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Modern Indian History
From J107 to the Present Day
f/D. r>lolioy'an
M.A. (Hons.). LL.B., Ph. D.
Author of Ancient India, History of Medieval India, The Delhi Sultanate,
Mughal Rule in India, History of Modern India (1919-1982), History of
India upto 1526, India Since 1526, Advanced History of India, History of
the Nationalist Movement in India, Leaders of the Nationalist Movement,
History of Great Britain, England Since 1485, England Since 1688, Con¬
stitutional History of India, International Relations Since 1900, Inter¬
national Law, The Constitution of India, Political Theory, Select Modern
Governments, Recent Political Thought, Constitutional Law of India,
Chief Justice Gajendragadkar, Chief Justice K. Subba Rao, Chief
Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan etc., etc- v
6, Ketkarbag Ph. 2427031
BELGAUP - 500001
No Return No Exchans®
Seventeenth Edition
(Revised and Enlarged)
— ^ (An ISO 9001 : 2000 Company)
.Head Office : 7361, RAM NAGAR, NEW DELHI - 110 055 Phones : 23672080-81-82, 9899107446.
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1st Floor. Heritage. Near Gujarat Vidnyapeeth. Ashram Road.Ahmedabad - 380 014,
Ph: 27541965,27542369. [email protected] com
No. 6. Ahuja Chambers. 1 st Cross. Kumara Krupa Road, Bangalore - 560 001.
Ph: 22268048.22354008. [email protected]
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Ph: 22690881.22610885. [email protected]
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© Copyright Reserved
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the
phor permission of the Publishers.
First Edition 1990
Subsequent Editions and Reprints 1993, 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2001,
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Reprint 2009
ISBN : 81 -219-0935-X
Code : 13 010
By Rajendra Ravindra Printers (Pvt.) Ltd., Ram Nagar, New Delhi-110 055 and published by S. Chand&
Company Ltd., 7361. Ram Nagar, New DelH-110055
1 have great pleasure in placing the Seventeenth Edition of the book in the hands of the readers. In this
edition, Chapter 1 on "Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire" has been re-written. It contains
a lot of new material which did not exist in the last edition. Chapter II on "Rise of Autonomous States" is
a new one. It discusses in detail the various States which came into existence or became stronger as a
result of the de¬cline and disintegration of the Mughal Empire. Chapter XLI dealing with "Changes in
Land Revenue Settlement" is a new one. I have no doubt that these additions have added to the utility
of the book. I avail of th'is oppor¬tunity to thank all those who have patronised the book in the past and
it is hoped that they will continue to do so in the future. All suggestions for its improvement will be
gratefully acknowledged.
I want the readers of Modern Indian History to note that what made India weak and a prey to foreign
conquest, was the lack of unity among the people of this country. Every one quarrelled with every one.
Brothers fought against brothers. Brothers killed brothers. They were prepared to lose all and be
destroyed but were not willing to compromise with their brothers and other countrymen. This was
particularly so during the eighte¬enth century. I would like the Indians to learn a lesson. They should
sub-ordinate everything to the higher interests of their country. No sacrifice should be considered high
to make India strong. It should never be for¬gotten that it is only if India lives, that we also live and
prosper and can claim rejpert in the world.
D-805, New Friends Colony,
New D*jlhi-110065.
(a) Condition of India at the time
of death of
(b) Bahadur Shah
(c) Jahandar Shah
(d) Farrukh-Siyar
(e) Rafi-ud-Darajat
(f) Rafi-ud-Daula
(g) Mohammad Shah
(h) Sayyid Brothers
(i) Nadir Shah's invasion of
(j) Invasions of Ahmed Shah Abdali
(k) Ahmed Shah (1748-54)
(1) Alamgir II
(m) Shah AJam II
(n) Akbar II
(o) Bahadur Shah II
(p) Causes of the downfall
of the Mughals
(a) Bengal Subah
(b) Avadh
(c) Hyderabad
(d) Rohilkhand
(e) Farrukhabad
(f) Bundelkhand
(g) The Rajput States
(h) The Sikhs
(i) Jammu and Kashmir
(j) The Marathas
(k) Malwa
(1) Gujarat
(m) Mysore
(n) Carnatic
Social condition
(c) Literature'
(d) Art
(e) Science
(f) Religious condition
(g) Economic condition
The Portuguese in India . .
(i) De Almeida . .
(ii) Albuquerque
(iii) Causes of failure of Portuguese empire
in India ..
The Dutch in India
The Danes in India
First Carnatic War
Rise of the Hyderahad State
The Second Carnatic War
The Third Carnatic War ..
Causes of English Success
Estimate of Dupleix
Black-hole Tragedy
Battle of Plassey
Mir Jafar
Invasion of Ali Gohour ..
Deposition of Mir Jafar ..
Mir Kasim
Clive's second Governorship of Bengal .\.
(h) Bengal from 1767 to 1772
WARREN HASTINGS (1772-85) ..
Warren Hastings' Reforms
The RohrHa-War
Trial of Naiid Kumar
Case of Chet Singh
Begums of Oudh
Regulating Act and Council
(g) Warren Hastings and Supreme Court (h) Poreign Policy of Warren Hastings (1) First Maratha War
(ii) First Mysore War
(iii) Second 'Mysore War
(i) Estimate of Warren Hastings (j) Pitt's India Act (1784) (k) Sir John Macpherson
Lord Cornwallis
Third Mysore War
Reforms of Cornwallis
(i) Reforms of Public Services (ii) Judical Reforms (iii) Police Reforms
Permanent Settlement of Bengal
Cornwallis Completed the Work of Hastings
(f) Sir John Shore
Vtt LORD WELLESLEY (1798-1805)
Condition of India in 1798
Subsidiary System {c) Fourth Mysore War (d) Character of Tipu
(eX Tanjore, Surat and Carnatic
(g) Steps' against the French Danger (h) Second Maratlia War (i) War with Holkar (j) Estimate of
Wellesley (k) Lord Cornwallis (1) Sir George Barlow (m) Lord Minto
Lord Hastings
(i) War with Nepal
(ii) Pindari War (iii) Third Maratha War (iv) Internal Reforms
(v) Estimate of Lord Hastings
John Adams
Lord Amherst
(i) First Burmese War (ii) Capture of Bharatpur
97-98 98-99 99-101
( vii)
Balaji Vishwanath
Baji Rao
Balaji Baji Rao
Third Battle of Panipat
Madhavrao I
(f) Narayanrao
(g) Madhavrao Narayan
(h) Bajirao II
(i) Mahadji Scindhia
(j) Nana Phadnavis
(k) Maratha Administration under Peshwas
(1) Causes of the Downfall of the Marathas
Pages 106-131
Lord William Bentinck
(i) Financial Reforms
(ii) Judicial Reforms (iii) Administrative Reforms (iv) Educational Reforms
(v) Social Reforms . (vi) Public Works Reforms (vii) Relations with Indian States (viii) Estimate of Bentinck
Sir Charles Metcalfe
Lord Auckland
Lord Ellen bo rough
(i) Annexation of Sindh (ii) War with Gwalior (iii) Estimate of Ellenborough
Lord Hardinge
.. ..
Rise of Ranjit Singh
Anglo-Sikh Relations
Civil Administration of Ranjit Singh
Army of Ranjit Singh
Personality of Ranjit Singh
(f) Estimate of Ranjit Singh
(g) Ranjit Singh's Responsibility for TJltimate Der'ine of Sikh Power (h) The Punjab Politics from 1839 to 1845 (i) First Sikh War
(j) Treaty of Lahore
(k) Second Sikh War
(1) Annexation of the Punjab
160-61 161-67 161--64 164-65 165-66 166-67
( viii)
Conquest of Punjab
Second Burmese War
Doctrine of Lapse
Annexation of Berar
Anglo-Oudh Relations
Wajid Ali Shah
(g) Abolition of Titles and Pensions (h) Administrative Reforms of Dalhousie
(i) Dalhousie's Responsibility for the Mutiny (j) Estimate of Dalhousie
Its Character
Causes of Revolt: Political
The Greased Cartridges
The Revolt
Causes of failure of the- Revolt
Effects of the Revolt
Lord Canning
Lord Elgin
Lord Lawrence
Lord Mayo
Lord Northbrook
(f) Lord Lytton
(g) Estimate of Lytton
RIPON TO ELGIN (1880-1898)
Lord Ripon
(i) Local Self-Government and Lord Ripon (ii) Hunter Commission on Education
(iii) Decentralisation of Finance
(iv) Ilbert Bill
(v) Estimate of Ripon
Lord Dufferin
(i) Punjdeh Affair
(ii) Third Burmese War
Lord Lansdowne
Lord Elgin II
LORD CURZON (1899-1905)
Curzon's Foreign Policy
(i) His Tribal Area Policy
(ii) Afghanistan (iii) Persian Gulf (iv) Tibet
Internal Administration of Curzon
( «)
(i) Curzon's Famine Policy (ii) Agricultural Reforms (iii) Curzon and Railways' (iv) Police Reforms (v)
Military Reforms (vij Decentralisation of Finance (▼ii) Indian Universities Act (viii) Reform of the
Bureaucratic Machinery (ix) The Calcutta Corporation (x) Status of Presidency Governors (xi) Policy of
Officialisaiion (xii) Partition of Bengal (c) Estimate of Lord Curzon
Lord Minto II (1905-10)
(i) Ang'o-Russian Convention (ii) Trade with China (iii) Minto-Morley Reforms
Lord Hardinge 0910-16)
Lord Chelmsford
Lord Reading
Lord Irwin
Lord Willingdon
Lord Linlithgow (h) Lord Wavell
(i) Lord Mountbatten (\) C. Rajagopalachariar (k\ Dr. Rajendra Prasad
(1) Dr. Radnakrishnan to Zail Singh (m) India from 1947 to 1985
The Regulating Act
(i) Provisions of the Regulating Act (ii) Criticism of Regulating Act
Judicature Act of 1781
Dundas's Bill
Fox India Bill
Provisions of Pitt's India Act
(f) Act of 1786
(g) Declaratory Act of 1788
(h) Charter Act of 179S (i) Charter Act of 1813 (j) Charter Art of 1833
(k) Charter Act of 1855
(1) Government of India, 1858
(m) Queen's Proclamation of 1858
' ..
(n) Indian Councils Act, 1861 (o) Indian Councils Act, 1892 (p) Minto-Morley Reforms (1909) (q)
Circumstances leading to Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (19p9)
Pages 227 227
227-28 228
228-29 229
229-30 230 230 231 251 232 232-34
235-36 235 236 236
236-38 238-9 240 240 240-41 241
241-42 242 242 243 243 243-47
(r) August Declaration
(s) Proposals for Reforms
(t) Memorandum of the Nineteen (191*6)
(u) Congress-League Scheme
(v) Gokhale's Political Testament
(w) The Round Table Group
(x) Recommendations of 1918
(y) Government of India Act, 1919 (i) Preamble of the Act of 1919 (ii) Main Provisions of the Act (iii)
Working of Dyarchy
(z) Constitutional Development from 1919 to 1935
(i) Muddiman Committee Report (ii) Appointment of Simon Commission (iii) The Nehru Report (iv)
Jinnah's Fourteen Points
(v) Simon Commission Report (vi) Round Table Conference (vii) Communal Award (viii) Poona Pact (ix)
Third Round Table Conference
(x) The White Paper (aa) Government of India Act, 1935 (bb) Constitutional Development from 1937
(i) Cripps Proposals
(ii) Cabinet Mission Scheme
(iii) Constituent Assembly
(iv) The Indian Independence Aa
(v) Partition of India (vi) The New Constitution of India (vii) Criticism of the Constitution
Growth of Central Legislature
(i) Charter Act of 1833
(ii) Charter Aa of 1853
(iii) Act of 1861
(iv) Act of 1892
(v) Act of 1909
(vi) Act of 1919 (vii) Act of 1935 (viii) Constitution of 1950
Growth of Provincial Legislatures
(i) Charter Aa of 1853 (ii) Act of 1861 (iii) Act of 1892 (iv) Aa of 1909 (v) Aa of 1919 (vi) Aa of 1935 (vii)
Constitution of 1950
Its Nature
Genesis of Indian National Congress
First Session of Congress
Second Session of Congress
Lahore Session
The Moderates (1885-1905)
Attitude of the Government
Achievements of the Moderates
The Surat Split (1907)
Rise of Extremism or Militant Nationalism
Partition of Bengal
The Home Rule Movement
Revolutionary or Terrorist Movement
SC rHab p . The Ghadar Party
Post-war Movement
• r>
Bomb thrown in Central Assembly
Contribution of Revolutionaries
India and World War I (1914-1918)
Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy
Non-Co-operation Movement
The Swarajist Party
The Civil Disobedience Movement
The Second World War and the Congress
"Quit India" Movement
Why England gave India Independence?
Condition of Muslims' before 1871
Work of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
Work of Beck
Partition of Bengal and its Effects
Lucknow Pact, 1916
Pakistan Resolution, 1940 (h) Causes of Pakistan Demand (i) Dr. Latifs Scheme (j) The Aligarh
Scheme (k) Formula of Rajagopalachari (1) Cabinet Mission Scheme
(a) Dadabhai Naoroji
(b Gopal Krishan Gokhale
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Mahatma Gandhi
444-45 445-48 448-51 451-57
( rii j
Mayo's Resolution (1870)
Lytton's Change
Ripon (1882)
Resolution of 1912
Meston Settlement
(&\ Reforms of 19S5
(h) New Constitution
Reforms of Cornwallis
Lord Wellesley
Indian Civil Service Act
Aitchison Commission
Resolution of 1893
Islington Commission
Recommendations of 1918 (h) Lee Commission (1923) (i) Government of India Act, 1935 (j)
Services under the New Constitution of India
(k) Public Service Commissions
(1) Functions of Public Service Commissions
(m) Shortcomings
458-59 459
Presidency Towns
Non-Presidency Towns
Mayo's Resolution of 1870
Ripon's Resolution of 1881
Resolution of 1882
Decentralisation Commission Report (1909)
Resolution of 1918 (h) Under Dyarchy (i) Defects in the Present System
Early History of the Press up to 1822
Munro's Recommendations
Licensing Act of 1857
Act of 1867
Vernacular Press Act, 1878
The Newspapers (Incitement to Offences)
Act, 1908
The Indian Press Act, 1910
(h) Criticism of the Act of 1910
(i) The Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act,
( xiii )
(j) Press Laws Inquiry Committee, 1948 (k) Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951 (1) Press
Early History of Education
Wood's Despatch of L854
The Hunter Commission, 1882
Universities Act of 1904
Resolution of 1913
Calcutta University Commission
Sergeant Scheme for Education (h) Radhakrishnan Commission (1949) (i) University Grants
Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1774-1883)
The Brahmo Samaj
Prarthana Samaj
The Theosophical Society
Ramakrishna .Mission
The Dev Samaj
The Arya Samaj (h) The Sikhs
(i) The Parsees
(j) Christanity
(k) Social Development
^a) Situation up to 1835
The Afghan War I
Criticism of Afghan War I
Lord Lawrence's Policy of Masterly Inactivity
Lord Mayo (1869-72)
Lord Northbrook (1872-76)
Lord Lytton
(h) The Afghan War II
(i) Criticism of the Second Afghan War
Sind Frontier
The Punjab Frontier
The Forward Policy
Ring Fence Policy
Policy of Subordinate Isolation
Policy of Subordinate Union
British Paramouiitcy fn India
Minto's Udaipur Speech (November 1909) ^f) Chamber of Princes
496-97 497-98 498-99 500-510
545-46 546-47 547-48 548-53 552-53 553-54
( rln )
(g) Butler Committee Report
(h) All India Federation under the Government
of India Act, 1935 (i) Reorganisation of States (j) Accession of States
(i) Junagadh
(ii) Hyderabad (iii) Kashmir (k) Integration and Democratisation of States (!) The States Reorganisation
Commission and
Pages 554-56
557-58 560-62 5W-7S 565-68 568-73 573-78 578-80
India a Colony
Economic Condition
Economic Drain
(h) Favours to British Industries
(i) Railways
(j) Tke Civil Seniles
(k) Famines
Bengal Famine of 1769-70
Famine of 1860-1
Famine of 1865-6
Campbell Committee
Famine of 1868-70
Famine of 1873-4
Famine of 1876-8 (h) Strachey Commission (i) LyaU Commission
(j) Famine of 1900
(k) MacDonnel Commission
(I) Bengal Famine of 1943
The San th a Is" Rebellion (1855-73)
The Revolt of 1857-8
Strike of Bangal Indigo Cultivators
East Bengal (1872-76)
Maharashtra (1875-6)
Moplah Peasants
Riots in Assam
(h) The Punjab Land Alienation Act. 1900 {i) South India in Ferment (j) Champaran (1917-18)
( XV)
(k) Satyagraha ot Kaira (1) Molah Rebellion (1921) (m) Cliauri Chaura (1922} (n) Vizag Revolution
Satyarraha Struggle between 1921 and 1930
(p) Bardoli Satyagraha (1929-30)
(q) Revolts of Peasants in Indian States (r) Revolts under Communists (s) Revolt of Veera Gunnamma
(1940) (t) August Revolution and Peasants (u) Revolt of Telengana
The Communist Party of India
Meerut Conspiracy Case
The Communists and Government of India
First General Elections and Communists
Split in Communist Party (h) The Congress Socialist Party
(i) The Indian National Congress andthe Congress
Socialist Party
Party (j) Forward Bloc
Meaning of Renaissance in India
Sri Aurobindo on the Renaissance in India
Condition of India Before Renaissance
British Impact (c) The Indologists
Indian Writers
Rammohan Roy and Brahmo Samaj (h) The Prarthana Samaj
(i) The Arya Samaj
(j) Theosophical Society
(k) Ramakrishna Paramhams
Swami Vivekananda
(n) Vernacular Literature
(o) Spirit of Research and Discovery (p) Fine Arts
64I-6t>? 041
649 -50
653 653 653-54
663-66 666-69 669-71 671-7?
673-80 681-85
Permanent Settlement of Bengal
Ryotwari System
Mahalwari System
Taluqdari System
The Mughal Empire which had earned the admiration of contempo¬raries for its extensive territories,
military might and cultural accomplish ments disintegrated after the death of Aurangzeb. Within a short
span of about 50 years, nine Mughal Emperors occupied the throne in quick succession and were not
able to provide any effective government. Taking advantage of their weakness, many adventurers
carved out independeni principalities of their own and freed themselves from the central control.
Aurangzeb had created more problems during his reign than he was able to solve. It is true that some of
them he inherited, but many of them were his creation. Those together shook the Mughal Empire to its
very foundation. No wonder, the political and financial horizon at the time of his death betokened the
dark prospects of decline, decay and dissolution. The glory of the Mughal Empire was becoming past
history and its tragic end was in the offing. Stanley Lanepoole writes. "Even before the end of his reign,
Hindustan was in confusion and the signs of coming dissolution had appeared. As some imperial corpse,
preserved for ages in its dread seclusion, crowned and armed and still majestic, yet falls into dust at the
mere breath of heaven, so fell the Empire of the Mughals when the great name that guarded it was no
more. It was as though some splendid palace reared with infinite skill with the costliest stones and
precious metals of the earth had attained its perfect beauty only to collapse in undistinguishable ruin
when the insidious roots of the creeper sapped the foundation. Even if Aurangzeb had left a successor of
his own mantle and moral stature, it may be doubted whether the process of disintegration could have
been stayed. The disease was too far advanced for even the heroic surgery".
At the time of the death of Aurangzeb on 20 February 1707, the Mughal Empire consisted of 21 Subahs
(provinces): one in Afghanistan, 14 in North India and 6 in the Deccan. It embraced in the North Kashmir
and all Afghanistan from the Hindukush southwards to a line 36 miles North of Ghazni, on the West
coast stretched in theory to the Northern frontier of Goa and inland to Belgaum and the Tungabhadra
river.' No Emperor of India since the death of Asoka had ruled over such extensive territories. The years
1686-89 which saw the annexation of Bijapur and Golkunda and the apparent collapse of the Maratha
l^ower, marked the zenith of Mughal political ascendancy. However, the vast extent of his Empire was a
source of weakness and not strength. It was too large to be ruled by one man from one centre.
The religious policy of Aurangzeb affected the fortunes of the Mughal Empire. Religious persecution
acted as a provocation in the risings of the Satnamis, the Bundelas and the Sikhs. The fear of suppression
of Hinduism was an important factor. The urge to uphold Hindu Dharma stiffened the resistance of the
Marathas. The imposition of Jizya offend-Pl the sentiments and injured the material interests of
the Hindus.
1 —13 010
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Aurangzeb's zeal for Islam weakened the foundations of his multi-religious imperial structure. The
attempt to annex Marvvar was a grave mistake. It led to a long and costly war in Rajasthan. It alienated
the Rajputs whose political and military support had played a vital role in the consolidation and
maintenance of Mughal power for a century.
The Deccan war of Aurangzeb contributed substantially to the dec¬line of the Mughal Empire. That
endless war exhausted the treasury. The Government became bankrupt. The soldiers starving from
arrears of pay, mutinied. The Maratha country became "devoid of trees and bare of crops, their place
being taken by the bones of men and beasts." In two years (1702-4), plague and famine took a toll of
over two million souls. The Deccan war affected the administration and economy of North India.
Aurangzeb's long absence from his capital weakened the Central Government in its relations with the
provinces. The provincial Governors (Subahdars), largely free from his supervision and control, ceased to
have respect or fear for imperial authority. The administra¬tive machinery in the provinces was
weakened because their best soldiers, highest officers and all their collected revenues were sent to the
Deccan. The older and more settled, peaceful and prosperous provinces in the North were left- to be
governed by 'minor officers with small contingents and incomes quite inadequate for maintaining
central authority. All classes of lawless men began to raise their heads. Desultory war ruined large parts
of Rajasthan. Some Rajput Zamindars created disturbances in Malwa. The plundering Maratha bands
penetrated into Malwa and Gujarat. The Jats carried on raids in the Agra region. The Sikhs fought against
the Mughals and the hill Rajas in the Punjab. In Bengal, there were hostilities between the English
traders and the Mughal officers. In his exile in the Deccan, Aurangzeb lost his grip over the
administra¬tion of those provinces which formed the backbone of the Mughal Empire.
A large portion of the income of the Mughal state was spent on the army on account of constant
warfare. The number of Mansabdars rose from 8000 under Shah Jahan to 14,449 under Aurangzeb. The
army bill of Aurangzeb was roughly double of that of Shah Jahan. Out of 14,449 Mansabdars under
Aurangzeb, about 7000 were paid through Jagirs and 7450 were paid in cash. The Mansabdari system
reached a crisis as a result of the enormous increase in the number of the Mansab¬dars who had to be
paid through Jagirs. As the number of Jagirs was not adequate, many Mansabdars had to wait for some
time before they could get Jagirs. Even when Jagirs were available in the Deccan, the Government could
not always ensure security of tenure because those were often exposed to the risk of sudden
occupation by the Marathas. Constant military operations in the Deccan and disturbances and
law¬lessness in the North Indian provinces, reduced cultivation in both regions and the peasants were
jiot able to pay their full "dues to the Jagirdars. The uncertainty about the income from their Jagirs
weakened the numerical strength of the army. Large-scale corruption crept into the Mansabdari system
and sapped the foundations of the Mughal military power.
War, disorder and official exactions injured trade and industry. Trade almost ceased in the Deccan. The
Maratha raiders made it almost impossible for caravans to travel North of the Narmada without strong
The Mughal nobles who were the pillars of the Empire, succumbed
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
to the fatal vice of love of ease and luxury and became "pale persons in muslin petticoats". Immigration
from Persia and Central Asia almost came to a stop. Alienated by Aurangzeb's policy of suspicion and
hostility, the Rajputs were reluctant to serve the Mughal Empire. Moreover, Raj¬put society no longer
produced warrior-statesmen like Man Singh and Raja Jai Singh. High-spirited, talented and energetic
officers found themselves checked, discouraged and driven to sullen inactivity. Aurang-ceb, in his later
years, could bear no contradiction, could hear no un¬palatable truth, but surrounded himself with
smooth-tongued and pom¬pous echoes of his own voice. His ministers became no better than clerks
passively registering his edicts. Such nobles could not carry the burden of a great Empire. The only
survivor of the old nobility in the last years of Aurangzeb's reign was A sad Khan about whom Aurangzeb
said, "There is not, nor will there ever be, any Wazir better than Asad Khan."
There was inefficiency In the Mughal army. It was composed of diverse racial elements and religious
groups such as Turks, Afghans, Raj¬puts and Hindustanis. It was a mercenary force. The real allegiance
of the troops was not to the imperial throne but to the persons in immedi¬ate command. If a prince, or
a Mansabdar or a tributary chief rebelled against the Mughal monarch, he usually carried his troops with
him. The infantry was practically useless. There was no naval wing. The pro¬portion of officers to men
on active service was very low. The Mughal army moved like an unwieldy city and was incapable of swift
action or brilliant adventure. The camp-followers were more than the combatants. Luxuries of cajnp life
demoralised the nobles who were the leaders of the army. Ease-loving commanders could not maintain
a high standard of discipline among the troops. There was no commissariat service. Each man had to
make his own arrangemen' for iransporr. Supplies were provided by large Bazars marching with the
army. Antiquated weapons were used and antiquated methods of warfare were followed. Aurangzeb
made no attempt to improve the Mughal army except that he doubled the number of Mansabdars and
added to the number of troops.
At the end of Aurangzeb's reign, the Mughal Empire "was in a state of hopeless decay; administration,
culture, economic life, military strength and social organisation—all seemed to be hastening to utter
ruin- and dissolution".
Bahadur Shah I (1707-12)
In the closing years of his life, Aurangzeb was perturbed by the gloomy prospects of a bloody war among
his sons. Therefore, he attemp¬ted an equitable distribution of the Empire among his sons. He intended
that his eldest son Muazzam should receive 12 Subahs with his capital at Delhi. Mohammad Azam
should have Agra, the Subahs of the Deccan, Mahva and Gujarat. His youngest son Kam Buksh was to
have the pro¬vinces of Bijapur and Hyderabad. Though the will of Aurangzeb is considered to be of
doubtful veracity, the presence of Muazzam in Kabul, deputation of Kam Baksh by his father to Bijapur
and that of Moham¬mad Azam to Malwa, lend support to the presumption that Aurangzeb d,d not want
his sons to fight among themselves after his death.
However, the wish of Aurangzeb was nor respected. When Aurang-
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
7eb died, Wazir Asad Khan who was the master of the situation, assembled the other Amirs and in
consultation with them, sent messengers to Mohammad Azam asking him to return post-haste to
Ahmednagar. Mohammad Azam arrived there and was proclaimed king on 14 March 1707. Most of the
officers and commanders tendered their submission to the new Emperor but there were others who
were indifferent towards him. Even Asad Khan became lukewarm later on. The disqualification of
Mohammad Azam was that he had Shia inclinations. Unmindful of the attitude of the nobles.
\Mohammad Azam decided to march straight to Agra.
Muazzam was not sitting idle. He left Kabul and arrived at Pul-i-Shah Daulah where he celebrated his
accession and took up the title of Bahadur Shah. He had already conciliated Budh Singh Hada of Bundi
and Bijay Singh Kachhwaha of Amber and through them had enlisted a large number of Rajputs. His
second son lost no time and marched towards Agra where he joined his father. The capital fell into the
hands of Muazzam who thereby scored a march over his rival. The rival armies of Muazzam and Azam
faced each other at Jajau near Samugarh. There was a bloody battle in which Azam and his two sons
Bidar Bakht and Wala Tah were killed.
Muazzam had still to fight against Kam Baksh who had already got the Khutba recited and coins struck in
his name in the Deccan. Bahadur Shah at first followed a policy of conciliation towards Kam Baksh, but
when that failed, he marched to Hyderabad and arrived there in Janu¬ary 1709. On the eve of the
decisive battle which occurred on 13 Janu¬ary 1709, the position of Kam Baksh was pitiable. He had
neither men nor money. However, both Kam Baksh and his son fought bravely. They were wounded and
captured. Kam Baksh was brought to Bahadur Shah in a palanquin and Bahadur Shah was very
affectionate towards him but Kam Baksh died at night. Thus ended the war of succession and Bahadur
Shah became the undisputed lord of the Mughal Empire.
Immediately after his victory, Mohammad Azam Bahadur Shah con¬ferred new titles and higher ranks
on his supporters, Munim Khan and his son Nairn Khan. Munim Khan was appointed Wazir. However,
be¬ing a man of conciliatory nature, Bahadur Shah invited to his court the associates of his rival and not
only forgave them for their opposition to him but also gave them their due share in die Government.
Asad Khan, the Wazir of Aurangzeb, was offered a new office of Wakil-i-Mutlaq and his son Zulfiqar Khan
was made the Bakshi. However, by investing the office of the Chief Minister in two persons, Bahadur
Shah opened the flood-gates of intrigue and contest for supreme power in the Gov¬ernment. Though in
keeping with the nature of the new Emperor, this compromise gave birth to a tradition which was
pregnant with poten¬tialities of harm. The rivalry of Munim Khan and Asad Khan was re¬lieved for the
time being by sending Asad Khan to Delhi and heaping on him a further appointment of the Governor of
that city. Asad Khan's family had also been in possession of the Subadari of the Deccan to which the
Wakil-i-Mutlaq and his son clung.
When Bahadur Shah ascended the throne, he was more than 63 and he had passed the age when he
could be expected to show initiative in any work. He was a man of mild and equitable temper, learned,
dignified and generous. He was incapable of saying no to anybody and his idea of statesmanship was to
let matters drift and patch up a tempo¬rary peace by humouring everybody without facing issues
and saving
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
future trouble by making decisions promptly and courageously. Though he did not suffer from any vice,
his complacency and negligence earned for him the title of Shah-i-Bekhabar .(Heedless King). It was
during his reign that intrigues began to increase at the royal court and he felt that he was too weak to
suppress them. Though not a great sovereign, he was still more successful than his successor .in
maintaining the dignity of the Empire. He was profuse in the grant of titles and rewards and did not keep
tight control over the administration.
Dr. A.L. Srivastava writes about Bahadur Shah, "He followed his father's policy of religious intolerance,
retained the Jizya and did not •ippoint the Hindus to high posts." This is considered to be an extreme
view of Bahadur Shah. He was better than his father in his religious policy. If he had been in the prime of
his life, he mighi have done much to arrest the progress'of the dissolution of the Mughal Empire by his
conciliatory and tolerant policy.
Bahadur Shah was a Shia by faith and that led to the growth of two parties in the court. The Irani party
consisted of nobles like Asad Khan and his son ZulBqar Khan who professed the Shia faith. The Turaiii
party consisted of powerful nobles like Chin Qilch Khan and Ghaziud-din Feroz Jang who followed the
Sunni beliefs of Islam. This political strife between the parties further weakened the Mughal Empire.
The Rajputs
Bahadur Shah had to deal with many problems. As regards the Rajputs, the embers of disaffection were
still there. The Rathor ruler, Ajit Singh, had expelled the imperial officers after the death of Aurang-/eb
and occupied his capital Jodhpur. The Rajput ruler of Amber, Jay Singh, had offended Bahadur Shah by
helping Muhammad Azam. Rana Amar Singh of Udaipur was not friendly towards Bahadur Shah. The
ruler of Kotah was in the Deccan with Zulfiqar Khan and the ruler of Bundi was with Bahadur Shah. The
strategic position of Raj¬put states demanded immediate action. Bahadur Shah resolved to march to
Jodhpur by way of Amber and Ajmer. His departure from Agra cowed down the spirits of the Rana of
Udaipur who sent his brother to Bahadur Shah along with a letter of congratulations and numerous
costly presents. As regards Amber, it was given to Bijay Singh who was a rival claimant to Amber. Ajit
Singh of Jodhpur was defeated and the fort of Merta was captured. Ajit Singh surrendered and he was
not only pardoned but also given a special robe of honour and title of Maharaja and his rank was fixed at
3500 Zat and 3000 Sawar. His two sons were also enrolled Mansabdars. However, the peace restored in
Raj-putana did not prove to be enduring. Ajit Singh, Jay Singh and Amar Singh formed a confederacy
with the object of completely rooting out the Mughal influence from Rajputana. The allies invested
Jodhpur and compelled its Faujdar to abandon the fort. They marched towards Agra and defeated the
Faujdar of Hindaun and Bayana. However, they were aefeated by the Faujdars of Mewat and Narnaul.
Bahadur Shah assem¬bled armies against the Rajputs but at the same time followed a policy of
conciliation. The result was that Jay Singh and Ajit Singh were re-stored to their former ranks. Bahadur
Shah might have taken action Against the Rajputs but the situation.Jn the Punjab precipitated his feparture. In his Rajput policy, Bahadur .Shah was firm in suppressing (he insurgents but he was not
against a compromise with them.
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
The Sikhs
Bahadur Shah had to deal wtih the Sikhs in the Punjab. Under the leadership of Gobind Singh, the Sikhs
had carried a fierce struggle against Aurangzeb, but after his death, Bahadur Shah became friendly with
the Sikh Guru. The Guru met Bahadur Shah at Agra and was received with honours due to him. He was
successfully persuaded to accompany the Mughal army to the 'i3eccan. On reaching Nander, the Guru
separated himself from the Emperor and decided to pass the rest of his life there. However, he was
murdered on 17 November 1708. Banda Bahadur as¬sumed the military leadership of the Sikhs at that
stage. He collected thousands of Sikhs from various parts of the Punjab to fight against the Muslims and
captured Kaithal, Samana, Shahabad, Ambala, Kapurj and Sadhura. His greatest victory was against
Wazir Khan, Governor of Sir-hind whom he defeated and killed. After a wholesale massacre of the
Muslim population of Sirhind, Banda Bahadur captured Saharanpur. In this way, the entire territory
between the Sutlej and Jamuna passed into the hands of the Sikhs. The Sikh forces reached the outskirts
of Delhi and took to plunder.
When the inhabitants of Sirhind, Thaneshwar etc. represented their rales of woe and misery to Bahadur
Shah, he hurried to the scene of Uouble in June 1710. He bypassed Delhi, prohibited his soldiers from
visiting the capital and issued trders to the Hindus in his train to shave off their beards so that they may
be distinguished from the enemy. Extensive preparations were made to suppress the insurrection. In the
lace of the heavy odds against them, the Sikhs were unable to keep firm to their ground. They were
driven out of Thaneshwar, ousted from Sirhind, expelled from Lahore, closely invested at Lohgarh and
were made to suffer crushing defeats at numerous places. However, they did not give up their plan of
harassing the imperialists and plundering those who sided with them. On account of the differences
between the two Mughal generals, Banda was able to effect his escape. There were fresh disturbances
in the Bari Doab, but the Sikhs were defeated. Banda was exposed to a grave danger. However, the preoccupation of the Mughals elsewhere saved the Sikhs for the rime being.
The Deccan
As regards the Deccan policy of Bahadur Shah, it appears that he was not able to formulate a clear-cut
and decisive policy. After the death of Kam Baksh, Zulfiqar Khan was appointed the Viceroy of the
Deccan. He favoured conciliation with the Marathas, but the Vazir Munim Khan made a different
approach. Bahadur Shah released Sahu, son of Sambhaji and grandson of Shivaji. That was done on the
suggestion of Zulfiqar Khan. Sahu was given his former Mansab but the Emperor was reluc¬tant to
recognise his claims to Chauth and Sardeshmukhi on the six Subahs of the Deccan. This did not work and
the Marathas restarted their plundering raids. They ravaged even the Jaghrs of Zulfiqar Khan. Hisrepresentative secretly concluded a pact with Sahu by which his claims were conceded but that was not
confirmed by the Emperor. The result was that the Deccan remained a scene of confusion and
Bahadur Shah died on 27 February 1712 and with him disappeared even the last semblance of the glory
and greatness of the Mughals. He held the reins of administration in his hand. His word was final in the
state. He rose high above party factions and court intrigues. Unlike his successors, he cannot be said to
have played the role of a mere puppet.
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
When Banda escaped capture, Bahadur Shah reprimanded his favourite prime Minister Munim Khan. He
showed firmness and discretion in jiis dealings with the Rajputs but he failed to solve the Rajput
problem. He might have succeeded in suppressing the Sikhs but before he could do he died. Though his
attitude towards the Hindus was less intolerant ihan that of Aurangzeb, he did not abolish Jizya or cancel
discrimi¬natory regulation against the Hindus. He failed to arrest the accelera¬tion of the financial crisis.
He granted Jagirs recklessly and gave pro¬motions and rewards to all and sundry. The result was that
before his death, the royal treasury was empty and the salary of artillery men had fallen into arrears.
About Bahadur Shah,' Sidney Owen writes, "He was the last Em¬peror of whom anything favourable can
be said. Henceforth, the rapid and complete abasement and practical dissolution of the Empire are
typified in the incapacity and political insignificance of its sovereigns." Khafi Khan observes, "For
generosity, munificence, boundless good nature, extenuation of faults and forgiveness of offences, very
few monarchs have been found equal to Bahadur Shah in the histories of past times and especially in
the race of Taimur. But though he had no vice in his character, such complacency and such negligence
were exhibited in the protection of the state and in the Government and management of the country,
that witty .sarcastic people found the date of his accession in the words. 'Shah-i-Bekhabar (Heedless
King)'." According to Irvine, "Bahadur Shah was a man of mild and equitable temper, learned, digni¬fied
and generous to a fault."
Jahandar Shah (1712-13)
The death of Bahadur Shah was followed by a civil war among his four sons, Jahandar Shah, Azim-ushShan, Jahan Shah and Rafi-ush-Shan. The contestants were in such indecent haste about deciding the
question of succession that the dead body of Bahadur Shah was not buried for about a month. Jahandar
Shah came out successful with the help of Zulfiqar Khan. Azim-ush-Shan was defeated .-;nd he
disappeared' in a sand-storm which swept the bed of the Ravi. Jahan Shah was killed in the encounter
with Zulfiqar Khan. Rafi-ush-Shan was deserted and de¬ceived but he fought valiantly and faced death
with the supreme courage of a soldier.
Jahandar Shah was about 52 years of age at the time of his accession lo the throne. He celebrated his
success by making new appointments and distributing largesses to his supporters. Zulfiqar Khan became
the Chief Minister. His father Asad Khan retained the title of Wakil-i-Mutlaq. The friends of Zulfiqar Khan
were introduced into other high offices. The new reign did not stop with merely rewarding friends and
supporters, but also took to execution, imprisonment and confiscation of property of those who had
joined the vanquished princes. The new Wazir fortified his position by surrounding himself wiih his
supporters and eliminated opposition by destroying the unfriendly ones.
The new Emperor moved from Lahore to Delhi and the next few months in the capital "were given up to
dissipation" and the city "for a time fell under the domination of the Lord of Misrule. Grand
illumi¬nations took place three times in every month. So much oil was used that it rose to be half ,seer
weight the rupee; then all the oil being expended, they had recourse to clarified butter until it too
ceased to be procurable. Grain also grew very dear."
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Sidney Owen writes, "Jahandar Shah was an utterly degenerate re¬presentative of the house of Timur,
Babar and Akbar. Frivolous, pro¬fligate, cruel and cowardly, servilely devoted to a favourite lady Lai
Kanwar whose relatives he promoted wholesale to high honours to the disgust of the old nobles and the
able and experienced servants of the state, he soon became generally odious and despicable." Jahandar
Shah indulged in acts which for their impropriety, indecency and even cruelty, were unprecendented
and helped considerably to bring down the pres. tige of royalty. The Emperor did not even desist from
visiting the vege¬table market in the company of Lai Kanwar in a bullock cart and exposed himself to the
abuses of the women selling vegetables. On one of them, Zuhra, was bestowed high rank and Jagirs
were assigned to her. Her retinue came into clash with that of Chin Qilch Khan who later on became
Nizam-ul-Mulk. The behaviour of Lai Kanwar and her hold over the Emperor caused anger and
estrangement in the royal family. The lack of decorum which the Emperor exhibited in the com¬pany of
Lai Kanwar and her relations, the low musicians who gathered every night to drink with the Emperor in
the palace, created a strong feeling of resentment and all respect or fear for the Emperor ceased. The
nobles and men of position shunned the company of the Emperor.
The Emperor set the evil example' of a licentious and effeminate court life and vitiated the morals of the
ruling class. His influence made the recovery of the old imperial glory impossible. He was reduced to a
puppet. All authority was wielded by the Wazir, Zulfiqar Khan and the ministers who passed on their
duties to their deputies. Responsi-bilities were divided' and offices were transferred from person to
person according to the whim and fancy of the minister in power. The tem¬porary incumbents used
those opportunities to make rapid gains. The result was that administration was neglected and disorder
spread. AH sense of loyalty vanished. During his reign of eleven. months, Jahandar Shah squandered
away most of the treasures accumulated by his pre¬decessors. The gold and silver and other precious
articles collected since the time of Babar were thrown away.
The Emperor' was not alone in introducing chaos and disaffection. Zulfiqar Khan followed suit and left
most of his official work to a favourite, Subhag Chand, who by his overbearingness offended all and
sundry. A feud developed between Zulfiqar Khan and Khan Jahan Kokaltash, the foster-brother of
Jahandar Shah, who exploited the affec¬tion of the Emperor for him to supplant the former in the
ministership. All this was happening at the capital, aggravating the weakness of the central authority.
Zulfiqar Khan was overtaken with senile decay. By delegating all his authority to Subhag Chand, he lost
all the influence he had built up. He was bitterly hated like his master. With such persons at the helm of
affairs, the fate of the Empire can better be imagine*! than described.
When such was the state of affairs at the capital, Farrukh-siyar, the second son of Azim-ush-Shan, took
advantage of it. He won over the support of Sayyid Hussain Ali, the Governor of Patna and Sayyid
Abdullah, the Governor of Allahabad. He advanced with a large follow¬ing to contest the throne with his
uncle. He overcame the opposition of his cousin Azizud-din who blocked his way at Khajuha. Near Agra,
he confronted Jahandar Shah. Jahandar Shah deserted the army znd fled from the battlefield in the
company of Lai Kanwar to Delhi in a bullock cart. Zulfiqar Khan was already making fast for the
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Tahandar Shah took protection with Asad Khan, the Vakil-i-Mutlaq, who betrayed him to his enemies.
For such an act of treachery, Asad Khan nd his son Zulfiqar Khan, had to pay dearly. Asad Khan suffered
dis¬grace and Zulfiqar Khan was put to death. Jahandar Shah was also put ^ death on 11 February 1713.
Irvine writes, "jahandar Shah was the first sovereign of the house 0f Timur who proved himself
absolutely unfitted to rule because of his extreme profligacy, cruel nature, shallowness of mind and
cowardice." Iradat Khan, a contemporary historian, wrote about Jahandar Shah, "He was a weak man,
devoted to pleasure, who gave himself no trouble about state affairs, or to gain the attachment of any
of the nobility." Warid attributed the fall of Jahandar Shah to the "morning slumbering and mid-night
carousing". In the reign of Jahandar Shah, "the owl dwelt in the eagle's nest and the crow took the place
of the nightingale." Khafi KJian wrote, "In the brief reign of Jahandar Shah, violence and debau¬chery
had full sway. It was a fine time for minstrels and singers and all (he tribes of dancers and actors. There
seemed to be a likelihood that Qazis would turn toss-pots, and Muftis became tipplers. AH the brothers
and relatives, close and distant, of Lai Kanwar, received Mansabs of four or five thousand, presents of
elephants, drums and jewels, and were raised to dignity in their tribe. Worthy; talented and learned
men were driven away and bold and impudent wits and tellers of fictitious anecdotes gathered round."
Farrukh-siyar (1713-19)
At the time of his accession to the throne, Farrukh-siyar was a young-raan of 30. Although he was
extremely handsome, he was utterly weak, thoughtless and devoid of physical and moral courage. He
was faithless to promises, ungrateful to benefactors, tortuous in intrigues, cowardly and cruel. He was
led by personal favourites, Mir Jumla and Khan Dauran Khan. He started picking up quarrels with the
Sayyid Brothers and tried to txercise real power. As the Sayyid Brothers had put him on the throne, they
demanded complete control over the Government, parti¬cularly in the matter of appointments and
distribution of the spoils of victory. From day to day* the conflict became more and more bitter.
Farrukh-siyar resorted to treachery and intrigue, of the dirtiest type to dispose of the Sayyid Brothers.
When Farrukh-siyar ascended the throne, he appointed Sayyid Abdul¬lah as Prime Minister with the
title of Qutb-ul-Mulk. He appointed Husain Ali as Mir Bakshi with the title of Amir-ul-Umara. During his
rule of about seven years, Farrukh-siyar was constantly afflicted by mental con-net caused by his will to
assert his power and prerogative and by his concern not to wound the susceptibilities of his
benefactors,' the Sayyid Brothers. His weakness of will prevented him from taking bold deci¬sions and
suppressing his enemies. He proved himself unfit to be a sovereign.
Military. Campaigns
Three military campaigns were undertaken during his reign to sup¬press the spirit of defiance
prevailing in Northern India. In Maiwar, Jit Singh had reasserted his independence and even
occupied Ajmer. j Usf'n Ali marched against him and pursued him from pillar to post, tin
A^il SinSh begged for peace which was granted on the condi-n that he gave one of his daughters in
marriage to the Emperor, sent
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
his son Abhay Singh to the court and promised to attend in person when¬ever summoned.
One of the greatest achievements of Farrukh-siyar was the defeat of the Sikhs under Banda Bahadur.
Taking advantage of the chaos which prevailed after the death of Bahadur Shah, the Sikhs under Banda
Baha¬dur had increased their power. Farrukh-siyar decided to suppress their power. He appointed
Abdul Samad as the Governor of Lahore in 1714 with specific instructions to crush the Sikhs. In the
meanwhile, dissen¬sions occurred in the ranks of the Sikhs with the result that a large number of Sikh
soldiers withdrew their support from Banda Bahadur. The Mughal Governor took full advantage of the
new development and compelled Banda Bahadur to evacuate Lohgarh and retreat 10 Gurdas-pur. Even
there he was not allowed to live'in peace. The place was stormed and Banda was forced to surrender in
December 1715. Along-with his 740 followers, he was taken prisoner and brought to Delhi where he was
brutally put to death. V.A. Smith writes, "Banda was executed with fiendish tortures".*
The third military project related to the suppression of the Tats who had become strong under the
leadership of Churaman who had started levying unauthorised road-tolls, terrorised the local Jagirdars
and constructed a stronghold at Thun. Raja Jay Singh pressed him hard and Churaman approached the
Wazir to secure pardon for him and the same was given.
Party Politics
Party politics formed an important phase in the court life during the reign of Farrukh-siyar. There was
jealousy and rivalry among the nobles belonging to different factions, particularly the Turan's, the Trans,
the Afghans and Hindustanis. The Turanis had come from Trans-Oxiana and they professed the Sunni
faith. The Iranis had migrated from the Eastern and Western provinces of Iran and were Shias. The
Afghans had come from the mountainous border regions across the Indus and many of them belonged
to the Rohilla tribe. They were mostly Sun-nis. Among the Hindustani nobles were Muslim families who
had settled in India for many generations and were jealous of the new arrivals. These factions remained
under control till the death of Bahadur Shah I. However, after that, their importance and influence
increased because every rival claimant to the imperial throne asked for their help. Each faction tried to
establish its control over the person of the Emperor and was prepared to adopt any means to achieve its
objective. These parties conformed neither to religion nor to race nor even to nationality. As to
principles, there were none whatsoever. It were the individuals and their satellites who mattered. Their
governing passion .was self-interest and fheir guiding maxim was personal aggrandisement. None cared
for the fairness or foulness of the means to achieve its end. The repercus-srons of such display of rivalry
and disunity were far-reaching on the fortunes of the Empire and disastrous for Farrukh-siyar.
The Mughal imperial court was the centre of intrigues and counter-intrigues by one party against the
other. The palace revolutions of king-making were the work of the Hindustani party under the
leadership of the Sayyid Brothers, while the more effective and real revolution by which was brought
about the fall of the Sayyid Brothers was the work of the Irani or Turani party, also called "Emperor's
friends." This tri¬umph of the king's friends over the king-makers was of verv great im-
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
portance .in history. Asaf Jah and his brother Mohammad Amin Khan thus gained ascendancy later in
the court and became the pillars of the Mughal imperial court. None of these parties had any solid
national programme before them which could have given them the name of political parties. They, were
only party factions which concerned them-selves merely with efforts for their personal ascendancy and
achievement of their selfish ends. The worst consequence of this party politics was that the Mughal
imperial Court became a hot-bed of intrigues which produced confusion and chaos in the Court and thus
resulted in corrup¬tion and inefficiency in the entire governmental machinery of the Empire.
Plot against Sayyid Brothers
Farrukh-siyar participated in three plots against the Sayyid Brothers. When Husain Ali was deputed to
lead the imperial forces to quell the insurrection in Rajputana, secret letiers were written to Ajit Singh
Rathor. the rebel Raja of Jodhpur, promising him rich reward if he did away with Husain Ali. However,
the plot failed. Ajit Singh submitted and passed on the letters of Farrukh-siyar to Husain Ali.
Another plot was hatched. Nizam-ul-Mulk, the Viceroy of the Dec-can, was recalled and the province
was put under the charge of Husain Ali. When Husain Ali was on the way to the South, Daud Khan,
Deputy Governor of the Deccan. was secretly instigated to obstruct him. However, Daud Khan was
defeated and killed and the plot failed.
An attempt was made on the life of Saiyad Abdullah Khan under the very nose of the Emperor. At the
Nauroz ceremonies, the Wazir Abdullah Khan was to be surrounded and assassinated or imprisoned.
However, the plot miscarried. Abdullah Khan came to know of the trap and overawed Farrukh-siyar by a
large massing of the troop* in advance.
Prof. S.R. Sharma writes, "In the face of such persistent dangers, the Sayyid\ Brothers would have been
fools if they also did not make efforts to weaken, outwit or overawe their enemies." The result was that
there were manoeuvres and counter-manoeuvres. Farrukh-siyar tried one trusted noble after another
to, lay hold of Abdullah Khan whiler-his brother Husain Ali was in the Deccan, hut none had the courage
to carry out his nefarious design. Raja Ajit Singh, the father-in-law of Farrukh-siyar, was called for help
by the Emperor. The Raja knev the character of his son-in-law. He came to Delhi but he threw in his lot
with Abdullah Khan. Even Nizam-ul-Mulk and his cousin Muhammad Amin Khan turned against the
Emperor. When' the imperial officers were fighting against the rebellious Jats, their chieftain Churaman
Jat was helped secretly by Abdullah Khan.
The relations between the Emperor and the Sayyid Brothers were very much strained. There was an
improvement for some time when Mir Jumla, the favourite of the Emperor, was sent away to Patna-artd
Husain Ali left for the Deccan as the Subedar of the six Subahs of the Deccan. However, the fire of
misunderstanding was fanned to full fury again when Mir Jumla came back jEroin Patna and Nizam-ulMulk from the Deccan and Inayatullah Kashmiri was appointed Diwan-i-Khalsa, much against the wishes
of Sayyid Abdullah Khan. The quest by Farrukh-siyar ? ua ?ubstitute for Abdullah Khan brought the
quarrel to a head. Abdul¬lah Khan succeeded in weaning away from the side of the Emperor all n>s
supporters. He then sent express messages to his brother Husain Ali 'n the Deccan asking him to
return to Delhi as quicklv as possible.
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
To provide against all eventualities, Husain Ali opened negotiations with Peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath who
demanded the recognition of Sahu's succession to Shivaji's kingdom, the right of levying Chauth and
Sardesh-mukhi on the six provinces of the Deccan, confirmation of recent Maratha conquests in Berar,
Gondwana, Karnatak and the return of Sahu's mother and his family to the Deccan. In lieu of those
concessions, the Peshwa promised to pay a tribute or Peshkush for Sardeshmukhi, to preserve and
guard peace in the Deccan and in return for Chauth place 15,000 Maratha horsemen at the disposal of
Husain Ali. As tm. terms were advantageous to both the parties, the bargain was struck. When those
were placed before the Emperor, he rejected them. When Husain Ali reached Delhi in 1719, he resolved
to end the sorry state of affairs. In his army were 11,000 Maratha troops led by Peshwa Balaji
Vishwanath, Sena-pati Khande Rao Dabhade, Santaji Bhonsle and others. The city was thrown into a
state of alarm and so was the Emperor. He made desperate efforts to undo the mischief by placating the
Sayyid Brothers, but they were impervious to tears and threats alike. The Emperor was comple¬tely
isolated. Even his father-in-law, Ajit Singh, deserted him. The fort and palace in Delhi were cleared of the
partisans of the Emperor who had taken refuge in women's compartments. He was overpowered,
drag¬ged out, blinded and confined in a "bare, dark unfurnished hole". He was subjected to all sorts of
tortures by his jailors. Bitter and over-salted dishes were served to him. Even slow poisoning was
attempted for some time. However, he survived. At last, executioners were sent and they strangled him
to death on 28 April 1719. This was the first instance of a Mughal sovereign losing his life at the hands of
a noble and the Sayyid Brothers had to pay for their crime with their bjood.
About Farrukh-siyar, Irvine writes, "Farrukh-siyar was feeble, coward¬ly and contemptible and strong
neither for evil nor for good and his attempt to assert his own power made his reign throughout an
agitated and perplexing one, ending in another imperial tragedy." Again, "The way of doing what had
become almost a necessity was unduly harsh, too utterly regardless of the personal dignity of the fallen
monarch. Blinding a deposed king was the fixed usage, for that the Sayyids are not especially to blame.
But the severity of. the subsequent confinement was excessive and the taking of the captive's life was
an extremity entirely uncalled for." Khafi Khan says, "Farrukh-siyar had no will of his own. He was young,
inexperienced in business and inattentive to business of state. He had growrf' up in Bengal far away
from his grandfather and father. He was entirely dependent on the opinions of others for he had no
resolu¬tion or discretion. By the help of fortune, he had seized the crown. The timidity of his character
contrasted with the vigour of .the race of Timur and he was not cautious in listening to the words of
artful men". It is said of Farrukh-siyar that "like all weak men, he was swayed by the latest adviser and
having resolved to do a thing could never hold to it long but soon sank into despair and went back on his
undertakings. Constitutionally incapable of governing by his own will and controlling others, he would
not trust any able tgent, but was easily inspired by a childish suspicion of his ministers and enticed to
enter into plots for their overthrow." Dr. A.L. Srivastava observes about Farrukh-siyar, "He had proved to
be the most. incapable ruler of the house of Babar 'hat had so far occupied the throne of Delhi."
It is worthy of notice that during the reign of Farrukh-siyar, the Mughal Empire drifted towards
dissolution.. There was disorder every¬where. Chiefs, landholders and leaders of tribal bands
began to defy
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
the authority of the Government. There were fights in the streets of pelhi among the followers of
different nobles. Roads became infested with thieves and robbers. The Emperor himself set the example
of mis¬appropriating provincial revenues on their way to the imperial treasury and his example was
followed by ambitious adventurers. The orders of the Government began to be openly flouted. Officers
left their posts without permission. Rules and regulations were neglected. Corruption and inefficiency
prevailed. As troops were not paid, they mutinied.
From the deposition of Farrukh-siyar on 28 February
1719 to the
accession of Muhammad Shah on 24 September 1719, three
princes were
raised to the throne like bubbles of water rising to the surface, only
to end their ephemeral existence in a very short time.
After the deposition of Farrukh-siyar, the Sayyid. Brothers raised to the throne a puppet named Rafi-udDarajat. The Marathas were per¬mitted to return to the Deccan. They carried with them three Farmans
granting the concessions demanded by them.
The cruelty of the Sayyid Brothers towards Farrukh-siyar was resented by the people of Delhi. Ajit Singh
was subjected to insult and ridicule. The rivals of the Sayyid Brothers set up Niku-siyar, another puppet
Emperor, at Agra. Added to that was the growing mistrust and rivalry between the Sayyid Brothers
themselves. Abdullah Khan favoured settle¬ment with Niku-siyar but Husain Ali insisted upon a fight
with him and his view prevailed. Meanwhile, the health of Rafi-ud-Darajat began to decline fast and on
his suggestion the Sayyid Brothers raised to the throne his elder brother Rafi-ud-Daulah on 6 June 1719.
