-Daula,[7] was the last independent Nawab of Bengal. He made Nizamat Imambara in Murshidabad West Bengal in 1740. The end of his reign marked the start of the rule of the East India Company over Bengal and later almost all of the Indian subcontinent.

Siraj succeeded his maternal grandfather, Alivardi Khan as the Nawab of Bengal in April 1756 at the age of 23. Betrayed by Mir Jafar, the commander of Nawab's army, Siraj lost the Battle of Plassey on 23 June 1757. The forces of the East India Company under Robert Clive invaded and the administration of Bengal fell into the hands of the company.

Early life and background[edit]

Siraj was born to the family of Mirza Muhammad Hashim and Amina Begum in 1733. Soon after his birth, Alivardi Khan, Siraj's maternal grandfather, was appointed the Deputy Governor of Bihar. Amina Begum was the youngest daughter of Alivardi Khan and Princess Sharfunnisa, the paternal aunt of Mir Jafar. His father, Mirza Muhammad Hashim was the youngest son of Haji Ahmad, the elder brother of Alivardi Khan. Siraj's great-grandfather was Mirza Muhammad Madani, who was of either of Arab or Turkic ancestry, the son of a foster-brother of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb; Madani himself began his career as a cup-bearer under the latter's son Azam Shah.[8][9] His great-grandmother belonged to the Turkic Afshar tribe of Khorasan. Through her, he was a grandnephew of Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, the two having shared a common ancestor in Nawab Aqil Khan.[8][10]

Siraj was regarded as the "fortune child" of the family. He received the special affection of his grandfather and was raised at the Nawab's palace with all necessary education and training suitable for a future Nawab. Young Siraj also accompanied Alivardi on his military ventures against the Marathas in 1746. In 1750, Siraj revolted against his grandfather and seized Patna, but quickly surrendered and was forgiven. In May 1752, Alivardi declared Siraj as his successor. The former later died on 9 April 1756 at the age of eighty.[11]

Reign as Nawab[edit]

Bust of Siraj ud-Daulah by the Palashi Monument situated in Nadia, West Bengal.
A painting showing the Sang-i-dalan, Kala Masjid, the tombs all surrounded by the Motijhil Lake

Siraj ud-Daulah's nomination to the Nawab ship aroused the jealousy and enmity of his maternal aunt, Ghaseti Begum (Mehar un-Nisa Begum), Mir Jafar, Jagat Seth, Mehtab Chand and Shaukat Jang (Siraj's cousin). Ghaseti Begum possessed huge wealth, which was the source of her influence and strength. Apprehending serious opposition from her, Siraj ud-Daulah seized her wealth from Motijheel Palace and placed her under confinement. The Nawab also made changes in high government positions by giving them to his own favourites. Mir Madan was appointed Bakshi (paymaster of the army) in place of Mir Jafar. Mohanlal was elevated to the rank of peshkar (courtclerk) of his Dewan-khane and he exercised great influence in the administration. Eventually, Siraj suppressed Shaukat Jang, governor of Purnia, who was killed in a clash.

Black Hole of Calcutta[edit]

Pindari's loyal to Siraj ud-Daulah carry out the Black Hole of Calcutta atrocity, 20 June 1756.

During this period, the British East India Company was increasing their influence in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Bengal; Siraj soon grew to resent the politico-military presence of the East India Company in Bengal. In particular, he was angered at the Company's alleged involvement with and instigation of some members of his own court to a conspiracy to oust him. His charges against the company were broadly threefold. Firstly, that they strengthened the fortification around the Fort William without any intimation or approval; secondly, that they grossly abused trade privileges granted them by the Mughal rulers – which caused heavy loss of customs duties for the government; and thirdly, that they gave shelter to some of his officers, for example, Krishnadas, son of Rajballav, who fled Dhaka after misappropriating government funds. Hence, when the East India Company began further enhancement of military strength at Fort William in Calcutta, Siraj ud-Daulah ordered them to stop. The Company did not heed his directives; consequently, Siraj retaliated and captured Calcutta (for a short while renamed Alinagar) from the British in June 1756. The Nawab gathered his forces together and took Fort William. The British captives were placed in the prison cell as a temporary holding by a local commander, but there was confusion in the Indian chain of command, and the captives were left there overnight, and many of them died.[12]

Sir William Meredith, during the Parliamentary inquiry into Robert Clive's actions in India, vindicated Siraj ud-Daulah of any charge surrounding the Black Hole incident: "A peace was however agreed upon with Surajah Dowlah; and the persons who went as ambassadors to confirm that peace formed the conspiracy, by which he was deprived of his kingdom and his life."[12]

Nizamat Imambara[edit]

Nizammat Imambara of Murshidabad was built by Siraj ud-Daula. It is the biggest imambargah in the Subcontinent.

