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The Fall Of Nawab Sarfaraz Khan

The Fall of Nawab Sarfaraz Khan
Sujauddin had already fallen ill when the news of Nader Shah’s victory of Peshawar and Punjab reached Bengal. Hearing this news the bed-ridden nawab became panicked about the future of Bengal and his family. He ordered to gather plenty of riches to help the emperor in Delhi and rendered some important advice to his son, the future nawab Sarfaraz Khan. He advised Sarfaraz to always pay heed to the advice of Alam Chand, Jagat Seth and Alivardi in regard to running the royal court. The sickly nawab died within a few days. 

Sujauddin’s son Sarfaraz Khan became the nawab of Murshidabad after his death. Sarfaraz felt unsafe from the moment he ascended the throne because of enemies all around. He did not even take part in Sujauddin’s Janaja (funeral rite) as he was concerned about his security. His scared and ‘narrow’ behavior gave rise to an adverse idea in many minds against the new nawab and his enemies were thus encouraged. Initially, following his father’s advice Sarfaraz took decisions based on the advice of Haji Ahmad, Alam Chand and Jagat Seth. But, as he had past enmity with every one of them, he could not put his trust in them. To save the Subahdari and to abide by his father’s order, Sarfaraz sent plenty of money and other valuables to Delhi to help Muhammad Shah in the war against Nader Shah. At that time, following his grandmother’s advice Sarfaraz devoted himself to religion and appointed a great number of Quran readers spending a lot of money.


After defeating the Mughal emperor in the battle of Carnal, Nader Shah demanded a great deal of money from him. So, Muhammad Shah again sent messengers in different places of his empire. To collect money from Bengal he sent Murad Khan to Sarfaraz along with a cavalry of 50 soldiers. When they demanded money again, Sarfaraz refused to provide the extra money at first. But, on Alam Chand and Jagat Seth’s advice, Sarfaraz agreed to give the money out of fear of a mughal attack.  


As the Mughal Empire reached on the brink of collapse and nobody understood who between Nader Shah and Muhammad Shah would control India next, Sarfaraz Khan wrote a letter to Nader Shah inviting him to eat at his house. Mughal loyals in Sarfaraz’s court heard this and informed Muhammad Shah everything. Muhammad Shah became angry at the nawab and decided to remove him from Bengal’s nawabi in future. Thus, improvident Sarfaraz Khan became the person of dislike to Muhammad Shah.


To strengthen his position in Bengal, Sarfaraz Khan released Hazi Ahmad’s son-in-law Ataullah Khan from the post of fauzdar of Rajmahal and appointed his son-in-low Hosen Muhammad Khan in that post. Disgusted Hazi Ahmed wrote to Alivardi. In reply comparatively weak Alivardi advised him to reduce the number of soldiers of Sarfaraz Khan. Jagat Seth and Alam Chand joined in this conspiracy. They advised Nawab Sarfaraz to reduce the number of soldiers to lessen the royal expense, promising to help him in every way. Following their advice the nawab began to reduce soldiers. These retrenched soldiers were then appointed under Alivardi. Alivardi then sent his messenger to Delhi seeking permission to obtain the throne of Murshidabad. At that time, he gave Muhammand Shah 10 million rupees. Besides, he promised to give all of Sarfaraz’s wealth once he ascended the throne as well as to give the same amount of revenue that Murshid Quli gave during his reign. When Sarfaraz’s agent in Delhi informed him about the conspiracy, furious Sarfaraz decided to exclude Alivardi from all kind royal conduct along with everybody of his lineage. But mentioning their loyalty and dutifulness, Hazi Ahmad convinced Sarfaraz that this (conspiracy) was merely a false accusation to defame them. Affected by Hazi Ahmad’s fake tears, softhearted Sarfaraz forgave him. On the other hand, Alivardi became desperate for Delhi’s order. Finally, ten months after Nader Shah left India and in the thirteenth month of Sujauddin’s death, Alivardi began to prepare for war after he got order from the emperor in Delhi. 


