Nawab Family of Dhaka
Nawab Family of Dhaka the Khwaja family of Dhaka having obtained the title of 'Nawab' from the Government of British India distinguished itself as the 'Nawab Family of Dhaka'. Since mid nineteenth century this family had been the most influential in East Bengal for nearly subsequent one hundred years. The founder of the family, Khwaja Abdul Hakim, came to Bengal from Kashmir for trading purposes. He settled in Sylhet and established himself there as a businessman. His tomb lies at the Sylhet collectorate building area.
Another branch of the Khwaja family led by Khwaja Abdul Wahab and his brother Khwaja Abdullah came to Bengal and settled in Dhaka in 1730. Khwaja Abdul Wahab started business in Dhaka dealing mainly in leather. His younger brother Moulvi Khwaja Abdullah, a sufi, also settled in Dhaka. Abdullah was the founder of the family that later came to be known as the Nawab family of Dhaka. Khwaja Abdullah had two sons, Khwaja Ahsanullah and Khwaja Hafizullah. Khwaja Hafizullah and his nephew Khwaja Alimullah had an enormous success in trading with the British and the Armenians in leather, salt and gold bar and also in money lending businesses. Their business success and charity brought for them social prestige and influence. Hafizullah and his nephew Alimullah purchased a number of zamindari estates sold in auction under the rules of the permanent settlement. The zamindari purchased by Khwaja Hafizullah included the Aila-Tiarkhali and Fuljhuri parganas of Barisal, Itna pargana of Mymensingh, Baldakhal and Elahikhal parganas of Comilla.
Khwaja Hafizullah built his new residential house at Swarighat on the bank of the buriganga and shifted there from his paternal residence at Begum Bazar. The house has been included in the Panoroma of Dacca published in London in 1840. He died in 1815 at the age of eighty. Khwaja Hafizullah was succeeded by his son Khwaja Abdul Gafur to the management of the zamindari estate. Abdul Gafur increased the zamindari by purchasing a part of the Atiya Pargana in Mymensingh. He died in 1822 at the age of forty.
Khwaja Alimullah purchased many zamindari estates in the districts of Barisal, Dhaka, Mymensingh and Tippera including a number of indigo estates. He also invested in money lending. He became one of the founding directors of the Dacca Bank. Under him the total assets of the Khwaja family were consolidated into a single estate. He executed a trust under which all his properties were consolidated and were administered by one of his successors as the trustee after his death. He appointed his son abdul ghani as the trustee and vested him with the sole authority of management of all his landed estates and business concerns by executing an waqfnama and a number of deeds of gift (heba bel ewaj) in 1846 and therein granted allowances for his other sons and daughters including some relatives.
Khwaja Alimullah maintained friendly relation with the English. He himself learnt English and he also persuaded his family members to learn it. He purchased pearls and diamonds and maintained elephants and horses to display his grreatness. In 1830, he purchased a Kuthi at Kumartuli from the French and later renovated it. This edifice was renovated and extended by his son Abdul Ghani and thus it took the shape of the famous ahsan manzil. Khwaja Alimullah died in 1854 (16 Bhadra 1261 BS).
Khwaja Abdul Ghani emerged as the biggest and most influential zamindar in East Bengal in the second half of the nineteenth century. Simultaneously with the management of the zamindari estate he developed many business concerns and made enormous profit business. Due to low rent on land in the Dhaka Nawab estate in comparison with the other contemporary zamindari estates, and for his generosity and nobility Khwaja Abdul Ghani became very popular to the inhabitants of Dhaka and to his tenantry. After three years of his taking over the management of the zamindari estate in 1854 the sepoy revolt (1857) broke out. Though the east india company faced a serious threat due to the progress of the mutiny of the sepoys, the English could manage to control the situation in Dhaka with the support of Khwaja Abdul Ghani.
Consequent upon his support to the Company Khwaja Abdul Ghani could assert his influence upon the activities of the government, and the government ensured various facilities to him including the award of titles. In 1861, Khwaja Abdul Ghani was appointed as an honorary magistrate. He was made a member of the bengal legislative council in 1866 and a member of Governor General's Council in 1867. The government conferred upon him the title of C.S.I in 1871 and the title of Nawab in 1875. The title of Nawab was made a hereditary title in 1877. Nawab Abdul Ghani was honoured with the title of K.C.S.I in 1886 and the title of Nawab Bahadur in 1892. Nawab Abdul Ghani died in 1896 at the age of 83.
