The exploitation of commons through Islamist-Indic mercantile collusion in Bengal
- In article
- 05:11 PM, Mar 26, 2017
- Saswati Sarkar.Shanmukh.Dikgaj.Aparna. Kirti Dave.
In a sequence of earlier articles, we focussed on the socio-religious characteristics of Indic merchants , the mechanisms of their collusions with the Islamist invaders , on the pathetic condition of the peasants and artisans, who were fleeced by both the rulers and the Indic merchants , the involvement of the Indic merchants in enslavement and sale of Indics to distant regions with patronage from the Islamist invaders , and ruthless religious exploitation of the under-privileged Indics and the resistance forces by the Islamist invaders, who had been strengthened by the financial backing of the merchants . We showed that not only were the merchants largely exempted from economic exploitation  and religious persecution, even by the most brutal and fanatic of the Islamist invaders , but they materially prospered  and were granted religious freedom  during the Muslim rule. Subsequently, in the current set of articles, we focus on the nuances of collusion of Indic merchants with Islamist invaders in different regions. In the last article , we dwelt on the mercantile collusion with Islamist invaders in Gujarat, we now visit Bengal.
While studying collusion of Indic merchants with the Islamist invaders in Bengal, we focus on the Mughal era, primarily because, most of the documentations we could find belong to this era (Note that Subah Bengal in the Mughal era often referred to the current provinces of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa in the state of India and the current state of Bangladesh, we use the terminology, Bengal, to denote the same areas). Besides, the economic conditions of the commoners were worse off in the Mughal era as compared to that in the prior Afghan era, because in the Mughal era, in addition to exploitation by the local Islamist rulers, wealth was constantly being drained out of Bengal through substantial tributes to the emperor seated in Delhi and also by the Mughal officials who were posted to Bengal from elsewhere. We quote Ramesh Chandra Majumdar about the difference between the Afghan and the Mughal period: "In the first place, a huge amount of money had to be sent to Delhi every year as revenue. Secondly, the Subadar and the important officials were all non-Bengalees, who used to come from Delhi, and when they retired they carried away with them the large sums of money acquired by them, both honestly and dishonestly, during their period of service. During Murshid Quli Khan's time, a crore of rupees on an average used to be sent to Delhi every year as revenue. Shuja-ud-Din used to send a crore and 25 lacs a year. During his rule of 12 years a total sum of Rs. 14,62,78,538 was sent to Delhi. Shayista Khan had saved 38 crores in 22 years and Azim-us-shan, 8 crores in 9 years; and all this money was taken away to Delhi from Bengal." p. 177,  Mclane attests to the same phenomenon: `` As the margin between the formal claim of the state and the money in circulation widened, Mughal officials found means
to divert large sums to their personal treasuries, despite imperial regulations designed to limit this. Members of the imperial ruling family assigned to Bengal, such as Shah Shuja, Shaista Khan, and Azim-ud-din, and other officials as well, accumulated extraordinary fortunes while in Bengal, partly through extortion and unauthorized exactions, partly through monopolistic trading practices, and partly through the administration of their personal revenue assignments. Reports of uncertain reliability said that Shaista Khan (nazim 1664-78 and 1679-88) personally accumulated Rs. 9 krors 20 in eighteen years, Khan Jahan Bahadur Khan (nazim 1688-89) removed Rs. 2 krors in one year, and Prince Azim-ud-din (nazim 1697-1712) removed Rs. 8 krors in 1706 after his first nine years. This suggests that these nazims personally accumulated Rs. 19 krors or the equivalent of over half Bengal's jama in those years (Rs. 1.13 krors X 28 years = Rs. 36.68 krors).’’ pp. 31-32,  This is not to say that the commoners in Bengal were prosperous during the Afghan era, but that the Mughal era was worse, economically speaking. In terms of religious persecution, specifically that of forcible and incentivized conversion, historians diverge on when the conversions were maximized. Clarity on this point will require further research. For the current article, we therefore focus only on the Indic mercantile collusion with the Islamist invaders during the Mughal era.
We start from the Mughal conquest of Bengal which materialized through collaboration between Mughal rulers and Rajput states and local Hindu Bengali collaborators. Subsequently we show that the Mughal conquest of Bengal was facilitated by Indic merchants from North and West of India, who migrated to Bengal in the trail of the Mughal-Rajput army, and substantially materially benefitted from the invasion. The Mughal conquest however spelled doom for the Hindu commoners of Bengal who were economically exploited, enslaved en mass, and forcibly converted. In contrast, the Indic merchants in Bengal accrued humongous wealth and political influence, to the extent that towards the end, they became the de facto Nawabs of Bengal. The invading regimes essentially continued at the pleasure of the big business houses, and were replaced with other invaders as and when the replacements were deemed to have better prospects of furthering mercantile interests. The fate of the commoners, in contrast, went from bad to worse. Despite their collusion with the invaders being out in the open, the big merchants enjoyed enormous stature in the contemporary and even subsequent socio-religious establishment – a fact that reflects poorly on contemporary and current social values.
Section A: The Mughal conquest of Bengal
Starting from the reign of Akbar, the expansion of the Mughal empire was powered by the convergence of the military and financial muscle of Hindu collaborators. The military muscle was primarily provided by the Rajput princes of a few select states in Rajasthan. In the year 1564 AD, as a general of Akbar, Man Singh, prince of Amber, led a Mughal military expedition to bring Bengal, Bihar and Odisha under Mughal control. These areas were, then, ruled by Muslim sultans whose power was on the wane. Hindu tributaries like Pratapaditya of Jessore were asserting themselves and were approaching positions of strength that could have potentially challenged and replaced the Muslim Sultans. Man Singh’s expedition crushed Pratapaditya and some other Hindu rebel kings. Man Singh was assisted in this endeavour by some local collaborators who were richly rewarded for their services pp. 256-257, . For example, on the recommendation of Man Singh, for the services he rendered in the expedition against Pratapaditya, Akbar conferred the title of Maharaja on Durgadas, the founder of the Nadia dynasty pp. 256-257, . Durgadas had started off as a qanungo, that too, because he had become the favourite of another Mughal chief; earlier, Akbar had conferred the title of Majumdar Bhavananda on Durgadas based on the recommendation of this chief pp. 256-257, . Similarly, Azim Khan, Nawab of Bengal (1582 - 84), had rewarded another local collaborator, Bhabeswar Ray and his son for their services against Pratapaditya by a grant of land comprising several parganas in the Khulna District p. 258, . (Incidentally, most of the Hindu tributary kingdoms in Bengal that were founded during the Mughal regime, ethnic Bengali or otherwise, were founded through betrayal of local resistance). The largesse to the local collaborators for acting against Pratapaditya indicates that his subjugation was essential for continuing the Islamist hegemony over Bengal from the Sultanate to the Mughals. While the local collaborators were certainly at fault for betraying the Hindu resistance of Pratapaditya, they succeeded only when Man Singh joined forces with them. In that sense, Man Singh was instrumental in pulverizing Hindu resistance against the Mughal conquest of Bengal p. 258, .
Man Singh, thus, laid the foundations of perpetuating Muslim rule in Bengal for another two hundred years, leading to destruction of innumerable temples, untold misery and enslavement and conversion of the Hindu populace. After winning Bengal, he allowed the Muslim sultan, Suleiman Karrani, to continue, notwithstanding the fact that he had destroyed Hindu temples before. And right after Man Singh reinstalled Karrani, Karrani had the holiest of the Hindu temples, Jagannatha temple of Puri, desecrated (details provided later in this article) . Recall that Man Singh constructed large temples in Benares spending thirty six lakhs of contemporary currency in their construction, which was, in due course, destroyed by his next overlord, Jahangir . We would let the reader judge if Man Singh’s piety adequately compensated for strengthening Muslim rule in India.
Section B: How the Indic merchants brought about the Mughal rule in Bengal
We first study the religious and ethnic demography of the merchants in Bengal during the Mughal regime. Hindu Bengali merchants were present in the maritime trade from Bengal during Mughal times, but they were hugely outnumbered by those from Gujarat and North West India. First, Bengali literature during the Muslim rule contain detailed descriptions of the maritime voyages of Bengali traders who took large numbers of huge trading vessels along the Bay of Bengal to Ceylon, then onward to Patan in Gujarat. Interestingly most of the references emerge from pre-Mughal times, like Manasa Mangal of Bijoy Gupta and Bamsidas (15th century) and the Kavikankana Chandi (1544 AD) pp. 179-180, . Also, a primary biography of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1533), Chaitanya Charitamrita, written by Krishna Das Kaviraja (b. 1496), refers to two millionaire merchants of Saptagram (an important port in medieval Bengal), brothers Hiranya and Govardhana, who owned 12 lacs rupees p. 184, .
While writing on the abduction of commoners from Bengal by European slavers during the Mughal regime, Ansu Datta, has documented: ``Among those who have attempted to identify local and outside actors in this high drama [slave trade in Bengal] is Professor Om Prakash of the Delhi School of Economics. Working on the documents in the Dutch archives that include the 'shipping lists' for the ports of Hooghly and Balasore, Om Prakash (1985:26-34) presents a ' broad structure of trade' involving Bengal. Our knowledge is partial because the shipping lists contain information only about the ship-owning merchants and not about those who took part in the trade by hiring freight space on ships owned by others. Om Prakash's account suggests that only 41% of the merchants based in ports of Bengal had their domicile in Bengal. He added that about a third of them were officials of the Mughal administration, petty and high. .... A large percentage of these officials were Muslim. However, private merchants who owned ships also included Hindu and Armenian (presumably Christian) traders. Muslim merchants were more numerous than their Hindu counterparts, who operated principally from the port of Balasore. Gujarati Shahs dominated this group. Among Hindu merchants, we find some typical Bengali names such as Jadu Ray and Kalyan Ray; but they accounted for a small portion of the total trade. True enough, the dominant group among Hindu merchants was composed of banias; and many of them were originally from Gujarat and 'other places' (Prakash, 1985:104). This is confirmed by other researches. Sushil Chaudhuri (1975) points out that of the eighteen prominent merchants who supplied raw silk and piece-goods (principal items of export from Bengal) to the VOC in Kasimbazar in the 1680s, nine were Gujaratis. According to him, this was in sharp contrast with what happened in Surat and Madras (Chennai), where all leading merchants were local people. The business acumen and trustworthiness of the merchants operating from Bengal has been described by commissioner Van Rheede with a terse concluding comment: "In general, they are a people with whom one could get along well so long as one is on one's guard' (quoted by Prakash, 1985:105). Interestingly, we know from other sources that some African traders (referred to as Abyssinian merchants) participated in this trade. The book of Duarte Barbosa mentions their presence among merchants from 'other countries' in Chittagong (called by the Portuguese the 'porto grande, i.e. 'big haven') and Gaur or Satgaon labelled as the 'porto piqueno' (i.e. 'little haven') (Subramanyam, 1990: 118)’’ Loc. 727-746,  Ansu Datta’s documentation receives support from Mughal-era European traveler Thevenet: ``The language of all those countries, as also of all others belonging to the Grand Mogor, and of Bengala, and those neighbouring thereto, is the Guzarati language, which is most widespread and useful, being understood in more places than any other Indian tongue”.p.12, pp.25-26, . Om Prakash has documented that several major Baniya merchants operated from ports in Bengal. Khemchand Shah and Chintamani Shah were two major traders from the Balasore port. p.437, 
As to overland trade, in our extensive review of the literature, we have come across only one possible reference to the overland Hindu Bengali merchants from Bengal during the Mughal times. While documenting the export of Indian slaves to Central Asia through Afghanistan, Farah Abidin has written: ``One of the most favorite and chief exports from India to this region were Indian slaves, both Hindus and Muslims, then these slaves were sent to the bazaars of Central Asia in a number of ways. Some of them were taken as prisoners of war, some in exchange for Central Asian horses while others were captured during the raids on trading caravans......... the work Sharaf-nama-i-Shahi mentions that a large number of Indian merchants from North India and Bengal were involved in the trading Enterprises of this region’’ Loc. 1917-1935, . Abidin has not been spec ific about the religion and ethnicity of these merchants from Bengal. Note that shortly after the end of the Muslim rule, some instances of reasonably affluent overland Bengali traders emerge in the Bengali literature. For example, a book named Harilila, written in 1772 AD enumerates several places all over and outside India which were visited by a Vaishya trader in course of his trade (these were visited over land) p. 183, .