Alivardi wrote a letter to Jagat Seth informing him the date of his march against Sarfarz. In March, 1740 he set his army camp near the cistern of Borishka which was somewhat distant from Azimabad. He advanced towards Murshidabad. Surrounded by his soldiers and artillerymen on the morning of the following day, without taking any rest Alivardi and his force reached near the Shabad fort. The Shabad fort was situated between the Ganga River and mountains. Alivardi hid his entire force behind the mountains. He sent Mustafa Khan to the fort along with only 100 Afgan Cavalry and the fake permission paper of Sarfaraz Khan. After reaching the gate of the fort, Mustafa Khan showed the permission paper and sent a signal according to Alivardi’s order. Upon receiving the signal Alivardi ordered his force to quickly advance towards the fort. Suddenly seeing Alivardi’s soldiers, the 200 soldiers present in the fort closed the fort gate and began to prepare for self-defense, when Mustafa Khan warned them if they drew weapons against Alivardi, his enormous force would surely defeat them and their death would be certain. Afraid for their lives, the frightened soldiers opened the gate of the fort and surrendered to Alivardi.


Sarfaraz khan fired Alivardi After alivardi took Shabad fort and set out from Orissa along with 30,000 soldiers. After setting up camps in many places he finally arrived in Giria, on the bank of the Vagirathi river to confront Alivardi and his 10,000 soldiers.


Jagat Seth received Alivardi Khan’s letter on the same day Alivardi occupied the Shabad fort. Seth assumed that, Alivardi must have reached in Teliagor by that time and would reach in Murshidabad within five or six days. He informed Sarfaraz Khan of Alivardi right away. Sarfaraz ordered his ministers to assemble in the royal court and present their opinions on Alivardi. When the nawab proposed for a war expedition against Alivardi, everybody supported him. The nawab ordered his commanders in Murshidabad to prepare for the war. He also ordered the deputy governor of Orissa and his brother-in-law Rustam Jang to meet with him along with his soldiers. Sarfaraz fired Haji Ahmad and Alam Chand and left Murshidabad with 30,000 soldiers, giving Yashwant Roy the responsibility to protect Murshidabad. 


On the first, second and third day Sarfaraz set up his camp respectively in Bamaniya, Dewan and Khamak. He sent the commander of Hooghly to observe the enemy camp. On the other hand, after reaching Rajmahal Alivardi Khan obstructed the path of people who sided with the nawab on his commander Ataullah Khan’s advice. Hazi Ahamed joined Alivardi that day. Initially, Alivardi set up his army camp in Rajmahal to Farakka. Then he moved his army camp in the cemetery of Mortuzahind to Kalikota. Seeing the enemy force to advance, Sarfaraz arrived in Giria, on the bank of the Bhagirathi River. Another commander Gaus Khan advanced till Suti on the other side of the river and advised him to wait in Giriya. At that time, the distance between the forces was only four crouches (almost 8 miles). As Rustam Jang did not arrive from Orissa yet, Sarfaraz decided to wait to gather his full power. So, he tried to bide his time with diplomacy. Then the two sides began to converse in letters.


While sarfaraz khan was waiting for Murad Jang to come with his force from Orissa and join him in the battle of Giria, Alivardi Khan divided his force in three groups and attacked sarfaraz at dawn when he was unprepared.


Firstly, Alivardi had less soldiers than Sarfaraz. Secondly, Alivardi’s force was in grave danger as Sarfaraz’s redoubtable commander Gaus Khan was staying in Suti. If Sarfaraz Attacked Alivardi directly and Alivardi’s entire force were engaged to defend, Then Gaus Khan would easily be able to attack Alivardi’s force from the left side and this dual attack would make Alivardi’s defeat certain. On the other hand, the real reason behind Sarfaraz’s passing time over letters was to wait for Rustam Jang. If Jang’s commander Mir Habib took part in the war, then Gaus Khan from one side, Mir Habib from the other side and Sarfaraz Khan in the middle, this triple attack would certainly devastate Alivardi’s force. Because of this Alivardi decided to waste no time and attack Sarfaraz before Rustam Jang’s arrival. 


Alivardi divided his force into three groups. One group advanced towards Gaus Khan under Nanda Lal’s leadership. With the other two groups Alivardi crossed the river at about 1 o’clock at night. Alivardi himself was in command of one group. His son-in-law Nawzish Muhammad Khan shouldered the responsibility of the other group. Alivardi ordered him to attack Sarfaraz’s camp from behind. 