After the death of Abdul Ghani, his eldest son khwaja ahsanullah took over charge of the management of the zamindari estate in 1896. Khwaja Ahsanullah was a social activist, generous and munificent zamindar, and a renowned composer of songs and a poet. He conducted the affairs of the estate very efficiently and extended the size of his zamindari by purchasing the Govindpur pargana of Dhaka. He was appointed as Mutawalli of the estate of one Majlishunnesa of Sonargaon as per a wasiyatnama executed by her. Nawab Ahsanullah conducted the affairs of the zamindari estate as per direction left by his father Nawab Abdul Ghani. But allegation was lodged against him by the partners of the joint estate on the issue of non-enhancement of their allowances. The aggrieved members of the family even filed a suit against him. However, by the mediation of the family friends a memorandum of agreement was executed on 26 August 1881. The British Government conferred upon Nawab Ahsanullah the title of 'Khan Bahadur' in 1871, title of Nawab in 1877, title of C.I.E in 1891, title of Nawab Bahadur in 1892, and title of KCIE in 1897. He was made a member of the Governor General's council in 1890 and again in 1899. Nawab Ahsanullah died on 16 December 1901. khwaja salimullah, son of Nawab Ahsanullah, had been a deputy magistrate since 1893. He took over the charge of the zamindari on the death of his father. However, due to his extravagance and involvement in contemporary politics, he soon became indebted to many moneylenders. This made the partners of the estate antagonistic to him. Under the circumstances, Nawab Salimullah was compelled to hand over the management of the estate to the Court of Wards in 1907 under the pressure of the partners. To get rid of moneylenders, he took a loan of rupees sixteen lakh twenty five thousand from the government on 6 August 1908.'
The management of the estate by the Court of Wards failed to enhance the income of the zamindari, and the loan taken from the government could not be fully repaid. Nawab Salimullah died on 16 January 1915.
Nawab Salimullah nominated his son khwaja habibullah as the Mutawalli of the Nawab estate of Dhaka. But a section of the family under khwaja atiqullah defied the nomination and filed a suit in the court. But the verdict of the court went against them.
Nawab Khwaja Habibullah, however, failed to maintain the integrity of the family and the property was partitioned among the co-sharers causing financial strain in the management of the estate. Under the State Acquisition Act of 1950 the Dhaka Nawab estate was taken over by the government on 14 April 1952. After the abolition of the zamindari estate the maintenance of a goreous palace like Ahsan Manzil was shear an impossibility for the successors. In the later part of his life Nawab Habibullah shifted with his family to their quarters at Paribagh. He died on 21 November 1958.
Role in politics Nawab Sir Salimullah had a leading role in the floating of the all india muslim league in 1906. His grandfather Nawab Abdul Ghani and his father Nawab Ahsanullah were directly associated with the foundation of the Mohamedan Literary Society by Nawab abdool luteef in 1863. Nawab Ahsanullah opened a branch of the mohammedan literary society in Dhaka. Nawab Ahsanullah arranged a reception to Nawab Abdul Luteef in 1882 when the latter was in Dhaka on organisational tour. With the floating of the central national mohamedan association by syed ameer ali in 1878, Nawab Abdul Ghani gave financial support to the association. With an object of creating proportionate opportunity for the Muslims in education and employment on population basis the central Mohammedan Association launched a programme of signature campaign in 1885 for submitting a memorandum to the government. Nawab Abdul Ghani submitted a memorandum to the Bengal government in November 1885 with signature of five thousand people of this region.
Like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Nawab Ahsanullah of Dhaka believed in the policy of Muslim distinctiveness in education and politics. So he did not support the Hindu Muslim united nationalism followed by the Indian National Congress. He had support to all the anti-Congress meetings held in this region. Under the patronisation of Nawab Ahsanullah an assemblage of the Muslims was arranged on 11 November 1888 in the premises of Ahsan Manzil. In the meeting Khwaja Mohammad Yusufjan placed his arguments justifying the stand for opposing the Congress, and urged upon the Muslims not to join the Congress. It is to be noted that a section of the family aggrieved on the issue of partition of the property was opposing the Nawab, and they joined the Indian National Congress at its inception in 1885. Subsequently, Khwaja Atiqullah, the younger brother of Nawab Salimullah, also joined the Congress consequent upon his discontent with the Nawab on the same issue.
Having responsibility of the management of the Nawab estate Khwaja Salimullah initially aspired to develop the social life of the people in Dhaka. Nawab Salimullah was involved in politics while asserting his opinion on the plan of the British Government for the partition of bengal in 1903-04. In a meting of the leaders of the Hindu and Muslim community of East Bengal held on 11 January 1904 at Ahsan Manzil he protested against the Partition of Bengal.
But for the interest of the people of East Bengal, he suggested an alternative proposal for constituting a greater province under a lieutenant governor with a constituent assembly having Dhaka as its capital.