The new Mughal Emperor was virtually a prisoner in the charge of Sayyid Himmat Khan Barha. He was
not permitted to attend the Friday prayers, not to go out hunting nor even to converse with any nobles,
except in the presence of his custodian. He fell ill and died on 17 Sep¬tember 1719.
Muhammad Shah (1719-48)
After the death of Rafi-ud-Daulah, Muhammad Shah was put on the throne by the Sayyid Brothers. He
was the fourth son of Emperor Bahadur Shah I. It is said of him that never before a more care-free
sovereign had sat on the throne of Delhi. He was a young boy of 17 who had passed most of his time
within the four walls of the palace, in the society of eunuchs and ladies of the harem. None had cared
for his education because none thought that he would sit on the throne of Delhi. Though fairly
intelligent, he never attempted to. make use of his wits. He was of a generous disposition. He never
gave his consent to the shedding of blood or doing harm to the creatures of God. He was timid and
wavering. He was a lover of pleasure, indolent and addicted to loose habits. He made it a rule of his life
never to decide anything for him¬self. He left that work for his favourites. He readily listened to the
advice of others without pausing to" reflect upon the consequences of accepting it. He had no initiative,
nor even the dash of his predecessors. He was utterly ignorant of the elementary rules of the game of
politics and the pity was that he was not anxious to know them. Rustam Ali writes, "Muhammad Shah
was negligent of his duties; but the fact is that he did not know if he had any duties to perform.'"
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Muhammad Shah took no interest in the affairs of the Government. He spent his time in frivolous
pursuits surrounded by favourites. He left everydiing to his Wazir Qamar-ud-din Khan, son of Mir
Muham¬mad Amin Khan. Unfortunately, the Wazir was also an indolent, pro crastinating and pleasureloving person. Delhi was left without a Government. The provincial governments got no help from the
Centre in the hour of their need. When Nadir Shah threatened Afghanistan and the Mughal Governor of
Kabul asked for help, nobody cared for his request. The leading nobles were jealous of the power of the
Wazir and intrigued against the Mughal Empire with its enemies. They shirk¬ed all military tasks
involving any risk. None of them was willing to face the Marathas. They invented excuses when they
were asked to proceed against the Raja of Jodhpur. The results were disastrous. The Mughal Empire
began 10 disintegrate. Many provinces virtually be¬came independent. Murshid Quli Khan in Bengal,
Bihar and Orissa and Saadat Khan in Avadh paid only nominal allegiance to the Mughal Emperor at Delhi.
The Nizam set. up an independent dynasty of his own in the Deccan. In the Doab. the Rohillahas set up
auionomous chief¬tainships. The Marathas occupied Gujarat, Malwa and a part of Bundelkhand. The
Governors of Kabul and Lahore were left to their own resources.
For full one year after his accession. Muhammad Shah remained a virtual prisoner in the hands of the
Sayyid Brothers. He was sur¬rounded by "numbers of their trusted adherents; and lvhen occasionally, in
the course of two or three months, he went out hunting and for an excursion into the country, they
went with him and brought him back." Even after the disappearance of the Sayyid Brothers, Muhammad
Shah fell into the clutches of Rahmat-un-Nisa Koki Jiu, eunuch Hafiz Khid-matgar Khan, Shah Abdul
Ghaffar and Turrabaz Raushan-ud-Daulah Zafar Khan Panipati. In 1739, they were supplanted by Khan
Dauran Samsamud-Daulah and his brother Muzaffar Khan. After their death in 1739, they were
succeeded by Amir Khan, Muhammad Ishaq, Asad Yar and Safdarjang.
For about 13 years, Koki Jiu and her associates brough havoc in the kingdom. She was authorised by
Muhammad Shah to impress the official documents with the royal seal and extract money from all
sources for him. The regret of the Emperor was that he could not make her Wazir on account of her sex.
Her four brothers were given high ranks. Their total annual income from the Jagirs amounted to Rs. 25
lacs. Shah Abdul Ghafur, her companion, pillaged the public purse with¬out fear or shame. His. income
from Jagirs and other sources was Rs. 25,000 daily, apart from his equal share in the bribes with Koki Jiu.
He boasted that money was power which could control clouds and check the rains. He got for his son a
Mansab of 6000 and for himself a rare exemption from customary prostration in the court. His son
be¬came a nuisance to the public. He committed many acts of highhanded¬ness. The result was that
both the father and son were hated. There v/as a storm of protests against their activities and ultimately
they were removed with great difficulty.
Muhammad Shah spent most of his time in watching animal fights. On account of his indifference
towards public affairs and addiction to wine and women, he was called Muhammad Shah "Rangila."
The reign of Muhammad Shah can be divided into two periods, the dividing point being the invasion of
Nadir Shah in 1739. The main
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
nterest in the political sphere centres round the steady expansion of Maratha power and influence and
its pressure on Mughal territory. They
oread the network of their activity from Gujarat to Bengal and from the Narmada to the Jamuna, and
even upto the river Ravi in the Punab Their leader was Peshwa Baji Rao I. It was under him that the Wrathas cut across the limits of the
Deccan and carried their arms right to 'he very heart of the Mughal Empire.
Fall of the Sayyid Brothers
Muhammad Shah resented the authority of the Sayyid Brothers. The leaders of the Turani faction,
Nizam-ul-Mulk, Subedar of the Deccan, Mir Muhammad Amin Khan, head of the Mughal soldiery and his
cousin Abdus Samad Khan, Governor of Lahore, as well as the chiefs of the Irani faction were tired of the
Sayyids and they decided to destroy them. The Sayyid Brothers conciliated Jay Singh who never made a
secret of his pro-Farrukh-siyar sympathy by assigning to him the Sar¬tor Sorath in the Subah of
Ahmedabad. They suppressed and killed Budh Singh and seated their ally Bhirn Singh on the throne of
Bundi. They attempted to disperse the Turani group by sending away Nizam-ul-Mulk to Malwa. They
sent forces against Chhabela Ram, the re¬bellious Governor of Allahabad who was devoted to Farrukhsiyar. On his death, his,.nephew Girdhar Bahadur was persuaded to surrender Allahabad. He was made
the Governor of Avadh and was given Rs. 30 laos.
After reaching Malwa, Nizam-ul-Mulk gave free play to his ambi¬tions. He marched to the South,
defeated and killed in two separate battles Dilawar Ali Khan and Alam Ali Khan and seized the Deccan
Subah. The Sayyid Brothers did not know what to do. Abdullah did not trust Husain Ali and neither of the
two could count upon the sup¬port of a few faithful supporters. After prolonged discussion, they
de¬cided that Abdullah should remain at Delhi and Husain Ali and the Emperor should go to the
Deccan to deal with Nizam-ul-Mulk.
Husain Ali find the Emperor left Delhi for the Deccan. They chose the Ajmer route in the hope of
meeting Raja Ajit Singh and reinforcing the imperial army by Rajput soldiers. Nothing happened upto
Agra but after that, the conspirators became more active. Mohammad Amin Khan, Qamar-ud-din Khan,
Haidar Quli Khan, Mir Tumla, Sayyid Muhammad Amin and Saadat Khan started making schemes for the
assassination of Husain Ali. They won over the mother of the Emperor to their side. On 8 October 1720,
their plans were successful and Hasain Ali was stabbed to death. This was followed by the arrest of
Ratan Chand and Muhkham Singh Jat who were the supporters of Sayyid Abdullah. A day after the
murder of Husain Ali, the Emperor appoin¬ted Mohammad Amin Khan as Minister. The other
conspirators were also rewarded and given higher ranks or offices. The conspirators then marched
against Sayyid Abdullah. Sayyid Abdullah demanded from the Emperor that the conspirators be
punished but there was no response. He set up a rival at Delhi in the person of Prince Ibrahim and
pro¬ceeded to fight against the advancing imperial army. Abdullah was de¬feated in the battle of
Hasanpur. He was made a prisoner.and handed over to the charge of Haidar Quli Khaii. He was poisoned
and killed after two years.
Sayyid Brothers
The Sayyid Brothers, Abdullah Khan and Husain Ali Khan, claim-
Defline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
ed their descent from Abdul Farh, an adventurer from Mesopotamia who had settled down in India
many centuries ago. The father of the Sayyid Brothers was a Subahdar of Bijapur and Ajmer. Later on, he
joined Prince Muazzam. During the war of succession, the Sayyid Broth¬ers fought on the side of Prince
Muazzam who became Mughal Emperor as Bahadur Shah. The new Emperor rewarded the two
brothers. In 1708, Prince Azim-us-Shan gave an important assignment to Husain Ali in Bihar. In 1711, he
appointed Abdullah Khan as his Deputy in the province of Allahabad. In lieu of those favours, the Sayyid
Brothers supported Farrukh-siyar, a son of Azim-us-Shan, for the throne of Delhi. They killed Emperor
Jahandar Shah in the battle and offered the throne to Farrukh-siyar. In recognition of the services
rendered to him, Farrukh-siyar appointed Abdullah Khan as Wazir and Husain Ali as Mir Bakshi. That
caused great jealousy in the minds of Turani and Irani nobles, who started instigating the Emperor to
remove them. The chief figure in the whole drama was Mir Jumla who had been authorised by Far-rukhsiyar to sign on his behalf. That was resented by the Sayyid Broth¬ers. Khan Khan writes, "The two.
brothers were not inclined to bear patiently Mir Jumla's invidious and provoking interference in their
Farrukh-siyar took part in at least three plots against the Sayyid Brothers. The Emperor sent Husain Ali
against the Rajputs but also sent secret instructions to Raja Ajit Singh to help him in getting rid of Husain
Ali in return for tempting gifts. The plot failed. In the sec-end plot, the Emperor sent Hussian Ali to the
South as Subahdar of the Deccan and at the same time instigated Daud Khan to kill Husain Ali on the
way. He promised to hand over the viceroyalty of the Deccan to Daud Khan after the successful
implementation of the plan. The third plot was directed against the life of Abdullah Khan. Abdullah Khan
was to be surrounded and assassinated at the time of Nauroz cere¬mony. However, Abdullah Khan got
scent of the plot and posted a large number of troops to overawe Farrukh-siyar. That plot also
The Sayyid Brothers joined hands with the Jats and also entered into an alliance with Raja Ajit Singh by
making him promises of reward. Husain Ali Khan came to Delhi along with troops to help his brother.
The fort and the palace in Delhi were cleared of the supporters of Farrukh-siyar and he himself was
dragged out from the harem, insulted and strangled.
After the death of Farrukh-siyar, the Sayyid Brothers became the masters of the whole show. They really
became "king-makers". They put Rafi-ud-Darajat, Rafi-ud-Daulah and Muhammad SHali on die throne of
Delhi. As the new Emperor was young and inexperienced, he left the entire administration in the hands
of the Sayyid Brothers. Khafi Khan writes, "All die officers and servants around the Emperor were, as
be¬fore, the servants of Sayyid Abdullah. When the Emperor went out for a ride, he was surrounded, as
with a halo, by a number of the Sayyid'* adherents, and when occasionally he went out hunting or for an
excursion into the country, they went with him and brought him back."
The Sayyid Brothers not only believed in but also acted upon the policy of religious toleration. It was
under their influence and at their suggestion that the Jizya was abolished at the accession of Farrukhsiyar. It was again on their suggestion that Mohammad Shah also abolished it. The result was that the
Sayyid Brothers were able to win over the sympathies of the Rajputs. It was on their suggestion that
Rattan Chand,
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
grain merchant, was appointed Diwan in place of Inayat Ullah Khan. From a rebel, Raja Ajit Singh was
won over and he agreed to give his daughter in marriage to Farrukh-siyar. Under the influence of Husain
Ali Khap. tne Marathas were won over by granting them their demands of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi.
The Sayyid Brothers mediated on behalf 0f Churaman Tat to allow him to retain his post on the
condition of submitting to the Emperor. Jai Singh who was besieging the Jat fort of Thuri was directed to
raise the siege. The result was that Churaman visited Delhi in April 1718. In order to counteract the
moves of die Turani and Irani nobles, the Sayyid Brothers formed the Hindustani party which consisted
of Mohammadans born in India, Rajput and Jat chiefs and other powerful Hindu landowners. It is
contended that if the high officials hail carried on the liberal policy of the Sayyid Brothers, the course of
Indian history would have been different. They could have established a strong state on a national and
tolerant basis with the sup¬port of Indian Mohammadans and Hindu Princes. By establishing a strong
central Government, they would have avoided the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdili. They
would have checked the rapid rise of the Marathas and die British to power. They would have
maintained the power and prestige of the Mughals intact.
It is unfortunate that there were differences between the Sayyid Brothers. They quarrelled over the
sharing of the spoils of victory and political power. They differed over the attitude to be adopted
towards the old nobles in general and Nizam-ul-Mulk in particular. Husain Ali contended that Abdullah
Khan had taken advantage of his position as Wazir and taken possession of all the buried treasures of
Farrukh-siyar and the goods in his jewel house, imperial establishments etc. He also maintained that
Abdullah Khan had resumed the Jagirs of more than 200 nobles and distributed them among his
followers. There was great tension but a compromise was arrived at through the good offices of Katan
Chand. When Agra was captured, most of the booty fell into the hands of Husain Ali. Trouble arose
when Abdullah Khan demanded his share. In spite of the intervention of Ratan Chand, Abdullah Khan
was not satisfied.
There were other differences between them. Husain Ali was more energetic than Abdullah Khan. He was
of a haughty and hasty tempera¬ment and he failed to weigh all the pros and cons before coming to a
conclusion or taking action. Khan Khan writes that Husain Ali "deem¬ed himself superior in military
governmental matters to his brother though he was forgetful of the real matter and unacquainted with
stratagem." Husain Ali over-estimated the strength and stability of his own position and did not
appreciate the wisdom and moderation of his brother. The misfortunes of the Sayyid Brothers were very
much due to the haste of Husain Ali in putting down the potential rivals. The view of Abdullah Khan was
that Nizam-ul-Mulk should be appointed the Governor of Bihar which province was notorious for its
turbulent Zamindars and "fought practically no revenue, but Husain Ali insisted on the appoint¬ment of
Nizam-ul-Mulk to Malwa and the same was done. It was from Malwa that Nizam-ul-Mulk was able to
consolidate his position and raise ne standard of revolt which ultimately led to the fall of the Sayyid
When Nizam-ul-Mulk was incharge of Malwa, it wat reported that
j, ?fas collecting men and materials of war in excess of his requirements
Governor of Malwa. It was suspected that he had an eye on the
"*—13 010
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Deccan. The Sayyid Brothers were afraid of him and decided to shift him from Malwa to Agra or
Allahabad or Multan or Burhanpur. When Nizam-ul-Mulk did not accept the new offer, the Sayyid
Brothers sent a mace-bearer to bring him to the capital. Instead of obeying, he revolted and crossed the
Narmada into the Deccan. He was joined by the Cover, nors of Berar, Khandesh and Asirgarh. In order to
win over the Muslims to his side, he declared that whatever he was doing was for the honour and
prestige of the royal house. He had revolted because the Sayyid Brothers were determined to ruin and
disgrace all Turani and Irani nobles. He also contended that the Sayyid Brothers had allied them¬selves
with the Hindus and were pursuing anti-Islamic policies. Those sentiments became the rallying cry of
'the movement against the Sayyid Brothers led by the Nizam.
Abdullah Khan realised the gravity of the situation. He was in favour of winning over the Nizam by
making concessions. He was sup¬ported by Khan-i-Dauran and Ratan Chand. However, Husain Ali
re¬jected the proposal for a compromise and accused his brother Abdullah Khan of lack of initiative and
courage. Dilawar Ali was ordered to march against the Nizam from the North and Alam' Ali from the
South. The <Nizam fell upon Dilawar Ali and routed him in June 1720 before he was joined by Alam Ali.
Alam Ali and his Maratha supporters were also defeated by the Nizam in August 1720. Husain Ali was
assassinated when he was on the way to the Deccan with the Emperor. Abdullah Khan was defeated in
the battle of Hasanpur and was taken prisoner. He was killed two years after.
The fall of the Sayyid Brothers was due to many causes. They were not able to win over an important
section of the old nobles belonging to the time of Aurangzeb- and Bahadur Shah who looked upon the
Sayyid Brothers as upstarts and were not prepared to be over-shadowed by them in the conduct of the
affairs of the state. They did not approve of the policy of the Sayyid Brothers to conciliate the Marathas,
Rajputs and Jats. They were themselves ambitious people and could not be expected to tolerate the
usurpation of all power by the Sayyid Brothers. They declared that the Sayyid Brothers were antiMughal and wanted to monopolise all power into their hands.
The Sayyid Brothers committed a blunder in deposing and murder¬ing Farrukh-siyar. Abdullah Khan was
not in favour of deposing Far-rukh-siyar and the blame must rest on the shoulders of Husain Ali. The
deposition of Farrukh-siyar created an apprehension in the minds of many nobles about the ultimate
intentions of the Sayyid Brothers who came to be regarded as tyrants and traitors. The deposition of
Farrukh-siyar was a political blunder because it enabled the Chin group to appear as the champions of
Timurid monarchy and exploit the public feeling against the Sayyid Brothers for their own ends.
Another cause of their failure was that they over-estimated their own strength and resources. They
should have followed a policy of caution and conciliation as advocated by Abdullah Khan. It was the
determination of Husain Ali to destroy Nizam-ul-Mulk, Amin Khan and others at the earliest possible
moment that brought about the fall of the Sayyid Brothers. The dependence of the Sayyid Brothers on
their sub¬ordinates such as Ratan Chand, made diem unpopular. Their Govern¬ment became corrupt.
They failed to maintain law and order. They* did not receive timely help from the Marathas, Rajputs
and Jats.
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
The Sayyid Brothers acted as king-makers and they brought about the deaths of Farrukh-siyar and many
other royal princes. Those hein¬ous crimes alienated the sympathies of the people and they did not get
anY support from them at the time of their crisis.
Emperor Mohammad Shah highly resented the control of the Sayyid Brothers over him. He was anlious
to get rid of them. In order to achieve his end, he joined the party opposed to the Sayyid Brothers. The
alliance between the Emperor and the party opposed to the Sayyid Brothers, was an important factor
which brought about the fall of the Sayyid Brothers.
YVork of Sayyid Brothers
As regards the work of the Sayyid Brothers, it is contended that if they had remained in power for long,
they would have established a strong state on a national and tolerant basis with the support of Indian
Muslims and Hindu Princes. By establishing a strong Central Govern¬ment, they would have avoided the
invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali. They would have checked the rapid rise of the
Marathas and the British in India. They would have maintained the power and piestige of the Mughals
intact. The Mughal Emperor did not gain any¬thing from the deaths of Husain Ali ?nd Abdullah Khan. He
fell under the influence of evil counsellors and Nizam-ul-"Mulk retired to the Deccan in disgust.
The Sayyid Brothers exercised their influence on the Emperor to get the Jizya abolished in 1713. They
cultivated cordial relations with the Hindus and offered them positions of trust. They won over Raja Ajit
Singh who was a rebel and succeeded in arranging a marriage be¬tween his daughter and Farrukh-siyar.
They also won over the Jats and Marathas. If the high officials had carried out the liberal policy of the
Sayyid Brothers, the course of Indian history would have been different. The Sayyid Brothers had certain
qualities of their own. KJiafi Khan writes thus about the Sayyid Brothers, "In the course of this narrative,
upon some points, the pen has been used to condemn the two brothers, the martyrs of misfortune, and
this cannot now be rectified; but in atone ment I will now write a few words upon the excellence and
beauty of character, the love of justice and the liberality of both brothers. Both the Brothers were
distinguished in their day for their generosity and leniency towards all mankind. The inhabitants of those
countries which were in¬nocent of contumacy and selfishness made no complaint of the rule of the
Sayyids. In liberality and kindness to the learned men and to the needy and in protection of men of
merit, Husain Ali excelled his elder brother and was the Hatim suited to his day. Numbers owed their
com¬forts to the cooked food and raw grain which he gave away. At the time Qf the scarcity at
Aurangabad, he appropriated large sum of money and agreat quantity of grain to supply the wants of
the poor and of widows. The reservoir at Aurangabad was begun by him which, in summer, when water
is scarce, relieved the sufferings of the inhabitants. In their native country of Barha, they built Sarais,
bridges and other buildings for the public benefit. Sayyid Abdullah was remarkable for his patience and
w,*e sympathy."
"Th Ab°m. the rule of tne Sayy*d Brothers, Dr. Satish Chandra writes, *he Sayyids made a
definite break with narrow, exclusionist policy and moved in the direction of establishing a state
essentually secular in ap¬proach and national in character. Their downfall did not imply the
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
automatic negation of this process which they had stimulated and strengthened; it continued to work
apace and influenced the political and cultural developments of the succeeding period".
Nadir Shah's Invasion of India (1739)
One of the most important events of the reign of Muhammad Shah was the invasion of- India by Nadir
Shah in 1739. Nadir Shah had be¬come the ruler of.Iran in 1736. He was warlike and ambitious and keen
to earn a name and fame and to raise his country to high glory. He entertained aggressive designs both
eastward and westward. He came into conflict with the Turks and sent his troops to punish the
Governors of Balkh and Andkhud. He then decided to conquer Qandhar which was the running sore to
the security of his Eastern possessions and won re¬markable success. He captured Qandhar by storming
his way into it in March 1738. He had to pay heavily for his victory in Qandhar. In his hour of triumph,
financial stringency impeded his further conquests. In order to implement his future plans, Nadir Shah
had to replenish his treasury as quickly as possible. That could be done by invading India which was
reputed to have enormous wealth. Lockhart observes, "With the spoils of India, he could raise and pay
more the Afghan and Uzbeg levies and so renew war with Turks; besides by invading the Punjab, he
would be following the example of Alexander the Great, Mahmood Ghazni and thereby merit the title of
"World Conqueror""
The immediate pretext for the invasion of India was the alleged disregard for Nadir Shah's repeated
requests to the Mughal Eniperor not to give asylum to the Afghan rebels. Even after the siege of
Qandhar had begun, the Mughal authorities did nothing to close the Western frontier against the
refugees. When the Persian envoy Muhammad Khan Turkman delivered in person the protest of his
master to Muhammad Shah, instead of giving a straight reply, the envoy was unduly detained in- spite of
the explicit direction of Nadir Shah not to prolong his stay beyond 40 days. Muhammad Khan Turkman
had been preceded by two other envoys who had brought similar requests but received evasive re¬plies.
What infuriated Nadir Shah was the murder of two Persian couriers who had been sent to Delhi under
escort to bring -the news of Muhammad Khan Turkman.
Nadir Shah used Qandhar as a vital base for his Indian expedition. He arrived at Ghazni from where he
marched to Kabul which he occu¬pied after a brief resistance. He professed his friendly intentions
to¬wards the Mughal Emperor saying that his sole object was to punish the rebel Afghans and he had no
territorial designs. He sent an envoy to Delhi'but he was killed at Jalalabad. Nadir Shah ruthlessly
avenged the murder and sacked the town of Jalalabad.
Nasir Khan, the Governor of Peshawar and Kabul, sent a note of warning to the Mughal Emperor and
appealed for reinforcements. The Mughal .court was surcharged with intrigues, neglect and indifference
and hence no action was taken. Nadir Shah left Jalalabad and marched towards Peshawar. Nasir Khan by
his own efforts collected 20,000 Afghans to meet the Persian army. Nadir Shah defeated them and Nasir
Khan and a number of his officers were taken prisoners. Peshawar was occupied. A bridge was
constructed at Attock and the Persian army crossed over to the other side. The river Jhelum was
crossed. An Indian army led by Qalandar Khan barred his advance but the general was killed. Zakariyah
Khan, the Mughal Governor of Lahore, made an abject
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
surrender and by offering a gift of Rs. 20 lacs and several elephants, he saved himself and the property
and honour of the people of Lahore. Nadir Shah stayed at Lahore for 12 days. He appointed Zakariyah
Khan the Governor of Lahore and Nasir Khan the Governor of Kabul and peshawar. Nadir Shah reached
Sirhind on 16 February 1739. From Sir-hind, he set out for Ambala. From Ambala he marched to
Azimabad and then to Karnal.
The Mughal Emperor summoned Burhan-ul-Mulk Saadat Khan from Awadh but did not wait for his
arrival. He immediately held a council 0f war with Nizam-ul-Mulk, Khan-i-Dauran and Itimad-ud-Daulah
and decided that the nobles should march to Karnal. The number of com¬batants in the Indian army at
that moment was about 75,000. Saadat Khan arrived with his troops but his baggage was plundered by
the Per¬sians. Saadat Khan attacked diem. A minor action developed into the battle of Karnal. The
Persians slaughtered a considerable number of Saadat Khan's men. Saadat Khan was wounded and
taken prisoner. Khan-i-Dauran was fatally wounded.
It appears strange that the Emperor Muhammad Shah, his Wazir Qamar-udKlin and his adviser Nizam-ulMulk should have complacently watched the terrible carnage which was going on before their very eyes.
The Indian left wing under their commands remained intact to the last without helping the hard-pressed
imperial forces. Either Nizam-ul-Mulk was taking a malicious pleasure in the humiliation of his two rivals
or he considered it futile to fight against the superior tactics of Nadir Shah. Whatever the reason, his
conduct could not be defended.
When Saadat Khan was led into the audience of Nadir Shah, he tactfully answered the questions put to
him. He impressed upon Nadir Shah that there were still vast resources at the disposal of Muhammad
Shah with which he could continue the fight on equal terms and advised him to send for Nizam-ul-Mulk
and. negotiate with him. The invitation was sent and Nizam-ul-Mulk accepted the invitation, went to the
Persian camp and succeeded in negotiating a settlement with Nadir Shah. Ac¬cording to the settlement,
the Persian army was not- to advance towards Delhi provided an indemnity of Rs. 50 lacs, was paid to
Nadir Shah. Out of that amount, 20 lacs were to be paid immediately—10 lacs at Lahore, 10 lacs at
Attock and the balance at Kabul. No territorial annexations were to be made. The Mughal Emperor
went, to the Persian camp where he was received with great honour and consideration.
When the Emperor Muhammad Shah learnt of the death of Khan-i-Dauran, he immediately conferred on
Nizam-ul-Mulk the rank and title of Amir-ul-Umara which the deceased Khan-i-Dauran had worn. This,
was bitterly resented by Saadat Khan who had himself been coveting the Post of Mir Bakshi. Enraged at
the preference shown to Nizam-ul-Mulk, Saadat Khan impressed upon Nadir Shah that he had been
duped by Nizam-ul-Mulk who would have agreed to pay much more. He sugges¬ted to him to take
Muhammad Shah, the Nizam and others into custody, march to Delhi and make himself master of the
immense treasures in store there. Nadir Shah accepted die suggestion. Nizam-ul-Mulk was agam invited
to the Persian camp and was asked to furnish 20 crores of J^pees in addition to 20,000 cavalry to serve
under Nadir Shah. When tk P^^ed h's inability, he was placed under surveillance. Likewise, he Emperor
Muhammad Shah, Wazir Qamar-uddin and the royal harem *ere also placed in custody. Saadat Khan
was elevated to the post of
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Vakil-i-Mutlaq and sent to Delhi with instructions to the Governor to hand over die keys of the
imperial palaces and establishments.
Nadir Shah and the Mughal Emperor left Karnal on 12 March 1739. On 20 March, Nadir Shah entered
Delhi. Nadir Shah took up his resi¬dence near the Diwan-i-Khas in the palace occupied by Shah Jahan.
On 21 March, the Khutba was read in all the mosques of Delhi in the name cf Nadir Shah and coins were
also struck in his name. As Saadat Khan could not collect the large amount promised by him, he
committed suicide.
Unfortunately rumours were spread in the city that Nadir Shah had met with untimely death or had
been seized or imprisoned by the orders of the Emperor. Nobody cared to verify the truth. Mobs
collected at various places and attacked the Persian troops and about 3000 of them were killed. At
first, Nadir Shah refused to believe the reports of the disturbance but when he rode through the
streets in Chandni Chowk, a bullet missed him but killed one of his officers. Red with anger, he
ordered a general massacre of the inhabitants of Delhi. The Persian soldiers forced their way
into shops, and houses killing the occupants and looting everything. The money-changers
Bazar and the shops of jewellers and merchants were set on fire and destroyed, all the occupants
perishing in the flames. No distinction was made between the innocent and the guilty, male and
female, old and young. The massacre conti¬nued for about six hours. Sir Jadunath Sarkar puts the
number of those dead at 20,000 besides several hundred women who committed suicide. The
streets of Delhi remained littered with corpses for several days till •hey were burnt with the timber
from the wrecked houses. Nadir Shah obtained from the Emperor, his nobles and the people of
Delhi about Rs. 70 lacs. Nadir Shah demanded the hand of a Mughal princess for his son Nasrullah
and a great grand-daughter of Aurangzeb was married to him. To celebrate the occasion, Nadir Shah
ordered illumination, dis¬play of fire-works and other entertainments. All this was done when the
people of Delhi were in a state of mourning. The Peacock throne of Shah Jahan was seized by
Nadir Shah. Likewise, elephants, horses and precious stuffs were seized.
Nadir Shah left Delhi after a stay of 57 days. Before his departure, he put the crown on die head of
Muhammad Shah, the Mughal Em¬peror who offered to Nadir Shah the provinces of the Mughal Empire
West of the river Indus from Kashmir to Sind and in addition the Subah of Thatta and the forts
subordinate to it. The view of Sir Wolse-ley Haig is that die departure of Nadir Shah left the Mughal
Emperor and his courtiers stupefied with the blow which had fallen on them. For two months, nothing
was done or proposed in regard to the state of affairs in the Empire. However, even this blow did not
change the attitude of the Mughal Emperor and his courtiers.
Nadir Shah marched out of Delhi on 16 May 1739. His long and richly-laden baggage train consisting of,
bes'des costly jewels and cash, hundreds of camels, mules and elephants, was subjected to plunder and
loot by the peasants of the Punjab. Nadir Shah .killed some of them but they would not desist. It was in
this manner diat he returned home via Peshawar and Kabul.
There is a difference of opinion among historians regarding the factors responsible for Nadir Shah's
invasion of India, Some attribute >l to the non-observance of the accepted standards of
diplomatic niceties
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
on the part of Empero Muhammad Shah who failed to felicitate Shah Tahmasp II on the
occasion of his restoration. Some put emphasis on the failure of the Mughal Emperor to drive out
the Afghans beyond the Indian borders in spite of his promises. Another view is that the invi¬tations
of Saadat Khan and Nizam-ul-Mulk to Nadir Shah were res¬ponsible for the invasion.
Those who accuse the Mughal Emperor of lock of polite disposition and breach of faith, try to
justify Nadir Shah's act of unprovoked aggression. Some of the Afghans who had been
defeated by Nadir Shah made their way into India through difficult passes and unknown roads and
came into contact with those sections of the people who were sympathetic towards them
for their sufferings. It is possible that some of the Afghans might have eluded the frontier guards and
entered India. The Iranian officers could not puruse them" beyond their own frontiers and Nadir
Shah asked the Mughal Emperor to take effective steps to drive out the Afghan refugees from India.
The Mughal Emperor received Nadir Shah's embassies with every mark of respect, provided
them with princely comforts and gave them lacs of rupees in the form of gifts. He also
promised to take necessary action against the enemies of Nadir Shah. He never asserted his
claim over. Qandhar. He did not oppose Nadir Shah when he was conquering it. He gave no
encouragement to Afghan resistance in Qandhar. No official support was given to them to enter
India. However, any effort to chastise the Afghans meant- the launching of a military expedition
which he could not afford at a time when his own difficulties- were on the increase. On account of
his continued war against the Mararhas, the Mughal Em¬peror admitted his inability to meet
the demands of Nadir Shah. The truth is that the obligation of repelling the Afghans was
"beyond . the capacity of his power and Government." The insistence of Nadir Shah on the expulsion
of the Afghan refugees from India creates doubts about his real intentions to invade India. It
appears that Nadir Shah was using this as a pretext to prepare the ground for his invasion of India.
He was certainly aware of the limited resources of the Mughal Govern¬ment and the serious crisis
it was facing. That situation encouraged Nadir Shah "to invade India and pave the way
for another military success." It is difficult to determine the number of Afghans who had
taken shelter in India. However, they were scattered and stripped of their resources and
hence could not be a source of danger to Nadir Shah. There could not be any apprehension
that the Mughal Emperor in collusion with Afghan fugitives would be able to defy the might of
Nadi Shah. There is no truth in the assertion that the Mughal Emperor did not want to risk a break with
the Afghans- and hence kept himself aioof from die war between Nadir Shah and the Afghans.
His active participation was not called for as it had no direct bearing on his for¬tunes. In the light
of this fact, there is no element of truth in the charge of breach of faith and lack of courtesy
levelled against Muham¬mad Shah. The real cause of his invasion of India was that Nadir Shah was
attracted by the fabulous wealth of India. Prolonged war had made Persia virtually
bankrupt. Money was required to maintain the arrnv
As regards the effect of Nadir Shah's invasion of India, it was in lne nature of a holocaust. There was
wholesale destruction, plunder and rapine. It gave a severe blow to the Mughal Empire. It proved to ye
the harbinger of future invasions of India by Ahmad Shah Abdali. P shook the nerves of many Indian
politicians and statesmen. The French, the English and the Dutch trading Companies were also
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
.cned. Peshwa Baji Rao was so alarmed that he asked Chimnaji Appa lo give up his campaign against the
Portuguese. He made peace with his enemy in Central India. Raja Jay Singh of Amber sent his family to
Udaipur. By the invasion of Nadir Shah, the glamour and wealth of India which had dazzled even die
foreigners, was gone. Nizam-ul-Mulk was called away to the Deccan to meet the Maratha pressure on
his possessions. Saadat Khan was dead. Qamar-ud-din Khan, on account of his indolence and
licentiousness, was like a broken reed. The young-men who stepped into the political void were a band
of self-seekers who were unfit to discharge their % responsibilities in the prevailing at¬mosphere of
strife and struggle.
Nadir Shah's invasion gave a severe blow to the already tottering Mughal Empire and expedited the
process of disintegration. The quick victory of Nadir Shah demonstrated the hollowness of the authority
of ihe Mughal Emperor and encouraged the Governors of the provinces to assert their independence.
The Mughal Emperor surrendered to Nadir Shah the territories lying to the West of the river Indus and
that was a permanent loss to the Mughal Empire. The Mughal Emperor lost not only the provinces of
Western Punjab and Sind but also lost permanently Kabul which was annexed to Afghanistan.
Nadir Shah's invasion paved the way for the future invasions of India from the North-West. As a result of
the loss of the territories tc the West of the river Indus, the natural defence boundaries of the Mughal
Empire were weakened and .that made the job of future in¬vaders of India easy. The demonstration of
the weakness of the Mughal Empire encouraged, future invaders to come to India. The complete
political chaos and confusion which prevailed in North-West frontier after the invasion of Nadir Shah led
to a series of foreign invasions after 1739. The invasion also ruined the country financially. Nadir Shah
not only caused large-scale destruction of life and property but also carried away with him a lot of
wealth from India. V.A. Smith writes, "Nadir Shah proceeded systematically and remorselessly to collect
from all classes of population the wealth of Delhi, the accumulation of nearly three centuries and a
According to Irvine, "Nadir Shah's occupation of Delhi and mas¬sacre of the people carried men's
memories 300 years back to a similar calamity at the hands of Timur. But there was a great difference
be¬tween the results of- these two foreign invasions. Timur left the state of Delhi as he had found it,
impoverished no doubt, but without any dismemberment; Nadir Shah on the other hand, annexed the
Trans-Indus ■ provinces and the whole of Afghanistan and thus planted a strong foreign power
constantly impinging on our Western frontier. Timur's destructive work and the threat of further
invasion from his country ended with his life. But the Abdali and his dynasty continued Nadir's work in
India as the heir to his Empire. With the Khyber Pass and the Peshawar District in foreign hands, the
Punjab became a .starting point for fresh expeditions against Delhi".
The view of Dr. Bisheshwar Prasad is that "the defeat at the hands of Nadir Shah exposed the incapacity
and lustful luxuriousness of the nobles who commanded the army. It showed the inanity of the central
authority with its factious and impotent jealousies in the court circles. This exposure was a death-knell
of the Empire, the central edifice which had kept the centrifugal forces in restraint. The consequence
was the disintegration of the Mughal Empire into a large number of provincial
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
or local states, which, while maintaining the facade of obedience to the Crown, strengthened their
autonomy. The Central Government was soon reduced to a mere shadow, its authority scarcely
prevailing beyond the suburbs of Delhi in time to come." (Bondage and Freedom, Vol. I, P. 20).
Dr. Satish Chandra writes that the effects of the invasion continued to be felt long after the departure of
Nadir Shah. The invasion pro¬claimed the real weakness of the Mughal Empire to the entire world,
particularly to the European adventurers who were gradually increasing their commercial activities and
were watching the political situation in the country with keen interest. The invasion • of Nadir Shah
demon¬strated forcefully that a new political situation had been created in Northern India. The loss of
Kabul and the areas to the West of the Indus deprived India of an advance post for the country's
defence and a vantage point for following West Asian affairs. All the Indian powers including the
Marathas were made aware that a new force had arisen in West Asia and the Indians could no longer
bank on their North-West regions being safe from recurrent foreign invasions. Whether those invasions
would be in the nature of plundering raids only or would also aim at the creation of a dynastic empire
remained to be seen. The parties at the Mughal court were also affected by the invasion of Nadir Shah.
Among the old leaders, Saadat Khan and Khan-i-Dauran were dead. Nizam-uUMulk and Qamar-ud-Din
had forfeited the confidence of the Emperor for their sorry part in the battle of Karnal. Nizam-ul-Mulk
decided once again to leave the Mughal court and sought an agreement with the Marathas for
maintaining his position in the Dec-can. Safdarjang, Amir Khan and a number of other nobles gradually
rose into prominence. The decline in the imperial prestige led to a resumption of the old struggle for
Wizarat. The wealth extorted by Nadir Shah from the Emperor, his nobles, the commercial classes and
Ihe citizens of Delhi represented a big drain on the resources of the country. It not only dealt crippling
blow to the power and authority of the Emperor who was left with no cash reserves for an emergency,
but also affected the position of Delhi as one prime commercial mart of Northern India. The general
impoverishment of the nobles led to a sharpening of the struggle for the possession of Jagirs. The
tendency towards rack-renting of the peasantry became more marked. The real¬isation of land revenue
became more and more a kind of military ope¬ration and a large number of peasants were massacred.
The invasion of Nadir Shah also led to the introduction of the quick-firing musket and improved light
artillery in India. The Rohilla Afghans were the first to adopt them but the Marathas continued with very
light cavalry warfare. The rise of Nadir Shah and his invasion of India ended the" close cultural contact
between India and Persia which had subsisted be¬tween the two preceding centuries. The Indian
frontier no longer roarched with Iran and Turan so that the adventurers from these coun¬tries into India
finally stopped. It had an indirect bearing on India a'nd lfs social and cultural development. The Irani and
Turani immigrants fc'ho had settled down in India found it difficult to stand aside as a separate cultural
and social group or to adopt an attitude of social and cultural superiority. The result was that the forces
making for the ceation of a composite culture and society in the country were streng¬thened in the long
run. (Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court, U07-40).
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali
Ahmad Shah Abdali or Durrani was an important general of Nadir Shah. Of him, Nadir Shah had once
remarked, "I have not found in Iran, Turan or Hindustan any man equal to Ahmad Shah Abdali in
capacity and character." When after the conquest of Qandhar, Nadir Shah decided to settle all his Abdali
subjects there, the relatives of Ahmad Shah also settled there. After the murder of Nadir Shah on 9 June
1747 by some of his nobles, all the Afghans proceeded towards Qandhar and chose Ahmad Shah Abdali
as their leader. On reaching Qandhar, they had to fight against the local garrison which was captured.
Ahmad Shah Abdali was declared Emperor and coins were struck in his name. After Qandhar, he
occupied Ghazni, Kabul and Peshawar. All that added to his personal glory and the morale of his
When Nadir Shah had attacked India in 1739, Ahmad Shah Abdali was with him. He saw with his own
eyes the weakness of the Mughal Emperor and the Empire. No wonder, he was tempted to attack India
to take advantage of the prevailing situation.
Ahmad Shah Abdali led as many as seven expeditions against India between 1748 and 1767. He
undertook those invasions mainly with a view to establish Afghan supremacy over India. There were
many fac¬tors which encouraged him to undertake those invasions. The weak and precarious condition
of the Mughal Empire encouraged him in his designs. He had seen the weakness of the Mughal Empire
when he came to India alongwith Nadir Shah. In subsequent years, the Mughal Empire became weaker
all the more. Ahmad Shah Abdali wanted to take advantage of that position. The neglect of the NorthWestern borders by the later Mughals encouraged him to launch so many inva-sions. The Mughal rulers
completely neglected the roads, passes etc., on the border. They did not employ any intelligence to keep
the court informed about the developments on the border. This indifferent atti¬tude of the later Mughal
rulers towards the defence of their border was fully exploited by Ahmad Shah Abdali. The view of
Elphinstone is that Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India so many times with a view to make financial gains
and realise his political ambitions. He carried with him a lot of money and gifts from India- which were
utilised by him for increasing his military strength and improving its organisation. The immediate cause
of his invasion of India was that he was invited by Shah Nawaz Khan, the Governor of the Punjab, to
undertake an invasion of India. That invitation fitted very well into the ambitious plans of Ahmad Shah
Ahmad Shah Abdali crossed the Indus and the Jhelum ^p invade the Punjab in 1748. Lahore and Sirhind
were occupied but he was defeated by the Mughal army near Sirhind and was forced to withdraw.
Ahmad Shah Abdali was not prepared to put up with the insult and he led another attack on India in
1749. Muin Khan, Governor of the Punjab, resisted the advance of Abdali and asked for reinforcements.
As he did not get any help, he agreed to pay Rs. 14,000 as annual tribute to Abdali.
Ahmad Shah Abdali led the third invasion of India towards the close of 1751 as the promised tribute was
not paid to him. After defeat¬ing the Governor of the Punjab, Abdali advanced towards Delhi. The
Mughal Emperor offered to transfer Multan and' Punjab to Abdali. The view of some scholars is that
Ahmad Shah Abdali also conquered Kash¬mir during his third invasion and appointed his own
Governor. He
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
, to ~0 back because there was the possibility of opposition at home at that time.
Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India for the fourth :imc to punish lmad-ul-Mulk who had appointed his
own man as the Governor of the Punjab. Ahmad Shah Abdali had appointed Mir Mannu as his agent ud
Governor bf the Punjab. In 1753, after the death of Mir Mannu, his infant son, under the Regency of his
mother Mughlani Begum, suc-ceeded him. In May 1754, even this successor of Mir Mannu died. After
that, there was chaos and confusion in the Punjab. Mughlani Begum invited lmad-ul-Mulk, the Wazir of
Delhi and he appointed Mir Munim as the Governor of the Punjab after imprisoning Mughlani Begum.
When Ahmad Shah Abdali came to know of these developments, he de¬cided to attack India. He came
to India in November 1756. As soon-9s he reached Lahore. Mir Munim ran away io Delhi. After capturing
the Punjab, Ahmad Shah Abdali marched towards Delhi. He reached Delhi on 23 January 1757 and
captured the city. He stayed in Delhi for shout a month and repeated the carnage' and arson of the type
of Nadir Shah's invasion. The rich and poor, noblemen and commoners, men and women, all suffered
torture and disgrace indiscriminately.
After pillaging Delhi, the Afghan army marched out leaving a trail of burning villages, rotting corpses and
desolation. Crushing the Jats on the way, they proceeded to Mathura, Brindaban and Gokul. The
carn¬age and destruction that visited these sacred towns beggars description. For 7 days following the
general slaughter, "the water (of the Jamuna) flowed of a blood-red colour". Temples were desecrated,
priests and Sadhus were put to the sword. Women were dishonoured and children were cut to pieces.
There was no atrocity which was not perpetrated.
The cry of anguish which arose from Delhi, Mathura, Agra and a thousand towns and villages in
Northern India remained unheard. How¬ever, the outbreak of cholera halted the Afghan army. The
soldiers cla¬moured for returning home. Abdali was forced to retire but not before he had collected a
booty estimated at 3 to 12 crores of rupe'es and inflic¬ted unspeakable indignities upon the Mughal
Before his departure from Delhi, Abdali compelled the Mughal Em¬peror to cede to him Kashmir,
Lahore, Sirhind and Multan. He appointed his son Timur Shah to look after the government of those
regions. Mughlani Begum was not given Kashmir or Jullunder Doab which had been promised to her. She
was imprisoned, caned and dis-graced. Abdnli appointed Najib Khan Rohilla as Mir Bakshi and he
remained in Delhi as the agent of Ahmad Shah.
After the departure of Abdali, the situation in India became critical. Najib Khan was forced to leave Delhi
along with all his men and Ahmed Rangash was appointed Mir Bakshi in his place. Najib Khan
complain¬ed to Abdali and asked for a fresh invasion by him. Sirhind and Lahore Ml into the hands of
the Marathas in 1758. Abdali sent Jahan Khan 'o the Punjab but he was defeated. When that happened,
Abdali him¬self attacked India. The Marathas could not stand against him and were forced to withdraw
from Lahore, Multan and Sirhind. Before the end °* 1759, the Punjab was once again brought under his
control by Abdali.
Abdali was full of anger against all those who -had dared to defy ™s authority. He rushed to the Doab.
He fought against Dattaji and defeated and killed him. Malharrao was able to escape with great
diffi¬culty, xhe Peshwa took up the challenge and sent Sadasiva Rao Bhau
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
to the North in 1760. Many other Maratha generals were sent to fight against Abdali. The Marathas had
not ,a single friend or ally in the North on account of their previous treatment of the Rajputs, Jats and
others. There were differences within their own ranks in regard to the tactics to be employed against
Abdali. The only success of their army was their entry into Delhi because Ahmad Shah Abdali was
campaign¬ing in the Doab. The Marathas were forced to leave Delhi on account of scarcity of food for
men and horses. It was under these circumstan¬ces that the third battle of Panipat was fought on 14
January 1701 be¬tween the Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdali. In spite of their best efforts, the
Marathas were defeated. Holkar fled and the contingents of Sindhia followed him. The defeat turned
into a rout and terrific slaughter ensued. On the battlefield, there lay the corpses of 28.000 men. Most
of the officers were killed. Both Vishwas Rao, the son of the Peshwa and Sadasiva Rao Bhau died fighting
The defeat at Panipat was a disaster of the first magnitude but it was by no means decisive. For Abdali, it
was an empty victory. As soon as his back was turned, his conquests fell to pieces. He arid his successors
were pestered by rebellions at home. They were not able to give ade¬quate support to their agents in
India. The Sikhs drove out the Afghan officer? and plundered their baggages. In a few years, not a trace
of Abdali's conquest was left on this side of the Indus. The Marathas re¬ceived a severe blow but within
ten years they were back in the North, acting as the guardians of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam whom
they escorted from Allahabad to Delhi in 1771. The defeat of Panipat was not conclusive. The battle
which was really decisive was the battle of Plassey which was fought in 1757.
After the battle of Panipat, Ahmad Shah Abdali recognised Shah Alam II as the Emperor of Delhi. Munirud-Daulah and Najib-ud-Daulah promised to pay a tribute of Rs. 40 lacs per annum to Ahmad Shah
Abdali on behalf of the Mughal Emperor. After that. Ahmad Shah Abdali left India.
Ahmad Shah Abdali came to India for the sixth time in March 1764. The Sikhs had increased their power
in the Punjab. They had captured considerable property and also killed Khawaja Abid, the Afghan
Governor of Lahore.- The object of Abdali's invasion was to punish the Sikhs. He stayed in India only for
about a fortnight. He had to retreat in view of. the possibility of a revolt among his soldiers. As soon as
Ahmad Shah Abdali left India, the Sikhs captured Lahore. They also captured Majha and Central Punjab.
However, Abdali was able to re¬tain his control over Peshawar and the countrv West of Attock.
As regards the effects of the invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali. it is true that Abdali could not stay in India
for a long time on «he occasion of any of his invasions and he had to hurrv back to his countrv lor one
reason or the other, but in spite of that his invasions had many effects on the history of India. One of the
effects of his invasions was that they paved the way for the rise of the Sikh power in the Punjab. From
1752 to 1761, there were frequent wars 5*mong the four great powers to gain ascendancv in the Punjab
viz., the Durranis, the Mughals, the Marathas and the Sikhs. The invasions of Abdali so much weakened
the Mughal Empire that he was able to take away the two provinces of the Punjab and Sind from the
Mughal Empire. Ahmad Shah Abdali defeated the Marathas in 1761 in the third battle of Panipat. The
result was that the Marathas lost an opportunity to set up their Empire in the Punjab.
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
After the elimination of the Mughals and the Marathas from the Punr> only the Afghans and the Sikhs remained in the field. In spite of
J3. '
imracinnc Ahdali was not able to crush the Sikhs of the Pun-
y many invasions, Abdali was not able to crush the Sikhs of the Pun¬jab which was occupied by the
Sikhs. In this way the invasions of Abdali he way for the rise of the Sikh power in the Punjab.
It is • Vhtly said that the career of Ahmad Shah Abdali in India "is very
aved the way for the rise of the Sikh power in the Punjab. It is P. r t]y said that the career of Ahmad Shah
Abdali in India "is very "ntimately a part of the Sikh struggle for independence".
The invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali hastened the downfall of the Muehal Empire. The invasions gave
stunning blows to the already crumbling Mughal Empire. There was great anarchy and confusion in the
Mughal administration on account of' the frequency of Abdali's invasions of India. That anarchy
destroyed the internal organisation and vitality of the Mughal Government. That gave rise to
insubordi¬nation nnd indiscipline towards the Mughal Government on the part of Mughal officers and
officials. The Mughal Empire was already con¬fined to the city of Delhi as the rest of the provinces had
become inde¬pendent. Whatever was left was finished by Ahmad Shah Abdali.
The attempts of the Marathas to 911st the Afghans from Delhi and the Punjab ended in the catastrophe
to themselves and not to the Mughal Empire. The latter had already ceased to exist in 1759. What was
accomplished by the third battle of Panipat in 1761 was that the dream of the Marathas to establish a
Hindu Empire from the Deccan right upto the Punjab came to nothing. After their defeat in 1761, the
Marathas had to face a lot of difficulty before they could recover from the deadly effects of the battle of
1761. Their prestige fell down very low. The charm of their invincibility was gone. The organisation and
authority of the Marathas became weak and their enthusiasm and initiative practicallv died out.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, two powers clashed with each other in India. One was the
declining power of the, Mughals and second was the rising power of the Marathas. The third battle of
Pani¬pat in 1761 weakened the Mughals and the Marathas to such an extent that the English people
came forward as the legal heirs to the Mughal Empire. The invasions of Nadir Shah had given a rude
shock to the Mughal Empire by depriving it of Sihd, Kabul and the Western Pun¬jab and by giving an
opportunity to the other nobles to become inde¬pendent. The invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali put an
end to the Mughal Empire and frustrated the attempts of the Marathas to establish i' Hindu Empire in
India by crushing their power in the third battle of Panipat. In other words, the invasions of Abdali
prepared the field for the British to establish their authority because the Marathas and the Muslims had
considerably weakened each other on account of their deadly conflict. Thus, the significant result of the
invasions of Nadir jnah and Ahmad Shah Abdali was the rise of the English power in India. Sydney Owen
writes, "With the Battle of Panipat, the local .rule "i Indian history comes to an end and that after this,
the centre of interest begins to revolve around the rise of Western commercial princes ln this country."
Ahmed Shah (1748-1754)
17 AftCr the death of hi$ father ^"hammad Shah Rangila in April 1718, Ahmed Shah was put on the
throne of Delhi. He was the only scr» of his father. He was "a good-natured imbecile" who had
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
no training for war or administration. "From his infancy to the age of 21, he had been brought up among
the women of harem in neglect and poverty and often subjected to his father's brow-beating." Accord.
ing to the writer of Tarikh-i-Alamgir Sani, "Ahmed Shah was noi a man of great intellect, all the period of
his youth till manhood had been spent in the harem and he had absolutely no experience whatever of
the affairs of a kingdom or of the cares of the Government. Besides these, he was surrounded by all
sorts of youthful pleasures which every person, seeing the turn of his mind, was anxious to display
before him to entice his fancy. As a natural consequence, he gave himself up entire¬ly to pastime and
sports, and bestowed no thought on the weighty affairs of the kingdom. To manage a country and wield
a sceptre is a matter full of difficulty, and until an Emperor understands thoroughly himself the good and
bad tendency of every measure, he cannot be fit for rule. For this reason, Ahmed Shah was unable to
govern the Empire" entrusted to him." Again, "He gave himself up to useless pursuits, to pleasure and
enjoyment, and his reign was brought to an end after six years, three months and nine days by the
enmity which he showed to Nizam-ul-Mulk, Asaf Jah."
The affairs of the state fell into the hands of "a cabal of eunuchs and women" headed by the Queen
mother Udham Bai, who before her marriage with Muhammad Shah, was a public dancing girl. She
pro¬moted worthless men into high offices, receiving large presents in money for every appointment.
No one cared for the administration and the Governors and nobles misappropriated the royal revenues.
Their ex¬ample was followed by powerful landlords who usurped the lands of their weak neighbours.
Ahmed Shah excelled his predecessors in his sensual pursuits. His harem extended over a full Kos
wherefrom all males were excluded and ihe Emperor spent a week and sometimes a month in the
company of those women.
In the field of administration, the Emperor did many foolish things. He appointed his 2| year old son
Mahmud as the Governor of the Punjab and named Muhammad Amin, a one year old boy, as die Deputy
under him. The Governorship of Kashmir was conferred on Tala Said Shah, a one year old boy and a boy
of 15 years of age was appointed his deputy. Those appointments were made at a time when the danger
of Afghan invasions was very great.
Ahmed Shah favoured Javid Khan, his chief eunuch who became the leader of the court party. Javid
Khan came to be known as Nawab Bahadur and he dominated the whole of the administration. He
plot¬ted against the Wazi» Safdarjang. There was utter' confusion in the country. In 1749, Ahmad Shah
Abdali invaded the Punjab #but retired after getting a heavy indemnity. In 1752, Abdali attacked the
Punjab again. The Governor of die Punjab was defeated and Abdali marched towards Delhi. With a view
to avoid destruction at Delhi, the Mughal Enjperor made peace by ceding the Punjab and Multan to
Ahmad Shah Abfcali.
Delhi became a hot bed of intrigues and rival factions. The most important Minister at the court at that
time was Safdarjang, the Nawab Wazir of Avadh. He became so arrogant that he began to give orders
without consulting the Emperor. The Emperor retaliated by forming a
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
urt party headed by Javid Khan. When Javid Khan was assassinated, ?e Mughal Emperor chose Ghazi-udDin Imad-ul-Mulk, grandson of N'zam-ul-Mulk, as his Wazir. There was a struggle for power between
Imad-ul-Mulk and Safdarjang. Ghazi-ud-Din convened the Mughal Dar-I ar and proposed the following
resolution: "This Emperor has shown 1 js unfitness for rule. He is unable to cope with .the Marathas. He
is false and fickle towards his friends. Let him be deposed and a worthier son of Timur raised to the
throne". The resolution was passed and immediately acted upon. Ahmed Shah was deposed and blinded
and consigned to the state prison of Salimgarh. Alamgir II was put on the throne.
Alamgir n (1754-59)
Alamgir II was the second son of Jahandar Shah. He was 55 at the time of his accession to the throne. As
he had spent almost all his life in prison, he had practically no experience of administration. He Was a
very weak person and was merely a puppet in the hands of his Wazir Ghazi-ud-Din Imad-ul-Mulk. The
Wazir was a man of no princi-ples. He was extremely selfish. He put all the royal revenues into his own
pocket and starved the royal family. He persecuted Ali Gauhar, the eldest son of the Mughal Emperor.
He tried to form an anti-Maratha, coalition with a view to drive out the Marathas from Nor¬thern India
but he failed. The relations between Alamgir II and Imad-ul-Mulk were not satisfactory and the latter got
him assassinated in 1759. His body was thrown out of the window and was found lying stark naked on
the banks of the river Jamuna.
