Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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him to purchase the rank of Commander of 5000 horse,
with the title of Eajah, from the weak and venal court
of Ahmednuggur, upon which the nuptials between the
young couple were celebrated. Mallojee's good fortune
was attributed to the auspices of the goddess Bhowanee,
who prophesied that one of Mallojee's race should be-
come a king, re-establish Maharashtra, protect Brah-
mans, and the temples of the gods; and that his
posterity should reign for twenty-seven generations.
With his new title, Mallojee received charge of the
forts of Sewneree and Chakun, and of the pergunnahs
of Poona and Sopa.

The Deccan monarchies were at this time constantly
assailed by the Moguls. The Mahratta chiefs played
their own game during these contentions. As a
specimen of the times and of the value that was at-
tached to their alliance, we may mention that Shahjee's
father-in-law, Jadow Eao, having deserted the Ahmed-
nuggur standard in the year 1621, was rewarded by the
Emperor Jehangir with the rank and authority of Com-
mander of 15,000 horse. He did not long enjoy his
honours. Nine years afterwards he desired to return to
his allegiance, was inveigled into a conference wdthin
the walls of Doulutabad, and there murdered. On this,
his widow, a woman of masculine habits, with her fol-
lowers and many of her connections, for ever abandoned
the cause of the Nizam-shahee monarchs.

Shahjee, who had now succeeded his father and was
recognised as a bold and able leader, followed the
example of his mother-in-law, and received the rank of
a commander of 5000 horse with a suitable jaghir. He


was, however, soon disgusted, and offered his services to
the Beejapoor Grovernment to act against the Moguls,
who were then effecting the conquest of the Ahmed-
nuggur State. His offer was accepted, and he soon ob-
tained the distinction of being considered the most
active and dangerous enemy of the Imperial arms.
Doulutabad however fell to the Moguls; its minister
became a pensioner, and its monarch a prisoner. Shah-
jee did not lose courage. He proclaimed another prince,
assumed the management of the remaining Ahmednug-
gur territory, and soon recovered a great portion of what
had been lost. In the year 1635, Shah Jehan was at
length excited by the audacity of Shahjee to make a
great effort to reduce both him and his supporters. An
overwhelming force, in four divisions, moved against
them, and the Deccanees were beaten at all points. The
Beejapoor king then agreed to pay a tribute of twenty
lakhs of pagodas ; and, the forts of Shahjee being cap-
tured, he petitioned for re-admittance into the Imperial
service. This was refused, but he was told that he
might enter that of Beejapoor.

In the year 1627 Sivajee had been born in the fort
of Sewneree, close to the town of Joonere, fifty miles
north of Poona. Three years afterwards, to the great
displeasure of Jeejee Bye and her friends, Shahjee mar-
ried a second wife, Tuka Bye Mohitey, by whom he
had a son called Yenkajee. He had a third son, Sunta-
jee, whose mother was a dancing girl.

In the year 1637, the Beejapoor Grovernment en-
trusted Shahjee with the post of the second-in-com-
mand of an expedition into the Carnatic. On his
departure, he left his family and his Poona jaghir in
charge of a Brahman named Dadajee Konedeo. The
agent was an able revenue officer and a faithful servant.
He recovered the broken districts, encouraged agricul-


ture, and, by good management, greatly increased the
prosperity of his charge. Shahjee's services in the
Carnatic obtained for him a grant of several of the
valleys called the Mawuls of Concan-Grhat-Mahta in the
neighbourhood of Poona; these he likewise placed
under the Brahman's care. Dadajee found their hardy
and simple inhabitants in the utmost penury, scarcely
clothed, and barely able to defend their wretched huts
from the wild beasts of the forest which daily increased
on them. He took many of the Mawulees into his
service, gave advances of seed grain to others, and by
demanding no rents for nine years, and then establish-
ing very light assessments, recovered a considerable
portion of country. It is pleasant to find in the dark
catalogue of Indian Eulers an occasional Dadajee Kone-
deo. Would that there were more such as he among
our own ranks ! Men who live for their duty, for the
improvement of their respective charges, and not simply
for the accumulation (even though it be honestly) of so
many thousand rupees to take with them to Europe.

