Mirza Muhammad, also known as Siraj-ud-Daulah, was born in 1729. He was the Nawab of Bengal, which was once a province of India and formally subject to the Mughal emperor. He was also Bengal’s last independent Nawab. During his reign, Great Britain became involved in India’s internal affairs.
In 1740, he established NizamatImambara in Murshidabad, West Bengal. The end of his reign signaled the beginning of the East India Company’s control over Bengal, and ultimately the whole Indian subcontinent.
In 1733, Siraj ud-Daulah was born to Mirza Muhammad Hashim and Amina Begum. Alivardi Khan, his maternal grandfather, also occupied a position of prominence, named Deputy Governor of Bihar. Amina Begum was Alivardi Khan’s youngest daughter with Princess Sharfunnisa, Mir Jafar’s paternal aunt. Siraj’s great-grandfather was Mirza Muhammad Madani, who was possible of Arab or Turkic descent and was the son of Aurangzeb’s foster brother; his great-grandmother was from the Turkic Afshar tribe of Khorasan. He was a grandnephew of Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan through her, the two descended from Nawab Aqil Khan.
Character of Siraj ud-Daulah:
Siraj called the family’s “lucky child.” He got his grandfather’s special care and he raised up at the Nawab’s palace, receiving the essential education and preparation for a future Nawab. In 1746, a young Siraj followed Alivardi on his military expeditions against the Marathas. Siraj rose up against his grandfather in 1750 and captured Patna, but shortly surrendered and his grandfather forgave him. Alivardi appointed Siraj as his successor in May 1752. Later that year, on 9 April 1756, the former died at the age of eighty.
Siraj ud-Daulah as Nawab:
The nomination of Siraj ud-Daulah as Nawab raised 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 gained enormous riches, which increased her dominance and strength. Siraj ud-Daulah, fearful of her opposition, seized her money from Motijheel Palace and imprisoned her. The Nawab also reshuffled high-ranking government positions, appointing his own favorites. Mir Madan succeeded Mir Jafar as Bakshi (paymaster of the army). Mohanlal appointed Pushkar (court clerk) of his Dewan-khane and wielded considerable influence over the government. Siraj eventually defeated Shaukat Jang, the governor of Purnia.
Notable Events under Siraj ud-Daulah reign:
The black hole of Calcutta
Meanwhile, the British East India Company expanded its power in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Bengal; Siraj quickly challenged the East India Company’s political and military presence in Bengal. He disturbed and enraged at the Company’s suspected collusion with some members of his own court in a plot to depose him. He leveled three broad charges against the corporation. To begin, they strengthened the fortifications surrounding Fort William without approval; to continue, they grossly abused the trade privileges granted to them by the Mughal rulers – resulting in a significant loss of customs duties for the government; and to conclude, they provided shelter to several of his officers, including Krishnadas, son of Rajballav, who fled Dhaka after misappropriating government funds. As a result, when the East India Company increased military power at Fort William in Calcutta, Siraj ud-Daulah ordered a halt.
As a result of the Company’s failure to follow his directions, Siraj ud-Daulah retaliated and took Calcutta from the British in June 1756. The Nawab marshaled his men and captured Fort William. The British captives kept in the prison cell, but due to miscommunication in the Indian chain of command, the hostages abandoned overnight, where many perished.
Shiaism got introduced in Bengal during Shah Shuja’s (1641–1661 AD) reign. The Nawabs of Bengal were Shia from 1707 to 1880 AD. They constructed massive Imambargahs, the largest of which was built by Nawab Siraj-udDaula, the NizammatImambara. Bengal’s nawabs and Iranian merchants patronized azadari, while Murshidabad’s political center and commercial hub Hoogly drew Shia intellectuals from within and outside India.
When the Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah learned about the attack on Chandernagar, he was outraged. His earlier hostility toward the British reappeared, but he now felt the need to protect himself through alliances against them. The Nawab was fearful of an attack from the north by Ahmad Shah Durrani’s Afghans and from the west by the Marathas. As a result, he was unable to deploy his entire force against the British for fear of flanking attacks. Between the British and the Nawab, a profound distrust developed. As a result, Siraj began secret negotiations with Jean Law, the head of France’s plant in Cossimbazar, and de Bussy. Additionally, the Nawab relocated the most division of his army under Rai Durlabh to Plassey, which is located on the island of Cossimbazar 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Murshidabad.