The political activities or influence of Hindu Bengali overland or maritime traders, or for that matter of maritime Hindu Gujarati merchants in Bengal, have not been mentioned.
Mughal rule introduced overland Indic merchants from North and West India to Bengal, primarily of Marwari and Khatri ethnicities. Over time, in collusion with the Muslim rulers, and subsequently with the British, they would become major political players in East India. We therefore get to the root of this migration; towards that end, we reinvestigate the history of collaboration of some of the Rajput princes with the Mughal rulers and that of the resistance of other Rajput princes against the Mughal rule.
The Amber state was the first of the large Rajput states to turn over to Akbar, while Mewar was the last amongst the lot to give up, that too, after a long and valiant struggle spanning multiple generations. The very different choices of Amber and Mewar were perhaps not mere coincidences, or driven by the predilections of some individual rulers. In the Rajput states that surrendered early on, an infrastructure for the collusion with Muslim rulers existed long before the arrival of Akbar on the scene. The rulers of Marwar and Amber, for personal benefits or for averting invasions, had a tradition of offering their daughters in marriage to Muslim rulers p. 112, . The fact that top Rajput royalty were willing to send their princesses to Muslim harems just to avert military conflicts, without any reproach from the nobility or other elite contemporaries, suggests that the rot of collusion had gone deep into the vitals of these Rajput states. Perhaps not a coincidence that the southern transnational trade route from Central Asia and Persia to North India, all the way up to Delhi and beyond traversed through the Bolan pass, south into Sindh (Shikarpur), and then crossed into Marwar, Bikaner, Shekhawati (just adjoining Amber), and then onwards to Delhi (refer to the map below). Thus, there was a strong mercantile presence in Marwar, Bikaner, Shekhawati and Amber, which would seek to avert a conflict with Delhi at all costs, to ensure that their trade access remains unhindered. The infrastructure of princely collusion was likely rooted in the domination of this mercantile interest on the state, which eventually motivated Marwar and Amber to turn over to Akbar fairly early on.
The transnational trade-route, which runs through Shekhawati and Marwar, does not however traverse Mewar, which is in South and South Eastern Rajasthan. We note that Maharana Pratap, the ruler of Mewar, who resisted Mughals heroically for the longest time, was not under any mercantile influence. Rajasthan chronicles narrate that the Maharana adopted ruthless measures to ensure that the Mughuls got no supplies in Mewar. Cultivating land for supplying the Mughal army or trading with them was forbidden, and death penalty was prescribed for the violators. For example, when a man sold vegetables to a Mughal garrison commander, the Maharana went there at night and executed the man p. 339. . Maharana Pratap resisted Akbar until his last breath; his son, Amar Singh continued the resistance as long as he could and when circumstances forced him to compromise, he did so with a broken heart. He retired from public life, spending his life in his private apartments, and dying of a broken heart a few years later pp. 343-344, . The dynasty was perhaps able to continue their resistance as long as they did because the mercantile culture was not pervasive in his state.
After Amar Singh, the Mewar state largely lost its political clout. It continued to exist as a subsidiary to the Mughals and subsequently, to the British, but we do not hear of it prominently in any political role, thence, except the challenge given to Aurangzeb under Rana Raj Singh, and Sangrama Singh. In contrast, Rajput princes who surrendered to Akbar early on reaped rich rewards for their treason, for several hundreds of years, thence. For example, Man Singh became the principal lieutenant of Akbar. And, for Sur Singh’s (ruler of Marwar state) assistance in the conquest of Gujarat , Akbar gave his descendants (Jaswant Singh, Ajit Singh, Abhey Singh) coveted positions (Subedari of Malwa, Ahmedabad and faujdari of Junagadh respectively) in the Gujarat administration . The rulers of Amber (later Jaipur state) and Marwar (Jodhpur state) continued to occupy pride of place in the courts of the invaders all the way from the Mughals to the British.
Man Singh’s Expedition into eastern India turned out to be hugely beneficial for the merchants of his region. Multiple researchers have informed us that the Marwari merchants migrated from Rajputana to the rest of northern India, including Bengal, in the trail of the Mughal-Rajput expeditions.
- In his book, `The Marwaris: Economic Foundations of an Indian Capitalist Class’, GD Sharma points to the fact that the Marwari business houses were established outside Rajasthan, particularly in Bengal, since the times of Akbar and Shah Jahan p. 108, .
- Jain sources record the following: ``When Man Singh conquered Bengal on behalf of Akbar, he carried with him a number of Jains, who were then entrusted with the task of reorganizing the revenue administration. Diwan Dhanna Srimal has been mentioned as one such official in Bengal. Kharagsen the father of Banarsidas went to Bengal to serve under Dhanna Srimal. He was made a treasurer of Potdar of four parganas and he collected revenue with the help of two karkuns and forwarded the amount so collected to the local governor. He returned to Jaunpur after Dhanna suddenly died. Nanu Gadha accompanied Akbar's General Man Singh to Bengal. He became so affluent that he constructed eighty temples in Bengal. He owned seventy-two elephants. Kharagsen's father Muldas was also a government official, who served in the jaagir of Narwar, granted to a Mughal official. It is reported that along with the collection of the revenue, he also advanced loans and earned extra money.’’  It becomes clear that the above mentioned companions of Man Singh were merchants and financiers. Note that the job of treasurer is usually assigned to a merchant, and Muldas was a money-lender. The Jains who accompanied Man Singh would very likely be from his kingdom.
- In a book that celebrates the various accomplishments of the Marwaris over time, DK Taknet, who is from Shekhawati, a region that has produced most of the great Marwari business houses, has written, ``After the advent of the Mughals in 1525, they began migrating to Bengal in 1564. The then ruler of Bengal, Suleiman Kirrani, continually beset by domestic wrangles, accepted the overlordship of Emperor Akbar. In return, Akbar sent a contingent of Rajput troops under Raja Man Singh to assist him. The Modi Khana (supply of food, arms and ammunition) was managed by the Vaishyas of Marwar (Jodhpur), who with their business skills, expanded their business from Bengal. They invited their kin from Rajputana to assist them.’’ p. 24, .More specifically, Taknet is also confirming that Marwari traders accompanied the Rajput troops of Man Singh, who were fighting for Akbar, to Bengal.In a timeline that Taknet produced about landmark events concerning the Marwari traders, he has written that in 1638, ``Shah Shuja becomes Subedar of Bengal and requests Seth Balkrishna Agarwal to join him from Delhi.’’ .For the uninitiated, Shuja is the son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and the brother of Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb.We now recount a few exemplary accomplishments of Shuja.KS Lal has documented that, ``When Shuja was appointed governor of Kabul (he carried on) a ruthless war in the Hindu territory beyond the Indus. Sixteen sons and dependants of Hathi were converted by force. The sword of Islam further yielded a crop of Muslim converts. The rebellion of Jujhar Singh yielded a rich crop of Muslim converts, mostly minors. His young son Durga and his grandson Durjan Sal were both converted to become Imam Quli and Ali Quli. Most of the women had burnt themselves but such as were captured – probably slave girls and maids – were converted and distributed among Muslim Mansabdars. The conquest of Beglana was followed by conversion of Naharji’s son, who now became Daulatmand.’’  In Bengal, as its Subedar, Shuja subdued and colonised a large number of independent Hindu kingdoms. Cachar, Morang and other zamindaris were forced into vassalage during Shuja’s time. Shuja personally proceeded to Tripura and occupied a small area of Tripura (region of Udaipur). A mosque was constructed in Shuja’s name in Comilla and the village of Suryanagar was gifted to the mosque as its wakf property. p. 26, . In a letter to his father, Shah Jahan, he boasted, in March 1655, stating, ``The Zamindars of Morang, Kachar, and other places, who had never paid tribute to any of my predecessors, have sent me ambassadors with letters professing loyalty and obedience and some elephants by way of presents.’’ p. 26, .
- Timberg produces a map showing the regions of India, where the Marwari trading community has been strong.Places like Lahore, Delhi, Khurja, Kanpur, Varanasi, Patna, Murshidabad, Calcutta, Jabalpur, Nagpur, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai are prominently included in this map.Except possibly Mumbai and Chennai, all of these were centres of dominance of either the Mughals, or their subsidiaries pp.4-5, .The major migrations of the Marwaris (and other business classes), in the trail of their Rajput (and later, Mughal) patrons was along the route to Bengal. Timberg mentions that one group of Marwaris moved East with the Mughals and established themselves along the Ganga-Jamuna valley all the way up to Bengal.The Jagat Seths, an eminent Marwari business house in eighteenth century Bengal, and the Varanasi Agarwals belong to this category, pp. 5-6, . The founder of the House of Jagat Seth, Hiranand Saho, came to Patna in 1632 from Nagaur in Marwar. pp. I-xiii, . Like Hiranand Saho and his descendants and many other prominent traders migrated from Rajputana to Patna, continued onward to Dhaka and later to Murshidabad.Dhaka was the eastern end of the trade route from Delhi, and the trade from Bengal to the rest of India was high.It is also of interest to observe that the Muslim population of the entire region starting from Purnea, situated to the east of Patna, through the Teliagarhi and Maldah regions, eastwards through Rajshahi and thence to Dhaka was high even in 1881 census.Every district (including the Teliagarhi region of Santhal Paraganas) had 40% or more Muslims even in 1881 p. 205, .Purnea had 41.7% Muslims, Murshidabad had 48.1% Muslims, Maldah had 46.3% Muslims, Rajshahi had 77.63% Muslims, Bogra had 81.2% Muslims and Dhaka had 58.7% Muslims in 1881 p. 205, .The map below shows the overland route followed by merchants that traded with Bengal.Chittagong was a fairly important port, but one that changed hands between the Mughals and the Portuguese/Portuguese allies.Chittagong too had 70.8% Muslims.
Marwari merchants were by no means the only Indic mercantile group to have beneftted from Mughal expansion into East of India. Khatri merchants constitute another group of beneficiaries. They constitute a Punjabi caste that has had extensive involvement in trade, commerce, money-lending and financial administration pp. 131-132, . Prior to the Mughal conquest, the Pathans were particularly dependent upon the Khatris as merchants and money-lenders pp. 131-132, . But, the extraordinarily strong participation of Khatris in trade seems to have coincided with the rise and growth of Mughal power in India p. 107, . Khatri adoption of administrative and military roles outside the Punjab was also mainly the result of the patronage of Mughal nobles.