Shi'ism was introduced to Bengal during the governorship of Shah Shuja (1641–1661 AD), son of Shah Jahan. From 1707 AD to 1880 AD, the Nawabs of Bengal were Shias.[13][3][14] They built huge Imambargahs, including the biggest of the Subcontinent built by Nawab Siraj-ud Daula, the Nizammat Imambara. The nawabs of Bengal and Iranian merchants in Bengal patronised azadari and the political capital Murshidabad and the trading hub Hoogly attracted Shia scholars from within and outside India.[15]


The Nawab was infuriated on learning of the attack on Chandernagar. His former hatred of the British returned, but he now felt the need to strengthen himself by alliances against the British. The Nawab was plagued by fear of attack from the north by the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Durrani and from the west by the Marathas. Therefore, he could not deploy his entire force against the British for fear of being attacked from the flanks. A deep distrust set in between the British and the Nawab. As a result, Siraj started secret negotiations with Jean Law, chief of the French factory at Cossimbazar, and de Bussy. The Nawab also moved a large division of his army under Rai Durlabh to Plassey, on the island of Cossimbazar 30 miles (48 km) south of Murshidabad.[16][17][18][19]

Popular discontent against the Nawab flourished in his own court. The Seths, the traders of Bengal, were in perpetual fear for their wealth under the reign of Siraj, contrary to the situation under Alivardi's reign. They had engaged Yar Lutuf Khan to defend them in case they were threatened in any way.[20] William Watts, the Company representative at the court of Siraj, informed Clive about a conspiracy at the court to overthrow the ruler. The conspirators included Mir Jafar, the paymaster of the army, Rai Durlabh, Yar Lutuf Khan and Omichund (Amir Chand), a Sikh merchant, and several officers in the army.[21] When communicated in this regard by Mir Jafar, Clive referred it to the select committee in Calcutta on 1 May. The committee passed a resolution in support of the alliance. A treaty was drawn up between the British and Mir Jafar to raise him to the throne of the Nawab in return for support to the British in the field of battle and the bestowal of large sums of money upon them as compensation for the attack on Calcutta. On 2 May, Clive broke up his camp and sent half the troops to Calcutta and the other half to Chandernagar.[22][23][24][25]

Mir Jafar and the Seths desired that the confederacy between the British and himself be kept secret from Omichund, but when he found out about it, he threatened to betray the conspiracy if his share was not increased to three million rupees (£300,000). Hearing of this, Clive suggested an expedient to the committee. He suggested that two treaties be drawn – the real one on white paper, containing no reference to Omichund and the other on red paper, containing Omichund's desired stipulation, to deceive him. The Members of the Committee signed on both treaties, but Admiral Watson signed only the real one and his signature had to be counterfeited on the fictitious one.[26] Both treaties and separate articles for donations to the army, navy squadron and committee were signed by Mir Jafar on 4 June.[27][28][29][30]

Lord Clive testified and defended himself thus before the House of Commons of Parliament on 10 May 1773, during the Parliamentary inquiry into his conduct in India:

