Shaista Khan

Mirza Abu Talib, (c. 1600–1694) better known as Shaista Khan (Bengali: শায়েস্তা খান) was a subahdar and a general in the Mughal army. A maternal uncle to the emperor Aurangzeb,[4] he acted as a key figure during his reign. Shaista Khan initially governed the Deccan, where he clashed with the Maratha ruler Shivaji. However, he was most notable for his tenure as the governor of Bengal from 1664 to 1688. Under Shaista Khan's authority, the city of Dhaka and Mughal power in the province attained its greatest heights. One of this notable achievements was the Mughal conquest of Chittagong.

Mirza Abu Talib
Amir-ul-Umara, Shaista Khan
Nawab Sháyista Khán.jpg
Shaista Khan
Subahdar of Bengal
Reign1664 – 1688 as Bengal 1658–1669 as Khandesh (Deccan)
PredecessorMir Jumla
SuccessorIbrahim Khan
Bornc. 1600[1]
Died1694 (aged 93–94)
FatherAsaf Khan IV

Early lifeEdit

Shaista Khan was of Persian origin. His grandfather Mirza Ghiyas Beg and father Abu'l-Hasan Asaf Khan were the wazirs of the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan, respectively. He also had familial connections with the imperial clan, having been a paternal nephew of the empress Nur Jahan and the brother of the empress Mumtaz Mahal. Jahangir awarded the title of Shaista Khan to Mirza in recognition of his family's service and position in the Mughal court.[5]

Shaista Khan trained and served with the Mughal army and court, winning multiple promotions and being appointed governor of various provinces. He also developed a reputation as a successful military commander and grew close to his nephew,the prince Aurangzeb, when the duo fought against the kingdom of Golconda.[5]

Confrontation with ShivajiEdit

Shivaji attacked Shaista Khan on the night of 5th of April 1663

After Aurangzeb's accession to the Mughal throne in 1659, he sent Shaista Khan as viceroy of the Deccan with a large army to enforce the treaty the Mughals had signed with the Adilshahi of Bijapur. Through the treaty the Adilshahi had ceded territory that it had previously captured from the Ahmadnagar Sultanate, to the Mughals.[6] However,the territory was also fiercely contested by Maratha ruler, Shivaji who had acquired a reputation after his killing of Adilshahi general, Afzal Khan in 1659.[7] In January 1660, Shaista Khan arrived at Aurangabad and quickly advanced, seizing Pune, the centre of Shivaji's realm. He also captured the fort of Chakan and Kalyan and north Konkan after heavy fighting with the Maratha.[8]:243, 259–60 The Maratha were banned from entering the city of Pune and Mughal distance from the locals turned out to be an error. On the evening of 5 April 1663, a wedding party had obtained special permission for holding a procession. Shivaji and many of his nearly 400 men disguised as the bridegroom's procession members entered Pune. Others entered in small parties dressed as labourers and soldiers of Maratha generals serving under Shaista Khan. After midnight, they raided the Nawab's compound and then entered the palace in an attempt to assassinate him.[9][10]

Shaista Khan was unaware and unprepared. The Marathas broke into the courtyard of the palace and slaughtered the palace guards. The Nawab lost three fingers in a skirmish with Shivaji, while his son was killed in an encounter with the Marathas in the palace courtyard. Taking advantage of the confusion and darkness, the Marathas escaped the palace and Pune, despite the widespread camping of Mughal forces. Shocked by the sudden and bold attack in the city, Aurangzeb angrily transferred Shaista Khan to Bengal, even refusing to give him an interview at the time of transfer as was the custom.[11]

Subahdar of BengalEdit

Construction of Saat Masjid is credited to Shaista Khan
The Choto Katra with its enclosed Mosque, Dhaka (1817) by Charles D'Oyly's and constructed by Shaista Khan.

Shaista Khan was appointed the Subahdar of Bengal upon the death of Mir Jumla II in 1663. As governor, he encouraged trade with Europe, Southeast Asia and other parts of India. He consolidated his power by signing trade agreements with European powers. Despite his powerful position he remained loyal to Aurangzeb, often mediating trade disputes and rivalries. He banned the British East India Company from Bengal, sparking Child's War in 1686.

Construction projectsEdit

Shaista Khan encouraged the construction of modern townships and public works in Dhaka, leading to a massive urban and economic expansion. He was a patron of the arts and encouraged the construction of majestic monuments across the province, including mosques, mausoleums and palaces that represented the finest in Indo-Sarcenic and Mughal architecture. Khan greatly expanded Lalbagh Fort, Chowk Bazaar Mosque, Saat Masjid and Choto Katra. He also supervised the construction of the mausoleum for his daughter Bibi Pari.