One of Akbar's leading generals who fought the Afghans in Western Bengal was a Khatri, Raja Todar Mal. Raja Todar Mal stayed in Burdwan, and as imperial diwan, was responsible for the land revenue settlement of 1582. Todar Mal's son, Raja Kalyan, was governor of Orissa early in the seventeenth century. It is conceivable that a community of Khatris migrated into Bengal following Todar Mal and his son pp. 131-132, . For example, the founder of the Burdwan Raj family was a Hindu Khatri Kapur of Kotli in Lahore, Sangram Rai, who came to Bengal in the sixteenth century (exactly the period of Mughal invasion of Bengal), settled in a village near the town of Burdwan, and devoted himself to commerce and money lending. His descendant Abu Rai was a merchant who supplied the Mughal troops with provisions at a critical time. In return, he was appointed Chaudhuri and Kotwal of Rakhabi bazar in the town. Subsequently, his descendants came to own pargana Burdwan, pargana Senpahari and a few other mahals. The family ruled for several subsequent generations pp. 130-131, 133-134, , pp. 62, 199, 255, . Gradually, Burdwan district became the mainstay of Khatri settlement in Bengal (the 1872 census recorded the number of Khatris in Burdwan to be 13660) p. 133, . And, during the seventeenth century, small communities of Khatris had emerged in a number of Bengali towns. When the ninth Sikh guru, Tegh Bahadur, visited Dhaka in 1666, he was welcomed by a Khatri community. At that time there were also Sikh communities (probably Khatri) in Bengali towns such as Lashkar, Sandip, Sylhet, Chittagong, and Sandip pp. 131-132, 
An important reason why the Marwari and Khatri traders followed the Mughal-Rajput armies and their rulers is the following. Marwari traders acted as the bankers of the Rajput princes, and subsequently, of the Mughal rulers as they came in closer contact with the Mughals through the Rajput intermediaries. Part of the banking transactions were to fund military feuds. pp. 14-15, . Whenever the military expeditions succeeded, they could recover the amount lent with substantial interest, and also secure, political patronage of the conquerors to establish their business houses in the conquered areas. Thus, it is, therefore, not surprising that the Marwari traders would accompany Mughal-Rajput armies to all regions they conquered. For example, in all probability, Seth Balkrishna Agarwal was Shah Shuja’s preferred banker, and was invited to fund Mughal military operations in Bengal. Thus Marwari mercantilism significantly benefited from a symbiotic relationship with the Mughal imperialism in general and the collusion of the Rajput states with Akbar in particular. It becomes then a reasonable conjecture that the Marwari traders precipitated the collusion between several important Rajput states and Mughal imperialism. Khatris had extensively financed the Pathans pp. 131-132, , Khatris rose meteorically in trade and financial administration with the growth of the Mughal power. So, very likely, Khatri financiers followed the Mughal armies to Bengal, whose conquests they funded as well; given Sangram Rai’s and Abu Rai’s immediate vocations and rapid rise right after settling in Bengal, very likely both Sangram Rai and Abu Rai were among the financiers.
Historian Richard Eaton has stated: ``In fact, the Mughals and Marwaris collaborated in the conquest of Bengal. Where the Mughals provided the Marwaris with the political security essential for transacting business, the latter provided the Mughals with financial capital obtained through their networks of fellow cast-members residing all over Northern India.’’ p. 156, . Another specific Eaton has obtained from Mughal sources is pertinent. In 1621, the Mughal Zagirdar Mirza Nathan obtained from the merchant princes of Dhaka a substantial loan of rupees hundred thousand for the purpose of purchasing or hiring boats to transport troops and supplies in Northern Bengal. Somewhat earlier, and for a similar purpose, he had borrowed Rs. 30000 from Hindu lenders in Gilah, a Mughal Outpost in the Koch country far to the North. Thus it appears that such banking houses followed Mughal arms even to the remotest frontiers of imperial expansion. And also that such transactions were routine. Note that the Hindu Kingdom of Koch had launched a prolonged resistance against Mughal imperialism and was never fully subjugated. It turns out that this resistance was sabotaged by Hindu moneylenders who accompanied Mughal forces. Thus, a close collaboration between Hindu merchant bankers and Mughal officers started off right from the earliest days of the Mughal connection with Bengal. p. 157, .
Section C: The plight of the commoners in Bengal under Mughal rule
Section C.1: Economic exploitation:
Section C.1.1: Famines:
Many of the famines and the food scarcities were a direct outcome of Mughal policies. First, everywhere in Mughal India, the bulk of agrarian surplus was appropriated by the state, leaving the peasantry with the minimum necessary subsistence loc. 1328 . Thus, in years of drought and lower produce, the peasants would simply have to starve. This is precisely why famines and scarcities have been recorded even in regions with high agrarian productivity, eg, Bihar and Bengal. Then again, the frequent military feuds taxed the agrarian resources and also destroyed crops in many places. In Bengal, the imperial armies, while operating in rebel country, almost invariably took ryots captive and laid waste the cultivated land with the object of weakening the enemy's war effort p. 82, . In 1663-64 a severe famine visited Dhaka which was accentuated by the officials' exactions and interference with the transport of food grains and the obstructions they put up on the routes p. 119,  , p. 203, . Historian Mclane has noted that ``Bihar experienced a major famine in 1671 which stretched into the northwest corner of Bengal. It is clear from John Marshall's diary entries that neither the Mughal government at Dacca nor local private agency took effective or perhaps any action to relieve the suffering. He wrote that at Patna: ``Great number of slaves to be brought for 4 an. and 8 an. per peece, and good ones for 1 r. per peece; but they are exceeding leane when bought, and if they eat but very little more than ordinary of rice, or eat any flesh, butter or any strong meat their faces and hands and codds swell immediately exceedingly. The Mughal kotwal (police officer) recorded over 90,000 starvation deaths in Patna and its suburbs.’’ p. 31, 
Section C.1.2: Poverty:
Ramesh Chandra Majumdar has written in detail about the plight of the common people of Bengal during the Mughal rule: ``even with the necessities of life very cheap, the distress of the peasants and the common man [in medieval Bengal] was appalling. This was due to many reasons, one of them being the unjust oppression and extortion of the government officers.... Manrique, a foreign traveller, has recorded that on failure to pay rent a Hindu had his wife and children sold by auction. The Government officers used to outrage the modesty of the women of the peasants, and the peons oppressed the people in various ways. There was no remedy for such oppression to the poor peasants who comprise 90% of the population. Another cause of the distress of the people was the plunder and ravages of the soldiers during war, so much so that villagers on both sides of the route of an army, on hearing of its approach, left their villages and took shelter at the distance. The victorious soldiers indulged in looting even after cessation of hostilities. After the surrender of Pratapaditya, the victorious Mughul general told the former's son Udayaditya: "The Mughul General Makki is ransacking your country, and you are filling his bags with gold. I am keeping my army restrained and not even a mango or a jackfruit is sent to me. Well, tomorrow I will teach you a lesson. "Under orders of the General his army and cavalry marched for the capital town, Jessore, at midnight, and ravaged the town in a manner as never happened before in other expeditions. The General himself has recorded his exploits in the matter. The inhabitants of the southern coastal region were always panicky and in fear of the constant danger of pillage by the Portuguese pirates. These pirates used to ransack the countryside, burn villages, molest the women, and carry off men, women and children, who were loaded in boats like animals and then sold as slaves. Between 1621 and 1624 AD, the Portuguese captured 42,000 people from various places of Bengal and brought them as slaves to Chittagong. Many of them used to be employed by them for household work. The soldiers on expeditions by land also captured men and women on the way and sold them as slaves. Even in times of peace the common man in the countryside had to give begar (free labor) to Government officers. On the whole, there are no reasonable grounds for thinking that the common people were happy in the middle age, but it is likely that they were better off than now in respect of the bare necessities of life." pp. 186, 187, 
Specifically referring to the reign of Murshid Quli Khan, Jadunath Sarkar attests to the same predicament of the commoners in Bengal: ``The common people had no economic staying power, no capital, because they could not accumulate any true money or silver coins as savings, though the area under tillage had increased. Was this condition of the people a proof of Murshid Quli's beneficence or of his want of true statesmanship? The land revenue was forced up so high only by the heartless squeezing of the peasantry and inhuman torture of the contractor collectors. The pressure applied by the Nawab at the top naturally passed through the intermediate grades finally on to the actual cultivators, who were left with the bare means of existence, but every portion of the annual increase of the fields and looms above that minimum was taken away by the State. Thus, while the luxury of Delhi and Murshidabad was pampered, and Murshid Quli every year buried a new hoard in his treasure-vaults, the mass of the people browsed and died like human sheep. The gold, pearls and gems piled up in the treasure chamber of the Murshidabad palace, which dazzled the eyes of Colonel Clive when he entered the Nawab's capital after his victory at Plassey, did not enrich Bengal itself in any way’’ pp. 417-418, 
Mclane has also documented the condition of the commoners in Bengal during Mughal rule: ``Many Europeans commented upon Bengal's prosperity. Francis Bernier wrote after two visits between 1656 and 1668 that Bengal was "the finest and most fruitful country in the world" although he admitted "strangers seldom find the air salubrious." Thomas Bowrey, a factor for the English East Company in Bengal in the 1670s and 1680s, said it "is one of the largest and most Potent Kingdoms of Hindostan ... this Kingdome is now become most famous and Flourishinge." Robert Orme, in 1752, thought Bengal "is the most fertile of any [province] in the universe." Whenever other parts of India experienced dearth, Europeans assumed Bengal could send food since it normally exported sizeable quantities of rice, sugar, and clarified butter. Bengal appeared fertile and productive because it provided, at favourable prices, large quantities of goods desired in other parts of India, Asia, and Europe. However, virtually no one claimed that the general population of Bengal was well-off or that the bullion used to purchase its goods was broadly distributed.’’ pp. 29-30, 
Mclane went on to elaborate: ``Apart from rare anecdotes, we have only indirect evidence of how Bengal's growing wealth was shared. Bengal's marginal advantage in international trade was, after all, a function in part of the low wages paid to its artisans and low prices paid to the peasants who grew rice, sugar, cotton, mulberry leaves, and other items. Bengali textile artisans were said to have earned one sixth of what their counterparts in France received. Weavers usually would not undertake a contract without an advance, perhaps because they were too poor to do so. It is possible that population growth absorbed much of the new wealth of the late seventeenth century, limiting the opportunities of common cultivators to share it. In addition, Mughal officials assigned to Bengal may have siphoned off a major portion of the new currency.’’ pp. 31-32, 
Section C.2 Slavery:
Frequently the peasants were compelled to sell their women, children and cattle in order to meet the revenue demand p. 370, . Manrique, who traveled in India during the reign of Shah Jahan, has recorded instances in Bengal where on failure to pay rent a Hindu had his wife and children sold by auction p. 186, . Of particular interest in the case of Bengal is the trade in eunuchs. Most of the children converted to eunuchs were either stolen by gangs specialising in this robbery, or given as tributes in lieu of land revenue by peasants who could not afford to pay their taxes. The castration of male children had started from the days of the Sultanate, and continued throughout the Mughal era. Hambly points out that ``Although eunuchs had doubtless been a feature of life in Bengal prior to the Turkish conquests of the close of the 12th century it is probable that with the coming of these invaders, and especially after the establishment of an independent Sultanate by Fakhr al-Din Mubarak Shah in 739 A.H./1338 A.D., there must have been an increased demand for eunuchs to manage the extensive harems and households of the new ruling elite.’’ . Rukh-ad-din Barbak Shah had 8,000 eunuch slaves in 1459-1474 period . Jahangir has noted in Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri: ``In Hindustan especially in the province of Sylhet which is a dependency of Bengal it was custom for the people of those parts to make eunuchs of some of their sons and give them to the governor in place of revenue (Mal Wajibi) .This custom by degrees in other provinces and every year some children are thus ruined and cut from procreation’’ p. 150,  Hambly mentions that the trade of eunuchs from Bengal never ceased even though Jahangir tried to reduce it . A prominent noble of Jahangir’s [and Akbar’s] court maintained 12,000 eunuch slaves despite the official disapproval of Jahangir . Huge numbers of eunuch slaves were sent from Bengal (especially Sylhet and Ghoraghat) to the rest of the Mughal empire. It is important to mention that when we speak of Sylhet, we mean all regions east of Dhaka, upto Cachar in the east and Comilla-Tripura in the south east, and when we speak of Ghoraghat, it is the entire Maldah-Dinajpur-Rajshahi belt. Bengali eunuchs were trafficked not only throughout the Mughal empire, but also the rest of Asia and the Islamic world. . That the bulk of the victims were Hindus is clear from the account of Duarte Barbosa, who writes, ``The Moorish merchants of this city [Bengala] ofttimes travel up country to buy Heathen boys froin their parents or from other persons who steal them and castrate them, so that they are left quite flat. Many die from this; those who live they train well and sell them. They value them much as guardians of their women and estates and for other low objects. These eunuchs they hold in high esteem as men of upright character, and some of them become their lords' factors, and some Governours and Captains of the Moorish Kings, so that they become very rich and have great estates.’’ . Given the mortality rate involved (in Abyssynia and Nubia, only one in every ten survived the castration process  and there is no reason to believe that Bengalis survived better) in the castration process, the depopulation of the eastern regions of Bengal due to this trade in eunuchs must have been humongous. Consequently, East Bengal would have been left with a huge number of females without an adequate male population and these females would have been easy pickings for the newly arrived Muslim colonists who came to expand agriculture. Both the males (converted to eunuchs) and the females (taken as wives/concubines by the colonists) would have been converted to Islam. This is one way the Bengal countryside was Islamized.