With an object of counting support in favour of the Partition of Bengal viceroy Lord Curzon had a visit to East Bengal in 1904 and was a guest with Nawab Salimullah on 18 and 19 February. A reception was arranged for the viceroy on 18 February at the premises of the Ahsan Manzil. Discussion with Nawab Salimullah on the issue of the Partition of Bengal culminated into a great change in the scheme of the Partition of Bengal of Lord Curzon. The Partition of Bengal came into effect on 16 October 1905 and a new province was formed as the Province of East Bengal and Assam. Sir Joseph Bampfylde 'Fuller was appointed as Lieutenant Governor of the new province. Nawab Salimullah had a vital role in organising the Muslims in favour of the Partition of Bengal in the face of opposition of the Congress. On the very day of the inception of the new province (16 October 1905) he launched a political organisation named 'Mohammedan Provincial Union' in a meeting of the leading personalities of East Bengal held at northbrook hall in Dhaka with himself in the chair. This was the first political platform of the Bangali Muslims. Nawab Salimullah along with his associates organised meetings in different towns of East Bengal to form public opinion in favour of the new province. On the other hand, the Congress activists organised movement against the Partition of Bengal. With an object of uniting the Muslims, Nawab Salimullah floated in 1906 an organisation as 'Purba Banga O Assam Pradeshik Muslim Shiksha Samiti' (East Bengal and Assam Provincial Muslim Education Association). The first conference of the association was held on 14 and 15 April (1906) at Shahbagh in Dhaka with Nawab Salimullah in the chair, and he was elected as chairman of the executive committee of the association.
Since morley-minto reforms proposal appeared to be a threat to the interest of the Muslims of India the Muslim leaders headed by Aga Khan met viceroy lord minto at Simla on 1 October 1906. But since the claim for the execution of the Partition of Bengal was not included in the memorandum submitted to the viceroy, Nawab Salimullah on the ground of operation into his eyes averted his presence in the Simla Deputation. Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhury attended the deputation as the lone representative from East Bengal. Nawab Salimullah had a plan to float a political party styled as Muslim All India Confederacy in early 1906. He sent a synopsis of the plan to the leaders attending the Simla Deputation for their consideration. The leaders had discussion on the issue and decided to consider the proposal at the conference to be held in Dhaka.
Nawab Salimullah published his proposal in the newspaper in 1906 for wider circulation and asking for opinions from different corners. He also arranged for sending the copy of the newspaper to the Muslim leaders and Muslim organisations throughout the whole of India. On his request to Aligarh leader Nawab Muhsin-ul-Mulk, the twentieth convention of the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference was scheduled to be held in Dhaka. Accordingly, the convention was held on 27, 28 and 29 December 1906 at Shahbagh in Dhaka with Justice Sarfuddin on the chair. More than two thousand delegates from all over India including the Muslim leaders attended the conference. The total expenditure of the conference (more than six lakh rupees) was borne by Nawab Salimullah. A meeting of the delegates presided over by Nawab Waqar-ul-Mulk was held on 30 December to consider the draft proposal of Nawab Salimullah for floating a political organisation. Nawab Salimullah in his long speech explained the need and objective of the formation of an all India Muslim political party and placed a proposal to that end. The proposal was seconded by Hakim Azmal Khan and was carried in the meeting unanimously. Thus came into being the All India Muslim League. Sir Salimullah was made one of the vice presidents of the party. In 1907, Nawab Salimullah launched organisational tour through the districts of Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Mymensingh, Barisal, Pabna and formed unit committees of the Muslim League in public meetings in each of the districts. In a Meeting of the leaders of East and West Bengal held in Kolkata in 1907 and presided over by Nawab Salimullah, 'All Bengal Muslim League' was formed and he was elected as president of the executive community of the party. In June 1908, he formed the 'East Bengal and Assam Provincial Muslim League' of which he was elected as secretary. The 22nd annual conference of All India Muslim Education Association was held on 27 December 1908 at Amritsor with Nawab Salimullah in the chair. In a meeting of All India Muslim League held on 30-31 December 1908 at Amritsar he placed a demand for separate electorate for the Muslims. With an object of promoting good relation and harmony between the Hindus and Muslims in the new province of East Bengal and Assam he launched an organsation on 21 March 1909 consisting of the men of wealth and social dignitaries from both the communities which was styled as Imperial League of eastern bengal and assam. He constituted the Provincial Muslim League in 1909 and took over charge of its president. In a meeting of the leaders held on 15 March 1911 at Ahsan Manzil presided over by him, decision was taken to maintain separate identity of the Provincial Muslim League and Provincial Education Association, the former dealing with politics and the latter with promotion of education and public welfare activities. At a function in the Curzon Hall on 19 August 1911 Nawab Salimullah placed a demand for the establishment of a university and high court in Dhaka. For his support to the Partition of Bengal scheme of the government he subsequently and virtually emerged as an adviser to the government.