Shah Alam n (1759-1806)
Ali Gauhar was the son of Alamgir II. He became the Mughal Em¬peror in 1759 and took up the title of
Shah Alam II. At the time of the death of his father, he was in Bihar. Although he was declared the
Mughal Emperor, he did not proceed to Delhi for 12 years. He reached Delhi in January 1772 with the
help of the Marathas. During that period, he tried to conquer Bihar and Bengal but failed. He was
de¬feated in 1764 in the Battle of Buxar and made a prisoner along with the Nawab Wazir of Avadh. In
1765, he gave the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the English East India Company and the latter
promised to pay him an annual sum of Rs. 26 lacs.
Throughout his long life, Shah Alam II remained a puppet in the hands of his ministers, the Marathas and
the British. The Rohilla leader Najib-ud-Daulah and later on his son Zabita Khan and grandson Ghulam
Qadir ransacked the palace. The floors of the houses of the grandees in the city were dug out. The
princesses were turned out and their jeweller)' was snatched by Ghulam Qadir. Ghulam Qadir, also
blinded Shah Alam and deposed him and put Bidar Bakht on the Mughal throne. However, the Marathas
brought out Shah Alam from his captivity and ^stored him to the throne. Ghulam Qadir was defeated
and hanged. Jn 1803, the English captured Delhi and Shah Alam II became a pen¬sioner of the English
East India Company and he died in 1806.
It is said about Shah Alam II that he was a religious man. He was affectionate as a father and humane as
a master. As a prince, he ^as weak, indolent, irresolute and easily swayed by self-interested men. *o
these weaknesses were added idleness, superstitiousness, sloth, indo-lence and excess of the harem
after his return to Delhi. He was inde-
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
cisive in his measures and did not trust his able ministers. These failing, aggravated the situation and
the Mughal Empire hastened to its doom.
Akbar n (1806-37)
After the death of Shah Alam II, his son succeeded as Akbar H. Like his father, he was also a pensioner of
the British. He was the head of the royal establishment in the Red Fort of Delhi and enjoyed the imperial
title only by courtesy. He died in 1837.
Bahadur Shah II (1837-57)
After the death of Akbar II, Bahadur Shah II became the Emperor. He was allowed to retain the imperial
title. He was fond of poetry and had the title of "Zafar." He took part in the Revolt of 1857. He was
captured and tried by the British. He was deported to Rangoon where he died in 1862. Thus ended the
Mughal dynasty.
(1) The downfall of the Mughal Empire was not due to any single factor but was the result of a
combination of a number of factors. Ac¬cording to certain scholars, the decline of the Mughal Empire
was largely due to the policies and character of Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb p.lienataed the sympathy and
support of the Hindus by his religious policy towards them. He imposed Jizya on all the Hindus in the
coun¬try. Even the Rajputs and Brahmans were not spared. He dismissed Hindu officials from state
service and allowed only those Hindus to continue in service whg were prepared to embrace Islam. An
order banning the building of new Hindu temples in the areas directly under Mughal control was
promulgated early in his reign. Though old temples were not to be destroyed under that order, it was
decreed that the temples built since the time of Akbar should be treated as newly built temples and on
that plea those temples were desecrated in different parts of the Mughal Empire. Those temples
included the temples of V'ishwanath at Kashi and Bir Singh Deo at Mathura. In 1679 when the State of
Marwar was under- direct imperial control and the Rajputs prepared themselves to resist Mughal
authority, old as well as new tem¬ples were destroyed in different parts of the Empire. Thousands of
artisans and labourers were employed to pull down Hindu temples and mosques were built with the
material of those temples. After the death of Raja Jaswant Singh, Aurangzeb tried to keep his son Ajit
Singh under his contiol. Durga Das Rathore managed to remove him and his mother to Rajputana in
spite of all the precautions taken by Aurangzeb. That led to the Rajput War which continued from 1679
to 1681. Al¬though peace was restored, Aurangzeb could not depend upon the Raj¬puts. It-proved to be
a great handicap during his Deccan wart. Instead of depending upon the support of the Rajputs, he had
to set apart Mughal troops to meet any possible trouble from them. The execution of Guru Teg Bahadur
was a blunder of Aurangzeb. That led to the alienation of the Sikhs who became a strong military power
under Guru Gobind Singh. Later on, those very Sikhs gave trouble to the Mughal Emperors. Although
Banda was captured and put to death, Sikh re¬sistance was not crushed. It kept on growing day by day
and ultimately the Sikhs were able to drive out the Mughals from the Punjab. The -same policy of
religious persecution led to the rise of the Marathas under Shivaji. The persecution of the Hindus
hardened their character and
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
became the bitter enemies of the Mughals. Lane-Poole writes about tney eb "His mistaken policy
towards Shivaji provided the founda-AuraIif a power that was to prove a successful rival to his own
Empire." "^ordi
to v.A. Smith, "The powerful Hindu support of the throne
so cleverly by Akbar, was weakened by the erroneous policy of *?n, jahan and in a still greater degree,
by the austere fanaticism of Aurangzeb."
In defence of the religious policy of Aurangzeb, it is contended that Aurangzeb never intended to Hindus
to accept Islam. As an orthodox Muslim king- he wanted to rule in accordance with the orthodox
inter¬pretation of the Holy Quran. While re-imposing Jizya, he formally abol¬ished about 80 taxes not
sanctioned by Islamic law. Aurangzeb wanted to emphasize the Islamic character of the state and to rally
the Muslims more closely round the throne. However, he did not realise that his policy would lead to a
strong reaction, among the Hindus and alienate such sections as the Rajputs who had been generally
loyal to the Mughal throne. The reign of Aurangzeb witnessed armed resistance from many quarters.
The Jats revolted in 1669 and 1688-91. The Satnamis revol¬ted in 1672. Sikh and Maratha resistance
continued not only during the reign of Aurangzeb but even after that.
The Deccan policy of Aurangzeb was also responsible for the down¬fall of the Mughal Empire.
Aurangzeb was bent upon crushing the power of the Maratha.-.. He found that the states of Bijapur and
Gol-runda were a source of great help to the Marathas who were employed in large numbers in those
states. They got not only money but also military training from those states. The conclusion of
Aurangzeb was that if those states were annexed to the Mughal Empire, the source strength of the
Marathas would be stopped. Moreover, the rulers of those states were Shias and for a fanatical Sunni
Muslim like Aurang¬zeb, their very existence was intolerable. Aurangzeb annexed Bijapur'in 1686 and
Golcunda in 1687. He might have claimed credit for the des¬truction of* the Shia states but he had
committed a blunder. He should have followed a buffer state policy towards them and subordinated his
religious zeal to statesmanship. If Aurangzeb had helped Bijapur and Golcunda against the Marathas, he
would have been able to keep the Marathas in check with much less expense and waste of energy and
After the annexation of Bijapur and Golcunda, Aurangzeb tried to crush the power of the Marathas. War
was declared against Sambhaji, (he son, of Shivaji. He was captured- and put to death under the orders
°t Aurangzeb. His son, Sahu, was captured and made a prisoner. He continued to be in prison till the
death of Aurangzeb in 1707. How¬ler, the Marathas carried on their struggle against Aurangzeb first
under \Vh leadershiP of Raja Ram and after his death, his widow Tara Bai. When Aurangzeb died in
1707, the power of the Marathas was still not
"shed. As a matter of fact, they were stronger than before.
About the Deccan policy of Aurangzeb, V.A. Smith observes, "The
^cc?n was tne grave of his reputation as well as of his body". Aurang"
°- to remain away from Northern India for a quarter of a century
wa a<?°unt OI" *"s involvement in the wars in the Deccan. The result
1h •
t'1C wno'e °^ Mughal administration was thrown out of gear.
»eie was complete confusion everywhere. As the Emperor was busy
~""13 Olo
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
in the Deccan, the provincial Governors did not send land revenue to the Central Government. At a time
when more money was required for tfie wars in the Deccan, very little was coming from the provinces.
When Bahadur Shah succeeded to the throne, the treasury was empty The Mughal Government being a
centralised despotism, the absence of Aurangzeb from the North for a long period encouraged
centrifugal tendencies among the Governors. After the death of Aurangzeb, those tendencies continued
to grow and the result was that ultimately the various provinces became independent. It was in this way
that Avadh, Bengal, the Punjab and the Deccan became independent. The Rohillas ) became
independent in Rohilkhand. The Jats also asserted their inde-pendence. Gradually, the Mughal Empire
broke up. The failure 0f Aurangzeb in trie Deccan wars destroyed the military prestige of the Mughals.
Too much of expenditure made the Mughal Government oankrupt.
It was a mistake on the part ot Aurangzeb not to have come to terms with Shivaji or Sambhaji. Although
Aurangzeb gave high ranks (Mansabs) to a large number of Maratha Sardars (chiefs), he had no
following among the Marathas. The conflict with the Marathas had far-reaching consequences. The
military prestige of the Mughals was dam* aged. The Mughals were prevented from consolidating their
position in the Deccan. A feeling of tension was created among the Hindus and Muslims. A considerable
harm was done to trade and industry on the Western coast and in the Deccan.
Aurangzeb was a man of suspicious nature. He did not trust even his sons and relatives. That is why he
kept the whole of the adminis¬tration under his personal supervision. That deprived his sons of the
necessary training in the art of administration and practical experience in the art of statesmanship and
diplomacy. As it was difficult for one man sitting at the Centre to control the whole of. administration
person¬ally, the whole of the administration fell a prey to corruption and in¬efficiency, especially when
the means of transport and communication were not fully developed in those days. Any attempt on the
part of a single individual to control the vast. Empire was destined to failure. Even during the life-time of
Aurangzeb, it was not possible to contiol the entire administration personally, but after his death, there
was dis¬order, confusion and chaos.
Under Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire became unwieldy. With the conquest and annexation of Bijapur
and Golcunda, it became so huge in size and extent that it was difficult to keep it intact. The means of
transport and communication during those days were not developed and hence the maintenance of the
central control over the distant parts of the Empire was a difficult problem. Rebellions in distant
provinces were often witnessed even during the life-time of Aurangzeb who was admit¬tedly a strong
man. Under his weak successors, it became impossible to maintain control over the distant provinces
which, one by one, drifted away from the control of the Central Government. Saadat Ali Khafl became
independent in Avadh. Ali Vardi Khan declared his indepen-dence in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The
Rohillas and the Rajputs took advantage of the weakness of the distant Central Government and set up
their independent states in their own regions. Nizam-ulMulk set up hi» own independent state in the
(2) Another cause of the downfall of the Mughal Empire was the financial bankruptcy of the
Mughal Government for which Aurangzeb
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
was not responsible, although he contributed to it and did nothing al°ne k jt it is true that Akbar had set
up a well-organised economic '° cie uut the same was not maintained by his successors. The economic
system ^ ^e Empire was strained, almost to the breaking j>oint, by the
s5s,e £^ie reign "of Shah Jahan on account of his extravagance on the miction of magnificent buildings
and palaces. He increased the C.°M demand of land revenue to one-half, The long, expensive and S ^
teful wars of Aurangzeb in the Deccan and the North-West Frontier Wi!Sined the treasury. After the
death of Aurangzeb, the system of farm-•^P of *axes was resortC(l to- Although the Government did not
get uch by that method, the people were ruined. The financial collapse ame in the time of Alamgir II who
was practically starved by his Wazir Imad-ul-Mulk. It is stated that Alamgir II had no conveyance to take
him to the Idgah and he had to walk on foot. Sir Jadunath Sarkar points out that on one occasion, no fire
was kindled in the royal kitchen for three days and one day the princesses could bear starvation no
longer and in frantic disregard of Purdah rushed out of the palace to the city. The gates of the fort being
closed, they sat down in the men's quarters for a day and a night after which they were persuaded to go
back to their rooms. That happened in 1775. The continuance of such a Government was not possible.
Another cause of the downfall of the Mughal Empire was the weak successors of Aurangzeb. If
they had been intelligent and brilliant, they may have stopped the decline of the Empire which had set
in during the reign of Aurangzeb. Unfortunately, most of them were worthless. They were busy in their
luxuries and intrigues and did nothing to remedy the evils which had crept into the Mughal body politic.
Bahadur Shah I was 63 when he ascended the throne and he did not possess the energy to perform the
onerous duties of the Government. He tried to keep the various parties and courtiers satisfied by
offering them liberal grants, titles, rewards etc. Bahadur Shah earned the nickname of Shah. uBehhahar
(Heedless King). Jahandar Shah was a dissolute profligate who fell under the vicious influence of a court
dancer, Lai Kanwar, a lady descendant of Tansen family. Farrukh-siyar was "contemptible and cowardly"
and a shameless debauchee. He was "strong neither for evil nor for good." Muhammad Shah was rightly
called "Rangila" and !.e could not be expected to check the rot. In the time of Ahmad Shah, the Mughal
Empire had shrunk to a small area round Delhi. Shah Alam JI was blinded and he suffered terribly. Akbar
II and Bahadur Shah II were no better. Edwards and Garret write, "The chronicles of the court <-f Delhi
after the death of Aurangzeb offer an unbroken tale of plots and counter-plots on the part of powerful
nobles, culminating at inter¬nals in open disorder and fighting, with the titular Emperor serving as 'he
sport and plaything of contending groups."
Another cause was the absence of the lata of primogeniture or any other settled law of
succession to the Mughal throne. The result J* that every, Mughal prince considered himself to
be equally fit to
ecome the next ruler and was prepared to fight out his claim. In the °rds of Erskine, "The sword was the
grand arbiter of .right and every d n hWas prepared to try his fortune against his brothers". After the
and ft0* ^uran8zeD. there was a war. of succession among his four sons the hadur S.hah came out
successful. After the death of Bahadur Shah, var" VarioUs c'a'mants to the throne were used as tools by
the leaders of the kar°kK *act'ons ,n {he court to promote their personal interests. Zulfi-Khan acted as
the king-maker. Likewise, the Sayyid Brothers acted
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
as kingmakers from 1713 to 1720. They were instrumental in the ap. pointment of four kings to the
throne. After their disappearance from the scene, Mir Mohammad Amin and Asif Jah Nizam-ul-Mulk
acted as king-makers. It is not incorrect to say that the absence of a law of succession led to frequent
wars of succession and contributed to the decline of the Mughal Empire.
Another cause was the gradual deterioration in the court of
the Mughal kings. When Babar attacked India, he swam all the rivers
on the way. He was so strong that he could run on the wall of a fort
vhile carrying man in his arms. Unmindful of the difficulties confronting
him, Humayun was able to win back his throne after the lapse of many
years. The same hardy character enabled Akbar to conquer the whole
of Northern India and a part of the Deccan. No amount of riding
on horse-back exhausted him. He could walk miles and miles on foot.
He is said to have walked from Agra to Delhi. He could kill a lion
with one stroke of his sword. After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal
Emperors became ease-loving. Their harems were full. They went about
in palanquins. They were hardly fit to rule a country where the mass
of the people detested their rule. Prof. S.R. Sharma writes, "Kam Baksh
as a captive on his deathbed regretted that a descendant of Timur was
captured alive. But Jahandar Shah and Ahmad Shah were not ashamed
to be caught up in the tresses of their concubines who came between
them and their duties as Emperors.
They looked on beauty, And turned away from dutyl
The former fooled himself in public with his Lai Kanwar and the latter buried himself in his seraglio—
which extended over four square miles-for weeks together without seeing the face of a male."
There was the degeneration of the Mughal nobility. When the
Mughals came to India, they had a hardy character. Too much of wealth,
luxury and leisure softened their character. Their harems became full.
They got wine in plenty. They went in palanquins to the battle-field.
Such nobles were not fit to fight against the Marathas, the Rajputs and
the Sikhs. The Mughal nobility degenerated at a very rapid pace. Sir
Jadunath Sarkar writes that no Mughal noble family retained its im¬
portance for more than one or two generations. If the achievements
of a nobleman were mentioned in three pages, the achievements
of his .son occupied nearly a page and the grandson was dismissed in
a few lines such as "he did nothing worthy of being recorded here."
The Mughal nobility was taken from the Turks, the Afghans and the
Persians and the climate of India was not suitable for their growth.
They began to degenerate during their stay in India.
The truth of this argument is challenged. It is pointed out that there is no reason to believe that the
people belonging to colder cli¬mates are better warrio'rs. Among the many well-known administrators
and distinguished warriors produced by the Mughal Empire, there were many Hindustanis and
immigrants who had lived in India for a long time. The eighteenth century also produced a large number
of capable nobles and distinguished generals. Their personal ambitions were un¬limited and they
preferred to carve out independent principalities for themselves rather than serve the Mughal Emperors
loyally and devoted¬ly. The chief reason for the degeneration of the nobility was 'hat gradually it
became a closed corporation. It gave no opportunity ot promotion to capable men belonging to
other classes as had been
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
,he case earlier. The offices of the state became hereditary and the preserve of people belonging to a
few families. Another reason was their incorrigible habit of extravagant living and pompous display
which weakened their morale and drained their limited financial resources. Most of the nobles spent
huge sums on keeping large harems, maintaining a big staff of servants etc., and indulged in- other
forms of senseless show. The result was that many of the nobles became bankrupt in spite of their large
Jagirs. Dismissal from service or loss of Jagirs spelt ruin for most of them. That prompted many of them
to form groups and factions for securing large and profitable Jagirs. Others turned themselves into
grasping tyrants who mercilessly fleeced the peasants of their Jagirs, Many nobles became ease-loving
and soft. They dreaded war and became «, much accustomed to an extravagant way of life that they
could not do without many of the luxuries even when they were on military cam-paigns.
The Mughal nobility was corrupt and faction-ridden. By giving suitable bribes, any Government rule
could be evaded or any favour secured. The interests of the Mughal Empire did not appeal to them. The
British regularly bribed Mughal nobles for getting their work done. Even the highest nobles took bribes
which were called Peshkcsh or presents. That lowered the tone of administration. With the passage of
time, corruption and bribery increased. Later on, even some of the Mughal Emperors shared the money
which their favourites charged as Teshkash from people desirous of getting a post or seeking a transfer.
Factionalism kept on growing till it extended to all branches of admi¬nistration. The two major causes of
factionalism were struggle for Jagirs and personal advancement and struggle for supremacy between
the Wazir and the monarch. Thus faction fights weakened the monarchy, gave a chance to the
Marathas, Jats etc., to increase their power and to inter¬fere in the court politics and prevented the
Emperors from following a consistent policy. Factionalism became the most dangerous bane of the
Mughal rule from 1713 onwards. To save themselves from these fac¬tion fights, the Mughal Emperors
depended upon unworthy favourites and that worsened the situation.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes, "All the surplus produce of a 'fertile land under a most bounteous Providence
was swept into the coffers of the Mughal nobility and pampered them in a degree of luxury not dreamt
of even by kings in Persia or Central Asia. Hence, in the houses of the Delhi nobility, luxury was carried to
an excess. The harems of many of them were filled with a large number of women of an infinite variety
of races, intellect and character. Under Muslim Law the sons of concubines are entitled to their
matrimony equally with sons born 'n wedlock, and they occupy no inferior position in society. Even the
sons of lawfully married wives became, at a precocious age, familiar with vices from what they saw and
heard in the harem, while their mothers were insulted by th'e higher splendour and influence enjoyed in
the same household by younger and fairer rivals of servile origin or easier virtue, 'he proud spirit and
majestic dignity of a Cornelia are impossible in ne crowded harem of a polygamist; and without
Cornelias among the Mothers there cannot be Grachhi among the sons."
Where wealth accumulates, men decay; And disloyalty on the Empire did prey.
A reference may also be made to the moral degeneration among the ughal nobles. "In a mean spirit of
jealousy, they insulted and thwarted
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
new men drawn from the ranks and ennobled for the most brilliant
lie services, and yet they themselves had grown utterly worthless. \y have a significant example of the
moral degeneration of the MuojJI peerage. The Prime Minister's grandson, Mirza Tafakhur, used t0 &fi
forth from his mansion in Delhi with his ruffians, plundered the shop, £ the bazar, kidnapped Hindu
women passing through the public strJh in litters or going to the river, and dishonoured them; and yet
there ^j, no judge strong enough to punish him, no police to prevent such crinw Every time such an
occurrence was brought to the Emperor's notice fo the newsletters or official reports, he referred it to
the Prime MinistJZ and did nothing more."
(7) Another cause of Mughal downfall was the deterioration ani demoralisation in the Mughal
army. The abundance of riches of India the use of wine and comforts had their evil effects on the
Mughal arm* and nothing was done to stop the deterioration. The soldiers cared more for personal
comforts and less for winning battles. In the words o{ Irvine, "Excepting want of personal
courage, every other fault in the list of military vices may be attributed to the degenerate
Mughals; in. discipline, want of cohesion, luxurious habits, inactivity and commissariat and cumbrous
equipment." The impotence of the Mughal armies was declared to the world when the
Mughals failed to recapture Qandhar in spite of three determined efforts made by them. In 1739,
Nadir Shah not only plundered the whole of Delhi but also ordered wholesale mas¬sacre. When such a
thing happens without any effort on the part of the ruler to stop it, he forfeits the right to command
allegiance from the people. The Mughal state was a police state and when it failed to
maintain internal order and external peace, the people lost all their respect for the
Government. The view of Sir Wolseley Haig is that the demoralisation of the army was one of the
principal factors in the dis¬integration of the Mughal Empire. The source of the weakness was the
composition of the army which consisted chiefly of contingents' main¬tained by the great
nobles from the revenues of assignments held by them for that purpose. As the authority of
the sovereign relaxed, the general tendency among the great nobles was naturally to hold as their
own those assignments which maintained their troops. The general laxity of discipline
converted the army into a mob. Drill was unknown and a soldier's training which he might undergo or
not as he liked, consisted in muscular exercise and in individual practice in the use of the weapons with
which he was armed. He mounted guard or not as he liked. There was no Tegular punishment for
military crimes. Aurangzeb himself habi¬tually overlooked, as matters of course, acts of treason,
cowardice and deliberate neglect of duty before the enemy.
About the military system of the Mughals, it is contended that their weapons and methods of war had
become frostgrown and outmoded. They put too much reliance on artillery and armoured cavalry. The
artillery was local in action and ponderous in movement. It was render¬ed stationary by huge tail of
camp which looked like a city with i*s markets, tents, stores and'baggage. All kinds of people, men and
women, old and young, combatants and non-combatants, besides elephants, cattle and beasts of
burden, accompanied the Mughal army. On the other hand, the Maratha cavalry was swift and elusive
like wind. They suddenly erupted on Mughal camps and launched damaging attacks on their posts.
Before the Mughals could get time for recovery, the Marathas "like water parted by the oar," closed
and fell on them. At the turn of the 18th
ngCline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
ketry made rapid progress and became prominent in the cet*tury> "^Lgrfare. Swift running cavalry of
matchlockmen was superior methods ot e(j wjth heavy artillery and armour-clad cavalry. In spite (0 army
e9" Mughals- refused to change their old methods of warfare of tnat' ' nder they were defeated by
the Marathas and the Afghar
The Mughals neglected the development of the navy and th;.
(r) vjdal for them. They never realised the importance of a fully
proved *unaVV for the defence of their Empire. They neither gave any
equippe to naval power nor took any measures to develop it. The
inporta ^at tne Mughals could not stand before the rising European
which were expert in naval tactics of war. It was the strength
powers navaj pOWer which enabled the European powers, particularly
British to establish their commercial and political supremacy in iA'» In course of time, they struck a
deadly blow to the already totter-ing'Mughal Empire.
/Q\ xhe Mughals suffered from intellectual bankruptcy. That was nartlv due to the lack of an efficient
system of education in the country hich alone could produce leaders of thought. The result was that the
Muehals failed to produce any political genius or leader who could "teach the country a new philosophy
of life and to kindle aspirations after a new heaven on earth. They all drifted and dozed in admiration of
the wisdom of their ancestors and shook their heads at the growing degene¬ration of the moderns." Sir
Jadunath Sarkar points out that there was no good education and no practical training of the Mughal
nobility. They were too much patted by eunuchs and maid servants and passed through a sheltered life
from birth to manhood. Their domestic tutors were an unhappy class, powerless to do any good except
by love of their pupils, brow-beaten by eunuchs, disobeyed by the lads themselves and forced to
cultivate the arts of the courtier or to throw up their thank¬less office. Not much could be expected
from such teachers and their wards.
Another cause of Mughal downfall was the prevalence of cor¬ruption in every department of
the Government. The exaction of offi¬cial perquisites from the public by the officials and their
subordinates was universal and an admitted practice. Many officials from the highest to the lowest took
bribes for doing undeserved favours. Even the .Em¬peror was not above it. Aurangzeb is stated to have
asked an- aspirant to a title : "Your father gave to Shah Jahan one lakh of rupees for add¬ing Alif to his
title and making him Amir Khan. How much will you pay me for the title I am giving you ?" The ministers
and influential courtiers around the Emperor made fortunes. Qabil Khan in 2£ years of personal
attendance on Aurangzeb amassed 12 lakhs of rupees in cash, besides articles of value and a new house.
Offices were reserved for old families of clerks and accountants and outsiders' were not allowed to
come in. Such a state of affairs was detrimental to the highest interests of the state.
The Mughal Government received no popular support. The Mughals came to India from foreign,
lands and their rule came to be considered as alien. With the exception of Akbar, no Mughal ruler made
any effort to bring the Hindus and Muslims together and create a composite nation. Akbar did some
pioneering work but his' work was undone by his successros. Aurangzeb particularly behaved in a
bigoted way and always considered himself as the ruler of the Muslims only. His policies naturally
offended the sentiments of the Hindus and encouraged
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
them to revolt against him. The Mughal rulers did not pay any atten-tion to the welfare of the people.
They were mainly concerned with the collection of revenue and maintenance of law and order. The
result was chat the Hindus continued to look upon the Muslim rulers as foreigners and enemies of their
religion and country. They were keen for an oppor¬tunity to overthrow the alien rule of the Mughals.
The result was that when the Mughal Empire grew weak in the 18th century, the Hindus, particularly the
Marathas, Jats and Rajputs, did everything possible t0 bring1 about its fall.
The Mansabdari system degenerated in the time of Aurangzeb and his successors. Jagirs were in
short supply. Transfers were frequ. cnt and the allotment of a new Jagir took long time. Even when a
Jagir was allotted, its real income was generally far below its paper income. The result was that many
nobles could not keep their quota of troops. That weakened the army and affected adversely the
administrative effi¬ciency. The practice of farming lands to the highest bidder made the position of the
peasants miserable. The old landed nobility (Zamindars) were replaced by a new type of businesscumoppressor class.
Another cause of Mughal downfall was the stoppage of adven¬turers from Persia, Afghanistan
and Turkistan. While the Mughals in India ruined themselves through luxuries and pleasures, there was
a dearth of men who could shoulder the responsibilities of the Govern¬ment. It is the adventurers,
particularly from Persia, who had given able administrators and generals to the Muslim rulers of India
and when that source stopped, the Mughal administrative machinery became like a corpse. It was not
able to deliver the goods.
There was the general loss of nerve on the part of (he Muslim community in India. They forgot
that they had a mission to fulfil in India. Those who counted in the country, cared more for personal
aggrandisement than for the glory of Islam in. India. The ablest among them were keen to set up
kingdoms of their own and thereby perpetuate their names. Theologians like Shah Wali Ullah took
refuge in the con¬cept of the community of the faithful looking only to God instead of calling upon the
Muslims to rally round the throne. What was to be seen was not patriotism or bravery but cynicism,
opportunism and indul¬gence. Much could not be expected 5n those circumstances.
The invasions of India by Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali gave a serious blow to the already
tottering Mughal Empire. The easy victory of Nadir Shah and the repeated invasions of Ahmad Shah
Abdali exposed to the world the military weakness of the Mughal state. The prestige of the Mughal
Empire was adversely affected. The people lost all faith in the capactiy of the Mughal rulers to protect
them against foreign invaders. That encouraged them to revolt and set up their inde¬pendent states.
Probably one of the most important factors which contributed to the decline of the Mughal
Empire was the rise of the Marathas under the Peshwas. After consolidating their position in Western
India, they started entertaining plans for a Hindu Empire covering Northern India also. That dream could
be realised only at the cost of the Mughals. The Marathas made their gains at the cost of the Mughals
and emerged as the strongest power in Northern India in the mid-18th century. They not only played
the role of king-makers at the Delhi court but also acted as the defenders of the country against foreign
invaders like Ahmad Shah
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Abdali. Thougn the Marathasdid not succeed in setting up their Em¬pire in Northern India, they certainly
gave a death blow to the Mughal Empire.
The rise of the British power' in India was also responsible .for
the downfall of the Mughal Empire. Although, the English East India
(jompnay started merely as a commercial adventure, it became powerful
jn course of time and acquired political power. By the middle of the
eighteenth century, it was successful in ousting other European rivals in
tne commercial and political spheres. By their victories in the battles
0( Plassey and Buxar in 1757 and 1764 respectively, the English East
India Company became the virtual master of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
7 he Mughal Emperors had no naval power of their own to meet the.
danger from the English East India Company. In course of time, the
English East India Company got a perfect mastery of the whole of India
•which once formed the Mughal Empire. Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes, "The English conquest of the
Mughal Empire is only a part of the in¬evitable domination of all Africa and Asia by the European
nations... which is only another way of saying that the progressive races are sup¬planting the
conservative ones, just as enterprising families are constantly replacing sleepy and self-satisfied ones
in the leadership of our society."
Another important factor which hastened the downfall of the
Mughal Empire was that in the eighteenth century, there was a revival
of political consciousness among the martial races of the Hindus. Those
races were the Rajputs,, the Sikhs and the Maraihas. They set up their
independent states in their own areas on the mins of the Mughal Empire.
Their attacks on the Mughal Empire rendered it hollow from within.
Another cause of the downfall of the Mughal Empire was that
it could no longer satisfy the mfnimum needs of the people. The condi¬
tion of the Indian peasant gradually worsened during the 17th and 13th
centuries. In the 18th century, his life was "poor, nasty, miserable and
uncertain". The constant transfer of nobles from their Jagirs led to
great evil. They tried to extract as much from a Jagir as possible in
the short period of their tenure as Jagirdars. They made heavy demands
on the peasants and cruelly oppressed them, often in violation of official
regulations. After the death of Aurangzeb, the practice of Ijarah- or
farming the land revenue to the highest bidder became more and more
common both on Jagir and Khalisah (Crown) lands. That led to the
rise of a new class of revenue farmers and Talukdars whose extortions
from the peasantry often knew no bounds. There was stagnation and
deterioration in agriculture and impoverishment of the peasant. Peasant
discontent increased and came to the surface. There were instances of
the peasants leaving the land in order to avoid the payment of taxes.
Peasant discontentment found an outlet in a series of uprisings such as
the Satnamis, the Jats and the Sikhs and that weakened the stability and
strength of the Empire; Many peasants formed roving bands of robbers
and adventurers and thereby undermined law and order and efficiency
of the Government.
Bhimsen writes thus about the oppressive officers: "There is no limit fo the oppression of these men... of
their oppression and cruelty what "lay one write? For no description can suffice." To quote Khan Khan,
"The cruelty, oppression and injustice of the officials, who have no 'hought of God, has reached such a
degree that if one wishes to describe a hundredth part of it, it will still defy description."
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
Professor Irfan Habib writes thus in his book entitled The Agra, rian System of Mughal India : "But the
Mughal Empire had' its own grave digger and what Sadi said of another great Empire might well serve as
its epitah :
The Emperors of Persia Who oppressed the lower classes; Gone is their glory and Empire; Gone their
tyranny over the peasant I"
View of Dr. Satish Chandra
A reference may be made to some of the views of Dr. Satish Chandra regarding the downfall of the
Mughal Empire. He points out that Aurangzeb has been criticised for having failed to unite with the
Deccani states against the Marathas, or for having conquered them thereby mak¬ing the Empire "so
large that it collapsed under its own weight." A unity of hearts between Aurangzeb and the Deccani
states was "a psycho, logical impossibility", once the treaty of 1636 was abandoned, a develop¬ment
which took place during the reign of Shah Jahan himself. After his accession, Aurangzeb desisted from
pursuing a vigorous forward policy in the Deccan. In fact, he postponed as long as possible the decision
to conquer and annex the Deccani states. His hand was virtually forced by the growing Maratha power,
the support extended to Shivaji by Madanna and Akhanna from Golconda and fear- that Bijapur might
fall under the domination of Shivaji and the Maratha-dominated Golconda. By giving shelter to the rebel
Prince Akbar, Sambhaji virtually threw a challenge to Aurangzeb who quickly realised that the. Marathas
could not be dealt with without first subduing Bijapur and possibly Golconda.
Dr. Satish Chandra points out that the impact of the Deccani and oiher wars of the Mughal Empire and
of the prolonged absence of Aurang¬zeb from Northern India, should not be over-estimated. Despite
the mistakes of policy and some of the personal shortcomings of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire was still
a powerful and vigorous military and admi¬nistrative machinery. The Mughal army might fail against the
elusive and the highly mobile bands of the Marathas in the mountainous region of the Deccan. Maratha
forts might be difficult to capture and still more difficult to retain. But in the plains of Northern India and
the vast plateau extending up to the Karnatak, the Mughal artillery was still the master of the field.
Thirty or forty years after the death of Aurangzeb when the Mughal artillery had declined considerably
in strength and efficiency' the Marathas could still not face it in the field of battle. In Northern India
which was the heart of the Empire and was of decisive economic and political importance in the country,
the Mughal admi¬nistration still retained much of its vigour. The administration at the district level
proved amazingly tenacious and a good deal of it survived and found its way indirectly into the British
administration. Despite the military reverses and mistakes of Aurangzeb, the Mughal dynasty still
re¬tained a powerful hold on the mind and imagination of the people.
Dr. Satish Chandra further points out that as far as the Rajputs were concerned, the breach with Marwar
was not due to any attempt on the part of Aurangzeb to underm»>e the Hindus by depriving them of a
recognised head. That was due to a miscalculation on his part. He wanted to divide the Marwar state
between the two principal claimants, and in the process alienated both, as also the ruler of Mewar who
con¬sidered Mughal interference in such matters to be 2 dangerous precedent.
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
The breach with Mewar and the long drawn-out war which followed maged the moral
standing of the Mughal state. However, the fighting d* not of much consequence militarily after
1681. It may be doubted ^nether the presence of Rathor Rajputs in large numbers in the Deccan
hetween 1681 and 1706 would have made much difference in the out-me of the conflict with
the Marathas. In any case, the demands of the Rajputs related to the grant of high Mansabs as
before and resto¬ration of their homelands. Those demands having been accepted within half a dozen
years of the death of Aurangzeb, the Rajputs ceased to be problem for the Mughals. They played no
role in the subsequent dis¬integration of the Mughal Empire.
Dr. Satish Chandra maintains that the religious policy of Aurangzeb should be seen in the social,
economic and political contexts. Aurang¬zeb was orthodox in his outlook and he tried to remain within
the frame¬work of Islamic law. That was developed outside. India in vastly dis¬similar situations and
could hardly be applied rigidly to India. The failure of Aurangzeb to respect the susceptibilities of his
non-Muslim sub¬jects on many occasions, his adherence to the time-worn policy towards temples and
re-imposition of Jizya as laid down by the Islamic law did not help him to rally the Muslims to his side or
generate a greater sense of loyalty towards a state based on Islamic Law. On the other hand, it alienated
the Hindus and strengthened the hands of those sections which were opposed to the Mughal Empire for
political or other reasons. By itself, religion was not at issue. Jizya was scrapped within half a dozen
years of the death of Aurangzeb and restrictions on the building of new temples were eased, but they
had no effect on the decline and disintegration of the Mughal Empire.
The conclusion of Dr. Satish Chandra is that in the ultimate resort, the decline and downfall of the
Mughal Empire was due to economic, social, political and institutional factors. Akbar's measures helped
to keep the forces of disintegration in check for some time, but it was not possi¬ble for him to effect
fundamental changes in the structure of society. By the time Aurangzeb came to the throne, the socioeconomic forces of disintegration were already strong. Aurangzeb lacked the foresight and
statesmanship necessary to effect fundamental changes in the structure or to pursue policies which
could reconcile the various competing ele¬ments. Aurangzeb was both a victim of circumstances and "
helped to create the circumstances of which he became a victim.
The view of Dr. Satish Chandra is that India lagged behind the world in the field of science and
technology and the Mughal ruling class remained blind to this development. It was more concerned with
matters of immediate concern than matters which would shape the future. The Mughal Empire had
already reached the limits of its development. The feudal aristocratic nature of the state and the1
neglect of science and technology by the ruling class were placing limits to the economic deve¬lopment
of the country.
Dr. Satish Chandra concludes, "Thus, the roots of the disintegra¬tion of the Mughal empire may be
found in the Medieval Indian econo¬my; the stagnation of trade, industry and scientific development
within the limits of that economy; the growing financial crisis which took the form of a crisis of the
jagirdari system and affected every branch of state activity; the inability of the nobility to realise in the
circumstances their ambitions in the service of the state and, consequently, the struggle of factions and
the bid of ambitious nobles for independent dominion;
Decline and Disintegration of the Mughal Empire
the inability of the Mughal emperors to accommodate the Marathas and to adjust their claims within
the framework of the Mughal Empire, and the consequent breakdown of the attempt to create a
composite ruling class in India; and the impact of all these developments on politics at the court and in
the country, and upon the security of the north-western passes. Individual failings and faults of
character also played their due role but they have necessarily to be seen against the background of
these deeper, more impersonal factors." (Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court, p. 268).
Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes, "The Mughal Empire and with it the Maratha overlordship of Hindustan fell
because of the rottenness at the core of Indian society. The rottenness showed itself in the form of
mili¬tary and political helplessness. The' country could not defend itself; loyalty was hopelessly
depraved or imbecile; the nobles were selfish and short-sighted; corruption, inefficiency and treachery
disgraced all branches of public service. In the midst of this decay and confusion, our literature, art and
even true religion had perished." (Fall of the Mughal Empire, Vol. 4, pp. 343-44)'
Athar Ali. The Mughal Nobility under Aurangzeb.
Bisheshwar Prasad. Bondage and Freedom, Vol. I, New Delhi, 1981.
Faruki. Zahiruddin. Aurangzeb and His Times.
Frazer, J. History of Nadir Shah.
Gupta, Han Ram. Studies in the Later Mughal Histosy of the Punjab.
Habib, Irfan. The Agrarian System of Mughal India.
Irvine, William. Later Mughals, Vols. I and II.
Kashiraj, Pandit. Battle of Panipat, Ed. by Rawlinson (1926 Edition).
Lockhart, L. Nadir Shah, 1938.
Keene, H. G. The Fall of the Mughal'Empire, 1887.
Majumdar, R. C. (Ed.). The Maratha Supremacy, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1977.
Malleson, G. B. The Decisive Battles of India. Owen, Sidney. The Fall of the Mughal Empire. Sarkar, Sir
Jadunath. The Fall of the Mughal Empire, 4 Vols. Satish Chandra. Parties and Politics at the Mughal
Court, 1707-40. Spear, Percival. Twilight of the Mughals, 1951. Srivastava, A. L. The First Two Nawabs
of Oudh. Sruvastava, A. L. Shuja-ud-Daulah.
Tara Chand. History of the Freedom Movement in India, Vol. I, Govern¬ment of India, 1961.
Bengal Subha : Murshid Kuli Khan
When the Mughal Empire began to disintegrate, many provinces virtually became independent. The
Subah of Bengal was the first to become autonomous and the first to pass under British rule. It became
autonomous under Murshid Quli Khan, a South Indian Brahman con-vert to Islam. He was educated in
Persia. He served his apprenticeship in Mughal administration in the Deccan. He won the confidence of
Aurangzeb by honest and efficient discharge of his duties. He was ap¬pointed Diwan of Bengal Subah in
1700 A.D. In 1701, the Diwani of Orissa was added to his charge. In 1704, the Diwani of Bihar was also
given to him. He kept Aurangzeb satisfied by regular transmission of large amounts of money for the
Deccan War. On account of his dis¬agreement with the Subahdar Azim-ush-Shan, the grandson of
Aurang¬zeb, Murshid' Quli Khan transferred Diwani office from Dacca, the pro¬vincial capital, to
Maqsudabad whose name was later on changed to Murshidabad.
At the time of the death of Aurangzeb, Murshid Quli Khan was Naib Nazim or Deputy Governor of
Bengal and full Governor of Orissa and Diwan of Bengal and Orissa. In February 1713, Farrukhsiyar
con¬ferred on him the Diwani of Bengal. In September 1713, he made him also Deputy Governor of
Bengal. On 6 May 1714, he received Subahdari of Orissa. In September 1717, he was made full
Subahdar of Bengal.
Murshid Quli Khan was a strict ruler. He established an efficient administration. He effectively
reorganised the revenue system by con¬verting all the Jagirs of the officers in Bengal i.ito Khalsa directly
under the Crown collectors and by introducing the Ijara system according to which contracts were given
for collection of revenue. Later on, those contractors became Zamindars and many of hem got the title
of Rajas and Maharajas. Thus, a new landed aristocracy was created fn Bengal whose "position was
confirmed and made hereditary by Lord Cornwallis". Increase of revenue was also due to economy in
administration and main¬tenance of internal peace.
Although he freed himself from central control, he continued to send regularly his tribute to the Mughal
Emperor. He established peace by freeing Bengal of internal and external dangers. Bengal was relatively
free of uprisings by Zamindars. The only three 'major uprisings during bis rule were by Sitaram Ray of
Bhusna Pargana, Udai Narayan and Ghulam Muhammad and then by Shujat Khan and finally by Najat
Khan. After defeating them, he gave their Jagirs to Ramjivan, his own favOunte. He was a good
administrator and he improved the finances of the state. He also helped the growth of trade xand gave
all possible help and in¬centives to traders! He was a man of puritan character who despised all kinds of
luxury. He succeeded in. bringing prosperity to the province of Bengal. He died in June 1727.
Hue of Autonomous Stales
Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes about Murshid Quli Khan, "A purity in his private life, strictly attentive to his
public duties as he under, siood them, gravely decorous and rigidly orthodox as befitted a favouri^
disciple of Aurangzeb, and a propagator of his faith as ordained in h^ scriptures, Murshid Quli Khan
presents one side of his character in a brilliant light. But his heart was cold and his sympathies narrow,
njs calculating vindictiveness, his religious bigotry, and his utter lack of warm, all-embracing
benevolence, denied this conscientious civil servant the right to be ranked as a statesman or even as a
truly great soul." (History of Bengal, Vol. I, edited by Jadunath Sarkar, 1948, pp. 420-2,1),
When Murshid Quli Khan died in 1727, without leaving any male issue, his son-in-law Shuja-ud-din
Mohammad Khan who had been De¬puty Governor of Orissa, ascended the Masnad of Bengal. He
appointed his friends and kinsmen to the principal offices of the Government. In managing all important
affairs of administration, Shuja-ud-dn followed the counsel of Ali Vardi Khan, of. his brother Haji Ahmad,
of Alam Chand, a loyal officer and able financiar and of Jagat Seth Fateh Chand, the famous banker of
, During the early part of his rule, Shuja-ud-Din paid due attention to the affairs of administration and
sought to promote the welfare of his subjects. He was , charitable to his old friends, kind and bountiful
towards his officers and hospitable to those who happened to come to Murshidabad. He dispensed
justice impartially. He strictly asserted his authority over the European trading Companies in Bengal. The
English did not consider it advisable to risk an open rupture with him and paid him occasionally large
sums of money. However, towards the end of his life, some vices in the private character of Shuja-udDin impaired the efficiency of his administration and supreme power fell into the hands of his advisers,
Haji Ahmad, Alam Chand and Jagat Seth Fateh Chand who degenerated into a clique of self-seekers who
tormented intrigues and conspiracies to serve their own interests.
Sarfaraz Khan (1739-40)
When Shuja-ud-Din died in March 1739, he was succeeded by his ion Sarfaraz Khan. He retained old
officers like Haji Ahmad and Alam Chand. Sarfaraz Khan was excessively addicted to debauchery and he
did not possess the essential qualities needed for the ruler of a state. He had to pay a very heavy price
by losing his life and the Masnad of Bengal. The weakness of Delhi authority, inefficiency of Sarfaraz
Khan and machinations of Haji Ahmad excited Ali Vardi's ambition to seize the Masnad of Bengal for
himself. With that object, he left Patna for Murshidabad. Sarfaraz was killed in the battle of Gheria on 10
April 1740. Ali Vardi Khan ruled Bengal from 1740 to 1756.
Ali Vardi Khan
Ali Vardi Khan rose gradually to higher and higher posts by dint of his tact and ability. In 1728, Shuja-udDin appointed him Faujdar of the Chakla Akbarnagar. He governed that area efficiently and brought
peace and prosperity to the people. His brother Haji Ahmad was at Mvrshidabad as one of the chief
advisers of Shuja-ud-Din. His eldest son Muhammad Raza was appointed Pay-master of Nawab's troops
and Superintendent of Customs at Murshidabad. His second son Aga Muham¬mad Said was appointed
Faujdar of Rungpur. In 1733, Ali Vardi Khan
Rise of Autonomous States
ointed Deputy Governor of Bihar and he restored peace in that was app v:gorous steps and measures of
reconciliation. He suppressed province^^ces ^.^ firmness The zamjndars were reduced to sub-the d,s jje
also tooV. strong action against the turbulent Banjaras who miSS1°devastating different parts of Bihar.
In 1740 Ali Vardi seized the WCrC ad of Bengal by defeating and killing Sarfaraz Khan.
The rule of Ali Vardi Khan was disturbed by frequent miliu, rations. He had to subjugate Orissa by force
of arms in 1741. Safdar-0fne the Nawab of Avadh, entered Bihar and occupied Patna for some fine
(1742)- The Afgnans of Bihar rose in revolt in 1745 and 1748 and thev received support from Afghan
adventurers from different parts of Northern India. However, the Marathas were the greatest menace
to Ali Vardi Khan. There were as many as five Maratha invasions in 1742, 1743, 1744,. 1745 and 1748.
Raghuji Bhonsle of Nagpur found in the rich province of Bengal a profitable field for plunder and
extension of his political influence. In 1742, his general Bhaskar Ram invaded Bengal and his troops
ravaged the Western Districts of Bengal and parts of Bihar and Orissa. In 1743, Raghuji Bhonsle himself
marched at the head of a large army on the plea of realising the Chauth of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. At
the same time, Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao entered at the head of another Maratha army. Ali Vardi Khan
conciliated the Peshwa by promising payment of Chauth to Sahu and by making an immediate payment
of Rs. 22 lacs. The allied troops of the Peshwa and AH Vardi Khan expelled Raghuji Bhonsle. The Peshwa
also left Bengal. Bhaskar Ram invaded again in 1744. Ali Vardi Khan got rid of him by treacherous murder
and his troops fled. In 1745, Raghuji Bhonsle again attacked Bengal, but he was defeated by Ali Vardi
Khan and forced to retreat to Nagpur. In 1748, a Maratha army from Nagpur, led by Janoji Bhonsle,
advanced into Bengal and the operations continued till 1751. Worn out with incessant toil and weighed
down with age at the age of 75, Ali Vardi Khan concluded a treaty with the Marathas in May/June 1751.
The river Subarnarekha was fixed the boundary of the Bengal Subah and the Marathas agreed never to
cross it again. Orissa was ceded to the Bhonsle ruler. From October 1751, 12 lacs of rupees were to be
paid annually to the Marathas from Bengal revenues as the Chauth of that Subah in two instalments on
the condition that the Marathas would never set their foot again in the Subah of Bengal.
Apart from territorial loss, the Nawab of Bengal suffered serious economic loss. Agriculture, industry,
trade and commerce were dislocated. There was social dislocation as a large number of people migrated
from the ravaged Western Districts of Bengal to the Northern and Eastern Districts. The English
merchants of Calcutta took measures for the defence of the town against apprehended Maratha raids
and provided shelter for many people. That earned for them the goodwill and confi¬dence of the
Indians. Ali Vardi was generally conciliatory. He was aware of their growing strength and the political
developments connected with the Anglo-French conflict in the Deican alarmed him. That fear came out
to be true in the time of his successor.
Ali Vardi Khan governed Bengal ably and with prudence and fore¬sight. In his private life, he was free
from the prevailing vices of the ruling and aristocratic classes of those days. He was a tactful and strong
Governor who tried to infuse spirit and vigour into every branch of hi? administration.
Rise of Autonomous States
Ali Vardi Khan died on 10 April 1756 and he was succeeded by his grandson and heir-designate Siraj udDaulah. He had enemies among his near relations who coveted the Bengal or influence through
it. They were his cousin Shaukat Jung and his mother's eldest sister Ghasiti Begum who had amassed
immense wealth. Siraj-ud-Daulah's most for. midable enemy was Mir Jafar, the Commander-in-Chief of
the army.
Soon after his accession, Siraj-ud-Daulah seized the huge wealth of Ghasiti Begum. He removed Mir Jafar
from the post of the commander cf the army and appointed in his place Mir Madan. Mohan Lai was
made Peshkar of the Diwan-i-Khanah. Siraj-ud-Daulah defeated and killed Shaukat Jung in October
Siraj-ud-Daulah had three" specific grievances against the English East India Company. The Company had
built strong fortifications and dug a large ditch in the king's dominion contrary to the laws of the
country. The second grievance was that the English had abused the privilege of their Dastaks by granting
them to such men. as were in no way entitled to them and the Nawab lost the revenue. The third
complaint was that tivey had given protection jn Calcutta to some of the king's subjects and instead of
giving them up on demand, they allowed such persons to shelter themselves within their bounds from
the hands of justice. The charges were not baseless but the English in Calcutta insulted the messen¬ger
of Siraj-ud-Daulah. On 4 June 1756, the English factory at Kasim Bazar was stormed by the soldiers of the
Nawab. The Nawab captured Calcutta on 20 June' 1756. The story of "Blackhole" has been proved to be
untrue. The Madras Council sent reinforcement of troops under Ad¬miral Watson and Colonel Clive to
recover Calcutta by the first week of February 1757. Adverse circumstances forced Siraj-ud-Daulah to
con¬clude a treaty with the English on 9 February 1757 by which the trade rights and factories of the
English East India Company were restored to them and restitution and compensation money were
promised by the Nawab to the Company, its servants and tenants. The English were granted permission
to fortify Calcutta and coin Sicca rupees. In return for these concessions, the English Company promised
to help Siraj-ud-Daulah against the Afghans.
« However, peace between Siraj-ud-Daulah and the English did not last long. The Nawab was suspicious
of the designs of the English Com¬pany and the English Company was also convinced that the Nawab
would try to destroy them. The result was that the English decided to overthrow the Nawab. A
conspiracy was hatched and it was decided to put Mir Jafar on the Masnad of Bengal. In pursuance of
that conspiracy, the battle of Plassey was fought on 23 June 1757 in which the English were victorious.
Siraj-ud-Daulah ran away from the battlefield but he was captured and put to death. Mir Jafar was
made the Nawab of Bengal.
Mir Jafar
Mir Jafar ruled from 1757 to 1760. He was merely a figurehead and the real power was in the hands of
Clive. Ultimately, in 1760 he was removed by the English Company and Mir Qasim was made the Nawab
in 1760. He ruled from 1760 to 1763. He was also removed in 1763 and replared by Mir Jafar. Mir Jafar
remained the Nawab of Bengal for the second time from July 1763 to February 1765. When Mir Jafar
died in 1765, his second son Najamud-Daulah was put on the throne but all power
Rise of Autonomous Slates
passed into the hands of the English Company. In 1765, Clive set up what is known as Dual Government
of Bengal which lasted upto 1772 when the administration of Bengal was taken over directly by the
English fast India Company.
Avadh became independent under Saadat Ali Khan who was the leader of the Irani faction in the court
of Muhammad Shah. After be¬ing in the service of Sarbuland Khan (1710-12), Saadat Ali Khan joined the
service of Farrukh-siyar. He became Faujdar of Hindaun and Bayana and was made a noble on 9 October
1720. He was appointed Governor first of Agra (1720-22) and then of Avadh. He extended the
jurisdic¬tion of Avadh over Banaras, Ghazipur, Jaunpur and Chunar. He gradu¬ally acquired power and
fame. He was summoned to Delhi at the time of invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739 but he committed
suicide in March 1739 as he could not fulfil the promise made by him to Nadir Shah. During his long
tenure, the people began to look upon him as their real master and thus the foundations of the Shia
dynasty in Avadh were securely laid. Safdarjang
The next Governor of Avadh was Safdarjang (1739-54). He was the nephew .and son-in-law of Saadat Ali
Khan. In 1742, Emperor Muham¬mad Shah asked Safdarjang to protect Bihar. Safdarjang went to Bihar
and entered Patna city in December 1742. However, the Mughal Emperor asked him to come back and
he did so in February 1743.
When Ahmed Shah became the Emperor in 1748, he appointed Safdarjang as his Wazir. The position of
Safdarjang was "one of unusual difficulty". He was considered as an interloper by the old nobility. He
had to meet opposition from Nizam-ul-Mulk's son and grandson, of Javid Khan and the sons of the late
Wazir Qamar-ud-Din. He had contests with the Afghans (1748-52). He was defeated at Ramchatapni in
1750 and he made peace with the Rohillas and Bangashes under the orders of the Mughal Emperor in
April 1752. In 1753, Safdarjang got Javid Khan murdered. He tried to grasp everything and became
extremely domineering. A conspiracy was hatched against Safdarjang. There was a civil war between the
Emperor and Safdarjang from March to Novem¬ber 1753. He left for Avadh in November and died in
1754. He gave lasting peace to Avadh and Allahabad. Shuja-ud-Daulah (1754-1775)
After the death of Safdarjang in October 1754, his son Shuja-ud-Daulah became the Subedar of Avadh
and lie occupied that position till 1775. His personal character was not at all commendable. He was
occu¬pied with nothing but pleasure, hunting and the most violent exercises. He did not possess the
genius of a soldier. He was wanting in valour and courage. He specialised in treacheiy. He was rapacious
in acquiring and preserving wealth.
The relations of Shuja-ud-Daulah with Imad-ul-Mulk, the imperial Wazir, were extremely bitter and that
resulted in plots and counter-plots. Prince Ali Gauhar became a iriend of Shuja-ud-Daulah who
encouraged the Prince to invade Bihar. During the Maratha-Afghan contests (1759 61), Shuja-ud-Daulah
fought as an ally of Ahmad Shah Abdali. In Feb¬ruary 1762, Shah Alam II appointed Shuja-ud-Dauiah
as the Wazir.
4—13 010
Rise of Autonomous States
When Mir Qaslm was driven out from Bengal in 1763, he took refuge with Shuja-ud-Daulah who agreed
to help him to recover his lost province. Mir Qasim helped Shuja-ud-Daulah in subduing the rebels of
Bundelkhand and promised to pay the Mughal Emperor and Shuja-ud-Daulah ten and seventeen lacs of
rupees respectively. In October 1764 was fought the battle of Buxar in which Shuja-ud-Daulah and Mir
Qasim were defeated. After running from one place to another, Shuja-ud-Daulah was finally defeated in
the battle, of Kora in May 1765. Colo¬nel Fletcher overran the territory of Shuja-ud-Daulah and
occupied Banaras, Buxar and Allahabad. Avadh fell completely under British con¬trol. Shah "Alam threw
himself under the protection of the English who gave him residence in the Allahabad fort. Lord Clive who
had returned to Bengal as. Governor of the English East India Company in May 1765 met Shuja-udDaulah at Banaras and the Mughal Emperor at Allahabad. By the treaty of Allahabad dated 16 August
1765, all the territories of Shuja-ud-Daulah were restored to him with the exception of Kora and Allahaba'd which were given to the Mughal Emperor, Chunar and the Zamin-dari of Banaras. Shuja-ud-Daulah
agreed to pay Rs. 50 lacs to the English East India Company as compensation for the expenses of the
recent war. He entered into a defensive treaty with the British for mutual support in the defence of his
territories and agreed to defray the cost of the troops maintained for that purpose. This treaty made
Shuja-ul-Daulah completely dependent on the British.