Peasants were also frequently enslaved on pretexts that had nothing to do with the payment of their taxes. Talish describes a despicable practice in Bengal: ``When any man, ryot or newcomer, died without leaving any son, all his property including his wife and daughter was taken possession of by the department of the crownlands, or the jagirdar or zamindar who had such power and this custom was called ankura [hooking] ‘’ p. 80, 
The Mughal regime was brutal on Hindu women. For example, Bengal Nawab, Sarfaraz Khan, had 1500 pretty female dependents and slaves. p. 93. . Holwell asserts that a principal nobleman in the court of Sarfaraz Khan, Haji Ahmad, [brother of the later Bengali Nawab, Alivardi Khan] ``ransacked the provinces to obtain for his master [Sarfaraz Khan], regardless of cost, the most beautiful women that could be procured, and never appeared at the nawab's evening levee without something of this kind in his hand’’ p. 93, . It was commonplace for Muslim soldiers to torture their slaves, especially their Hindu women slaves. The Calcutta Gazette reported that Mir Faizal Ali, a sepoy in Bengal, was convicted in 1789, of torment of a slave girl named Sauma, by `repeated acts of horrid and uncommon cruelty’ p. 28, . Similarly, Khyrun Nissah Khanun was convicted of barbarity towards an 11 year old slave girl in 1812. pp. 28-29, .
Indic slaves were also subjected to religious persecution, which the Muslim slaves were exempted from. Slavery was an important vehicle for the spread of Islam; thus, all Hindu slaves were forcibly converted to Islam when they were bought by Muslim owners. We now give a specific example of how slavery was a vehicle of proselytisation. Murshid Quli Khan, a powerful 18th century Nawab of Bengal, was born in a Brahmin family in Deccan in 1670. In his infancy, he was bought by a Muslim, who took him to Persia pp. 399-400, , p. 101,  On return from Persia, he got appointed to several high offices and ultimately became the Subedar of Bengal. Not only was he converted, he was also indoctrinated to the extent that, as Nawab of Bengal, he forcibly converted Hindus, destroyed temples and, in essence, became a propagator of his faith. He converted Hugli to a Shia colony. It became a centre of Shia theology and culture. The stream of migration from Persia to Bengal greatly increased during his reign. p. 419,  For example, as Jadunath Sarkar notes, ``In January 1704, 14 relatives of Murshid Quli on migration from Iran reached Delhi, and at his request the Emperor granted mansabs to each of them according to his capacity, in Bengal’’ p. 402,  Naturally, his reputation stands very high among members of his own sect. Salimullah extolled him as: ``Since the time of Shaista Khan, there had not appeared in any part of Hindustan an amir who could be compared with Ja’far Khan [Murshid Quli] for his zeal in the propagation of the faith. … From breakfast to noon, he employed himself in copying the Koran. He maintained about 2000 readers beadsmen, and chanters, who were constantly employed in reading the Koran and other acts of devotion.’’ pp. 420-421, . Jadunath Sarkar commented on his religious bigotry and described him as ``a puritan in his private life, …, gravely decorous and rigidly orthodox as befitted a favourite disciple of Aurangzeb, and a propagator of his faith as ordained in his scriptures’’ pp. 420-421, 
The Mughal conquest of Bengal opened the land up for slaving expeditions by the Portugese-Magh (Arakanese) combination. The Mughal conquest crushed the local Indic rulers like Pratapaditya, who maintained naval bases, eg, in Sagar Island p. 71, , which could stave off the maritime slaving expeditions. We learn from Jamini Mohan Ghosh on how the subjugation of Pratapaditya facilitated the slaving expeditions: ``By far the most important Maritime power of the time in Bengal was at Chandikan or Saugar Island, established by the genius of Pratapaditya who built ship-yard and docky-ards at Dadkhali, Jahajghata and Chakrasi where his ships were built, repaired and kept. According to Manrique - the once flourishing island of Sagor at the mouth of the Hooghly was destroyed by the combined forces of the Maghs and the Portuguese. This was after their defeat by the army of Islam Khan. ....With Pratapaditya's defeat the lower portion of West Bengal became an easy prey to the Maghs sailing up the Hooghly up to the Makhua fort at Sibpur, or up the Rupnarayan called the Rogues' river’’ p. 70, . The elimination of the Hindu rulers freed the southern coasts for the European slave-traders to operate in tandem with the Magh pirates too. The Portugese regularly kidnapped men, women and children from the Eastern districts of Bengal and sold their human cargoes in Arakan. Mukundaram's ChandiMangal refers to Harmadas (Portuguese warships) which created a panic in Bengal. The slave hunting of the Portuguese pirates ravaged East Bengal. Shihab ud din’s Talish tells vividly how the Maghs and the Portuguese pirates brought captives from different parts of Bengal to Tamluk to sell in the market. These slaves were also regularly bought and sold in local markets and their deeds of sale received official recognition from the local Qazi pp. 202, 203,  The Dutch VOC, the unofficial Portuguese traders operating from Chittagong, armed Magh pirates, and the Taung-ngu rulers of Arakan formed various alliances to carry out the slave raids in the coastal regions of Bengal p. 47, . The East India Chronicle of 1758 noted that in `February 1717, the Mugs carried off from the most Southern parts of Bengal 1800 men, women and children, in ten days, they landed at Arracan and were conducted before the sovereign, who chose the handi-craftsmen, about one fourth of their number, as his slaves. The remainder were returned to their captors, with ropes about their necks, taken to the market, and sold, according to their strength from 20 to 70 rupees each … Almost three fourths of the natives of Arracan are said to be natives of Bengal or descendants … From time immemorial, the Mugs have plundered the Southern parts of Bengal, destroy[ing] what they could not carry away and carry[ing] the inhabitants into slavery.’ p. 48, . It is important to point out that the southern regions referred to here are the regions around Budge-Budge and Hooghly, which were (and still are) predominantly Hindu regions. Thus, it is clear that most of the slaves were Hindus.
Section C.3: Religious exploitation:
Section C.3.1: Forcible and incentivized conversion:
Mughal policies were at times institutionalised to cultivate loyalty among the populace through pressurized and incentivised conversions to Islam. In Section C.2, we have described how the Hindu populace of Bengal was decimated through large scale castration of male children, which in turn led to Islamization, as the women who could not be married became easy prey for the harems of the Muslim colians and their children would be raised as Muslims. Next, the landed gentry who could not or would not pay their revenues to the Muslim overlords were forcibly converted. For example, during the reign of Aurangzib, the Raja of Susang in MymenSingh District of Bengal stopped the payment of tribute. He was taken prisoner to Murshidabad and compelled to convert to Islam, named Abdul Rahim and forced to marry a Muslim girl p. 255, . Then, during the reign of Murshid Quli Khan, when Hindu zamindars and revenue collectors defaulted, they, along with their family members, were forcibly converted to Islam p. 172, . Quoting Jadunath Sarkar, ``When Murshid Quli Khan discovered that an amil or zamindar had dissipated the revenue and was unable to make good the deficiency, he compelled the offenders, his wife and children to turn Muhammadans" p. 411, . The conversion of the zamindars often started a chain reaction, leading to the conversion of plebians under them p. 172, . In general, the under-privileged who could not pay the exploitative taxes were often enslaved and subsequently forcibly converted . Other vehicles of proselytization were selective economic pressure, eg, non-Muslims were required to pay an additional hefty tax called Jizya, and (at times militant) missionary activities.
We review the incentivized conversion of East Bengal. Most of the early accounts left by contemporary European travellers, until the Mughal conquest of Bengal, report the presence of Muslims only in the urban centres. In early sixteenth century, we obtain the first European accounts of Bengal and its people pp. 131-132, . But, European travelers start reporting the presence of Muslim peasantry only towards very late 16th century, and continually after that p. 132-133, . Muslim sources also start reporting bulk presence of Muslim peasantry starting from the first half of the 17th century pp. 133-134, . It is perhaps reasonable to conjecture that the Bengal peasantry was Islamized starting primarily from the Mughal period.
Large parts of East Bengal were covered by dense forests before the advent of the Mughals. The Mughals had the forests cleared and the lands converted to agricultural lands to enhance their revenue. In the process, they also established agricultural colonies predominantly comprising of Muslim peasants. These peasants could either be converted slaves transported from elsewhere or local tribals converted to Islam.
