Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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portions, however, especially near the coast, are remark-
ably fertile. Towards the Ghats the country is wild
and picturesque in the extreme, the jungle verdure is
there perpetual, and vegetation most luxuriant.

The table land above the passes is called the Concan-
Ghat-Mahta, or Concan above the Ghats. The highest
part of the Syhadree range is that which immediately
faces the Concan. The breadth of this chain of moun-
tains is about twenty or twenty-five miles, including the
space from the summit of the ridge facing the Concan
to the termination of the branches on the east side ; the
whole intervening space being designated Concan-Ghat-
Mahta.* The area will thus be equal to rather more

* The general elevation of the is 4700 ; the height above the sub-
Bombay sanatarium in that portion jacent country in the Concan is 4000
of the Syhadree range called the feet, and above the general level of
Muhabaleshwur hills is 4500 feet the Deccan, at its eastern base, 2300
above the sea : the highest summit feet. The average breadth of the


than half that of the Concan. The whole tract from
Joonere to Kolapoor is fairly populated, and the valleys
are well cultivated. The people are hardy and patient,
and under Sivajee made excellent soldiers. The.Mawu-
lees (or Mahratta inhabitants of a portion of the table
land and valleys called the Mawuls) were the main in-
struments of his rise. North of Joonere, the valleys are
less cultivated, and are occupied by Bheels and Coolies
who were all plunderers, but many of whom have been
reclaimed. The summits of the hills are frequently
crowned with huge basaltic rocks, forming natural
fortresses of great strength. Many of them have been
improved by art, and from the earliest times these
mountain fortresses have been considered among the
strongest in India. Mr. Tone says, " I have counted,
in a day's march through Candeish, nearly twenty
fortresses, all in sight, in different directions." Often as
the majority of these places have changed hands, they
have seldom been taken by main force. Many contain
springs of pure water; all have reservoirs, and, in
native warfare, their weak garrisons could defy power-
ful armies. Gold or stratagem, treachery, famine or a
coujp-de-main usually gained them; it was reserved for
the British to carry by storm in open day such places
as Panalla, Samungurh, and Manogurh. The third
great division of Maharashtra is the Desh, or Des, being
the open country eastward from the foot of the Grhat-
Mahta. The Desh is by no means an unvaried level,
but becomes less broken as it recedes easterly. It is
intersected by four chains of mountains, running east
and west, — ^the Sautpoora, Chandore, Ahmednuggur, and
Mahdeo hills ; the first being the northern boundary of
Maharashtra, the last lying to the north of Satara.

table land on which the settlement and a half, and the average length
has been established is eleven miles eleven miles. — H. M. L.


Tlie general aspect therefore of the Mahratta country,
is hilly. The valleys are well watered, but indifferently
cultivated. Five great rivers — the Narbadda, the Tap-
tee, the Godavery, the Deema, and the Kistna — per-
meate the country.

The mass of the inhabitants are Hindus,* separated,
as elsewhere in India, into the four great classes ; but, as
usual, innumerably sub-divided. The Brahmans have
long almost monopolized all civil and military offices ;
though, while thus secularly employed, they forfeit the
veneration evinced towards those who devote their lives
to spiritual concerns. They commenced as servants;
they now command in almost every Mahratta durbar.
The name of Mahratta is applicable to all the inha-
bitants ; but Grant Duff states, that " amongst them-
selves a Mahratta Brahman will carefully distinguish
himself from a Mahratta. That term, though extended
to the Koonbees, or cultivators, is, in strictness, con-
fined to the military families of the country, many of
whom claim a doubtful, but not improbable descent
from the Raj puts." He might have added that, all over
India^ the Mahratta chiefs are considered to be Soodras
of the three great divisions, husbandmen, shepherds, and
cowherds. Mahratta women are well treated ; those of
rank are generally veiled, but it is little, if any, disgrace
for them to appear uncovered. Scott Waring witnessed
the wife of the Peishwa, Bajee Eao, practising her
horse ; and Mr. Tone says, at page 9, " I can affirm
having seen the daughter of a prince making bread
with her own hands, and otherwise employed in the

