Murshidabad located on the banks of the Hoogly River in West Bengal was once an important center and the Mughal capital of the Bengal region. Today, however, very little is known about this historically rich town which seems to have been forgotten on the tourist and cultural circuit of the country. In fact, it would be harsh to say that Murshidabad is forgotten, as much as, covered in a layer of old dust that is being steadily washed off by organizations such as, the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society or MHDS.
It is best to know a bit more about Murshidabad before venturing into the ideals and role of the MHDS. In 1704 Murshid Quli Khan who was the Diwan of Bengal during Aurangzeb’s rule transferred the capital of the Bengal region from Dhaka and renamed the city as Murshidabad. In 1716 he attained the title of Nawab and Murshidabad became his capital. Murshidabad continued to an important center in British India.
It is architecturally fraught with luxuries of the nawabs, including palaces, mosques, gardens and tombs. Culturally the town is famous for its silk weaving, ivory and embroidery work, as well as, for exporting some of the best mangoes and litchis.
What is MHDS?
The Murshidabad Heritage Development Society was founded in 2010 with ‘the objective of restoring and reviving heritage in Azimganj and Jiaganj in particular and Murshidabad in general. It was envisaged with the aim of preserving the past, integrating it with our present and laying the foundations for future conservation efforts.’
MHDS in many ways has been responsible for creating awareness and interest in the glorious history, architecture and culture of Murshidabad. The Annual Cultural Festival conducted every year is a two to three day festival that showcases the region’s culture and arts through various different events and heritage walks. This year the Annual Festival will be held from the 12th to the 14th of January 2019.
The Annual Festival 2019
The Murshidabad Heritage Festival is a great way to explore the hidden gems of the town. This year the festival includes sightseeing tours to Heritage monuments, palaces and museums, including a visit to the Kathgala Palace and Lalbagh. Hosting textile and photography exhibitions and folk artists, the festival will also organize various cultural programs and performances by the Chhou Troupe, Raibenshe Troupe and Odissi Dance Troupe.
The second day incorporates a heritage walk in Azimganj, boat races and kayaking, a visit to the Tanti para or a weaver’s locality and a tour to the Murshidabad District Museum. A light and sound show at the Matijheel Park is the perfect way to end the day.
The final day takes the tourists to the famous Hazarduari Museum. The festival package includes meals, hotel stay and travel charges to and from Kolkata.
MHDS admits that community involvement is essential for the preservation of heritage. The Sheherwali Jain Community of Murshidabad are committed towards the restoration and sustenance of the city’s legacy and culture and the members of the community have worked together in patronizing the arts, dress, horticulture, architecture and other cultural aspects of Murshidabad.
Joining hands with the Sheherwali Jain Community the MHDS has finally been able to put into action what was envisaged and hoped for by the many natives of the region.
What does MHDS aim to do?
The objectives of the society are listed out below in their own words.
- The revival, restoration & conservation of heritage & culture of Murshidabad,
- To bring about awareness of the region,
- Lobby for and assist the development of infrastructure,
- Promote Heritage and Religious Tourism,
- Renovation & revival of assets – Public and Private,
- Mentoring residents to protect and add to the legacy of the region,
- Organize Entrepreneurial & Vocational training,
What can I do?
Organizations like the MHDS need to be applauded and supported for their commendable vision and actions. You may look for more details on the various projects and events at http://www.mhds.in/.
However, more recently the Annual Festival 2019 is a great way to explore Murshidabad and learn more about its heritage and past. At the same time by actively participating and supporting the various ventures of MHDS one can in their own way contribute in the preservation and awareness of lost and faded glories of our history and culture.