Under the pressure of the Congress activists the British emperor George V declared the Partition of Bengal void at the delhi coronation durbar 'held on 12 December 1911. Though reluctant to attend the Durbar, Nawab Salimullah was ultimately compelled to attend the Durbar on receipt of a personal letter from the Governor General Lord Hardinge. He was awarded the title of G.C.I.E on the occasion. Even though he received the award, he later in a statement termed it a halter on his neck. He had a discussion meeting with the Muslim leaders present on the occasion of the Delhi Coronation Durbar, prepared a memorandum of eight demands for safeguarding the interest of the Muslims, and submitted it to the Viceroy Lord Hardinge on 20 December. The memorandum included a demand for access of the leaders of east Bengal to the viceroy for placing the needs and demands of the people of east Bengal. On the issue of this memorandum of demands the viceroy Lord Hardinge came to Dhaka on 29 January 1912 on his three days tour programme. Nawab Salimullah arranged for a grand reception at Shahbagh in honour of the Viceroy.
A meeting of the leaders of Bengal was held on 1 March 1912 at Dalhausi Institute Hall in Kolkata with Nawab Salimullah in the chair. As per proposal of Nawab Salimullah, the two units of the Muslim League in East Bengal and West Bengal were united to form the Presidency Muslim League with Nawab Salimullah as its president. Similarly, the two units of the Muslim Education Association in East and West Bengal were united to form the Bengal Presidency Muslim Association of which Nawab Salimullah was made the president. In his presidential address in a meeting of the All India Muslim League held in Kolkata on 3-4 March 1912 Nawab Salimullah refuted the arguments of the antagonists to the establishment of an university in Dhaka. He explained the necessity of separate electorate for the Muslims and placed the demand for recruitment of the Muslims in government service as per cota to be determined on the basis of population. In 1914, he arranged for the conference of the Bengal Presidency Muslim Association and of the Presidency Muslim League in Dhaka on 12 and 13 April respectively after which he virtually retired from active politics.
After the death of Nawab Sir Salimullah on 16 January 1915 his eldest son Khwaja Habibullah took charge of the administration of the Nawab estate. He was elected a member of the central Legislative Council in 1918. He had been the elected member of Bengal Provincial Assembly from Dhaka city constituency from 1924 to 1932. He was the president of Bengal Muslim League and a member of the working committee of All India Muslim League. Subsequently, he was the vice president of East Pakistan Muslim League and a member of the working committee of All India Muslim League. United Muslim league was formed in Kolkata on 25 May 1936 by the initiative of Nawab Habibullah which was however later amalgamated with All India Muslim League by the effort of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In a conference arranged in August 1936 with an object of reconstructing the All India Muslim League by the initiative of mohammad ali jinnah, Nawab Habibullah attended the conference as a representative from Bengal. He had been a member of the Legislative Assembly from the Dhaka Municipality constituency from 1935 to 1945. He was elected as president of the Muslim League Parliamentary Board in 1936.
With the formation of krishak praja party and Muslim League coalition ministry by A K Fazlul Huq in 1937 Nawab Habibullah was included in the cabinet in charge of the Ministry of Agriculture and Industry, and later in charge of the Ministry of Local Government and Industry (1938), and subsequently in charge of the Ministry of Public Health and Industry (1940). In December 1940 when the Muslim League members of the cabinet resigned at the instance of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, fazlul huq formed the second cabinet with the support of other party members. Nawab Habibullah joined the second cabinet as Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce. The consequence was his expulsion from the Muslim League for five years. Nawab Habibullah again joined the Muslim League in 1946 and was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly. In 1946, he contested in the Provincial Assembly election from a constituency in Dhaka as an independent candidate, but was defeated by the Muslim League candidate and a member of his own family, khwaja Khaeruddin.
Social welfare activities Khwaja Alimullah donated cash money to the fund of Mr. Walter, Magistrate of Dhaka, for the construction of iron bridge over the Dholaikhal in 1826. Nawab Abdul Ghani contributed regularly to the development and welfare of the town. He tried to solve the conflicts of the Dhaka city people through shalish or negotiation. Nawab Abdul Ghani established a langarkhana at Begumbazar in Dhaka in 1866 wherein the old, destitute and handicapped were provided with shelter, food, clothing and medical support. During the famine of 1874 he managed to distribute rice to the people at a low price. He donated money for the construction of the Northbrooke Hall and the Buckland Bund (Dam). The Panchayet system though in practice earlier, got momentum by the initiative of Nawab Abdul Ghani. As the unofficial city father he appointed one sardar and a naib-e-sardar for each mahalla or ward. Socially, the Ahsan Manzil emerged as the highest seat of arbitration of disputes.
The installation of tap water system was one of the most important contributions of Nawab Abdul Ghani towards the development of the Dhaka town. He declared a donation of fifty thousand rupees to build tap water supply system. As per desire of the nawab, supply of tap water was made free for all. After his death the Dhaka Prakash published a long list of his charity and social welfare works.
