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Mysore: a gazetteer compiled for government (Volume 1) online

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He now reduced all the forts between the Krishna and the Tunga-
bhadra, making the Deshayis, or chiefs, tributary to himself.

He then returned to Chitaldroog, which was taken at last in March
1779, by treachery, as related in the history of the place. The Bedar
population, to the number of 20,000, were deported to people the island
of Seringapatam, while all the boys were converted and trained up as
soldiers, forming what were called Chela battalions.^ Kadapa was the
next object of attack. The Pathan guards were surprised and forced
to surrender : the navab retired to Sidhout, and Kadapa was taken

' A ) oung Xair, who had been taken from Malabar and forcibly converted to
Islam, with the name of Sheikh Ayaz, was appointed governor of Chitaldroog. He
was a handsome youth, and Haidar had formed the most exalted opinion of his
merits, frequently upbraiding his son Tipu for inferiority to him. "Modest as he
was faithful and brave, Ayaz wished to decline the distinction as one to which he felt
himself incompetent ; and particularly objected that he could neither read nor write,
and was consequently incapable of a civil charge." " Keep a korla* at your right
hand," said Haidar, " and that will do you better service than pen and ink." Then
assuming a graver countenance, "Place reliance," added he, "on your excellent
understanding : act from yourself alone : fear nothing firom the calumnies of the
scribblers ; but trust in me as I trust in you. Reading and writing I I how have I
risen to empire without the knowledge of either ?"

* A long whip of cotton rope, about an inch and a half in diameter at the thick
end where it is grasped, and tapering to a point at the other extremity ; this severe
instrument of personal punishment is about nine feet long ; and Haidar was con-
stantly attended by a considerable number of persons too constantly practised in
its use.


without opposition. But Haidar was near losing liis life by a plot of
the Afghans. Admiring their courage, he had taken into his service all
who could find security for their behaviour among his own followers,
l^^ighty, who had not succeeded, were left that night with their arms near
his tent. They suddenly arose at dead of night, slew the guard.s, and
made for Haidar's tent. The noise awaking him, he guessed the danger,
pushed the bolster into the bed to resemble a sleeping figure, and, slit-
ting a hole in the tent, escaped. The assassins rushed in and cut at
the bed. Paralyzed with astonishment to find their victim gone, they
were instantly overpowered. Of those who survived till morning, some
had their hands and feet chopped off, and the rest were dragged at the
feet of elephants. Sidhout surrendered on the 27th of May, and Abdul
Halim Khan, the navab, was sent prisoner to Seringapatam. His
sister, whose sense of honour was only equalled by her beauty,
which surpassed that of any female captive yet secured, threatened to
destroy herself rather than enter the unlimited harem of the con(iueror
ill the usual informal manner. The ceremony of nika was therefore
performed, and this lad\-, under the title of Bakshi Begam, was soon
after placed at the head of the seraglio.

On returning to the capital, a complete revision was made of the
civil departments. Mir Sadak was made finance minister, Shamaiya
head of the police and post-office. Since the defection of Khande Rao,
every one of Haidar's ministers, Hindu and Muhammadan alike, had
died from tortures inflicted to recover real or pretended defalcations.
The unscrupulous ability of Shamaiya developed to the most cruel
perfection the system of espionage and fabrication of such charges, to
atone for which the utmost farthing was exacted under the pressure of
tortures which often terminated the lives of the unfortunate victims. A
systeuT was introduced of paying the troops on half-monthly pattis
instead of monthly, which gradually resulted in their getting only nine
or ten months' pay for the year. A double marriage was arranged in
T779 with the family of the navab of Savanur, whose eldest son was
united to Haidar's daughter, and Haidar's second son, Karim, to the
navab's daughter. The ceremonies were celebrated with great pomp at
Seringapatam, and accompanied with the gift of the unrestored half of
Savanur to the navab.