Muslim religious gentry, shaikhs, pirs, and qazis, were allocated the role of organizing the cultivators to clear the jungle. Many of them came from the Middle East pp. 208-239, . Some Muslim religious gentry, believed to be endowed with miraculous powers, were also sent to Bengal from the different Sufi centers of Northern India p. 231, . Sometimes the Mughal rulers themselves invited the Muslim religious gentry, and propaganda was launched about their saintly powers and piety. For example, Azim-ush-shan, the grandson of Aurangzib, the then Nazim of Bengal sent his two sons Sultan Karimuddin and Sultan Farrukhsiyar to invite Sufi Bayizid to meet him. Legend goes that Farrukhsiyar walked up barefooted to the Sufi, and offered his respectful salutation. So the Sufi blessed Farrukhsiyar so that he would become the Emperor of India. Indeed, he did succeed Aurangzib pp. 232-233, . The religious gentry built mosques and Islamic monuments in the area, organised the local populace to clear the forest and converted them to Islam. The peasants were also, at times, forced to pay fixed amounts of monetary tributes to these religious gentry. The Mughal state oversaw the establishment of numerous and influential Muslim religious institutions, mosques as well as madrasas in these localities. Land grants and tax exemptions were provided for building and maintaining these religious institutions. It is from these institutions, and the religious gentry who were allowed to politically dominate the local populace, that Islamic values and rituals spread over the countryside during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. pp. 208-239, .
It is also important to note that during the Mughal times Islam spread rapidly in East Bengal, it was also exactly during this time that this region was ravaged by European, particularly Portugese, slave hunting. In particular, the region where the Magh slavers maintained their bases – Chittagong and its adjoining areas – became heavily Islamized p. 205, . The map below shows the major Magh base (Chittagong) and the areas that we know they raided with disastrous effects.
The regions where the Maghs had their bases rapidly Islamized because the Muslims were accorded greater protection from capture by the Europeans. The factory records of the English East India Company testify to an imperial order served to the faujdar of Hugli in 1676. This directed the faujdar to make the English, Dutch and Portuguese sign a paper undertaking not to buy any slaves who are children of Muhammadan parents as the Portuguese did at the time. The order further stated that the foreign merchants had returned three drafts of the agreement with amendments of their own, and declared that they had never ptactised such a trade ; it was also said in the document that the Dutch, who for years together, had exported a great quantity of slaves, had not signed any such agreement pp. 202, 203,  This indicates that the English and Portugese at least promised to abide by this restriction on kidnapping Muslim subjects, which would imply greater caution on their parts in enslaving Muslims of East Bengal. Also, note that Shahjahan ordered his governor of Bengal, Qasim Khan, to expel the Portuguese from one of their establishments in Bengal, Hughli. The Portuguese who were taken as prisoners during the campaign were brutally tortured. Sir Jadunath Sarkar makes the motivation of the expedition clear: " The prisoners should have been more humanely treated, but the standards of the 17th century required that an example should be made of these unfortunate people because some of their compatriots had made slaves of Muslim women and children of noble birth." p. 307, . Note that upper class and upper caste (Brahmins, Kayasthas, Baidyas) Hindu Bengali women were also frequently abducted by Portuguese-Arakanese pirates loc 1799-1812,  pp. 29-33, . But this didn’t stir Shah Jahan to act. The Mughal imperialist state was geared to protect the Muslim nobility first, who were primarily of foreign origin, Muslim commoners came next (note that the Muslim commoners in Bengal were racially Indic and ethnically Bengali), Hindu upper caste and upper class (except high aristocracy) came lower, and the Hindu commoners were lowest in this pecking order. Thus, Hindu population was being decimated more than the Muslims, through captivity and deportation; the prospect of relief from both of these would also accelerate conversion among a populace desperate to survive in their homeland with an iota of dignity.
Section C.3.2: Temple destruction:
Among the regional Muslim rulers, the Bengal Nawabs, starting from the conquest of Bengal by Man Singh on behalf of Akbar, were closely connected to the Indic merchants. It turns out that almost all of them, including Murshid Quli Khan and Alivardi Khan, were guilty of demolition of temples and of other acts of oppression on the Hindus p. 248, . Still, quoting Jadunath Sarkar, `` The principal Hindu merchants and bankers were also attached to him (Alivardi Khan)’’ p. 454, . In fact, desecration of temples was a familiar thing throughout the Muslim rule in Bengal, from Zafar Khan Qazi, in the 13th century right up to Murshid Quli Khan in the 18th century. Suleiman Karrani desecrated the Jagannath temple in Puri and numerous other temples in Koch Behar. In Muntakhabu ut Tawarikh, it is mentioned that, ``In this year  also Sulaiman Kirrãnî, ruler of Bengal, who gave himself the title of Hazrati Ãla, and had conquered the city of Katak-u-Banãras, that mine of heathenism, and having made the stronghold of Jagannãth into the home of Islãm, held sway from Kãmru to Orissa, attained the mercy of God’’ . Jadunath Sarkar reproduces a description of one particular instance of temple destruction from Nau Bahar-i-Murshid Quli Khani, by Azad Hussaini, ``The flag of Murshid Quli Khan was unfurled on the top of fort Udaipur. The Muslim raised the cry of Allah hu Akhbar and the Muslim credo (there is no deity except Allah and Muhammad is his messenger), and demolished the temple of the zamindar which had long been the seat of idol-worship. Making a level courtyard on the side of the temple, they read the Khutba in the emperor’s name. In the mint of Tippera, they stamped dinars and dirhams of gold and silver bearing the name of the Caliph of the age. The world-illuminating son of the faith of Muhammad swept away the dark night of infidelity and bright day of Islam dawned.’’ p. 7, .
The ancient temples of Bengal practically disappeared in the course of time and hundreds of idols of Gods and Goddesses were destroyed; their remnants were later found either in neighbouring ponds, or during repairs to the mosques that supplanted the temples. Construction of new temples was practically stopped. Very few of the existing Hindu temples are known to have been built in Bengal during the 400 years of Muslim rule prior to Akbar’s conquest of Bengal, and, after the death of Akbar, the old orgy of destruction resumed and climaxed during Aurangzeb’s reign. p. 248, . Bharat Chandra’s Anandamangala was composed about the middle of the 18th century. The introduction to the book records wicked Alivardi Khan committing outrage on Hindu temples in Orissa. The poem also mentions that Muslims had stopped all ceremonies prescribed by the Vedas, ``they destroy all temples, perpetrate all sorts of evil things, spit on brahmins, tear their sacred threads and wipe off the sandal marks on their foreheads’’. p. 249, 
Section C.4: Rebellions:
In 1580, Ralph Fitch, the first English visitor to Bengal, found the country to be infested by rebels. p. 97, . The rebellions seem to have continued from the time of Akbar to the time of Aurangzeb. When the kingdom of Koch Behar was annexed in 1661, the local officials introduced the methods of revenue assessment and collection according to the regulations followed in the Imperial territory. Irfan Habib notes that , ``This caused general revulsion against the conquerors among the peasants, who were treated with much greater leniency by the deposed Raja, Bhim Narayan. They, therefore, rose and expelled the local troops and officials.’’ p. 388, . The official historian of Aurangzib has mentioned in context of Koch Bihar: ``the zamindars of the country of Hindustan, for considerations of policy - for winning the hearts of, and conciliating, the peasants, in order that they may not cease to obey or pay revenue to them - conduct themselves gently in exacting the revenue in the mahals of their zamindari, and do not apply the regulations and laws followed in the imperial dominions’’ p. 387, 
Perhaps because of local resistance, whole of Bengal (referring even to the current provinces of West Bengal and the state of Bangladesh) could never be brought under the auspices of Muslim rule until eighteenth century, that is, end of Aurangzib’s rule. Several Hindu kingdoms existed in and around Bengal, eg., Tripura, and Koch Behar were definitely independent, as was Buddhist Arakan (which feuded with the Mughals over Chittagong). During this time, the Rajas of Bishnupur, Birbhum and Pachet also lay beyond the direct control of the Mughal power p. 252, . There is some indication that the process of agrarian expansion led by Muslim figures put forward for that role by Mughals, that appeared so successful in the rest of the province, was reversed in the Birbhum/Rahr area in that, here also agrarian expansion took place, but under Hindu leadership with a parallel process of `Hinduisation’ and increased integration of pre-existing tribes and castes. Even though the area was known from ancient times as a rich hinterland producing a variety of exports (like sugarcane/molasses, cloth and iron tools), it is likely that the medieval dry period had destroyed this relatively arid part of Bengal’s external trade links, and thus did not make it lucrative for merchants. The city state of Barisal also eked out a semi-independent existence in Bengal. The zamindars of Birbhum and Bishnupur were powerful enough to refuse the summons to attend the court of Murshidabad p. 252, . It was in the eighteenth century that Murshid Quli Khan crushed the last independent Hindu ruler in Bengal, Sita Ram Roy of Bhusna, captured him and his entire family and destroyed his capital (Bankim Chandra Chatterjee later wrote a novel on Sitaram Roy) p. 172, .
Section D: How the Mughal rule ensured the prosperity of the merchants in Bengal
Section D.1: General prosperity:
Hamilton (1688-1723) has mentioned, with regard to Bengal: `` The Gentiles are better contented to live under the Mogul laws than under pagan princes, for the Mogul taxes them gently and everyone knows what he must pay, but the pagan kings or princes tax at discretion making their own avarice the standard of equity’’; it appears from the context that Hamilton was referring to Hindu merchants through the terminology of Gentile. p. 387, . Why the Indic merchants preferred the Moghuls becomes clear from the following specifics. Fray Sebastiao Manrique, has written about Dhaka in 1640 that, ``Many strange nations, resort to this city on account of its vast trade and commerce in a great variety of commodities, which are produced in profusion in the rich and fertile land of the region. These have raised the city to an eminence of wealth which is actually stupefying, especially when one sees and considers the large quantities of money which lie principally in the houses of the Cataris (Khatris), in such quantities indeed that, being difficult to count, it is usual commonly to be weighed’’ p. 156, . Note that the terminology `Catari’ used by Manrique would in effect accompany all the North and West Indian merchants to Bengal. He would not be able to distinguish between Marwaris and Khatris for example. In fact, Eaton interprets that the reference to `Cataris’ is in reality to the Marwaris, given their dominant position in Bengal in the contemporary period. We believe that the terminology includes all the North and the West Indian merchants domiciled in Bengal.
Specifically, Khatris definitely dominated the financial administration in Bengal during the Mughal regime. Sir Jadunath Sarkar has noted: ``Under Mughal rule the higher posts in the revenue, accounts and secretariat departments were reserved for Muslims and Hindus from Upper India, such as Khatris from the Punjab and Agra and Lalas from the U.P.’’ p. 223,  At least until the time of Murshid Quli Khan, all high offices in the revenue and accounts department and even in the supply and Secretariat branches of the Army and Navy, "had been filled by men imported from Agra and the Punjab, who did not settle in Bengal, but came and went away with the changing Subahdars" p. 410, . Some Hindu Bengalis were included in the administration during Murshid Quli Khan’s regime. Still, with the weakening of the Mughal imperial hegemony, the Khatri importance to Mughal officers only increased. Khatris were employed as vakils to manage the financial affairs of various mansabdars, owing to their accounting skills and connections with bankers. The nazim of Bengal (and the nizam-ul-mulk of Hyderabad) both employed Khatri vakils, so did the lesser nobles. Khatris were also appointed to other positions in the financial administration, like diwan (revenue officer) and peshkar (manager for a superior official) under local officials. A contemporary account referred to particular Khatris as umara (nobles) and ayan (notable), which indicated their wealth and the importance of the services they provided the Mughals in the early eighteenth century pp. 132-133, .
