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Mir Bahr


Mir Bahr the Mughal Admiral. Under Akbar, there was a department of Admiralty under an officer called Mir-i-Bahar (Admiral). He had to keep a fleet (nawwara) for the purposes of war and policing the inland waterways (specially in Bengal and Bihar), build bridges, regulate the seaports and river ports and levy tolls on merchants frequenting the ports. Practically they had no navy worth the name and even in their great days from Akbar to Aurangzeb. They largely depended on the license of the European vessels for protection of their pilgrim ships. It was not primarily a naval department at all, but a mere flotilla of boats (nawwara). It showed a curious combination of military, naval, mercantile and domestic objects. The Government of the province was organised on the same lines as the government at the center. Apart from the governor, every province had its own diwan, bakhshi mir adil, sadr, mir-i-bahr, kotwal etc. The provincial Mir Bahr (mir-i-bahr) was responsible for the maintenance of the river and seaports within his jurisdiction.

The Mir Bahr of Imperial nawara of Bengal with its headquarters at Dhaka had to guard against the frequent incursions and depredations of the Arakan or magh pirates and portuguese pirates.

The Mughals maintained a few seaworthy boats but they seldom ventured out into the open sea. They had a few vessels, which could have made voyages in the open sea, but they were generally used in the broader rivers or their estuaries; the smaller craft was used on the other rivers. The care and the regulations of the seaports as well as river ports were in mir-i-bahr's charge. Sometimes he acted as Mir Bahr or as engineer and superintendent of public works department. Under Akbar, Qasim Khan held both the posts.

In Bengal iwaz khalji (1212-1227 AD) first organised the navy. Since Bengal is a riverine country and the rivers are over flooded during the rains, cavalry and elephants were inactive for almost half of the year. That is why nawwara was established and Bengal's flotilla of war-boats proved to be most cost effective. In the Mughal period, islam khan (1608-1613) strengthened the nawwara, and subjugated all challengers to his authority. [Nasrin Akhter]