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The Nawabs of Bengal were the hereditary nazims or subadars (provincial governors) of the subah (province) of Bengalmarker during the Mughal rule and the de-facto rulers of the province.


From 1717 until 1880, three successive Islamic dynasties-the Nasiri, Afshar and Najafi-ruled Bengal:

The first dynasty, the Nasiri, ruled from 1717 until 1740. The founder of the Nasiri, Murshid Quli Jafar Khan, was born a poor Deccani Brahmin before being sold into slavery and bought by one Haji Shafi Isfahani, a Persian merchant from Isfahanmarker who converted him to Islam. He entered the service of the Emperor Aurangzeb and rose through the ranks before becoming Nazim of Bengal in 1717, a post he held until his death in 1727. He in turn was succeeded by his grandson and son-in law until his grandson was killed in battle and succeeded by Alivardi Khan of the Afshar Dynasty in 1740.

The second dynasty, the Afshar, ruled from 1740 to 1757. They were succeeded by the third and final dynasty to rule Bengal, the Najafi, after Siraj Ud Daula, the last of the Afshar rulers was killed at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

The Najafi Dynasty of Bengal were sayyid and were descended from the Islamic prophet Muhammad through Imam Hassan ibn Ali, ruling from 1757 until 1880.

Under the Mughal rule

Bengalmarker subah was one of the wealthiest parts of the Mughal empire. As the Mughal empire began to decline, the Nawabs grew in power, although nominally sub-ordinate to the Mughal emperor. They wielded great power in their own right and ruled the subah as independent rulers for all practical purposes.

Under the British Rule

After the Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah (the last independent ruler of Bengal) was defeated by the British forces of Sir Robert Clive at Palashi in 1757, the Nawabs became puppet rulers dependent on the British. The Nawab who replaced Siraj-ud-daula was Mir Jafar. He was personally led to the throne by Robert Clive after triumph of the British in battle. He briefly tried to re-assert his power by allying with the Dutch, but this plan was ended by the Battle of Chinsurah. After the grant of the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa by the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II to the British East India Company in 1765, the Nawabs were deprived of any real power and finally in 1793, when the nizamat (governorship) was also taken away from them, they remained as the mere pensioners of the British East India Company. In 1880, Mansur Ali Khan, the last Nawab of Bengal was forced to relinquish his title. His son, Nawab Sayyid Hassan Ali Mirza Khan Bahadur, who succeeded him, was given the lesser title of Nawab of Murshidabad by the British. Hassan's descendants continued the title until 1969 when the last Nawab of the dynasty died; since then the title has been in dispute.

The Nawabs of Bengal (1717-1880)

Murshidabad, the capital of the Nawabs of Bengal in the early 19th century

Nasiri (1717-1740)

Afshar (1740-1757)

Najafi (1757-1880)

Nawabs of Murshidabad (Najafi) 1880-1969

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