In July 1766, Clive called a congress at Chapra in Jiihar which was attended by Shuja-ud-Daulah and
others. A treaty was signed for mutual defence and security from the attacks of the Marathas. Under
pressure from Clive, Shuja-ud-Daulah was appointed :he Wazir by the Mughal Emperor. In order to
check the anti-English designs of Shuja-ud-Daulah, the English concluded a treaty with' him on 29
November 1768 which "checked the strength and progress of the Wazir's army and freed the English
from apprehension from their ally". This treaty was resented by Shuja-ud-Daulah and hence it was
cancelled in September 1773.
The relations of Shuja-ud-Daulah with the Mughal Emperor were not cordial between 1765-68 as he
wanted to have complete control over the imperial court as de facto Wazir by eliminating the influence
of Munir-ud-Daulah in whom the Emperor had confidence. Through the efforts of the British, a
reconciliation was arranged between the Emperor and Shuja-ud-Daulah, and their relations were cordial
from 1769 to 1771. When the Mughal Emperor returned to Delhi with Maratha help in 1771, he was
deprived of Kora and Allahabad which were transferred to Shuja-ud-Daulah in lieu of Rs. 50 lacs and an
annual subsidy for the maintenance of a garrison of the troops of the English Company for the
protection of Nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah. This arrangement was rati¬fied by the treaty of JBanaras on 7
September 1773.. Warren Hastings promised to help Shuja-ud-Daulah to conquer Rohilkhand. Shuja-ud-
Daulah agreed to receive an English gentleman having the confidence of Warren Hastings who was to
act as Political Resident in Avadh.
The Nawab of Avadh wanted to occupy Rohilkhand. To prevent the attacks* of the Marathas into
Rohilkhand. a treaty was concluded be¬tween Shuja-ud-Daulah and the Rohillas. The Rohillas promised
to pay Rs. 40 lacs to Shuja-ud-Daulah if he expelled the Marathas from their territory. When the
Marathas invaded Rohilkhand in 1773, they were defeated by the combined forces of the English
Company and Avadh. Shuja-ud-Daulah demanded from Hafiz Rahmat Khan, leader of the Rohillas, the
payment of the sum of Rs. 40 lacs. Rahmat Khan evnded
Rise of Autonomous Slates
men'. Shuja-ud-Daulah demanded help from the English Company. ^British army was sent under Colonel
Champion in Febru&ry 1774. The combined forces of Shuja-ud-Daulah and the English Company rched
into Rohilkhand in April 1774. Hafiz Rahmat Khan was killed. Tbout 20,000 Rohillas were expelled
beyond the Ganges and their pro-' nee became a part of the kingdom of Avadh. A part of it was given to
Rampur. Shuja-ud-Daulah died on 26 January 1775 and he was suc¬ceeded by his eldest son Asaf-udDaulah (1775-97).
Asaf-ud-Daulah (1775-97)
The accession of Asaf-ud-Daulah marked the beginning- of the de¬gradation and exploitation of Avadh
by the English Company. This was due to the fact that Asaf-ud-Daulah was weak nd dependent on the
British. Warren Hastings forced the Nawab of Avadh to accept another brigade and pay for it. The British
got the right of nominating the ministers of Asaf-ud-Daulah. Private British merchants entered Avadh
and started exploiting the people. The result was that there was a rapid decline in the prosperity of
Avadh and steady deterioration in its admi¬nistration. The treasury was exhausted on account of the
extravagance of the Nawab. The Nawab had also to pay for the subsidiary force. Asaf-ud-Daulah pleaded
and protested against the heavy expenses of the subsidiary force but without any result. British control
over Avadh con¬tinued to grow and there was more and more exploitation of Avadh. Asaf-ud-Daulah
died in 1797 and his son Wazir Ali was recognised by Sir John Shore but he was deposed and Saadat Ali
was put on the throne.
Lord Wellesley put pressure on Saadat Ali to sign the annexation of Avadh by the British but the Nawab
refused. However, by the treaty of 1801, the British/ took away from Avadh Rohilkhand and the Eastern
Districts to pay the expenses of the subsidiary force. This was an act of highhandedness. The British
attitude towards Avadh was one of ex¬ploitation. When Saadat Ali made any saving, it was taken away
in the form of loans which were never returned. However, in lieu of them, the Nawab Wazir of Avadh
got the title of king of Avadh. During the regime of Lord William Bentinck, there was a danger to the very
exis¬tence of the state of Avadh on account of its mis-government.
Nasir-ud-Din died in 1837 and he was succeeded by Muhammad Ali V'ho was forced to pay for another
British brigade. In 1842, Muhammad Ali was succeeded by Amjad Ali who was succeeded by Wajid Ali
Shah. In 1856. Avadh was annexed to the English Company and Wajid Ali Shah was given a pension and
sent to Calcutta.
Hyderabad was formed by the six Deccan Subahs of the Mughal Em¬pire. The Deccan was a newly
conquered region in which Mughal autho¬rity could not be consolidated on account of the struggle with
the Marathas. Zulfiqar Khan, the most powerful and reputed general of Aurangzeb, formed plans to
seize the Deccan Subahs after the death of Aurangzeb. In order to achieve his aim, he entered into a
secret under-s.anding with the Marathas. He was a Shia and his aim was to build up :i Shia kingdom on
the ruins of Bijapur and Golcunda. Another power¬ful Mansabdar who aspired to set up an independent
state in the Deccau was Chin Qilich Khan who later on became Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah. Zulfiqar Khan
and Chin Qilich Khan belonged to two rival factions in the Mughal court, Irani and Turani. For some years
after the death of Aurangzeb, Zulfiqar Khan and his father Asad Khan who had held the
Rise of Autonomous Stales
office of Wazir under Aurangzeb, continued to exercise great influence in-the Mughal court. In 1708,
Zulfiqar Khan managed to secure the vice-royalty of the Deccan from Bahadur Shah I and held that post
till 1713 when he was murdered by Farrukh-siyar.
At the time of the death of Aurangzeb, Chin Qilich Khan was at Bijapur and he observed neutrality during
the war of succession among the sons of Aurangzeb. Bahadur Shah removed Chin Qilich Khan from the
Deccan and made him the Governor of Avadh and Faujdar of Gorakhpur on 9 December 1707. For some
time, he retired from public service but joined it again towards the close of the reign of Bahadur Shah. In
1713, Farrukh-siyar appointed Nizam-ul-Mulk the Governor of the six Subahs by investing him with the
titles of Khan Khana and Nizam-ul-Mulk Bahadur Fatehjang as a reward for his services having espoused
his cause. Nizam-ul-Mulk was extremely ambitious and he wanted to lule over the Deccan
independently of Delhi.
Nizam-ul-Mulk was an astute diplomat. He tried to check the grow¬ing power of the Marathas by
stopping the payment of Chauth and insti¬gating the self-seeking and ambitious Maratha leaders
against Sahu. The intrigues at the Delhi court led to Nizam-ul-Mulk's recall from the Deccan by the end
of 1715 and in his place Husain Ali was appointed Governor of the Deccan. Nizam-ul-Mulk was
transferred to Muradubad and subsequently it was decided to move him to Bihar. Before he could
assume charge of the new office, the regime of Farrukh-siyar came to an end and Nizam-ul-Mulk was
transferred to Malwa. He started for Ujjain after receiving the pledge that he would not be transferred
While in Malwa, Nizam-ul-Mulk was able to lay the foundation of his future greatness. His activities
aroused the jealousy of the Sayyid Brothers and he was recalled. Nizam-ul-Mulk decided to act in selfdefence by the use of arms. He occupied Asirgarh in May 1720 and three days later Burhanpur fell. The
Sayyid Brothers ordered Sayyid Dilawar Ali Khan and Alam Ali Khan to oppose the march of Nizam-ulMulk. Dilawar Ali Khan was June 1720. Alam Ali Khan was de¬feated and killed in the battle.
While Husain Ali was on the way to the Deccan, he was stabbed to death on 8 October 1720. Sayyid
Abdullah was also defeated and killed.
After the fall of the Sayyid Brothers, Nizam-ul-Mulk made himself the master of the six Subahs of the
Deccan and began his operations against the Marathas. In February 1722, he was appointed Wazir of
the Mughal Empire and he occupied that office upto 1724. He tried to put things in order but he was
unsuccessful on account of opposition from the Emperor and his flatterers. His strict discipline provoked
dislike and jealousy. He was extremely unhappy. As Wazir, he added Malwa and Gujarat tb the Subedari
of the Deccan. When he found that he was not liked in the court, he marched away to the Deccan
without the per¬mission of the Emperor. That was not liked by the Emperor who ap¬pointed Mubariz
Khan as the Viceroy of the Deccan and directed him to send the Nizam to the court, dead or alive.
Mubariz Khan was defeated and killed by the Nizam who sent his head to the Emperor. Nizam-ul-Mulk
defeated the son of Mubariz Khan and took possession of Hydera¬bad by the beginning of 1725. Irvine
writes, "From this period may be dated Nizam-ul-Mulk's virtual independence and the foundation of the
present Hyderabad state." He bestowed offices in the Deccan. He made promotions in rank and
conferred titles. He issued assignments on land revenue at his own will and pleasure. The only
attributes of sovereignty
Rise of Autonomous States
which he refrained were the use of scarlet or imperial umbrella, *f ecitation of the Friday prayer in his
own name and the issue of th?n$r stamped with his own superscription.
Nizam.ul-Mulk correctly realised that the activities of Peshwa Baji I were opposed to his own policy of
establishing an independent J^mTdom in the Deccan and hence he decided to oppose him. There ere
many Maratha chiefs who were not satisfied with the Peshwa and mev joined the Nizam against him.
For five years, Peshwa Baji Rao [had to fight against them from 1727 to 1732. The Nizam was defeated it
Palkhed in 1728 and his ally Senapati Trimbak Rao Dabhade was killed in 1731. Nizam-ul-Mulk decided
to come to terms with the Peshwa v/ho was also anxious to settle with the Nizam so that he could carry
en his campaigns in the North. A compromise was arrived at in Decem¬ber 1732 by which the Nizam
was to be free to satisfy his ambition in the South and the Peshwa in the North.
After the sudden dash of Pesshwa Baji Rao on Delhi, the Mughal Emperor summoned the Nizam from
the Deccan and he reached Delhi in July 1737. The Mughal Emperor conferred the title of Asaf Jah on
the Nizam. The Nizam marched towards Malwa but he was defeated by peshwa Baji Rao near Bhopal
and was compelled to conclude a humili¬ating peace in January 1738. The Nizam promised to grant to
Baji Rao the Subedari of Malwa and rights over th,e territory between the Nar-niada and the Chambal.
When Nadir Shah attacked India, the Mughal Emperor called Nizam-ul-Mulk to Delhi to negotiate the
terms of agreement with the invader. The agreement was actually made by the Nizam but the same was
upset by Saadat Ali Khan.
Nizam-ul-Mulk ruled the Deccan independently. till his death in J 748. He continued to profess his
allegiance to the Mughal Emperor. He rejected the offer of Nadir Shah to make him the ruler of Delhi.
Nizam-ul-Mulk was not only the foremost general of his time in India and a careful and honest
administrator but also a master of statecraft and diplomacy. He was universally regarded as the sole
representative of the spacious times of Aurangzeb. The rich provinces under his admi¬nistration
prospered during his long reign. The refractory chiefs, ambi¬tious officers and robber leaders were
suppressed. The revenue assessment was moderate. His taxation policy promoted trade. He followed a
policy of religious toleration. He appointed Puran Chand as his Diwan.
After the death of Nizam-ul-Mulk, there was a war of succession which became linked with the AngloFrench conflict in the Deccan. Poli¬tical stability was restored in 1762 by the accession of Nizam Ali who
bad a long reign of more than four decades. In the time of Lord Wel-lesley, the Nizam entered into a
subsidiary alliance with the English East India Company and virtually became their subordinate ally
In the first half of the eighteenth century, there was a fresh wave ..A%nan immigration into Northern
India. Afghan adventurers found niilitary employment in many places. Many of them settled in a solid
oloc between Delhi and Agra on the West and Avadh and Allahabad 0r> the East and became a serious
menace to the Mughal Empire by the middle of the eighteenth century. Their Indian settlement,
formerly Known as Katehar, now came to be known as Rohilkhand because it was populated mainly by
the Rohillas. The Rohilla* first came into pro-
Rise of Autonomous States
minence under Baud, an Afghan soldier of fortune, who came from Qandhar. He and his party of Afghan
adventurers hired themselves out first to the landowners and then to the imperial Governor of that
place. Daud "laid the foundations of an estate." On his death in 1721, his adopted son Ali Muhammad
Khan obtained command of his retainers and sought to implement his ambitious plans. Ali Muhammad
Khan was able to raise an army of his own. In 1727, he defeated a Khawajasara of the Mughal Emperor
and seized all his property. That raised his pres¬tige and he took up the title of Nawab. He started living
in royal style and held his court like an independent prince. He was able to get the right of collecting
taxes from the region under his authority. In 1737, he got the title of Nawab from the Emperor. The
adverse effects of the invasion of Nadir Shah on the Mughal Empire emboldened Ali Muham¬mad Khan
to seize territories right and left. He extended his influence to Muradabad and occupied most of the
region. His authority extended to the whole of Bareilly and Muradabad and portions of Hardoi and
Badaun. He was appointed the Governor of Katehar by the Emperor. In due course, he was able to
occupy Pilibhit, Bijnor-and Kumaon. In 1745, the Emperor Muhammad Shah was persuaded by Safdar
Jang to lead an expedition against Ali Muhainmad Khan. After three months campaigning, it "achieved
only a superficial and ephemeral victory and that too more by persuasion than by compulsion".
Apprehending trouble c'uring the ensuing rainy season, the Mughal Emperor was persuaded to make
peace with Ali Muhammad Khan who agreed to dismantle the fortifications of Bangarh and to surrender
the fiefs reserved^ by him to the Mughal authorities. Soon he received a Mansab of 4000 and was sent
to Sirhind as the Mughal Faujdar of that place. On hearing of the capture of Lahore by Ahmad Shah
Abdali and his intention to march towards Delhi, Ali Muhammad Khan left his post at Sirhind in the moddie of February 1748 and returned to Rohilkhand with his full contin¬gent of Afghans and re-established
his authority by March/April 1748. In this way, the Mughal rule was ended in Rohilkhand.
Ali Muhammad Khan died on 15 September 1748 and his possessions were divided into three parts, to
one of which Hafiz Rahmat Khan suc¬ceeded as the leader. Shaikh Qutb-ud-Din tried to get back the
Faujdari of Rohilkhand which his grandfather had once enjoyed but he was defeated in the battle at
Dhampur near Muradabad.
Wazir Safdar Jang formed a new plan to suppress the Rohillas whom he considered as serpents infesting
his road to Delhi. Safdar Jang insti¬gated Qaim Khan, the Bangash chief, to drive out the Afghans by
appointing him the Faujdar of Rohilkhand. After some success at the beginning, Kaim Khan's army met
with disaster and he himself was shot dead. All the possessions of the Bangash chief on the left or
Eastern bank of the Ganges were annexed by Hafiz Rahmat. However, Hafiz Rah mat dissuaded his
troops from crossing the river and invading the terri-tories of Qaim Khan's territories on the West bank.
The reason given was that the Afghans could not destroy one another. Within a few months, Safdar Jang
became unpopular with the Bangash Afghans and was defeated at the battle of Ram Chatauni on IS
September 1750. He was also disgraced at the Delhi court. However, he was able to re¬establish his
position and form an alliance with the Marat has and fats for invading Rohilkhand. In April 1751, the
allies von a resounding victory over the Rohillas. When the Emperor heard of the invasion of the Punjab
by Ahmad Shah Abdali in early 1752. the Emperor asked the Wazir to make peace with the
Afghans of Rohilkhand. Farrukhabad
Rise of Autonomous States
A some other Mahals worth Rs. 16 or 22 lacs a year were left to Ahmad
A other sons of Muhammad Khan Bangash while the sons of Ah
5? liammad Khan were confirmed in the possession of Mirabad and some
ther Mahals which they had seized after the death of Qaim Khan, but °. were subjected to the payment
of revenue for them. Safdar Jang kept a few ofthe Places for himself- The Rohillas and the
merged with very little permanent loss. By rendering good services to Ahmad Shah Abdali in the third
battle of Panipat in. January 1761, the Rohillas and the Bangashes made some gains. After that, Rohillas
be¬came independent. For some time, they were able to capture Delhi also but they had to vacate it on
account of opposition from the Marathas and Nawib of Avadh.
In the time of Warren Hastings, British troops were sent to Rohil-khand to help the Nawab Wazir of
Avadh to conquer Rohilkhand. Hafiz Rahmat Khan was killed while fighting bravely. About 20,000
Rohillas were expelled beyond the Ganges. Their provnice was annexed (o Avadh. Only a fragment of it,
together with Rampur, was left in the possession of Faizullah Khan, son of Ali Muhammad Khan.
Muhammad Khan Bangash, an Afghan adventurer, established his control over the territory around
Farrukhabad, between Aligarh and Kanpur, during the reigns of Farrukh-siyar and Muhammad Shah.
Muhammad Khan raised a band of Afghans whom he employed in plundering raids and fighting the
battle of local Jagirdars on payment. In 1713, he was appointed a courtier by Farrukh-siyar. In 1714, he
found¬ed the town of Farrukhabad. He was able to acquire a large Jagir whose area was about 75,000
square miles. His influence became so great that be was appointed the Governor of Allahabad and
Malwa. He was so faithful to the Emperor that he never thought of independence. When he died in
1743, he was succeeded by his son Qayam Khan.
Bundelkhand was an absolutely wild tract and difficult of access in the rainy season. Its dense forests,
rapid streams and steep hills shielded it from all outside invaders. The Bundelas gathered strength,
exten¬ded their territories and we're forged into a formidable force under Madhukar Shah who was
ruling at Orchha. He was forced into sub¬mission in 1578 after repeated Mughal expeditions. After the
death of Madhukar Shah in 1592, his son Bir Singh became the head of Bundel¬khand. In 1602, at the
instigation of Prince Salim, Bir Singh Bundela murdered Abul Fazl. During the reign of Akbar, Bir Singh
Bundela was pursued by Mughal forces, but when Jahangir became Emperor, Bir Singh was given a
Mansab of 3000. He was made the ruler of Orchha state. The Bundela power reached its zenith under
Bir Singh. He grew in wealth and power. He brought under his rule vast neighbouring fertile tracts. He
was a great builder. He built a temple in Mathura at a -cost of Rs. 33 lacs. He was a patron of Hindi poet
Keshav. Bir Singh died in 1627 and he was succeeded by Jujhar Singh. In the reign of Shah Jahan, Jujhar
Singh was forced into submission. He died in 1635. He was succeeded by Champat Rai Bundela. He was a
brave fighter and a courageous leader "of men. He fought for Aurangzeb in the battle of Samugarh, but
later on left him. Aurangzeb sent a Mughal force to sup¬press him. He was relentlessly pursued and he
ultimately committed suicide in October 1661.
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Cham pat Rai was succeeded by Chhatra Sal. He was enlisted in tne Mughal army at the request of
Mirza Raja Jai Singh and he accompanied him to the Deccan. He fought well in the Purandhar campaign
of I665 and the invasion of Deogarh in 1667. However, Chhatra Sal did not feej happy while serving the
Mughals. He wanted to live a life of advenujrJ and independence like Shivaji. He visited Shivaji and
sought to cntg] his service in 1670. However, Shivaji advised him to go back to hjj own
country and promote local risings against Aurangzcb. The effortj of Chhatra Sal to win over
the Bundela leaders to fight against the Mughal Empire did not succeed. However, Aurangzeb
launched upon a| policy of temple destruction which aroused universal indignation among the
Hindus. The Hindus of Bundelkhand and Malwa made prepara¬tions to defend their places of
worship. When Chhatra Sal appeared in their midst to oppose the Mughal army, he was hailed as
the champion| of Hindu faith and Bundela liberty. He was elected their leader by thJ rebels. Many
petty chiefs joined Chhatra Sal. As Aurangzeb became more and more entangled in the
Deccan, Chhatra Sal took, full adva'n. tage of the opportunity. He captured Kalinjar and Dhamuni
and cven| looted Bhilsa. He extended his raids upto Malwa. In 1699. Chhatra Sal was defeated by
Sher Afghan. A year later, Sher Afghan was killed. There was none to oppose Chhatra Sal. In
1705, Chhatra Sal was made a Mansabdar of 4000 and he met Aurangzeb in the Deccan. He returned,
tc Bundelkhand after the death of Aurangzeb. For 14 years, Chhatra Sal fully cooperated with
the Mughal Empire. In May 1708, the sons of Chhatra Sal met Bahadur Shah and they were given
Mansabs. In April 1710, Chhatra Sal presented himself before the Emperor and joined the Mughal
army which was marching against Banda, the Sikh leader. He | participated in the assault on
the Sikji fortress of Lohgarh. He retained imperial favour during the reign of Farrukh-siyar. On 21
January 1714, he got the rank of 6000 Zat. In May 1718, three of his sons and some grandsons
attended the Imperial Court and received presents. In 1720, the Bundelas revolted. They
sacked Kalpi and killed the local Amil. In a fierce fight on 25 May 1721 between Chhatra Sal and
his men with | those of Dilir Khan, 500 men of Chhatra Sal were killed. After the death of
Dilir Khan, Chhatra Sal had to be suppressed. In 1723. Muham¬mad Khan was asked to lead an
expedition into Bundelkhand to check the growing power of Chhatra Sal. In May 1727, Muhammad
Khan en¬countered the entrenched position of the Bundelas at Ijoli in Pargana Mahoba. Chhatra
Sal and his party sought refuge "in the fort of Salhat. He was pursued by the enemy. Active hostilities
were resumed in April
1728. In December 1728, the fortress of Jaitpur fell in the hands of the Mohammadans.
Bundelas renewed their activities in February
1729. Muhammad Khan met with difficulties and reverses. Chhatra Sal asked the Peshwa to come to
his help. Peshwa Baji Rao responded and he attacked Muhammad Khan in March 1729. Muhammad
JChan and his rroops suffered terribly. The Marathas defeated Qaim Khan who had come to help
Muhammad Khan. Muhammad Khan appealed to ,ne Mughal Emperor and the great nobles for help but
without any success. On account of the outbreak of epidemic in the Maratha camp, the Mara¬thas
raised the siege and returned to the Deccan. Chhatra Sal came to terms with Muhammad Khan in
August 1729. Muhammad Khan signed a written agreement that he would not attack Bundelkhand
aSa"\" Chhatra Sal died in December 1731 at the age of 82. His ions divided tthe state among
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The Tats lived in the region around Delhi, Agra and Mathura. They
hardy tribe, pre-eminently agricultural and well-known for their
WCre a indefatigable energy, martial spirit and untiring perseverance.
valour, ^^ feeiing was very strong among them. They professed different
r ■* ns viz, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam, but they clung tenaciously
heir tribal name as a proud heritage. The Mughal Government
wjlwn following a policy "which left behind it a legacy of undying
Murshid Quli Khan Turkman, Faujdar of Mathura, offended
'helats by abduction of women from villages and religious gatherings at
r ardhan on the birthday of Lord Krishna. Abdun Nabi Khan, anher Faujdar of Mathura (1660-69), built a Jama Masjid in the heart °f the city of Mathura on the ruins of
a Hindu temple. He forcibly °emoved the carved stone railing presented by Dara Shikoh to Keshab Rai's
temple. AH these goaded the Jats to break out into open revolt. In 1669, the Tat peasants revolted
under their leader Gokla, the Zamindar of Tilpat. There was bitter fighting and ultimately Gokla was
killed at Agra and the members of his family were converted to Islam. How¬ever, the spirit which he had
infused into his men did not die with bim and after several years, other capable leaders stepped into his
place. They were Raja Ram and Ram Chehra. They gave military training to the Jat peasants, equipped
them with fire-arms and gave them the semblance of an organised and regular army. They built small
forts in the midst of deep forests and erected mud walls around them for defence ?gainst artillery.
Those forts served as refuges in times of necessity, bases for military operations and places for the
storage of their booty. The road from Delhi to Agra and Dholpur and thence via Malwa to the Deccan lay
through the Jat country and the Jats carried on plunder¬ing raids on that highway and the suburbs of
Agra. The long absence of Aurangzeb from Northern India and his stay in the Deccan encour¬aged the
Jats to plunder the rich convoys passing through their country. The Governor of Agra was not able to
check the lawless activities of Raja Ram who closed the roads to traffic and sacked many villages. Raja
Ram became more and more daring and attacked even. influential persons. Au¬rangzeb sent his
grandson Bidar Bakht against Raja Ram and two important strongholds of the Jats were taken by the
Mughal troops. Churaman
Another leader of the Jats was Churaman (1695-1721) who was the younger brother of. Raja Ram.
Churaman started his career as a free¬booter. Within a short time, he brought under his leadership
1000 in¬fantry and 500 horsemen. To begin with, he plundered way-farers and merchant caravans, but
later on he sacked Parganas also. He built a RUce in the midst of a thick forest about 48 Kos from Agra
and dug as wf m°at wmcn was gradually made into a mud fort, subsequently known
Bharatpur. He had great capacity for organisation. He was a practiMa P° licia.n wn.° made "clever use of opportunities" whenever possible.
aftei7 ? activities and the full development of his power were seen
succ • death of AuranSzeb- He took full advantage of the war of Afte^H?1 amon8 the sons of Aurangzeb
to strengthen his position. ttcJ ,ne victory of Bahadur Shah, he professed allegiance to him and at Ai a
Mansab of 15°0 Zat> 500 Sawar. He joined the Mughal forces
*imer and fought against the Sikhs at Sadhaura and Lohgarh (1710).
^ah jnerf7,^as another war of succession after the death of .Bahadur n 1712- Jahandar Shah
came out successful but he was totally unfit
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to rule. Ghuraman went back to his country and devoted his energy to increase his power. When
Farrukh-siyar approached Agra to contest the throne, Churaman did not render any help to Jahandar
Shah and looted the baggage of both parties. The Mughal Subahdar of Agra tried to subdue Churaman,
but he failed. The next Subahdar followed a policy of conciliation and was able to bring Churaman to the
Imperial Court. He was cordially' received and placed incharge of the royal highway from Barapula -near
Delhi to the crossing on the Chambal. Churaman constructed a fortress at Thun in the midst of a thick
and thorny forest.
The Mughal Emperor did not* approve of the attitude of Churaman and deputed Sawai Jai Singh of
Jaipur to punish Churaman. Sawai Jai Singh besieged the fort of Thun in November 1716. Churaman
made proposals of peace to Sayyid Abdullah and offered to pay a tribute of 30 lacs of rupees to the
Imperial Government and a present of 20 lacs of rupees to Sayyid Abdullah. The proposal was accepted
and Sawai Jai Singh raised the siege. Churaman visited Delhi in April 1718. When differences arose
between Sayyid Abdullah and the Emperor Muhammad Shah, Churaman took the side of Sayyid
Abdullah. Churaman also entered into an alliance with Ajit Singh of Jodhpur against the interests of the
Imperial Government. He also helped the Bundelas against the Mughal Governor of Allahabad. The
Emperor Muhammad Shah order¬ed the Governor of Agra to take action against Churaman. Churaman
made a mistake in having quarrels with his relations. He committed suicide.
Badan Singh
Churaman was succeeded by Badan Singh (1722-56) who was his nephew. He was recognised as the
chief of the Jats by Jai Singh and the same was confirmed by the Imperial Court. It was a very critical
time for ihe Jats and Badan Singh had to start everything afresh. By his conduct, he won over the.
support of Jai Singh who bestowed on him the title of Brajaraj, but Badan Singh abstained from
assuming the title of Raja. Throughout his life, he called himself only a Thakur or baron and represented
himself in public as a vassal of the ruler of Jaipur. He was a capable leader with indefatigable energy. He
united the scat¬tered units of the Jats. All lands and wealth held by Jat village headmen were brought
under his control. He strengthened his position by the application of force where necessary and by
matrimonial alliances with some influential families of Mathura. He organised a strong army con¬sisting
of infantry and cavalry. He constructed four strong forts includ¬ing Bharatpur and Dig and provided
them with ample provisions and sufficient artillery. He laid the foundations of a new ruling house of
Bharatpur with an enlarged territory. In 1752, he was created a Raja by the Mughal Emperor, Ahmad
Shah. He was a patron of architecture. He constructed a temple at Brindaban, fine palaces in the fort of
Dig and palaces at Kamar and Sahar. He was succeeded by his adopted son, Suraj Mai.
Suraj Mai (1756-63)
During the later half of the reign of his- father, Suraj Mai had acted as Regent on account of his inactivity
and growing blindness. During that period, he earned a name for himself as an able warrior, efficient
leader and able statesman. As a ruler, he extended his authority over a large area which extended from
the Ganges in the East to Cham¬bal in the South, the province of Agra in the West and the
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Delhi in the North. His state included, among others, the Districts f Aera, Mathura, Meerut and Aligarh.
For his political sagacity, steady tellect' and clear vision, he is remembered as "the Jat Ulysses". A 10
temporary historian described Suraj Mai in these words : "Though he f° the dress of a farmer and could
speak only his Brij dialect, he was ^he Plato of 'he Jat tribe. In prudence and skill, and ability to manage
the revenue and civil affairs, he had no equal among the grandees of Hindustan except Asaf Jah
Bahadur." Sayyid Ghulam -Husain writes that Suraj Mai was "the eye and shining taper of the Jat tribe-a
prince who rendered himself famous by his good manners and civil deportment, '« well as by his
conquests and his superior knowledge in the arts of Government." He gave his state peace and
prosperity. He was loved and respected by his subjects. He was admired and feared by foreigners. At the
time of his death, his army consisted of 15,000 cavalry and 25,000 infantry besides fort garrisons. He left
behind a reserve fund of 10 crores. The view of Thornton is that the palaces constructed by him "are
sur¬passed in India for elegance of design' and perfection of workmanship only bv the Tajmahal of
Agra". By his tactful and efficient guidance of affairs of the state, Suraj Mai not only proved his political
foresight and sagacity, but remained "the strongest potentate in India with absolutely inimpaired forces
and an overflowing treasury, while every other chief bad been moreor less ruined. He wrested
considerable portions of the Doab from the, Marathas, recovered his lost places in Aligarh and Bulandshahr Districts from the possession of Ahmad Shah Abdali and also con¬quered some places of the
Agra District and Haryaria.
Jawahir Singh (1764-68)
Suraj Mai was succeeded by his son Jawahir Singh. He made pre¬parations against Najib-ud-Daulah in
order to take revenge of the death of his father. He marched to Delhi and laid siege to it. However, he
could not reap the desired benefit due to the faithlessness of Malhar Rao and treacherous conduct of a
section of the Jat officers. Jawahir Singh took action against those influential and powerful Jat leaders
whom he considered to be refractory. He was involved in a quarrel with the Marathas who had
supported his brother Nahar Singh in his claim to the throne of his father. He defeated his enemies in
March 1766 and captured Dholpur. He also 'raided the Maratha possessions in Northern Malwa.
However, he brought misfortune upon himself by his quarrel with Madho Singh, Raja of Jaipur. Madho
Singh invaded the Jat terri¬tory and defeated Jawahir Singh in 1768. He was assassinated by one of his
Jawahir Singh was a strong ruler. He centralised all powers in his own hands. However, he did not
possess the foresight, tact and wisdom of his father. But, his finances were in good order and he
maintained a magnificent court.
Jawahir Singh was succeeded by Ratan Singh (1768-69), Kesari Singh (1768-75), Ranjit Singh (1775-1805)
and Randhir Singh. About them, Jadunath Sarkar writes, "Brain and character alike were wanting among
the successors of Jawahir Singh, and in addition, the lack of a strong man at the head of the state let
loose all the selfishness and factiousness among the other membeFs of the royal family which
completed the national downfall in a few years." (Fall of the Mughal Empire, Vol. Ill, p. 4). Ranjit Singh
entered into a defensive and offensive alliance with the English in September 1803 and fought with
them in the battle of Las-wari against Daulat Rao Scindia. However, in 1804. he joined Yashwant
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Rao Holkar in his attack on Delhi against the English. The Engiu besieged Dig and captured it. They then
laid siege to BharatpUr •J5'1 Ranjit Singh repulsed four successive assaults of General Lake. Howev he
made peace with the English East India Company in April 1805 i?' promised to pay an indemnity of 20
lacs and desist from holding -communication with the enemies of the English or employing aJ European
without their permission. Dig was restored to him afterward
The Rajput states took advantage of the growing weakness of tv, Mughal Empire and freed themselves
from imperial control and increat ed their influence in the rest of the Empire. During the reigns 0f
Farrukh-siyar and Muhammad Shah, the rulers of Amber and Marwat were appointed the Governors of
the Mughal provinces like Gujarat Malwa and Agra. However, the rulers of the Rajput states were
divided among themselves. Bigger Rajput states tried to expand themselves at the cost of their weaker
neighbours. Most of them were constantly in. volved in petty quarrels and civil wars. In most of the
Rajput statet there was corruption, intrigues and treachery. Ajit Singh of Marwar wai killed by his own
son. At one stage, the Rajputs controlled the entire territory extending from South of Delhi to Sural on
the Western coast. However, they failed to consolidate their position on account of their internal
dissensions. Their outlook was essentially parochial. Clan tradi¬tions fostered isolation,' rivalry and
conflict. The disappearance of the imperial authority intensified clan rivalry. There was no longer
im¬perial control over inter-state disputes. Every state was free to strike at its neighbours. Succession
disputes led to civil wars which often in¬vited external intervention. The situation was worsened by the
expan¬sionist policy of the Marathas. Instead of using the Rajput princes as use¬ful allies, the Marathas
exploited them for money and fostered dissensions among them to serve their own interests.
Marwar (Jodhpur)
The two leading Rajput clans at the beginning of the reign of Bahadur Shah I were the Rathors of
Marwar and Bikaner and the Kach-chhwahas of Amber (Jaipur). Aurangzeb's intolerance and
persecution had alienated the Rajputs. The result was that, the prominent Rajput rulers like Ajit Singh of
Marwar, Amar Singh of Mewar (Udaipur) and Jay Singh of Amber sought to cast off their allegiance to
the Mughal Empire and assert their independence. When Bahadur Shah proceeded to subdue them,
Amar Singh sent his brother to Agra with a letter of congratulations, 100 gold coins, one thousand
rupees and some costly presents. Bahadur Sha"h also brought Amber under his control and made it over
to Bijay Singh who was the younger brother of Jai*Singh. Aji' Singh of Jodhpur also tendered submission.
He received the title of Maharaja and the rank of 3500 Zat and 3000 Sawar. In view of the Sikh rising in.
the Punjab, Bahadur Shah adopted a policy of conciliation ,n relation to the Rajputs between October
1708 and June 1710. In Oc¬tober 1708, Jai Singh and Ajit Singh were restored to their ranks in die
Mughal service.
During the confusion which followed the death of Bahadur Shah. Ajit Singh "after forbidding
cow-killing and the call of prayer from the Alamgiri mosque, besides ejecting the Imperial officers from
Jodhpur an destroying their houses, entered the Imperial territory and took posse*' sion of
Ajmer". Sayyid Husain AH was sent to subdue Ajit Singh. Ho*"
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tters were also sent to Raja Ajit Singh asking him to make away
ever, l^1'
Ali in any way he could and if he did so, he would
with. Hl"wards and also the whole of the property of Husain AH. Ajit receive r ^ Q^er any 0ppOSition
and concluded a treaty according to Singh ai ^ which he agreed to marry one of his daughters to
T) ring the reign of Farrukh-siyar, the houses of Jodhpur and Jai-
laved a conspicuous part in the politics of Delhi and added to their
pUrJms a large portion of the Empire. Ajit Singh was the governor
k!" Aimer and Gujarat which he held till 1721. Ajit Singh secretly assis1 the Marathas in their movements in Western India. After the fall
f the Sayyid Brothers, Ajit Singh was removed from the Government of
r arat Ajit Singh met with tragic death at the hands of his son Bakht
K'2 h" in 1724. Ajit Singh had cooperated with the Sayyid Brothers in
ihijoverthrow °f Farrukh-siyar and the people of Delhi called him Damad
Kush (Slayer of son-inlaw).
Abhai Singh, the eldest son of Ajit Singh, ruled over Marwar till his death in 1749. He served as the
Mughal Governor of Gujarat. His invasion of Bikaner involved him in a* struggle with Sawai Jai Singh of
Amber. Abhai Singh secured a complete victory in the battle of Gang-wana in 1741.,
With the death of Abhai Singh, Marwar lost its internal political stability and the state suffered from a
protracted civil war on the issue of succession. During the long reign of Bijay Singh (1752-92), Marwar
came to the verge of dissolution. For that sorry state, the Maratha in¬vasions and the growing power of
the turbulent Rathor nobility were responsible. Amber (Jaipur)
The greatest Rajput ruler of the first half of the eighteenth cen¬tury was Sawai Jai Singh of Amber (16991743). Tod describes him as "a statesman, legislator and man of science". He founded the city of Jaipur
which was "the only city in India built upon a regular plan Hith streets bisecting each other at right
angles." While building the new city of Jaipur, Jai Singh utilised the plans of several European cities
collected by him. He was' deeply interested in mathematics and astro¬nomy. He studied Greek and
modern European treatises on mathematics tn addition to Indian books on the subject. At his instance,
some Greek and European works on mathematics and some Arabic works on astro¬nomy were
translated into Sanskrit. He built well-equipped observatories "n Jaipur, Delhi, Ujjain, Banaras and
Mathura. He invited to Jaipur •n« Jesuit Father Boudier from Bengal and Father Andre Strobl
ntome Gabelsperguer from Germany to help him in the task of build¬ing those observatories. He
procured astronomical tables from Portugal.
he instruments put in the above observatories were very accurate, own astronomical observations were
remarkably accurate. He- pre¬pared a set of tables to enable people to make astronomical observations.
Wo lf^0t trans*ated into Sanskrit Euclid's Elements of Geometry. Napier's San k °U thC- co.nstruction
and use of Logarithms was also translated into cxpenrJ-' Jai. SinSn was also a social reformer. He tried to
reduce the aiture incurred in connection with the marriages of daughters.
served**3' Ja* Singh played an important part in Imperial politics and
,r»butioaS Subandar of A8ra and Malwa but he did not make any conon to the preservation of the disintegrating Mughal Empire. He
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found that it was not possible to resist the Marat has in Malwa and hence "he only made a show of fight
and preferred the policy of buying them off for the time with a part of the money given to him by the
Mughal Government, pocketing the balance". As the Subahdar of Agra, he used his power and influence
in extending and consolidating his here¬ditary dominion. He intervened in a disputed succession in
Bundi. He was defeated by the Rathors in the battle of Gangwana in 1714. He performed the
Asvamedha sacrifice.
The Maratha advance into Malwa served as a "convenient starting point for raids into Rajputana". The
Marathas defeated and killed Gir-dhar Bahadur, its Subahdar on 29 November 1729. His cousin Daya
Bahadur was ajso killed. On 22 April 1734, Malhar Rao Holkar and Ranoji Sindia attacked Bundi. That
caused alarm in the whole of Rajasthan to prepare a concerted plan for checking Maratha spoliation of
their countries. However, nothing came out of it.
Sawai Jai Singh died on 21 September 1743. There was a struggle between Ishwari Singh and his younger
brother Madho Singh. Ishwari Singh tried to keep Madho Singh satisfied by heavy concessions to him.
Ishwari Singh's reign of seven years (1743-50) was one long struggle with his younger brother Madho
Singh and his Rajput and Maratha allies. Jagat Singh supported the claim of his nephew Madho Singh
and advanced towards Jaipur. However, with the support of the Marathas, Ishwari Singh defeated the
Rana in February 1745. The Rana managed to secure the help of Malhar Rao Holkar. In March 1747, a
combined army consisting of the troops of Marwar and Bundi assisted by Hol-kar's troops under his son
Khande Rao was defeated in the battle of Rajmahal. At the end .of 1750, Jaipur had to suffer from "a
new and disastrous visitation of the Marathas" and saw a revolution in its affairs. Ishwari Singh
committed suicide in December 1750 and Madho Singh occupied the throne of Jaipur. In the war of
succession, the Marathas became the arbiters of Rajputana. After ascending the throne of Jaipur,
Madho Singh adopted an anti-Maratha Policy.
Mewar (Udaipur)
Mewar was great when -it was ruled by Rana Sangram Singh who was known as Hindupat. After his
defeat in 1527 and death in 1528, Mewar was weakened, by internal dissensions and external invasions.
Its long resistance to Akbar and Jahangir also weakened her. Although Mewar accepted Mughal
suzerainty in 1615. it remained isolated from ihe Imperial court. Amber and Marwar were in the
limelight. In the seventeenth century, the only capable ruler of Mewar was Raj Singh who fought against
Aurangzeb. In the eighteenth century, the weak rulers of Mewar were % not able to control the
ambitious and factious nobility and resist external invasions. Sangram Singh II ruled from 1710 to 1733.
In his reign, symptoms of internal disintegration c*me to the surface. Jagat Singh II ruled from 1734 to
1751. In January 1736, Peshwa Baji Rao I appeared at the Southern frontier of Mewar. Jagat Singh
welcmoed him at Udaipur and signed a treaty by which he promised to pay an annual tribute. Jagat
Singh had no strength of character. In the reign of his successor Pratap Singh II (1751-54), the Marathas
exacted large contributions from Mewar which was tormented by disputed successions. During the reign
of Raj Singh 11 (1754-61), the repeated invasions of his country by the Marathas so exhausted it that
the Rana was compelled to ask pecuniary aid from the Brahman
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Collector of revenue, to enable him to marry the Rathor chieftain's daughter Even after 1761, the
Maratha raids into Rajasthan sucked its life-biood and added to the woes of its unhappy people. The
Mara¬tha invasions resulted in anarchy, plunder, economic ruin and humiliation of the Rajputs who
entered into subsidiary alliances with the English Fast India Company during the Governor-Generalship
of Lord Hastings in 1818.
The Sikhs were transformed into a militant and fighting community under Guru Har Govind (1606-1645).
The execution of Guru Teg Bahadur forced the Sikhs to fight against the Mughals. Guru Gobind Singh
(1664-1708) showed considerable organisational ability and found¬ed the military brotherhood called
the Khalsa in 1699. Before that, he bad set up his headquarters at Makhowal or Anandpur Sahib in the
foothills of the Punjab. A series of clashes took place between Guru Govind Singh and the Hill Rajas in
which the Guru generally came out successful. The organisation of the Khalsa further strengthened his
hands. An open breach between the Guru and the Hill Rajas took place only in 1704 when the combined
forces of a number of Hill Rajas attacked the Guru at Anandpur! The Rajas retreated and pressed the
Mughal Government to take action against the Guru..
Aurangzeb was concerned with the growing power of the Guru and had asked the Mughal Faujdar
earlier "to admonish the Guru". Aurang¬zeb wrote to the Governor of Lahore and the Faujdar of Sirhind,
Wazir Khan, to help the Hill Rajas against Guru Govind Singh. The Mughal forces assaulted Anandpur but
the Sikhs fought bravely and beat off all assaults. When starvation began inside the fort, the Guru was
forced to open the gate apparently on a promise of safe conduct by Wazir Khan. However, when the
forces of the Guru were crossing a swollen stream. Wazir Khan suddenly attacked them. Two of the sons
of Guru Govind Singh were captured and on their refusal to embrace Islam, they were beheaded at
Sirhind. The Guru lost two of his remaining sons in another battle. After that, he retired to TalwandK
It is contended that Aurangzeb was not keen to destroy the Guru and he wrote to the Governor of
Lahore to "conciliate the Guru". When the Guru wrote to Aurangzeb in the Deccan apprising him of the
events, Aurangzeb invited him to meet him. Touards the end of 1706, ihe Guru set out for the Deccan
and when he was still on the way, Aurangzeb died in 1707.
After the death of Aurangzeb, Guru Govind Singh joined Bahadur Shah's camp as a noble of the rank of
5000 Zat and 5000 Sawar and accompanied him to the Deccan where he was treacherously murdered in
1708 by one of his Pathan employees.
After the death of Guru Govind Singh, Banda became the leader of the Sikhs. He had met Guru Govind
Singh just before his death and he was sent to the Punjab to continue the struggle against the Mughals.
When Banda arrived in the Punjab, he called upon the Sikhs to join him telling them that he would
punish Wazir Khan who had cruelly murdered the sons of Guru Govind Singh and chastise the Hill Rajas
who had fought against the Guru for many years. The Sikh peasantry took up arms and marched under
the leadership of Banda in the direc¬tion of Sirhind. Banda had with him about 40,000 wellarmed Sikhs.
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.He overpowered the Mughal authorities in the neighbourhood of Sirhind and captured Sirhind for
wreaking vengeance on Wazir Khan who was the murderer of the sons of Guru Govind Singh. Wazir
Khan was killed by a musket-shot. "The baggage was plundered, the elephants captured. Not a single
Mohammadan escaped with anything but the clothes upon his back". Banda committed great atrocities
at Sirhind. One Bar Singh was appointed the Governor of Sirhind. Banda occupied the area be¬tween the
Sutlej and the Jamuna and built the strong fort of Lohgarh at Mukhlispur, half way between Nahan and
Sadhaura. He became the Sachcha Padshah. He established %his headquarters at Mukhlispur and after
repairing its old fort, named* it Lohgarh (Iron Castle). He assumed the position of a king, counting his
regnal year from the date of his con¬quest of Sirhind and issuing a seal for his official documents. He did
not assume any royal title. In his seal, he attributed his power to his master.
Banda removed the Zamindars and the tillers of the soil became masters. Every Sikh felt that he was
superior to others and entitled to rule over them. The new political order was a signal for the general
rising of the Sikhs against the Mughals. "They started on a career of conquest and every method,
including loot and sabotage, which would cripple the resources of the enemy, was considered
After invading the Gangetic Doab and occupying a large tract in the Saharanpur area, Banda retreated to
the Jullundar Doab where his presence provoked a general rebellion of the Sikhs against Mughal
autho¬rities. By the end of 1710, Jullundar and Hoshiarpur were occupied without striking .a blow. The
Sikh rising spread to Central Punjab and took the form of a religious crusade. The Manjha fell into the
hands of the Sikhs who carried their arms to the very gates of Lahore.
The Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah was alarmed by the reports relating to the movements of Banda and
he hastened to the Punjab. Banda was besieged in the fort of" Lohgarh, but he managed to escape with
many of his followers to the hills of Nahan, The struggle conti¬nued. The Sikhs won temporary successes
and the Mughal Government tried to crush them. When Bahadur Shah reached Lahore, he died there on
28 February 1712. The happenings in the Mughal court after the death of Bahadur Shah offered a
favourable opportunity to Banda to restore his control over the lost territories. He occupied Sadhaura
and Lohgarh. He built a fort of considerable size with high and thick walls at Gurdaspur between the
Beas and the Ravi. The Viceroy of Lahore marched against Banda but he was defeated. A party of the
Sikhs advanced towards Sirhind. Its Governor marched forward to oppose Banda but he was
overpowered along with his followers.
Under the orders of Farrukh-siyar, Abdus Samad Khan and his son Zakariya Khan, Governor of Lahore
and Faujdar of Jammu respectively, started operations against the Sikhs who were obliged to evacuate
Sadhaura and Lohgarh in October 1713. Banda retreated from post to post. He fought valiantly and
inflicted heavy losses on the Mughals. However, he was compelled to shelter himself in the fort of
Gurdaspur. He was besieged by the Mughal army and was .not able to collect pro¬visions. His troops
suffered terribly on account of hunger. In eight months, about 8,000 of them died. The remaining
fighters were reduced to skeletons. When the Mughal troops entered the fort, Banda and his famished
followers were taken prisoners on 17 December 1715. Banda
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nd his followers were sent w> Delhi and severe tortures were inflicted
'non them. Banda was kept in an iron cage. He was placed on the l"ck oi an elephant. His
own son was killed before his eyes. He himself
' , tortured to death on 10 June 17Hi.
As regards the contribution of Banda, it tan safely be said that he
omened the Khaisa into a political instrument for the overthrow of the Mughal Empire.
During his time, the slogan "Raj Karcga Khaisa" became the battle-cry of the Sikhs. He made a bid
for the establishment of Sikh rule in the Punjab. It was a revolutionary step in the history of the
Sikhs. However, he failed because the Mughal Empire was deeply rooted and its power at that time
was not exhausted It is true that he was able to mobilise the enthusiasm of the Sikh masses, but
the upper classes had not the courage to come forward and help him openly. The Mughals were
helped by the Hill Rajas of the Punjab, the Jats and the Bundelas. Banda did not inherit
any military organisation to fight against the professional Mughal army. It is rightly pointed
out that when he occupied Sirhind. he had no artillery, no elephants and not tven a sufficient
number of horses for his followers It is true that he failed, but he left an important legacy for
the Sikhs. A new will was created among the Sikhs to resist the Mughals and to set up a state ol
their own in the Punjab. It was this new spirit which enabled the Sikhs to create a state
of their own in the Punjab after many ups and downs. About Banda. Dr. Ganda Singh
writes, "It was through him that the path of conquest and freedom was discovered by the
peo¬ple of the Pnnjab. He was the first man to deal a severe blow ai the intolerant rule of the
Mughals in the Punjab and to break the first sod in the conquest of that province by the Sikhs".
After the death of Banda, there was a division among the Sikhs. The Bandais were the followers of
Banda. The orthodox Sikhs were called the Tat Khaisa. Through the efforts of Hhai Mani Singh and Mata
Stindri, widow of Guru Goviud Singh, the differences between the two were composed in 1721.
Zakariya Khan was the Mughal Go\ernor of the Punjab from 1726 'o 17'l.r». He followed a polity of
harassing and persecuting the Sikhs in every possible way. Tara Singh Van and. his 21 followers
were.killed by the Mughal troops. Zakariya Khan appealed to Muslim fanaticism and the Haidari flag was
hoisted. However, the Sikhs were able to defeat the Mughal forces at a place near Bhilowal. After that,
Zakariya Khan tried to placate the Sikhs who organised themselves into the Dal Khaisa under the
leadership of Kapur Singh. The Dal Khaisa was the army of the Sikhs. Its two main divisions were 'he
Budha Dal and the raruna Dal. The Budha Dal consisted of the army of grown-up Sikhs. The members of
the Taruna Dal were a source of nuisance to ihe Mughal forces. They overran the whole of the Bari Doab
and some of •hem crossed the Sutlej and helped Ala Singh to set up a small state in Malwa.
Even before the invasion of India by Nadir Shah in 1739, the Sikhs assembled at Amritsar in large
numbers on the occasion of Bai-JjWii and Diwali. They sat together with the Holy Granth called Guru
, in their midst, discussed questions of common interest and issued decisions in the form of
resolutions called Gurmatta. Those decisions *ere accepted by all the Sikhs as the decisions of the Guru
and dis¬obedience was looked upon as an act of sacrilege. Those meetings were called Sarbat Khaisa
and were held twice a year on the occasion, of 6—13 010
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Baisakhi and Diwali. The Mughal Government took possession of fk« temple of Amritsar and the Sikhs
were prevented from assembling ther. Moving columns were sent round to haul up the Sikhs. The
greatest martyr of (hat period was the Granthi of the Golden Temple. Rjj.. Mani Singh who had compiled
the writings of Guru Govind Sinft iDasam Padshah Ka Granth). Many Sikhs left the plains and sou<*|»
shelter in the Siwalik hills, the jungles of the Punjab and the desert of Rajasthan.
The invasion of Nadir Shah helped the recovery of the Sikhs. |t enfeebled the strong Government of
Zakariya Khan in the Punjab. The confusion and disorder created by Nadir Shah in the country also help,
ed the rise of the Sikhs. They used that opportunity to increase their financial resources and military
strength. The result was that the sup. pression of the Sikhs became a very difficult one.
The Sikhs organised themselves at a place called Dalewal and built ?. fort there. From that place, they
carried on their depredations around the country and extended them upto the very neighbourhood of
Lahore. Nadir Shah confirmed Zakariya Khan in the Nizamat of Lahore and the Sikhs withdrew from
Lahore and its neighbourhood and carried on their activities in the Tullundar D.oal>. The Sikhs fell upon
the rear of the armv of Nadir Shah when he was retreating from Delhi. They were able t'> snatch away a
lot of booty from the Afghans. The result was that Zakariya Khan decided to destroy the Sikhs root and
branch. He placed \dina Beg incharge of Jullundar Doab and authorised hirii to take strong action against
the Sikhv The Sikhs were hunted like wild beasts and they retired to the hills and jungles. In 1742,
Haniqat Rai was put to death. Mahtah Singh. Buta Singh and Bhai Taru Singh were executed. The Sikhs
also hit back. They attacked Sialkot and murdered all those Qazis and Mullahs who had a hand in the
execution of Haqiqat Rai. They plundered Gondlanwala and its Faujdar was killed. Tassa Singh Ahluwalia
raided Kasur with the help of other Sikh chiefs. However, thev were defeated near Basoli hills and about
7,000 of them were killed and 500 were taken prisoners. This happened in 1746 and is known as the
first Ghalughara (Great Holocaust).
After the death of Zakariya Khan in 1745, intrigues of the rival par-ties in the Mughal Court prevented
immediate appointment of a Governor of the Punjab. The result was that disorder broke out.
Everywhere lawless men, plunderers and adventurers who were in hiding so long, came out in the open
and began to desolate the realm. Not onlv the Sikhs gave trouble, even the Raja of Tammu rebelled. At
last, Yahya Khan, son of Zakariya Khan, was appointed the Deputy Gover¬nor of the Punjab. Yahya Khan
tried to suppress the Sikhs. Many Sikhs lost their lives at Shahidganj. Yahya Khan passed an order for a
general massacre of the Sikhs but that was prevented by a quarrel be¬tween Yahya Khan and Shah
Nawaz who was another son of Zakariyi Khan. Whenever Yahya Khan sent troops against the Sikhs. Shah
Nawaz helped the latter in various wavs. The result was that the Sikhs got breathing time so badly
needed bv them.
Yahya Khan lost power in 1747 and a year later Mir Mannu became the Governor. The Sikhs took full
advantage of the political confusion in the Punjab created by the struggle for the Governorship of
Lahore, dissensions among nobles in Delhi and the invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali. They occupied
Amritsar and elected Jassa Singh Ahluwalia as supreme commander of Dal Khalsa in 1718. To serve
as a base of mili-
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operations and to ensure the security of the central shrine, they taI7, a small mud fort, Ram
Rauni or Ramgarh, about a mile to the Sh of the Golden Temple. A territorial base of the Sikh
political nower was created by the occ f D by different Sikh leaders.
buiU wer was created by the occupation of different parts of Central Pun
It has rightly been said that Ahmad Shah Abdali's career in India is Brv intimately a part of the Sikh
struggle for independence. His re¬cited invasions between 1748 and 1767 "exercised a very decisive
When Abdali attacked India in 1748, the Sikhs pursued the retreating Afghan army upto the banks of the
Indus and plundered the baggage of Abdali. Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded the Punjab again in 1750. Mir
Mannu stopped his advance by promising to pay him 14 lakhs of rupees. In 1752, the Punjab ceased to
be a part of the Mughal Empire as a result of the third invasion of India by Abdali. Mir Mannu be¬came
the Governor of Lahore and Multan on behalf of Ahmad Shah Abdali. After the death of Mir Mannu in
1753, power was seized by his widew Mughlani Begam. There was complete chaos in the Punjab. Ahmad
Shah Abdali invaded India for the fourth time in 1756-57 and placed the provinces of Lahore, Sirhind,
Kashmir, Thatta and Multan in the charge of his minor son Taimur with the title of Shah. He plundered
Amritsar, and demolished the sacred buildings and the tank. The Sikhs pounced upon his tents and
looted his baggage without eng¬aging in any pitched battle.
During the administration ot Mir Mannu and Taimur Shall, Adina Beg played a dubious role. Though he
was outwardly opposed to the Sikhs, he was not prepared to crush them because that would reduce his
own importance in the eyes of his Mughal and Afghan suzerains. He hoped to make himself the master
of the Punjab by driving out th6 Afghans with the help of the Marathas. He invited Raghunath Rao. die
Maratha* chief, who was stationed near Delhi with a large army and promised to pay him a liberal
financial subsidy. Raghunath Rao advanced to the Punjab and occupied Sirhind and Lahore in MarchApril 1758. He was helped by Adina Beg ;ind the Sikhs. Raghunath Rao left Lahore immediately leaving
the government incharge .of Adina Beg in return for an annual tribute of 75 lakhs. Adina Beg died within
four months and the Marathas took charge of the Punjab early in 1759. By that time, the Sikhs had
established themselves in a commanding position. Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India in October 1759.