Ghani's son and successor Nawab Ahsanullah maintained the tradition of social works introduced by his father. After the shifting of the military cantonment from Purana Paltan, Nawab Ahsanullah developed a garden on the spot named as Company Bagicha, and on its north developed a playground. He reconstructed the mausoleum of Shah Niamatullah Butsaken, repaired Satgumbad Mosque, Khwaja Ambar's Mosque, and built Baigunbari Mosque in Savar and a musafir-khana at the dargah of Shah Ali in Mirpur. He sent money for the maintenance of Nahr-e-Jubaida in Makkah. He used to support forty persons for Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah every year. He donated a substantial amount of money for the construction of the female ward in Mitford Hospital in 1875. He donated fund for the foundation of Lady Duffrin Women Hospital at Nalgola adjacent to the Mitford Hospital in commemoration of the visit of Viceroy Lord Duffrin and Lady Duffrin to Dhaka in 1888. He also sanctioned five hundred rupees as annual grant for the maintenance of the hospital.
Nawab Ahsanullah established a mosque and a madrasa at Madaripur in 1884 after the name of his deceased son Khwaja Hafizullah. In 1896 he arranged for the dredging of the river on the confluence of the Buriganga and Dhaleswari, gave financial support to the famine stricken people in 1896 and arranged for the sale of rice to them at low price. Nawab Ahsanullah established a hospital in Patuakhali in 1900 in memory of his deceased wife and sanctioned annual grant for the maintenance of the hospital. He reconstructed the Hossaini Dalan of Dhaka which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1897. He gave financial support to the construction of Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata. He developed the Victoria Park in 1898 and sanctioned an annual grant for its maintenance.
Khwaja Mohammad Yusufjan of the nawab family as chairman of the Dhaka municipality took many measures to improve the city conditions. He built the Corronation Park on the bank of the Buriganga in 1906. In 1905 he ventured to establish a modern market at a site in Nayabazar area, and the merket was inaugurated in 1913 which was named after him as Yusuf Market. He took an extensive programme for the development of water supply system at Dhaka in 1908, and by 1910 the capacity of water supply was made double. Nawab Yusufjan modernised the sewerage system in Dhaka and completed the work with an expense of forty lakh rupees. The Bengal governor Lord Lyton inaugurated the functioning of the new sewerage system in 1923. Among the members of the Nawab family leading the affairs of the municipality were Khwaja Amirullah, Khwaja Mohammad Asgar, Khwaja Abdul Karim, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Nawabjada Khwaja Nasrullah, Khwaja Ahsanullah and Khwaja Khaeruddin.
Nawab Salimullah had a venture to improve the social life of the people of Dhaka. To make the panchayet system more effective he appointed Khwaja Mohammad Azam as its superintendent in 1907. Khwaja Azam got the twenty-two panchayet and twelve panchayet systems unified and thereby ensured harmony in the life of the citizens of Dhaka. Khwaja Azam wrote a book on the panchayet system of Dhaka which may be considered as an authentic treatise on the system. Most of the litigations of the Muslims used to be mitigated in the panchayet meetings of arbitration. Comparatively complicated and major problems used to be solved in meetings at Ahsan Manzil by the nawab himself or by his assigned representative.
Inspired by Nawab Salimullah, the Muslims of Dhaka city used to gorgeously celebrate the festival of Fateha-i-Doaz Daham. Financed by the Nawab, the panchayet units in different mahallas used to arrange for illumination and milad mahfil on the occasion. Nawab Salimullah established the Islamia Orphanage in Dhaka in 1909, which is still functioning with the name Salimullah Muslim Orphanage. He used to donate money to the poor students and give asylum to the homeless and destitute. Nawab Habibullah used to donate every year sixty five thousand rupees from the waqf estate for religious and welfare purposes. It was out of his donation that the Dhaka Muslim Shiksha Samity was formed in 1920.
Contribution towards education Nawab Abdul Ghani established a high school at Kumartuly at Dhaka in 1863 which was named after him. The students from poor families were taught in the school free of tuition fees. Information is available that the students of Abdul Ghani High School passed entrance examination at least upto 1907. Nawab Abdul Ghani had substantial contribution towards the establishment and development of the Aligarh College. Abdul Ghani took the initiative for submitting a petition to the government in 1871 on behalf of the Muslim community for the establishment of an Anglo-Arabic madrasa in Dhaka. He purchased a plot of land for the proposed madrasa at a cost of 5500 rupees. Nawab Abdul Ghani used to pay regular allowance to the first principal of the madrasa, Maulana Ubaidullah Suhrawardy. He established another high school at Jamurki in Tangail which was also named after him.'