* " The Hindus" are too generally between the Hindu of Tanjore, My-

considered, or rather talked and sore, Bengal, Oude, Maharashtra, and

written of, as one race, much as half- Rajputana there is quite as much dif-

enlightened Indians believe all Fe- ference in language, customs, forms,

ringhis (Franks) to be one people : and features as obtains between Rus-

their ignorance may be excused, but sians, Germans, French, Spaniards,

Englishmen should understand that ItaHans, and Englishmen. — H. M. U,


ordinary business of domestic housewifery." Widows
usually perform suttee with the bodies of their husbands,
unless when they have infant children, or are them-
selves called to govern, which has so often happened of
late at every Mahratta court. In such cases the veil is,
in a great measure, relinquished. The widow having
then to counsel with men, and even to go into battle,
forgets that she is a woman. Within an area ot
100,000 square miles, there must doubtless be great
variety of form and feature, but the Mahrattas gene-
rally may be considered small, active, well-made men.
Tor Hindus their features are coarse. They are hardy,
persevering, and abstemious. The cultivators and shep-
herds are frugal, patient, and industrious, and possess as
many good qualities as can be expected from a people
whose country has for centuries been a battle-field.
They have the cunning incidental to their condition ;
to a race who have long lived on the defensive, who
have been accustomed to be squeezed, and who have
learnt to pay nothing that could not be enforced. The
notions of Mahratta chiefs and soldiers are, for Indians,
peculiar. They have none of the pride and dignity of
the Eajput, Sikh, Jat, or Patau, and little of their
apathy or want of worldly wisdom. The Mahratta con-
siders plunder and profit to be the object of war; for
this he will undergo fatigue, privation, and danger ; but
he has no notion of endangering or sacrificing his life on
a mere punctilio. Mr. Elphinstone, after strikingly show-
ing the points of difference between the sentiments of
the Mahratta and the Eajput, affecting even the outward
appearance of the two nations, remarks, " there is some-
thing noble in the carriage even of an ordinary Eajput ;
and something vulgar in that of the most distinguished
Mahratta. The Eajput is the most worthy antagonist,
the Mahratta the most formidable enemy; for he will


not fail in boldness and enterprize when they are indis-
pensable, and will always support them, or supply their
place by stratagem, activity, and perseverance."

The village system prevailed in great purity in Ma-
harashtra; all the accessible land in the country was
portioned off into villages, the boundaries of which
were defined. The arable land was divided into fields,
and every field was named and registered. The ma-
jority of the cultivators were hereditary occupants
(meerasdars), who could not be ejected as long as they
regularly paid the assessment on their fields. The
Government servants in charge of circles of villages
were called Deshmukhs, and their accountants, Desh-
pandyas; the first answering to the Talukdar or Ze-
mindar, the second to the Canungo of Hindoostan.
There were also a class of farmers of the revenue called
Khotes. One or other of the above would occasionally
take advantage of circumstances, and usurp the lands
over which they had been appointed mere collectors.
During a period of anarchy, and under native rule,
Buch persons effected in Maharashtra what, in a time
of peace, and under a British Government, was deli-
berately accomplished in Bengal; showing that hasty,
though well-intentioned, legislation may affect the
rights and welfare of a people even as much as the
worst tyranny. Every village was a miniature com-
monwealth. Each had its establishment of ofiicials.
The Patail, or head man, was usually a Sudra ; he held
an ofiice nearly corresponding to the Punch, Mokudum,
or Lumberdar of the N. W. Provinces. He super-
intended the cultivation, and managed the police.
Disputes that he could not adjust were referred to a
punchayet of "the inhabitants best acquainted with
the circumstances." The Patail's clerk was termed
Koolkurnee ; he was usually a Brahman, though occa-



sionally, as in Hindoostan, of any other caste. His
office corresponded witli that of Patwaree, or record
keeper.* There was likewise the Mhar, or Dher, being
the Goreit, Bolahar, or Dowaha, that is, the scout,
guide, and watchman of the village. Then there were
the handicraftsmen, and others, few of whom are now
found as public servants in villages under British
administration, but who are all over India recognised
as remnants of the primitive village system, and used
to be paid by assignments of land. Though in the
Concan, as in Bengal, the Khotes, or farmers of the
revenue, and the Pergunnah chiefs have generally
transmitted their office to their sons, and superseded
the village maliks ; in the Ghat-Mahta, each village has
still its Patail and Koolkurnees.