The men of business in Maharashtra were Brahmans.
It was no part of the duty of a soldier to bend to the
work of a scribe. Dadajee gave his master's son a good
education, according to the notions of the times and
the country. Sivajee could never sign his name, but he
was an excellent horseman and marksman. He could
use the matchlock as well as the bow, and was master
of the different kinds of swords and dagger used in the
Deccan. He was also instructed in the rules and obser-
vances of his caste, and in the popular parts of Hindoo
mythology. He loved to hear the " Kuthas," or tales,
in verse or prose, of the gods and heroes of antiquity ;
he delighted in martial exercises, and he hated the
Mahommedans, as Hannibal hated the Komans. While
a mere boy he joined some plundering bands in the


Concan-Grliat-Malita ; and, taking a fancy to tlie rude
Mawidees, was often absent for whole days with parties
of them, on plundering and hunting excursions. He
thus became familiar with the defiles and paths of the
rugged country around Poona, and attached to himself
the most daring of the wild inhabitants. He marked
the positions of the strongholds in his neighbourhood,
and early determined to seize one of them. As peace
now existed with the Moguls, and the Beejapoor army
was employed in the Carnatic, the hill forts, generally
neglected, were guarded even more slenderly than
usual. Sivajee took advantage of this neglect : he
bribed the Killadar of Torna, near Poona, to yield the
place to him, and then wrote to the Beejapoor court,
offering increased rent for the surrounding district, and
protesting that he had nothing in view but his sove-
reign's advantage. His statement being backed by
liberal bribes to the courtiers, he was allowed for several
years to pursue his own schemes unmolested. Treasure
was found at Torna; and its discovery of course attri-
buted to Bhowanee, the tutelar goddess of Sivajee's
family. Arms and ammunition were purchased, and
within three miles of Torna he erected, on the mountain
of Morbudh, the fortress of Eajgurh.

Sivajee now advanced step by step ; one stronghold
after another fell into his hands, and with them the
command of the circumjacent territory. These con-
tinued successes at length alarmed the weak Beejapoor
monarch, who could however hit upon no better expe-
dient for reducing the rebel son, than to decoy and
imprison the loyal father, then usefully employed in
the Deccan. Bajee Grhorepuray, another jaghirdar, was
the tool chosen for this act of treachery : he invited
Shahjee to his house, and then had him seized. It was
sufficiently well known that he was guiltless of any


connection with Sivajee; but it was believed that the
son, whom the royal arms could not reduce, might be
brought to yield, if the torture and imprisonment of his
father was the alternative. Shahjee was accordingly
confined in a stone dungeon, the door of which was
built up, and he was informed that the single remaining
aperture should be closed if his son did not submit
within a certain period. Tor four years, Shahjee re-
mained a prisoner, and eventually owed his release to
disturbances in the Carnatic and to the king's fear that
Sivajee, who had opened communications with the
Emperor Shah-Jehan, would offer his allegiance to the
Moguls. On releasing his prisoner, the king permitted
him to return to the Carnatic, first binding him not to
avenge himself on Baj ee Ghorepuray . Shahj ee agreed to
the terms. He verbally complied with all the demands
made on him, but he did not forget that his brother of
the faith had invited him to his house, and there seized
his guest, and delivered him to Moslem bonds. He was
therefore no sooner clear of the toils than he wrote to
Sivajee, " If you are my son, punish Bajee Grhorepuray of
Moodhole." This is the only record of communication
between the father and son during many years. Well did
Sivajee execute the vindictive order. He watched Ghore-
puray's movements until the year 1G61, when, finding a
fitting opportunity, he pounced upon his victim, slew him
and many of his family, and plundered and burnt their
village. Shahjee was loud in acknowledgment of the
pious deed, and soon after, came from the Carnatic to
visit his son, and thank him in person for his filial

During his father's incarceration, Sivajee had been
comparatively quiet, but no sooner was Shahjee released,
than his son successfully resumed his unscrupulous
efforts for effecting the conquest of the entire Ghat-


Mahta and Concan. At this time (1656), Prince
Aurungzebe was his father's viceroy in the Deccan,
and was entering on those intrigues with the celebrated
Meer Joomleh, the minister of Golcondah, which led to
the direct interference of the Moguls in that State;
and which ended in the entire reduction of Grolcondah,
and the admittance of Meer Joomleh into the Mogul
service. The Mahommedan power in the Deccan was
fast approaching its close, but the wily, and occasionally
sagacious Aurungzebe little thought that, while under-
mining and gradually absorbing the Mussulman prin-
cipalities there, he was only clearing the field for a more
powerful rival, — that he was preparing the way for "a
people of fierce countenance," whose banner, within
thirty years of his own death, should wave over the
walls of Delhi, and whose leaders should soon after
be levying contributions from Lahore to Tanjore.

