top of page

Medieval History Of West Bengal

Explore the rich tapestry of West Bengal's medieval history, where tales of kingdoms, cultural exchange, and architectural marvels unfold. From the powerful Pala and Sena dynasties to the vibrant trade routes and artistic expressions, delve into the fascinating past that shaped West Bengal during the medieval era. Uncover forgotten narratives, royal legacies, and the crossroads of cultures that define this captivating chapter in the history of East India.

medieval history of west bengal

The Pala and Sena kingdoms, as well as many Muslim dynasties, dominated Bengal's mediaeval history. The development in late mediaeval history was not only crucial for Bengal, but it also influenced the history of India as a whole.

For more than a century, Bengal's mediaeval past saw disruptions in law and order. However, the governmental organisation of Northern and Eastern India, including Bengal, shifted in the eighth century. The Pala dynasty's dominion in West Bengal began about the middle of the eighth century, ushering in a new period in the state's history.

Early Medieval History of Bengal

Invasions, cultural changes, and architectural experts by various Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim monarchs characterized Bengal's mediaeval period. The following were the main rulers of the mediaeval period:

Pala Empire

The Pala Empire (750-1120) was Bengal's first sovereign Buddhist empire. The Pala dynasty ruled Bengal for four centuries, ushering in a time of stability and prosperity. They built several temples and works of art, as well as provided financial support to the important ancient higher-learning institutions of Nalanda and Vikramashila. During the Pala dynasty, Bengal became the primary center of Buddhist and secular study.

Gopala I established the Pala dynasty in mediaeval Bengal. around the Gauda, he came to power around 750 CE. Gopala ruled from approximately AD 750 to 770 and solidified his position by expanding his dominion over all of Bengal. Dharmapala and Devapala considerably increased Gopala's dominion.

Dharmapala was the second emperor of the Pala dynasty in the Bengal area of India. He was Gopala's son and successor. Sub-continent Paramabhattaraka Maharajadhiraja was his title. From 770 to 810 CE, he governed. He constructed Somapura Mahavihara at Paharpur (Naogaon district, now in Bangladesh), which is considered one of the most important Viharas in the Indian subcontinent.

Devapala was the third king in line, succeeding his father Dharmapala. He is considered to be the most powerful Pala ruler. He reigned from 810 to 850 CE. Devapala, like his father, was a big supporter of Buddhism, and his renown spread to many Buddhist countries outside of India.

Sena Dynasty

The Sena rulers were Karnataka migrants' descendants. After the Chandra dynasty, they established their rule in Bengal. Samantasena established the dynasty. His son Hemanta flourished in the last part of the 11th century AD, taking advantage of Bengal's volatile political circumstances. During his more than sixty-year rule, his son Vijayasena catapulted the family into the spotlight. Vijayasena (1095-1158 CE) was the dynasty's greatest emperor. He nearly conquered Bengal and was succeeded by his son Ballala Sena (1158-1179 CE).

medieval history of west bengal

Ballala Sena defeated the Pala and became monarch of the Bengal delta, establishing Nabadwip as his capital. Ballala Sena wrote Danasagara, a Smriti treatise, and Adbhuta Sagara, an astronomy work. Ballala Sena is associated with Kulinism, a significant social movement that sought to defend the nobility of birth and the purity of blood.

Lakshmana Sena, Ballala Sena's son, succeeded him. Some academics consider him to be the start of the 1119 CE Lakshmana Sena era. When he ascended to the throne, he quickly established himself as a conqueror and patron of scholarship. He ruled over Kalinga Kamarupa and Benares.

The court of Lakshmana Sena was adorned with literary figures such as Jayadeva, the author of Gita Govindam, Halayudha, the linguist, and Dhoyi, the poet of Pavanadutam. Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji attacked the capital Nabadwip, captured Gaud, and annexed much of Bengal in 1203 CE.

Late Medieval History of Bengal

Bengal's late mediaeval history began with the arrival of Turk-Afghan domination in the 13th century and ended with the control of Mughal Nawabs in the 18th century CE.