He de-feated the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat in January 1761. In the course of his return
journey, Abdali was harassed by the Sikhs who began to plunder the stragglers. Ahmad Shah Abdali
could do nothing as his army was loaded with plunder. The Sikhs followed him all the way upto Attock.
When he crossed the Attock, the Sikhs re¬turned to blockade Lahore.
Ahmad Shah Abdali appointed one Governor after another to hold charge of the Punjab, but the Sikhs
made a bold bid for sovereignty. They occupied Lahore. Jassi Singh j^hluwalia was proclaimed king with
Ae title of Sultan-ul-Qaum. He coined money in the name of the Guru. Practically the whole of the
Punjab from the Indus to the Sutlej passed Into the hands of the Sikhs. Only a few pockets remained.
In the sixth invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the Sikhs suffered fearful carnage in a pitched battle in
February 1762. This is known as Wadda Ghalughara (Second Great Holocaust). Amritsar was
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Ihe sacred temple was blown up with gunpowder. The sacred tank w-desecrated and filled up with
refuse and debris. A wholesale massacr, of the Sikhs was ordered. However, the Sikhs regained their
presti», by defeating Ahmad Shah Abdali in the battle of Amritsar and the latter was obliged to run
After the departure of Abdali in December 1763, the Sikhs set out under different leaders to make
conquests in different areas. Sirhind ^ occupied, plundered and devastated in January 1764. In 1764, the
Sikhs assembled at Amritsar and struck there the first coins of good pUre silver wilh the inscription
"Degh, Tegh, Fat eh". This was the first pub. lie proclamation of the establishment of the sovereignty of
the Sikh com. rnunity. Realising that his agents would not be able to suppress the Sikhs. Abdali invaded
India for the seventh time in October 1764. He ravaged and plundered the country and placed Ala Singh
of Patiala in-charge of Sirhind and left for Afghanistan. (1765).
The Sikhs occupied Lahore, extended iheir territories in ihe Pun¬jab, plundered the territory of
Najibuddaula and entered into an alliance with the Tat chief Jawahir Singh and raided the territory of
Madho •Singh of Jaipur. Abdali came to India for the eighth time in 1766-67 and tried to crush the Sikhs.
He came twice again, up to the Chenab in 1768 and upto Peshawar in 1769, but he had to retreat on
account of the rebellion of his own troops. Abdali died in 1772.
On the final retreat of Abdali from the Punjab, the Sikhs reappeared in their full strength. Lahore was
reoccupicd and also the entire open country. Between 1767 and 1773, the Sikhs extended their power
from Saharanpur in the East to Attock in the West and from Multan in the South to Kangra and Jammu
in the North. They organised themselves into twelve Misls or confederacies : The Bhangi Misl, Ahluwalia
Misl, Faizullapuria Misl. Ramgarhia Misl, Kanheya Misl, Sukerchakiya Misl, Nakhai Misl, Dalewalia Misl,
Karorasinghia Misl, Nishanwalia Misl, Phulkia Misl and Shahids' Misl or Nihangs' Misl. It is difficult to
cal¬culate the exact fighting strength of the Sikh Misls. It is generally esti¬mated that their total strength
was about one lakh. Cavalry was the backbone of the armies of the Misls. There was no regular training
for the soldiers. The weapons commonly used by them were swords, .spears, match-locks, sabres etc.
The soldiers of the Misls believed more in guerilla warfare than in pitched battles. Most of the Misls
were an¬nexed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and some of them accepted the pro-tection of the English East
India Company. It was under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh that the Sikhs were able to
establish a strong sovereign state in the Punjab. He died in 1<S39 and after the two Sikh Wars the
Punjab was annexed by Lord Dalhousie in 1849.
The success of the Sikhs was due to many reasons. One reason was the method of their warfare. The
Sikhs were weak in organisation, equipment and arms and could not face the well-equipped Mughal ;:nd
Afghan armies. They adopted hit and run tactics. They took full ad¬vantage of their knowledge of local
geography. They had unparalleled capacity for endurance. Another cause was their moral ardour. The
Sikhs were dedicated soldiers who were fight nig for their freedom. They fought against the
disintegrating, but cruel and oppressive Mughal power. The religious fervour of the Sikhs gave them an
inexhaustible fountain n( strength and a perennial stimulant to sacrifice. It was the spirit infused in the
Sikhs by Guru Govind Singh which enabled them to establish a so\ereign state in the Punjab. The
Sikh-war of independence
Rise of Autonomous States
t a war led by an individual. It was a people's war. The victory WaS ot won by the genius of a single great
leader. It was the reward "i\he sacrifices made by all the Sikhs.
janunu and Kashmir
Tammu was under the rule of a Hindu Rajput dynasty [or a long
•* ryhe Mughal Emperors kept a Muslim Faujdar at Jammu to realise
tim^jtes from the hill states and to suppress any revolt in the region.
c" long as tne tribute was paid, he did not interfere in their internal
Farrukh-siyar appointed Zakariya Khan as the Faujdar of Jammu . 1713. Banda had recovered Lohgarh by
that time. He was besieged hv the Mughal army. He held his ground for 6 months and then escaped to
the bills. Zakariya Khan pursued him, captured a number of Sikhs ;.nd sent their heads to Delhi where
they were produced before Farrukh siyar on 13 December 1713. Zakariya Khan was given a robe of
honour and the rank of 3,000 Zat and 1,000 Sawar. Zakariya Khan was present in the siege of Banda at
Gurdas Nangal near Gurdaspur. Banda faced the Mughal army for 8 months and surrendered on 17
December 1715 along with 740 followers. Zakariya Khan accompanied those prisoners fcrst to Lahore
and then to Delhi and participated in their procession in the streets of Delhi.
With the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Raja of Jammu began to assert his, independence. In about
1746, he started paying tribute to the Mughals. Jammu was under Raja Ranjit Deo from 1750 to 1781.
He took full advantage of the confused political condition in the Pun¬jab and extended his authority
over all the hills between the Chenab and Ravi and over some of those lying to the West of the Chenab.
Ranjit Deo was a dependable ally of Ahmad Shah Abdali. He helped him in conquering Kashmir in 1752
and again in 1762. In April 1757, Ahmad Shah Abdali granted him three Parganas of Zafarwal, Sankhatra
and Aurangabad. He struck coins in his own name. During his reign, the city of Jammu prospered and
became a centre of trade. Even rich hankers, merchants and high officials of Lahore and Delhi found
refuge at Jammu. During the third invasion of India by Ahmad Shah.Abdali in 1751-52. Mir Mannu sent
his family and treasures to the care of Raja Ranjit Deo. In about 1770, Ranjit Deo submitted to Jhanda
Singh Bhangi and agreed to pay tribute. Ranjit Deo died in 1781. He was succeeded by his son Brij Raj
Deo. During his reign, the Jammu state came completely under the control of the Sikhs.
As regards Kashmir, Abdus Samad Khan was the Governor of Kash¬mir under Bahadur Shah and
Jahandar Shah. He was transferred to the Punjab by Farrukh-siyar. The decline of the Mughal Empire
after Aurangzeb affected the political condition of Kashmir which remained oisturbed upto 1752. No
Mughal Emperor visited Kashmir after Aurang¬zeb. Ahmad Shah Abdali conquered Kashmir in 1752 and
the Afghan rule lasted for 67 years upto 1819. The Afghan kings were mainlv interested in getting annual
tribute and so long as that was paid, the kings left the Governors with full powers and did not care how
they ruled, whether ably or tyrannically. There were 28 Governors during 'he Afghan rule and only one
of them was a Hindu. Sukhjiwan took charge of. the state and conveyed his submission to Ahmad Shah
Abdali. Ahmad Shah Abdali confirmed him and appointed another person as his deputy. Sukhjiwan
was a brave soldier, wise administrator, scholar.
Rise of Autonomous States
linguist and a poet. He engaged five good scholars to compile a hij of Kashmir. Each writer
was provided with ten assistants. His GJJ ernment was the best and most efficient for the
Hindus and MusU Sunnis and Shias.
Ahmad Shah Ahdali demanded from Sukhjiwan an exorbitant M I.utc erjual to ten limes the revenue of
ihe country. Sukhjiwan ignore the demand as it was beyond his capacity. He offered allegiance «! the
Mughal Emperor Alamgir II (1754-59) who conferred on hiTO tkj title of Raja. In June 1762. Ahmad Shah
Ahdali sent an expedition against Sukhjiwan but it failed. Another expedition was sent and tK* Afghan
forces entered Kashmir. Sukhjiwan was captured, blinded and sent io Ignore where he was irampled to
death by horses.
In 1793, Mir Hazar Khan sewed up Hindu leaders in gunny b;lgs and threw them into the Dal Lake to be
drowned. Abdullah Khan (17961800) collected one crore of rupees as his personal wealth. An
Muhammad Khan forcibly seized petty girls to satisfy his lust. There was great unrest in the province. Ii
was conquered by Ranjit Singh in 1819.
The most important challenge to the decaying Mughal Empire came from the Marathas who produced a
number of brilliant commanden and statesmen at that time. However, they lacked unity and hence
failed io replace the Mughals. They waged a continuous war against the Mughal I.mpire till it was
completely destroyed.
When Aurangzeb died in 1707, Sahu was a prisoner since 1689. He was released in 1707. A civil war
broke out between Sahu at Satara and Tara Bai, widow of Raja Ram, at Kohlapur. The Maratha chiefs
sided with one party or the other. They took full advantage of the situation and increased their influence
by bargaining. Many of them even intri¬gued with the Mughal Viceroys of the Deccan. A new system of
Maratha Government was evolved under the leadership of Balaji Vishwa¬nath who was the Peshwa of
Palaji Vishwanath
Balaji Vishwanath (1711-20) rose to power step by step. He render¬ed loyal and useful service to Sahu
and suppressed his enemies and rivals. He excelled in diplomacy and won over many Maratha chiefs io
the side of Sahu. In recognition of his services, Sahu made him his Peshwa, Gradually, Balaji Vishwanath
consolidated Sahu's hold and also bis own over the Maratha chiefs. The Peshwa concentrated all power
in his office. As a matter of fact, Balaji Vishwanath and his son Baji Rao made the Peshwa the
functional head of the Maratha Empire.
Balaji Vishwanath took full advantage of the internal conflicts of the Mughal officials and increased the
Maratha power. He induced /ulfiqar Khan to pay Chauth and Sardeshmukhi of the Deccan. He signed a
pact with the Sayyid Brothers. All the territories which had formed the kingdom of Shivaji, were restored
to Sahu who was given the right to Chauth and Sardeshmukhi of the six provinces of the Deccan. In
return, Sahu recognised Mughal suzerainty. He agreed to place a body of 15,000 cavalry at the service of
the Mughal Emperor to prevent rebellions and plundering in the Deccan. He was also to pay an annual
ribiite of Rs. 10 lakhs. In 1719. Balaji Vishwanath accompanied Sayyid
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Delhi at the head of a Maratha force and helped the
tfiisain ^/^ in overthrowing Farrukh-siyar. While in Delhi, he and
Sayyid BroI^f S,ii,a chiefs saw with their own eyes the weakness of the
the <>tner \c and they were filled with the ambition to expand
vlughal Ein^r in Northern India. For the efficient collection of Chauth
Maratha P|j uknj ,,f the Dcccan. Balaji Vishwanath assigned separate
and S* JJaratha chiefs wlio kept the greater part of the collection for
;ire*s to ^ ^ increasing number of Maratha chiefs began to flock
their cXP.V 0'f lne Peshwa. They gradually settled down in various
5I more or less autonomous chiefs. The conquests by the Mara-
r(^,ons as^ ^eir originai kingdom were not made by a central army ,lulS ,hU controlled by the Maratha
kings or the Peshwa but by the "freCtha chiefs with their private armies. Their interests clashed
.mother. If 'he Peshwa strictly enforced his authority over them, they 't'T not hesitate to join the
Mughals, the Nizam or the English East 1,'ulia Company.
. Baji Rao I
Balaji Vishwanath was succeeded as Peshwa by his son Baji Rao I /1720-40). He was a bold and brilliant
commander and an ambitious and clever statesman. Under his leadership, the Marathas waged
numer¬ous campaigns against the Mughal Empire to compel the Mughal officials first to give them the
right to collect Chauth of the vast areas and then to cede those areas to the Maratha kingdom. He
defeated the/Nizam in the battle near Bhopal in 1738. By the time of his death in 1740, the Marathas
had established their control over Malwa, Gujarat and parts of Bundelkhand. The Maratha families of
Sindhia, Holkar, Gaekwad and Bhonsle came into prominence. Baji Rao changed the character of the
Maratha state. From the kingdom of Maharashtra, it was transformed into an Empire expanding in
Northern India. New territories were con (;uered and occupied but little attention was paid to their
administra¬tion. The Maratha chiefs were mainly concerned with the collection of revenue and not the
welfare of the people.
Balaji Baji Rao
Baji Rao was succeeded by Balaji Baji Rao' and he was Peshwa from 1740 to 1761. He was as able as his
father, but not so energetic. When latin died in 174<), the work of management of the affairs of the
state fell into the hands of the Peshwa who became the official head of the administration. He shifted
the Government to Poona. He extended the Maratha Empire in different directions. Maratha armies
overran the whole of Northern India. Maratha control over Malwa. Gujarat and Bundelkhand was
consolidated. Bengal was repeatedly invaded. In 1751, the Nawab of Bengal had to give Orissa to the
Marathas. In the South, the state of Mysore and other minor principalities were forced to pay tribute. In
1760, the Nizam of Hyderabad was defeated at Udgir and was compelled to cede vast territories yielding
an annual revenue of fi2 lacs. In the North, the Marathas became the power behind the Mughal throne.
In 1752. the Marathas helped fmadul-Mulk to become the Wazir who became a puppet in their hands.
From Delhi, the Marathas turned to the Punjab and brought it under their control after expelling the
agent of Ahmad Shah Abdali. This brought them into conflict with Ahmad Shah Abdali. A struggle for
supremacy over Northern India started. Ahmad Shah Abdali formed an alliance'with Najib-ud-Daulah of
Rohilkhand and Shuja-ud-Daulah of Oudli. Both of them had suffered
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:it ihe hands of the Marathas. The Peshwa despatched a powerful nr. to (he North under the nominal
command of his minor son, Vishwas $ but the actual command was in the hands of his cousin Sadashiv
ft"1 Khan. The Marathas tried to find allies among the Northern powc" but their earlier behaviour and
political ambitions had antagonised a!l those powers. The Marathas had interfered in the internal affairs
,! 'he Rajput Stales and realised huge fines and tributes from ihem. r/vj had made large territorial and
monetary claims upon Oudh. Their actifl in the Punjab annoyed the Sikhs. The Jats did not trust them 0„
account of the imposition of heavy fines. The result was that tj,, Maratha had to fight their enemies all
alone. On 14 January 176] ^ fought the third battle of Panipat in which the Maraihas were defeated
Vishwas Rao, Sadashiv Rao Bhau and many other Maratha commanded died in the battlefield. About
28,000 soldiers were killed. When the Peshwa heard the news of the defeat of the Marathas. he died in
June 1761.
The old province of Malwa which is now merged into Madhvj Pradesh was the connecting link between
the Deccan and Hindu¬stan proper. On account of its central position, this province had great strategic
importance. The highways of commerce and military routes to the Deccan and Gujarat passed through it
and armies based in Malwa could strife at Rajputana or Bundelkhand with the greatest ease.
Malwa was first conquered by Humayun and then by Akbar and it enjoyed peace for more than a
century, but that peace was disturbed by Aurangzeb's policy- of religious persecution. The result was
that the provincial administration lost its efficiency. The discontented Rajput chiefs, Zamindars and their
Hindu subjects refused to cooperate with the Mughal Subedai and they welcomed the Maratha
invaders, gave them secret information about rivers, fords and mountain passes and facilitated •heir
According to Sir Jadunath Sarkar. the first invasion of Malwa by the Marathas took place in 1699. They
crossed the Narmada and ravag¬ed places near Dhamuni and retired. The path thus opened was new
again closed till Malwa passed into the hands of the Marathas in the mil! Me of the eighteenth century.
In 1703. Nemaji Sindia burst into Malwa and plundered and burnt the villages. The Mughal Emperor had
to'despatch a special force to stop his advance. Maratha raids were repeated with greater boldness in
the next decade.
When the Mughal Emperor granted the ri?ht of Chauth and Sanies!: niukhi to tlie Marathas in 1719,
Khandesh and Malwa were assigned I the Peshwa for making collection. The Peshwa looked upon the
posses¬sion of Malwa as the best guarantee for the security of Maratha Motion land and the Deccan.
Peshwa Baji Rao invaded Malwa in February 1723 and May 1721, He collected Chauth and me; NizamuI-Mulk who was the Governor of Malwa at that time. In June 1725, Girdhar Bahadur was appointed the
Subedar of Malwa. The new Subedar was a man of strong character and he refused to compromise with
the Maraihas and chased them beyond the Narmada. It was after the defeat of Nizamul-Mulk ai Palkhed
in February 1728 that the Peshwa was able to lake action against Girdhar Bahadur. A big army led by
Peshwa's brother Chimnaji Appa invaded Malwa. Girdhar Bahadur was defeated and
Rise of Autonomous States
Rhavani Ram. the son of Cirdhar B.ihaditi, held up Maratha
lulledfor some lime but failed. There was utter confusion in Malwa.
adv*nce or reinforcements could be obtained from the Mughal Em-No w Tne troops clamoured for their
arrears. The mountain passes frt^Malwa were lost to the Marathas and within a decade, Malwa passed
jgj ^ hands of Marathas.
" Towards the end of 1729, Sawai Jai Singh was appointed the Gover of Malwa. Realising the
difficulty of resisting the Marathas, he
A ted the policy of appeasement. The Mughal Emperor got suspici fhis motives ami he was
replaced by Muhammad Khan Bangash who °rk opp°sC(' to tne Marathas. 'I'he policy of
Muhammad Khan Bangash f 'led and Sawai Jai Singh was again appointed the Subedar of Malwa i
1732. He pursued his old policy of appeasing the Marathas. He rchased peace by sharing
with the Marathas the large sums sent to him from Delhi for the defence of the province. The
Mughal campaigns in 1734-^6 failed to keep Malwa free from the aggression of the Marathas. The
policy of appeasement was not successful and fresh concessions called forth fresh aggression.
In 1738, after his defeat at Bhopal, Ni/am-ul-Mulk offered to the Peshwa the whole of Malwa
and the complete sovereignty of the territory between the Narmada and the Chambal. The
Nizam was not able to secure the approval of the Mughal Emperor and the matter remained
unsettled. In 1741, Peshwa Balaji Bap Rao advanced to Gwalior and a settlement was made
with the Mughal Em-peror through the mediation of Sawai Jai Singh who was then the Sube¬dar of
Agra. Emperor Muhammad Shah bestowed the Deputy Gover¬norship of Malwa on the
Peshwa. This was merely a device for saving the face of the Emperor as otherwise Malwa ceased to
be a part of the Empire of Delhi.
Internal strife among the Mughals in Gujarat gave the Marathas a chance to fishvin troubled
waters and establish themselves firmly in that province. Civil war among the Mughals began in 1721 \when the Nizam was replaced by Sarbuland Khan as the Subedar of Gujarat. At that time,
Hamid Khan, the uncle of the Nizam, was acting as the Deputy of the Nizam in Gujarat. Sarbuland
Khan himself stayed at Delhi and sent his Deputy Shujat Khan to take charge from Hamid Khan."
Hamid Khan also wanted to become the rider of Gujarat and got the support of the Marathas by
conceding them the right to collect Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. With the help of Kanthaji,
Hamid Khan defeated and killed Shujat Khan and his brother Rus'tam Ali who came from Sural.
Sarbuland Khan himself marched to Gujarat and expelled Hamid Khan, hut he could not expel the
Marathas. In 1727, Sarbuland Khan agreed to pay the Marathas Chauth and Sardeshmukhi in
Gujarat. The Mughal Emperor did not approve of the arrangement, recalled Sarbuland Khan and
sent Raja Abhay Singh as the Governor of Gujarat with orders to •urn out the Marathas from
Gujarat. In order to overawe the Marathas, Abhay.Singh got Pilaji Gaikwar, a Maratha leader, killed.
That resulted in a widespread upheaval among the local population. Damaji, the eldest son of Pilaji,
renewed the struggle, recovered Baroda and harassed Abhay Singh so much that the latter left for
Jodhpur without any success. Damaji even invaded Jodhpur. Gujarat was finally lost to the
Empire hi 1737. Mysore
Another important state which emerged in South India was Mysore
Rise of Autonomous Stales
under Hyder Ali. The kingdom of Mysore had preserved its precarj. ous independence ever since the end
of the Vijayanagar Empire. Early ill the eighteenth century, two ministers Nanjaraj and Devaraj seized
power in Mysore and reduced the king Chikka Krishna Raj to a mere puppet.
Hyder Ali started his career as a petty officer in the Mysore army. Though uneducated, he possessed a
keen intellect. He was a man of great energy, daring and determination. He was also a brilliant
com¬mander and shrewd diplomat. By dint of his military skill and qualities of leadership, he became
the Faujdar of Dindigal in 1755. He mis¬appropriated the revenues of Dindigal and managed to raise an
inde¬pendent army of his own. In 1761, he overthrew Nanjaraj and Deva¬raj and established his own
authority in the slate of Mysore. In 1763, he occupied Bednore. He strengthened his financial position by
the booty that fell into his hands. He conquered Canara. He set up his capital at Seringapatam. He
created a strong war machine within a short time.
From the very beginning, Hyder Ali had strained relations with the English East India Company. He had
secured valuable help from the French. For his help against the British. Count Lally had agreed to pay
Hyder Ali Rs. 10,000/- per month and also the forts of Thaigur and Elvanasore. After the expulsion of the
British, Hyder Ali was ex-pected to get Trichinopoly, Madurai, Tinnevelly etc. A British force under Major
More was routed. However, Sir Eyre Coote captured Ville-nore. When Pondicherry surrendered to the
British in 1761. Hyder Ali took about 300 French soldiers in his service. There was also hostility between
Hyder Ali and Muhammad Ali. the Nawab of Carnatic. There were many districts in Carnatic which were
claimed bofh by Hyder Ali and Muhammad1 Ali. Muhammad Ali allowed British troops to be sta¬tioned
at Vellore but the same was resented by Hyder Ali. Hyder Ali took into service Raja, Sahib, son of Chanda
Sahib and gave protec¬tion to Mahfuz Khan, brother and rivai of Muhammad Ali.
After the collapse of the French power in Southern India, Hyder Ali fried to patch up with the English
East India Company but failed. The Madras Government encouraged the Nizam to take up arms against
Hyder Ali and offered to give necessary military help for that purpose. The Nizam had the support of the
Marathas. In November 1767, the Madras Government concluded a treaty with the Nizam by which it
agreed to pay him a tribute of Rs. 5 lakhs for the Northern Circars. It also promised not to. acquire the
Circar of Guntoor so long as Balasat Jang lived. The British promised military help to the Nizam against
his enemies. The Madras Government was keen to acquire Carnatic and Palaghat which were held bv
Hyder Ali and agreed to pay Rs. 7 lakhs to the Nizam for its Diwani. This was impliedly acknowledgement
of the sovereignty of the Nizam over the dominions of Hyder Ali. Both the Nizam and the English
Company were keen to prey upon the terri¬tories of Hyder Ali and the British Government agreed to
help him The Nizam advanced into Mysore in August 1767. Hyder Ali was able to win over the Marathas
and the Nizam and the British were left alone. The opposition of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu was
formidable.. Tipu was able to reach near Madras itself and the Madras authorities entered into a peace
treaty with Hvder Ali in April 1769. Both the parties agreed to give up the'territories conquered by them
In* 1770, Mysore was invaded by Peshwa Madhav Rao. Hyder Ali
Rise of Autonomous States
■ oproached the Madras Governmnet for help but the same was refused. In August 1778, the British
attacked Pondicherry and after its occupation, ,hey sent an expedition against Mahe. Hyder Ali sent his
troops to defend Mahe but in spite of that, it was captured by the British jn March 1779.
The Second Mysore War started in 1780 and continued up to 1781. The army of Hyder Ali was so near
Madras that many of its residents inn nwav. The towns of Porto Novo and (Ionjcevaram "were
plundered. Hyder Ali occupied Arcot, capital of Carnatic. However, Hyder Ali was defeated by Sir Eyre
Coote. Hyder Ali died in December 1782 but the war was continued by his son Tipu. The Second Mysore
War %vas ended bv the treaty of Mangalore in May 1784. Roth parties agreed lo restore die conquests
made by them.
The Third Mysore War was fought from 1790 to 1792 in the time of Lord Cornwallis. Tipu was defeated.
By the treaty of Seringapatam signed in March 1792. Tipu had to give up half of his territory.
The Fourth Mysore War was fought in the time of Lord Wellesley. Lord Wellesley demanded absolute
submission from Tipu and as he re¬fused to do so, war was declared. Tipu died fighting at Seringapatam
in May 1799. After the war. Lord Wellesley annexed large and important territories of Mysore. Some
territory was given to the Nizam as a re-ward. A child of the Hindu family ousted by Hyder Ali in 1761
was placed on the throne of Mysore. Mysore continued to flourish under the control of the Government
of India during the nineteenth century. The state of Mysore was still there when India became
independent in 1947. Now its name has been changed into Karnatak.
Carnatic was one of the Subahs of the Deccan and was under the authority of the Nizam. As the Nizam
became independent ot Mughal control, the Deputy Governor of Carnatic, known as the Nawab of
Car¬natic. freed himself from the control of the Viceroy of the Deccan and made his office hereditary.
Nawab Saadatullah Khan of Carnatic made his nephew Dost Ali his successor without the approval of his
superior, the Nizam.
The Peshwa wanted to occupy Carnatic but tlie Nizam was equally determined to defend it as it was a
part of the Deccan Subah. To begin with, the Nizam tried to undermine the position of Raja Sahu by
grant¬ing Jagirs to those Maratha officers who turned hostile to their master. The Nizam also entered
into a league with Sambhaji, the rival of Sahu. Jn 1727 when the Peshwa was proceeding to Carnatic, the
Nizam wrote to Sahu that until his dispute with Sambhaji was settled, he would not FaV Chauth and he
must accept his mediation in it. Without waiting for reply, the Nizam invaded the Maratha kingdom and
did a lot of destruction. Peshwa Baji Rao hit back and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Nizam in 1728 at
Palkhed. This defeat unnerved the Nizam and he sued for peace. After 1740, the affairs of Carnatic
deteriorated on account of the repeated struggles for its Nawabship. That gave the Brit-•sh an
opportunity to interfere in Carnatic.
Datta. K. K. Ali VaurtU and His Timet, 1939. Datta. K.K
Bengal Subah.
Rise of Autonomous States
Dighe, V. G. Peshwa Baji Rao I and Maratha Expansion, 1944.
Hill, S. C Bengal in 1756-57.
K.jeitli. Feiling. Warren Hastings, 1954.
Majumdar. R. (.'. (Ed.). The Maratha Supremacy, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan,
I Bombay, 1977. Malgoankar, M. Kanhoji Angrcy. Mohibul Husain Khan. History of Tipu Sultan.
Moon. Penderel. Warren Hastings and British India, 1947. Niggar, Bakshis Singli. Punjab under the
Great Mughals. Qanungo. K. R. History of the Jats. Raghubir Singh. Malwa in Transition.
Sardesai. G. S. New History of the Marathas, 3 Vols., 1950. Sinha, N. K. Rf,se of the Sikh Power.
Sinha. N. K. Haidar Ali, 1941. Spear. Percival. Master of Bengal, 1975. Spear, Percival. India, A
Modern History. Srinivasan, C. K. Peshwa Baji Rao I. Srivastava, A. L. Shuja-ud-Daulah, Z Vols.
Srivastava, A. L. First Two Nawabs of Oudh, 1933. Ynsuf Husain Khan. Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah,
The political instability in the country after the death of Aurangzeb had its effect on the social, religious
and economic condition of the people. For a long time, there was practically no authority, no
admi¬nistration, no law and no security in vast areas of the country. Anarchy Was the order of the day.
The strong prevailed over the weak. The Indians had very bad time in every way.
Social Condition
Social life in the eighteenth centun was marked by stagnation and dependence on the past. There was
no uniformi'v of culture and racial patterns all over the country. People were divided by religion, region,
nibe, language and caste. The social life of the upper classes was different in many ways from the life of
the lower classes. There were pronounced social disparities. The higher classes and castes were overconscious of their supremacy and superiority. The entire wealth of the country was concentrated in the
hands of the higher classes while ihe masses lacked the barest necessities of life. The Muslim concept of
equality and fratern¬ity had vanished so completely that a Muslim Sharif could not bear to see a Muslim
Radhil trying to come in any way near him in social status. The different castes among the Hindus were
jealous of their rights and each caste and every group was isolated within its own customs and social
traditions. Any deviation from established laws and conventions resulted in excommunication. The
people were so much absorbed in the celebra¬tion of marriages, feasts, festivals and other family
ceremonies that they had no urge to create new social values.
The social system in the eighteenth century had two aspects. One aspect was a grading on *he basis of
official power and position. The second" aspect was an ordering based on religion and the traditional
divi¬sions of society. The first was a refledion of the political system. The second comprised the castes
and sub-castes among the Hindus and a rigid grading in Muslim society on the basis of Kufr.
Four Castes
The Hindu society was divided into four parts, viz.. the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. The
Brahman was the priest, the sole exponent of religion as well as the teacher and guide. To quote Craufurd. "Their caste is the only repository of the literature that yet remains; to them alone is entrusted the
education of youth; they are the sole inter¬preters of the law and the only expounders of their religion."
Both the ignorant and the educated were superstitious and the Brahmans exploited the innate human
fear of the unknown. The hereditary occupation of 'he Kshatriyas was to wield temporal power. The
kings, ministers and soldiers generally belonged to this class. The question whether the Kshatriyas were
actually doing in this period what they were supposed 'o do is aptly answered by Nagari Dass, the Hindi
poet, who has observed
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
that the Kshairiyas were greedy and selfish. They never did any flood ift anybody and were noi
compassionate. If they saw ;i beautiful woman jn the housf of a poor man, their strength of arm lay only
in their effort to grab her for themselves. The Vaisyas were the community of busing*, men. They had
iwo broad divisions. One branch took to trade and the other to agriculture. It was the former who were
typical of their (;!ass They were the usurers and the sole aim of their life was to live on the interest of
the money that they gave as loans. A Bania was notorious for his love of monev. He was looked down
upon bv the society for that reason. The Sttdras comprised the mass of the people. They included the
aborigines admitted to the Hindu community. Their salvation was sup¬posed to lie in the direct and
indirect service rendered by them to the three upper classes. Below these four castes were the Antyajas
with then -ight guilds at craftsmen. They had to live at a distance from the higher wastes and still
tendered their services to them. The lowest of the low-were the Hadis. Doms and Chandalas.
The Brahmanas. Kshatriyas and Vaisyas were all divided and sub-oivided into a large number of castes
and sub-castes. Each caste formed :m endogamous group and it was onlv in this endogamous group that
inter-dining was permissible. Restrictions on marriage, food and occu¬pation distinguished and defined
his , social status. \ny deviation from the customs of a locality was considered to be a sin and one who
was guilty of such an offence was liable to be excommunicated. The caste Panchayat did not readmit
him in his caste until lie humbled himself publicly. 'Hi: marriage had to be in the same caste in order to
prevent the intermixture of blood and maintain the puritv of descent.
In the eighteenth century, the people were very sensitive about the concept of Roti (bread) and Beti
(daughter). Interdining among the people of different castes was non-existent. Only the Sikhs had their
institution of Langar which was open to all. People of different castes could worship the same gods,
observe the same manners and customs, hut would not eat together. As a matter of fact, no one could
ever think of it as the threat of excommunication was an effective deterrent.
The question of permissible and forbidden food was an important one. As a rule, the Brahmans had to
abstain from meat and intoxicating liquors. The caste prescribed different codes lor different groups.
Meat was not a staple diet in India. Abstinence from meat was general!', prac-'ised in the areas
dominated by Jain influence. The classes that came into contact with them were generally vegetarian,
while the others took meat as- a luxurv and delicacy. Vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism was
determined not so much by caste as by the religious sect to which an individual belonged. The
Kshatriyas. Rajputs. Jats and other lower classes all ate meat.
Occupation was another decisive factor in the formation of caste. In spite of the general taboos, social
and economic exigencies necessi¬tated contacts between the twice-born and the artisan classes and the
creation of relationship between the higher and lower castes. Those who practised the professions of
barber, weaver, embroiderer, dyer, printer, gardener, potter, ivory-worker etc., were sometimes paid
directly for the services rendered by them. More often, their remuneration was a fixed quantity of grain
at the harvest time, or some money or clothes on occasions of celebration in the family.
There were certain occupations which were open to all. Trading,
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
• lture and even military service could be taken up l>v am body who ^eligible for it.
Caste regulations were strictly enforced by caste councils and Pan-i vats :'n(I cas,e cn'efs through fines,
penances (Prayaschitta) and ex-' ' ision from the caste. Caste was a major/ division force and an element
j disintegrattion in the India of the eighteenth century. It often split tiindus living in the same village or
region into manv social atoms. However, it was possible for a person to acquire a higher social status hv
the acquisition of high office or power as was done by the Holkar family in the eighteenth century.
Sometimes, an entire caste succeeded in raising itself in the caste hierarchy.
The family system in the eighteenth century was primarily patriar¬chal. The family was dominated by
the senior male member. Inheritance was through the male line. However, in Kerala, the family was
matrili-neal. Outside Kerala, women were subjected to nearly complete male control. They were
expected to live as mothers and wives only. Women of that time possessed little individuality of their
own. However, Ahilya Bai administered Indore with great success from 1766 to 1796. Many other Hindu
and Muslim women played an important role in the politics rf that time.
The status of a wom^n in the family depended entirely on her capacity to give births to sons and hence
they were prepared tjo make any sacrifice for that purpose. A mother wielded tremendous influence in
all important matters of the household. A daughter occupied a pecu¬liar position in the family. Although
theoretically she was considered Lakshmi (the goddess of prosperity) but her ijirth was not welcomed.
She had no share in her father's and brother's property. If there were-many daughters, they became a
galling responsibility.
The custom of female infanticide was very much prevalent among the Rajputs and nch in all the cases.
Child marriage was prevalent in society. Child marriage was more for social security than as a sign of
backwardness. The instability in the eighteenth century created great anxiety among th.e parents about
the honour of thefr daughters and hence they were married at an early age. Women were excluded and
the Purdah became an estab¬lished custom both among the Hindus and Muslims. The general
In¬security and lawlessness prevailing at that time made their exclusion more tight and that deprived
the women ol any opportunity to acquire" education. Their physical and mental health also suffered.
The custom of Sati mostly prevailed in Bengal, Central India and Rajputan^a. "In the South, it was
uncommon. The Peshwas discouraged Sati in their dominion with limited success.
Polygamy prevailed among the Kulin families of Uttar Pradesh and Bengal. Remarriage of widows was
generally looked down upon though »t prevailed in some places. The Peshwas imposed a tax called
Patdaru on remarriage of widows. The lot of the Hindu widows was usually pitiable. There were all sorts
of restrictions on their clothing, diet, movements etc. They were expected to'give up all the pleasures of
the earth and serve selflessly the members of her husband's or brother's larnily. Raja Sawai Jai Singh of
Amber and the Maratha General Par-shuram Bhau tried to promote widow remarriage but failed.
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
Vnthouchahility was prevalent in society. The untouchables w^ denied certain basic privileges of living.
They could not use tanks, wells, inns or schools meant for upper class people, not to speak ol p!a(es cl
worship or public institutions.
The people performed many superstitious rites. The upper tl;(ss Hindus resorted to human sacrifices on
certain occasions. It was believ¬ed that the Goddess Kali requires human blood or heads and for tl,t.
gratification of the Devi, a human victim was slaughtered. Self-immo|u_ tion was another form of
human sacrifice. In some cases, one could drown oneself in a river in order to escape a disease. In other
cases, life could be taken by way of mortification and penance. In some cases, otie's child was sacrificed.
Under peculiar conditions, parents took ;, vow to ofer their first-born child to the Ganges. Another
superstitious lite was self-torture. Many devotees pierced their tongues and arms with pointed rods.
This "was done in the belief that good results followed self torture.
Slavery i
Slavery prevailed in the country. Broadly speaking, slaves could be divided into twO parts, domestic
slaves and serfs tied to the land. The second category of the slaves were transferred with the sale of the
land to the buyer. In some cases, economic distress, natural calamities, ex¬treme poverty and famines
compelled parents to sell their children. The Rajputs, the Kshatriyas and Kayasthas Usually kept slave
women for domestic work. Slaves in India were treated better than the slaves in | Europe and America.
They were usually treated as hereditary servants of the family and were allowed to marry amont>
The practice of slavery increased with the coming of the Europeans in India, particularly the Portuguese,
the Dutch and the English. The European Companies purchased slaves in the open marke'. There vere
ieports of Europeans at Surat, Madras and Calcutta purchasing Abyssi¬nian slaves and employing them
for domestic work.
Muslim Family
In the eighteenth century, it became difficult to differentiate between the practices of a Muslim
family and a Hindu family although :lie Muslims conformed to the Shariat. A polygamous household
was the fashion among the royalty and the nobility and all those who could afford it. The wives, I
concubines, slave-girls, dancing and singing girls all had their share in the rich or powerful
man's life. The individual Muslim, man or woman, was a complete and self-sufficient unit of
society. Marriage was a civil ] contract and the family found legal recognition only jn
connection with inheritance. The first wife enjoyed the privileges of seniority. She was
considered to be the head of the female establishment and she was given 1 percedence over all the
other wives. However, the children of the subse- \ quent wives enjoyed equal status.
The mother in a Muslim family had a status of her own. The father was the head of the family but he did
not have absolute power in a Muslim family. The Muslim woman had the right to give or withhold her
consent to marriage, but she could not exercise her right in the eighteenth century. In certain cases, a
marriage in Islam could be even a temporary contract (Muta), having no higher motive than sexual
gratification. Due to the influence of Hinduism, divorce in Muslim families was looked down upon ami
respectable people preferred to put up with all the differences and
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Centur;
. tes in the family than to become objects of public discussion by trying eel a divorce. One cannot easily
find an example among the higher '? Jes to prove the prevalence of divorce in Muslim society. Muslim
parents Id to give dowries to their daughters which were generally beyond the ans of the family. The son
in a Muslim family was the source of much "'ore pleasure than a daughter on account of the patriarchal
form of society. The reason was mainly economic as the father of girls was considered to be a poor man.
Muslim women were kept in seclusion. The family dwelling was divided into a Zenanah (woman's
quarter) and a Mardanah (man's quarter). political insecurity might have prompted these measures but
in the eighteenth century it was made a point of prestige to have the women of the family concealed in
the innermost quarters of the house. The seclusion of women, both among the Muslims and Hindus,
was mainly confined to the higher classes. Women of the lower classes had to appear in public because
they had to work and earn. As they had :o work like chattels for their menfolk, they could not be kept
veiled. Those who lived in the tountryside had to till the land and carry the produce to the market, while
those in the towns had to pay the price of their existence by performing all the household duties and
assisting their husbands in any business in which they were engaged.
Celibacy did not find any recognition as a virtue in Muslim society. Pairing (he princesses of the royal
family and sometime the Sufi saints, marriage was an obligation to be fulfilled by e\en Muslim. The
concept of the prohibited degree in marriage seems to have been obligatory on the Muslims in the
eighteenth century. Among the orthodox Muslims, there was a prejudice amounting to prohibition in
regard to marriages between 5unni Muslims and Shiahs.
Islam permitted plurality of wives upto four, but alongwith that it was enjoined that the wives should be
treated in a very equitable manner. The number of wives almost determined the social status of a man.
The leading noblemen kept regular harems while the lower classes were usually monogamous because
polygamy was beyond their means.
No age limit was fixed for marriage bin Muslims' generally favoured early marriages. That may be due to
the influence of Hinduism.' Almost as a rule, boys were not allowed to see the girls before they were
married. Manned writes, "Among the Mohammedans, it is the practice not to see their brides
beforehand, but to marry upon reports, interests or respect."
The Mehr formed an important part in a Muslim marriage." It was usually fixed before the marriage.
Howe\er, in the eighteenth century, in most of the cases, it was more form than reality. Mehr could be
payable «" soon as possible or its payment could be deferred. Match-maknig among Muslims was
generally the business of women except when the marriage °°k place for political reasons. There was a
class of people whose occu¬lt ,on was to negotiate marriages. Though the custom of betrothal was
PPosed to Shariat, the Muslims were as particular as the Hindus.
Occasionally, there were inter-communal marriages. Farrukh-siyar •j* married to he daughter of Raja
Ajit Singh. We do not find any ner reference to inter communal marriage.
grev-, e educational system of both the Hindus and Muslims was unpro-Slve and hence both of
them were equally backward educationally G-l3 01o
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
Neither of them had any idea of the progress sciences had made in the Wes.t. They also knew nothing
about the new methods of observation, experiment and criticism. Although the Europeans dominated
the seas' aiound India and made landing stations and lactones both on the Western and Eastern coasts,
the Indians of Gujarat, Konkan, Kerala, Cholamandal, Orissa and Bengal remained intellectually wholly
unaffected by then-presence. The princes and noblemen of Inc'ia showed some interest in European
animals and birds, mirrors, toys, wives and spirits, but they showed no interest in their social, economic
or cultural affairs. Although almost every branch of knowledge of the iYfuslims was studied in the
Christian universities of Spain, Italy and France, the new discoveries of Europe remained almost entirely
unknown in India till the end of the eighteenth century. This was not due to the lack of schools in India
and there were plenty of them. The real trouble was in the quality of educa¬tion. Education was
organised on communal basis. There were in fact two altogether different systems for the Hindus and
Muslims. The Hindus used the regional language for elementary education and Sanskrit for higher
learning. The medium of instruction in both the Hindu an^ Muslim bchools was Persian.
The Hindu schools were divided into two water-tight compartments. One section imparted elementary
education. The schools catered for the needs of those pupils who would follow agricultural and
commercial pursuits. The teachers largely belonged to the writer castes. In Murshida-bad, out of 67
teachers in the same number of schools, 39 were Kayasthas, 14 Brahmanas and 14 members of other
castes. In South Bihar, there were 285 schools and the same number of teachers. Out of these, 278 were
Kayasthas and 7 came from other castes. None belonged to the Brahman caste.
The pupils in the primary schools spent from five to ten years in completing their course which included
elements of reading, writing and arithmetic. The aim was to learn letter-writing and composing business
correspondence—petitions, grants, leases etc. In arithmetic, the main object was to acquire proficiency
in accounting, either agricultural or commercial. The emphasis was on tables such as multiplication,
weights and measures etc. Education was purely utilitarian and extremelv narrow. It did not awaken the
mind and also did not free it from the trammels of tradition. Passions and affections were allowed to
grow up wild without any thought of pruning their luxuriances or directing their exercise to good
The condition of the higher schools of learning was even worse. In those institutions, both the students
and the teachers were Brahmanas because their courses were predominantly theological. Three main
types of courses were taught, viz., grammar and general literature, law and logic. Studies extended from
2 to 12 and even 22 years. Most of. the schools were in the house of the teacher.
The students of law devoted 8 to 23 years in mastering the various branches of Hindu law and rites. In
Bengal, the treatises of Raghunandan and Jimutavahan were studied. Manu and Mitakashara were
taught in other schools. The study of logic required 12 to 22 years. In medicine and astronomy, studies
were based on the ancient texts and their commentaries. These prolonged studies made the students
narrow in their outlook. The disciplines of grammar, law and logic were largely formal and verbal.
Hie educational system of the Muslims was not very much better than that of the Hindus. It was
intended only for the upper classes and did not
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
nv instruction to the Muslim masses. In all Muslim schools, Persian
o#«r * ymedium of instruction. Neither Urdu nor any other Indian spoken
was tn MitA. The Muslim masses were steeped in ignorance.
There were three types of instruction for the Muslims. The first type sted of memorising the verses of
the Quran without understanding the 4° nine The second type of instruction was given in Persian
schools. It mea" ngd itself mainly with literature, grammar, computation and arith-C°etic I" Poetry'
Firdausi, Sadi, Hafiz, Urfi, Jami, Khaqani etc., were <rht In prose, Gulistan, Waqai Nimat Khan Ali, Bahar-iDanish etc.. ta"* taught. In epistolary art, Abul Fazl, Alamgh, Madhoram Brahman Wlc were taught. In
grammar and rhetoric, Hadikat-ul-Balaghat, Dastur-ul-jyfubtabi etc., were taught. Rules of arithmetic
and geometry were included in the course.
The teaching of rational sciences, including medicine and astronomy, was wholly bookish. Laboratories
and observatories were not available. The experimental method was not employed in study. The main
emphasis was on theology and law and the authority of the great teachers of the past was held in great
esteem. The Muslim mind was soaked in medieval¬ism and it was intellectually quite unprepared to
withstand the attack from the West.
Centres of higher education in SansU'rit literature were called Chatus-pathis or Tols in Bengal and Bihar.
Nadia, Kas, Tirhut and Utkala were reputed' centres for Sanskrit education. Institutions for higher
education in Persian and Arabic were called Madrasahs. As Persian was the court language, it was learnt
both by the Muslims and the Hindus. Azimabad (Patna) was a great centre of Persian education.
Elementary education was widespread. Hindu elementary schools were called Pathshalas and those of
the Muslims were called Maktabs. The schools were not attached to temples or mosques. The students
were given instruction in the three R's of reading, writing and arithmetic. Moral instruction with
emphasis on truth, honesty and obedience found a place in the school curriculum. Education was mainly
popular with the higher castes. Female education received verv little attention.
During the eighteenth century, Urdu spread to all corners of India. Urdu literary circles were established
in every province of India. When the British dominion extended over Northern India, Urdu was
employed by polite society of the Muslims and the Hindus.
The literature produced during this period was not of high order. Its poetry was dilettantish, weighed
with euphemism and conceit. Its spirit *as shackled by artificial limitations of rhyme. Its mood
alternated between toe sensuous and the spiritual, neither deeply experienced. Clouds of Pessimism
and despair hung over it. It was away from reality. The Urdu enters made Urdu a pliant instrument of
Both Hindi and Urdu poets of this period were virtuosos. They were 80 much absorbed in their pursuit
that they almost lost the awareness of 'he meaning of life and higher purpose of literature. It is- worthy
of notice nat behind the diversities of language, race and creed, a deep cultural unity pervaded die
whole of India.
Heer Rahjha, the famous romantic epic in Punjabi, was written by Warns Shah. For Sindhi literature,
the eighteenth century was a period
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
of enormous achievement. Shah Abdul Latif compo ed ^^
tion of poems. Risalo. Sachal and Sami were the other peat Sndfai ?«*
of the century. Daya Ram. one of the great W^J*^%£S
during the second half of the eighteen* ^^^^^Ze^othl
was one of the best exponents of Sittav poetry m lam 1. Iji line^with otner
Sittar poets, he protested against the abuse of temple-rule and the caste
s\stem. •
The literature of this period is
live not only in men narrative »ui *»" ■» — «
.. .
poetry has become sophisticated and poets are judged ^ l^ J^S Ihekalliteration and the acrobatics of
their meter. We come aaoss reaUy .alented writers capable of original productions but they.«« on^, * ^
few. Even the works of these eminent poets evince a ch, Wish^ deligh:m riotous imaginations and
hyperbolic Utterances There is m™nJJ0r* of this period, not so much of art as artificiality, and therefore
many ot these works have fallen into oblivion."
Dr. Sitapati writes about Telugu literature that "good poetry vanished and a period of decadence
prevailed." Shri Adya *™^\™£r^ "by the middle of the 18th century, Kannada ceased to exist In Marathi.
I,avanis (erotic poems) became common and even spiritual love and devo¬tion was described in the
degraded fashion of carnal love. .D^pa«de observes. "It was obvious that degeneration had set «n.
Metaphysical acumen was getting blunt. Devotional urge was on the wane and ,h Acrse and vigour of a
soldier's life was also getting lost. L'^mure was settling down to the leisurely luxuriousness and erudite
omatenew ■of the later days of the Peshwas." According to Trivedi, "Life was decadent from !700 until
the advent of the British." Regarding Bengali poetry in tne ISth century. Dr. S.K. Banerjee says that it is "a
colourless dragging ini ot the old patterns both in subject-matter and form". The predom nanriy secular
tone prevailed in Assamese literature. Urdu and Hindi suffered from similar ills.
However, during this period appeared a large number Of masters of rhetoric, style and diction who
possessed supreme authority over language. They refined and developed the languages in which they
wrote and made .hem instruments fit to meet the demands of the future. Their literary output indicates
the cultural unity of Tndia.
It was during the 18th century that the Christian missionaries set up printing-presses in India and
brought out vernacular editions of the Bible. Ziegenbelg, a Danish missionary, composed a Tamil
grammar and pub¬lished a Tamil version of the Bible. The missionaries also compiled a Tamil dictionary.
The Baptist missionaries like Carey, Ward and Marsn-man set up a printing press at Serampur and
published a Bengali version
of the Bible. Art
As there was a lack of patronage at Delhi, the artists migrated to the state capitals like Hyderabad,
Lucknow, Murshidabad, Jaipur etc. l» 1784, Asaf-ud-Daula built the great Imambara. It has no pillars or
sup-[ orts. The view of Percy Brown is that it is a work of "outward show and tawdry pretence" whose
"style has no spiritual values"! The PalaC of Suraj Mai at Dig, the capital of Bharatpur, was planned to
rival tn
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
imperial palaces at Agra. Work on its construction was started in 1725 hut the construction was left
Many painters of the Mughal school migrated to Hyderabad, I.ucknow. Kashmir and Patna and
flourished there. New schools of painting also achieved distinction. The paintings of Kangra and Rajput
schools re¬vealed new vitality and taste. Music continued to develop and flourish in the 18th century,
particularly in the reign of Muhammad Shah.
Throughout the 18th century, India remained far behind the Western countries in the spheres of science
and technology. The Indian rulers of the 18th century did not show any interest in the developments in
science and technology in the West except in weapons of war and tech¬niques of military training.
India had to pay very heavily for this weakness.
Religious Condition
The Hindus believed in the trinity of Brahma. Vishnu and Mahesh— the three major powers of creation,
sustenance and destruction. The worship of Brahma was not popular because he was alleged to have
neen cursed by a god on account of some sin.
Siva and Vishnu, alongwith their female counterparts—Parvati and l.akshmi—claimed the devotion of
almost entire Hindu society. Their worship represented three distinct forms of belief and practice. The
followers of Siva were called Shaivites. The followers of Vishnu were called Vaishnavites. The people
who worshipped the female counterpart (Sakti) of Lord Siva were called Saktas. However, these
divisions did not make any difference in the basic concepts of Hinduism.
The worship of Siva was generally the religion of the common people. His ritual could be performed
without a priest. He appeared to be more terrible than benevolent and consequently more feared and
revered than loved. His third eye could rain fire on the pople who neglected him. He was the patron of
craftsmen, cartwrights, smiths, potters, hunters and washermen. He was also the head of the armies,
the god of the fighters in any mode of warfare. His name, Har Har Mahadev, was a war-cry. Thieves and
free-booters were devoted to him. The beggars and Faqirs showed their affinity with htm by wearing
long and matted hair or by shaving their heads clean. He was omnipotent but he was supposed to live
on high mountains, dense forests and solitary places.' The Rajputs were predomi¬nantly the followers of
Siva. They built temples dedicated to Siva even outside Rajasthan—Gujarat and Bundelkhand. The image
of Siva in the form of Lingair. was carved out of stone and water was poured over ir to give bath to the
Vishnu was the ideal god for the householder. He was the god recom¬mended to him by the priestly
class. The ascendancy of Vishnu over the °ther gods is shown by a painting of the Rajasthani school
dated 1740 A.D. vwhnu is seated on a throne in heaven with Lakshmi on his knee. He is attended by the
other gods, among whom Siva appears on the right as an ascetic alongwith Ganesh. On the left are seen
Indra and Brahma with his ■wir heads. It was both fashionable and respectable to be a devotee of
v»hnu. His image was a complete image of a well-formed human being.
Both Siva and Vishnu held very prominent positions in the religious nought of the Hindus. It was not
necessary to be either a follower of Siva °* Vishnu. Harihara was the god representing both of them.
Hari was the
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
name of Vishnu and Hara of Siva. They could both be worshipped in this combined form.
The third important sect of the Hindus WHS the Saktas. They be¬lieved that the gods had relegated their
more onerous and troublesome executive functions to their female counterparts. In difficult
circumstances, the worshippers turned to the goddesses with greater devotion than to the gods.
Mahadevi, the great goddess, was worshipped under a thousand designations and invested in an
infinite variety of forms.
The religion of Devi and her designations were much more prevalent in the Eastern provinces of
Northern India. Their worship was fairly widespread. The worship of the Vam Marg comprised the use of
wine, meat, fish, various postures of the body and sexual intercourse. Their shrines could be the centres
for bloody sacrifices and sensual obscenities.
All over Northern India, the goddesses were worshipped as the Great Mothers. These goddesses were
sometimes very gracious and bounteous bke Gauri whom the young girls worshipped in the hope of
getting good liitsbands and a happy married life.
The Rajputs took their inspiration and courage from Shakti, Durga, Bhawani who had their shrines all
over Rajasthan where the rulers were generally the followers of Siva. She was addressed by such names
as Maha-maya, Kali Mata, Chamunda, Sakrai, Rai Mata, Naguechian. Sitala Malta, Karniji etc
In addition to Siva, Vishnu and the female personifications of divine power, the Hindus also worshipped
Ganesa or Ganpati as god of luck and good fortune and the Sun. This five-fold reverence was called
Panchayatan Puja and was the most popular fopn of worship. Ganesa was believed to be the remover of
all evil and was worshipped everywhere at the beginning of all auspicious ceremonies. In Rajasthan
Ganesa was called Vtnayak.
The worship of Surya or the Sun was also prevalent in the 18th century. The Sun being a very potent
factor in their life, Sun worship was in the blood of the Hindu people. Every morning the Sun was saluted
and offered water in-the form of Arghya by the householders who prayed for his liberation in the event
of an eclipse. The famous Gayatri Mantra was the invocation of the Sun god for bestowing his glorious
bright¬ness to sharpen the intellect of his worshippers.
The worship of nature had a very strong hold over the pastoral and agricultural people. They had always
to go through the extremities of weather and were very susceptible to the effects of heat, cold, rain or
The rivers, Ganga'and famuna, were revered as the Great Mothers. Their entire course in the plains was
dotted with holy cities. Tjee worship was very common. Pipal was regarded as the Brahman among
trees. Tulsi plant was held very sacred by the Hindus. Spirit worship was another major element in Hindu
Separate religious communities were organised and consolidated widiin the pale of Saivism and
Vaishnavism by particular teachers in order to restrict and ensure the entire devotion of the individual
for either Siva or Vishnu. The most prominent Saiva sect was that of the Jo$s. They professed
Vedantism with Jangamas. They practised severe austerities
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
A physical mortifications like their god. The most important order 9t- the Jog's was tnat °f tne Kanpharas
or 'slit ears.' The Jogis were a oi fflon and prominent feature of society. They did not stick to one place
h°it kept on roaming all over the area. They enjoyed great prestige and I nour. Another class of the
Jogis shaved all their hair and were called
'jfundiyas. The other sects were Gosains, Sannyasis, Dandins, with their '
practised the most revolting rites. Many sold
branches. Some of them
harms- Some became astrologers, jugglers or minstrels and some practised
ncantations and exorcisms.
Garibdas (1717-1778), a Jat, was a saint-cum-householder. Keshavdas belonged to the same order. Ram
Charan who was born in 1718 founded the sect of Ram Sanehis. This order consisted exclusively of
Sadhus. The serr of Sivanarayanis was founded by Shiv Narayan in the year 1734.
