Murshidabad, located on the eastern bank of the Bhagirathi river is a culturally and historically rich Indian city in the state of West Bengal. It was a prosperous city during the 18th city century when it was the abode of the nawabs of Bengal. The city has been named after its founder, Nawab Murshid Quli Khan. Murshid is an Arabic term for a guide or teacher with integrity, sensibility, and maturity. The suffix -abad is derived from the Persian word abad, which refers to a cultivated place. Even though the real glory days of Murshidabad are gone, the city is still the nexus between contemporary times and 18th-century Bengal’s nawab culture.
Every year, The Murshidabad Heritage Festival is organized to take us back in time. Starting from amazing dance performances with the backdrop of grand illuminated palaces to night stays at renovated centuries-old mansions, the festival never fails to disappoint. Over the course of three days, you will be treated to an exotic amalgamation of east and west Indian cuisines and heritage tours that cover terracotta temples, ruined mosques, and colonial mansions.
This year’s festival will offer an option of staying in restored centuries-old mansions that includes Bari Kothi in Azimganj and Palace of the Roys in Cossimbazar. Bari Kothi (the house of the elder brother) is a 250-year-old mansion of the Dudhoria family. It has been restored and renovated recently into a boutique heritage hotel. To the south of Murshidabad, Cossimbazar, another historic town with a couple of mansions is also part of this year’s tour. The Roy family mansion of Cossimbazar has been restored into a boutique heritage hotel.
The heritage tours will also include a terracotta temple tour of Baranagar and a Jain Temple tour of Azimganj. There will also be a boat ride along the Bhagirathi river from Bari Kothi to Hazarduari, in Murshidabad. The tours continue by car with visits to popular tourist spots of Murshidabad, including Hazarduari Palace (Palace of a Thousand Doors), Kathgola, Jagat Seth House, Nashipur Rajbari, Katra Masjid, the Moti Jhil (Pearl Lake), the Muradbagh Palace and the Khushbagh Cemetery.
The evenings will be the time for cultural programs enjoyed over high tea. They will be an exquisite cultural mix starting from traditional local dances like Raibenshe to modern contemporary fusion dance. Murshidabad today is a hub for agriculture, handicrafts, and sericulture. Crafts bazaars are also part of the festivities, where local artisans will showcase and sell their wares. The crafts bazaar will have live demonstrations of craft making with weavers working on handlooms. Several shops will display stone-carved statues, models made of wood, silk saris, shola art, dokra artifacts, and much more.
The festival’s cuisine is strictly vegetarian consisting of an elaborate spread of Bengali, Awadhi, and Sheherwali cuisines. Sheherwali cuisine is an interesting mix of eastern and western Indian cuisine that was a major part of the 18th-century nawab diet. 18th-century Murshidabad was the center of trading and thus attracted communities from far and wide. The Marawaris were also part of the ever-flourishing trade. The Jain Marwaris traveled from one town to another searching for better trading opportunities and their community came to be known as the Sheherwali.
The Murshidabad Heritage Festival 2023 will be held from 24th - 26th February. The all-inclusive packages range from ₹21,500 – ₹24,500 and the cost without a stay is ₹8,000. It is an initiative of the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society (MHDS), which started in 2010.
For more information, visit their official website.