"Omichund, his confidential servant, as he thought, told his master of an agreement made between the English and Monsieur Duprée [may be a mistranscription of Dupleix] to attack him, and received for that advice a sum of not less than four lacks of rupees. Finding this to be the man in whom the nawab entirely trusted, it soon became our object to consider him as a most material engine in the intended revolution. We, therefore, made such an agreement as was necessary for the purpose, and entered into a treaty with him to satisfy his demands. When all things were prepared, and the evening of the event was appointed, Omichund informed Mr Watts, who was at the court of the nawab, that he insisted upon thirty lacks of rupees, and five per cent. upon all the treasure that should be found; that, unless that was immediately complied with, he would disclose the whole to the nawab; and that Mr. Watts, and the two other English gentlemen then at the court, should be cut off before the morning. Mr Watts, immediately on this information, dispatched an express to me at the council. I did not hesitate to find out a stratagem to save the lives of these people, and secure success to the intended event. For this purpose, we signed another treaty. The one was called the Red, the other the White treaty. This treaty was signed by everyone, except admiral Watson; and I should have considered myself sufficiently authorised to put his name to it, by the conversation I had with him. As to the person who signed Admiral Watson's name to the treaty, whether he did it in his presence or not, I cannot say; but this I know, that he thought he had sufficient authority for so doing. This treaty was immediately sent to Omichund, who did not suspect the stratagem. The event took place, and success attended it; and the House, I am fully persuaded, will agree with me, that, when the very existence of the company was at stake, and the lives of these people so precariously situated, and so certain of being destroyed, it was a matter of true policy and of justice to deceive so great a villain."[31][32]

Battle of Plassey[edit]

Robert Clive meeting with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey, dramatized painting by Francis Hayman
A plan depicting the positions and movements of the opposing armies in the Battle of Plassey
A plan of the Battle of Plassey, fought on 23 June 1757 by Robert Clive against the Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah of Bengal

The Battle of Plassey (or Palashi) is widely considered the turning point in the history of the subcontinent, marking the start of British rule in India. After Siraj-ud-Daulah's conquest of Calcutta, the British sent fresh troops from Madras to recapture the fort and avenge the attack. A retreating Siraj-ud-Daulah met the British at Plassey. He had to make camp 27 miles away from Murshidabad. On 23 June 1757 Siraj-ud-Daulah called on Mir Jafar because he was saddened by the sudden fall of Mir Mardan who was a very dear companion of Siraj in battles. The Nawab asked for help from Mir Jafar. Mir Jafar advised Siraj to retreat for that day. The Nawab made the blunder in giving the order to stop the fight. Following his command, the soldiers of the Nawab were returning to their camps. At that time, Robert Clive attacked the soldiers with his army. At such a sudden attack, the army of Siraj became indisciplined and could think of no way to fight. So much of this army retreated. Betrayed by a conspiracy plotted by Jagat Seth, Mir Jafar, Krishna Chandra, Omichund etc., he lost the battle and had to escape. He rode away and went first to Murshidabad, specifically to Heerajheel or Motijheel, his palace at Mansurganj. He ordered his principal commanders to engage their troops for his safety, but as he was bereft of power due to the loss at Plassey, they were reluctant to offer unquestioning support. Some advised him to deliver himself up to the English, but Siraj equated this with treachery. Others proposed he should encourage the army with greater rewards, and this he seemed to approve of. Yet the numbers in his retinue were considerably diminished. Soon he dispatched most of the women of his harem to Purneah, under the protection of Mohanlal, with gold and elephants. Then, with his principal consort Lutf-un-Nisa and very few attendants, Siraj began his escape towards Patna by boat, but was eventually arrested by Mir Jafar's soldiers.[33]


Tomb of Siraj ud-Daulah
Masouleum of Siraj-ud-Daulah at Khushbagh

Siraj-ud-Daulah was executed on 2 July 1757 by Mohammad Ali Beg under orders from Mir Miran, son of Mir Jafar in Namak Haram Deorhi as part of the agreement between Mir Jafar and the British East India Company.

Siraj-ud-Daulah's tomb is located at Khushbagh, Murshidabad. It is marked with a simple but elegant one-storied mausoleum, surrounded by gardens.[34][self-published source?]

Critics and legacy[edit]

Siraj ud-Daulah has gained a positive reputation in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan for his opposition to the beginning of British rule over India.

In 1985, Sarkar wrote:[35]

After the death of Alivardii Khan, his immature grandson became the nawab of Bengal, taking the name Miirza Mohammed Siraj-Ud-Daola. In addition to his young age, he had many kinds of defects in his character and conduct.

Two Shia historians who were in favour of Mir Jafar wrote of Siraj ud-Daulah.