The Muslims
The beliefs and practices of the Muslims in the 18th century were influenced by three main factors viz.,
the decline of the Mughal Empire, ihe wide prevalence of the doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujud (Unity of
Exist¬ence or Immanence) and the influence of Hinduism. The Muslim state was supposed to be Islamic
state and Muslim rulers were responsible for the maintenance of the Shariat. However, his responsibility
was hypotheti¬cal. The Muslims of the 18th century had neither the wish nor the power to follow the
The doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujud encouraged an attitude of indiffer¬ence towards moral laxity
although its main aim was to establish a kind of positive tolerance of the beliefs and practices of nonMuslims, on the ground that God is immanent in His creation and Muslims and non-Muslims. Islam and
other religions, are all one.
There was opposition to the doctrine of Wahdat-ul-Wujud. Shaikh Ahmed of Sirhind declared that those
who believed in Wahdat-ul-Wujud were evading or undermining the Shariat, the concept of which was
higher and could be realised through a spiritual awareness of the unity of pheno¬mena. Shah Walliullah
(1703-1763) brought about the intellectual recon¬ciliation of the two doctrines through his own spiritual
experience. Accord¬ing to him, the two doctrines were the different stages on the road to spiritual
knowledge. Shah Waliullah was also a religious reformer. He 'ried hard to bring Islam to the masses of
India by translating the Quran into Persian.
The orthodox Muslims were involved in acute sectarianism. The party system at the Mughal court was
strongly influenced by Shiah-Sunni differences. Mirza Mazhar Jani-Janan (1702-81), a leading religious
and social personality, was murdered by the Shias as they suspected him of having made derogatory
remarks about Tadhiahs.
The old make worship seems to have taken the form of veneration lot Goga who was called a Chauhan
by the Rajputs and a Pir by the Muslims. There was also the worship of Khwaja Khizr, the god of water.
There are references to certain sects in the 18th century. The liisnois performed the Namaz five times a
day with their faces towards •he East. They repeated the names of God and all the angpls and prophets
Allah, Michael, Israel, Jibraeel, Muhammadaeel etc., and buried their dead. Whenever they uttered the
name of Vishnu, they had to say Bis-
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
miHah also. Untouchability was very common and ihey did not eat wj,i one who did not belong to their
Hussaini Brahmans claimed a mythical relationship with Imam Hussah, They accepted gifts and charity
only from the Muslims and not troni i\n. Hindus. The Shanwis followed the religious practices of both
the HincW and Muslims and abstained from eating beef and pork. They danced before the idol of Kalka
and listened to Arri in Mathura and Brindaban The sect of Sivantirayanis was popular with the Muslims.
The cult of Mian Bibi found favour both with Hindus and Muslims equally although Mian Bibi was a deity
of the female sex alone. Shah Daulah's mausoleum attracted people. The worship of Panjpir (five saints)
was very common hi the Punjab and adjacent areas.
The people in general believed in the power of amulets and charms for healing the sick, catching the
thieves, casting out devils, establishing friendship between two persons, curing barrenness, ensuring,
the birth of male children and identifying thieves etc. Charms were solicited from hob men. People's
faith in astrology led «6 dependence on astrologers. The people consulted astrologers before
undertaking a voyage, proposed purchase of a slave, the first wearing of clothes etc. There were lucky
numbers and unlucky numbers. 13 was generally considered to be unlucky. The odd numbers were
considered to be lucky. The number 52 was one of the Hindu favourite numbers. No. 5 was
considered sacred.
The people believed in acts of charity which carried special healing powers. It was common to release
prisoners when a king ascended the 'hrone or any member of the royal family was sick.
The people believed in fasts of varying rigour and duration. The Nirjala Ekadasi was a rigorous
fast as the devotee was not to take even a sip of water. The Janmashtmi fast was also popular. It was
connected with the birth of Lord Krishna. Nagapanchmi was a day of fasting in honour of the Nagas.
Shivaratri was observed in honour of Siva. It was a day of strict fasting and vigil. The full moon inspired
the people to observe fast and worship Sat Narayan, that is, Vishnu. Maipunya was held on the
full moon in September. Karttika Purnima fell on the full rnoon of Karttika (October-November). It
was a fast in honour of Siva's victory over the demon called Tripurasura . Shraddhs were the days when
the manes were propitiated by feeding the Krahtnanas. Women fasted in the Navaratri which
fell in March/April and September /October. Devi was .worshipped and propitiated by sowing
barley in small earthen vessels. The people also celebrated Durgashtmi and Ram Naumi. They also
celebrated Makar Sankranti and Karak Sankranti.
The people also celebrated Rakshabandhan, Bhaiduj, Teej etc. Ho«J was a very popular festival. It was
celebrataed best in Mathura and Brindaban. It was celebrated both by the Hindus and the Muslim*.
Dussehra and DiwaU were also celebrated by the Hindus.
Islam being a puritanical religion, the Muslims had very few festival*. Id-ul-Azha or Id-i-Qurban was the
most important festival. Id-u!-F>t*j was celebrated after the fasts of the r.mnth of Rarozan. It was
celebrated for three davs with great festivities, fire-works and banqueting. Naur was the Persian New
Year day. On rh;*t date the king received many presents from the nobles. Muharram was celebrated
mainly by the Shia*-
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
. Barat was a Muslim festival. Houses were illuminated alongwith ^(display of fireworks.
Economk Condition
India of the 18th century was a land of contrasts. Extreme poverty • ted side by side with extreme riches
and luxury. While the nobles were ^h and powerful and steeped in luxury and comfort, the peasants
were r' nressed and impoverished. The increasing revenue demands of the state, "''oression of officials,
greed and rapacity of the nobles, revenue farmers °d Zamindars, marches and counter-marches of the
rival armies and the destruction brought about by foreign invaders, made the life of the people retched.
Many prosperous cities which were the centres of flourishing industry, were sacked and devastated.
Delhi and Mathura were plundered bv Ahmed Shah Abdali. Agra was plundered by the Jats. Surat and
other cities of Gujarat and the Deccan were plundered by the Maratha chiefs. Sarhind was plundered by
the Sikhs. On account of the disintegration of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, there was
practically no law and order and hence there could be no manufactures or trade. It is pointed out that
by the close of the 18th century, the urban centres had become a "dead place." Nazir, a poet, gives a
graphic picture of Agra of the 18th century in these words:
Joblessness could show only one thing—poverty
On the hdvels of the poor there are no roofs
Poverty covers the hovels
Every one in Agra these days is ruined
No one knows how he will live further
Although they know thousands of arts and crafts
Dust settles in bazar while shopkeepers sit in their empty shops
As though thieves lined up in prison.
V.P.S. Raghuvanshi writes. "Civilised life cannoi flourish amid condi¬tions of insecurity and oppression. In
the 18th century, rhe break-up of the Mughal monarchy released forces of political disintegration and
anar¬chical conditions which destroyed the creative and cooperative spirit of man. They caused
deterioration in every phase of national life. The regions which suffered most from the ravages of the
soldiery became the scenes of uprooted humanitv and epidemics. The period glorified war, bred anarchy
and held civilisation in terror." (Indian Society in the Fightecnth Century, pp. 25-6).
Ghulam Hussain, a historian of Bengal, calls the 18th century as "an age of senseless, slothful princes
and of grandees, ignorant and meddling." He further writes, "It is in consequence of such wretched
administration that every part of Hind has gone to ruin and every one of its discouraged "than
inhabitants have broken their hearts. Life itself has become disgust. *UI to most. So that, on comparing
the present times with the past, one 's apt to think that the world is overspread with blindness and that
the ear'h is totally overwhelmed with an everlasting darkness.'*
In the 18th century, wars, invasions and other calamities wrought
J'avoc and cities like Lahore, Delhi, Agra and Mathura in the North and
."\r8e tracts of the country in the Deccan were destroyed. However, this
*ersity was compensated to some extent by the appearance of European
erchants on the coasts of India. They purchased Indian goods in return
0r gold and silver and gave a stimulus to industry
Particular group of artisans undertook distinct processes of production
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
and the specialists worked in coordination to produce finished goods Specialisaton promoted skill and
Indian workmanship reached a p^ fection unrivalled in those times in the world. In industrial
organisation and techniques, India was more advanced than the Western countries. The products of
Indian industry fulfilled not only the needs of Asian anj African countries but there was also a great
demand in the markets 0f Europe. They reached the Western countries by sea and land routes.
The Indian merchants were well established all along the ports of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. They
were also met in considerable num. hers in Qandhar, Kabul, Balkh, Bukhara, Kashghar etc, in Afghanistan
and Central • Asia. Peter, the Great wrote, "The commerce of India is the commerce of the world and he
who can exclusively control it is the dictator of Europe," Indian goods found their way into the EastAsian countries viz., Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, China and Japan.
The upper classes in India demanded luxury articles. Its volume was considerable. The rich created a
great volume of demand, for luxury goods as they loved good things of life and desired expensive
articles of fine make. The producers of high quality luxury goods worked in their homes or in the state
Karkhanas (workshops) in the towns. Some village artisans who had acquired special skill in their
respective crafts also contributed to the supply of these articles.
As most of the craftsmen were poor, they had to work for merchants who advanced them money
through brokers or dealt with them through agents. Money was paid to craftsmen for implements and
raw materials and advance wages were given in return for finished goods. The finished articles were
usually collected and* placed in the market by middleman. Sometimes the nobles held direct dealings
wkh the artisans.
The Indian village was a self-sufficient economic unit. The agricultural surplus went to the king in the
form of land revenue and the peasant after meeting the Government demand, had little surplus left
with him for purchasing the goods of the urban industry. The stream of exchange of goods between the
village and the town was thin. Lack of capital, rigidity of caste restrictions and the meagreness of trade
between the village and the town, were the factors which prevented the development of the traditional
business classes engaged in trade and banking into a strong and well-knit middle class of the European
The tradesmen, bankers and moneylenders constituted the Indian mercantile community. They utilised
their income in giving loans to the members of the ruling class. However, they lacked the spirit of
Pyrard has written about the greatness and originality of Indian industry and culture. To quote him, "I
have never seen men of wit so fine and polished as are these Indians; they have nothing barbarous and
savage about them, as we are apt to suppose." Again, "No people in the world know so much about
pearls and precious stones; and even at Goa, the goldsmiths, lapidaries and other workmen occupied
with the finer crafts, are all banias and Bramenis (Brahmans) of Cambay and have their own streets and
Merchant ships in the port towns and boats playing on the country's rivers were all manufactured in the
country. There was a flourishing boat building industry at Dacca, Allahabad, Lahore, Thatta,
Masaulipatam-Pulicat, Calicut, Surat, Bassein and Goa. In the art of ship-building, India was ahead of
European nations. Parkinson writes, "In ship-building, they probably taught the English far more than
they learnt from them." The
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
• nortant ship-building centres were Goa, Bassein, Surat, Masulipatam, j£!gaon, Dacca and
The important centres of textile industry were Dacca and Murshidabad Bengal. Patna in Bihar, Surat,
Ahmedabad and Broach in Gujarat, rhanderi in Madhya Pradesh, Burhanpur in Maharashtra, Jaunpur,
Vara nasi. Lucknow and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Multan and I^ahore in the Punjab, Masulipatam,
Aurangabad, Chicacolc and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Bangalore in Mysore (Karnataka) and
Coimbatore and wa£jurai in Madras. Kashmir was a centre of woollen manufactures.
Indian was self-contained and generally self-sufficient in agricultural and industrial goods required for
the consumption of her population. The imported materials included -raw silk, ivory, coral, tortoise-shell
and amber in addition to metals.
Indian industries not only met the home demand but also exported their goods. Indian industries
catered for foreign markets also. India conti¬nued to be a sink of precious metals. Van Twist writes,
"Although there were no gold or silver mines in India, large quantities of both were im¬ported from
foreign countries, and it was forbidden to export them." Similar views are expressed by Hawkins and
For centuries, India was known for the excellence of her cotton pro¬ducts. There was a large
consumption of Indian manufactures in Rome in ancient times. The principal riches of India consisted
chiefly of silk and cotton stuffs. Their great popularity was based upon the excellence of craftsmanship.
Among other articles of export, indigo was of importance. Limited duantities of iron and steel were
exported from Masulipatam. Cotton yarn was exported from the Coromandel coast. Gujarat exported
precious stones, marble, drugs, opium, Hing etc.
The trade and industry of India was organised and financed by Indian nicrchants. They were not
confined to port towns but were spread in all cities and towns all along the trade routes of the country.
Multan in the Funjab and the three Sing towns of Bukkur, Sukkur and Rohri were important centres of
inland trade in the NorthWest. They had a flourish¬ing community of merchants comprising mostly of
Khattris, Lohanas and Rhatias. Lahore, Delhi and Agra were also great centres of commercial activity in
Northern India. Malda, Rangpur and Kasimbazar were impor¬tant trade centres in Bengal. In Rajasthan,
Ajmer, Jodhpur, Pali and Jaisalmer were old centres. Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Poona and Nagpur in
the Maratha country rose in importance after 1750. Hyderabad, Banga¬lore and Tanjore were
flourishing centres of trade and commerce.
In addition to the merchants, there was a class of financiers, both big and small. The Jagat Seths of
Bengal, the Nathjis of Gujarat and the Chettis of the South were famous financiers. The Jagat Seths
possessed a capital of 10 crores of rupees in the first half of the 18th century. During 'heir first invasion
of Bengal, the Marathas carried away from their Kothi too crores of Arcot rupees but even that loss did
not affect their resources appreciably. The Nathjis in Surat had similarly vast resources. The single family
of Nathu Kothari Chettis monopolised business and was regarded 'he richest. Their business extended to
Burma, Malaya and the Eastern Islands. The Chettis acted as bankers and supplied the British merchants
with cash for their bills of exchange on Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. Hiey had regular agencies in the
Presidencies. The big bankers performed
Society and Cultttre in the Eighteenth Centuiy
all the functions of a modern bank viz., receiving deposits, giving loans and issuing Hundis. There were
small bankers who gave loans to artisans and other producers. Every village had its' own moneylender
who advanced loans for agricultural operations and also to meet their other requirements. If the
resources of all the bankers, financiers and moneylenders in India in the 18th century are taken into
account, the aggregate capital resources of the country were substantial, though they were
The view of Dr. Tara Chand is that the peasant in the 18th century better off than his successor in
the 19th century. This was so not onl\ in respect of the larger size of his holding, but also because the
average productivity of land was higher at that time.
The most" important item of agricultural produce was foodgrains. In the Deccan, wheat and gram, rice
and millet were the crops grown. Khafi Khan states that Jowar and Bajra were the main support of the
people of the Deccan and were extensively grown. In the North also, millets supplied the major part of
the articles of food of people and formed the principal crop. Wheat was not an important crop in UttaPradesh at that time. Next to foodgrains, cotton and sugar were the most widely grown crops. Tobacco,
opium and indigo were the other commercial crops.
The country was not free from the danger of famines. Not less than 24 famines and deaths occurred
over a period of 200 years from 1595 to 1792. Famines in those days were caused by the non-availability
of food in the affected area although there may be surplus in some other parts of the country. This was
partly due to the lack of efficient means of transport a» i hat time.
There were wide variations of prices of foodgrains. Generally, food-grains were cheaper in Bengal than
m Northern India. Those were cheaper in Northern India than in Gujarat. The prices of commodities of
daily consumption were very low.
The prices in India showed two types of Huctuatinos viz.. regional »nd periodical. The former was the
result of the difficulties and heavy cost of transport of bulky agricultural produce from one place to
Every region and even.every village tried to be sell-sufficient in food supply. If the rains were deficient
and crops failed, he could not supplement his stock from outside except at ruinous prices. The margin of
fluctuations in prices in the same locality from year to year was very wide.
The price level was a matter of great importance to the wage earners. In die 18th century in India, wage
labour was exclusively an urban pheno¬menon. In the villages, the menials and the agricultural
labourers and artisans were remunerated for their work by giving them a share in the produce of the
farm on which they worked. Money wages were paid to ordinary and skilled labourers employed in the
town. By the middle of the 18th century, the prevailing rate of daily wages in Calcutta was six pice for
ordinary labourers and ten pice for skilled workers.
European travellers and other contemporary writers have mentioned the poverty of the Indian masses.
Their view was based on the scantiness of clothing, miserable dwellings, poor utensils and lack of
furniture and not the lack of adequate quantities of nourishing diet. Fitch writes that in Northern India,
the people go all naked save a little cloth bound about tbeir middle. In the winter, the men wear quilted
gowns of cotton and quilted caps with a slit to look out at and so tied down beneath their ears. The view
of Dr. Tara Chand is riiat as far as the poor classes of the people
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
ere concerned, they had few wants and those were met adequately from what the country produced.
There was no general starvation or inadequate nourishment except in periods of famine. They did not
have any surplus £Ven in normal years to accumulate and build up economic reserves for meeting
calamities like famines. Their clothing was scanty and their dwellings poor, but in respect of those
necessaries they probably did not feel the want of more than they had and they hardly ever made an
effort fo improve their lot. Life was simple and contented and the simple and feW wants were easily met
so that the struggle for existence was not hard. Their simplicity and contentment had its own
advantages but it had one <»reat drawback also. The common people did not feel the urge for
im¬provement and hence did not struggle for economic progress. (History of the Freedom Movement
in India, Vol. I, pp. 194-195).
Dr. Tara Chand also refers to the pattern of consumption of the upper classes which retarded the
progress of the country in the economic field. The princes, nobles and the provincial chiefs lived in grand
style and in nTeat luxury. Mughal nobility has been described as "nothing but volup¬tuousness and
wealth confusedly intermingled." A lot of money was spent on delicacies like costly imported fruit, on
servants and retainers, on houses and elephants, on marriages and dowries and on building fort-like
houses. A large part of the income was spent on jewellery, costly dresses and horses, and elephants.
Each noble kept hundreds of servants for his stables and his household. A large sum of money was spent
on making presents to the king. The law of escheat required that all the accumulated wealth of a noble
after his death would go to the royal treasury. The result was that there was no incentive to save and
hence the nobles spent all that they had and something more. They were mostly under debt Under the
circumstances, there was no accumulation of capital. There was no opportunity for profitable
investment of savings. The result was that e*en if some nobles accumulated large fortunes, they spent
them in mar¬riages, dowries and buildings rather than in investment in business or industry. (Ibid, pp.
While discussing the economic condition of the people in the 18th century, a reference may be made to
what was done by the English East India Company in India in the second half of the 18th century. The
servants of the English Company penetrated into all parts of the country and compelled the
handicraftsmen to deal exclusively with them. The I'rices of the monopolised goods were arbitrarily
fixed by the officials and the producers were fleeced mercilessly. The weavers were compelled to enter
into engagements to work for the English Company and for a breach of the contract, they were punished
with fine, imprisonment, flogging etc. Even the highest officials of the Company were engaged in private
trade tthich brought them huge sums of money. Even the Directors of the English Company admitted
that "the vast fortunes acquired in the inland !>ade have been obtained by a scene of the most
tyrannical and oppressive conduct that was ever known in any age or country. Vansittart tells us that the
English compelled the natives to buy or sell at just what rates they pleased on pain of flogging or
confinement. It was estimated that between 1757 and 1766, the English East India Company and its
emplovees received £ 6 millions from Indians as gifts. Cli\e himself was guilty of this offence. Trade
monopolies, political corruption and exorbitant land taxes enabled the English Company to transfer
large sums of money an-rually to Great Britain. There was a regular drain of wealth from India h Great
Britain. Sir John Shore wrote in 1797. "The Company are Merchants as well as sovereigns of the countrv.
In the former capacity,
Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century
they engross its trade, whilst in the latter they appropriate the revenu^ The remittances to Europe of
revenues are made in the commodities ^ the country which are purchased by them. Whatever
allowance we may make for the increased industry of the subjects of the state, owing t0 the enhanced
demand for the produce of it, there is reason to conclude that the benefits are more than counterbalanced by evils inseparable from the system of a remote foreign dominion." Lord Cornwallis wrote in
179o "The consequences of the heavy drain of wealth from the above causes, with the addition of that
which has% been occasioned by the remittances of private fortunes, having been for many years past
and are now severely felt, by the great diminution of the current specie and by the langour which has
thereby been thrown upon the cultivation and the general commerce of the country."
Craufurd, Q. Sketches Chiefly related to !the History, Religion, Learning and Manner of Hindus, London,
Grose, F. S. A Voyage to East Indies, £ Vols. London, 1772.
Hodges, William. Travels in India, London, 1793.
Irvine, William. The Army of the Indian Mughal*, London, 1903.
Irvine, William. Later Mughals, 2 Vols. Calcutta, 1922.
Ives, Edward. Voyage from England to India, London, 1773,
Keene, H.G. The Great Anarchy or Darkness before Dawn, London, 1901.
Keene, H.G. The Mughal Empire from the Death of Aurangzeb to Over.
throw of the Mahratta Power, London, 1866. Manucci, Niccolao. Storia Do Mogor, 4 Vols., London,
1907 Ojha, P.N. Some Aspects of North Indian Social Life, Patna, 1961. Orrae, R. Historical Fragments
of the Mughal Empire, London, 1805. Owen, S.J. India on the Eve of the British Conquest, London,
1876. Raghuvanshi, V.P.S. Indian Society in the Eighteenth Century. Sarkar, J.N. Fall of the Mughal
Empire. Shukla, Ram Chandra. Hindi Sahitya Ka Itihat (in Hindi). Sitat, Jit Singh (Ed.). Heer Warns,
Delhi, 1963.
Stavorinus, John Splinter. Voyage to the.East Indies (1668-71), London, 1798.
Suri, Pushpa. Social Conditions in Eighteenth Century Northern India,
University of Delhi, 1977.
Tara Chind. History of the Freedom Movement in India, Vol. I, Govern¬ment of India, New Delhi, 1961.
Williams, Monier. Religious Thought and Life in India, London, 1883. Wilson, H.H. Religious Sects of
the Hindus, London, 1861-62.
Wilson, John. History of the Suppression of Infanticide in Western India,
Bombay, 1899.
The Portuguese in India
The coming of the Europeans to India was an event of very great
•fflportance in the history of our country as it ultimately led to revolution¬
ary change in her destiny in the future and the Portuguese wereXthe first
in this field.
It is a matter of common knowledge that Indian commodities were 4" great demand in European
markets throughout the Middle Ages. These things used to reach Europe either completely by land or
partly by land and partly by sea. However, difficulties began to arise on account of the rise to power of
the Turks. As the land route was practically closed, th*»re arose the necessity of finding a new route to
The Portuguese led the way in this matter. Prince Henry of Porn tugal (1S93—1460), who is commonly
known as the "Navigator", did a lot in this field. He set up a regular school for the training of seamen on
scientific lines. He patronized all those who took up work of navigation. The result of the efforts of the
Portuguese was that practically the whole of the coast-line of Africa, came to be known to the
Portuguese. They crossed the Equator in 1471 and reached the Congo river in 1481.
In 1487, Bartholomew Diaz was carried by storms past the Cape of Good Hope. He was patronized by
King John II.
In 1497, Vasco da Gama started on his expedition under the pat¬ronage of King Emmanuel. To begin
with, he covered the whole of the route which had been followed by Diaz and crossed the Cape of Good
Hope. He reached Mozambique. He got • help of an Indian pilot and set sail for India in April 1498. After
a voyage of a month, he reached Calicut. He was cordially received by King Zamorin who gave him
certain privileges also.
The arrival of Vasco da Gama on the Indian scene was not liked at all by the Arabs. They started rumours
of many kinds against the Por¬tuguese. Finding the situation hard, Vasco da Gama left India after a stay
of about three months.
According to Dodwell, "In four respects the Portuguese were singu¬larly fortunate. Arriving on the
Malabar Coast, they found themselves in touch with a multitude of small princes divided by mutual
jealousy, so that hostility in one was certain to be accompanied by friendship in an¬other. Furthermore,
the country round Cochin and Calicut did not at that time produce enough rice for the needs of the
inhabitants, who were supplied by Muslim vessels with grain from the Coromandel Coast; the region
was, therefore, peculiarly sensitive to a blockade by sea. Again, reaching India at the close of the
fifteenth century, the Portuguese found no State which could make either great or sustained efforts to
prevent their establishment. And lastly the difficulties which they had had to meet and overcome
implied that for purposes of war their vessels would bt-stouter and more formidable than any ships
they would meet in India.!
The Advent of Europeans in India
waters. This last was of all the most important, for the position which the Portuguese would occupy in
the East certainly depended upon naval power. Their nation was too small, in view of the conditions of
land warfare, for them to dream of establishing a military empire. They were vowed to the destruction
(if they could possibly contrive it) of Muslim States, and therefore could not contemplate taking up the
position of un-armed and helpless traders. Supremacy at sea was the essential condi-on of success. And
the physical circumstances which had fostered the early development of eastern seafaring had not
promoted sustained pro¬gress. The regular and periodic winds which blow in the Indian seas had
permitted men to sail easily and regularly at certain seasons of the year from Aden and Basra to Gujarat,
from Bengal to Malacca, from Malacca to Malabar; but their very strength and regularity had forbidden
all attempts to sail against them, while cyclone and typhoon were too awful in their might for primitive
sailors to dream of meeting and out¬living them. Eastern mariners and vessels were, therefore, trained
and built for voyaging with reliable and favourable winds. Their vessels were frail compared with the
ships built to resist Atlantic storms. The conse¬quence was firstly that Portuguese shipping could hold
the seas in weather which would send all possible enemies fleeing for the first windward port and
secondly that the Portuguese could mount cannon, the recoil of which would have shaken Indian vessels
to pieces at the first discharge." (The Cambridge Shorter History of India, pp. 379-80).
In 1501. Vasco da Gama came to India for the second time and found¬ed a factory at Cannanore and
returned to Portugal in 1503. In spite of the opposition from the Arabs, the Portuguese were able to
establish their trading centres at Calicut. Cochin and Cannanore and they treated the Arabs with cruelty
and oppression. After Vasco da Gama left India, the Portuguese suffered. King Zamorin attacked the
Portuguese in Cochin, but was defeated. This established the supremacy of the Portuguese.
De Almeida (1505-9). De Almeida was the first Viceroy of the Por tuguese possessions in India. He was
not in favour, of multiplying settle¬ments on land. He want/'d his countrymen to concentrate on the
develop¬ment of their naval power. According »o him, "should it be known for certain that as long as
you may be powerful at sea, you will hold India as yours; and if you did not possess this power, little will
avail you a for¬tress on shore." This policy has rightly been called the "Blue water" policy. Both Almeida
and his son were defeated and killed in 1509 by the Egyptians.
Albuquerque (1509-1515). He was the second Viceroy of the Portu¬guese in India. Mr. Stephens refers
to four points on which his policy was based. In the first place, he desired to occupy certain important
places for trading purposes, and to rule them directly. Secondly, he desired to colonize the selected
districts by encouraging mixed marriages with the native inhabitants. In the third place, when
Albuquerque could not con¬quer or colonise, he desired to build fortresses. Fourthly, when this was
impracticable, he desired to induce the native merchants to recognize the supremacy of the King of
Portugal and to pay him tribute.
Albuquerque was a great conqueror. He conquered and annexed Goa in 1510. This place became the
headquarters of the Portuguese Em pire. He conquered Malacca in the Far East and fitted out an
expedi¬tion for the Spice Islands. In 1515, he conquered Ormuz, an Island in the Persian Gulf. He built a
fort at Cochin with the permission cf the Rajah.
The Advent of Europeans in India
H« appointed a large number of Portuguese officers for the work of dniinistration. While the Muslims
were persecuted, the Hindus were %lcomed in the various branches of administration. Schools were
estab¬lished for them. The Panchayats of the Hindus were not discarded. Indian soldiers commanded by
Hindu officers were welcomed. He also encouraged the marriages of the Portuguese with Indian
Albuquerque was a great man. He can really'be called the founder £ tne Portuguese Empire in India. "He
had traits in his character that appeal peculiarly to orientals : his valour, his strict veracity, his integrity
and charitableness. He was feared and at the same time loved. He was not a man to be daunted by one
failure and never rested till he had achiev¬ed his resolve. A patriot every inch, his reputation for
disinterestedness was very high." Again, "His lofty vision was accompanied by a command¬ing character
and by a tenacity of purpose which few leaders have possess¬ed" he had a genius for civil
administration as well as for war, while in diplomacy he could meet orientals with their own weapon."
No wonder, he was called by his countrymen Albuquerque, the Great. It is said that when he died in
1515, he was buried at Goa "amidst the regrets of Euro¬peans and natives, by whom he was equally
According to Dodwell, "In many ways he anticipated the qualities which were to mark out the great
Englishman, Clive. Both were great military leaders, whose courage and insight rose with danger. Both
were men of unshakable constancy, ready to meet any foe however numerous; of a high spirit, which
imposed itself on their followers; of a good fortune, which daunted their enemies. Both were capable of
acts of treachery; but both resorted to treachery so rarely that they never lost the confidence of other
men. Both had the skill to discern essential conditions of sue. cess and to ignore all else. Albuquerque
seems to have stood alone in his generation in perceiving that 'a dominion founded on a navy alone
can¬not last'. He insisted against all opposition from Portugal on the impor¬tance of maintaining Goa as
the centre of Portuguese power in the east, as a great dockyard in which vessels could always be
refitted, remanned and revictualled, and as a great city whence reserves of troops could always be
drawn. In this he was certainly justified. When a century afterwards the Portuguese found themselves
involved in a war of life and death, they could not possibly have maintained the struggle for over fifty
years but for the resources which had been accumulated at Goa." (The Cambridge Shorter History of
India, p. 384).
The power of the Portuguese kept on growing even after the death of Albuquerque. They got Diu and
Bassein in 1534. Four years after, they conquered Daman. In the same year they got permission to
establish a factory at Goa. In 1545, the fort of Diu was attacked by the King of Gujarat but was
successfully defended. In 1571, the rulers of Bijapur, Ahmednagar and Calicut combined together
against the Portuguese. How¬ever, they failed to take possession of Goa.
It is to be observed that the appearance of the Portuguese in India led necessarily to a conflict of
interests. It was not, as it has occasionally been represented, a struggle between the Christians and
Muslims, but one between importers and exporters. The Indian importers, many of whom were
Muslims, welcomed the Portuguese as new customers. The Arab and Egyptian customers objected to
them as new competitors who might break their existing monopoly. The result was that the Portuguese
acquired from the ruler of Calicut the principal sea-port on the Malabar Coast and established friendly
relations at those centres which offered the largest sup¬ply of pepper.
The Advent of Europeans in India
The Portuguese were not satisfied with merely a share in the trade. They were determined to control
the same. This they were able to accom. plish by setting up a strong navy which helped them to
command the seas. They also built fortresses to guard the narrow waters. They set up a cen. tral
establishment from which operations could be directed on which the navy could be based.
As regards the methods adopted by the Portuguese to control the trade some routes, and some
commodities on all routes, were monopolised fot the benefit of the Kingdom of Portugal. Subject to
these restrictions, Indian or other ships could obtain licences to ply between specified ports
on payment of substantial fees An unlicensed vessel was liable to be cap.
tured and confiscated. The gun boats employed by the Portuguese to patrol the routes were more than
a match for the cumbrous ships of their rivals. By these methods, the Portuguese controlled the main
trade rou¬tes throughout the sixteenth century. It is true that some goods con¬tinued to reach Europe
over land, but that was due mainly to the increas¬ing corruption of the Portuguese officials who looked
upon their posts as a source of private gain and could be bribed to allow the contraband goods to pass.
The possessions of the Portuguese on the west coast of India were an integral part o'f the kingdom of
Portugal. However, settlements of less regular type cropped up on the east coast of India. At various
places in Bengal and on the Coromandel Coast, Portuguese merchants settled widi the consent of the
local rulers. However, relying on the prestige of their nation, they fortified their settlements, assumed
right of self-government and eventually in some cases repudiated the authority of the Portuguese
Viceroy at Goa. Thus Portuguese settlements became centres of lawless-ness and in some cases.nests of
The immediate effects produced by the Portuguese in India were not great. In the field of politics, their
capture of Goa involved them in enmity with Bijapur. On the whole, they maintained friendly relations
with Vijayanagar, but they did not render any material help to her in her struggle against the Muslims.
From the point of view of the Indians, the appearance of the Portuguese merely added one more
element in the con-fused politics of the time. In war, they introduced higher standards of efficiency in
artillery and musketry. They created a legend of invincibi¬lity which immensely helped them in their
So far as commerce was concerned, it cannot be said that the diver¬sion of trade was accompanied hy
any great expansion in the exports of Indian goods. It is probable that more pepper reached Western
Europe than before. However, the only new development was the opening of new markets for Indian
cotton goods in Western Africa and Brazil. The Portuguese were not successful fn developing the import
trade. The great bulk of their purchases were paid for in silver. They could sell little ex¬cept luxuries and
curiosities from Europe. The important service which they rendered to India was the effective policing of
the coastal trade. There were nests of pirates along the Malabar Coast who lived mainly by attacks on
the small vessels which plied in great numbers between Gujarat on the one side and Ceylon, Madras and
Bengal on the other. The Por¬tuguese provided gun-boats to convoy the fleets of these vessels and
thereby established a reasonable degree of security on the main line of Indian trade. However, we must
not forget the toll, whether in licence fees or in bribes, which they levied on Indian commerce, both
coastal and foreign.
From the beginning of the 17th century, the power of the Portuguese
The Advent of European* in India
to decline. This was particularly due to the fact that in 1580 Por¬tal was made a part and parcel of
Spain in the time of Philip II of Spain. « ain herself was not doing well at that time. She could hardly be
ex-cted to defend the interests of the Portuguese. The result was that one hv one the Portuguese lost
many of their possessions. They were turned ut from Amboyna by the Dutch. In 1662, Ormuz was
snatched away by me Government of Iran. The Dutch got Malacca in 1640. They were also turned out
from Ceylon in. 1656. In 1739, the Marathas got Bassein.
Causes of failure of Portuguese empire in India.1 Many causes were responsible for the failure of the
Portuguese empire in India.
After the death of Albuquerque, no strong person was sent by the Portuguese Government to
India. The result was that the Portuguese em¬pire began to disintegrate.
The Portuguese administration in India was corrupt. The salaries of the official were low and
consequently they felt no hesitation in accept¬ing bribes from any quarter. The bulk, of the Portuguese
officials were selfish. Unmindful of the sufferings of the people, they were bent upon making fortunes
for themselves. The means did not matter to them.
The religious policy of the Portuguese was also responsible for uieir ruin.3 The Portuguese
introduced the Inquisition into India and they committed atrocities on those who were not Christians.
They used all kinds of methods tor the conversion of the people of India to Chris¬tianity. Their coercive
methods created bitterness in the minds of the
Cf. "Though the earliest in the East, Portugal could nit establish
any permanent dominion in India."
Before the capture of Malacca, Albuquerque is said to have observ¬
ed thus : "The first is the great service, which we shall perform to our Lord
in casting the Moors out of this country, and quenching the fire of this
sect of Muhammad so that it may never burst out again hereafter; and I
am so sanguine as to hope for this from our undertaking, that if we
can qnly achieve the task before us, it will result in the Moors resigning
India altogether to our rule, for the greater part of them—or perhaps all
of them—live upon the trade of this country, and are become great and
rich, and lords of extensive treasures.... And the other reason is the ad¬
ditional service which we shall render to the King Dom Manoel in taking
this city, because it is the headquarters of all the spices and drugs which
the Moors carry every year hence to the Straits, without our being able
to prevent them from so doing; but if we deprive them of this, their an¬
cient market, there does not remain for them a single port nor a single^
situation as commodious in the whole of these parts, where they can -'
on their trade in these things. For after we were in possession
pepper of Malabar, never more did any reach Cairo, except that which the
Moors carried thither from these parts, and the forty or fifty ships, which
sail hence every year laden with all sorts of spices bound to Mecca, can¬
not be stopped without great expense and large fleets, which must neces¬
sarily cruise about continually in the offing of Cape Comorin; and the
pepper of Malabar, of which they may hope to get some portion, because
tney have the King of Calicut on their side, is in our hands, under the
eyes of the Governor of India, from whom the Moors cannot carry of so
much with impunity as they hope to do; and I hold it as very certain that,
"we take this trade of Malacca away out of their hands, Cairo and Mecca
wjll be entirely ruined, and to Venice spices be conveyed, except
what her merchants go and buy in Portugal."
The Advent of Europeans in India
people, in 1540, all the Hindu temples in the Island of Goa were des¬troyed under the orders of their
king. The Franciscan missionaries arriv¬ed in 15f7 and Goa became the centre of an immense
propaganda. The Portuguese authorities in India did not care for the people. The civil au¬thorities at
Goa wrote to their king in 1552 thus : "In India, there is no justice either in your Viceroy or in those who
are to meet it out. The one object is gathering together of money by every means."
The establishment of the Mughal empire was also partly respon¬sible for Portuguese failure. At
the beginning of the 16th century, the Portuguese did not meet any great opposition. However, after
the acces¬sion of Akbai in 1556, the Mughal power began to grow. The Mughals were able to bring
practically the whole of India under their control. Under these circumstances there was no scope for the
growth of the Por¬tuguese power on the mainland of India.
Portugal is a small country. Its resources were not sufficient for the conquest of a country like
India. Moreover, the resources were divid¬ed between the Portuguese possessions in India and Brazil.
After some time, Portuguese started caring more for Brazil than for India.
In 1580, Portugal came under the control of Spain. The result was that the Spanish interests
predominated and tht Portuguese interests were subordinated. Various restrictions were put on
Portuguese enter¬prise in the interests of Spain. Lisbon, which was once the depot of Europe, lost all its
importance. Worthless Spanish. officers were sent to the Portuguese possessions in India and these
persons tried to make as much money as possible unmindful of its effect on the people of the country.
These Spanish favourites ruined the Portuguese cause in the country.
The rise of Dutch and the English power in India created strong rivals in the country. They were
more than a match for the Portuguese. The result was that by slow degrees the Portuguese empire in
India failed.
The Portuguese who came to India were characterised by great individual courage, enthusiasm
for conquest, personal and national pride but many of them were cruel, factious and domineering. Their
early suc¬cess encouraged their inborn arrogance. No wonder, they came to regard the Asiatics in
general as their natural subjects. As very few Portuguese women came from Europe, they were
encouraged to marry Indian women. It was hoped that in this way the Portuguese settlements in India
would become self-supporting in soldiers and sailors. Unfortunately, the mixed race which came into
existence was inferior to the original stock, less brave, but not less arrogant) increasingly avaricious and
corrupt. Records of gallant exploits became fewer, and instances of treachery and rapacity increased.
The Portuguese came to be detested by the people of India and no wonder that in course of time their
empire in India became an insignificant, one.
Regarding the causes of Portuguese failure, Dodwell observes thus : "But by the close of the sixteenth
century the Portuguese dominion was fast falling into decay. The officials were corrupt; the fortresses
unrepair¬ed and unarmed; trade was declining. Even more significant was the dis¬solution of
Portuguese union and solidarity. When the Raja of Cochin had resolved to accept the Portuguese
alliance, he had been moved by admiration for their discipline, which was such that, had a cabin-boy
ar¬rived with the king's orders to command them, he would have been obey¬ed. But when Francisco da
Gama was Viceroy at Goa from 1597 to 1600, he was subjected to the grossest insults. The statue of his
great ancestor Vasco was thrown down and broken; and on the day when he embarked
The Advent of Europeans in India
for his homeward voyage, forty men went abroad and hung him in effigy from his own yard-arm. Some
of the causes of this decline are evident. Portugal was but a small country; she had undertaken two
great enterprises —the occupation of Brazil and the conquest of Indian waters. Both took a heavy toll of
her manhood. The mortality on board the ship and in tro¬pical climates was extraordinary. Few of the
gallant adventurous men who built up the Portuguese position in the east ever returned to their native
country. The breed, robbed of its finest elements, decayed; and their successors were not the equals of
the early adventurers. Even by 1538 difficulties were found in securing the necessary number of men.
Outlaws were tempted by a general pardon to all, heretics and traitors ex¬cepted who would volunteer
for Indian service. Criminals sentenced to death were respited and sent out into perpetual banishment;
and lesser criminals were offered pardon in return for three or more years' service. The Portuguese
settlements were being reinforced by men bringing little of civic virtue, who would probably mate-and
breed with the lowest classes of the Indian population.
"At the same time the Portuguese were falling into a condition of men¬tal stagnancy. The astonishing
progress which they had made in the allied arts of shipbuilding and navigation ceased. They remained
supreme in Indian waters but were doomed to succumb should they be called on to meet men who
should have learnt to build or sail or fight their ships better than the Portuguese had learnt to do by the
time of Vasco da Gama and the great Albuquerque. Goa was, in fact, destined to become the burialplace of reputations." (The Cambridge Shorter History of India, p. 391).
The Dutch in India. The students of history are familiar with the re¬volt of the Netherlands against Philip
II. It is also well known that in spite of all the efforts of Philip II, they were able to win their freedom. It
was in the hour of their victory that the Dutch Company was started in 1592 by a group of Amsterdam
merchants. Three years after, Corne¬lius Houtman set out for India and returned with large cargo in
1597. The Indian Archipelago was opened to the Dutch. The Dutch success was so great that many other
companies were started. In 1602, all the Dutch companies were amalgamated into the Dutch East India
Company. A Charter was also given. It gave a monopoly of eastern trade to the Com¬pany which was
also empowered to wage war,' make treaties, occupy terri¬tories and build fortresses.
The main object of the Dutch Company was trade. The Dutch con¬centrated t.heir attention on the
Spice Islands in the Far East. They tried to establish their exclusive monopoly. They made the chiefs of
the islands accept the sovereignty of Holland. All other European nations were for¬bidden to trade with
those islands. Every effort was made to maintain the monopoly of trade.
It is true that the Dutch and the English entered the East as friends. Both of them were the champions of
Protestants against Catholic Spain and Portugal. However, differences arose between the two powers.
The Dutch were determined to maintain their monopoly at all costs. The rivalry between the two
countries increased to such an extent that in 1623 the Dutch perpetrated the massatre of Amboyna.
After this tragedy, the English were forced to leave the Spice Islands and retire to the mainland of
India.1 The Dutch had to pay an indemnity of £85,000 in the time of Cromwell.
1. "The high-handed policy of the Dutch in 'he Malaya Archipelago was a blessing in disguise for the
The Advent of Europeans in India
The Dutch conquered Malacca from the Portuguese in 1641. In 1658, they acquired Ceylon. In India,
they had Negapatnam on the Madras Coast and Chinsurah in Bengal. From the beginning to the end, the
Dutch position in India was insignificant.
The Danes in India. Encouraged by the other European merchants, the people of Denmark also thought
of having a share in the Indian trade. For that purpose, they, founded a settlement in 1620 at
Tranquebar in the Tanjore District. In 1676, they occupied Serampore. However, the Danes did not find a
foothold in India and consequently they sold their settle-ments in India to the British Government in
Danvers, F.C. History of the Portuguese in India (1894).
Dodwell, H.H. (Ed.) Cambridge History of India, Vol. V.
Jayne, K.G.
Vasco da Gama and His Successors (1910).
Ross, E.D. The Portuguese in India and Arabia between 1507 and 1517.
Whiteway. The Rise of the Portuguese Power in India (1497-1550).
Like other Europeans, Englishmen also were desirous of getting the things produced in India and the Far
East. After their victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, their desire to trade directly began to
increase. In September 1599, a resolution was passed under the chairmanship of Lord Mayor to form an
association to trade directly with India. On Slst December 1600, Queen Elizabeth granted a Charter to
the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies. The Charter authorised
the London Company to traffic and trade freely "into and from the East Indies, in the countries and parts
of Asia and Africa, and into and from all islands, ports, havens, cities, creeks, towns and places of Asia
and Africa and America, or any of them beyond the Cape of Bona Esperanza to the Streights of
Migellan." The Charter was given for 15 years and the same could be cancelled after giving a notice of
two years. It is true that James I gave a new Charter which made the Charter of 1600 perpetual, .but the
same could also be ended by giving a notice of 3 years if it was proved that the continuation of the
monopoly was injurious to the interests of the people at large.
To begin with, the London Company organised separate voyages. What was actually done was that a
large number of persons contributed money for the expedition and distributed among themselves the
profits of victory. There was no dearth of subscribers as the profits made by the Com¬pany were
enormous. In certain cases, the profits were as high as 500 or 600%. Joint stock enterprises began in
1612. The first two voyages were directly towards the Spice Islands. The English Company set up a
factory at Bantam and also did some trade there. However, it met bitter opposi¬tion at the hands of the
Dutch. Captain Hawkins was sent along with the third voyage. He landed at Surat and from there went,
to the Court of Jahangir to get certain concessions for the English. Hawkins was re¬ceived favourably at
the Court and the English were given the permission to settle at Surat. However, the concession was
cancelled on account of the Portuguese influence at the Mughal Court.
In 1612, Captain Best defeated the Portuguese fleet off Swally near Surat. The result of this victory was
that the Portuguese influence dec¬lined and the English Company got the permission to set up a factory
at Surat.
In 1615, Sir Thomas Roe was sent to the Court of Jahangir by James I, King of England. He was successful
in securing certain trading con¬cessions for the English Company from the Mughal Emperor. This he did
>n spite of the opposition from the vested interests.
In 162*. the English captured Ormuz from the Portuguese with tne help of the King of Iran. The English
also set up their trading stations « Aramgaon and Masulipatam. The site of Madras was bought by the
English Company in 1640. Permission was also obtained to set up a for¬ced factory called Fort St.
George. In 1633, factories were set up at
10 Rise and Growth of English and French East India Companies
Balasore and Hariharpore. In 1651, a factory was set up at Hugli. In 1661, London Company got the
island of Bombay from Charles II at a nominal rent of £10 a year.
In 1688, there was a dispute between the English traders in Bengal and Governor Shayista Khan. At that
time, Sir Josiah Child was the Governor of the English Company and he persuaded James II, King of
England, to declare war against the Mughal Government. The English failed miser¬ably. They were no
match for the might of Aurangzeb. The English fac¬tory at Surat was captured and the English were
ordered to leave the Mughal territory. Ultimately, peace was brought about. The English got permission
to come back. They also got from Aurangzeb the permission to build a factory on the site of Calcutta in
1690. In 1696, a fort w?s built at that place and the same was called Fort William. The English Com¬pany
also bought the villages of Sutanafti, Kalikata and Govindapur. Thus the city of Calcutta began to grow.
In 1714, the Presidencies of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay sent a com¬bined mission to the Court of
Emperor of Farrukhsiyar under John Sur-rnan. With the help of William Hamilton who had cured the
emperor of a disease, Surman was able to get three Firmans in July 1717. By these Firmans, the right of
the Company to trade duty free in Bengal, in lieu ot an annual payment of Rs. 3,000 was confirmed. The
English Company was olso allowed to settle wherever they pleased and to rent additional territorit;
around Calcutta. In the case of province of Hyderabad, the English Coinpany was allowed freedom from
all the dues except the rent paid for Madras. In the province of Gujarat, a yearly sum of Rs. 10,000 was
accepted iu the satisfaction of all customs due at Surat. The rupees coined by the English Company at
Bombay were made current throughout the Mughal empire. It cannot be denied that the concessions
obtained by Surman added to the p< wers and prosperity of the English Company.
A reference may be made at this stage to the various changes made in the London Company itself. In
1615, the Company was authorised to issue commissions to its captains. In capital offences a verdict was
to be given by a jury alone. In 1623, the Company was authorised to grant commissions to its Presidents
and Chief Officers for the punishment of offences committed by the servants of ihe Company on land. In
capital offences, the trial was to be by a jury.
The London "Company met with opposition from the Assada Com¬pany. This Company got a licence to
trade with the East Indies in 1635. It founded a settlement at Assada in Madagascar and carried on trade
vigorously. It was able to inflict great losses oh the London Company. Ultimately, a compromise was
arrived at and the Assada Company was merged into the London Company.
T nnHon Company cot a setback on account of the Civil War in Eng land^H^ev^rThcyned to .he time of
Cromwell ™g*g«{& £85,000 as compensation for the massacre of Amboyna m 1623. The Lftar ter of
1657 recuired the Company to have one contmuouM™J «"<*• According to Hunter, "The London
Company was transformed from a feeble relic of the medieval trade-guild into a vigorous forerunner of
Modern Joint Stock Company." The Charter of 1657 provided that any one would become a member of
the Company by paymg an entrance fee of £5 and by subscribing at least £100 to the stock of the
Company. The member could vote in the general meeting only if he had stock wortu £500 Those who
held stock worth £1,000 or more could be elected as the
Rise and Growth of English and French East India Companies
members of the Committees. The term of the office of the Governor and Deputy Governor was
reduced to 2 years.
A new Charter was issued to the Company by Charles II in 1661 fter the Restoration. The Company was
authorised to send ships of war, men and ammunition for the security of their factories. They could also'
erect forts. They could choose commanders and officers and give them commission under their seal.
They were to exercise power and com¬mand over their fortresses. They were given power to appoint
Gover¬nors and other officers. The Governor and his Council were given gene¬ral judicial authority "to
judge all persons belonging to the said Governor and Company or that shall live under them, in all cases,
whether civil or criminal, according to the laws of this kingdom, and to execute judgment accordingly."
Where there was no Governor, the Chief Factor and Coun¬cil were empowered to send offenders for
punishment either to a place where there was a Governor and a Council or to England.
The Charter of 1683 gave the Company full power to declare war and make peace with any other power.
The Company was also given the power to raise, arm, train and muster sufficiently a strong army. The
Charter also provided for the establishment of a Court consisting of one person learned in civil law and
two assistants to be appointed by the Company.
The Charter of 1686 authorised the Company to appoint admirals and other sea officers. The Company
was given a general power to coin any species of money.
The Charter of 1693 added £744,000 to the capital of the Company. No individual member was to be
allowed to subscribe more than £510,000. For every one thousand pounds, the subscriber was given one
vote, but no one could exercise more then 10 votes. The salaries of the Governor and Deputy Governors
were fixed. The Charter of 1694 made the prin¬ciple of rotation of offices compulsory. Neither Governor
nor Deputy Governor could remain in office for more than two years. Eight Commit¬tees out of twentyfour were to be elected every year.
It is desirable to mention the case of East India Company vs. Sandys. In this case, the Company brought
an action against Mr. Sandys on the ground that he had traded to the East Indies without their licence.
The case ended in favour of the Company. The Company also detained the Redbridge which was lying in
the Thames, but was believed to be bound for the East Indies. The action of the Company was
challenged. It was contended that the Company had no such right to detain a ship. On 19th January
1694, the House of Commons passed a resolution that "all the sub¬jects of England have equal right to
trade to the East .Indies unless pro¬hibited by Acts of Parliament." Although a resolution of Parliament
had not the force of law, it had undoubtedly the effect of encouraging the in¬terlopers. As the Company
was determined to stop them there was bound to be trouble.
At this time, Mr. Montagu was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was in need of money for the State,
and was finding out ways and means for the same. The monopoly in trade was virtually put up for
auction among all those who could give the Government £2,000,000 at 8% p.a. The London Company
offered £700,000 which was insufficient. But a new Company was willing to subscribe the amount
needed. The result was that a Bill was passed in 1698 by the British Parliament. The Act provided for a
subscription of £2,000,000 sterling as a loan to the State which in re¬turn was to grant "General Society"
the exclusive right of trading to the
12 Rise and Growth of English and French East India Compantes
East Indies. The London Company was to be given a notice of three years (expiring in 1701) to wind up
its business.
In order to strengthen its position, the old Company bought shares worth £315,000 in the new
Company. There was ruinous competition between the two Companies for some time. The result was
that the new Company began to lose heavily. Ultimately, a compromise was arrived a* in 1702.
According to this compromise "the old Company was to maintain its separate existence for seven years,
but the trade of the two companies was to be carried on jointly, in the name of the English Company,
but for the common benefit of both under the direction of twenty-four managers, twelve to be selected
by each Company. At the end of the seven years, the old Company was to surrender its Charters." The
new Company was to carry on its trade in the name of "The United Company of Mer¬chants of England
trading to the East Indies." In March 1709, the London Company surrendered its Charters to Queen
When other European nations were desirous of trading with India and having a share of the profits, the
French also thought of trying their luck. It was in 1611 that King Louis XII of France granted letters patent
to a Company for the monopoly of the eastern trade. However, that attempt ended in smoke. In 1664, a
new Company was started under the guidance of Colbert and Louis XIV. The Government of France
under took to defend the territories of the French Company. The French Com¬pany was to concentrate
on India. Madagascar was to serve as a half¬way house. In December 1667, the first French factory was
established at Surat by Francis Caron who was nominated as Director-General. An¬other French factory
was established at Masulipatam in December 1669. This was facilitated by a grant from the King of
Golkunda which freed the Company from import and export duty. Caron was called back in 1672
and^his place was taken by Francis Martin.
Martin was one of the real founders of the French Company in India. In the year of his appointment, he
founded the settlement of Pondi¬cherry under a grant from Sher Khan Lodi, the King of Bijapur. In spite
of the fact that Martin did not get help from the Home Government he was able to make Pondicherry
the premier settlement of the French on the Indian mainland. It is true that Pondicherry had to be
surrend¬ered to the Dutch in 1693 on account of their superior forces, but the same was restored to the
French in 1697. by the Treaty of Ryswick. Mar¬tin was once again appointed the Governor of
Pondicherry. In 1706, Martin died.
The French had also their settlements at Chandranagar, Balasore and Qasim Bazar. On the Malabar
Coast, the French got Mahe in 1725. In 1739, they got Karaikal on the Coromandel Coast.
After the death of Martin, there was confusion in the affairs of the French East India Company for some
time. However, after 1726, things began to improve. In 1735, Dumas became the Governor of
Pondicherry. He got permission from Delhi to coin money. In 1739, he got Karaikal as a reward for his
support of a pretender to the throne of Tanjore. This is where the French Company stood when it came
into conflict with the English East India Company in the I740's.
Rise and Growth of English and French East India Companies IS SUGGESTED READINGS
Balkrishna. Commercial Relations between India and England.
nirdwood, Sir George. Dawn of British Trade to the East Indies (1886).
Bruce, John, Annals of the East India Company (1810).
podwell, H.H. (Ed.). Cambridge History of India, Vol. V.
Foster, W. English Factories in India (1618-69).
Lyall, A. The Rise of the British Dominion in India (1906).
Mukherjee.-Ramkrishna. The Rise and Fall of the East India Company
(1958). Roberts, P.E. British India.
Shafat Ahmed Khan. East India Trade in the Seventeenth Century (1928). Wheeler, J.T. Early Records
of British India (1878).
Before describing the struggle for supremacy between the English and French East India Companies,1 it
is desirable to explain . their respective positions on the eve of the Carnatic Wars. To put it briefly, the
Eng. lish East India Company was a private enterprise and consequently pos. sessed a lot of initiative and
vigour. It was a prosperous Company and carried on a lot of trade. The despatches of the Company point
out to the large volume of trade carried on by it. Its officers were putting their very best into their jobs
and the Englishmen were looking forward to their good prospects in the future. As compared with it,
the French East
1. According to Ramkrishna Mukherjee, "While the English found a tougher rival in the Dutch than in the
Portuguese, the French outrivall-ed both. Both the Powers, the English and the French, fought their
utmost in the eighteenth century to obtain, in the end, India—'the jewel of the East' as booty.
"Why was the Anglo-French rivalry so many times more virulent than the Anglo-Portuguese or the
Anglo-Dutch rivalries ? The reason appears to lie in the fact that in the first half of the seventeenth
century, when the Portuguese and the English fought most seriously over India, the Mughal Power was
strong and so it could resist any aggressive move of a foreign power. Hence, the rival merchant powers
could only snipe at each other's trading advantages, while maintaining the facade of remain¬ing
'peaceful traders' to the Mughal Emperor and his vassals and pleas¬ing them with flattery and presents.