Nawzish Khan’s team went behind Sarfaraz’s camp silently in the dark of the night. While Sarfaraz was performing his prayer of Fajr (dawn prayer), Alivardi attacked with his group. Through this sudden attack scattered the nawab’s camp, seeing the nawab on the back of an elephant, Sarfaraz’s soldiers attacked Alivardi’s group organizedly. Though Alivardi’s soldiers were cornered by this fierce counter-attack, Alivardi’s proactive presence inspired them to fight.


Meanwhile, Nanda Lal and Gaus were fighting. Suddenly, Nawazish Attacked Sarfaraz from behind. Panic was spreading among the soldiers of the nawab as they were surrounded from two sides now. At that time, the nawab’s mahout (elephant rider) requested him to exit toward Birbhum as it was not easy for the enemy to attack Birbhum and the zamindar was loyal to Sarfaraz. Besides, Rustam Jang was advancing through that path. But, without listening to the reliable advice of the mahout, The angry nawab ordered him to go right in the middle of the battlefield. Right after the elephant crossed Nagarkhana, a bullet from an opposition soldier pierced through Sarfaraz Khan’s head. He died instantly. At that time, some of the well-known employees-Mir Kamel, Mir Ahmad, Mir Faraz Uddin, Hazi Luft Ali Khan died. The mahout set out for Murshidabad with the nawab’s dead body. 


On the other hand, Gaus Khan defeated and killed Nanda Lal. Seeing the nawab’s elephant advancing toward Murshidabad, Gaus thought that Sarfaraz was escaping like a coward. He sent a cavalier to the nawab. When Gaus Khan heard the news of the nawab’s death, he ordered his two sons Muhammad Kutub and Mohammad Pir to prepare themselves to sacrifice their life. Gaus tried to gather the soldiers who were running scared upon hearing the news of Sarfaraz’s death. But most of the soldiers escaped from the battlefield. Finally, Gaus Khan confronted Alivardi with a small number of soldiers that remained. A fierce battle broke out and Alivardi’s soldiers began to escape. At that time, Gaus was hurt by a bullet fired by Sedan Hazari and fell from the back of the elephant. When he was trying to mount the elephant again, two more bullets neutralized him. His sons also fought matchless and died in the battlefield. On the other hand, Sarfaraz Khan’s brother-in-law arrived in the battlefield from Orissa with soldiers. But hearing the news of Sarfaraz’s death he exited for katari. On the other hand, hearing the news of the nawab’s defeat, Rajput Vijay Singh from the Khamba camp came to the battlefield and began fighting. Daud Quli Khan’s bullet stopped him. Vijay Singh’s 9 years old son Zalim Singh arrived at the battlefield with a sword to protect his father’s dead body. Alivardi forbade his soldiers to attack this boy. 


Finally, the battle of Giria ended and Alivardi Khan won. To inform the inhabitants of Murshidabad and Sarfaraz family, he sent his brother Haji Ahamad to Murshidabad. Meanwhile, the mahout arrived in Murshidabad with Sarfaraz Khan’s dead body. Sarfaraz’s son Mirza Amani secretly buried father’s body at Nektakhali at midnight. When Mirza Amani ordered Yasin, the fauzdar (chief of police) of Murshidabad to protect the city, most of the soldiers refused to join them. As a result, Amani was compelled to accept Alivardi’s supremacy. 


If Alivardi went to Murshidabad straight away, the elated soldiers might begin to loot Murshidabad, so Alivardi stayed in the battleground setting up camp for the next two days and entertained his soldiers in various ways. After two days when normalcy restored in the camp, Alivardi flamboyantly advanced toward Murshidabad. 


References

Tittle Author Issue
A Socio-Intellectual History of Isna Ashari Shi'is in India, Vol.2 S. A. A. Rizvi 1986
The Musnud of Murshidabad Purna Chandra Ray 2002
The Shias of Pakistan Andreas Rieck 2015
Banglar Itihas Sen, Prabhaschandra 1949
Banglar Itihas Bandhopadhyay, Kaliprasannya 1908
Ali Vardi and His Times K. K. Datta 1939

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