Ghulam Husain Salim wrote:[1]

Owing to Siraju-d-daulah's harshness of temper and indulgence in violent language, fear and terror had settled on the hearts of everyone to such an extent, that no one among the generals of the army or the noblemen of the City was free from anxiety. Among his officers, whoever went to wait on Siraju-d-daulah despaired of life and honour, and whoever returned without being disgraced and ill-treated offered thanks to God. Siraju-d-daulah treated all the noblemen and capable generals of Mahabat Jang with ridicule and drollery and bestowed on each some contemptuous nick-name that ill-suited any of them. And whatever harsh expressions and abusive epithet came to his lips, Siraju-d-daulah uttered them unhesitatingly in the face of everyone, and no one had the boldness to breathe freely in his presence.

Ghulam Husain Tabatabai wrote of Siraj ud-Daulah:[2]

Making no distinction betwixt vice and virtue ... he carried defilement wherever he went; and like a man alienated in his mind he made the houses of men and women of distinction the scenes of his profli¬gacy, without minding either rank or station. In a little time, he became as detested as Pharao. People on meeting him by chance used to say, God save us from him!

Sir William Meredith, during the Parliamentary inquiry into Robert Clive's actions in India, defended the character of Siraj-ud Daulah:

Siraj-ud-Daulah is indeed reported to have been a very wicked, and a very cruel prince, but how he deserved that character does not appear in fact. He was very young, not 20 years old when he was put to death—and the first provocation to his enmity was given by the English. It is true, that when he took Calcutta a very lamentable event happened, I mean the story of the Black Hole; but that catastrophe can never be attributed to the intention, for it was without the knowledge of the prince. I remember a similar accident happening in St. Martin's roundhouse, but it should appear very ridiculous, were I, on that account, to attribute any guilt or imputation of cruelty to the memory of the late king, in whose reign it happened. A peace was however agreed upon with Suraj-ud-Daulah; and the persons who went as ambassadors to confirm that peace formed the conspiracy, by which he was deprived of his kingdom and his life.[12]

It is possible that Siraj-ud-Daulah was trained in the martial arts by the Pindari, whom he deployed on several occasions. A painting by Francis Hayman displaying a half-naked corpse of Siraj indicates that he was a Nawab who behaved like a Pindari.


In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other spellings exist including the corruption "Sir Roger Dowler"[5] which is also used in phrases such as "Sir Roger Dowler method" referring to early non-systematic and distorting Romanisation schemes for Devanagari script.[6]
  • ^ Ġulām Ḥusain chaklim (1902). The Riyazu-s-salatin, A History of Bengal. Translated by Salam, Maulavi Abdus. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society. p. 363-370.
  • ^ Seid-Gholam-Hossein-Khan (1926). The Sëir Mutaqherin or Review of Modern Times. Volume II. Calcutta: R. Cambray & Co. |volume= has extra text (help) link to searchable text at the Packard Humanities Institute