Beejapoor was at this juncture in the throes of disso-
lution ; it had lately very narrowly escaped the clutches
of Aurungzebe, and was distracted by a factious and
treacherous nobility, under the weak administration of
an infant king. An effort was, however, now made to
put down the insurrection of Sivajee ; a large force was
collected, and Afzool Khan, an officer of high rank,
appointed to the command. He was a bold but arro-
gant man, and boasted, at taking leave, that he would
bring back the rebel in chains to the footstool of the
throne. Afzool Khan, however, knew the strength of
the country in which he was employed and gladly
listened to the humble messages of Sivajee, who, af-
fecting only to desire peace, disclaimed all thought of
opposing so great a personage as the Khan. The
Moslem was deluded, and sent Puntojee Gopinat, a
Brahman in his employ, to arrange with Sivajee the


terms of the Mahratta's submission. The envoy was
received with all honour, and Sivajee conducted himself
during the first interview with great humility. During
the ensuing night, the rebel leader secretly visited his
guest's quarters, and, addressing him as his spiritual
superior, appealed to him as a Brahman, in favour of his
own cause, which he stated to be that of the Hindus
generally. Sivajee urged that he had been called on by
the goddess Bhowanee herself, to protect Brahmans
and kine, to punish the violators of temples, and to
resist the enemies of religion. These arguments were
seconded by large promises, and the interview ended in
Puntojee's entering into a scheme for assassinating his
master. Accordingly, the Brahman returned to the
Mogul camp to report that Sivajee was in great alarm
and ready to surrender, if he could only receive a gua-
rantee of his personal safety from the mouth of the
Beejapoor commander. The deluded Khan fell into
the snare. The place appointed for the meeting was a
space, cleared for the occasion, at the foot of the fort of
Pertabgurh. One road through the jungle was cleared ;
all other avenues were closed. A force was told off to
attack the Beejapoor main army, when the death of
Afzool Khan should be announced, by a signal of five
guns from Pertabgurh. Parties were also so disposed
as to cut off whatever escort might accompany the
victim. Two persons only were let into the secret of
the dark deed about to be perpetrated.

Sivajee prepared for the death-grapple, as for a
religious though desperate deed. Having performed
his ablutions, he placed his head at his mother's feet
and besought her blessing. Then, attiring himself with
a steel chain cap and hauberk under his turban and
cotton gown, he concealed a bichwa, or crooked dagger,


under his right sleeve, and placing on the fingers of his
left hand a wagnuk,* he leisurely proceeded down the
hill to the interview. Fifteen hundred troops escorted
Afzool Khan ; hut he was requested hy the traitor
Puntojee to halt them, when within a few hundred
yards of the base of the hill, lest Sivajee should be
alarmed and decline the interview. The Khan accord-
ingly advanced, armed simply with his sword, and
attended only by a single soldier. Sivajee, too, was
accompanied by one attendant, and as he approached
the place of interview, repeatedly halted as if in alarm.
To give him confidence, the traitor Brahman begged
that Afzool Khan's follower might fall back. The
chiefs then advanced and being introduced by Puntojee,
gave each other the usual oriental embrace. f Sivajee,
while his right arm was round the Khan's neck, with
the left struck the wagnuk into his bowels. Afzool
Khan, feeling himself wounded, pushed the assassin
from him, and attacked him sword in hand. The chain
armour of Sivajee resisted the blow, and, before the
Khan's single attendant could step up to his support,
the chief was slain, and his brave servant, refusing
quarter, shared his fate. The signal was forthwith
given; the ambuscades rushed out, few of the escort
escaped, and it was only through especial orders, sent
by Sivajee, that the slaughter of the main body of the
enemy ceased.

The success of this abominable scheme established
Sivajee' s power ; the plunder of the Beejapoor army

* A steel instrument with three Amasa by the beard, with the right

crooked blades, like tiger's claws, hand, to kiss him ; but Amasa took

made to fit on the fore and little no heed to the sword that was in

finger. — H. M. L. Joab's hand ; so he smote him there-

t How unchanged are Asiatics ! with in the fifth rib, and shed out his

Nearly three thousand years ago bowels to the ground." — 2 Sam. xx.