Section D.2: Powerful business houses:
Section D.2.1: The House of Jagat Seth:
Section D.2.1.1: Origin of the House of Jagat Seth:
Jagat Seth was a title bestowed upon the head of an eminent business house of eighteenth century Bengal. The founder of this house, Hiranand Saho, came from Nagaur in Marwar to Patna in 1632. pp. I-xiii, . Before we proceed further, we examine the historical and geographical significance of Nagaur and its adjoining regions in our context. One branch of the southern transnational trade route connecting Central Asia to North India traverses through Nagaur (refer to the map in Section B). Thus, Nagaur was integrated in the global Islamic transnational trade economy. Also, Nagaur has been almost continuously ruled by Muslim Sultans since the time of Ghiyasuddin Balban (late 13th century). Nagaur lies at the intersection of Jangaldesh to the north, Shekhawati to the east and North East, and Marwar to the South and South-West, and its social composition is similar to Shekhawati.
Shekhawati has a very interesting history. From the late 14th century, to the middle of the 18th century, Shekhawati was ruled by the Qaimkhani Nawabs who were converted Chauhan Rajputs. At some point, it became a Nizamat (tributary) of the Amber-Jaipur state. It is worth mentioning that the Shekhawati and Nagaur towns are heavily Muslim, while the surrounding countryside is almost totally Hindu . The Marwari traders of Shekhawati were closely integrated in the local Islamic political and economic infrastructure. The Qaimkhani estates were traditionally managed by the members of the local Baniya castes p. 2, . The managers typically executed the exploitative mandates of their Muslim overlords. The peasants, however, did not enjoy such a comfortable co-existence.
First, there were large scale famines in this whole region spanning from Shekhawati to Sindh in late 17th century p. 120,  and the conditions of the peasants became unbearable during the famines. Jat peasants under their zamindars revolted against the Mughals during these periods of famine and the revolts eventually ended the rule of the Qaimkhani Nawabs in the the third decade of the 18th century. Many Chauhan and Shekhawat Rajputs also joined the revolt. There is no record, however, of local wealthy merchants funding the rebellions. In fact, BR Nanda notes that ``The replacement of Muslim rulers by Rajputs in the 18th century deprived the Banya castes of their traditional role as the estate manager of Muslim rulers.’’ p. 2, . This really means that the new owners of the estates did not continue to recruit their managers from the local mercantile base, which clearly suggests that there was no assistance from them in the rebellion. Interestingly, mercantile migrations out of Shekhawati magnified during this period; also, the bulk of the big Marwari business houses during the British era and beyond trace their origins to Shekhawati. For instance, Birla, Jamnalal Bajaj, Singhania, Poddar – all hailed from Shekhawati.
Section D.2.1.2: The rise of the House of Jagat Seths:
With this overall historical background, we will now resume the story of Jagat Seth from Nagaur, while the Muslim rulers in Nagaur and adjoining Shekhawati were still in power. We start from Hiranand Saho, who migrated from Nagaur to Patna in the middle of the 17th century. At Patna, Saho started lending money to the servants of the English East India company for the purchase of saltpetre. Both the British and the Saho family were obscure then.
The eldest son of Saho, Manikchand migrated to Dhaka about the end of the 17th century. Manikchand’s banking business began to prosper, through credit transactions with the English, the Dutch and the French pp. 28-29, . During this time, there existed a Mughal clique in Dhaka. The grandson of Aurangzib, Azim-ush-Shan, was the Nazim (in charge of collecting revenues) of Bengal, and lived in Dhaka, with his sons, one of whom, Prince Farrukhsiyar acted as his deputy, and later succeeded Aurangzib pp. 35, 232, 233, . Another eminent resident of Dhaka, Murshid Quli Khan enjoyed supreme influence with the Mughal Imperial government till the last days of Aurangzib p. 35. . Between 1700 and 1704, he became the Diwan of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar, and the Nazim of Orissa, as well as faujdar of Makshudabad, Burdwan and Midnapore p. 50, . Manikchand had become a favourite of Murshid Quli Khan while he was in Dhaka p. 28-29, , pp. 28-29, . Manik Chand’s financial assistance enabled Farrukhsiyar to win in the battle of succession p. 65, , very likely the duo developed proximity while they inhabited Dhaka. Aurangzeb had personally honored Manik Chand, for his large loans to the government. . Manik Chand had therefore become an eminent member of the Mughal clique in Dhaka. When Murshid Quli Khan transferred his headquarters to Makshudabad (to be renamed as Murshidabad) as deputy of the Subedar and then the Subedar of Bengal, Manik Chand accompanied him (this indicates that the duo had become close during their Dhaka domiciles). Manikchand still retained his banking business at Dhaka and Patna and established branches at Hugli, Calcutta, Benares, and other places in northern India. In Bengal, the influence of Manikchand was almost as great as that of the governor. He was the right hand man of the Nawab [Murshid Quli] in all his financial reforms and in his private affairs. pp. 28-29, .
After Manik Chand’s death in 1714, his nephew Fatehchand succeeded him. In 1717, Murshid Quli Khan placed Fateh Chand in charge of his mint at Murshidabad pp. I-xiii, . He became the treasurer of the government and the private hoards of the Nawab were deposited with him pp. 28-29, . The Dutch has described him as the ``greatest money changer of Hindustan’’ pp. I-xiii, . In 1722, Fateh Chand received the title of Jagat Seth from the then Mughal emperor as a hereditary distinction p. 50, . The business house of Fateh Chand and his descendants became commonly known as the House of the Jagat Seth.
Very soon, the House of Jagat Seth monopolised financial operations in Bengal and Bihar. The Dutch records inform us that all money changers in Bengal and many in Bihar who were not connected with the Jagat Seths were brought to bankruptcy. The House decided the premium the Shroffs would charge on different variety of coins in Bihar and Bengal. Fateh Chand could regularly provide the Nawab’s government enormous sums of money. Thus he could induce the government to initiate regulations for the rate of money exchange that would favour his House. The English and the Dutch unsuccessfully lobbied through leading Amirs to obtain the use of the mint. The Calcutta office of the English was informed that, ``While Fatehchand is so great with the Nawab, they can have no hopes of that grant. He alone having the sole use of the mint. Nor dare any other Shroff buy or coin a rupee’s worth of silver.’’ The English and the Dutch regarded this as an indication of the rise of the power of the House. The House was allowed to be the only purchaser of all the bullion imported to Bengal pp. I-xiii,  .
All government collections including the land revenue remitted by Zamindars and Amils, proceeded through the House pp. I-xiii, . The House was entitled to receive 10 percent on all these revenue payments, which constituted one of their humongous sources of profit; Scrafton estimated their profits from this source at 40 lakhs a year p. 151. . The farmers of Bengal were all obliged to pay their taxes in the siccas [silver coins] of the current year. This obliged the farmers to buy the current year siccas, but sell the previous years’ ones, often at a significant discount over the face value. However, the Seths who had control over the mint would buy back these siccas at a discount, and re-cast them in the current year siccas (since they were the same silver) and thus derive a substantial profit from these currency manipulations. The zamindars and farmers who could not pay their taxes were often forcibly converted to Islam. pp. 151-152, , pp. 172, 411, . Thus, both literally and figuratively, a part of the Muslim loot was siphoned to the House as rewards of collaboration. The House was also entrusted the task of remitting the annual tribute to Delhi. In due course, the entire revenue of the eastern provinces was sent as a Hundi drawn by the House on its agents in Delhi p.29 . It was therefore, functioning as the State Bank of Bengal. pp. I-xiii, .
At the peak of its commercial prosperity, the Jagat Seth house, known to be the largest family firm of the 18th century, commanded roughly 140 million rupees p. 200, . It was commonly said at the Nawab’s durbar, including by other eminent members such as Haji Ahmed, Alivardi’s brother, ``Fatehchand’s estate was deemed as the king’s treasure.’’ p. 64, .
Section D.2.1.3: How the House of Jagat Seths facilitated the Bengal Nawabs and the European powers
The House regularly funded the military expeditions of the Bengal Nawabs. Enabled by this financing, Murshid Quli Khan killed the Hindu zamindar of Rajshahi when the latter became powerful enough to defy his authority pp. 257-258, . Murshid Quli Khan also crushed the last independent Hindu ruler in (ethnic) Bengal, Sita Ram Roy of Bhusna, captured him and his entire family, destroyed his capital (Bankim Chandra Chatterjee later wrote a novel on Sitaram Roy) p. 172, . Next, when the Marathas attacked Bengal, the then Jagat Seth offered to fund Alivardi Khan to the tune of Rs. 60 lakhs. p. 44, . In turn, the Bargis led by Bhaskar Pandit looted 3 lakhs of rupees from the House p. 456,  (one of the few acts of the Bargis that can be justified as an attack on an instrument of Islamist oppression).
The House also regularly financed the English, and separately advanced private loans to the servants of the English East India Company. Whenever such employees defaulted their loans, the then Jagat Seth would insist that the Company pay on their behalf. He usually got his way because the Company needed his services at the Durbar. The Calcutta Council realised that if they were to trade in Bengal, ``Futteh Chand must be satisfied’’ and that ``The House must be kept in temper.’’ pp. i-xiii, . In fact, during one such dispute between the British and the Jagat Seths, Haji Ahmed and Rai Alamchand (another North Indian financier of the Nawabs) informed the British, ``The Nawab [Shuja-ud-daulah] has such a regard for Futtichund that it is out of our power to serve you in opposition to him.’’ So they just advised the English to make up the dispute with Fateh Chand as well as they could p. 67, . Subsequently, the English realised how powerful he was and repeatedly approached him to intercede on their behalf in the court of the Nawab. Fateh Chand usually obliged. p. 45, ]25].
Section D.2.1.4: Collusion of the House of Jagat Seths with the Trans-islamic politico-economic infrastructure
It is clear by now that the House of Jagat Seth had established disproportionate influence in the court of the Bengal Nawabs, which they used to expand their business empire. The influence was in part secured because of their financial clout, which included financing the Bengal Nawabs, and in part through their pre-eminent position in the Trans-Islamic politico-economic infrastructure. First, the House enjoyed great prestige and exerted immense influence on the Mughal court during 1717-1767. Recall that in the seventeenth century, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had personally honored the firm's head, Manik Chand, for his large loans to the government . Also, it was the financial assistance of Manik Chand that enabled Mughal prince, Farrukh-siyar, to win in the battle of succession and become the Mughal emperor p. 65, . Mughal emperor Farrukh-siyar also obtained a loan of 1 crore of rupees on the security of the empire from Jagat Seth’s kothi in Benares, as also other leading bankers of Benares. In return, Farrukh-siyar issued a firman bestowing the title of Seth on Manik Chand p. 26, . One privilege which was said to have been conferred by Farrukh-siyar on Manik Chand’s family at the time, a privilege they shared with the Nawab’s family alone, was the right to wear gold ornaments on the feet. The emperor is said to have presented Manik Chand’s wife with a golden ornament, which was held in the greatest veneration by the female members of the family at least until the first quarter of the twentieth century p. 27,  (Notwithstanding the fact that, after being powered to the throne by Manik Chand’s financial muscle, Farrukh-siyar tortured Banda Bahadur and his 740 followers to death; for the unforgivable offense of refusing to accept Islam to atone for their rebellion ). Whenever a khillat [dress of honour] was sent to the Nawab, a similar distinction was conferred on Manik Chand’s successor, Fateh Chand. As mentioned before, in 1722, Fateh Chand received the title of Jagat Seth from the Mughal emperor as a hereditary distinction. The emperor presented Fateh Chand a fine emerald seal with his title of Jagat Seth engraved upon it desiring that he would preserve it and hand it down to his posterity p. 50, .