Turk-Afghan Rule

The invasion of Bengal by Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji marked the beginning of Turk-Afghan hegemony in Bengal. From 1203 to 1213 CE, Khilji ruled Bengal. The Bengal Sultanate, Hindu Rajas, and Baro Bhuyan, or military leaders and landowners, ruled the Bengal region beginning in the 13th century CE.

Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320-25 CE) of the Tughlaq dynasty shifted his focus to Bengal in the 14th century. After annexing Bengal in 1324 CE, he installed Nasiruddin on the throne. He attempted to assure Bengal's loyalty by separating it into three administrative divisions with capitals in Lakhnauti (North Bengal), Sonargaon (East Bengal), and Satgaon (South Bengal), but his efforts were futile. Following the end of the Turk-Afghan war, the Ilyas Shahi Dynasty began, and Bengal came under Ilyas Shah's authority.

Ilyas Shahi Dynasty

Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah established the Ilyas Shahi dynasty in Bengal, which flourished from 1352 to 1414 CE. They were art and literature patrons. During this time, the huge Adina Masjid and Darasbari Masjid were built. They promote Bengali literature and culture. The Ilyas Shahi dynasty was overthrown by a Hindu revolt led by Raja Ganesha.

Dharmapala was the second emperor of the Pala dynasty in the Bengal area of India. He was Gopala's son and successor. Subacoesvara Paramabhattaraka Maharajadhiraja became his title. From 770 to 810 CE, he governed. He constructed Somapura Mahavihara at Paharpur (Naogaon district, now in Bangladesh), which is considered one of the most important Viharas in the Indian subcontinent.

medieval history of west bengal

Devapala was the third in line to the throne, succeeding his father Dharmapala. He is considered to be the most powerful Pala ruler. From 810 to 850 CE, he governed.

Devapala, like his father, was a big supporter of Buddhism, and his renown spread to many Buddhist countries outside of India.

Mughal Rule in Bengal

After the battle and death of Daud Khan Karrani, Akbar named Bengal one of the Subas of the Mughal empire, and Khan-i-Jahan was appointed Subedar, ruling effectively for nearly three years before Khan - Ja1578 CE. Man Singh, who was appointed Governor of Bengal in 1594 CE, consolidated Mughal power in Bengal.

Bengal was fully united as a Mughal province during the reign of Mughal emperor Jahangir. During this period, Bengal had numerous revolts by powerful zamindars, the most notable of which were the revolts of Musa Khan, Satarajit, Raja Pratapaditya, Ramchandra, and others. During the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, Bengal experienced general peace and prosperity from 1628 to 1707 CE.

During this time, Bengal had no distinct identity, and its history was absorbed into the history of the Mughal empire. Bengal remained under Mughal authority until Aurangzeb's death in 1707 CE. Taking advantage of Aurangzeb's demise, Murshid Quli Khan, his governor, crowned himself Nawab and made Murshidabad his capital.

Nawabs of Bengal

The Muslim Emperor bestows the title of Nawab on the Muslim rulers of the Princely States. They were assigned major responsibility for administering their province. Bengal's most famous Nawabs were as follows:


Murshid Quli Khan

The first of the Nawabs, who was appointed as the Nawab of Bengal by Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1717 CE, ruled over Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa from his capital Murshidabad, which he had moved from Dacca. He modified the Jagirdari system to the Mal Jasmani system, which subsequently evolved into the Zamindari system. He transferred state wealth to the Mughal empire. He also established a mint and issued the 'Zurbe Murshidabad' coin. The majestic Katra Masjid was erected by Murshid Quli Khan. He was buried beneath the steps of Katra Masjid after his death in 1727 CE.

Sarfaraz Khan

Sarfaraz Khan (1739-1740 CE) was Shuja-ud-Din's son and Mursid Quli Khan's grandson. He was bestowed with the imperial titles 'Motamul-ul-Mulk' and 'Ala-ud-Din Haridar Jung'. His rule ended barely 13 months later, in 1740 CE, when he was defeated by Alivardi Khan in the 'Battle of Giria' on April 10, 1740. Murshid Quli Khan's Nasiri dynasty came to an end with the death of Sarfaraz Khan.