During these festivities an envoy arrived from the ministerial party
at Poona, by whom Haidar was expecting an invasion. But, induced
by the hopelessness of Ragoba's cause, now a second lime a fugitive,
and other considerations, Haidar entered into a treaty. On condition
that Ragoba's grant of territories u[i to the Krishna was i-onfirmed, the
future tribute fixed at eleven lakhs of rui)ees, and all arrears cancelled,

392 in STORY

he agreed to co-operate with the d(jniinant iMahratta party and Nizam
Ali for the expulsion of the Engh'sh from India. The failure of nego-
tiations with the latter had made him ill-disposed towards them. Two
events gave ground for open hostilities. The English being then at war
with the French, Pondicherry was taken in October 1778, and Mahe
in March 1779. The capture of the former did not directly affect
Haidar, but the latter was the port through which he received military
supplies from the Mauritius. He had, therefore, declared it to be
under his protection, as being situated in his territory, and had
threatened to lay waste the province of Arcol if it were attacked. The
other event was that an English corps, marching to relieve Adoni, pro-
ceeded through the territory of Kadapa without formal permission
obtained from Haidar, to whom it now belonged, the commanding
officer being merely furnished with a letter to the manager of the

The news of this reached Haidar at the very time that the missionary
Schwartz had arrived at Seringapatam, commissioned by the Governor
of Madras to assure him of the amicable designs of the English
Government. " If the English offer the hand of peace and concord, I
will not withdraw mine," .said Haidar, but he sent letters to the Governor
requiring reparation for the alleged grievances, and referring to his
unfulfilled threat of revenge. Meanwhile, some English travellers who
landed at Calicut were seized and conveyed to Seringapatam. Mr.
Gray, member of council, was sent as an envoy to demand their release,
and to bring about a good understanding. But Haidar, on finding
that none of them were military, had let them go, and ^Ir. Gray met
them on his way ; but he proceeded on to the capital, where he was
treated with studied disrespect, for war had been determined on.

After prayers for success, in both mosques and temples, Haidar Ali
left his capital and descended the Ghats in July, 1780, with a force of
90,000 men, unequalled in strength and efficiency by any native army
that had ever been assembled in the south of India. French officers
of ability guided the operations, and the commissariat was under the
management of Purnai^'a, one of the ministers of finance. A body of
horse, under his second son, Karim Sahib, was sent to plunder Porto
Novo ; a larger body proceeded towards Madras, burning the villages
and mutilating the people who lingered near them. From Pulicat to
Pondicherry a line of desolation, extending from thirty to fifty miles in-
land, was drawn round Madras. The black columns of smoke were
visible from St. Thomas's Mount, and the bleeding victims were pouring
into Madras.

The English forces were rapidly assembled under Sir Hector Munro

BATTLE OF PORTO \'0]'0 393

at Conjcverani, but a detachment under Colonel P>aillie, which was on
its way to join the main army, was hemmed in and cut off. Arcot also
fell. Sir Eyre Coote, the Commander-in-Chief, arrived and took the
field in January. The forts in greatest danger, such as Chingleput and
Wandiwash, were at once relieved. Haidar at the same time raised
the sieges of Permacoil and Vellore. A French fleet now appeared off
the coast, and the English force moved to cover Cuddalore, which was
threatened by Haidar with the view of occupying it as a depot for the
troops expected from France. But Sir Edward Hughes, being off the
western coast with a British squadron, destroying Haidar's infant navy
in his own ports of Calicut and Mangalore, the French fleet made ofi"
for Mauritius ; and Haidar, who had avoided every opportunity of
coming to close quarters with Coote, withdrew rapidly to the interior,
leaving a sufficient force to intercept all supplies. While a want of
these, and a wretched equipment, prevented the English from following,
lie ravaged the district of Tanjore, sending off to the upper country all
that was movable, including immense herds of cattle. " Weavers and
their families," adds AVilks, " were collected and forcibly sent to people
the island of Seringapatam. Captive boys, destined to the exterior
honour of Islam, were driven to the same place with equal numbers of
females, the associates of the (then) present and the mothers of a future
race of military slaves."

In June Coote moved out against Chidambram, but, being repulsed,
retired to Porto Novo. Encouraged by this, Haidar marched a hun-
dred miles in two days and a half, and placed himself between the
English and Cuddalore. Sir Edward Hughes at this juncture arrived
off the coast. While with a portion of the scjuadron he protected
Cuddalore, the English force, with only four days' rice, carried on the
soldiers' backs, marched against Haidar's position ; and on the same
day, the ist of July, was fought the battle of Porto Novo, in which, with
a force one-eighth that of the enemy. Sir Eyre Coote, after a severe
engagement, completely beat the Mysorean army from the field.
Haidar Ali, who was watching the operations seated on a stool on a
small hill, was near being taken prisoner. He was conveyed out of
danger by a faithful groom, who made bold to force the slipi)ers on to
his master's feet, saying, " We will beat them to-morrow ; in the mean-
time mount your horse.' He reluctantly left the field, pouring forth a
torrent of abuse. Wandiwash, invested by Tipu, was again relieved,
and he was recalled to join his father at Arcot.

