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.
Chronology of Bengal Subahdars (1575-1770 AD).
|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|
|Shahbaz Khan (2nd term)||1586|
|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|
|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|
|Fidai Khan alias Azam Khan Koka||1678|
|Prince Muhammad Azam||1678-79|
|Shaista Khan (2nd term)||1680-88|
|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|
|Mir Jafar Ali Khan||1757-60|
|Mir Jafar Ali Khan (2nd term)||1763-65|
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]