Pre colonial history of Bengal is closely linked with the emergence, growth and decline of Murshidabad. It has governed all the proceedings of the 18th century eastern India and provided the platform from which the colonial interests had launched themselves and subsequently became an Imperial power in 1857.
It is quite obvious that such a socio- political stage has enormous potential to engage any visitor from far and wide through its myriad cultural landscape. A seat of power of such a scale attracts lot of wealth, creativity and activity. For example the annual revenue of Bengal paid to the Mughal Emperor amounts to One Crore sicca Taka- in early seventeenth century was an unbelievable amount. In a cunning strategical move, Murshidkuli Khan shifted the administrative power centre of Bengal to the Bank of Bhagirathi- the prime life force of North India and almost in the geographic centre of the Province in 1701.
One primary policy decision triggered series of subsequent events. Sensing the potential for enhanced financial opportunity, trading community from ‘Nagore' town in the Rajput State of Jodhpur migrated to Bengal. They settled in the areas of Mahimapur,Jyaganj and Azimganj and got themselves known as ‘Shaherwali Community'. Over the years they accumulated enormous wealth and became an important factor governing the economy of Bengal. Mughal Emperor acknowledged their importance and had conferred the tile ‘Jagat Seth' ( cashier of the world). Jainism spread rapidly with the prosperity of the community in the localities of Azimganj, Jiyaganj and Katgola. While Murshidabad was being built according to the muslim traditions, Hindu philosophies governed the development of the Jiyaganj, Azimganj.
In fact four of the important Jain Tirths in Bengal, three lies at Azimganj- Sree Chintamoni Parswanath Bhagwan, Jiyaganj- Shree Sambhavnath Bhagwa, Katgola- Sree Adinath Bhagwan.
The large havellis, Mansions, Palaces, Gardens lay neglected and weathered. It draws today certain amount of History, cultural enthusiast and that too on a day visit. Whereas its enormous potential for Cultural tourism and pilgrimage remained unexplored. Its old trade links and networks also lay dormant for the want of sponsors.
The circuit of Murshidabad-Jiyaganj-Azimganj is just waiting for the right kind of initiative and public support for its revitalization. Cultural tourism appears to be the right catalyst to trigger such an initiative.
No tourism initiative is sustainable unless it garners the support of its local community. Community initiatives are best when it rides on the pride for themselves and have a deep rooted attachment for the place. Fortunately the Shaherwali Community have a very strong social network bonded by the common religion of Jainism. They are very proud of their legacy and command large parcels of land, Heritage buildings, Artefacts and quite committed for its restoration. Being mainly a trader's community they value their assets and understand the need for its conservation. To them assistance of any kind is important and they also realises that unless they obtain public support their individual effort is not sustainable.