" Joab said to Amasa, ' Art thou in 9, 10. Joab's weapon must have been

health, my brother V and Joab took something like a wagnuk. — H. M. h.



provided him with military equipments as well as with
treasure; and the fame of the exploit encouraged his
friends and terrified his foes. He fulfilled his promise
to the traitor Puntojee Gopinat, who received the stipu-
lated reward and afterwards rose to high rank in the
Mahratta service. A hundred years afterwards the
descendant of Puntojee paid the penalty of his ances-
tor's perfidy on the very spot where the traitor Brah-
man had betrayed the confiding Beejapoori.

Another efibrt was, however, soon made against Siva-
jee. A force, twice the strength of that lately sent
under Afzool Khan, was employed under Seedee Johur.
Sivajee's light troops devastated the enemy's country,
while he threw himself into the fort of Panalla. The
Seedee prosecuted the siege for four months, during the
worst season of the year. The post was still tenable,
but all the approaches to it were occupied, and Sivajee
felt the error he had committed in thus allowing him-
self to be encaged. But, treacherous himself, he knew
whom he could trust. He asked for terms and pro-
ceeded, slightly attended, to one of the enemy's batteries
to negotiate a surrender. He thus threw the Seedee ofi*
his guard, and during the ensuing night, descended the
hill, at the head of a chosen band of Mawulees, passed
the besieger's posts, and was well on his march to the
fort of Eangna before his flight was observed. When
the fact was ascertained, he was sharply pursued, and
was overtaken at a defile within six miles of the fortress.
He left a party of his Mawuls under command of Bajee
Purvoe, who had formerly been his enemy, with orders
to hold the pass until a signal from the fort of Eangna
announced his own safety. The orders were obeyed,
the post was held, but at the cost of the life of the
generous Purvoe. Sivajee himself thus escaped, but
many of his forts were captured, and the Mahrattas


would have suffered more severely, but for the court
intrigues that caused the removal of the brave Seedee
from the command of the invading army. This was,
however, an expiring effort on the part of the Beeja-
poor Government ; the revulsion expedited its own fall ;
while Sivajee, bending to the storm he could not brave,
quickly recovered his temporary losses and was soon
again in the field with fresh strength.

At this time (1662), the Saw^unts, or lords, of Waree
offered, if supported by the Court, to reduce the rebel,
but they were soon abandoned by their weak paramount,
and the whole of their own territory was subdued by
Sivajee, who, however, restored their Deshmukhee rights,
and by his judicious treatment soon attached them
warmly to his cause. He occupied Sawunt-waree with
his own troops, and drew their infantry to fight his
battles in distant quarters. Sivajee was now master of
a long line of sea- coast. He built ships and commanded
an advantageous treaty from the already degenerate
Portuguese of Groa, who supplied him with guns and
naval stores. The successful rebel had now become a
powerful Prince. Through his father's timely mediation,
he was admitted to treat with the Beejapoor minister,
and was recognised as master of a tract of country more
than 250 miles in length, averaging 50 miles in breadth
and in parts extending 100 miles eastward from the
sea. He also had at command a devoted army of not
less than 50,000 foot and 7000 horse.

Being at peace with Beejapoor, Sivajee next turned
his arms against the Moguls. For a time the Mah-
rattas were unsuccessful ; many forts fell into the hands
of the enemy, who estabhshed their camp at Poona.
Sivajee was not slow to take advantage of their po-
sition, and to use his own knowledge of its localities.
Understanding that the Mogul commander, Shaisteh

M 2


Khan, occupied the very house in which he had himself
passed his boyhood, Sivajee determined to cut him off
in the midst of his guards. Accordingly, with twenty-
five favourite Mawulees, the Mahratta Chief entered
Poona at night; passed through the Mogul troops,
wounded Shaisteh Khan, slew his son and many of his
personal attendants, and then leisurely retreated, light-
ing his torches in defiance as he ascended the hill of
Singurh, in the face of his pursuers.