Conquest of ChittagongEdit

Conquest of Chittagong
DateNovember 1665 – 27 January 1666[12]
Result Mughal victory[12]
Annexation of Chittagong into Bengal


Commanders and leaders
  Shaista Khan
  Buzurg Umed Khan
  Ibn Hussain
  Farhad Khan
  Sanda Thudhamma
  6,500 troops[13]
300 ships[13]
  40 ships[12]
Casualties and losses
  light[12]   several ships sunk
135 ships captured[12]

Upon his arrival in Bengal, Shaista Khan was faced with putting down the Arakanese pirates. He began by rebuilding the Mughal navy, increasing its Bengal fleet to 300 battle-ready ships within a year.[14] He also made strenuous diplomatic efforts to win the support of the Dutch East India Company as well as Portugal, which was supporting Arakan with resources and troops. With active Dutch military support, Shaista Khan led Mughal forces on an assault on the island of Sandwip, which lay in Arakanese control.[citation needed] Mughal forces succeeded in capturing the island in November 1665.[14]

Shaista Khan gained a considerable advantage when a conflict erupted between the Arakanese and the Portuguese. The Portuguese, led by Captain Moor, set fire to Arakanese fleets and fled to Bhulua where Thanadar Farhad Khan gave them refuge. Farhad then sent them off to Shaista. By promptly offering protection and support, Shaista secured the aid of the Portuguese against the Arakanese.[14]

Shaista Khan in later days

In December 1665, Shaista Khan launched a major military campaign against Chittagong, which was the mainstay of the Arakenese kingdom. The imperial fleet consisted of 288 vessels of their own and about 40 vessels of the Firingis (Portuguese) as auxiliaries. Ibn Hussain, Shaista Khan's admiral, was asked to lead the navy, while the subahdar himself took up the responsibility of supplying provisions for the campaign. He also ordered Farhad Khan and Mir Murtaza to take the land route. The overall command was given to Buzurg Ummed Khan, a son of Shaista Khan.[8]:230 The Mughals and the Portuguese held sway in the following naval battle. The conquered territory to the western bank of Kashyapnadi (Kaladan river) was placed under direct imperial administration. The name of Chittagong was changed to Islamabad and it became the headquarters of a Mughal faujdar.[8]:230 Khan also re-asserted Mughal control over Cooch Behar and Kamarupa.

Upon his victory against the Arakanese, he ordered the release of thousands of Bengali peasants being held captive by the Arakanese forces.


Pari Bibi's tomb inside Lalbagh Fort complex

In his late years, Shaista Khan left Dhaka and returned to Delhi. His legacy was the expansion of Dhaka into a regional centre of trade, politics and culture; a thriving and prosperous city from a small township. The Shaista Khan Mosque is a massive standing monument to Shaista Khan, built on his palace grounds. Incorporating unique elements of Bengali and Mughal architecture, it is a major tourist attraction and a valued historical monument protected by the Government of Bangladesh today.[citation needed]


The rule of Shaista Khan is, sometimes, considered as golden age of Bengal. It is said that eight 'mon' (around 295 kilogram) processed rice or 'chaal' could be bought with one taka. Still in Bangladesh, cheap price conditions are known as Reign of Shaista Khan ('Shayesta Khan-r aamol').[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sir Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzib: Mainly Based on Persian Sources, Volume 5 (1974), p. 283
  2. ^ Hossain, AKM Yakub; Haque, AKM Khademul (2012). "Buzurg Umed Khan". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  3. ^ Hossain, AKM Yakub; Chowdhury, AM (2012). "Bibi Pari". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  4. ^ Samaren Roy (May 2005). Calcutta: Society and Change 1690–1990. iUniverse. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-595-34230-3. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  5. ^ a b Karim, Abdul (2015), "Shaista Khan", Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.), Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
  6. ^ Stewart Gordon (1 February 2007). The Marathas 1600-1818. Cambridge University Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 978-0-521-03316-9.
  7. ^ Sardesai 1946, G.S. (1946). New history of the Marathas. Vol. I: Shivaji and his line (1600-1701). Bombay: Phoenix Publications. pp. 142–144.
  8. ^ a b c Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra; Pusalker, A. D.; Majumdar, A. K., eds. (2007) [First published 1974]. The History and Culture of the Indian People. Volume VII: The Mughal Empire. Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
  9. ^ Sardesai 1946, G.S. (1946). New history of the Marathas. Vol. I: Shivaji and his line (1600-1701). Bombay: Phoenix Publications. pp. 142–144.
  10. ^ Jasper, D., 2006. Celebrating a Region through Historical Commemoration. Region, Culture, and Politics in India, p.239.[1]
  11. ^ Chandra, Satish. (2007). History of medieval India : 800-1700. Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman. ISBN 978-81-250-3226-7. OCLC 191849214.
  12. ^ a b c d e ড. মুহম্মদ আব্দুল করিম. বাংলাদেশের ইতিহাস. মগ বিতাড়ন ও চট্টগ্রাম জয়. ২৬৯–২৭০.
  13. ^ a b Trudy, Ring; M. Salkin,Robert; La Boda,Sharon; Edited by Trudy Ring (1996). International dictionary of historic places. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. ISBN 1-884964-04-4. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Sarkar, Jadunath, ed. (1973) [First published 1948]. The History of Bengal. Volume II: Muslim Period, 1200-1757. Patna: Academica Asiatica. p. 379. OCLC 924890. It was Shāista Khan's task to put an end to this terror [the Arakan pirates] ... The Bengal flotilla (nawwāra) had been wofully depleted ... Shāista Khan's energy and persistence overcame every obstacle. A new navy was created, manned and equipped in a little over a year ... In a short time 300 vessels were ... ready in war-trim ... The island of Sondip ... [was] captured ... (November 1665.) A still more important gain was the seduction of the Feringis of Chātgāon from the side of the Arakanese ... A feud had just then broken out between the Magh ruler of Chātgāon and the local Portuguese ... Shāista Khan gave their chief captain a bounty ... and their other leaders were all enlisted in the Mughal service.
  • Karim, Abdul (1992). History of Bengal: Mughal Period. University of Rajshahi.
  • Duff, James Grant (1921) [First published 1826]. History of the Marhattas. Vol. 1 (Revised Annotated ed.). London: Oxford University Press.