The Jagat Seth dynasty has been a most illustrious Qswal Jain family of Gailara gotra of India having outstanding achievements and influence in political, religious and business circles.
It is said that Gailara gotra had its origin from Khichi Gahlot Rajputs in 1495. One Girdhar Singh Gahlot was inducted into Jainism by Jain saint Jinhans Suriji. The Gailara gotra came into being after the name of his son Gailaji.
Hiranand an ancestor of the Jagat Seths was compelled to leave Nagore (their native place) in Marwar for a livlihood elsewhere. With the blessings of a Jain saint he migrated to Bengal. He had six sons and one daughter. His fourth son Seth Manik Chand was the first to be honoured with the title of Jagat Seth followed by all his descendents.
Born to poor parents, Seth Manik Chand achieved a very high position. The Nawabs, Diwans, chief and senior officers of the British East India Co used to consult him in important matters. Shining star of the 18th century he played a very important role in the history of Bengal. He maintained a 2000 strong army at his own cost. Having a very influential position he was considered as fortune maker in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
When Seth Manik Chand established his Kothi at Dacca, the then capital of Bengal, there was a political shake up in the country. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb was losing his influence and the chiefs at distant places were increasing their personal influence and power to establish independent states. Aurangzeb had appointed Murshidkuli Khan as Diwan of Azimusshan, the Nawab of Dacca. Intelligent, courageous and bold, both Murshidkuli Khan and Seth Manik Chand, who had brotherly affection for each other, wielded great influence and power in Dacca. Seth Manik Chand had much helped him in becoming the Nawab of Bengal. The town of Murshidabad along river Ganga was set up with joint efforts of them both. Seth Manik Chand invested heavily to make it a prosperous town. They sent an annual revenue of rupees two crores to Aurangzeb in place of the existing revenue of rupees one crore and thirty lakhs. Pleased with this, Aurangzeb shifted the capital from Dacca to Murshidabad. Azimusshan remained only a titular chief. The people of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa regarded Murshidkuli Khan and Seth Manik Chand as uncrowned princes of their heart. Seth Manik Chand always generously helped the poor, redeemed the miseries of the oppressed and the peasants and made their condition better both financially and socially. Bengal became much peaceful and prosperous as a result of his wise fiscal policies and development of trade and commerce by him.
After the murder of Jahandarshah, the valid successor of Delhi throne, Farukhsiar became the Emperor of Delhi. Cured of a disease by an Englishman, Dr. Hamilton, Farukhsiar gifted 40 Parganas along the river Ganga to the English. Realising the cunning political game of the English, Murshidkuli Khan and Manik Chand thought over the matter and returned the Emperor’s Farman to safeguard the political interest of Bengal and the country. Murshidkuli Khan boldly wrote to the Emperor that he would not spare even an inch of land to the English. He also instructed the zamindars not to give any land to them under any pressure. Greatly annoyed with this disobedience, the Emperor appointed Seth Manik Chand as Diwan in place of Murshidkuli Khan and honoured him with the title of Jagat Seth to be continued from him to his descendents.
On receiving the Farman for his appointment as Diwan, Seth Manik Chand met Murshidkuli Khan and removed the misunderstanding from his mind. With his consultation he wrote to the Emperor that though he accepts the post but again hands it over to deserving Murshidkuli Khan. It shows the great character of Seth Manik Chand. He tackled the order about releasing the land to the English very intelligently and managed that instead of transfer of land to them the English may do business in the area without paying custom-tax.
The entire revenue of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was collected by Jagat Seth and the currency minted by him was used in these three States.
The contemporary Muslim historians wrote that Jagat Seth Manik Chand had huge amount of gold and silver which could not be measured in any terms. He had a huge stock of emeralds. Proverbially it was said that he could stop the flow of river Ganga by constructing a wall of gold and silver accross its stream. It is believed that no civilian in India had wealth equal that of him in those days. Several times his wealth was
looted but he continued to remain the richest person.
Seth Manik Chand had no issue from both of his wives Manik Devi and Sohag Devi. As wished by Manik Devi, he had built a Jain temple of black touch stone on the bank of river Ganga at a very huge cost. The temple was washed away by the river. Its ruins were later renovated.
Mohammad Shah who suceeded the Delhi throne after Farukhsiar also honoured Manik Chand with the title of Jagat Seth. He was the first to receive this most honoured title from the Mughal Emperors and also enjoyed several other court honours of great distinction. The Nawabs of Bengal invariably cunsulted him in all important matters.