In later years also, even though the Mughal Power had begun to disintegrate from the beginning of the
eigh¬teenth century, it was yet strong enough to punish any impudence on the' part of foreign
merchants; so the Anglo-Dutch rivalry reaching its climax in the second half of the seventeenth century,
could also not come com¬pletely out in the open, although it was more virulent than the AngloPortuguese rivalry. The Anglo-French rivalry, however, took place main¬ly after the fourth decade of the
eighteenth century, when after the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurang/eb in 1707 the disintegration
of the Mughal Empire could not pass unnoticed even by a superficial observer. So, a serious contest with
a view to control India for the supreme 'trad¬ing' advantages of one company at the expense of others,
by means of sub¬duing the power of the Indian rulers and using this power to the favour of one
company only, a contest which could not unfold itself in the pre¬vious phase of 'commercial enterprises'
of the European merchant bour¬geoisie in India, now came out very, openly.
"Neither the Portuguese nor the Dutch could avail themselves of this wonderful situation, as their
powers were already broken. The Eng¬lish Company, therefore, found itself without any serious rival in
India ex¬cept the French. And the fight which ensued between them after the fourth decade of the
eighteenth century was quite naked as regards the ultimate objective of merchant capital." The Rise and
Fall of the East India Company, pp. 109-110.
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Daccan
Company was more the "offspring of State patronage than the out-* of spontaneous mercantile
activity." There was too much conc0ine-{"the* Government and that destroyed all initiative on the part of tr0 glials of the French
Company. The volume of trade carried on by
hm was not much and consequently the French Company was poor. vTreover, the only important
settlement of the French was at PondiherrV- Chandranagar was no good. There was nothing to compare with wombay. The English Company
had a brilliant record of progress ar.d orowth and consequently the people of England looked upon the
Eng-Ush Company with a feeling of pride. However, that was not the case with the French Company
which failed to fire the imagination of the Frenchmen. It is obvious that the French were handicapped in
their nice for supremacy with the English Company. All the resourcefulness of Dupleix could not change
the state of affairs.
First Carnatic War (1746-48). The Fiendi and the English Companies {ought the three Carnatic Wars in
the Deccan and these wars sealed the
,. .
Conje«veram 0
Arruo Chmgleput
Valimavttt ViUa^Ua ° 9TONDICHEHY "(Fore St. DavidNcgapatan
hj dambaram Devikottai Tranquebar Karikat
fate of the French in the Deccan. As regards the 1st Carnatic War, it was merely an echo of the war of
Austrian Succession which broke out in Europe in connection with the succession of Maria Theresa to
the throne of Austria. In spite of the pragmatic sanction, Frederick, the Great, of Prussia occupied Silesia.
He ironically remarked that it would have been better for Maria Theresa's father to have left a few more
battalions than
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy m The Daccan
the pragmatic sanction which was nothing better than a waste paper. The news of the War of Austrian
Succession reached India in 1744. However, rumours of war were persisting ever since 1740 and both
the parties were making preparations to oust each other.
At this time, Dupleix was the Governor of Pondicherry. Finding his position noi very strong, Dupleix is
started to have suggested to the Mad-ras Governor to observe neutrality. Such a suggestion was not
accepted by the English Governor. The latter was expecting reinforcements from Home Government
and he hoped to drive out the French from India with their help. Dupleix still persisted his efforts to save
the French. UL timately, he appealed to Anwar-ud-Din, the Nawab of Carnatic. The Nawab told both the
English and the French Companies not to quarrel and thereby not to break the peace of the country. The
English did not like the idea of challenging the authority of the Nawab of Carnatic and sub¬mitted to the
orders. The British troops along with its squadron reached India but Commodore Barnett died soon
Dupleix had also sent a word to La Bourdonnais, Governor of Mau¬ritius, asking him for help. The result
was that La Bourdonnais has¬tened to India with a fleet and reached the Coromandel Coast in July 1746.
The French and British squadrons faced each other for some time but the English squadron left for
Ceylon after some time. Finding his position strong, Dupleix asked La Bourdonnais to besiege Madras.
When the latter did so, the English approached Anwar-ud-Din, Nawab of Carna¬tic, to direct the French
to leave Madras and maintain peace. However, Dupleix promised to hand over Madras to Anwar-ud-Din
if the latter allow¬ed the French to conquer it. The Nawab agreed. Madras1 surrendered to the French
in September 1746. Differences arose between Dupleix and La Bourdonnais. La Bourdonnais accepted a
bribe of one lakh pagodas and restored Madras to the English for £40,000. Dupleix repudiated the action
of La Bourdonnais and recaptured Madras. When Anwar-ud-Din asked for the restoration of Madras to
him, Dupleix refused to do so Consequently, the Nawab sent an army to fight against die French. The
army was defeated in the battle of St. Thomas or the battle of Adyar, a place near Madras. In this battle,
the French were successful and the Nawab's army was defeated. The battle of Adyar is regarded to be
1. About Madras, Commodore Griffin wrote thus to Nizam-ul-Mulk in 1747 : "I shall not enter into a
particular detail of the robberies, cruel¬ties, and depredations, committed on shore upon the King my
Master's subjects, by that insolent, perfidious nation the French; connived at, and abetted by those
under your Excellency, (the Nabob of Arcot), wl.ose duty it was to have preserved the peace of your
country, instead of selling the interest of a nation, with whom you have had the strictest friendly time
out of mind; a nation that has been the means not only of enriching this part of the country, but the
whole dominions of the grand Mogul; and that to a people who are remarkable all over the world for
encroaching upon, and giving disturbances and disquiet to all near them; a people who are strangers in
your country, in comparison of those who have beer robbed by them of that most important fortress
and factory, Madras; and now they are possessed of it, have neither money nor credit to carry on
the trade
And now, excellent Sir, we have laid this before you, for your
information and consideration; and must entreat you, in the name of the King of Great Britain, my Royal
Master, to call the Nabob lo an account for his past transactions, and interpose your power to restore as
near as possible in its original state, what has been so unjustly taken from us."
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
Ae decisive battles o£ India. It demonstrated the superiority of disdp-2 Jd infantry supported by
artillery over cavalry.
Dupleix tried to capture Fort St. David also but failed. The English .A to capture Pondicherry, but the
French defended the same success?The first Carnatic War was ended by the Tifeaty of Aix La Chappelle
c 1748 The net result of this treaty was that the English got back Mad, and' the French got back Louisburg in North America. Although the
!iaty did not bring about any changes, yet, according to Prof. Dodwell,
!hi$ treaty marks an epoch in Indian history. To quote him, "It demonsted tyie overwhelming influence of sea power, it displayed the superior•tv of European methods of war over those followed by Indian armies,
and >t revealed the political decay that had eaten into the heart of
the Indian state."
Rise of Hyderabad State. Before describing the events of the Second Carnatic War, it is desirable to refer
to the rise of the Hyderabad State. This State was created by Nizam-ul-Mulk. In 1713, he was appointed
the Viceroy of the six Subahs of the Deccan. The Nizam was ambitious and unscrupulous and he decided
to rule those Sabahs independently of the Mughal authority at Delhi. The Nizam had to pass through
many ups and downs before he could finally achieve his objective. He was the Viceroy of the,Deccan up
to 1715 when he was called back to Delhi. He was ap¬pointed the Governor of different places. He was
sent to Muradabad, then to Patna and Ujjain. From there he was also called back in 1719 and was asked
to choose anyone out of the four provinces of Akbarabad, Allahabad, Multan and Burhanpur. He did not
approve of the royal ac¬tion and consequently began to prepare for self-defence. He made straight for
the Narmada and crossed it in May 1720. He occupied the fortresses of Asirgarh and Burhanpur in May
1-720. He defeated the Mughal for¬ces sent against him in the battles of Khandwa and Balapur in June
and July 1720 respectively. These victories left the Nizam the master of the six Subahs of the Deccan and
the Viceroyalty was conferred on him by the Mughal emperor.
In 1722, he was appointed the Wazir of the Mughal empire. As Wazir, he tried to stop the rapid
disintegration of the Mughal empire but finding his task hopeless, he left for the Deccai. in 1724. That
was con¬sidered to be an act of disloyalty and the Nizam had to fight successfully Ae battle of Shakarkheda in October 1724 against the Mughal troops. The Nizam entered Hyderabad in 1725 as a victor. In
June 1725 he was pardoned and a formal order appointing him the head of the Deccan was Passed.
However, he was removed from the Governorship of Malwa and Gujarat., After 1725, Nizam-ul Mulk
concentrated his attention on the Ueccan and was able to develop the State of Hyderabad without aof
in-ni?nce from the Mu8nal empire at Delhi. Thi he ioniinued to do «jl his death in 1748. However, he had
to fight against the Marathas who were determined to sweep everything before them. Between 1727
and 1731, the Nizam successfully created dissensions among the Marathas hut p '™ateIy he failed.
Bajirao Pcshwa defeated the Nizam in the battle of
a^T j and forced on him ihe treatv of Mungi-Shegaon. The Nizam agreed to allow the Marathas to
collect Chauth and Sardeshinukhi.
In 1737, the Nizam was appointed the Chief Minister of the Mughal
thiP,U-a?ld he was P™ the t,tle of Asaf Jah ("Equal in dignity to Asaf, •e Minister of King Solomon'). The
immediate problem before the 'ram was to deal with the Marathas. However, he himself was defeated
Angto-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
by Bajirao in a battle near Bhopal in 1738. He had to sign the treaty Durai Sarai $>y which he had to give
the whole oi Malwa and the terriL between the Narmada and Chambal to Bajirao. The Nizam was in rjif^ when Nadir Shah attacked India. However, he went back to the DeccT and continued to consolidate
his position there till his death in 174? Before that, he was successful in putting the State of Hyderabad
on a verv stable footing.
According to J. N. Sarkar, "For a quarter of a century Asaf j^ had been the most outstanding personality
in the Mughal empire. n_ was universally regarded as the sole representative of the spacious tim^ of
Aurangzeb and of the policy and traditions of that strenuous monarch The higher minds among the
younger generation of the court nobility look! ed up to him with the respect due to a father while fools
and knaves hated him for his love of discipline and the honesty of administration. He was undoubtedly
the foremost General of his time in India. In statecraft and diplomacy, he was no less eminent. He had
the true statesman's length of vision and spirit of moderation, and of this we have many proofs. He won
over the surviving partisans of Mubariz Khan by liberal provision for their support. After crushing the
rebellion of his son Nasir Jung, he destroyed the unread rebel's despatch box which was reported to
contain promises of adhesion from thirty-eight nobles of his own court. Still more strongly was his
wisdom shown when in 1739, Nadir Shah, disgusted with the inability of Mohammad Shah, offered the
throne of Delhi to Asaf Jah, but the latter refused to be disloyal to his master." (Cambridge History of
India, Vol. IV, p. 385).
The Second Camatic War (1748-54). There are two aspects of the war between the English and the
French. On the one hand, Asaf Jah Nizam-ul-Mulk died in May 1748. There was a struggle between his
second son Nasir Jung and grandson Muzzafar Jung.1 Both of them aspired to the headship of the
Deccan Muzzafar Jung joined hands with Chanda Sahib' who wanted to be Nawab of Arcot. Chanda
Sahib also opened negotia^ tions with Dupleix. The latter recognised the importance of future pros-peas
if both Chanda Sahib and Muzzafar Jung were helped. It was not difficult to arrive at the advantages to
be secured from the new move. Agreement was-entered into and Muzzafar Jung and Chanda Sahib,
helped by the French, defeated Anwar-ud-Din in August 1949 in the battle of Amber. Anwar-ud-Din was
killed and his son Mohammad AH took refuge in the fort of Trichinopoly. Chanda Sahib was able to
establish his con¬trol over the rest of Camatic. The siege of Pondicherry was not pressed vigorously.
He wasted a lot of-time in dealing with the Raja of Tanjore.
He was the son of Asaf Jah's daughter.
Chanda Sahib was the son-in-law of Dost Ali, Nawab of Arcot. In 1732, he was sent by his fatherin-law to occupy Trichinopoly. He was able to capture it by falling in love with the widow of the king of
Trichi nopoly. He also tried to capture Tanjore and Madura but failed on ac count of opposition from the
Marathas. When his father-in-law was kill ed in 1740 by the Marathas, Chanda Sahib thought of
capturing Arcoi and marched towards the same. However, he failed in his objective. Th< Marathas also
snatched away Trichinopoly from him. Chanda Sahib wa' captured by the Marathas and kept as a
prisoner for seven years. The firs' three years he spent in Berar. In 1744, he was taken to Satara. Th<
Marathas demanded lakhs of rupees for his release. He tried to make friends with the Peshwas but
failed. In 1748, he escaped from Satara and was successful in raising an army.
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
the French had helped Muzzafar Jung and Chanda Sahib, the
}\ ueiped Nasir Jung. Nasir Jung took the field in 1750. Muzzafar
jnglisU "d*fcated/captured and imprisoned. However, there was a change
Jung *a
j^asir jung was deserted by his troops and was captured and
oi fortun th
At thjs dme Muzzafar jung gave £50,000, to the Company.
PUt luo gave Dupleix a Jagir worth £10,000 a year. Chanda Sahib was HC ized as the Nawab of Arcot.
When Muzzafar Jung was killed in reC°gary 1751. Salabat Jung was put on the throne by Bussy.
Within a few months, Bussy was able to set the forces of Salabat Jung sound footing by a strict discipline
and incessant vigilance. He was °hle to train a large number of troops and paid them well and
punctually. us discipline was so strict that even Salabat Jung began to tremble be-f re him. The intrigues
of the officials of the State were put an end to. {for his own expenses, Bussy got possession of some
districts which came to be known as the Northern Circars. Those were entirely managed by the French.
The English Company refused to accept the new situation. Governor Saunders was the leader of those
who were opposed to change. Clive appeared on the scene and occupied Arcot. All efforts to dislodge
him from Arcot failed. Even when Chanda Sahib sent half of his army under his own son to relieve Arcot,
there was no better success than before.1 As half the army of Chanda Sahib was sent away from
Trichinopoly to Arcot, the siege of Trichinopoly had to be given up. Chanda Sahib was himself defeated
and killed. The whole of the Carnatic fell into the hands of the English.
Dupleix tried to recover his position, but could not. Victory after victory was won by the English against
the French. A conference was held between the English and French Commissioners; However, it failed in
its objective. Soon after the conference, the war restarted. Before much could be done, Dupleix was
recalled in 1754, and he died in 1764.
Dupleix was succeeded by Godeheu. The latter arranged terms of peace with the English. By the new
treaty, both the nations agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Indian States. Both the
French and the English retained their old positions. However, the English got a' town in Northern Circar.
Bussy remained in the Deccan and continued to exercise his influence. It has been pointed out that by
the treaty of 1755, Godeheu sacrificed everything for which Dupleix had fought. Ac-cording to Dupleix
himself "Godeheu had signed the ruin of the country and the dishonour of the nation." The French
agreed to give awav all that they had captured so far. Whether the treaty was wise or not/one thing is
certain. It made the English stronger. It also gave them much needed rest before embarking upon the
Third Carnatic War.
Third Carnatic War (1756-1763), The peace between the French and we English Companies in India was
a short-lived one. The Seven Years' War started in Europe in 1756 and before long the two nations
started "gluing in India also. The French Government sent Count Lallv as the governor and Commander
in-Chief. With great difficulty, Lally' reached hidia on account of the naval supremacy of the English. He
had some success at the start. He was able to capture Fort St. David. He recalled Bussy from the Deccan.
This was a mistake on his part. As soon as Bussy kit, the French influence ended. Salabat Jung went
over to the English
1. '"dive's capture of Arcot proved to be the turning point in °°ntest between the French and the
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
and gave them Northern Circars. Laily tried to get Madras but failed, ij. was forced to retire to
pondicherry and was defeated by Sir Eyre Coote in the battle of Wandiwash in January 1760. It was a
decisive battle.' n sealed the fate of the French. Bussy was taken prisoner. Karaikal fell in April 1760.
Lally surrendered at Pondicherry in January 1761. In April 1761, Jinji was captured. The French had lost
practically everything, After the peace of Paris, there was an exchange of prisoners of war. Lalh was
returned to France but he was condemned and: executed.1 The peacJ of Paris (1763) restored the
French settlements to them but the French yrei* not allowed to fortify them. It is true that in time of
Lord Wellesley, thc French gave some trouble to the English, but it cannot be denied th« the three
Carnatic wars completely destroyed their chances of founding French empire in India.
According to Furber, "From many points of view it was a misfor-tune for France ever to have striven for
political power and prestige i^ India after the days of Dupleix. This story of Anglo-French relations in
Indian affairs after 17S3 reveals the existence of 'rivets* of British power un¬appreciated and largely
unknown to the great majority of Englishmen and Frenchmen. Utterly unable to carry on an East India
trade without Bri¬tish assistance, completely powerless to reassert political dominance and military
prestige with the resources she could then muster, France's only opportunity in India lay in turning
Britain's increasing responsibilities in India to her own advantage. Bourdieu, with his advice to make
'golden' voyages during Britain's war with Tipu, had a truer grasp of realities than Vergennes. War and
revolution intervened to make any fulfilment of Bourdieu's plans impossible. When the 'domestic
situation' in Frana oilce more enabled French statesmen to think of India, they never thought of the
commercial advantages that could be obtained in India without conquest. Napoleonic France thought
only of Vergennes' old dream of re-creating by force of arms a French Indian empire which really never
had existed and was desirable never to exist."
Causes of, English Success. It is desirable to discuss the causes that were responsible for the success of
the English Company and failure of French Company. To begin with, it may be pointed out that the
Eng¬lish Company was a private enterprise. This created a spirit of self-re¬liance among the people.
They knew that if they worked hard, they would be able to get profits and if they slackened, they were
to be ruined. The result was that the English Company became prosperous. Its con1. It has rightly been pointed out that the possession of the military and financial resources of Bengal
gave the English a decisive advantage over Lally. From this secure base they could send a constant
supply of men and money to Madras, and create a diversion in its favour by attack¬ing the French in the
Northern Circars. Although it was not fully re¬cognised at the time, the position of the English in Bengal
made the strug¬gle of the French a hopeless one from the very beginning of the Third Car¬natic War.
The Battle of Plassey may be truly said to have derided the
fate of the French in India
In spite of Lally's undoubted failings and
shortcomings, it is only fair to remember that the difficulties confronting him were really
insurmountable and that the French had no real chanc? of success against the English even under the
best of leaders. There is * Urge element of truth in the remark of a historian, that "neither Alexan-rt»
the Great nor Napoleon could have won the empire of India by start¬ing from Pondicherry as a base and
contending with the power which held Bengal and command of the sea.'*
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
was so sound mat it could give loans to the Government. On the di"on|ja0d, the French Company was
merely a department of the Gov-0 ment *l 'ac*ed self-reliance and completely depended upon the Gov£ment which in itself was rotten during the 18th century. The co.rrup-c.rD jn the French Government
was reflected in the French Company. 2? reover, the French Government guaranteed a certain
percentage of profit the shareholders. This also was responsible for the destruction of ini-^tjve among
those who were incharge of the French Company. On ac-JLjor of its private nature, the English Company
gained in another way. The changes at home did not affect the fortunes of the English Com¬pany in
2. Another cause of English success was their naval supremacy. On ^ount of this, the English could
send help to India whenever they pleav
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
ed. There was none to check them on the way. It was this factor that cj. off the link between the French
possessions in India and Frai.ce. f^ French had to avoid the Englishmen on the way while coming to ln^J
The result was that sometimes months and years were spent on the w,. This happened particularly in
the case of Count Lally. Although he st^ ed very early from France so as to be in India in time, he
reached In(jj" very late on account of his forced halts on the way.
5. The English had their naval base in Bombay. The result ^ that they could keep their ships in safety in
Bombay and could start th^ operations at once as soon as an opportunity offered itself. They could also
repair their ships there. The French had their naval base in the h^ of France which was very far off. The
result was that they could not ta^ immediate action.
The English had three important places in India, viz., Calcutta Madras and Bombay. The result
was that even if one of these places w„ conquered by the enemy, the other two remained. Even if two
placQ were conquered by the enemy at one time, one place always remained whb the English because
the three places were far off from one another. $ of them could not be conquered at one time. The
French had only one important station in India and that was Pondicherry. The other placet like Mahi and
Chandranagar could be conquered at any time and wen always at, the mercy of the English. The result
was that with the fall ol Pondicherry, the French lost their all.
The French entered India from the wrong quarter. The Decca was not fertile. It was absolutely
unproductive. The result was that the military conquest of the Deccan by the Frendi did not compensate
them Their enterprise was a failure. On the other hand, the English entered India from the right quarter.
They started from Bengal. It had a very productive soil. There was a lot of gold with the people and
consequently the English got a lot of money after the conquest. Moreover, through the Ganges River,
the English could penetrate into the interior of the coun¬try from Bengal. In the absence of good roads,
the rivers provided u easy means of communication and transport at that time.
Another mistake of the French was that they subordinated the con> mercial interests to
territorial ambitions. This made the French Company poor. Ail their money was wasted on wars. As the
French Government at home was busy in Europe and America, it was not in a position to sup port the
ambitious schemes of Dupleix. On the other hand, the Englid always kept their eye on the sea and never
neglected their commerce. The despatches from the Directors of the English Company always
empha¬sised the importance of increasing trade. It is this fact that made th< English Company
prosperous and rich.
The English were fortunate in having many great men on then] side. Lord Clive was more than a
match for Dupleix. Lawrence **| another. Sir Eyre Coote was still another. Neither Count Lally o* Bussy
was a match for Sir Eyre Coote. Moreover the French Officers cftel quarrelled among themselves. They
did not work in co-operation. Th* brought disaster for them. It is well-known that Dupleix and La Bot*
donna is could not work together on the question of Madras, and th* latter left the former. On the other
hand, the English always helped oi* another and that was the secret of their success.
The French Government at that time was absolutely rotten.fl did not even appreciate the service
rendered by the French officers J India. Consequently, there was no encouragement. It is well-known
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in, The Deccan
i ally was hanged, Dupleix was prosecuted and ultimately died pen"h On the other hand, in spite of the defects in their officers, the
nil^'h Government praised them. It is well-known that in spite of cri0rjt,s c Lord Clive, a resolution was passed ultimately describing him as
('f'S,f under of the British empire in India. The same was the case with
Hastings. Although he was impeached, he was honourably ac-
^arred and later on was accorded all the respect by his countrymen.
o According to Dr. V.A. Smith, "Neither Bussy nor Dupleix singly, nor th combined had a chance of
success against the government which con-^Ued the sea-route and the resources of the Gangetic valley.
It is futile lt0, stress upon the personal frailties of Dupleix, Lally or lesser men in t<rder to explain the
French failure. Neither Alexander the Great nor >IaDoleon could have won the empire of India by
starting from Pondi-herry as a base and contending with the power which held Bengal and command of
the sea."
10. According to Alfred Lyall, "The two primary conditions of suc¬cess whether commercial or military in
India were the establishment of strong points on the coasts, and the maintenance of a naval force that
could open communications with Europe. The English had gained the preponderance at sea, while the
French had now lost their footing on land. The causes of their failure are to be found not in the ill-luck or
incapa¬city of individuals (for that might have been repaired) but in the wide com-bination of
circumstances that decided against French her great contest with England at that period."
According to Dodwell, "The main cause of the English success lay in
the supremacy which the English squadron established at sea, permitting
them to receive men, money and provisions from Bengal and England, en¬
abling them to transport, and cover the operations of their forces, and
depriving the French of their supplies. This placed Lally at a grievous dis¬
advantage and the elusive authority which Dupleix had seized vanished at
the first touch of that naval power which had not been applicable when
he was projecting his schemes. Then, too, while Bussy's exploits had not
contributed a man or a rupee to French aid, the English in Bengal were
able at a critical time to send down both troops and money. Lastly, Lally
himself was hampered by personal defects and confronted by an impossible
task. As a leader he was hasty, inconsiderate, violent. He expected others
to attend to the details of supplies, and never reflected on the hindrances
which might be caused by the councillors whom he abused. Moreover, no
Jan could at once conduct a war against the English and reform the Ponaicherry methods of administration. The knowledge that he was charged
w«h the latter duty made every servant of the Company desire to see him
return to Europe discredited by defeat." (The Cambridge Shorter History
* India, p. 334). 7
WerpUndoubtedly' DuPleix was one 0* ^e greatest of the Frenchmen who dream*11/ rl° India by the
French Company. It was he who dreamt the PoliSa? fou,n(?,n8.a French empire in India. He critically
analysed the one w cond,.t,on m *nd»a and came to the conclusion that by helping
n* WJkr again" the 0ther' ^ French could add to *«' resources and
^n noimS Up "? ^P'f6 of their own in *« country. It has already
P* CcS that^to J*" .wit?' he *d vcrT ™*. He was able to
**«* Tun.
5 °1tbc Carnatic throne. He was also able to put Muz-
l"ng on the Deccan throne. When Muuafar Jung died; he was
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
able to put Salabat Jung in his place. He got the Northern Circars &w Salabat Jung. Bussy was stationed
with Salabat Jung. It appeared th* the French .\fluence in South India was to be supreme. However,
thj^J changed. Clive appeared on the scene and captured Arcot. ChaJJ Sahib failed to carry out the
instructions of Dupleix and wasted histJJ) in Tanjore while he should have finished the opposition of
Mohaa^ Ali in Trichinopoly at once. The delay on the part of Chanda SahibgJ: the English time to
prepare. The result was that ultimately Chanda 6^ was defeated and the plans of Dupleix miscarried.
It is true that Dupleix was as good a diplomat as Clive, but Qj* was also.a great soldier which Dupleix was
not. The result was that iw leix was no match for Clive. No wonder, while Dupleix failed, Clive «J ceeded.
It cannot be denied that Dupleix was handicapped throughout k lack of funds and an inadequate supply
of soldiers. If he had enough 0[ money, he could have recruited a large number of soldiers from the
Indians, but the paucity of funds did not allow him to do so. It %„ impossible for anybody to fight with
those soldiers whose salaries had beta promised but not paid. The result was that the schemes of Duplet
could not be carried out.
Critics point out that the masters of Dupleix looked more to dividend and not to the prospects of a
future French empire in India. It is trot that Dupleix was also partly to blame because he did not unfold
his plan and their prospects to the Home Government, but even when he did so, nobody felt
enthusiastic about diem. The only result was that he *» called back.
Dupleix will always remain a tragic figure in history. He was let down both by his fortune and by his
countrymen. He rightly pointed out that "he had sacrificed his youth, his fortune and his life." He had
spent money out of his own pocket to finance the wars.
According to Elphinstone, "Dupleix was die first who made an exten¬sive use of disciplined sepoys, the
first who quitted the ports on the sea and marched an army into the heart of the continent, the first,
above all who discovered the illusion of the Mughal greatness and turned to hi own purpose, the awe
with which weaker minds still regarded that gigantic phantom."
According to Henri Martin, "The genius of a Richelieu had matured in a Factory. Dupleix was the first to
realise the inevitable result of the contact between the static societies of the East and the progressive
of Europe
; he had seen Asia, like America and like the whole worM,
destined to submit to the law of the European races
Dupleix judged
India destined to be conquered, not by other Asians, like those who had ravaged her before, but by
Europeans; among the European powers. F<* tugal had fallen and Holland was declining; there
remained only Frantf
and England. Dupleix was determined to give India to France Hi
plan was ;u much prudent in respect of means as audacious in respect of die final objective." For the
failure of Dupleix to achieve this atnbiuouJ project, Martin put the entire blame on die French
Government and th< Company. "Asia would have been ours if, widi Dupleix and Bussy i» India, -we could
still have Louis XIV and Colbert Versailles, or if we could have only law. But in place of Ix>uis XIV and
Colbert, we had Loui» XV and Madame de Pompadour and the inept merchants who directed the
Company of the Indies." Again, "There i* not a single instance ft
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
history of a nation being betrayed to this extent by its own Gov-
w»—. omstances ne naa not loreseen caruci, aim m*i ««= *«.»«»». «.. *— •^ -ct was due at least as
much to his own wrong moves and miscalcula-1?° as to the indifference of the home government. To
quote Marti-u° , "If the psychologist could penetrate with certainty into the thoughts Statesmen, there
would be little, very little indeed in their actions,
h'ch would appear to him inspired by high ideas, particularly by fore-*?!» and plans for the future.'
Chance and self-interest guide them more sjf one Would like generally to confess. Dupleix did not
escape this comon law. Coming to India with the sole object of making money, he was led Snexpectedly by the course of
events and by a sort of financial necessity to ipoUcy of territorial expansion which he had not foreseen
earlier, and Leo die vaguest idea of which he did not form for the first time till twenty-,even years after
his arrival in the peninsula." Analysing the motive which prompted Dupleix to conceive the idea of a
colonial empire, Martineau Jays, "Constantly embarrassed in his trading operations by the delay or
insufficiency of funds coming from France, he came slowly to the idea that the only means to get rid of
such embarrassment was to find money in India, without waiting for funds from Europe and without
having to seek the assistance of bankers. That made it necessary to have a fixed ter¬ritorial revenue, the
collection of which could be assured only by the ex¬ercise of a political power. This was first conceived
and later developed more fully in the mind of Dupleix the idea of creating for our advantage a sort of
colonial empire in India where we would be practically the mas¬ters under the authority, more nominal
than real, of Indian princes, who would owe their thrones or their security to us. But this idea, which
was to change the face of India and in a certain measure that of the world, was not in his mind at any
time before the year 1749 or perhaps before 1750." Discussing the causes of the failure of Dupleix,
Martineau has emphasised the wrong judgment and blind obstinacy of Dupleix himself. "No doubt, at
the beginning, the error was legitimate; but in the later stage, when came an unending series of
misfortunes and disillusions, it became evident that the substance was being sacrificed for the shadow.
The blindness or the obstinacy of Dupleix was the principal cause of his fall."
"Dupleix is a striking and brilliant figure in Indian history. His political conceptions were daring and
imaginative, and he .aroused a dread m his English contemporaries which is at once a tribute to his
personal Power and testimony to their sagacity." "Like all able men, he loved power both from policy
and inclination, was not averse to a. certain thea-Jncal pomp and display." "It is my opinion that there
never can be peace ■ ^e province while Dupleix stays in India. He neither values men nor ffloney, nor
anything but what can gratify his own ambition. The con* united ill-success of his troops would have
made anybody but him reflect and be glad 0f the terms offered; but he talks not like the Governor of
rondicherry but as Prince of the Province." (Major Lawrence in 1754).
mat AC-CLrding t0 Malleson< Dupleix was a great administrator and diplo¬mat with a wonderful
capacity for organisation and great persistence and lcnacity of purpose.
give up tne old uncritical estimate, we
Inrf- ^mg t0 Roberts- "Dupleix is a striking and brilliant figure in naian history. For even if we give up the
old uncritical estimate, w* 'tea not deny his real claims to greatness. His political conceptions
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
daring and imaginative. He raised the prestige of France in the East ^ some years to an amazing height,
he won a reputation among Indian p^ ces and leaders that has never been surpassed, and he aroused a
dread j^ his English contemporaries which is at once a tribute to his person^ power and a testimony to
their sagacity. (British India, pp. 118-9).
According to Dodwell, "The policy of Dupleix indeed lacked the ek ments of permanent success, and
could never have survived a Europeatt war. Had he never been recalled, Coote or some other English
leaden would nonetheless have besieged, captured, and ruined Pondicherry. The indispensable
condition of political expansion in the East lay in the 18^ century, as it had lain in the sixteenth and
seventeenth, in predominance at sea. But this condition, as events were to prove, was not possessed by
France. Dupleix's success was only obtained under temporary condition! of a most favourable nature.
He launched his campaign after the War of the Austrian Succession. The most powerful weapon of the
English, their naval power, was for the moment out of action. They could not pursue, intercept, or
destroy the vessels which carried to Pondicherry recruits and munitions. Without this advantage it is
unlikely that Dupleix would hav« obtained as high a degree of success as he in fact secured." (The
Cambridge Shorter History of India, p. 427).
It is usually contended that in conquering India, the English had to follow the path which the genius of
French had opened out to her. While summarising the causes of British success, James Mill pointed out
that the two important discoveries for conquering India were the weakness of the native armies against
European discipline and the facility of impart' ing that discipline to natives in the service of the
Europeans and "both these discoveries were made by the French." Many writers have maintain¬ed that
the failure of Dupleix was due to the ineffective co-operation on the part of the French naval officers,
the want of good military comman¬ders, bad luck at critical moments of the campaign and the
faint¬heartedness of the French Ministry.
Sir Alfred Lyall admitted that Dupleix was a man of genius and poli¬tical vision who strove gallantly
against all those obstacles. But he also pointed out that the English had in Clive and Lawrence
commanders superior to any of the French military officers with Dupleix, except Bussy. Bussy
was a very able man but he was intent much more upon building up his own fortunes as a military
dictator at Hyderabad than on sharing the unprofitable hard hitting struggle between the English and
French commanders in the Camatic. When misfortune overtook Dupleix and Lally he behaved
ungenerously to both of them. Alfred agreed with Elphinstone that Dupleix was "the first who made an
extensive use of dis¬ciplined sepoys; the first who quitted the ports on the sea and marched an army
into the heart of the continent; the first, above all, who discover ed the illusion of the Mughal
greatness", but he maintained that Dupleix could not be ranked as an original discoverer in Asiatic
warfare and pofr tics. The weakness of all oriental States and armies had long been known-India had
not shown the capacity to resist foreign invasions. The only" soldiers upon which the princes of
Southern India could rely were com¬monly mercenaries from the North. The view of Bernier was that a
divi-sion of Turenne's men would have made short work of the whole of tb< Mughal army. It was a
common knowledge with the European military men of that time that the loose levies of the Carnatic
could be scatter**" by a few well-armed and disciplined battalions. There was no great no¬velty in the
introduction by the French of the practice of drilling a fc* native regiments for tfieir own service. The
Mughal army had always <&
Anglo-French Struggle for Supremacy in The Deccan
•n€d some European officers and the same was the case with the Maratlias.
Alfred was prepared to give due credit to Dupleix for having first -tted on the right road towards
European conquest with energy, ability 'nd patriotism, but he was not prepared to concede that but for
the blind-a«s of the French Government towards the ideas of Dupleix, the blunders n, ujs colleagues or
subordinates and the final disavowal of Dupleix him-°u France might have supplanted England in India.
Such a view, he ooi'nted out, betrayed an incomplete survey of the whole situation. The extensive
political changes did not hang on the event of a small battle or the behaviour at some critical moment of
a provincial general or governor. ■That cannot be attributed to one cause but was due to many factors.
In spite of the above views, Alfred Lyall paid the following tribute to Dupleix : "Dupleix was a man of
original and energetic political ins¬tincts of an imperious and morally intrepid disposition who embarked
upon wide and somewhat audacious schemes of oriental dominion, and lost the stakes for which he
played more through want of strength and continuous support than want of skill. He saw that so long as
an Euro¬pean Company held their possessions or carried on trade at the pleasure of capricious and
ephemeral Indian governments, the position was in the highest degree precarious. The right method, he
argued, was to assert in¬dependence, to strike in for mastery, and to strike down any European rival
who crossed his path; and if the English had not been too strong (or him he might have succeeded. He
made the commonplace mistake of affecting ostentatious display and resorting to astute intrigues in his
deal¬ings with the Indians; whereas a European should meet oriental not with their weapons, but with
his own. His claim to be recognized as Nawab of the Carnatic, under patents of doubtful authenticity,
was a grave poli¬tical blunder, since it was quite impossible for the English to acquiesce in a position
that would have placed their settlements in perpetual jeopardy." Again, "We may regard him.
nevertheless, as the most striking figure in the short Indian episode of that long and arduous contest for
transmarine-dominion which was fought out between France and England in the eigh-teenth century,
although it was far beyond his power to influence the ulti¬mate destiny of either nation in India, and
although the result of his plans was that 'we accomplished for ourselves against the French exactly
every¬thing that the French intended to accomplish for themselves against us.' It j* certain, moreover,
that the conception of an Indian empire had already been formed by others beside Dupleix, and that
more than one clear head observer had perceived how easily the whole country might be sub-dued by
an European power."
Cambridge, R.O. Account of the War in India (1761). Cultru. Dupleix (1901). Dodwell, H.H. Dupleix &
Clive (1920). Jouveau-Dubreuil. Dupleix (1941). ^awrence. Narrative of Anglo-French Conflicts.
*'»Ueson. G.B. Final French Struggles in India and in the Indian Seas. JfaUeson, G.B. History of the
French in India.
\fokherjee, Rama Krishna. The Rise and Fall of the East India Compam
ijn. S.P. The French in India (1768-1816).
notnpson, Virginia. Dupleix and His Letters (1953).
After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal empire began to disinte-grate and various parts of the empire
became independent under different heads. In the case of Bangal, Ali Vardi Khan made himself
independent.' He was possessed of a lot of resourcefulness, and uncommon ability. The Marathas gave
him a lot of trouble but ultimately he made peace with them by handing over to them the province of
Orissa. He also promised to pay a sum of Rs. 12 lakhs a year as Chaudi. He maintained friendly relations
with the Englishmen. However, he did not allow them to fortify their settlements. He continued to rule
up to 1756.
After the death of Ali Vardi Khan, his grandson called Siraj-ud-Daula became the Nawab of Bengal. He
was a young man of hardly 24. He was not only self-willed but also self-indulgent. Soon after "his
succession to the throne, the young Nawab came into conflict with the English in Bengal. There were
many causes for this rupture. In anticipation of the breaking out of the Seven Years' War, the English in
Bengal began to fortify their settlements. As they did so without the permission of the Nawab, the latter
ordered them to demolish the same. However, the English refused to do so and this provided a ground
of complaint to die Nawab. Moreover, the English took up the cause of Shaukat Jang who was a rival of
Siraj-ud-Daula. The English also gave shelter to a rich merchant of Bengal and refused to hand him over
to the Nawab even when the latter made a demand to that effect. It was also found mat the Englishmen
were abusing the trade privileges which were given to them by the Government.
"Black-hole." The result of all this was that Siraj-ud-Daula captur¬ed the English factory at Kasim Bazar
and also took possession of the city of Calcutta. One hundred and forty-six persons including one
wo¬man were captured and shut up in a very small room at night. The heat was so great and the space
was so small that 123 of them were suffocated to death. Only 23 survived and one of them was Hoi well.
This inci¬dent is known as the Black-hole Tragedy.
There has been a lot of controversy as to whether the Black-hole tragedy was a reality or a myth. It is
maintained by some historians that
1. Ali Vardi Khan was a Turk, who had come to India and accepted service in Bengal in 1726, He was
clever in the an of war and diplomacy-He was calculating in his manoeuvres. He soon rose to the
position of * principal military officer of Bengal and secured for himself the Government of Bihar. He
earned the good opinion of the Delhi Durbar by his work and was given the title of Mahabat Jung. He
took advantage of the weak¬ness of the Mughal Government and marched from Patna upon Murshidabad. A battle was fought in 1740 in which Ali Vardi Khan was success¬ful. Thus he became the Nawab of
Bengal in 1740. After taking posses¬sion cf the accumulated wealth at the Capital, he paid two crores of
rupee* to tne Mughal emperor and got from him the confirmation of his ap¬pointment.
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
jo-called Black-hole tragedy never took place. It is pointed out that • • physically impossible to shut up
146 persons in a room which is only jL'ft. long and 14ft. wide. Moreover, the contemporary Muslim
accounts ] as Seir Mutaqhrein and Riyas-us-Salatin do not mention this incident -all- It » pointed out that
the story of the Black-hole tragedy was •nvented merely for the purpose of arousing the indignation of
the Eng-I'shmen in India and that purpose was amply served. Holwell is the nlv pe"°n wno make$ a
mention of this tragedy and he is hardly reli¬able. Probably, he did so for the purpose of getting
Whatever the truth, when the news of the Black-hole tragedy reached Madras, the Englishmen were
indignant. At once Admiral Watson and Clive were sent to Bengal to have revenge for the Black-hole
tragedy. They were able to capture Calcutta without much difficulty. Siraj-ud-Daula attacked Calcutta
and there was an indecisive battle. However, peace was restored and the Nawab restored the privileges
of the English Company. The latter were also allowed to fortify Calcutta. As the Seven Years' War had
broken out, the English captured Chandranagar from the French.
Although outwardly Clive had made peace with Siraj-ud-Daula, he was determined to have revenge for
the Black-hole tragedy. He hatched a conspiracy against the Nawab. Rai Durlab, the Treasurer of the
Nawab, Mir Jafar, the Commander-in-Chief of the Nawab's forces, and Jagat Seth, the richest banker of
Bengal, were induced to revolt against the Nawab. The details of the conspiracy were settled through
Amin Chand. It was decided that Clive was to march at once to Plassey. Mir Jafar was to desert the
Nawab and join Clive with all the forces under his com¬mand. The Nawab was to be deposed and Mir
Jafar was to be put in his place.
However, when all the details were settled, Amin Chand threatened to divulge the whole conspiracy
unless he was paid a sum of Rs. SO lakhs. He also wanted that amount to be entered into the treaty.
When Clive came to know of this demand, he made up his mind to deal with Amin Chand in the way he
deserved. He got two copies of the treaty prepared. One was on white paper and the other was on red
paper. In the treaty on the white paper there was no mention of the payment of Rs. 30 lakhs to Amin
Chand. The treaty on the red paper provided for that amount. When Clive asked Admiral Watson to sign
the false treaty, he refused. The result was that Clive himself forged the signatures of Watson on the
false treaty. The action of Clive has been universally condemned but he defended it on the ground of
Battle of Plassey. When everything was ready, Clive wrote a letter to Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula complaining
of the grievances of the English¬men in Bengal. He marched towards JMassev at the head of his army.
To begin with, the situation seemed to be ver> serious Tpr Clive. He was advised not to fight. However,
he made up his* mind to give battle to &? enemy- Hi*- artillery created confusion in thj? ranis-.of the
enemy £* this time, Mir Jafar joined Clive. As soon as this happened, the battle as over. Clive got a cheap
and decisive victory. Siraj-ud-Daula ran f*ay to Murshidabad and from there to Patna. However, he was
cap¬ped and put to death by Miran, the son of Mir Jafar,,
t}j The result of the battle of Plassey was that Mir Jafar was put on the £°ne of Bengal. He gave 24
Parganas and one crore of rupees to the •"T^pany. He also gave presents to other English officers of the
Com Manv The share of Clive was £334.000.
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
According to Admiral Watson, the battle of Plassey was of 'v. ordinary importance not only to the
Company but to British nation • geneial." The importance of the battle to the English has been describi?
in these words by a contemporary: "Many of those who would have tot^ lost the fruits of long labour
and various hardships, and who must h»J been beggars if subject to any other power, are again easy in
their fo* tunes, and some of them have already transported their effects to thei nathe country; the
proper return for the assistance they derived from he. maternal affection; and as these events have
distinguished the present i*. and present administration, so their effects will probably be felt in succeed
ing times. The Company, by an accession of territory, has an opportunity of making an ample
settlement; which under proper management, JQ! not only be extremely serviceable to her, but also to
the nation; an^ having a revenue from these lands, the mint at Calcutta, and the lea» of saltpetre at
Patna, which amounts on the whole to one hundred thouj. and pounds a year, there is a provision
against future dangers upon the spot, and without further expense."
The defeat and humiliation of the Governor of an Indian Province by the English Company added to its
prestige and strength. Moreover, the battle of Plassey demonstrated the utterly corrupt political life in
Bengal. It also shows that the Hindus were absolutely dissatisfied with the Muslim rule in the province
and were prepared to make common cause with anybody who may be able to end the Muslim rule.
However, when all has been said, it cannot be maintained that the battle of Plassey firmly established
the British power in India or in Bengal. The British had still to fight for another 50 years or more to
secure that position.
Mir Jafar (1757-1760). Mir Jafar was the Nawab of Bengal from 1757 to 1760. He was neither brilliant
nor active. He had not the capacity to carry on the administration of the province with his own hands.
Throughout this period, he was merely a figurehead and the real power was in the hands of Clive.
Moreover, he was surrounded on all sides by difficulties. He had no money in the treasury. When he
ascended the throne, he had not enough even to meet his previous commitments. As a matter of fact,
the English Company had to agree that one-half of the amount should be paid by 31st of October, 1757,
and the "remainder to be raid within the compass of three years by equal payments every six months".
At first, the Company received Rs. 72,71,660. On 9th August, 1757, Rs. 16,55,358 more were received.
On 30th August 1957, gold, jewels and cash amounting to Rs. 15,99,737 were received by the Company.
The other members of the Calcutta Council got huge amounts. The result of all this was that Mir Jafar
was worried by the problem of finance. He had no money even to pay the soldiers and some of them
mutinied. The English Company also pressed him for the payment of the instalments but he ex¬pressed
his inability to do so.
Mir Jafar made a mistake in trying to crush such Hindu officers as Durlabhrai and Ramnarain. This led to
a lot of discontentment in the country. Through the efforts of Clive, a conciliation was brought about
between Mir Jafar on the one hand and Durlabhrai and Raja. Ramnarain on the other.
Mir Jafar had to meet the danger from the Dutch. The real cause of the Dutch trouble was their jealousy
of the British influence in Bengal-Although they had remained neutral when the English and the Nawab
fought, they were feeling worried about their own future in the province. "The Dutch were in fact in the
same position in Bengal now, as the Eng¬lish would have been in South India had Saunders done
nothing to count-
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
schemes of Dupleix. Bisdom and Vernet, the Dutch leaders, have crad the ^je same justification for
attempting to overthrow the English ^crpfore
caunCjers and Clive have for contesting that of the
French in supremacy a» jhe South.
1759, six or seven Dutch vessels with 300 European and 600 Mala-nldiers appeared in the Ganges. The
English also got ready to meet yan so ^^^ Dutch were defeated at Bidderra by Colonel Forde. The
l[iettl\ fleet was also defeated and captured. They made peace with the ?U lSli. .They acknowledged
themselves as the aggressors and agreed to > costs and damages. At this stage, Miran, the son of Mir
Jafar, also ^eared on the scene. He was indignant against the Dutch. However, ^"received their
deputies; and after severe altercation forgave them and romised ample protection in their trade and
privileges on the following terms that they shall never initiate war, introduce or enlist troops, or raise
fortifications in the country; that they shall be allowed to keep up one hun¬dred and twenty-five
European soldiers, and no more, for the service of dieir factories at Chinsura, Kasimbazar and Patna;
that they shall forthwith send their ships and remaining troops out of the country; and that a breach of
any one of these articles shall be punished with utter expulsion."
After the battle of Bidderra, the Dutch were not able to make any headway in India. Their existence in
India was absolutely dependent on the goodwill of the English.
Invasion of Ali Gohour. Ali Gohour was the eldest son of the Mughal emperor, Alamgir. He revolted
against his father and invaded Bihar. He was assisted by Mohammad Quli Khan, the first cousin of Shujaud-Daula of Oudh and the Subedar of Allahabad. Ali Gohour ad¬vanced up to Patna and besieged the
same. However, he was defeated by Clive. For this help, Clive got from Mir Jafar the revenues of the
land south of Calcutta. This came to be known as Clive's Jagir. In 1760, Ali Gohour who had become
Emperor Shah Alam, attacked again but was defeated. According to sarkar, "All of his. hopes of
Indepen¬dence crushed, and in utter penury and lack of supporters, the sovereign of the Delhi empire
now sued for the mercy of the English."
According to P. E. Roberts, "A comparison of the position in 1756 with that, in 176P reveals beyond all
possibility of cavil the magnitude of his achievement. In 1756 the British in Bengal, though the most
pros¬perous European community in that province of the empire, were regard, ed merely as a body of
merchants with one rich settlement, a few terri¬torial rights in the villages round Calcutta, and some upcountry agencies or factories at Kasimbazar, Dacca, Balasore, Jagdea, and Patna. Though shrewd
observers, such as Bernier the French physician at the end of the seventeenth century, and Colonel Mill
about ten years before Plassey, had seen and recorded their opinions that Indian armies would be
help¬less before trained European troops, the British had never yet dreamt of challenging the power of
the Nawab of Bengal. They had submitted with occasional protests to Ali Vardi Khan's strict and irksome
control, h was necessary to keep on good terms with him, for the up-country factories were quite
unfortified, and it was the practice of the Nawabs Jn any serious dispute to blockade them and stop all
trade till submission was made. By 1760 the position was entirely altered. The British were supreme in
Bengal. The French and Dutch were impoverished and re¬duced; their military and political power was
gone. The titular Nawab of the province was little more than the creature and protege of the Company.
British influence extended outwards from Calcutta through Bengal and Bihar to the southern
boundary of Oudh. The possession
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
of this rich country also completely altered the English position in Madras This tremendous change was
almost entirely the work of Clive. He wsu throughout the moving spirit. The more closely the
contemporary r^ cords are examined, the more clearly his immense energy, masterful win and
dominating influence over his colleagues stand out."
Deposition of Mir Jafar. There were many causes which were res. ponsible for the deposition of Mir Jafar
in 1760. His treasury was empty and-he had no money to pay either to the Company in the form of
instal. ments or bribes to the servants of the Company. The servants of th# Company also thought that if
there was a change of Government in Ben¬gal, there was every likelihood of their getting presents or
bribes from the new successor. The invasions of Ali Gohour and the Dutch had also cost Mir Jafar a lot of
money. When the Marathas attacked Bengal, he had again to ask for the English help. However, every
intervention on the part of the English Company "made the control of the Company over Bengal more
unmistakable and the restraining of its servants more diffi¬cult; while the burden of maintaining these
troops formed a heavy drain on the Company's resources and Mir Jafar, whose treasury was exhausted,
could not defray those charges."
The situation in Bengal became desperate after the death of Miran, the son of Mir Jafar. Mir Kasim, the
son-in-law of Mir Jafar, began to aspire to be the Nawab of Bengal. He had already given proof of his
intelligence as the Faujdar of Rangpur and Purniah. He was able to win over' the Calcutta Council. He
entered into a treaty with the English Company in September 1760. By this treaty, he agreed to give to
the English Company the three districts of Burdwan, Midnapore and China-gong. He also agreed to pay
immediately the arrears of money due from Mir Jafar to the English Company. He also promised to pay
Rs. 5 lakhs towards the Carnatic wars. He agreed to pay £50,000 to Vansittart, £27,000 to Holwell and
£25,000 to the other members of the Calcutta Council.
When all this was settled between the Calcutta Council and Mir Kasim, Vanittart went to Murshidabad
to secure the consent of Mir Jafar. The latter strongly objected to the new arrangement. However, he
found that his objections were of no avail. He declared, "His life would not be worth a day's purchase
once Mir Kasim had been recognised and he would rather retire to Calcutta than continue to be the
Nawab on sudi terms." Mir Jafar left the throne and went away to Calcutta. There he began to live as a
pensioner of Mir Kasim. It cannot be denied that the deposition of Mir Jafar was "in breach of a treaty
founded on the most solemn oaths." The members of the Calcutta Council deserve all the
condemna¬tion. They were bound to support him by "the most solemn ties". His deposition was "an
indelible stain upon our national character". Per-haps, Mir Jafar deserved this fate. He himself had
betrayed his master in 1757.
Mir Kasim (1760*63). It is admitted on all hands that Mir Kasim was the most efficient of all the Nawabs
of Bengal from 1756 onwards-He had given a proof of his administrative ability as a Faujdar. H* was the
man who could win over people by his personality. His con¬temporaries have praised his qualities of
head and heart. According l0 Vansittart, "he discharged the Company's debt and the heavy arrears o»
his army, retrenched the expenses of his court which had consumed th*1 '.ncome of his predecessors
and secured his own authority over the country by reducing the power of the zamindars who were
before continual di* urbers of the peace of the province." Ghulam Hussain has paid a tribu1'
The English in Bengal fron 1757 to 1772 33
Mir Kasim in these words: "In unravelling the intricacies of affairs of government and especially the
knotty mysteries of finance; in examining ?nd determining private differences; in establishing regular
payment for hi$ troops and for his household; in honouring and rewarding men of merit and men of
learning, in conducting his expenditure exactly between O^e extremities of parsimony and prodigality;
and in knowing intuitively where he must spend freely and where with moderation,—in all these
quali¬fications, he was an incomparable man indeed and the most extraordinary prince of his age."
Mir Kasim made a very good beginning. He suppressed the rebelli¬ous zamindars of Bengal and Bihar,
who had challenged the authority of the Nawab on previous occasions. He forced the old officers to give
up the money which they had misappropriated. He levied some Abwabs or additional cesses. He tried to
organise his army in the same way as the Europeans did. He made arrangements for the manufacture of
fire-locks and guns at Monghyr.
Mir Kasim transferred his capital from Murshidabad to Monghyr. Many reasons have been suggested for
the change. The Nawab required a strongly fortified place for his permanent residence and Murshidabad
did not serve that purpose. Monghyr could put at his disposal a satis¬factory fort which by means of
necessary improvement could be made stronger and more serviceable. The Nawab hoped to start at
Monghyr with a clean, slate as he would be absolutely free from the atmosphere of the old capital, its
intrigues and corruptiorr. Murshidabad was the centre of late Nawabs and was still associated with their
names. The vanity of Mir Kasim required some new place where he could inaugurate his new regime.
The transfer had both spectacular and psychological aspects. Moreover, there was a suspicion in the
mind of Mir Kasim that Mir Tatar would be restored by the Company sooner or later and the atritud^ of
Ellis and the members of the opposition in the Council deepened his sus¬picion. Under the
circumstances, the Nawab may have considered it pru¬dent to leave the old capital and settle at a, place
which was far away from Calcutta so that if Mir Jafar was re-appointed; he may be able to offer
resistance or escape to Oudh. The Nawab also wanted to remain at a safe distance from Calcutta so that
there may be less of supervision and interference from the English side and he may be able to develop
an army without hindrance with a view to establishing his complete inde¬pendence by ultimately
overthrowing the power of the English.
After removing his capital from Murshidabad to Monghyr, the Nawab seriously turned his attention to
the subject of private inland trade of the servants of the Company. By a Firman of 1717, the English
Com¬pany had been given the privilege of free seaborne trade. However, the servants of the Company
had taken advantage of the chaotic condition m the country and started abusing the privilege by
extending the same to the private trade of all kinds. As the Nawab was in need of money and he found
that he was being deprived of a lot of his revenues on account- of the illegal private trade carried on by
the servants of the Com¬pany he decided to stop the same. Under instructions from the Nawab, «is
officers in the districts began to stop the boats belonging to the Engish merchants in spite of their having Dastaks with them. The English ojen protested. The Chief and
Council at Dacca wrote thus in October
762: "At every Chokey our boats are stopped, the people insulted, and r*e flag used with the utmost and
most gross contempt." In" the same ^°nth, the Chief and Council at Chittagong wrote thus: "Our
business is
ntirely put to a stop by the Nawab's people and our boats not suffered
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
to pass the Chokeys, the zamindars demanding very considerable dmi to be paid to them, declaring
that they have orders from Cossim ^n Cawn so tS do." A report from Lakhipur was to the following
effeJI "Within these few days, every boat which we have sent out of the rive' has been stopped at the
different Chokeys, notwithstanding they have th Chief's Dustuck." The Faujdar of Katwa stopped
150 boats belonginc, to the English gentlemen although they had the Dustucks of the Con? pany.
All these facts indicated that the Nawab had decided to stop th« duty-free trade of the servants of ihe
All sorts of obstructions to the trade of the Company came to be re-ported. Ellis complained of..the"
interference of the local Amil with the weavers and bleachers in their business at Jahanabad. The
Ziladars of the Nawab were instructed to direct the ryots not to have any dealings with the English. The
Nawab suddenly multiplied the number of ciu. toms stations in the country with a view to checking the
private trade of the English. New stations were established in places where there was none before. The
number of soldiers stationed at the Chaukis was in-creased so that English boats could be stopped
effectively. The Nawab also complained of the increase in a number of factories of the company.
The most serious charge of the Nawab was against the rapacity of the Gumashtahs of the Company.
About them, he wrote thus: "TKe Gumashtahs who have gone into the country on the part of your
gentle¬men, regardless of what any one says to them, insolently use violent means to carry on their
traffic, and whenever a gunge or golah has been establish¬ed, they act as Zemindars, Taalookdars and
renters, and leave my officers no authority; and besides this, they send other people's goods with their
own, under the protection of their dustucks." The allegations of the Nawab were substantially correct..