Ten years ago Colonel Sutherland pronounced the
Berar (Nagpore) and Satara Grovernments the best
native administrations in India, implying that their
demands were the lightest on the cultivator. The
injunction of the Shaster, that the Prince should only
take one-sixth of the crop, is everywhere disregarded ;
where payments are in kind, three times that amount,
or half the crop, is more usually exacted ; it is a lenient
administration that demands only one-third from irri-
gated and good lands, and one-fourth from dry and
poor soils. As elsewhere, there are other petty but
vexatious cesses, and the Customs system among the
Mahrattas, as in other parts of India, is a fruitful
source of annoyance to traders, yielding little corre-
sponding profit to the rulers. The cultivators are
divided into two great classes, Meerasdars, or here-
ditary occupants, with certain proprietary rights, and

* The Patail and Koolkurnee are if the village manager, Gramadeka-

terms introduced by the Mussiil- rce ; the Kalkarni was designated

mans. The original Hindoo appel- Gramlekak. — H. M, L.
lation of the former was Gaora, or,


Ooprees or tenants at will. " All property, or shares of
hereditary right in land, or in the district and village
establishments, termed under the ancient Hindoo Go-
vernments, writtee, is now best known throughout the
Mahratta country, by the name of wiitun, and the
holder of any such enjoys, what is considered very
respectable, the appellation of wutundar." — Grant Duff,
vol. i. p, 43. So much are rural honours valued, that
the fractional portions of the office of Patail were often
sold at high prices ; each holder of a portion designating
himself Patail. When the monarch of an empire,
Sindhia clung to what he called his hereditary Patail-

Of the nine existing Mahratta States,* none, except
Sawunt-waree, a petty chiefship, can claim any
antiquity. Satara ranks from 1664 ; Kolapoor, from a
younger branch of Sivajee's family that separated in
the year 1729. The rest are formed from later acqui-
sitions granted to military commanders, chiefly by the
Peishwa, to be held in subordination to the empire,
but which never paid allegiance to Satara, and a very
brief one to Poona. All the principalities, except Sa-
tara, Kolapoor, and Sawunt-waree, are beyond the
limits of Maharashtra; and except about Nagpore,
where there are a few Mahrattas, the ruling classes in

* They are — small State dependent on Beeja-

1. Gwalior, or Sindhia's Country. poor, the chiefs of which are

2. Indore, or Holkar's ditto. called Desaee, Deshmukh, or

3. Berar, or Bhonsla of Nagpore. Sawunt, hence Sawunt-waree.

4. Baroda, or Ghaekwar. There are also many Jaghirdars,
6. Satara, or the lineal descendants more or less powerful, some holding

of Sivajee's son, Sambagee. direct from the British Government,

6. Kolapoor,or the lineal descendant others depending on Satara, Kola-

of Sivajee's second son, Rajah poor, &c.

Ram. Absorbed into the British Terri-

7. (Dhar, tory:—

8. \ Dewas, are petty chiefships held 1. Poona, or the Peishwa's Princi-

by two of the oldest of the Mah- pality.

ratta families, "the Pcwars." 2. Tanjore,or the Territory of Venka-

9. Sawunt-waree, properly Waree, a jee, brother of Sivajee. — H. M.L.

L 2



tliose countries are as mucli foreigners as are the
Mahommedans in Oude, or the English in Calcutta.

With this brief general sketch we now proceed to
our historical notice. In the year 1294 Alla-ud-deen,
the governor of Oude and nephew of the Khiljee king
of Delhi, Jelal-ud-deen, without asking the sanction of
his uncle, moved across the mountains and forests of
the Yindhya range, and, after a toilsome and dangerous
march of 700 miles through hostile countries, reached
the El Dorado of Deogurh. His force consisted only
of 8000 men, a small army for so formidable an under-
taking, but as large a one as its bold leader could have
fed on such a route. Eamdeo Eao Jadow, the Mah-
ratta prince of Deogurh, negotiated terms, but his son
broke the treaty, and drew on his country doubly
severe terms. Large cessions of territory were made,
and the victor carried back with him the accumulated
treasuries of centuries. Thus enriched, Alla-ud-deen
returned to Delhi, only to assassinate his uncle, and
seize the imperial throne. During the reign of Alla-
ud-deen almost all Maharashtra was subdued ; but on
his death the Mahrattas recovered the greater part of
their territory, and endeavoured to regain Deogurh,
Its Mussulman garrison was, however, relieved by the
Emperor Mubarik, who took the Mahratta leader Hirpal
Deo, prisoner, and caused him to be flayed alive.
Several insurrections occurred. The Emperor Ma-
hommed Tughluk, among other wild schemes, endea-
voured to remove aU the inhabitants of Delhi to Deo-
gurh, the name of which place he changed to Doulut-
abad, intending to make it the seat of empire. He
had partially executed his merciless design when the
Deccan fell from his hands, to be recovered after nearly
four hundred years by Aurungzebe, only to remain a
nominal appendage of the Mogul Empire for less than


the term of a single life, and then to be for ever rent
from the Delhi throne.*'