In the year 1664, Shahjee was killed by a fall from
his horse. He died in possession of large jaghirs, in-
cluding the whole territory of Tanjore, to all which his
younger son Venkajee, who was on the spot, succeeded;
Sivajee reserving the assertion of his own right until
a favourable opportunity should offer. In January of
that year, having effected the requisite arrangements
and gained perfect information as to localities, he made
a feint of attacking the Portuguese settlements at Bas-
sein, and then, at the head of four thousand horse, made
a dash on the rich city of Surat, systematically plun-
dered it for six days, and leisurely carried off his booty
to the fort of Pajgurh. The Dutch and English
factories only escaped. Their small garrisons stood on
the defensive, and by their gallant bearing, created a
very favourable impression on the minds of the Moguls
as well as of the Mahrattas. Shaisteh Khan had been
recalled, and the great Jey Sing in conjunction with
Dilere Khan was now employed against Sivajee, and
carried on the war with unusual energy. Sivajee in-
cautiously threw himself into the strong fortress of
Poorundhur, which was reduced to extremity, and the
Mahratta was induced to trust to Jey Sing's guarantee
and surrender himself. Sivajee' s conduct seems un-
accountable. At no time had he been so strong, and
dissension was rife in the Mogul camp. Poorundhur


might have fallen, but Sivajee would not have been
himself if he could not have effected his own escape.
Eaja Golab Sing's conduct at the present day in the
Punjab seems much akin to this ; unscrupulously cut-
ting off all who trust him, he is constantly trusting him-
self in his enemy's hands. Man is everywhere unac-
countable ; but he who has to deal with Asiatics can
least calculate, with certainty, on the future by the past.
He must be prepared for every vagary, for the violation
of the plainest dictates of prudence during peace, for the
neglect or breach of all the rules of strategy during war.
He may reasonably expect that to be done which should
not be done, that to be neglected which should be
effected. JSTo European diplomatist or soldier is so
likely to be ensnared as he who, having taken the
usual precautions, feels himself secure. The treaty
signed, the picquets doubled, neither can be regarded
as a guarantee of safety. Certain eventual destruction
may await the enemy's move ; he may be assured of it
on all rational calculations, but the goddess Bhowanee
or some other deity or demon may have promised suc-
cess — the day of the Feringees may have passed, and
the infatuated wretches rush on destruction. Their
desperation then is dangerous. Eashness, nay madness,
has succeeded in striking a blow where the best plans
have failed. Indian officials should ever be on the

Sivajee at once surrendered twenty forts, with the
territories attached to them, and trusted to the fidelity
of Jey Sing to be secured in possession of the remainder
of his conquests as a Mogul fief, as well as for sanction
to spoil the Beejapoor territory. Aurungzebe generally
confirmed Jey Sing's arrangement and invited Sivajee
to court. He accepted the invitation; but previously
assembling his officers, gave them strict orders as to


their conduct during his absence, warned them not to
obey any order sent by himself, unless it was brought
by certain messengers, and then, at the head of 500
choice horse and 1000 Mawulees, proceeded with his
son Sambajee to Delhi. Aurungzebe, though possessing
considerable ability, was a very short-sighted politician.
It was foreign to his character to keep his word, or
even to break it in a straightforward manner. He
might have at once put Sivajee to death; he preferred
to degrade him, probably with the intention of even-
tually taking his life, or, when sufficiently humbled, of
employing him, like Jeswunt and Jey Sing, as a tool of
his own policy. Sivajee was accordingly received con-
temptuously, and when his bold spirit revolted, he was
placed under surveillance and made to expect the worst.
He soon decided on the course he should pursue, and
found an ally in Eam Sing, the son of Jey Sing, under
whose charge he was placed. Indignant that his
father's engagement should have been violated, he aided
the prisoner's flight. The circumstances of Sivajee's
escape, concealed in a basket, are not among the least
romantic of his actions. He returned to the Deccan,
and soon recovered all his lately-ceded possessions.

The first exploit now performed was the recovery by
escalade of the strong fortress of Singurh, which among
others had fallen into the enemy's hands. The fort is
situated on the eastern side of the great Syhadree range,
and is nearly isolated, being connected only by narrow
ridges with the Poorundhur hills, while north and south
it has a continued acclivity, often almost perpendicular,
of half a mile. The summit is capped by a huge black
rock, forming a craggy precipice, more than forty feet
high and two miles in circumference. This rock was
girdled by a stone wall, with towers at intervals, and
was strongly garrisoned by a select body of Eajputs


under a leader of renown. Having ascertained that,
in the confidence of their own prowess, and of the
strength of their fastness, the garrison had become

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 13 of 39)