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Subahdar


Subahdar viceroy or governor of a subah of the Mughal empire. For governance, the Mughal empire was divided into a number of Subahs (provinces). The head of a subah was variously called: subahdar, nazim, sahib-i-subah, faujdar-i-subah etc. The governor of the Subah Bangala was called 'Subahdar'. He was also often addressed as Nazim. Like the two principal ministers at the centre, the diwan and the mir bakshi , the provincial governors were generally appointed from amongst officers holding the highest ranks or Mansabs. Sometimes Mughal princes also were appointed subahdars of important provinces.

In fact, the subahdars formed the hard core of the ruling aristocracy. Normally, the most trusted members of the imperial family and the bureaucracy were appointed subahdars. Being the civil and military head of the subah, the subahdar held a very crucial post. A rebellion on the part of a subahdar was sure to have a telling effect on the imperial authority as well as on the territorial integrity of the empire. Shortly after the death of the last Mughal in 1707, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the nawabs of Oudh and Bengal (all actually subahdars) became autonomous chiefs of their respective subahs rendering the empire a ridiculous fiction.

The jurisdiction and powers of a subahdar were elaborately defined in the procedures of imperial administration. He was directly appointed by, and responsible to, the emperor. Constitutionally, he had no power to transgress the limits set by the emperor. In balancing his powers, the provincial diwan, who was again appointed directly by the emperor, was assigned with supreme powers as regards revenue administration. As regards finance, the subahdar had no control over the diwan nor had the diwan over the subahdar as regards administration. They were mutually independent of each other. While Prince azim-us-shan, the subahdar of Bengal once made an attempt to influence murshid quli khan (the diwan) to sanction him money irregularly, the diwan complained to the emperor pointing out the irregularity. The emperor censured the subahdar and appreciated the stand of the diwan. This is an instance of duality of powers in the Mughal provincial administration.


Subahdars Tenure
Khan-i-Khanan Munim Khan 1575
Khan-i-Jahan Hosen Quli Beig 1576-76
Ismail Quli (Acting) 1578-79
Muzaffar Khan Turbati 1579-80
Khan-i-Azam Mirza Aziz Kokah 1583
Wazir Khan 1583
Shahbaz Khan 1583-85
Sadiq Khan 1585-86
Shahbaz Khan (2nd term) 1586
Wazir Khan 1586-87
Syed Khan 1587-94
Raja Mansingh 1594-1606
Qutubuddin Khan Kokah 1606-07
Jahangir Quli Beig 1607-08
Islam Khan Chishti 1608-13
Sheikh Hosanga (Acting) 1613-14
Qasim Khan Chishti 1614-17
Ibrahim Khan Fath-i-Jang 1617-24
Darab Khan (when Bengal was occupied by Shahjahan) 1624-25
Mahabat Khan 1625-26
Mukarram Khan Chishti 1626-27
Fidai Khan alias Mirza Hedayetullah 1627-28
Qasim Khan Juyini 1628-32
Azam Khan Mir Muhammad Baqr 1632-35
Islam Khan Mashhadi 1635-39
Saif Khan (Acting) 1639
Prince Shah Shuja 1639-60
Mir Jumla alias Khan-i-Khanan Muazzam Khan 1660-63
Dilir Khan (Acting) 1663
Daud Khan (Acting) 1663-64
Shaista Khan 1664-78
Fidai Khan alias Azam Khan Koka 1678
Prince Muhammad Azam 1678-79
Shaista Khan (2nd term) 1680-88
Khan-i-Jahan Bahadur 1688-89
Ibrahim Khan 1689-97
Prince Azimuddin (Azim-us-Shan) mostly in absentia, Farrukh Siyar and Khan-i-Alam being the deputies in succession 1697-1712
Farkhunda Siyar (infant son of Farrukh Siyar, in absentia, Murshid Quli Khan was the deputy) 1713
Mir Jumla alias Muzaffar Jang (in absentia, Murshid Quli continued as the deputy) 1713-16
Murshid Quli Khan 1717-27
Shujauddin Muhammad Khan 1727-39
Sarfaraz Khan 1739-40
Alivardi Khan 1740-56
Sirajuddaula 1756-57
Mir Jafar Ali Khan 1757-60
Mir Qasim 1760-63
Mir Jafar Ali Khan (2nd term) 1763-65
Nazimuddaula 1765-66
Saifuddaula 1766-70

But even then, the subahdar was the chief of the province and responsible for its defence and good governance. For political consideration, the Mughal Court did not approve of long terms for subahdars, and generally transferred or recalled them, with exceptions, after their tenures of two to three years. But compared to subahdars of other provinces, Bengal subahdars, however, had always enjoyed much longer tenures. On an average, Bengal subahdars stayed in office uninterruptedly for more than six years, whereas in other provinces the tenure was, generally, below four years.

Between 1704 to 1717, the centre appointed several subahdars, but those appointments were more rhetorical than real, because none of the incumbents came to Bengal to assume their office. During the period, virtual ruler of the subah was Murshid Quli Khan, the founder of the nawabi regime. From Murshid Quli Khan to sirajuddaula, all subahdars, who were commonly known as 'nawab' in Bengal history, were self-proclaimed and later confirmed by the centre theoretically. [Sirajul Islam]