The rebellion of the fugitive nobles, — who, in the
year 1344, fearing the royal treachery, rose on their
guards, slew them, fled to Doulutabad, and there,
electing one of their own number, a simple commander
of a thousand horse, as their king, raised the standard
of rebellion, — ^belongs to the record of the Mahom-
medan empire in the South ; but without a brief notice
of the circumstance the Mahratta history would be
unintelligible. The rebels agreed on a plan of warfare
which has ever been the favourite one in the Mahratta
country. A portion of the allied force under the new
King, Nazir-ud-deen, defended Doulutabad, while the
other chiefs acted on the communications and supplies
of the besiegers. The Emperor divided his force ac-
cordingly, and himself prosecuting the siege, he sent a
strong force against the field detachments.

The Delhi Empire never was at peace. It was espe-
cially troubled during Mahommed Tughluk's reign ; and
now, when he had nearly reduced Doulutabad, he was
urgently called aw^ay by an insurrection in the North.
The confederates, emboldened by his departure, gained
courage ; they were joined by many Mahratta chiefs,
and, under Zuffir Khan, one of their own ablest leaders,
gave the Imperial general battle, slew him, and gained
a great victory. Nazir-ud-deen came out from Doulut-
abad to meet his victorious army, but, observing the
influence that Zuffir Khan had obtained, wisely resigned
the throne in his favour. Zuffir Khan had originally
been the slave of a Brahman, who treated him kindly

* Aurungzebe only completed the occupancy of thirty-six years, in re-
conquest of the Deccan in the year ward for centuries of exertion and
1687, and Nizam-ul-mulk became in- incalculable expenditure of life and
dependent in 1723. Thus the Mo- treasure. — H. M. L.
guls had a, troubled and exhausting


and foretold his future rise. The new king changed his
own name to AUa-ud-deen Husein Kangoh Brahmani, in
gratitude to his old master, whom he a]3pointed his
treasurer. Tims originated the name of the Brahmani

AUa-ud-deen commenced his reign in the year 1347.
His rise was mainly caused by the succours afforded by
the native (Mahratta) chiefs, to whom he was not
ungrateful. His dynasty lasted about 150 years.
Maharashtra was, at his accession, divided into petty
principalities. Every holder of an inaccessible hill or
deep jungle was a polygar, literally a rebel. The new
sovereign subdued the weak among those in the plains,
and conciliated others by grants of lands, or by the
confirmation of their possessions. By such means he
made himself master of almost all Maharashtra, except
part of the Concan-Ghat-Mahta, which his successors
did not succeed in conquering until a century later.
During this period there were several insurrections, but
chiefly induced by Mahommedan officers. The Mah-
ratta chiefs were generally faithful.

In 1396 the terrible famine designated "the Durga
Dewee" commenced, and lasted for twelve years, depo-
pulating large tracts, and leaving traces of its effects for
forty years after. The inhabitants of whole districts
were swept away ; village land-marks were lost ; their
boundaries were forgotten, and, when the periodical
rains returned, and endeavours were made to restore
cultivation, the whole country was discovered to be in
one mass of disorder. The polygars had increased in
all directions ; the hill forts formerly reduced by the
Mahommedans, and abandoned in the great dearth,
were now held by banditti, who infested the country
and destroyed the returning hopes of those who had
escaped nature's terrible calamity. Great efforts were


made during successive years to repeople the villages
and to reduce tlie hill forts. No rent was demanded
for lands during the first year of fresh occupation, and
only a tobra (horsebag) full of grain for each bigah
during the second year. But little was effected until,
by a systematic plan, the robber forts were reduced
throughout the Syhadree range. An able commander,
by name MuUik-ul-tijar, had great success. He sub-
dued the whole Grhat-Mahta, and carried his arms into
the still unconquered part of the Concan. He besieged
and obliged a rajah, whose surname was Sirkay, to
surrender, insisting on his embracing Islamism. The
Mahratta consented, but deluded the Moslem into a
previous expedition against the Eajah of Kondan, whom
he designated his hereditary enemy. A detachment
of 7000 Mahommedans started under the immediate
orders of their commander, and guided by Sirkay, as
to an assured victory, were led into an ambuscade, and
every man massacred. The Deccanees, Hindoo and
Moslem, have always been noted for such wiles of