Haidar, resolved to risk another battle, chose, as being fortunate to
himself, the very spot on which Colonel Baillie's detachment had been
overcome, and the anniversary of that event was the day fixed on. Sir

;,(;4 ///S'/'OA'V

I'-yrc Cootc, after forming a junction with troops sent by land from
JJengal, had taken Tripassore, and wished for nothing so much as to
bring his enemy to action. The result was the battle of Pollilore, fought
on the 27th August, in which, after an engagement of eight hours, the
Mysoreans were forced to abandon the field. Haidar now took up a
strong position in the pass of Sholinghur, to prevent the relief of Vellore,
reduced almost to extremities. At the battle of Sholinghur, fought on
the 27th of September, victory again declared for the English, and
Vellore was saved. The palegars of Chittor now came over to the
English, and Haidar, indignant at their desertion, detached a select
corps to burn their villages and lay waste their country. But Sir Eyre
Coote, placing himself at the head of a light corps, after an absence of
thirty-eight hours, during thirty-two of which he had never dismounted
from his horse, returned to camp, having completely surprised and
defeated these troops, capturing all their equipments.

The energy of \\'arren Hastings, the Governor-General — never more
conspicuous than at this critical time, when England, at war with
America, France, and Holland, was engaged in a life struggle in India
with the Mahratta hosts in the west, and the Mysoreans under Haidar
in the south — having triumphed over the mischievous opposition of a
Council which frustrated every public measure, had succeeded in with-
drawing the active opposition of Nizam Ali and of one branch of the
Mahrattas, under Madoji Bhonsla. He now concluded a treaty with
Sindhia, on the 13th October 1781, and the mediation of the latter was
to be employed in bringing about a peace between the English and the
Poona Mahrattas under Nana Farnavis, which was actually effected in
May 1782. Meanwhile Haidar's vakil had ascertained that this was
intended, and that the Mahrattas would unite with the English in com-
pelling his master to make peace, unless the latter would at once give
up all the territories acquired by him north of the Tungabhadra and all
claims over the palegars to the south, in which case they undertook to
continue the war and bring back Sindhia to the confederacy. Haidar
now- felt himself in a critical situation. He was beaten at all points by
Sir Eyre Coote ; he had received no adequate assistance from the
French ; the west coast was lost ; Malabar, Coorg, and Balam were in
rebellion. The defeat of Colonel Braithwaite's corps in Tanjore by
Tipu, which occurred at this time, had no permanent effect in improving
his prospects.'

• It was about this period that Haidar, being much indisposed, was, either by
accident or design, left entirely alone with his minister Poorniah ; after being for some
time apparently immersed in deep thought, he addressed himself to Poorniah in the
following words (related to Colonel Wilks by Poorniah) : —

" I have committed a great error, I have purchased a draught of .fc'W?' (spirits) at


He now resolved to abandon the east and to try his fortune in the
west. In December he sent all the heavy guns and stores to Mysore,
compelled the people below the Ghats to emigrate thither with their
flocks and herds, destroyed the forts, and made arrangements for
demolishing Arcot, when news suddenly arrived that a French force
had actually arrived off Porto Novo. But of the troops M. Bussy had
originally embarked for the prosecution of his plans in India, the first
division had been captured by Admiral Kempenfelt in December 1781,
and a second in April 17S2. Several naval engagements also took
place at this time in Indian waters, in which the English uniformly
gained the advantage. Cuddalore, however, was now taken 1)\- the
French ; and, forming a junction with Haidar, they carried Permacoil
in May, before Sir Eyre Coote could arrive for its relief But on the
2nd of June was fought the battle of Ami, in which the English were
victorious, and nothing but the want of cavalry prevented a large capture
of artillery.