After the death of Seth Manik Chand his nephew (?n%3r) Fateh Chand suceeded as Jagat Seth. Saraf Khan, the then Nawab of Bengal, who was son of Shujauddin, son- in-law of Murshidkuli Khan, was highly sensual. He tried to molest the girl who was likely to be engaged to the son of Seth Fateh Chand. The infuriated Seth succeeded in getting him removed. Religious minded Aliwardi Khan was appointed Nawab in his place. He always sought the cooperation of Jagat Seth and had much regard for him. While the Marathas attacked Murshidabad he removed Fateh Chand to a safe place and deputed a trusted chief Mir Habib to protect Murshidabad and the residence of Jagat Seth. Unfortunately Mir. Habib turned treacherous and wealth worth rupees two crores was looted from Seth’s residence. A year after Balaji and Bhaskar Pandit again attacked Bengal. Balaji was sent back with a gift of rupees ten lakhs. As discussed with Bhaskar Pandit, Jagat Seth took Aliwardi Khan to him for peace talks. Shortly after initiation of the talks Aliwardi Khan murdered Bhaskar Pandit treacherously which greatly shocked Seth Fateh Chand. Thereafter began the downfall of Bengal. Jagat Seth kept himself aloof from all political activities.
His grand palace, meeting place of several chiefs and noblemen for important consultations was washed away by the river Ganga. Important persons of the time like Maharaj Tilok Chand of Burdwan, Nawab Raj Vallabh, Rai Alam Chand and Haji Ahmed used to participate in such meetings. Seth Fateh Chand had sent one lakh golden coins minted by him in the name of Nadir Shah to save Bengal from being looted by him
After Seth Fateh Chand’s death his grandson Mehtab Chand succeeded as Jagat Seth. Ahmed Shah, the then ruler of Delhi, had honoured him with the title of Jagat Seth and his brother Sarup Chand with the title of Maharaja. Seth Mehtab Chand made a great name in business also in Northern and Southern India.
After the battle of Plassey there continued a conference for three days at the residence of the Jagat Seth to select a new Nawab of Bengal. Even though Mir Jafar had much helped in rescuing Mehtab Chand from imprisonment by Sirajuddola who had arrested him under suspicion that the Jagat Seth alongwith another influential person of the time Seth Amin Chand was favouring the English against him, Jagat Seth was not in favour of Mir Jafar for whose treachery Nawab Sirajuddin had been defeated in the battle by the English. Seth Mehtab Chand gave importance to the selection of a person loyal to the country than to the personal obligation of Mir Jafar upon him. Mir Jafar was, however, made the Nawab because of other pressures.
Mir Jafar proved himself a perfectly incapable administrator. He allowed the East India Co. to mint the currency from Calcutta alongwith minting of currency by Seth Mehtab Chand from Murshidabad. About six crores of rupees went out of Bengal exchequer exchequer making it financially weaker. From this order also followed the downfall of the Jagat Seth dynasty.
On refusal to give gratis money to an influential Englishman Holwell, Jagat Seth suffered further difficulties at the hands of the English. Distressed with all these affairs he proceeded to the pilgrimage of Shri Sammed Shikharji alongwith his army of 2000 persons.
After Mir Jafar his son-in-law Mir Qasim became the Nawab of Bengal. Of doubtful nature, he had kept under detention Seth Mehtab Chand and his brother Maharaja Sarup Chand at Monghyr. After his defeat at Udhuyanala be ordered drowning of them both in river Ganga under the fear lest they may not have alliance with the English. Thus came an end to the life of these two illustrious persons of Bengal.
After Mehtab Chand his son Seth Khushal Chand was honoured with the title of Jagat Seth by Emperor Shah Alam. Lord Clive who had made him the Banker of the East India Co. later developed differences with him in asking more money from him. On Warren Hastings’ becoming the Viceroy, Jagat Seth made a representation to him to look to the difficulties which had been created for him and his family. Hastings assured him to look into them on his return to Calcutta, which was then the capital of the English. Unfortunately Seth Khushal Chand died before Hastings returned to Calcutta.
Seth Khushal Chand was greatly religious minded and built several temples at Sammed Shikharji. He also built about 108 ponds. Having no issue he had adopted his nephew Harak Chand as his son. The latter became a Vaishnava under the influence of a Vaishnava saint in the hope of birth of a son by his blessings and acts of worship. He had built a Vaishnava temple near his residence. After him, his son Indra Chand and after him his son Gobind Chand became Jagat Seth in name only. Seth Gobind Chand had adopted Gulab Chand who had his son Seth Fateh Chand.