Nawab Ahsanullah declared an award of 200 rupees to each of the students securing first division in entrance examination from this school. He was a member of the governing body of Dhaka Madrasa, and donated fund in 1880 for the construction of the new building of the madrasa. Of the scholarships maintained for the students of the madrasa at least four were operated by the Nawab estate. In addition, he maintained the Hafez Abdur Rahman Prize Fund with a yearly grant of rupees one hundred. The superintendent of Dhaka Madrasa, Maulana Ubaidi floated a social welfare organisation named 'Samaj Sammilani' with Nawab Ahsanullah as its patron and the Nawab made a to the organisation. Nawab Ahsanullah donated fund in 1870 to Antahpur Stree Shiksha Pratisthan (Learning Centre for the women of Zenana) founded by Nabakanta Chattopadhyay and in 1882 to Ripon Scholarship Fund founded by Syed Ameer Ali. He also donated fund to Victoria Girls' School and Eden Girls' School. Nawab Ahsanullah contributed in 1896 a substantial amount of money to the fund raised for the establishment of a separate school exclusively for the Muslim girls who were denied admission in Bethune School. He donated land for the establishment of Fuller Student Hostel in Dhaka. He built a mosque and a madrasa in Madaripur after the name of his deceased son Khwaja Hafizullah.
Nawab Salimullah donated 1,12000 rupees to the government in 1902 for the establishment of Dhaka Ahsanullah Engineering School. He granted annual scholarship to at least four students passing from Abdul Ghani High School and Dhaka Madrasa and getting admission in Engineering School. He arranged for the education of the boys of Salimullah Muslim Orphanage at different educational institutions including Hammadia Madrasa. With an object of giving incentive to the Muslims for education Nawab Salimullah formed the East Bengal and Assam Muslim Education Samity in a conference held at Shahbagh on 14 and 15 April 1906. It was through this organisation that he aspired to get the school text books modified so as to make them suitable for the Muslim students and to ensure the appointment of a greater number of Muslim teachers and inspectors in the schools. As per proposal of this organisation the government formed a committee in 1909 for reforming the madrasa education with Henry Sharp, Director of Public Instruction, as chairman and Nawab Salimullah, Nawab Ali Chowdhury and Maulana Wahid as leading members. As per recommendation of the Committee, the government introduced the reformed and new scheme madrasa with modern syllabus. This new scheme madrasa system was subsequently upgraded and elevated to high madrasa and aliya madrasa system. Nawab Salimullah got a proposal carried at the conference of the Provincial Muslim Education Samity in 1906 for the foundation of a Mohammedan Hall attached to the Dhaka College, and declared a donation of 1,86,900 rupees for the purpose. On 21 March 1912, Lieutenant Governor Lord Bailey laid the foundation of the Mohammedan Hall at Dhaka College premises. But after the establishment of Dhaka University, this hall was decided to be attached to the University. The dream of the Nawab was materialised through the establishment of Salimullah Muslim Hall in 1927 by the University. Nawab Salimullah gave financial support to Hemayet Uddin Ahmad for building the Islamia Boarding in Barisal. In 1908, Nawab Salimullah placed the demand for introduction of compulsory free primary education system in the country before the East Bengal Provincial Assembly. It is to be noted that Khwaja Nazimuddin while a chairman of the Dhaka Municipality (1922-1929) introduced compulsory primary education system in Dhaka, and as Education Minister of undivided Bengal passed the compulsory primary education bill in 1929.
Nawab Salimullah donated fund to Nabinagar High School and Muradnagar High School in Comilla district in 1903 and to Muslim Student Hostel in Mymensingh in 1904. He was a member of the committee on promotion of female education formed by the government of East Bengal and Assam in 1908 and headed by Robert Nathan. Besides, he was appointed as chairman of the sub-committee on Muslim female education formed in the same year. This sub-committee recommended the possibility of promotion of female education in Muslim society and the availability of probable textbooks. Besides, the sub-committee recommended for enhancement in the number of female teachers in the schools, grant of stipend for female students, establishment of girls' schools and girls' hostels by the government money. These recommendations were accepted by the government.'