On the other coast, the corps sent to Malabar under Makhdum Ali
was completely defeated and destroyed at Tricalore by Colonel Hum-
berstone, the commander being killed. Nothing could be done during
the monsoon to retrieve this disaster, but as soon as the weather per-
mitted in November, Tipu, assisted as usual by Lally's corps, under
pretence of striking some blow near Trichinopoly, proceeded by forced
marches across the peninsula, hoping to fall upon the English, who were
l)reparing for the siege of Palghatcheri. But in this he was dis-
appointed, and sustained a defeat at Paniani on the 25th. ^^'hile
waiting for reinforcements to renew the attack, an event occurred of
the utmost importance. The Mysorean army in Coromandel had
cantoned sixteen miles north of Arcot for the rains, the French being
at Cuddalore, and the English at Madras. The health of Haidar had
been declining, and in November was developed an abscess, or cancer,
in the back, known as the rdjpora, or royal boil. The united efforts of
Hindu, Muhammadan, and French physicians did no good, and on the
7th of December 1782, this remarkable man l)reathed his last, at the
age of sixty.

War first brought him to notice, and engaged in war he died. War
was his element. The brief periods of repose between one warlike
expedition and another were consumed in repairing the losses of the

tlie i)rice of a lakh of pagodas : I shall pay dearly for my arrogance ; between me and
llie English there were perhaps mutual grounds of dissatisl;iction, hut not sufficient
cause for war, and I might have made them my friends in spite of Muhammad Ali,
the most treacherous of men. The defeat of many Uaillies and lirailhwaites will not
destroy them. I can ruin their resources by land, but I cannot dry uj^ the sea ; and
I must be the first to weary of a war in which I can gain nothing by fighting.''

3y6 ///STOR V

last, or providing the means for the next. The arts and products of
peace he valued only as they furnished the sinews of war. liut it is
impossible to withhold homage from the great natural talents which
raised an unlettered adventurer^ to the supreme control of a powerful
kingdom, or the indomitable energy and fertility of resource which
found in the most desperate reverses but fresh opportunities of rising.

In person he is described as robust and of medium height, of dark
complexion, with an aquiline nose and small eyes. Contrary to the usual
custom of Musalmans, his face was clean shaven, even the eyebrows and
eyelashes being removed. The most striking article of his dress was a
scarlet turban, flat at the top, and of immens'e diameter. His uniform
was flowered white satin, with yellow facings and yellow boots, and a
white silk scarf round his waist. He was fond of show and parade on
great occasions, and at such times was attended by a thousand spear-
men, and preceded by bards who sang his exploits in the Kannada
language. He was an accomplished horseman, a skilful swordsman,
and a dead shot. He had a large harem of six hundred women, but his
strong sensual instincts were never allowed to interfere with public
business. From sunrise to past noon he was occupied in public durbar ;
he then made his first meal, and retired to rest for an hour or two. In
the evening he either rode out or returned to business. But frec^uently
the night was enlivened with the performances of dancing girls or of
actors of comedies. He took a second meal about midnight and retired
to rest, sometimes having drunk freely.

The following extracts from accounts by the Rev. ^^\ Schwartz, who
w^as sent by the English in 1779 to Haidar as a peace-maker, contain a
graphic description of his characteristics and modes of business : —
" Haidar's palace is a fine building in the Indian style. Opposite to it
is an open place. On both sides are ranges of open buildings, where
the military and civil servants have their otBces, and constantly attend.
Haidar can overlook them from his balcony. Here reigns no pomp,
but the utmost regularity and despatch. Although Haidar sometimes
rewards his servants, yet the principal motive is fear. Two hundred
people with whips stand always ready to use them. Not a day passes
on which numbers are not flogged. Haidar applies the same cut to all
transgressors alike, gentlemen and horsekeepers, tax-gatherers and his
own sons. And when he has inflicted such a public scourging upon the

^ Me could neither read nor write any language, though he spoke fluently Hin-
dustani, Kannada, Mahratti, Telugu, and Tamil. The sum of his literary attain-
ments consisted in learning to write the initial of his own name, //, to serve as his
signature on public occasions ; but either from inaptitude to learn, or for the purpose
of originality, he inverted its form, and sii^ned thus, I/^IT^ (copied from a grant in
the Inam office).


greatest gentlemen he does not dismiss them. No, they remain in the
same office, and bear the marks of the stripes on their backs as public
warnings, for he seems to think that almost all people who seek to
enrich themselves are void of all principles of honour.

