History greeted us as soon as we stepped on the town of Murshidabad—the land that holds Bengal’s greatest pride as well as its saddest past. The last capital of Bengal before British rule, Murshidabad stores many hidden stories of love, friendship, loyalty, patriotism and betrayal.
A lot of tales that the history of Bengal speaks of connect itself to this town and its nawabs in some way or the other. Many people believe that like the secret stories, Murshidabad also has its own hidden treasures which got buried under the sands of time never to be found again.
The tale seems quite believable owing to the fact that the town was the home to many wealthy nawabs and rich merchants. Legend has it that these people had secret passages, underground chambers and hidden lockers in their houses that concealed, and perhaps still do, the huge wealth they owned. No one ever came to know of those secret places after their death and hence all the treasures lost themselves in the mirage of time.
Jagat Seth was the richest among all those merchants. In fact, his real name was Mahatop Chand; Jagat Seth, which directly translates to ‘the banker of the world’. It is actually a title bestowed upon him for acting as the financiers to the nawabs during the British rule. He was the most important source of credit for the Delhi Empire as well as many other companies.
Legends has it that Jagat Seth was so rich that not only was his wealth uncountable but one could actually build a dam across the Ganga River by laying down all his jewels and even then he still had enough. Even the entire funds stored in the banks of England paled in comparison to his wealth.
It is unbelievable that just 250 years ago, the world’s greatest wealth was to be found in Bengal’s treasury because of this man—Jagat Seth. The British could never trace his entire wealth; and his descendants too had no clue of his treasures. This led people to believe that the treasures are still hidden somewhere in his house.
No doubt that his house is famous for secret passages, underground museums and the magic mirror.
It was hard to contain my excitement when our tonga halted in front of his house. I just couldn’t wait to explore it!
As I walked down the flight of stairs that lead underground, I remembered movies that had detectives walking down secret passages which looked exactly like this. The memory was enough to give me chills.
The rooms – where many secret meetings were held and trade plans were hatched – have now been converted to museums that hold many valuable items of the ancient times.
The pandulipi (manuscripts) written on tal pata (the leaves of the palm tree) preserved under the glass shelves, was something that attracted me the most. Written in a handwriting that’s hard to understand, it resembled the treasure maps right out of adventure movies. And who knows, perhaps it really holds the secret riddles leading to the hidden treasures…
Apart from that there were other items like Chinese vase, gold and silver coins, ancient notes, playing cards, statues and many such items of that era.
Walking down a triangular staircase brought us to a room that preserved the clothes that people wore during those times. The Benarashi sarees ornamented with gold and silver threads, an ancient pagri, a uniform of the sepoy (Indian Soldier) still held the aura of the age long gone by.
Climbing upstairs we came out in the open where a vendor selling coconut water in the huge terrace took us by surprise. Thirsty as we were under the scorching heat of the sun, we couldn’t resist ourselves from drinking it. The water had a soothing effect on us as it magically cooled our body and calmed our mind.
Resuming our journey, we again went down a flight of stairs where we found ourselves in a cave-like tunnel that gave way to the most awaited mysterious magic mirror. It is crafted in such a pattern that one will be able to see everything and everyone in it except oneself. It is actually a mechanism to trap enemies, who would be unable to see themselves in the mirror and hence would enter the room unaware of the fact that he is being watched, but would be easily caught red-handed because others will be able to see him through the mirror.
We also came across a bed that was so high that stairs were needed to climb it. Other ancient items like treasure box, kharam (wooden sandal), telephone, oil paintings, Belgium glass mirrors increased the charm of the room.
There were two other rooms—one holding all the ancient arms and armours that the Indian soldiers used in the battlefield; and another with a gorgeous collection of pottery.
A mesmerising statue of Radha-Krishna drew my attention. As a devotee of Lord Krishna, it was something that I found the most precious in the entire house.
We obviously didn’t find the lost treasures which might still lay hidden in his house, but we did revisit the pages of history… and that was a treasure in itself.
About the Author
Sanchari Das is currently pursuing her Masters in English. She devotes her free time to writing, painting, singing and enhancing her photography skills. The author of three books, Sanchari dreams to inspire millions through her writing. Born with a Piscean heart beaming with creativity, she is ever ready to embark upon new ventures and discover all the hidden sides to her personality.