The Nawab’s court was also in disagreement and unhappy with him. The Seths, Bengal’s merchants, were fearful for their wealth during Siraj’s reign. They had tasked Yar Lutuf Khan with the responsibility of defending them if they threatened in any way. William Watts, the Company’s ambassador at Siraj’s court, notified Clive of a plot taking place to overthrow the ruler. Among the conspirators were Mir Jafar, the army’s paymaster, Rai Durlabh, Yar Lutuf Khan, and Omichund (Amir Chand), a Sikh merchant, as well as other army officials.
The deal between British and Mir Jafar
When Mir Jafar informed Clive of this, Clive referred it to the Calcutta select committee on 1 May. The committee voted in favor of the alliance. A pact was made between the British and Mir Jafar that placed him on the throne of the Nawab in exchange for military assistance and large numbers of money as compensation for the attack on Calcutta. Clive dispatched half of his forces to Calcutta and the other half to Chandernagar on 2 May.
Deceived By the British
Mir Jafar and the Seths wished to keep the plan between the British and himself a secret from Omichund. When he learned of it, he threatened to expose the plan unless his part was increased to three million rupees. Clive presented an alternative to the committee upon hearing this. He proposed that two treaties be made – one on white paper with no reference to Omichund and one on red paper with Omichund’s desired clause in order to deceive him. The Committee’s members signed both treaties, but Admiral Watson signed only the genuine one, and his signature had to be forged on the false one. Mir Jafar signed both treaties and separate papers authorizing gifts to the army, navy squadron, and the committee on 4 June.
On 10 May 1773, during the Parliamentary inquiry investigating his conduct in India, Lord Clive testified and defended himself in this manner before the House of Commons of Parliament.
Battle of Plassey
The Battle of Plassey (or Palashi) regarded as a turning point in the subcontinent’s history, marking the beginning of British control in India. Following Siraj-ud-seizure Daulah’s of Calcutta, the British sent reinforcements from Madras to recover the fort and exact revenge. At Plassey, a retreating Siraj-ud-Daulah confronted the British. He forced to establish camp 27 miles from Murshidabad. On 23 June 1757, Siraj-ud-Daulah visited Mir Jafar to express his sorrow for the tragic death of Mir Mardan, Siraj’s most trusted battle partner.
The Nawab requested assistance from Mir Jafar. Mir Jafar recommended Siraj take the day off. The Nawab miscalculated in giving the order to halt the fight. The Nawab’s men were returning to their camps following his command. At the time, Robert Clive and his troops attacked the soldiers. In the face of such a surprise invasion, Siraj’s army became indisciplined and unable to think of a strategy. A large portion of this force withdrew.
Consequences of the Conspiracy
He was betrayed by a scheme planned by Jagat Seth, Mir Jafar, Krishna Chandra, and Omichund, he lost the war. The Nawab mounted his horse and headed to Murshidabad, more specifically to Heerajheel or Motijheel, his Mansurganj mansion. He directed his key commanders to prepare their forces for his safety, but they were unwilling to grant support due to his loss of power at Plassey. Others persuaded him to surrender to the English, but Siraj viewed this as treason. Others said he should reward the army more financially, which he appeared to approve of.
Nonetheless, his army’s numbers reduced significantly. Soon after, he dispatched the majority of his harem to Purneah, under Mohanlal’s protection, with gold and elephants. Siraj then attempted to flee to Patna with his principal consort Lutf-un-Nisa and a few attendants but apprehended by Mir Jafar’s men.
Mohammad Ali Beg executed Siraj-ud-Daulah on 2 July 1757 in Namak Haram Deorhi on orders from Mir Miran, son of Mir Jafar, as part of the agreement between Mir Jafar and the British East India Company.
The grave of Siraj-ud-Daulah is located in Khushbagh, Murshidabad. It is distinguished by a straightforward yet elegant one-story mausoleum surrounded by gardens.
Siraj ud-Daulah Assessment
Siraj ud-Daulah had a favorable reputation in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan as a result of his opposition to the establishment of British control in India.
His main fault was weakness, which caused him to be fickle and indecisive; he was also arrogant, of changeable temper, and lacking in courage” (Mark Bence-Jones, Clive of India [London: Constable, 1974], p. 89).
The Nawab was thereafter to be wrongly blamed in the infamous Calcutta “Black Hole” affair, in which 146 English captives allegedly died of suffocation after being confined to a small, airless prison.
In the end, the Nawab suffered a fatal death. He was in disarray, betrayed by his own granduncle, and deserted by his army, with nowhere to go and no one to aid. All of his wealth and influence were useless at the moment. He traveled from place to place. A few days later, the Nawab’s body discovered in the river.