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When Murshid Quli Khan, the Diwan (chief revenue officer) of Bengal shifted the main revenue collection centre of Bengal from Dhaka to Makshusabad, on the bank of the Bhagirathi river in 1704, he renamed it Murshidabad. This was to be the last Mughal capital of undivided Bengal.  The district too was named Murshidabad and its headquarters are at Baharampur, originally Brahmapur. The town Murshidabad is more commonly referred to as Lalbagh today. 

Murshidabad district was part of the Gour empire of king Shasanka in the seventh century CE and perhaps that of one of the later Pal(a) kings of Bengal, as well in the 11th century CE. The town remained the seat of power of the Nawabs of Bengal who ruled all of Bengal from here till the battle of Plassey (CE 1757) when the British East India Company defeated the Nawab Siraj-ud-daulla, thus establishing Company dominion in the Indian subcontinent. Towards the end of the century, the British shifted the capital of Bengal to the newly founded city of Calcutta (Kolkata), after which the prosperity of Murshidabad began to diminish.

Murshidabad is bounded along its whole eastern frontier by the river Padma, which separates it from Malda district and Rajshahi district in Bangladesh. On the south it is bounded by Bardhaman and Nadia districts,with the river Jalangi flowing along most of its border with Nadia. To the west lie the Santal Parganas in Jharkhand and Birbhum district. The river Bhagirathi (a distributary of river Ganga), flowing from north to south divides the district into two almost equal portions, which, in their geology, their physical characteristics, their agriculture, and even the religion of their inhabitants, form a striking contrast to each other. The tract to the west of the river is locally known as Rarh and the tract to the east as Bagri.

According to the 2011 Census, the total population of Murshidabad was 7,102,437, of which 80.22% lived in rural areas. The language spoken in the district is primarily Bengali. As in other parts of Bengal, the population of Murshidabad is mixed. Archaeological evidence suggests that there was a strong Buddhist presence in the early days. The original inhabitants of the district are found among the Hindu and the Muslim communities. During the Islamic invasion in the medieval period,Turks, Arabs, Afghans and finally Mughals arrived as conquerors and chose to stay on, though very few of their descendants remain. During the Nawabi regime under Mughal rule in the 18th century, Jains from Rajasthan too came and settled here. The Santals account for the majority of the tribals who live here, having descended from those who had migrated a century ago from the neighbouring Santal Parganas. The Mal and Rajbonshi are other tribal communities that have a presence in the district. The Chais, a cultivating and fishing community, are only to be found in this district and neighbouring Malda.

The economy of Murshidabad is primarily agrarian with a sizeable population is engaged in cottage and small scale industries. The district is well known for its silk and textile industries. The silk industry has been the principal non agricultural industry since the 17th century: much before the town of Murshidabad came up, Kasimbazar was the centre of a flourishing silk trade, with British, French and Dutch factories manufacturing silk and an Armenian settlement as well. Though there are no major industries here,  there is a large power plant each at Sagardehi and Farraka.

Murshidabad was a great centre of art and culture during the Pala rule and the later Hussain Shah period. The Mughals too patronised art and culture.The Murshidabad School of painting was established under the direct patronage of its governors when dispersed court artists of the crumbling Mughal Empire took refuge at the court of Murshidabad in search of their livelihood. However, the famine of 1769 dealt the final blow to the last vestiges of Murshidabad painting when the famine-stricken poor artists took shelter at the British master`s atelier where they adapted themselves to a mixed Indo-European style which came to be known as Company Painting. Many historical monuments including the magnificent palace, the Hazarduari (’the palace with thousand doors’), were built by the nawabs in the nineteenth century, the city’s diminished status notwithstanding. The palace has now been transformed into a museum which houses the Nawab’s collection of priceless paintings, furniture, antiques and such like. 

In the 18th century, patronised by Murshid  Quli Khan,  figured silk saris were woven by the Muslim community in the town of  Baluchar. This was the origin of the famed Baluchari saris, which were woven exclusively for women belonging to the families of Nawabs of Murshidabad. The craft was later relocated to Bishnupur in Bankura district. Thus, initial motifs which were usually scenes from the Mughal royal court, were subsequently replaced by scenes from the Hindu epics. Ivory carving fostered by the luxury of the Mughal court was once a thriving industry. This has now been replaced by wood carving. Bell metal and brass utensil crafts exist with difficulty, while decorative artefacts made from sholapith, earthenware and pottery are other village crafts that continue to prevail in this district. But many of the craftsmen have diversified to other crafts.

Murshidabad has a rich Baul-Fakir tradition. Some other forms of indigenous culture in the region include songs from the Mangal Kavyas on the folk goddess Manasha, Muslim Biyer Gaan (wedding songs) and  dances like the Raibneshe and Ghora Naach. Alkap, a composite performance comprising acting, dancing, singing and recitation, is also popular. Lalbagh`s Bera Utsav (festival) which takes place every September is a very popular tourist draw and features a whole host of traditional folk culture.