Purna Chandra Mazumdar was the Abul Fazl of Murshidabad, his priceless work, “The Musnad of Murshidabad” is a must read for anyone who wants to know about the old city of Murshidabad. Born in 1856, Purna Chandra Mazumdar grew up to be a brilliant scholar. He passed his law examination with credit, but refused the British Government’s offer for a magisterial post, preferring to practice law in his home town. Dedicated to public service he was held in high regard. Of a literary bent, he wrote, “The Musnud of Murshidabad”. In addition to this he became the legal advisor and the private secretary of the Nawab Bahadur of Murshidabad. He died in January 1912. [i]
The Musnud of Murshidabad covers the historical places of Murshidabad in depth. Since Purna Chandra was very close to the then Nawab and his secretary, his access to the royal archives was unrestricted, and he used this precious opportunity to enrich the book with lots of details and minute observations. The book is not merely a handbook it is an excellent source of information for historians as well. Like Abul Fazl’s Akbarnama, The Musnud of Murshidabad touches all the aspects of the Nawabi era Murshidabad. However during 1905 when this book was released the Nawabs were nothing more than state pension holders and Murshidabad had become a relic. Purna Chandra therefore captures the dwindling days of Murshidabad nevertheless
About a quarter of a mile to the south of Katra Masjid is Kadam Sarif, to the south east of Kadam Sarif, about a couple of miles away from the palace is Mubarak Manzil. Once upon a time this place had a building which was owned by the East India Company. Courts were held here from 1765 but later it was transferred to Calcutta. Subsequently Nawab Humayun Jah purchased the land and the building from the Company and thereafter it was converted to a garden house cum summer residence. Humayun Jah also installed a throne here, it was actually a round table made of stone- six feet in diameter, eighteen inches high, with four thick pedestals. Later this too was transferred to Calcutta and now it graces the Victoria Memorial.
Mubarak Manzil, like many other gardens of the Nawab Bahadur of Murshidabad, produces very good mangoes, for the variety and excellence of which Murshidabad has always been famous. They are known and appreciated in Calcutta by the name of Choonakhali mangoes. But the fruits of the best qualities seldom go out of Murshidabad. Which planting, grafts are preferred to seedlings, as the former bear fruit earlier. The general qualities of good mangoes are Chhilkapatla, or thin skinned, ##thiradar (the first two alphabets are unreadable )or juicy, gootlichoota or small stoned, turshi that is of sweet-sourish taste, mugzmolaem or of delicate flesh and beresha or threadless. With pallao (pulau), meat dishes, and preparations of ghee the best suited and generally liked is the ananas, which in flavor and color very much resembles the legitimate fruit of that name namely the pineapple. Great precautions are taken to prevent the fruit from being purloined. The owners of the best gardens seldom sell them and hence the extreme difficulty of securing the best varieties in the bazaar.
Mango trees in Katgola Bagan Murshidabad
The Murshidabad fruit is unrivalled in color, flavor and taste. Subacid mangoes are generally preferred by the Mahomedans to the very sweet varieties, so much in favor with the Hindus. The fruits are taken down from the trees, one by one, in what is called a thoosi, which is a thin bamboo pole, with an open mouthed net bag at the top end, into which the fruits are received when drawn in with a slight jerk. No good mangoes are obtained by shaking the branches and collected on the ground. The slightest pressure or hurt spoils them. The parts affected become hard and bad of taste. The most delicate varieties, like the Kalapahar, are kept on a cushion of leaves and their position is changed many times a day, till they are ready for the knife. Mahomedans and appreciative Hindus eat mangoes in slices, and seldom take its squeezed out juice with milk, so much valued by the Hindus. The best varieties, so jealously sent out as present to the Europeans, seldom find a place on their table and frequently find their way into the private store room of the butler or cook.The Murhsidabad crop is earlier than the Maldah and June and July constitute its season. Mango makes good sauce and jelly. Indigestion if ever caused by partaking mangoes is cured by taking the kernel of the stone of the fruit with milk. A half ripe mango, taken from the tree with its stalk, is said to retain its taste for two or three months, while the color will remain even for a year, if the broken end of the stalk be closed with warm wax and kept in butter or honey.
The best living authority on and connoisseur of mangoes is Nawab Wala Kadr Syud Hossein Ali Meerza Bahadur (the son and successor of Feradun
The best varieties of Murshidabad mangoes are the following, among which the Kalapahar is the sovereign fruit.
4. Begumpasand- Pranab Mukherjee is said to have sent the famous Begum Pasand mangoes of Murshidabad to madam (Sonia Madam) and the PM. (Telegraph 2nd July 2006)
12. Gourjit- Also famous in Maldah, literally means the conqueror of Gour.
17. Mirzapasand- Named after the Mirza of Manpur.
20. Nazookbadan- Have very low sugar content good for diabetics.
24. Shahi (bura)
25. Sinduria (bura)
Apart from Purna Chandra, Asok Mitra a civil servant who spent some time in Murshidabad also attests the fanaticism about mangoes in Murshidabad. Here’s what he writes in his book, “The New India, 1948-1955: Memoirs of an Indian Civil Servant”. “Once a year Mr. Sripat Sing Duggar used to throw a mango party in his house where he used to serve anything between fifty to sixty varieties of the choicest mangoes that would have put Patna, Digha, Allahabad, Benaras, and Lucknow to shame. Nawabzada Kazem Ali Mirza who died in 1988, whom I had first met as SK Dey’s friend in Krishnanagar, had his own mango garden. He was seldom in residence but came at least once in the mango season. He had an exclusive prize breed called Molamjam. One day in 1949 he asked me if I could spend thirty-six hours with him right away at Hazar Duari. “What’s so scared or imperative about 36 hours,” I asked. ‘You see’ he said, ‘the molamjam must be eaten at the very moment it is ripe on the tree. My man who sits under the tree now says that it is about to ripen but cannot tell exactly when. It may ripen around two in the morning when he will awaken us, as happened once in 1932 when Sushil Dey was SDO here, you will have to eat it right then.’ ‘That’s the bally limit’ I exploded!”
Hazar duari palace built by Nawab Humayun Jah
[i] Memoirs of an Indian Woman, By Shudha Mazumdar, Geraldine Hancock Forbes
Photo Courtesy- Subhajit Dasgupta