Nawab Salimullah had immense contribution towards the foundation of the University of Dhaka. After the annulment of Partition of Bengal, Viceroy Lord Hardinge had a visit to East Bengal and reached Dhaka on 29 Jannary 1912. On 31 January, 19 eminent Muslim leaders led by Nawab Salimullah met the Viceroy at Shahbagh garden house of the Nawab. In view of some demands placed by the leaders, the viceroy declared for the foundation of a university in Dhaka and appointment of special education officer for the Muslims. By the efforts of Nawab Salimullah and the Muslim leaders the declaration was materialised. Nawab Salimullah aspired to elevate the High School established by Nawab Abdul Ghani to a college. He donated fund for the establishment of Duffrin Hostel in Dhaka Madrasa. At the instance of Nawab Salimullah, the teachers and students of Dhaka Madrasa floated an organisation styled as Muslim Institute in 1906 to which the Nawab sanctioned an annual grant of 400 rupees. In 1911, he placed a demand before the East Bengal Legislative Assembly for sanction of grant in aid to Dhaka and Chittagong Madrasa at an enhanced rate. Nawab Salimullah was appointed as inspector of Ahsanullah Engineering School in 1908. He increased the monthly grant to Hafizullah Madrasa in Madaripur from 25 rupees to 30 rupees in 1904. He donated fund for the establishment of a mosque and madrasa at Netrakona and gave money for the development of the hospital and school at Jamurki in Tangail in 1903. With the financial support from Nawab Salimullah, one Mohammad Halim established the Salimia Madrasa at Dighirpar in Vikrampur in 1902. While in Barisal on supervision of the zamindari estate Nawab Salimullah donated fund on 7 August 1902 to the Muslim Student Hostel. He donated money in 1903 for the development of the library of Muradnagar School in Comilla district.
Inspite of financial hardship Nawab Habibullah gave financial support to the development of education. It was with his donation that the Dhaka Musalman Shiksha Samity was founded in 1920 for imparting financial help to the poor Muslim students. He used to pay regular subscription to the Samity. He gave an annual stipend of two hundred rupees to one Abdul Hakim who secured first class in Dhaka University and got himself admitted into Cambridge University. Nawab Habibullah used to pay annual stipend of three thousand rupees to the students of Salimullah Muslim Hall of Dhaka University. He contributed ten thousand rupees to the formation of Salimullah Memorial Fund for the meritorious students of the Hall on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of Salimullah Muslim Hall in 1929. He donated fund to the foundation and development of Nawab Habibullah School at Nawabbari area, Nawab Habibullah School and College at Azimpur in Uttara and Nawab Habibullah High School at Sadullahpur in Savar. He donated money to Nawab Salimullah College at Tipu Sultan Road in Dhaka in 1936. Nawabjadi Akhtar Banu donated land in 1924 to Qamrunnesa Girls' School at Tikatuli which was named after her mother Qamrunnesa. She also donated more than one lakh rupees for the development of the school in the 1940s. The School was taken over by the government in 1947. It was the earliest government girls' high school in this region.
Contribution to cultural activities Khwaja Alimullah had a pioneering role in introducing the practice of dance and music at family level. During his time, male and female songsters and the dancing baijees were invited at family level functions like wedding ceremonies etc. Khwaja Abdul Ghani brought his family closer to the practice of songs and music. He used to invite the skilled songsters and dancing baijees from Baneras, Farrukhabad, Rampur and Lukhnow for entertainment. He used to arrange for songs and dance, magic, jokes and sports at the annual fair at Shahbagh organised by him on the occasion of Christian New Year since 1876.
Nawab Ahsanullah himself was well versed in songs and music. He was skilled in classical music and on several musical instruments. He composed a good number of thumri songs. Nat composed by him used to be sung at milad mahfil in Dhaka. His poetical work Qulliyat-e-Shaheen includes Persian and Urdu ghazals and Hindi songs. He was a connoisseur of the traditional holi songs and himself composed a good number of holi songs. For the promotion of songs and music he used to donate fund to the Dhaka Sangeet Vidyalaya (Music School). He got his son Khwaja Atiqullah trained in songs and music who was adept in playing on violin. He created a number of modes and tunes in classical music.
The Nawabs of Dhaka had special contribution towards the development of dramatic performances. Nawab Abdul Ghani used to invite theatre groups from Kolkata and Mumbai for display of dramatic performances in Dhaka. In those days the male actors in female dress used to act in the role of a female. In 1879, the National Theatre of Kolkata for the first time engaged the female actresses in dramatic performance in Dhaka. Nawab Abdul Ghani allowed the female on the stage for performance in spite of dissent from the conservative section of the people. Nawab Ahsanullah wrote a number of Urdu dramas. These dramas were staged in a newly built stage in the vicinity of the palace of the Nawab. In 1895, he invited the famous Star Theatre Group of Kolkata and arranged for their drama performaces in the Nawabbari stage making the show open to the elites of the town including the females. In 1903 and 1904 Nawab Salimullah arranged for the drama performances of the Persian Theatre Company at Shahbagh for the observance of the members of the zenana of the Nawab family. The students of Dhaka College arranged for staging the drama Padmini in 1909 on the occasion of Saraswati Puja.
