Thursday, 20 November 2014

Bankers' Banker - Jagat Seth, from Murshidabad, Bengal

Jagat Seth, Banker & friend of Siraj. sikh-heritage.co.uk

Jagat Seth's house,Bengal. static.panoramio.com

Jagat Seth was a rich businessman and money lender from Murshidabad, Bengal during the time of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula. He was  well connected with the royal family, nobles and amirs, no doubt, he had considerable political clout. He came from a rich Hindu Marwari business family in Murshidabad and his spiritual guru was Jain Acharya Sri Bhratruchandra Suri. The Seths were among the most powerful bankers of India during the first half of 18th century. Roben Orme (official historian of East India Company) described Jagat Seths as 'the greatest shroff (money changer) and banker' in the known world.
Jagat Seth- tunnel connecting his house with Kathola.credit:static.panoramia.com
The family of Jagat Seth maintained their position as state bankers at Murshidabad from generation to generation. Even after the conquest of Bengal by the British after the battle of Plassey, Murshidabad remained for some time the seat of administration.

According to Nick Robins "the Jagat Seths were unrivaled and matchless in northern India for their financial power and connection with the upper strata of the society.  Known as 'banker of the world', this Marwari family had built up formidable economic resources on the strength  of its control of the imperial mint and extensive money-lending. They wielded this financial clout at the Bengali court and were judged to be 'the chief cause of revolutions in Bengal' by a French commentator at the time." 
He, along with Omichund  and Mir Jafar joined the successful conspiracy against the Nawob, engineered by Robert Clive, with support from William Watts due to which the Nawob lost the battle of Plassey and at last his precious life. The British thus established the first colony in India on the tomb of Siraj. Mir Jafar was installed as the puppet ruler of Bengal.

On the part of Jagat, who was close to Siraj, it was the most degrading act and breach of trust and confidence. The Jagat Seth family members were beheaded in 1763, during the reign of Mir Jafar's successor, by the troops of Mir Kasim. Mir Kasim had initially been installed by the East India Company as a puppet, but had attempted to rebel.

Jagat Seth meaning the "Banker of the World", was a title conferred on Fateh Chand, a very rich banker in Bengal in the first half of the 18th century. The founder of the house of Jagat Seth was Manick Chand who came to Dhaka from Patna in the early eighteenth century and established a trading firm.
When Murshid Quli Khan, the Dewan of Bengal transferred his capital to Murshidabad, Manick Chand moved with him to the new capital. Emperor Farrukhsiyar, soon after his accession to the throne of Delhi in 1712, honoured Manick Chand with the title of "Nagar Seth" (Banker of the city). Manick Chand died in 1714 and Fateh Chand, his nephew adopted son and successor to the the house achieved real greatness. The title of Jagat Seth was bestowed on Fateh Chand by emperor Muhammad Shah in 1723. The transactions of this firm have been compared with those of the Bank of England.