"When I came to Haidar he desired me to sit down alongside of
him. The floor was covered with exquisite tapestry. He received me
very politely, listened friendly and with seeming pleasure to all I had to
say. In reply he spoke very openly and without reserve. . . . When I
sat near Haidar I particularly observed in what a regular succession,
and with what rapid despatch, his affairs proceeded one after the other.
^Vhenever he made a pause in speaking, an account was read to him of
tlie district and letters received. He heard it, and ordered the answer
immediately. The writers ran, wrote the letter, read it, and Haidar
affixed his seal. Thus, in one evening, a great many letters were expe-
dited. Haidar can neither read nor write, but his memory is excellent.
He orders one man to write a letter and another to read it to him. If
the writer has in the least deviated from his orders his head pavs for it.
^Vhat religion people profess, or whether they profess any at all, that is
perfectly indifferent to him. He has none himself, and leaves everyone
to his choice."

The Nishani Haidari^ says : — " In all the cities and towns of his terri-
tory, besides news-writers, he appointed .separately secret writers and
spies to patrol the streets at night, and from them he received his intel-
ligence. From morning to night he never remained a moment idle.
He was a slave to the regulation of his working establishments. . . .
All the operations or measures undertaken by Haidar's government,
small or great, were superintended by himself in person ; insomuch
that even leather, the lining of bullock-bags, tent walls, and strands of
rope, all passed under his inspection, and were then de[)osited in his

The Ahvali Haidar Naik'- thus describes the state of the country in
Haidar's time : — " By his power mankind were held in fear and
trembling ; and from his severity C.od's creatures, day and night, were
thrown into apprehension and terror. Cutting off the nose and ears of
any person in his territories was the commonest thing imaginable, and
the killing a man there was thought no more of than the treading on an
ant. No person of respectability ever left his house with the expecta-
tion to return safe to it."

The minister Purnaiya sagaciously j)lanncd that the death of Haidar
should be concealed from the army until the arrival of Tipu, and

' History of Hydiir Naik, by Kiimani, tninslalcd from the Persian l)y Colonel W.
Miles. ^ By Mirza Ikl)al. — Sec supplemenl lo the above.

398 rrrsTOR v

Krishna Rao, his official colleague, acceded to the same course. It is
a high testimony to the order and discipline of the army, and the
influence and ability of Purnaiya, that this was successfully carried out.
"rhc body of Haidar, deposited in a large chest filled with aromatics,
was sent off to Kolar under escort, as if a case of valuable plunder. Al
business went on as u.sual. The chiefs of the army were separately and
quietly taken into confidence, and all inquiries were answered to the
effect that Haidar was better, but weak. Only one ofticer, commanding
4,000 horse, conceived the project of removing the ministers, seizing the
treasury, and proclaiming Abdul Karim, Haidar's second son. But the
plot was discovered, and the accomplices were put into irons and sent
off under guard.

A courier on a dromedary, travelling 100 miles a day, con\eyed the
intelligence to Tipu at Paniani by the afternoon of the nth. Next
morning he was in full march eastward. Dispensing with all ceremony
calculated to excite inquiry, he went forward as rapidly as possible, and
after performing the funeral ceremonies at Kolar, joined the army in a
private manner between Arni and Vellore on the 2nd of January 1783.
The most ample acknowledgments were made to all the public officers,
and especially to Purnaiya, for their prudent management of affairs
during this critical period, and Tipu Sultan took peaceable possession
of an army of 88,000 men, and a treasury containing three crores of
rupees in cash, besides an immense amount of jewels and valuables.

The Mysoreans and the French, awaiting with sanguine prospects
the arrival of M. Bussy to decide on the plan of the campaign, were
offered battle by the English near Wandiwash on the 13th of February.
But this was declined, and within a week news from the west obliged
Tipu and his allies to withdraw the main body of the army for the
defence of his possessions in that quarter. General ^Matthews had
landed at Kundapur, carried Haidarghar, and on the i6th February
captured Bednur. Honavar and Mangalore had also fallen to the
English, who were now in possession of all the intermediate country.
Shekh Ayaz, the Chela, whom we have pre\iousIy mentioned in con-
nection with his appointment to the government of Chitaldroog, was at
this time governor of the Bednur country. He had abundant reason
for fear in the accession of Tipu, and having discovered, as he antici-
pated, that the latter had ordered his immediate assassination, aban-
doned his charge and fled to Bombay, at the same time that the Mysore

Online LibraryB. Lewis (Benjamin Lewis) RiceMysore: a gazetteer compiled for government (Volume 1) → online text (page 47 of 98)