The young members of the Nawab family like Khwaja Azad, Khwaja Azmal, Khwaja Zahir were skilled in the operation of movie camera. At times they used to take photograph of the dramatic performances arranged at Ahsan Manzil. Their hobby for practice of photography ultimately inspired them to produce cinema film. With this end in view they founded a film producing institute named 'Dhaka East Bengal Cinematograph Society' in late 1920s, being the first of its kind in East Bengal. Initially, they experimentally produced a short film slyled as Sukumari. This success imbued them in producing a full-length cinema titled Shesh Chumban (The Last Kiss). Initially Khawja Nasrullah was the hero and later replaced by Kazi Jalaluddin and Khawja Azmal. Khwaja Azad and Khwaja Azmal were the photographers. Lolita acted as heroine of the film and other female actresses include Charubala, Devabala and Harimati, all of whom were baijis. The shooting of the cinema Shesh Chumban began in 1929 and on completion of shooting mainly at the garden houses of the nawabs at Shahbagh, Dilkusha and Paribagh this 12 reels dumb movie was released in 1931.
The practice of photography with camera appears to be introduced in Kolkata in 1844. The photograph of Khwaja Alimullah (d. 1854) of Nawab family is presumed to be the earliest of its kind in this region. Nawab Ahsanullah possessed the highest quality camera of the time and personally took photograph of important events, antiques, historical relics etc. At times, he used to take photograph of the high ranking government officials coming to Dhaka. He photographed the sites in Dhaka devastated by the tornado in 1888 including the palace of the Nawab. Besides, his photographs of important places and historical relics of Dhaka and its outlying areas including the sites on the bank of the Buriganga are still considered as valuable authentic documents.
Under the patronage of Nawab Salimullah, a German Photographer Fritz Cup established a photo studio at Dhaka. The photograph of the Ahsan Manzil including some pictures relating to the Nawab of Dhaka prepared by him in 1904 still represent as valuable documents of history. Nawab Salimullah was also a member of the Kolkata based photography society. Khwaja Suleman Qader of the Nawab family was a skilled photographer. He had a private laboratory for printing the photographs.
Nawab Ahsanullah's daughter Meher Banu was a painter of repute. Two of her colour painings were published in the Sravan issue of the Moslem Bharat of Kolkata in 1920. Poet Nazrul Islam is said to have composed his famous poem Kheya Parer Tarani having been influenced by the inherent spirit of one of these paintings.
Contribution to games and sports Khwaja Alimullah gave substantial donation to the English for making the Ramna Maidan suitable for arrangement of horse race competition in Dhaka. He used to award trophies to the winners in horse race, and arranged for dinner and party of dance and music in honour of the distinguished persons attending the race performance. The tradition continued to be maintained during the time of Nawab Abdul Ghani and Nawab Ahsanullah. Nawab Abdul Ghani used to rear and maintain high breed horses for participation in horse race in Dhaka and Kolkata. Dhaka Sporting Club was founded in 1891 for the students of Dhaka Madrasa with yearly donation from Nawab Ahsanullah. Nawab Ahsanullah gave financial support to the formation of Calcutta Mohamedan Sporting Club on 19 January 1894. The Club introduced the Nawab Ahsanullah Cricket Tournament in 1897 with financial support from the nawab family. In line with Mohamedan Sporting Club of Kolkata, the Mohamedan Union Sporting Club was established in Dhaka in 1899 under the patronage of Nawab Ahsanullah. Khwaja Mohammad Yusufjan was made president of the Club. The Club had extensive role in the practice, display and introduction of modern technique of games and sports in East Bengal. Between 1935 and 1946 Khwaja Nazimuddin was the president and Khwaja Nuruddin was the secretary of the Club. In 1936 the football team of Mohamedan Union Sporting Club won the shield of Indian Football Association (IFA). Nawab Sir Salimullah formed a hockey team along with the sports oriented members of his family in 1907 with the name Nawab Union Club of which he was the president. He appointed Watson, a sergeant of the British Army, as coach of the team and assigned organisational responsibility to his brother Khwaja Atiqullah. Inspired by the success of this team, at least four other hockey teams subsequently emerged from within the Nawab family. Besides, a number of hockey teams were floated in Dhaka by the initiative of the persons interested in sports and games such as Wari Club, Victoria Club, Wonders Club, Dhaka College Club etc. The Bachelors Union Club of the Nawab family continued to maintain its position as the most reputed hockey team in East Bengal. A hockey tournament named Atiqullah Cup was introduced in 1912 with financial support of Khwaja Atiqullah and continued for years. Subsequently, Khwaja Ibrahim with the Bachelors Union Club hockey team participated in the Baton Cup Competition in Kolkata in 1944. Khwaja Yusuf Raja of this team was the team leader of East Pakistan Hockey Team participating in the National Hockey Championship held in Peshawar in 1952. He was the coach of Bangladesh National Hockey Team. The Government of Bangladesh awarded him the National Sports Award in 1979. [Mohammad Alamgir]
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