Military Wiki
Mirza Abu Talib
Shaista Khan
Amir-ul-Umara, Shaista Khan
Preceded by Mir Jumla
Succeeded by Ibrahim Khan

Mirza Abu Talib شاه خان, better known as Shaista Khan) was a subahdar and a general in the Mughal army. A maternal uncle to Emperor Aurangzeb,[1] he served as the Mughal governor of Bengal from 1664 to 1688, and was a key figure during the rule of his nephew. Under Shaista Khan's authority, the city of Dhaka and Mughal power in the province attained its greatest heights. In the year 1660, he was sent to participate in the struggle against the Maratha king Shivaji. However, he was defeated in a surprise attack and lost one of his sons.

Early life

Shaista Khan was of Iranian origin. His grandfather Mirza Ghias Beg Itimaduddaula and father Asaf Khan were the wazirs of the Mughal Emperors Shahjahan and Jahangir, respectively. Emperor Jahangir awarded the title of Shaista Khan to Mirza in recognition of his family's service and position in the Mughal court.

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 the prince Aurangzeb when the duo fought against the kingdom of Golconda.

Confrontation with Shivaji

After his accession to the throne and the dramatic death of Afzal Khan, Aurangzeb sent Shaista Khan as viceroy of the Deccan with a large army to defeat Shivaji. In January 1660 Shaista Khan arrived at Aurangabad and quickly advanced, seizing Pune, the center of Shivaji's realm. He also captured the fort of Chakan and Kalyan and north Konkan after heavy fighting with the Maratha.[2] 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 April 5, 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 laborers 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 Shaista Khan.

Shaista Khan was clearly unaware and unprepared. The Marathas broke into the courtyard of the palace and slaughtered the palace guards. Shaista Khan lost three fingers in a skirmish with Shivaji, while his son was killed in an encounter with the Marathas in the palace courtyard. Forty attendants and six women were also killed. 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 Pune, Aurangzeb angrily transferred Shaista Khan to Bengal, even refusing to give him an interview at the time of transfer as was the custom.

Subahdar of Bengal

Construction of Saat Masjid is credited to 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 projects

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 Chittagong

Shaista Khan in later days

Upon his arrival in Bengal, Shaista Khan was immediately engrossed in putting down the rebellions of hill tribes. He foresaw a potent threat from the Arakan Kingdom (in modern Myanmar), which had developed its military and naval strength. He immediately began developing the Mughal navy, increasing its fleet to as many as 300 ships within a year. 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. Shaista Khan gained a considerable advantage when a conflict erupted between the Arakanese and the Portuguese. By promptly offering protection and support, Khan sequestered the aid of the Portuguese against the Arakanese and Mughal forces succeeded in capturing the island in November 1665. 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 Ferinigis (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. The overall command was given to Buzurg Ummed Khan, a son of Shaista Khan.[3] The Mughals and the Portuguese held sway in the following naval battle. The conquered territory was placed under direct imperial administration. The name of Chittagong was changed to Islamabad and it became the headquarters of a Mughal faujdar.[3] 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.

See also

  • Mughal Empire
  • List of rulers of Bengal
  • History of Dhaka


  1. Samaren Roy (May 2005). Calcutta: Society and Change 1690–1990. iUniverse. pp. 52–. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/978-0-595-34230-3|978-0-595-34230-3]]. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  2. Majumdar, R.C. (ed.) (2007). The Mughul Empire, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, [[Special:Booksources/{{{1}}}|ISBN {{{1}}}]], pp. 243, 259–60
  3. 3.0 3.1 Majumdar, R.C. (ed.) (2007). The Mughul Empire, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ISBN 81-7276-407-1, p. 230
  • Sir Jadunath Sarkar, History of Bengal, II (Dhaka, 1948)
  • Abdul Karim, History of Bengal, Mughal Period, I, (Rajshahi, 1992)
  • Duff, Grant, History of the Marhattas Oxford University Press, (London)

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