Alivardi Khan
Shuja ul-Mulk (Hero of the country)
Hashim ud-Daula (Sword of the state)
Mahabat Jang (Horror in War)
Nawab of Bengal
Portrait of Allahwerdi Khan.jpg
Nawab Nazim of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
Reign29 April 1740 – 9 April 1756
PredecessorSarfaraz Khan
SuccessorSiraj ud-Daulah
Died10 April 1756(1756-04-10) (aged 79–80)
Shuja ul-Mulk Hashim ud-Daula Mahabat Jang Mirza Muhammad Alivardi Khan
FatherMirza Muhammad Madani
MotherA daughter of Nawab Aqil Khan Afshar
ReligionShia Islam[1][2]
Military career
AllegianceMughal Empire
Service/branchNawab of Bengal

Alivardi Khan (1671 – 9 April 1756) was the Nawab of Bengal from 1740 to 1756. He toppled the Nasiri dynasty of Nawabs and assumed power himself. His reign is particularly remembered for frequent Maratha raids under Raghuji Bhonsle and subsequent losses which Nawabdom incurred. He finally had to enter a Treaty in 1751 with Bhonsles of Nagpur through which he surrendered Orissa and agreed to pay Rs. 120,000 as annual chauth payment.

Early life

Born in one of the cities of the Deccan in 1676, he was originally given the name Mirza Muhammad Ali.[3][4] His father Mirza Muhammad Madani, who was of either Arab or Turkish descent, was 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.[3][5] Muhammad Ali's mother belonged to the Turkic Afshar tribe of Khorasan. Through her, she was a cousin of Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan, the two having shared a grandfather in Nawab Aqil Khan.[3][6]

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.[7]

Rise to power

Alivardi Khan with a courtier, Murshidabad, c. 1745
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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[8] Orissa also came under Alivardi's control.


Alivardi Khan's tomb at Khushbagh
Alivardi Khan's tomb at Khushbagh

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.[9]

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 plunder 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.[10]

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 by the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur. These Maratha raids would continue until 1751 when a peace treaty was settled between Ahmad Shah Bahadur, Alivardi and Raghoji.[8]

In 1750, Alivardi faced a revolt from Siraj ud-Daulah, his daughter's son, who seized Patna, but quickly surrendered and was forgiven.[11] Alivardi also subdued the revolt of a few unruly Afghans who were trying to separate Bihar from his administration.[8]

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.

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.[12]

Cultural and musical development

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.
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

Alivardi Khan died of dropsy[13] at 5am on 9 April 1756,[11] aged at least 80. He was succeeded by his daughter's son, Siraj-ud-Daula, who was aged 23 at the time. He was buried in Khushbagh next to his mother's grave.[11]


Unlike many of his contemporaries, Alivardi had only one wife, Sharfunnesa.[14][15] They had three daughters,[16] of whom at least two married sons of his elder brother Haji Ahmad.[17][18] Alivardi outlived his sons-in-law and, having had no sons of his own, he was succeeded by his maternal grandson Siraj ud-Daulah.[19] Alivardi's issue are as follows:[17][18]

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.[20][21][22] His half-sister Shah Khanum was the wife of Mir Jafar, who later claimed the throne of Bengal in 1757.[23][24] The historian Ghulam Hussain Khan was also a relative.[25]

See also


  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. 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 c Sarkar, Jadunath (1948). The History of Bengal. Vol. II. Dhaka: University of Dhaka. p. 436. ISBN 978-81-7646-239-6.
  4. ^ Chakrabarti, Kunal; Chakrabarti, Shubhra (22 August 2013). Historical Dictionary of the Bengalis. Scarecrow Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-8108-8024-5.
  5. ^ P. Sensarma (1977). The Military History of Bengal. Kolkata: Darbari Udjog. p. 172.
  6. ^ Subhan, Abdus (1970). "Early Career of Nawab Ali Vardi Khan of Bengal". Journal of Indian History. Trivandrum: University of Kerala. XLVIII (III): 536.
  7. ^ Sarkar (1948, pp. 436–37)
  8. ^ a b c d e Shah, Mohammad (2012). "Alivardi Khan". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  9. ^ Markovits, Claude (2004). A History of Modern India, 1480-1950. Anthem Press. pp. 194–. ISBN 978-1-84331-004-4.
  10. ^ Jaques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A-E. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 137–. ISBN 978-0-313-33537-2.
  11. ^ a b c 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. ^ Datta, Kalikinkar (1948). The Dutch in Bengal and Bihar, 1740-1825 A.D. University of Patna. p. 12.
  13. ^ Dalrymple (2019, p. 84)
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ A., Rahim (1957). Ahsan, Syed Ali (ed.). Society and Culture of the Eighteenth Century Bengal. Bengali Literary Review. Vol. 3. Karachi: University of Karachi. p. 127.
  16. ^ a b Islam, Sirajul (1997). History of Bangladesh, 1704-1971: Social and cultural history. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 978-984-512-337-2.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ a b Sen, Ranjit (1987). Metamorphosis of the Bengal Polity (1700-1793). Kolkata: Rabindra Bharati University. p. 87.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Salim, Ghulam Hussain (1975). Riyazu-s-Salatin (A History of Bengal). Translated by Abdus Salam. Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli. p. 335.
  21. ^ Sarkar (1948, p. 445)
  22. ^ Datta, Kalikinkar (1939). Alivardi and His Times. Kolkata: University of Calcutta. p. 69.
  23. ^ Mukhopadhyay, Subhas Chandra (1980). Diwani in Bengal, 1765: Career of Nawab Najm-ud-Daulah. Varanasi: Vishwavidyalaya Prakashan. p. 3.
  24. ^ Rashid, Abdur (2001). From Makkah to Nuclear Pakistan. Lahore: Ferozsons. p. 143. ISBN 978-969-0-01691-1.
  25. ^ Askari, Syed Hasan (1978). "Saiyid Ghulam Hussain Khan". The Panjab: Past and Present. Department of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University. XII (I): 257.

Further reading

Alivardi Khan Born: Before 10 May 1671 Died: 10 April 1756 Preceded bySarfaraz Khan Nawab of Bengal 29 April 1740 – 9 April 1756 Succeeded bySiraj ud-Daulah