Alivardi Khan

Alivardi Khan (1671-1756 CE) reigned as Nawab of Bengal from 1740 to 1756 CE. He was appointed Deputy Subedar of Bihar in 1733 CE. Nawab Shuja-ud-Din promoted him to the rank of Paach Hazari Mansabdar a year later. In the Battle of Giria on April 10, 1740, he defeated and killed Shuja-ud-Din's successor, Sarfaraz Khan. In 1740, he acquired control of Bengal and Bihar and governed for the next 16 years. During his magnificent tenure as Nawab of Bengal (1740-1756 CE), Alivardi successfully defended his country from his foes, allowing him to expand his rule across Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.


Mirza Muhammad Siraj-ud-Daulah, Alivardi's grandson, seized the throne after his grandfather's death in 1756 CE. In place of Mir Jafar, he chose Mir Madan as Bakshi (army paymaster). Siraj took over the British Cossimbazar factory on May 24, 1756. In June 1756, he marched on to capture Calcutta.

medieval history of west bengal

In February 1757, the British amassed soldiers and reconquered Calcutta, after which they negotiated a secret contract with Mir Jafar. The British took control of the French facility in Chandernagore. The Nawab fought alongside the British army led by Robert Clive in the Battle of Plassey. Mir Jafar defeated and killed Siraj on June 23, 1757, in an act of grave treason, and Mir Jafar succeeded to the throne of Bengal.

Battle of Plassey (AD 1757)

The Battle of Plassey was fought between the British East India Company and Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal. On June 23, 1757, Colonel Robert Clive's army of 3000 troops beat Siraj-ud-Daulah's army of 50,000 warriors, 40 cannons, and ten war elephants. Mir Jafar, Rai Durlabh, and Yar Lutuf Khan gathered their men near the battleground but did not participate; only a small force led by Mahanlal and Mir Madan fought the battle. Siraj-ud-Daulah, Bengal's last independent Nawab, was defeated in this fight.

Mir Jafar was appointed Subedar of Bengal after Siraj. Miran, the son of Mir Jafar, ordered the capture and murder of Siraj-ud-Daulah. In addition to the zamindari of the 24 parganas and a huge money for the Company, Robert Clive and his associates obtained large prizes for themselves. This fight cleared the way for the British conquest of Bengal, and later of India as a whole.

Mir Qasim

This was the start of the battle between the Company and the Nawab.

In 1760 CE, the British replaced Mir Jafar with his son-in-law, Mir Qasim, due to nonpayment of dues. As a result, Mir Jafar asked Dutch forces to fight against the British East India Company. As a result, in 1759 CE, the British defeated the Dutch soldiers in the Battle of Chinsura.

Vensittart succeeded Lord Clive as Governor of Bengal from 1760 to 1765 CE. The Company directed the Nawab of Bengal, Mir Qasim, to pay for war expenses as well as the costs of acquiring the presidencies of Bombay and Madras. The company also acquired the zamindari of Burdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong. This infuriated Mir Qasim, and in 1762 he relocated his capital from Murshidabad to Munger, as well as establishing a weapons factory.

Conflict of Nawabs and Company: Battle of Buxar

Due to a conflict between Mir Qasim and Company rule, the Battle of Buxar took place on October 23, 1764, between forces under the command of the British East India Company led by Major Hector Munro on one side and the combined army of Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal, the Nawab of Awadh, and the Mughal King Shah Alam II on the other. The British East India Company won this war decisively.

medieval history of west bengal

About the Author

Shreya Giri is a talented SEO content writer with a unique flair for captivating readers. With a bachelor's degree in geography, her passion for crafting exceptional content shines through in every word she writes. Shreya's expertise lies in her ability to seamlessly blend language and storytelling, effortlessly capturing the attention of her audience.

She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in geography and has a remarkable talent for transforming intricate concepts into captivating narratives that have a lasting impact. With Shreya, you can expect excellent, captivating content that will keep you engaged from beginning to end.

You can connect with her through-

26 views0 comments


bottom of page