Mahommed Shah, the second Brahmani monarch, di-
vided his kingdom into four turufs (or quarters), to
each of which he appointed a governor, or Turufdar;
but as the empire extended by conquests from the rajahs
of Telingana,Beejaungur, Orissa, and the Concan, it was
found necessary further to subdivide the management
of the country, separating each of the former divisions
into two. Several arrangements were also made with a
view of securing the fidelity of the local governors ; but
they all failed. Mahommedans can conquer, they can-
not retain. There seems to be something in their creed
and customs opposed to permanency and to good go-
vernment. The subdivision into eight governments
took place in the year 1478, and only eleven years after-


wards, Adil Khan, the governor of Beejapoor, the
founder of the Adil Shahee dynasty, declared his inde-
pendence : soon after, four other Chiefs assumed the
purple. Only three of these States,* formed from the
extinction of the Brahmani dynasty, were in existence
when the Mahrattas rose into notice. The revolutions
in the several Mahommedan States of the Deccan all
aided the eventual emancipation of the original inha-
bitants. The majority of the forts, especially in un-
healthy parts of the country, were held by Mahrattas,
sometimes as hired soldiers of the Mahommedan Govern-
ment, but more frequently as Jaghirdars and heredi-
tary defenders of the soil. In all times of weakness or
of tumult these garrisons, called Gurhkuris, made their
own terms ; they either throw off the yoke altogether,
or joined the party or pretender that offered the best
terms. Deshmukhs, Dessaees, and other [rural chiefs
also, whether they acquired authority by birth, or as
Collectors of revenue, or as military leaders holding
lands in wild and secluded quarters, all made their
harvest of Mahommedan dissensions and of Moslem
pride and ignorance. From these Chiefs are descended
the present " Mankurees," literally great men, many of
whom, though reduced to poverty, claim superiority to
the present mushroom monarchs of their race, and pay
them very unwilling homage.

Except the Sawunt-waree family and the Powars of
Dhar and Dewas, the princes of the present day are men
of yesterday, descended at best from petty village of-
ficers. The Holkars were shepherds, and Mulhar Eao,
the first leader of the name, for years grazed his uncle's
sheep in Candeisli. The Sindhias were of a higher,
though broken family, so that Eanoojee, the modern

* The Beejapoor, or Adil Shahee ; the Golcondahj or Kootub Shahee.—
th e Ahraednuggur,or Nizam Shahee ; H. M. L.


head of the clan, served the second Peishwa as a com-
mon bargir, and report says, even carried his slippers.
Damajee Grhaekwar and Pursojee Bhonslay were stirring
leaders who rose from the ranks and occupied and be-
queathed to their descendants the countries they were
sent to plunder or to manage. Ballajee Wishwannah
Bhutt, the first Peishwa, was hereditary accountant of
a village in the Concan, and was originally employed as
a common revenue karkoon or clerk. The family of
Powar were Deshmukhs of Phultun in the sixteenth
century ; and the Sawunts were, even earlier, Dessaees
or Deshmukhs of their present country of Waree, near
Goa, and rose into importance under the kings of Bee-
japoor during the war with the Portuguese.* Bhonslah
was the original name not only of the Waree famil}^,
but of the respective founders of the Berar, (Nagpore,)
Satara, and Kolapoor houses, though only the two latter
were related to each other. We will now ^briefly trace
the history of their common ancestors.

Babjee Bhonslah was hereditary patail of several vil-
lages near Doulutabad. He had two sons, the elder
named Mallojee, the younger Wittojee. Mallojee Bhon-
slah was an active, stirring soldier, and was employed
under the banner of Lookhjee Jadow Eao, a Mahratta
chief of rank in the Beejapoor service. Mallojee, having
been for several years childless, engaged the services of
a celebrated Mahommedan saint in his favour. A fine
boy was in due time born, and, in gratitude to the Saint,
was called after him, " Shah," with the adjunct of
respect, ''jee." Thus in the year 1593 was born Shali-
jee, the father of Sivajee. Mallojee, by an act of extra-
ordinary impudence, took advantage of a jocose speech
of his leader Jadow Eao on the occasion of the Hooli

* Hamilton erroneously dates bajee, the son of Sivajee. — H. M. L.
their origin from the time of Sam-


saturnalia, and procured the unwilling acquiescence of
that Chief to his daughter Jeejee's betrothal to his son
Shall] ee. Mallojee's opportune discovery of a large
quantity of treasure reconciled Jadow Eao, and enabled

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 12 of 39)