Next, the Jagat Seths dominated the financial transactions in the whole of Northern India, Central Asia and extending all the way up to Russia. This region of influence coincided with the transnational Islamic trade route. Turani merchants from Central Asia, Armenian merchants trading with Basra, Mocha, Jeddah also relied on this house. Most of the Armenian traders dabbled in trade of slaves and opium. The Indian merchants from Punjab and Sindh, Muslims, Marwaris and Sikhs, who were engaged in trade in different parts of the Russian empire were also connected to the House. Many of the merchants whose names are mentioned in contemporary Russian records used to accept hundees given by the Jagat Seths pp. i-xiii, . The political elite of the region was heavily Muslim and critically depended on this transnational trade.
Likely because of their influence in the Mughal court, and also because of the pre-eminent position they enjoyed in the trans-national Islamic trade, the Jagat Seths were influential even with the Durrani dynasty of Afghanistan (Afghanistan was the hub of the transnational trade route between Central Asia and North India). When the Afghan invader Ahmed Shah held his court in the Dewan-i-am in Delhi in 1757, the most honoured man in his Durbar was the representative of the House of Jagat Seth. Note that it was the House that could stand as security for the amirs from whom the invader could extort money. pp. i-xiii, . The honours bestowed on Jagat Seth reveals that Ahmed Shah found his services extremely valuable. Let us therefore, examine what Ahmed Shah Abdali was doing during that time – he was plundering, raping, forcibly converting and enslaving the Hindus and Sikhs of Punjab, Delhi, Mathura and Brindaban (the latter being among the holiest shrines of the Hindus) pp. 142-144, . It is also pertinent to remark that, at this time, the Marathas had very hostile relations with the Afghan invaders and their hostility would culminate four years later at Panipat.
Section D.2.1.4: The de-facto Nawabs of Bengal - the House of Jagat Seths:
We now show that the Jagat Seths used the political clout in the Islamic world to become the de facto Nawabs of Bengal. We use this term because it becomes evident that the Jagat Seths could easily replace Nawabs who were sub-optimal for their economic and social interests. They could even replace entire regimes with others. Going a few decades back from the the time of Ahmed Shah Abdali’s invasion of India, we dwell in the period of Murshid Quli Khan’s reign. Manik Chand helped Murshid Quli Khan procure his confirmation of subedar after the death of Aurangzeb, pp. 13-14, . Fateh Chand had once restored Murshid Quli Khan to the Mughal emperor’s favour after he had incurred the emperor’s displeasure pp. i-xiii, . Jagat Seths delivered reliable news of power struggles in Delhi to Murshid Quli Khan. pp. 17-18, . When Murshid Quli Khan died, he had chosen his grandson, Sarfaraz, to succeed him. But Fateh Chand did not exert his influence at Delhi to obtain an imperial firman for Sarfaraz. Fateh Chand supported Murshid Quli’s son, Shujauddin, which enabled him to become the Nawab in 1727. Shujauddin was naturally even more generous in his favours to Fateh Chand pp, I-xiii, . As soon as he became the Nawab, he made Fateh Chand his confidential adviser and appointed him in his council p. 61, .
After Shujauddin’s death, Sarfaraz succeeded him, but Fateh Chand supported Alivardi Khan (of Arab origin, p. 436, ). This, in turn, enabled Alivardi Khan to defeat and kill Sarfaraz. Subsequently, Fateh Chand helped Alivardi get the firman of subedarship from the Mughal emperor. The question remains why Jagat Seth decided to oust Sarfaraz Khan. A contemporary story (possibly conjecture) in vogue, narrated by Orme and Scrafton states,``A few months after Sufraaz Khan came to the government, he threw a disgrace on Futtuah chand’s house which laid the foundation of his precipitate fall. The fact, though well-known to a few, was only whispered, out of respect to the power and credit of that family, which had maintained, even from the reign of Aurungzeb, a character of distinguished consideration... He had about this time married his youngest grandson, named Seet Mortab Roy, to a young creature of exquisite beauty; aged about 11 years. The fame of her beauty coming to the ears of the Soubah, he burned with curiosity and lust for the possession of her; and sending for Jagat Seth, demanded a sight of her; - the old man [then complete four score] begged and intreated that the soubah would not stain the honour and credit of his house; nor load his last days with shame; by persisting in demand which he knew the principles of his cast, forbid a compliance with. Neither tears, nor remonstrances of the old man had any weight on the soubah; who growing outrageous at the refusal, ordered, in his presence, his house to be immediately surrounded with a body of horse; and swore on the Khoran, that if he complied in sending his grand-daughter, that he might only see her, he would instantly return her without any injury. The Seet reduced to this extremity, and judging from the Soubah’s known impetuousity, that his persisting longer in a denial would only make his disgrace more public, at last consented; and the young creature was carried with the greatest secrecy in the night to visit him. She was returned the same night; and we will suppose (for the honour of that house) uninjured. Be this as it may, the violence was of too delicate a nature, to permit any future commerce, between her and her husband. The indignity was never forgiven by Juggaut Seet; and that whole powerful family, consequently, became inveterate, tho’ concealed enemies to the soubah.’’ pp. 95-96, . If this is really the case, then, Jagat Seth’s daughter-in-law was not the first Hindu maiden on whom Sarfaraz Khan or his predecessors cast their eyes on. Recall that Haji Ahmad, [brother of Alivardi Khan] ``ransacked the provinces to obtain for his master [Sarfaraz Khan], regardless of cost, the most beautiful women that could be procured, and never appeared at the Nawab's evening levee without something of this kind in his hand’’ p. 93, . But the House continued to finance Sarfaraz despite the violations of innumerable other women. The leader of the House decided to act only when his own honour was infringed upon, although, he clearly had the ability to temper the actions of the Nawabs even before. We would next see that the House would replace a succeeding Bengal Nawab only when their personal, social and economic interests were threatened.
After Alivardi’s death, when his grandson Siraj-ud-daulah succeeded him, he could not obtain the imperial firman for sometime. And he suspected that the Seths were using their influence against him. Siraj-ud-daulah appointed a Hindu, Mohan Lal, as a Diwan. Mohan Lal became the Nawab’s chief adviser. ``He was also the sworn enemy of the Seths.’’ The Jagat Seths found that they were no longer treated with the great respect they received from former Nawabs. They believed that sooner or later, Siraj-ud-daulah would seize their wealth. Most of the Muslim nobility in Siraj-ud-daulah’s court detested that he placed Hindus over them. pp. 157-158, . Siraj ud Daullah also had threatened the Jagat Seths with circumcision [forcible conversion]. p. 486, .
Subsequently, the House of Jagat Seths originated the conspiracy that culminated in the defeat of Siraj-ud-daulah in the battle of Plassey. Jean Law wrote, ``The path which led to the Battle of Plassey had its beginning in Murshidabad and not in Calcutta and it was the Seths who placed the feet of the English in the path.’’ pp. I-xiii, . The inhabitants of Murshidabad firmly believed that the Seths advanced large sums of money to the English prior to the battle of Plassey and that the rupees of the Hindu banker equally with the sword of the English colonel contributed to the overthrow of the Muhammadan power in Bengal, p. 155, . Nick Robins has attributed the ouster of Sirau-ud-daulah primarily to the Jagat Seths: ``The Jagat Seths were unrivalled in North India for their financial power. Known as `banker of the world’ (Jagat Seth), this Marwari family had built up formidable economic resources on the back of its control of the imperial mint and extensive money lending. They wielded this financial clout at the Bengali court and were judged to be `the chief cause of revolutions in Bengal’ by a French commentator at the time.’’ p. 70, .
Section D.2.1: Other eminent mercantile collaborators in Bengal
Nawab Shuja-ud-din had appointed his able financier Alamchand as his Diwan in Orissa and later in the entire Bengal province p. 423,  (Alamchand became the de jure deputy diwan in Bengal, but was the de facto Diwan p. 61, ). Alongwith Jagat Seth Fateh Chand, Alamchand made it to Shuja-ud-din’s council p. 61. . Alam Chand also received a personal Mansab of 1000 and the title of Ray-i-Rayan, which had not been conferred for a long time on any officer of the Bengal government p. 423,  In the words of Sir Jadunath Sarkar, ``In the administration of all important matters of state, Nawab] Shujauddin was guided by the counsel of Alivardi and his brother, Haji Ahmed, … of Ray-i-rayan Alamchand, an able financier and devoted officer … , and of Jagat Seth Fateh Chand, the famous banker of Murshidabad, who being the owner of vast riches, naturally exerted profound influence over the Bengal Nawabs. As a matter of fact, the Seths of Murshidabad henceforth played an important part in the history of Bengal and were active participators in the mid-18th century political revolutions in the province’’. p. 423, . Note that Alamchand would either be a Marwari or a Khatri merchant residing in Murshidabad.
Recall how the descendants of Khatri trader and money lender, Abu Rai, came to rule Burdwan as a tributary of the Mughals. In 1689 Aurangzib's firman honored Abu Ray's great-grandson Krishnaram and confirmed him in the titles of Chaudhuri and Zamindar of the pargana of Burdwan pp. 130-131, 133-134, , pp. 62, 199, 255, . Another Khatri, Manikchandra, served as a crucial link between Burdwan and the Bengal Nawabs in the middle of the eighteenth century. He conducted Burdwan's revenue and military affairs, and assumed temporary assignments in the Nawab’s service. For example, Manikchandra brought an auxiliary force from Burdwan to help Alivardi in Orissa in 1741, when Alivardi was attempting to subdue Rastam Jang, a relative and supporter of his rival, Sarfaraz Khan. On the eve of the decisive battle of Phulwari, Manikchandra, is said to have tried to cross over to Rastam Jang but his offer was rejected as suspicious. Thus, he fought for Alivardi p. 168,  Manikchandra was subsequently appointed faujdar of Hughli and he commanded troops under Alivardi’s successor, Siraj-ud-daula, in the seige of Fort William in June 1756. After the capture of Calcutta, Siraj-ud-daula appointed Manikchandra as Governor of Calcutta, and assigned him the responsibility of defending Fort William and the lower Hughli river from any Company attempt to return. Simultaneously, he was described as the farmer of estates, to the south of Calcutta, along the Hughli river, he held these lands under the raja of Burdwan p. 178, .
Finally, by the middle of the eighteenth century, Amirchand, a Sikh Khatri, had become one of the richest merchants in Calcutta p. 133, . Nick Robins described Amirchand as follows: ``Originally from Agra, Amirchand was another of Bengal’s leading merchant princes, controlling much of the trade in opium and saltpetre. He was also well known to the company, working as one of its dadni merchants from the early 1730s.’’ pp. 70-71, , and ``Indeed Asian trading houses such as those headed by Jagat Seth and Amirchand (Umichand), were often far richer and better connected than the Company.’’ p. 70,  Amirchand became so powerful that he managed one third of the East India Company’s annual investment during the regime of the Bengal Nawabs p. 71, . Along with the House of the Jagat Seths, Amirchand played an important role in replacing the regime of the Nawabs with that of the East India Company. Incidentally, Amirchand was closely connected to the Khatri Burdwan king, Tilak Chandra (Abu Rai’s descendant), who himself had several financial dealings in Calcutta p. 177, . Sometime before Alivardi's death, Amirchand had introduced Tilakchandra, among other prominent individuals, to the East India Company's chief engineer, Colonel C.F. Scott. Scott afterward noted that "in Bengal the Jentue [Hindu] rajahs and inhabitants were very much disaffected to the Moor Government, and secretly wished for a change and opportunity of throwing off the tyrannical yoke." p. 177, . This suggests that Tilakchandra also had a role in the conspiracy that ousted Siraj ud Daula.