  1. ^ Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas (1986). A Socio-intellectual History of the Isnā ʼAsharī Shīʼīs in India: 16th to 19th century A.D. 2. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. pp. 45–47.
  2. ^ Rieck, Andreas (15 January 2016). The Shias of Pakistan: An Assertive and Beleaguered Minority. Oxford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-19-061320-4.
  3. ^ a b K. K. Datta, Ali Vardi and His Times, ch. 4, University of Calcutta Press, (1939)
  4. ^ Rai, R. History. FK Publications. p. 44. ISBN 9788187139690.
  5. ^ Abram Smythe Palmer. Folk-etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions Or Words Perverted in Form Or Meaning, by False Derivation Or Mistaken Analogy. G. Bell and Sons, 1882. p. 557.
  6. ^ Francis Henry Skrine. Life of Sir William Wilson Hunter, K.C.S.I., M.A., LL.D., a vice-president of the Royal Asiatic Society, etc. Longmans, Green, and Co., 1901. p. 205.
  7. ^ Dalrymple, W. (2019),The Anarchy p78, London: Bloombsbury
  8. ^ a b Sarkar, Jadunath (1948). The History of Bengal. II. Dhaka: University of Dhaka. p. 436. ISBN 978-81-7646-239-6.
  9. ^ P. Sensarma (1977). The Military History of Bengal. Kolkata: Darbari Udjog. p. 172.
  10. ^ Subhan, Abdus (1970). "Early Career of Nawab Ali Vardi Khan of Bengal". Journal of Indian History. Trivandrum: University of Kerala. XLVIII (III): 536.
  11. ^ Dalrymple, William (10 September 2019). The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-4088-6440-1.
  12. ^ a b c Cobbett, William; Hansard, Thomas Curson (1813). The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. T.C. Hansard. pp. 449–. ISBN 9780404016500.
  13. ^ S. A. A. Rizvi, A Socio-Intellectual History of Isna Ashari Shi'is in India, Vol. 2, pp. 45–47, Mar'ifat Publishing House, Canberra (1986).
  14. ^ Andreas Rieck, The Shias of Pakistan, p. 3, Oxford University Press, (2015).
  15. ^ Andreas Rieck, "The Shias of Pakistan", p. 3, Oxford university press, (2015).
  16. ^ Harrington, p. 25
  17. ^ Mahon, p. 337
  18. ^ Orme 1861, p. 145
  19. ^ Malleson, pp. 48–49
  20. ^ Bengal, v.1, p. clxxxi
  21. ^ Bengal, v.1, pp. clxxxiii–clxxxiv
  22. ^ Malleson, pp. 49–51
  23. ^ Harrington, pp. 25–29
  24. ^ Mahon, pp. 338–339
  25. ^ Orme 1861, pp. 147–149
  26. ^ Bengal, v.1, pp. clxxxvi–clxxxix
  27. ^ (Orme 1861, pp. 150–161)
  28. ^ Harrington, p. 29
  29. ^ Mahon, pp. 339–341
  30. ^ Bengal, v.1, pp. cxcii–cxciii
  31. ^ Cobbett, William; Parliament, Great Britain (1813). The Parliamentary history of England from the earliest period to the year 1803, Volume 17. p. 876. ISBN 9780404016500.
  32. ^ The gentleman's magazine, and historical chronicle, Volume 43. 1773. pp. 630–631.
  33. ^ "We all know Siraj-ud-Daulah lost the Battle of Plassey. How did he escape afterwards?". Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  34. ^ Basu, Saurab. "Trip Taken from June – 10th to 12th - 2006". Murshidabad – The Land of the Legendary ‘Siraj-ud-Daulah’ Unveiled. History of Bengal. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  35. ^ Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan (1996). Shabda Cayanika, Part 1 (First English ed.). Kolkata: Ananda Marga Publications. ISBN 81-7252-027-1.
  36. ^ "Week-long agriculture technology fair begins in Natore". Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha. Archived from the original on 22 February 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  37. ^ "Siraj ud Daula Road, Karachi".
  38. ^ "Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daulah Sarani, West Bengal".
  39. ^ "6 suspected Huji operatives held in Dhaka". Prothom Alo.
  40. ^ "Siraj-Ud-Doula Hall". Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University (SAU).
  41. ^ "BGIC Branch Network - BGIC Ltd.BGIC Ltd".
  42. ^ "4 hospitals fined, two of them asked to shut". The Daily Star. 17 October 2015.
  43. ^ a b Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1999). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. ISBN 9780851706696.
  44. ^ Shriparabat (1960). Ami Sirajer Begum. Rupayani. OCLC 59608078.
  45. ^সিকানদার-আবু-জাফরের-নাটক-সিরাজউদ্দৌলা-একটি-অনুভাবনা/
  46. ^ "My Academy :: Digital Book".
  47. ^ "Nawab Sirajuddaula (1967) - Review, Star Cast, News, Photos". Cinestaan.
  48. ^ Various Artists - Topic (3 November 2014). "Sirajuddaula" – via YouTube.
  49. ^ "Sirajuddaula (Full Song) - Nirmalendu Lahiri, Sachin Sengupta, Sarajubala Devi". JioSaavn.

External links[edit]

Siraj ud-Daulah
Born: 1733 Died: 2 July 1757
Preceded by
Alivardi Khan
Nawab of Bengal
9 April 1756 – 2 June 1757
Succeeded by
Mir Jafar