We notice that Jagat Seth and Amirchands were not isolated individuals or familes, but constituted a symptom of the contemporary disease of systemic collusion between Muslims and Indic merchants in the medieval and pre-modern times. We, therefore, seek to draw some generic lessons analysing them as representatives of the phenomenon of collusion.
We first examine if the Jagat Seths and the Amirchands benefited from their treachery. We learn of the former’s fate from Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, ``Mir Qasim [the last independent Nawab of Bengal] had imprisoned Jagat Seth, Swarup Chand, and other respectable Hindus in Monghyr fort and subsequently, he mercilessly killed them by throwing them into the Ganges from the rampart of the fort, after tying round their necks sacks full of sand or stone. Some accounts mention that Jagat Seth was shot dead.’’ p. 146, . The successors of Jagat Seth Swarup Chand inherited his estates, but were gradually marginalised and lost their clout during the regime of the East India Company, essentially starting after the defeat of Mir Qasim. Nick Robins shares an interesting anecdote about the fate of Amirchand. ``… During the intense negotiations of the deal that would overthrow Siraj-ud-Daulah, Amir Chand once again overstepped the mark, in the process becoming the original `Mr. Five Percent’. Threatening to expose the plotters, Amir Chand demanded a full one twentieth of the Bengal treasury for his continued support. … In a sleight of hand, that would become legendary, Clive drew up two treaties with Mir Jafar. In a fake treaty inscribed on red paper, Clive agreed to Amir Chand’s demand, forging the signature of Adm. Watson, the leader of the expedition. In the real treaty, written on white paper, however, no mention was made of this transfer. When Amir Chand learnt of the trick in the aftermath of Plassey, he fainted and died in despair, shortly after.’’ p. 71, . Nick Robins has aptly summarized: ``Bengal was certainly rich, but its governing and merchant elite had little depth, basing their primacy on personal contact and loyalties.’’ p. 71, . Notwithstanding, the fall of the Jagat Seths and the Amirchands, after the assumption of power by the East India Company, the financial clout of the Marwaris and Khatris continued in Bengal during the early years of the East India Company. For example, in the 1770s, Hazari Mal, Amirchand's brother-in-law, served as the East India Company's official banker p. 133, . Hazari Mal also had close connections with both the Burdwan raj family and had been a business partner of Hastings in 1769-70 p. 241, .
It becomes evident that the Jagat Seths actively enabled, through direct financing, and at times, by serving as political intermediaries, fanatic Muslim rulers who were perpetrating the worst possible atrocities on the Hindu populace. The list of rulers that the Jagat Seths collaborated with includes such hallowed figures as Aurangzeb, Ahmed Shah Abdali and Bengal Nawabs from Murshid Quli Khan to Alivardi Khan. They were by no means compelled to collaborate. Far from it, they wielded supreme influence in the courts of all these rulers, to the extent that it was only they who could ensure their continuance in office; it was also they who could replace them whenever they threatened his social and economic interests. They used their authority only to secure their own interests and possibly those of their community, but no further. This basic fact renders the House partners in the crimes of all these tyrants.
There are several vital questions that remain. Firstly, why did the House of Jagat Seth not bat even an eyelid for the poor Hindus at the receiving end, even when they could? It is perhaps because they did not see the common Hindus of Bengal as their own people. It is tempting to attribute this indifference to ethnic disparity, but it goes beyond. We have pointed out that the mercantile community of Shekhawati was collaborating with Muslim infrastructure there, even while the local Jat peasants and Rajput minor landholders were being persecuted. For the Jagat Seths, their own people were just their own community, which was, in this case, the Oswal Jains pp. 6-7, . They mostly hired their employees from among Oswal Jains p. xx, . Manik Chand, for example, preferentially encouraged the Oswals to settle in Murshidabad. At one time, there were as many as 500 Oswals in Murshidabad and their dwellings were clustered together near the house of the Jagat Seths. The inhabitants of Murshidabad named this colony Mahajantoli p. 30, . This clannishness holds true across multiple mercantile communities  and possibly beyond. An incidental observation is that any criticism of individual businessmen of any mercantile group is deflected on the grounds that they are `Hindu business’. But the above evidence shows that there was a community business, but there never was a Hindu business, and there is none now either.
The second question is why did the Jagat Seths and the Amir Chands choose to replace one set of invaders with another; one Muslim Nawab with another and eventually the last Muslim Nawab with the British (note all the Mughal era governors of Bengal and the Muslim Nawabs of Bengal were of foreign origin) . They had other Hindu options at his disposal, who they not only did not help, but obstructed and got them crushed. Specifically, after the death of Siraj-ud-daulah, they [the Jagat Seths] averted combination of Hindu Rajas of Bihar who would have risen to establish a Hindu government [in Bengal]. p. 155, . The first was a revolt by the Raja of Medinipur and later in Purnea p. 339, . Both were led by Hindus. Then, Mir Jafar found himself opposed to the Dewan, Raja Durlabh Ram and the Raja of Bihar (Patna), Raja Ramnarayan. Clive crushed the revolts in Purnea and Medinipur and managed to defuse the latter revolt by Durlabh Ram and Raja Ramnarayan p. 340, . The Seths’ nominee after the battle of Plassey was Yar Lutf Khan and not any Hindu ruler of Bihar or Bengal p. 339, . It is worth noting that the then Jagat Seth had enough influence on Robert Clive to intercede on behalf of the Hindu Rajas, if he desired to. Robert Clive has written about his visit to Murshidabad after the Battle of Plassey, ``I had a visit from Juggut Seat with whom I had a good deal of conversation. As he is a person of the greatest property, and influence in the subas, and of no inconsiderable weight at the Mogul’s court, it was natural to determine on him, as the properest person to settle the affaris of the government; Accordingly when the Nawab returned my visit this morning, I recommended to him to consult Juggut Seat on all occasions, which he readily assented to …’ p. 198, . This was not the first instance in which an invader who was being financed by the house of Jagat Seth crushed a Hindu ruler. Recall the brutal suppression of the last independent Hindu ruler in Bengal, Sita Ram Roy of Bhusna, by Murshid Quli Khan p. 172, . Indic mercantile collaborators usually preferred colonial regimes over Indic ones, as the former would permit a collaborating mercantile to exploit the indigenous populace to the maximum as opposed to an indigenous Hindu ruler who derived his legitimacy from the soil. Note that the condition of the commoners of Bengal didn’t improve in any way because of the change of regime. We learn from Seir Mutaqherin, Mir Jafar and his son plunged into all kinds of pleasures without bestowing one single thought on affairs of state. p. 201, . And, shortly after the East India Company assumed full control, their exploitations caused the Bengal famine of 1770 AD that killed about 10 million people.
The third question is were the Jagat Seths ever censured in their community for flouting some basic values pertaining to humanity and social ethics? For if not, it would be apparent that they were products of the overall society that belonged to. First, we observe that Jagat Seths were Jains, who swear by the principle of ahimsa. Yet, the Jagat Seths were financing and enabling himsa of the highest magnitude, and contemporary references show that they were perceived as leaders of the Oswal Jain community. They continued to hold an eminent position in the Jain community well after the commencement of the 20th century. In 1914, during the wedding of the granddaughter of Diwan Bahadur Seth, Umedmul Lorah of Ajmir, the then Jagat Seth was welcomed by the Oswals of all part of Rajputana as their recognised head. The family of Jagat Seth were even considered the recognised head of the Jain community in India. In Jagat Seth’s community, his priests were honoured above other priests. p. 247, .
Thus, it appears that the Jagat Seths and the Aminchands were products of serious degeneration of social values; the observation is unfortunately, not limited to the Marwaris or Jains alone. It pervaded across communities of Hindu India, and it continues to pervade now. At some point, inordinate amount of importance started being placed in connection with accumulation of individual wealth, and political influence, regardless of how the wealth and influence were procured. This is a perfect recipe for the success of a colonial regime, because a colonial regime would reward the individuals who ally with them. Thus the collaborators and their successors would easily acquire wealth and influence. Since the society continued to value just those criteria, in addition to personal greed and ambition for power, there was added social incentive to collaborate with the invaders. In addition, observance of outward religious practices and adoption of religious symbolisms started taking precedence over the innate values that constitute the essence of religion. We narrate a few pointers in support of our assessment. In the 19th century, Prince Dwarakanath Tagore became the crème de la crème of the Bengali society. His only accomplishments were that he was wealthy and well connected to the colonial regime, notwithstandiing the fact that he was direct participant in inflicting the Indigo famines, which wiped out a substantial section of the populace in Bengal and Bihar. Then, in 1925, the Birla family was ostracised by the Maheshwari Marwari community, because they had accepted a match with a bride (a Maheshwari) of the United Provinces, and not of the region Birlas hailed from p. 3, . They were, however, never ostracised, but rather celebrated, for their close social, political and economic collaboration with the genocidal colonial regime of the time, the British.
The rot continues into the modern times. An eminent scholar, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar (who should be celebrated for his scholarship, notwithstanding the observation next) described, in the middle of the twentieth century, the Jagat Seths as `respectable Hindus’ p. 146, . Further comments are redundant. Sikh Khatri Sardar Bahadur Sir Sobha Singh, OBE, father of eminent author, Khushwant Singh, and a close friend of another eminent journalist, Tavleen Singh, testified against Bhagat Singh (a fellow Sikh), Sukhdev and Rajguru, thereby contributing to the deaths of these martyrs. Subsequently, Sardar Bahadur Sir Sobha Singh, OBE, received many rewards from the British, and lucrative contracts to build many Lutyens buildings, including Rashtrapathi Bhavan. His social, economic, and political prospects only strengthened subsequent to the transfer of power. He also built a house specially commissioned by Sir Padampat Singhania, a fact that Sir Singhania’s sons have boasted about in a book p. 77, . Fast forward to 2005. On 3 February 2005 , the vice president of India , Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, released a postage stamp to commemorate the Centenary of Sir Padampat Singhania. p. 163, . It was Sir Padampat Singhania who, along with Sir Jwaalaprasad Srivastava and Ram Ratan Gupta, who generously funded the Muslim League for at least a decade prior to the Partition p. 171, . Incidentally, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was an eminent leader of the nationalist BJP, whereas Sir Jwaalaprasad Srivastava and Sir Padampat Singhania were close to Jawaharlal Nehru. The last in our list would be the book by DH Taknet, whose foreword and introduction have been written by Prof. Arvind Panagriya, Chairman of NITI Aayog, appointed by BJP and Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman, Minister of Commerce (BJP). The book records the associations of eminent Marwari businessmen with despotic Muslim rulers like Suleiman Karrani, Prince Shuja, and Nizam of Hyderabad, as also collaborators like Man Singh. The book prominently highlights the above associations as examples of the achievements of the Marwari community. It also gives a glowing profile of the Jagat Seths; it does, however, omit the insignificant detail as to his role that ushered in the British rule p. 468, .
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