The Gumashtahs were generally a set of the worst type of rascals whose oppressive conduct was an
open scandal. Their masters usually supported them. Assured of sympathy and assistance, the English
agents practised the worst tyranny wherever they went. They compelled the ryots to sell their goods
below the market rate and purchase the commodities they had brought at very high prices. They
forcibly exacted large presents from the people and thus plundered them under this pretext.
They sold dustucks to private merchants for money. Sergeant Brego wrote thus in May 1762: "A
gentleman sends a Gumashtah here to buy or sell; he immediately looks upon himself as sufficient
to force every inhabitant, either to buy his goods or sell him theirs, and on refusal aflogging, or
confinement immediately ensues. Before justice was given in the public cutcherree, but now every
Gumashtah has become a judge and every one's house a cutcherree; they even pass sentences on the
Zemindars themselves and draw money from them by pretended, injuries." The Faujdar of Dacca
wrote thus in September 1762: "The Gumashtahs of Luckypoor and Dacca factories oblige the
merchants, etc., to take tobacco, cotton, iron and sundry other things at a price exceeding that of the
bazar and trrerr KiQn 'he _aon@y- ~tam them by force; besides they take direct money from the peons
and make itrem pay a fine for breaking their agreement. By these proceedings the Aurangs and
other places are ruined. jThfi Gumashtahs of Luckypoor factory ha'° '^ken the taalookdar's-ta3looks
from the tahsildar by force for their own use and will not pay the rent. By these disturbances, the
country is ruined and the ryots cannot stay in their houses, not pay they malgujaree." In April
1762, Mr. Hastings wrote thus: "I beg leave to lay before you a grievance which calls for redress and
will, unless duly attended to, render ineffectual any endeavours to create a firm or lasting harmony
between- the Nawab and the Company-I mean the oppressions committed under the sanction
of the English
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772 35
This evil, I am well assured, is not confined to our dependents
jj^flie. ^ practised all over the country by people falsely assuming the
al°ne' f our sepoys, or calling themselves our Gumashtahs." According ^Verelst himself, "English
agents or Gumashtahs, not contented with 10 ine the people trampled on the authority of the
gdvernment, binding ri^Dunishing the Nabob's officers wherever they presume to interfere.'
The disputes arising out of the private trade of the English gentlemen me so serious and frequent that a
conflict between the Nawab and b£ Company was imminent. There were complaints and counter-com-l
'nts. ffte °n'y alternative to war was a compromise and Mr. Van-P rl decided to visit Monghyr to settle
the points of dispute amicably. When Vansittart reached Monghyr in November 1762, he and his party
ere treated "with all the usual marks of respect and friendship." The fjawab related to Vansittart his
grievances. He contended that the pri¬vate trade of the servants of the Company was not covered -by
the Firmans 0f Company. His administration was adversely affected by the "private trade and it was
difficult for him to maintain law and order in the country. lie was suffering a heavy loss in his customs
duty. Under the protection of the name of the Company innumerable persons passed their goods dutyfree. 1'he prestige of his government suffered on account of the irregularities of private trade. The
Gumashtahs and servants of the Com¬pany oppressed the people. The gentlemen of the factories held
farms, taaluqs, ganjs and golas. They borrowed from and lent to the people. They gave protection to his
dependents. They coined money at different places. They used force in the purchase and sale of
The Nawab demanded the total abolition of private trade of English gentlemen but Vansittart had no
authority to give his approval without the consent of the Council. In spite of that, Vansittart
agreed to sur¬render the right of the servants of the Company to trade duty-free. Van¬sittart also
agreed that the Chiefs of the factories were to be instructed not to oppress their ryots and protect
their dependents. The Faujdars were to be permitted to try any offending Gumashtah. The
Chiefs of Chit-tagong and Lakhipur were not to wofk the saltpans themselves. The Chiefs and
Gumashtahs of the factories were not to rent or purchase any land nor lend to or borrow from the
zamindars and officers of the govern¬ment. The Chiefs and Gumahstahs of the factories were not to
obstruct the Dallals and weavers of the government. The bullion of the English gentlemen and
Gumashtahs was not to be coined in the English mints. It was agreed that only the export or import
trade of the Company was to be duty-free. For the inland trade, the Dastak of the Company was not to
be granted. Duties were to be paid according to the fixed rate on all goods meant for the inland
trade. Duties were to be paid only once before the despatch of goods. The goods were not to be
retained aftdr the Dastak was examined by the Chaukidars. If any person was without a Dastak or used
fraudulently the Dastak of the Company, his goods were to be confiscated. The Gumashtahs were not
to^ use force in buying or Wljng and were to bring all their complaints to the Faujdars instead of taking
the law into their own hands
Dr. Nandlal Chatterji has criticised the deal made by Vansittart with the Nawab on many grounds.
According to him, Vansittart showed great imprudence in divulging his plan to the Nawab before
discussing it in me Council. He ought to have anticipated opposition from his colleagues. He should not
have forgotten that he had no authority to make funda¬mental changes on behalf of the Council. He
unwisely submitted to the desire of the Nawab to control the Gumashtahs and other subordinates of
Jne Company through the Faujdars. He should not have agreed to the
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
stoppage of the making of the coins of the Company at different miu
No clear-cut distinction was made between the trade of the ComPa
and that of its servants. Vansittart made a mistake in accepting a J1^
from the Nawab and this could easily be interpreted as a bribe from th
Nawab for the favours given to him.
The Council at Calcutta rejected die agreement arrived at between Vansittart and Mir Kasim. The result
was that the Nawab decided t!I abolish the duties altogether. The English clamoured against this and
insisted upon having preferential treatment as against other trader Ellis, the chief of the English factory
at Patna, asserted that he considered it to be the rights and privileges of the English and even made an
attentat to capture the city of Patna. However, his attempt failed and the gar. rison was destroyed. This
led to the outbreak of war between the Englijj, and Mir Kasim in 1763. According to Ramsay Muir, Ellis
deliberately aimea at war "in order that the obstacle to the private traffic of himself and his friends
might be removed."
In June 1763 Major Adams was sent to fight against Mir Kasim, Many battles were fought with the
Nawab's troops and most important of them were those at Katwah, Giria, Suti and Udaynala.
Ceded in, 1775 Ceded in. mi Conquered in 1803
When Mir Kasim found his cause hopeless, he proceeded towards Patna. In despair, he ordered the
Indian prisoners to be put to death and some of them were Raja Ramnarain, Raja Rajballabh, etc. Then
came the turn of the European prisoners. He ordered his officers to kill all the European prisoners.
However, their reply was as follows: "No. Turn them out with arms in their hands and we will fight them
to death. We are soldiers and not executors." However, that work was done by a German named Walter
Rheinhardt. He is better known by the name of Somru. He ordered his soldiers to mount the roofs of the
prison and fire on the prisoners. The result was that not a single mat' was saved.
Even before the defeat of Mir Kasim, Mir Jafai had already been declared as the future Nawab of
Bengal. This had been done in July
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772 37
. The new Nawab agreed that "the English shall carry on their V*te by means of their own Dustuks, free
from all duties, taxes and im-t**'tions, in all parts of the country excepting the salt on which a duty
P***1 and a half per cent is to be levied on the Rowna of Hoogly market e- wherein, it is further agreed,
that the late Perwannahs issued by P" jm AlJy Khan granting to all merchants the exemption of all duties
f the space of two years shall be reversed and called in and the duties rtUected as before." Mir jafar also
promised to make compensation for f« josses incurred by the English Company. However, his throne
was not bed of roses. The evils of Dustuks began to increase. EVen the reve¬nues of the State could
not be collected.
Battle of Buxar. After his defeat in 1763, Mir Kasira went away to Oudh. Emperor Shah Alam was also in
Oudh. The Nawabs of Oudh looked forward to Bengal for their expansion and consequently a conflict
between the Nawab of Oudh and the English was inevitable. Mir Kasim helped the Nawab Vazir of Oudh
by suppressing the rebels of Bundelkhand. It was agreed between the parties that "on the Vazir's
crossing the Ganga and entering the enemy's country, Mir Kasim from that day and for so long as the
expedition might -last, would pay him for the expenses of his army eleven lacs of rupees" per month."
Some adventurous Frenchmen also joined. To begin with, there were some indecisive engagements.
However, in October 1764, there took place the famous Battle of Buxar. Munro de¬feated bodi Mir
Kasim and Nawab Vazir of Oudh. Shuja-ud-Daula was finally defeated in May 1765 and Oudh lay
completely prostrate at the feet of the English. The Mughal emperor came over to the side of the
English and Mir Kasim spent the rest of his days as a wranderer.
Historians have attached great importance to the battle of Buxar. According to Broome, on the battle of
Buxar depended the fate of India. According to Sir James Stephen, the battle of Buxar deserves far more
credit than the battle of Plassey as the origin of the British power in India. It was a fiercely contested
battle. The English lost 847 killed and wounded. The enemy left behind 2,000 dead. It was not merely
the Nawab of Bengal but the emperor of all India and his titular Prime Minister who were defeated. If
the battle of Plassey enabled the English Company to put a puppet on the throne of Bengal, the battle of
Buxar did much more. It gave the English an opportunity to bring under their control the north¬western
frontier of the Subah. According to Ramsay Muir, "Buxar finally riveted the shackles of Company's rule
upon Bengal."
Estimate of Mir Kaqim. Mir Kasim was an able, vigilant and strict administrator. He had an extraordinary
ability for the routine work of government. He had great enthusiasm for reform and efficiency. He
show* ed great energy, perseverance and acuteness in overhauling the administration of his
predecessors. He rehabilitated the finances. He reorganised the departments of revenue and justice.. He
created a new army on Western lines. He repressed the power of the barons.
He not only worked hard himsel? but he knew how to make his sub¬ordinates work. He was an
indefatigable worker. He was a clever judge of the character of those with whom he had to deal. He was
a strict dis¬ciplinarian. He was feared by his subordinates for his merciless severity. He tried to remove
fraud, corruption and negligence with a heavy hand. He enforced regularity and discipline with an iron
hand. According to Ghulam Hussain, the Nawab was the most remarkable prince of his age on account
of his skill in technical problems of administration and finance, insight into man's character and motives,
enforcement of a strict economy without appearance of parsimony and introdnrtion of regularity in the
payments of the troops.
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
If he had virtues, he had his shortcomings also. He lacked personal courage and a genius for war. He was
vain and ambitious. At the same lime he was timid and cowardly. He did not possess any military talents.
In the hour of slightest danger, Mir Kasim became nervous. He could not face a crisis in a calm manner.
He was a mixture of ambition and timori/v.
He did no» trust others. He suspected every official, high or low. Mere suspicion was enough to punish
any person. Any subordinate could be imprisoned or executed for a very ordinary omission. The Nawab
was so much undependau'e that nobody was sure of his future. Such a state of terrorism and repression
could not be expected to strengthen the foundations of the State. The Nawab believed in duplicity,
intrigue and treachery. Such important personalities as Ramnarain, Rajballabh, Naubalray, Sitaram,
Saadullah- and Gurgin suffered at the hands of the Nawab. It is difficult to estimate the number of
smaller persons who suffered at the hands of the Nawab. Everything was centralised in the hands of the
Nawab and that was bound to sap the very foundations of his government.
It is pointed out that the massacre of the English prisoners at Patna was not the worst piece of brutality.
Batches of Indian political prisoners were drowned in the Ganges at Monghyr with sand bags tied to
their necks. According to Gentil, the Nawab defended his massacre of the English prisoners in these
words: "If I fall into the hands of the English, they would not spare my life. I lose my government, but I
have at any rate this compensation that my enemies will derive no satisfaction from my fall, for I shall
first of all put them all to death."
The Nawab systematically oppressed the wealthy people in his realm. As a matter of fact, very few
monied people were left in his kingdom. The officials of the late regime were made to hand over to the
Nawab whatever they had accumulated. Most of them were imprisoned or ex¬ecuted after the
confiscation of their entire property. It was in this way that the Nawab was able to fill his coffers. The
land revenue in the country was nearly doubled. The result was that the condition of the peasants
became very unhappy. The condition of the people in general also became miserable.
The Nawab suffered from all the vices of his age. He did all that he could to add new recruits to his
harem. The result was that excessive dissipation broke down his health and even the best of the
physicians could not restore it.
It is said that she Nawab was absolutely unscrupulous. There can¬not be greater proof than the way in
which he managed to bring about the deposition of his own father-in-law.
The Nawab possessed a passionate and excitable nature. He became a heartless bully. No wonder, he
had hardly any friends and was hated even by his relatives. He was inwardly feared and detested by
However, the Nawab was proficient in mathematics and astrology-He spent a lot of money on scholars,
poets and pious men. He wanted to be known as a great patron of learning.
We may conclude with the following words of Dr. Nandlal Chatterji: ore inhuman and cynical than the
much abused Sira]-i:d-Daulah, more
tl and perfidious than Mir Jafar, more aspiring and persistent than Haidar Ali, more calculating and
greedy than Sltuja-ud-Daulah, more suspiciovs and exacting than Muhammad Ali, more egoistical and
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772 39
than Shah Alam, more timid and nervous than Nizam Ali, Mir Qasim lacked the impetuosity of Siraj-udDaulah, the indolence of Mir J afar, the bravery of Haidar Ali, the sagacity of Shuja-ud-Daulah, the
extrava¬gance of Muhammad Ali, the chivalry of Shah Alam, and the prudence of Nizam Ali. Mir Kasim
was obviously one of the most intriguing figures among the contemporary Muslim rulers in India."
It may be noted that Mir Jafar remained tire Nawab of Bengal for the second time from July 1762 to
February 1765. When he died in 1765, the Calcutta Council put his second son named Najam ud-Daulah
on the throne of Bengal. However, all power passed into the hands of the English Company. By the
arrangement of February 1765. the new Nawab agreed to maintain troops only for the support of his
dignity, the main-tenance of internal peace and the collection of revenues. The English got the right of
controlling the appointment of the officers of the Nawab. At this time, the condition of Bengal was
chaotic. There was anarchy, con¬fusion, bribery, corruption and extortion everywhere. Such was the
state of affairs when Clive came to India in 1765 as the Governor of Benga" for the second time.
dive's second Governorship of Bengal (1765-67). The period o. second Governorship of Bengal of Lord
Clive is remarkable for the success¬ful handling of the political and administrative problems which
confronted the Company in 1765. His masterly handling of the situation silenced all opposition and
created an atmosphere of calm and quiet at least for some time.
The administrative reforms were rather difficult. The covenanted servants of the English Company were
demoralized by the conditions under which they had been working and the facility with which they were
able to make fortunes. A kind of a tradition had grown that on the occasion of every change in the
government in Bengal, presents should be made to the servants of the Company. On the occasion of the
accession of Najam-ud-Daulah, the son. of~ Mir Jafar, in 1765, presents were got even from the
ministers. The worst thing about the whole affair was that all this was done in the face of the specific
orders from the Company pro¬hibiting the acceptance of presents and requiring its servants to sign
coven¬ants agreeing not to accept them in future. The servants were under the impression that as Clive
himself had accepted present in the past, he would not be able to take action against them. However,
they were mis¬taken in their calculations. Clive was determined to carry out the orders of the Company.
He forgot altogether that he himself was enjoying £30,000 a year from the Jagir. Clive demanded of all
the civil and military servants of the Company to enter into covenants to the effect that they would not
accept presents. This they did under the impression that the zeal of Clive would cool down after some
time arid he would modify his own orders accordingly. However, the servants of the Company found
that Clive was faithful in the performance of his dutie« towards 'he Company.
When Clive came to Calcutta, he found that there was a great lack of senior servants of the Company.
The reason was that the salaries of •he Company's servants were hopelessly low and efficient persons
W£ve not available on those terms. He found the junior servants occupying all 'he important jobs and
making profits by selling their passes to the Indian "merchants. Clive found that the office of the
secretary of a department was held by a writer of three years' standing. The paymaster of the army was
merely a writer. The same was the case with the office of an accountant. The intention of Lord Clive
was to regulate the private trade
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
in such a way that out of the profits, higher salaries might be given and efficient persons might be
forthcoming. Although Clive was. in favour of raising the salaries of the servants of the Company, he
failed in his objective on account of the opposition of the Court of Directors of the Company. The result
was that he had to resort to some questionable methods in order to give effect to his own scheme.
Salt was a monopoly of the Company and Lord Clive decided to ad¬minister the same and employ the
profits arising out of it for the pay. ment of additional allowances to civil and military servants. Out of
the profits, the Governor was to receive £17,500 per annum, a Colonel in the army or a member of the
Council £7,000, and persons occupying lower ranks were to get less money.
The starting of a trading company with the Object of giving higher salaries to the servants of the
Company was contrary to the orders of the Company. Clive was iuider the impression that the Company
would ignore this action of his. However, when the Directors came to know of it, they immediately
ordered its abolition. But, Lord Clive kept those orders suspended so long as he was in Bengal and hoped
to procure their reversal on his return to England. As the Directors insisted, the Com¬pany had to be
wound up. According to Dodwell, "In this matter Clive had been unduly blamed. His proposals amounted
in reality to the continuation of the monopoly which had been customary and the assign¬ment of the
revenues so raised to the payment of establishment." Lord Clive was condemned for what Lord
Cornwallis was praised later on. The mistake which Clive made was probably one of tactics.
There was a strong resistance to his reforms from the servants of the Company. When Clive thundered
against the rapacity and oppression universally prevalent and declared that "every spark of sentiment
and public spirit was lost and extinguished in the inordinate lust of unmerited wealth," they failed to
understand as to how Clive himself was above board. An association was formed by them. Clive's
entertainments were boycotted. Memorials were prepared. However, when the servants of the
Company found that Clive was adamant, they submitted to their lot. The result of this was that Clive was
able to clear the Aegean stables of Company's establishment.
Lord Clive had to deal with the military side of the administration also. While doing so, he had to face a
difficult situation. For many years, the English Company had been trying to cut down the Bhatta or field
allowances of its military officers. Those allowances were made to make good the extra cost of living in
the field as compared with living in garrison. The origin of the double Bhatta could be traced to the
Carnatic Wars where Chanda Sahib and Mohammad AH paid Bhatta t° the French and English officers.
Likewise, Mir Jafar paid double Bhatta to the English soldiers. Mir Kasim did likewise. However, when
the English Company got the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the duty of paying double Bhatta to the
soldiers fell on the shoulders of the Com¬pany. No wonder, the Directors of the Company sent
instructions to re¬duce expenditure on that account.
Lord Clive prepared a comprehensive scheme in this connection. The troops of the Company were
divided into three Brigades each consisting of one regiment of European infantry, one Company of
artillery, si" battalions of sepoys, and one troop of black cavalry. One Brigade was stationed at Monghyr,
another at Bankipore and the third one at Allaha¬bad. Clive laid down that the officers in the
cantonment at Monghyr or Patna were to draw half Bhatta as the officers did at Trichinopoly. Whe«
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772 41
they took t*ie **el(*> tney were to draw Bhatta while within the limits of Bengal and Bihar, but if they
crossed into Oudh, they were entitled to double Bhatta. For a Captain, that amounted to three, six,
twelve rupees a day.
A combination was formed among the military officers to resist the enforcement of the new regulations.
It was decided to resign simultane ousty their commissions. They were encouraged to take this action by
Sir Robert Fletcher. However, Lord Clive was determined to crush all opposition and he carried out the
new regulation. He at once accepted the resignations of those who offered them and got officers from
Madras to replace them. Clive visited the headquarters of the three brigades in person to assure himself
that the men were under control. Gradually, the officers began to quarrel among themselves and the
mutiny broke down. Fletcher and six odiers were turned out. Those who were con¬sidered to be not
guilty were allowed to return to duty on condition of signing a three years' agreement.
Clive set up a fund known as Lord Clive's Fund with a view to help¬ing the servants of the Company at
the time of financial difficulty. That fund performed a useful function till the time the Company adopted
the system of pensioning its servants. The fund was created out of the sum of. Rs. 5 lakhs left by Mir
Jafar to be given to Clive.
Dual Government of Bengal (1765-72). The system of dual Govern¬ment of Bengal which was set up by
Clive is not easy to explain. It was not the simple division of control over the administration of Bengal
bet¬ween the English East India Company and the Nawab of Bengal. The position was somewhat as
The Nawab or Subedar of Bengal, as Viceroy of the Mughal em¬peror, exercised two functions: (1) the
Diwani, i.e., revenue, and civiJ justice, and (2) the Nizamat, i.e., military power and criminal justice. As Sir
James Stephen points out, the Nawab granted practically the Nizamat to the Company in February 1765.
In August 1765, the Emperor Shah Alam granted the Diwani to the Company. The Company thus held
the Diwani from the, emperor and the Nizamat from die Subedar. So far the position was clear. But the
difficulty was created by the fact that the servants of the East India Company as yet did not undertake
their duties as Diwan or Nizam in their own person. The nominal head of the ad¬ministration was a
Deputy Naib or Nawab whom the Nawab bound him¬self to appoint with their sanction. A similar
Deputy was appointed for Bihar. But the whole administration was carried on for many years through
the agency of the native servants. However, in 1769 English supervisors (afterwards called Collectors)
were appointed to control the native revenue officers. But instead of improving matters, they only made
confusion worse confounded and corruption also increased.
Such was the Dual system of Government set up in Bengal by Clive. It might be asked as to why it was
that Clive hesitated to take over the administration of the province when he could have done that so
easily. The Nawab was merely a puppet in the hands of die British. As a matter D' fact, all power was in
the hands of the British. He was their creature and depended upon them for his existence. Clive would
have rendered a great service by abolishing his office and assuming the control of the gov-ernment
directly, rather than agree to play the role of the wire-puller jrom behind the scene. As pointed out by
Dodwell in Cambridge History j »ndia, the great disadvantage of the scheme was that it separated power
rom responsibility. The English -were given, control over the province
ut they did not feel any responsibility for its administration and could
.. -
The English irr Bengal from 1757 to 1772
not be held responsible for anything done badly. This thing was made clear when in 1770, a severe
famine broke out in Bengal. The servants of the company did not feel any duty towards the people who
were left to die in thousands. That appalling distress can be attributed to the sys. tern of Dual
government set up by Clive. P. E. Roberts criticises the sy$. tern in these words: "The unfortunate
divorce of power from responsi. bility soon caused a recrudescence of the old abuses."
But as Dodwell points out, the system as set up in 1765 had certain immediate advantages. It was suited
to the exigencies of the time. It secured that control over the Nawab which was regarded as the most
pressing need of the time. It also secured protection against the com¬plaints of the foreign powers and
demands of the Home Government. Clive still remembered how the ostensible assumption of power
contribut¬ed to produce the unyielding opposition of the English to the schemes of Dupleix. The writs of
the emperor of Parwanas of the Nawab, though valueless without the support of the English power,
could hot be fully discounted at Paris or the Hague without a serious breach of diplo¬matic etiquette. It
was thought that something less than the assumption of full dominion would be less likely to excite legal
difficulties in England to provoke the interference of Parliament. "In short, the grant of the Diwani was
designed to secure the full control of Bengal affairs so far as the Company's interests went without
incurring the inconvenience of formal dominion." (Dodwell).
Lord Clive's own observations were as follows: "The first point in politics which I offer to your
consideration is the form of Governments. We are sensible that since the acquisition of the Diwani the
power for¬merly belonging to the Subah of these provinces is totally, in fact, vested in the East India
Company. Nothing remains to him but the name and shadow of authority. This name, however, the
shadow, it is indispensably necessary we should seem to venerate under the sanction of Subah, every
encroachment that may be attempted by foreign powers can be effectively crushed, without any
apparent interposition of our own authority and all real grievances complained of by them can, through
the same channel, be examined into a redress. But it is, therefore, always remembered that there is a
Subah and though the revenues belong to the Company, the territorial jurisdiction must still rest in the
chiefs of the country, acting under him and this Presidency in conjunction."
Roberis says that even Clive would not have denied the charge that the system set up by him was not
perfect. But he remarks that "Clive could not afford to indulge in counsels of perfection; he had to deal
with actualities." He admitted that the Nawab had only "the name and shadow of authority," yet "this
name, the shadow, it is indispensably neces¬sary that we should venerate." Verelst tells us that it was
impossible to take over the full government of the province. In the first place, the number of servants of
the Company required for the task of administration was very limited. However, they were quite
ignorant of the task of ad¬ministration, for they were merely writers in the Company's service.
According to Dr. Nandalal Chatterji, "The double government which Clive established was both illogical
and unworkable. He forgot that division of power was impossible without creating anarchv and
confusion. The assumption of the Diwani of the Bengal Subah exhibited the cynical adroitness of an
astute schemer rather than the foresight of a responsible administrator. It was a selfish contrivance for
enjoying the spoils of office, without taking over its fundamental obligations. It was avowedly a device
r hoodwinking the country powers and the foreign nations
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
whom Clivc did not want to give umbrage. He frankly justified it as an excellent screen for concealing the
political revolution in Bengal. The Nawab was now a pensioner of State and had nothing but the name
and hadow of authority; but Clive insisted that this name and shadow must he preserved and outwardly
venerated as a convenient mask which, he thought, it would be unwise and even dangerous to throw
off. Diwani waS therefore little more than a deceptive camouflage.
"The tragic inhumanity of the dual system resulted naturally in a complete breakdown of the internal
administration. The Nawab had no power to enforce law and justice, while the English on their part
disowned {he responsibility of government. The result was disorder in the country. The villainy of the
zamindars, and the rapaciousness of the Nawab's offi¬cials and the Company's servants knew no
hounds; and the peasants-, weavers and merchants were intimidated and fleeced to the utmost. The
people were left virtually without appeal, and many were compelled to leave their hearths and homes in
despair and became vagrants or free¬booters. The country was, in short, reduced to a state of miserable
desolu-tion. At no period in the chequered annals of Bengal did the province suffer such flagrant
spoliation as it did in the era of Clive."
From 1765 to 1772, the actual administration was in the hands of two Indian officials known as Naib
Diwans, the Company itself being the actual Diwan. Mohammed Raza Khan was in Bengal and Raja
Shitab Rai was in Bihar. In 1769 were appointed British supervisors who were given "a controlling,
though not an immediate, power over the Collectors." The evil of the system was that while the
Company itself was in serious financial straits, its servants were returning to England with big fortunes.
Becher, Resident at Murshidabad, wrote thus in 1769: "It must give pain as an Englishman to have
reason to think, that since the accession of the Company to the Diwani, the condition of the people of
this country has been worse than it was before; and yet I am afraid the fact is un¬doubted. The fine
country which flourished under the despotic and arbitrary government, is verging towards its ruin, while
the English have really so great a share in the administration."
Moreover, the Directors strongly suspected that the Naib Diwans were intercepting a large part of the
revenue which would ha"e filled the Company's treasury. Hastings was appointed in 1772 definite.'/
with a view to ending the Dual System. The Court of Directors had decided "to stand forth as Diwan". He
was in fact selected to take the place of the three supervisors. "We now arm you with our full powers,"
wrote the Directors of the Company, "to make a complete reformation". Al¬though he was given
definite instruction on most points, it is to a certain extent true, as Lord Thinlow says, that he was
ordered "to destroy the whole fabric of the double government—he was to form a system for the
government of Bengal, under instructions so general, that I may fairly say the whole plan was left to his
judgment and discretion".
Formally the abolition of the Dual Government did no more than that the Company should henceforth
collect the revenues through the agency of its own servants. But in reality, it meant becoming
responsible for the whole of civil administration. Hastings hardly exaggerated it when he described it as
"implanting the authority of the Company and •he sovereignty of Great Britain, in the constitution of
this country". Tlic first step was the abolition of the offices of Naib Diwans of Bengal and Bihar, and the
prosecution of Mohd.Ttnza Khan and Raja Shitab Rai for peculation. After undergoing a long trial and
being kept in custodv for rather more than a year, they were lx>th acquitted. The trial was merely
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
a formal affair designed indirectly to remove them. Although Warren Hastings was opposed to it, it
served the purpose. "The retrospections and examinations are death to my views," said Hastings.
Thus it was that, the Dual System, which was set up by Clive, was abolished by Warren Hastings. It was
not intended to last for ever. It was a stop-gap. It was a make-shift agreement which aimed at tidying
over the difficulties confronting the English in 1765. It was the creation of the genius of the Englishmen
who believe in bit-by-bit advance. It was the policy of muddling through which, though often
misunderstood, serves its purpose in the long run.
Dr. Nandalal Chatterji points out that Clive was the real founder of a regular postal system in British
India. He laid the foundations on which the modern postal system was subsequently built up. by his
succes¬sors. The system introduced by him was mainly a continuation of the old Dak organisation of
horse carriers or runners who carried letters and despatches by relays along the road from place to
place. All that was required was to set up a permanent and efficient staff of runners and Clive entrusted
this task to the zamindars along the postal routes. They were required to supply runners to carry the
mails. However, they were allowed to claim deduction in their rents in proportion to the expendi¬ture
incurred by them for the maintenance of the runners.
In 1766, Clive arranged for a full-fledged organisation of Daks within the Bengal province and from
Bengal to other presidencies. According to the new system, the Daks were to be controlled by a postmaster with assistants under him. The mails from Calcutta were to be despatched from the Government
House. Letters meant for despatch were to be sort¬ed every night. The Daks were to be sent off
personally by the post¬master or his assistants. Letters for different centres were to be packed in
separate bags. The mail bags were to be sealed with the seal of the Company. None but chiefs of
factories or Residents were to open the bags meant for their respective areas. The chiefs were to
observe the same rule with respect to the letters sent down to Calcutta.
The system of runners was defective and consequently there were delays in the delivery of mail bags.
No wonder, new regulations were framed by Clive. According to them, the mail bags were to be
numbered in regular succession. The day and hour of despatch and the number of the packets were to
be noted on the tickets affixed to them. The Resi¬dent or Chief of factory was regularly to send advice of
the receipt of each packet to the JResident of the stage," from whence it came. last. If any packets were
found missing, the runners were to be punished if any one failed to give satisfactory explanation of the
loss. All packets were to be sealed with the seal of the Governor and that of the Company with a view to
preventing their being opened before arrival at the desti¬nation.
It is to be noted that the postal system set up by Clive was employed only for official purposes. The
private individual could not make use of it.
Foreign Policy. According to Dr. Nandalal Chatterji, "The foreign policy promulgated by Clive and
continued throughout the Diwani period was one of cautious moderation, based on a realistic grasp of
the practical possibilities and dangers inherent in the situation facing Bengal on its vulnerable sides. The
fundamental principle underlying this policy was the avoidance of conquest and dominion outside the
existing limits of.the province. The defence of Bengal itself was an arduous charge. 'To go
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772 45
her* Clive maintained in one of his letters to the Directors, 'is in my 'nion a scheme so extravagantly
ambitious and absurd that no Gover-°P and Council in their senses can adopt it, unless the whole system
of Uu« Company's interest be first entirely new-modelled.' 'The limits of the K bob's dominions', he
further argued, 'are sufficient to answer all your rposes. These, we think, ought to constitute the
boundaries, not only PfU ail your territorial possessions and influence in these parts, but of °our
commerce also since by grasping at more, you endanger the safety ^f those immense revenues, and that
well-founded power, which you now °nioy, without the hopes of obtaining an adequate advantage.' This
policy was grounded on the following considerate n: Firstly, a distant domim°n m»gnt prove to be a
burden on Bengal, both financially and militarily. Secondly, hazards of war and conquest could not be
conducive to the growth of the Company's trade. Thirdly, aggression outside Bengal Was likely to stir up
serious trouble with the country powers. Fourthly, Bengal itself produced, in the words of Clive, 'all the
riches we are am¬bitious to possess.' Fifthly, a pacific policy alone could 'conciliate the affections of the
couniry powers,' 'remove any jealousy they may entertain of our unhounded ambition,' and 'convince
them that we aim not at conquest and dominion, but security of carrying on a free trade, equally
beneficial to them and to us'. Sixthly, the security of Bengal was to be sought ratfier in the discordancy
of the view and the interests of the neighbouring powers than in a policy of aggression. against them.
Seventh¬ly, if ideas of conquest were to be the basis of English policy, Clive ap¬prehended that the
Company would, by necessity, be led from one ac¬quisition to another. Eighthly, when a sufficient
number of competent English officials could not be had for the administration of Bengal itself, it was out
of the question to assume die' responsibility of government out¬side die province. Lastly, Clive was
aware of the fact that, owing to the enormous requirements of the Company's own trade investments;
it was impossible to find money to undertake distant wars."
Clive had to deal with Nawab Wazir of Oudh and the Emperor Shah Alam. Both of them were at this time
in die hands of the English and were asking for favours. Oudh lay defenceless before the British armies.
On his arrival, Clive found that Vansittart had already promised Oudh to the Moghul Emperor. To Clive,
it seemed to be a foolish step. It would have" been impossible for Shah Aiam to maintain his hold over
Oudh. Negotiations were opened with Shuja-ud-Daula and ultimately the treaty of Allahabad was signed
in August 1765. By this treaty, the Nawab Wazir of Oudh was confirmed in his kingdom with the
exception of the districts of Kora and Allahabad, Chunar and the Zamindari of Banaras including
Ghazipur. The Nawab Wazir also agreed to pay Rs. 15 lakhs as .war indemnity. He also entered into a
defensive alliance vith the English Company by which the latter agreed to help him for the defence of his
frontiers and the former promised to pay the cost of main¬tenance. The Nawab Wazir also agreed to
allow the English Company to carry on trade, duty-free throughout the whole of his dominions.
The result of the above provisions was that Oudh was created into a buffer State. The soundness of the
policy of Clive with regard to Oudh can be proved from the fact that right from 1765 to 1856 this policy
was continued by the successors of <21ive. According to Ramsay. Muir, "It was a matter of fixed policy
to maintain a close alliance with Oudh which was useful as a bulwark against the threatening power of
the Maradias."
Lord Clive also made a settlement with Shah Alam. The latter was S»ven the districts of Kora and
Allahabad which were secured from the
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
Nawab Wazir of Oudh. The English Company also promised to pay R.s. 26 lakhs a year as tribute. In
return of all this, the Mughal emper0r granted the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the English
Company,* The settlement with the Mughal Emperor was criticised from many quarters. It was pointed
out that Lord Clive was over-generous to j political fugitive. Men like Sir Eyre Coote advocated a British
march i0 Delhi and the conquest of India in the name of Shah Alam. It is true that from military point of
view, such a conquest was a possibility, but Lord Clive regarded that venture to be dangerous. According
to him, to go further was a scheme so extravagantly ambitious and absurd that no Governor and Council
in their- senses could even adopt it. The sound¬ness of Clive's judgment was proved by the fact that it
was with great difficulty that the Company was able to defend its existing frontiers against the
foreigners. Had the British frontiers been extended unneces¬sarily in 1765, the problem of defence
would have become hopeless.
According to Dr. Nandalal Chatterjee, "Clive had been sent out a second time specifically to reform the
entire government of the Company, and to root out the glaring abuses in its affairs there. At the time of
his arrival, he found the whole situation in the presidency to be unspeakably bad. There was nothing
that bore the form or appearance of orderly ad¬ministration, and gross self-seeking appeared to be
rampant among all classes of the Company's servants. Luxury, rapacity and a want of princi¬ple were
prevalent in every sphere. Sudden and, among many, unjusti¬fiable acquisition of riches during the
recent years seemed to have totally demoralised everybody from the seniormost officials down to the
1. The text of the Firman granted by Shah Alam to the Company was as follows: "At this happy time
our royal Firmaund, indispensably requiring obedience, is issued; that, whereas, in consideration
of the attachment and services of the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of
illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the
English Company, we have granted them the Dewanny of the Provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa,
from the beginning of the Fussel Rubby of the Bengal year 1172, as a free gift and ultumgan, without
the association of any other person, and with an exemption of the payment of the customs of the
Dewanny, which used to be paid by the Court. It is requisite that the said Company en¬gage to be
security for the sum of 26 lakhs of rupees a year for our royal revenue, which sum has been
appointed from the Nabob Nudjum-ui-Dawla Behauder, and regularly remit the same to the royal
Circar; and in this case, as the said Company are obliged to keep up a large Army for the Protection of
the Provinces of Bengal, Sec., we have granted to them whatsoever may remain out of the revenues
of the said provinces* alter remitting the sum of 26 lakhs of rupees to the royal Circar, and providing
for the expenses of the Nizamut. It is requisite that our royal descendants, the Viziers, the bestowers
of dignity, the Omrahs high in .rank, the great officers, the Muttaseddees of the Dewanny, the
manager of the business of the Sultanut, the Jaghirdars and Crocries, as well the future as the present
using their constant endeavours for the establishment of this our royal command, leave the said office
in possession of the said Company, from generation to generation for ever and ever. Looking
upon them to be assured from dismissal or removal, they must, on no account whatsoever, give
them any interruption, and they must regard them as excused and exempted from the payment of
all the customs of the Dewanny and royal demands. Knowing our orders on the subject to be most
strict and positive, let them not deviate therefrom."
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 177* 47
d the ensign. Corruption was universal and contagious. Clive was fully cognisant of the extent and
variety of the oppression which had brought a lasting reproach to the English name. He himself
confessed hat it was impossible to enumerate the complaints that had been laid 1 efore him by the poor
inhabitants of the country. There was no law and order in the province, and the Nawab's government
was a mere mockery. The peasantry groaned under the merciless weight of taxation which drain¬ed the
life blood from the land. Jobbery and bribery were the order of the day, and the whole burden thereof
ultimately fell on the starving cultivator. The trade of Bengal was the unholy monopoly of the
Com¬pany's servants and their gumashtahs, and thousands and thousands of Indian traders were
reduced to poverty on account of the unashamed misuse and abuse of the privilege of the Dastak."
According to the same writer, Clive was well fitted for the role of a reformer. He had the resolu¬tion of a
taskmaster, the sternness of a dictator and the efficiency of a supervisor. He knew how to fight
opposition, and had the capacity for enforcing obedience to himself. He could recognise merit and had
the ability of choosing men with discrimination. He was energetic, courage¬ous and well-balanced. Bold
in action, he could be cool in judgment. His industry and application to business were prodigious.
Possessed of die qualities that go to make a good administrator, Clive was also armed with very wide
powers to deal with the situation in Bengal in any way he liked.
"But, with all his good intentions and marked abilities, Clive lament¬ably failed to achieve real success as
an administrator. The reason is not far to seek. Being unscrupulous and devoid of a fine moral feeling,
he could not set before himself a high ideal and allow himself to be guided always and in every matter
by considerations of expediency alone. He took into his consideration nothing but the immediate
present, and re¬fused to look beyond it. He sought to provide for today, and he would leave tomorrow
to take care of itself. If he committed grave errors, it was because he was narrow and illiberal in his
outlook. The. Company had secured a vast empire and an enormous revenue. It was to be expected that
these circumstances should have called for a few and radical approach. Clive, however, viewed the
Company's position from the point of view of a shopkeeper, and so he failed to recognise the fact that
the people of Bengal had to be assured of good government."
Clive left India in 1767 when he was absolutely broken in health. He entered Parliament and was greatly
admired to begin with. However, his critics started troubling him. In 1773, Colpnel Burgoyne moved a
resolution in Parliament that Lord Clive, "through the influence of the powers with which he was
entrusted as a member of the Select Committee and Commander-in-Chief of the. British forces did
obtain and possess him¬self of the sum of £234,000, and that in doing so the said Robert Clive abused
the power with which he was entrusted to the evil example of the servants of the public „>nd to the
dishonour and detriment of the State." The resolution was not passed in this form. After a lengthy
debate, the following resolution was unanimously carried: "That Robert Clive at the same time
rendered great meritorious services to his country."
Estimate of Clive. A critical examination of the work done by Clive in India shows that his services' to the
British Empire in India were great. He was responsible for the capture and defence of Arcot in 1751. In
collaboration with Lawerence, he was able to frustrate all the designs of Dupleix. He learnt his soldiering
from General Lawerence and his diplomacy from Governor Saunders. In 1756, he co-operated
with the
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772
Marathas to put down the pirate stronghold of Ghariah. By his victor* of Plassey, he laid the
foundations of the British power in Bengal a»j
provided the basis for further expansion into the interior of the country. During his second Governorship
of Bengal, he established Oudh as a Buf¬fer State. He was not only a great warrior but also a great
administrator and statesman. Lord Chatham compared Lord Ciive with Frederick, the Great, of Prussia.
According to Burke, Lord Ciive settled great founda¬tions. When he "forded .a tieep- water with an
unknown bottom, . he left a bridge for his successors over whicl^ the lame might hobble and the blind
might grope their way." According te^ P. E. Roberts, in spite of his faults, there was the stamp of
grandeur on ^ajl the words and actions of Ciive.
The English m Bengal from 1757 to 1772
•'His headlong valour on the battlefield, his splendid daring and audacity • 1 political crisis, his moral
courage in lacing disaffected and mutinous '"borcunates, his force and fire in debate, all justified the
lofty verdict *" Lord Macauiay that our Island scarcely ever produced a man more trulY great, either in
arms or in Council."
Reference may be made to two views which^, however, do not do jus-. lo clive. According to Sir Charles
Wilson, "There is little trace of Idlful combination in nis plans, and on some occasions he appears to
have neglected the most obvious military precautions, lo seek the enemy* and on finding him, to attack,
with headlong valour seems to have been his guiding principle, and his successes were due rather to his
personal intrepidity, and to his power of inspiring large masses of men with confi-dence than to studied
plans or dexterous manoeuvres."' Horace Walpole referred to Clive in these words: "Though Lord Clive
was so frank and high-spirited as to confess a whole folio of his Machiavellism, they were so ungenerous
as to have a mind to punish him for assassination, forgery, and treachery and it makes him very
Lord Clive who was the founder of the British empire in India, was also the architect of the ruin of the
people of Bengal. "The corruption the oppression and the mal-administration under which they groaned
for years were in no small measure due to him. His lust for gold amounted to a mania which proved
contagious and Bengal was rifled of its treasures by a set of rapacious adventures whom none could
control. He reduced the Nawab to a ligurehead, deprived him of the power and means of do¬ing good
and shirked responsibility himself. Ihere was nothing new or original in his plans; he followed in the
footsteps of Dupleix and Bussy and his success was due to a fortuitous combination of circumstances
and treachery than to genius." According to Dr. V. A. Smith: "It appears to me impossible for the
impartial historian to deny that Clive was too will¬ing to meet Asiatic intriguers on their own ground, too
greedy of riches, and too much disposed to ignore delicate scruples in their acquisition. That verdict
undoubtedly tarnishes his memory and precludes the historian from according to him the unqualified
admiration which has heroic qualities seem to exact. His most outstanding characteristic was an
infl¬exible will which guided his conduct to success in all affairs, whether mil¬itary or civil. His military
genius and his gift for leadership were abun¬dantly manifested both in the Peninsula and in Bengal. His
abilities as a statesman were exhibited chiefly in his second administration when he confronted
extraordinary difficulties with unflinching courage."
According to Lord Curzon, "Great as a captain for good judges of warfare have been heard to say that in
military genius he was equal to Marlborough and superior to Turenne—greater still as an dministrator
and statesman for he was the real founder of that Clive Service which for more than a century and a half
has been the glory of British rule in India —to Clive we owe the fact that there has been an Lodia io»
Englishmen to serve and for British Viceroys to govern. Forgive him his errors they were great, but never
mean; remember his achievements they were transcen¬dent; shed a tear over the final scene—it was
tragic but not ignoble. After P» was not Clive the first of the Indian Proconsuls to suffer from the
Pgratitude of his countrymen and did he not thereby inculcate a lesson and 561 an example that has
taught others to endure?" (British Government 'n India, Vol. I, p. 144).
According to one writer, "Lord Clive's career in India may be briefly 'ummed up as follows: first a
merchant, then a soldier and then a states¬man." "Although Clive did not completely purify the
administration, yet he
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 177?
initiated and maintained reforms of considerable magnitude." According to Dodwell, "Clive was a man of
insight rather than of foresight.", Ac-cording to Lord Macaulay, "Our island has seldom produced a man
more truly great than Robert Clive, either in arms or in Council."
Bengal from 1767 to 1772. According to Roberts, two men of me-diocre ability bridged over the interval
between the departure of Clive arid the appointment of Warren Hastings as the Governor of Bengal.
"Those two personTwere Verelst (1767-69) and turner (1770-2). Under their weak rule, tne people of
Bengal suffered terribly. The defects of the double government of Bengal added to their sufferings. The
Englj^ left everything to be done by the Nawab and the latter did nothing. The people suffered on
account of the mistakes of omission and commission of the Company and the Nawab. It is stated that
many cultivators left their fields and became vagabonds and dacoits.
The servants of the Company carried on their private trade and made fortunes for themselves. They also
continued to enjoy the monopoly of trade in salt, betelnuts and other articles. There was none to
interfere with die private trade of the servants of the Company and their Gomash-tahs. The Government
realized the seriousness of the situation but seem¬ed to be helpless.
At the top of it, there came the great famine of 1770. Practically, one-third of the population was swept
away. The famine was in a very violent form in Bihar. Raja Shitab Rai, the Duputy Governor, reported
that more than fifty poor wretches died every day in the streets of Patna and sometimes the number of
deaths was three times as great. Sir W. W. Hunter has described the effects of famine in these words:
"The husband¬men sold their cattle; they sold their implements of agriculture; they de¬voured their
seed-grain; they sold their sons and daughters till at length no buyers of children could be found. They
ate the leaves of the trees and the grass of the fields; and in June 1770, the resident of the Darbar
affirmed that the living were feeding on the dead."
When troubles come, they come in battalions. Famine was followed by fever and small-pox in a virulent
form. The streets of Murshidabad were littered with heaps of the dying and the dead. Instead of helping
the people of Bengal, the servants of the Company exploited the situa¬tion to the maximum. They sold
the things as dear as they could. There was no remission of land revenue. If a certain portion could not
be collected from certain individuals on account of their deaths, the defi¬ciency was made up by
charging the same from others. The result was that the people had to undergo untold sufferings.
Nothing bette/ could be expected from the merchants of London. This state of affairs conti¬nued till
1772 when Warren Hastings took up the reins of office as dtf Governor of Bengal.
Auber, Pster. Rise and Progress of the British Power in India (1837).
Broome, A. Rise and Progress of the Bengal Army (1850).
Chatterji, N.L. Mir Qasinv (1935).
Chatterji, N.L. Verelst's Rule in India (1929).
Datta, K.K. Bengal Subab, 1740-1770 (1936).
Dodwell, H.H. Dupleix and Clive (1920).
Forrest. life of Clive (1918).
The English in Bengal from 1757 to 1772 51
Ghose, N.N. Memoirs of Nubkissen (1901).
Malcolm, Sir J. Life of Robert Clive.
Malleson, G.B. Lord Clive (1907).
Mill, James. History of British India.'
Muir* Ramsay. Making of Britisft-India (1915).
Roy, AC. Mir Jafar Khan (1955).
Sinha, N-K. Economic History of Bengal (1956).
Sinha, S.C. Early Economic Annals in Bengal (1927).
Sutherland, Lucy. East India Company in J.«th Century Politics (1952).
Thornton, E. History of the British Empire in India (1841).
Warren Hastings joined the English East India Company as a writer at the age of 18. Later on, he was
appointed the Resident of Kassim Bazar where he showed that he was a man of parts. When the place
was captured by Siraj-ud-Daula, he was captured but he managed to escape. In 1761, he was made a
member of the Calcutta Council. He went home for a few years and came back as a member of the
Madras Council. After the retirement of Cartier, he was appointed the Governor of Bengal in 1772. After
the passing of the Regulating Act, he became the Governor-General of Bengal.
When Warren Hastings took up office as Governor of Bengal, he had to face many difficulties. There was
chaos in the country. There was practically no administration. The servants of the Company were doing
havoc to the people. While the Company was getting nothing and its treasury was empty, its servants
were making fortunes. There was no administration of justice worth the name. Everything required
overhaul¬ing. In addition to these troubles, the Marathas were a source of danger. The Emperor Shah
Alam had left the protection of the British and gone to the Marathas. Haidar Ali in the Deccan was
another threat. Warren Hastings had to meet all these difficulties.
Warren Hastings' Reforms—Administrative Reforms. Warren Hastings carried out a large number of
reforms and those may be discussed under four hinds, viz., administrative, revenue, commercial and
judicial. As regards administrative reforms, Warren Hastings decided to put an end to the dual system of
government in Bengal as established by Lord Clive in 1765. The Company was to take over the
responsibility of adminis¬tration of the province. It was to stand forth as Diwan and collect the revenue
through the agency of its own servants. Mohammad Raza Khan and Raja Shitab Rai who were the
deputy Nawabs of Bengal and Bihar were tried for peculation and removed from their offices. However,
they were honourably acquitted but the object Was achieved. The treasury was shifted from
Murshidabad to Calcutta. The young Nawab of Bengal was put under the control of Munni Begum, the
widow of Mir Jafar. H» pension was reduced from 32 lakhs to 16 lakhs.
Revenue Reforms. Although the Company had got the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1765, it had
not taken over the work of collection of land revenue into its own hands. The work had been left in the
hands of functionaries called Amils. The Amils were no better than contractors and the tenants suffered
a lot. Although supervisors had been appointed in 1769, no improvement was made. Warren Hastings
appoint¬ed a Committee and its President toured certain parts of Bengal to col¬lect information. His
conclusion was that the Company must directly collect the revenue. Consequently, Warren Hastings
appointed collector* for revenue collection and administration. They were to be helped ty native
officers. Settlement was made for 5 years with the highest bidders. To supervise the whole organisation,
a Board of Revenue was established at Calcutta. The system of farming out the land to the highest
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
for 5 years was f°un(^ to be defective and consequently in 1777 the old (vstem of bidding for a year
was resorted to.
As the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam had left the protection of the British' Warren Hastings stopped the
payment of 26 lacs of rupees a ear. He also took over the districts of Kora and Allahabad from the Mugal
Emperor and sold them to the Nawab Wazir of Oudh for «s 50 lacs. He made the accounts of revenue
simple and intelligi¬ble and made many provisions for the protection of the ryots. He also cut off from
the list a large number of Abwabs. The Banyas were pre¬vented from lending money to the ryots.
Commercial Reforms. He prohibited the use of Dustuks by the ser¬vants of the Company and thereby
added to the revenues of the Company. A Urge number of custom houses or Chowkies were hampering
the growth of trade in the country and consequently he abolished them. In future there were to be only
5 custom houses at Calcutta, Hugli. Mur-shidabad, Patna and Dacca. The uniform reduction of 2J per
cent in duties on all goods except salt, betelnut and tobacco, was ordered. The result of all these
reforms was that trade improved. Warren Hastings boasted that "goods passed unmolested to the
extremities of the province."
Judicial Reforms. Warren Hastings carried out a large number of reforms in the judicial sphere. In 1772,
he provided for the collection in each district of a provincial Court of Diwani Adalat for all civil cases.
Over this court presided the Collector. Provision was made for appeal to the Sadar Diwani Adalat at
Calcutta which consisted of the -Governor and at least two members of the Council. Provision was also
made for criminal courts. In the Faujdari Adalat sat the Kadi and Mufti of the district with two Maulvis to
expound the law. It was the duty of col¬lector to see that in criminal cases evidence was duly submitted
and weigh¬ed and the decision was not only fair and impartial but also given in the open court. The
Faujdari Adalats were supervised by the Sadar Nizamat \dalat which was presided over by the Daroga
Adalat appointed by the Nazim. The Daroga Adalat consisted of jthe Chief Kadi, the Chief Mufti and
three Maulvis. The proceedings of the Sadar Nizamat Adalat were supervised by the Governor and the
Provision was made for the improvement of procedure in the courts.
The courts were not only to keep their records of proceedings but also
send the same to the Sadar Diwani Adalat. The head farmers of die Parpnas were empowered to try cases so that the ryots may not have to travel
Iong distances in search of justice. Provision was made for arbitration by
yuent. In case of marriage, inheritance, caste and religious usage, the
decision was to be given according to the Koran for the Mohammedans
^>d Shastras for the Hindus. The decisions of the Mofussil Adalats were
■Jw up to Rs. 5,000. In other cases, an appeal could be taken. Faujdari
^lalats were not allowed to pass deadi sentences. Fines over Rs. 100
: ere to be confirmed by the Sadar Adalat. Dacoits were to be executed
°Wn v'^a8es ant* their families were to be made slaves. Their
to ^f* WCre to k* fine(l anc* tne poh'ee officers who captured them, were
be given rewards. Warren Hastings made certain changes in 1774. djvf- ee provinces of Bengal, Bihar
and Orissa were divided into six ^ ons and in each of these divisions a Council consisting of 4 or 5
^ns??1^ servants oi tne English Company was created. Each division ConJjl °* many districts and a Diwan
or Amil took the place of the aiy, ^;0j"- "e collected revenue but also acted as judge. Provision was made
for the Provincial Court of Appeal.
further change in the judicial system was made in 1780.
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
sion was made for the establishment of a court of Diwani Adalat in ever* division. This court was to be
presided over by the Superintendent of th! Diwani Adalat. He was to be an Englishman and a
covenanted serva*! of the • Company. The Provincial Courts of Appeal were deprived J their judicial
powers. Up to Rs. 1,000 the decision of the Courts of I? wani Adalat were to be final and if the amount
involved was more, jn appeal could be taken to the Sadar Diwani Adalat.
There was constant conflict between the Supreme Court of Calcutta and the executive and consequently
Warren Hastings appointed Sir Elijah Impey, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as the sole judge of
the Sadar Diwani Adalat. Impey held this office for two years when he wat made to resign on account of
criticism at home. However, he was abb to introduce a large number of reforms which improved the
administration jf justice in the Mofussil.
In 1781, it was provided that Superintendents of Diwani Adalats were also to act as magistrates. They
were to assist those persons who were suspected to have committed crimes. After arrest, they were to
be seat to the nearest Mofussil Faujdari Adalat for trial.
Warren Hastings created a new department at Calcutta. Its head was known as the Remembrancer of
Criminal Courts. He was to receive all the reports and returns from the Mofussil Faujdari Adalats. His
duty was to analyse those reports and prepare extracts from them. However, that work was not very
Warren Hastings' Oudh Policy. Warren Hastings continued the buffer State policy towards Oudh. He was
determined to continue good rela-tions with the Nawab on account of the danger from the Marathas. In
1772, he concluded the Treaty of Banaras by which Kora and Allahabad were sold to the Nawab of Oudh
for Rs. 50 lacs. If die Nawab paid a subsidy, the English Company was to lend him the aid of British
troops whenever required.
The Rohilla War. The people of Rohilkhand were frequently attack ed by the Marathas and consequently
their ruler entered into a treaty with the Nawab Wazir of Oudh in 1772. It was agreed between die
parties that if the Marathas invaded Rohilkhand, the Nawab Wazir was to help die Rohillas and get Rs.
40 lacs as the price of his help. The very next year, the Marathas invaded Rohilkhand, but retired on
account of the approach of British and Oudh troops. The Nawab Wazir of Oudh de-manded money and
the Rohillas evaded it. Ultimately, the Nawab Waiir of Oudh contracted with the English Company to
bear all the expenses of war and to pay Rs. 50 lacs in addition if he were given military help to conquer
Rohikhand. Warren Hastings accepted the proposition. Bri-tish troops were sent. Rohilkhand was
conquered. Hafiz Rahmat Khaa theit leader, was killed. About 20,000 Rohillas were turned out from the
country. The soldier of the Nawab committed atrocities on the innocent people of Rohilkhand and the
country was annexed to Oudh.
Hastings* policy towards Rohilkhand has been severely condemned and it was one of die points of his
impeachment. Undoubtedly, Warren Hastings was moved by two considerations. He wanted more
money »0' the Company and this he could get from the Nawab of Oudh. Rohilkhand occupied a strategic
position and its occupation by Oudh would protect Oudh from the attacks of the Marathas. If a policy is
judged by it* ** suits, Hastings' Rohilla policy was more than justified. Rohillas were not strong enough
to protect themselves from the attacks of the Mara-hr and it would have been a folly to allow them to
fall into the hands o
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
rhe Marathas. That would have seriously jeopardised the safety of Bengal itself. However, it is pointed
out that the Rohillas had done -thing against the Company and consequently there was no moral
justi¬fication for the English help to Oudh merely for the sake of money. The Brit'sn arms were
prostituted for hire. Moreover, such an action. was against the instructions of the Directors. Such an
interference created an unfortunate precedent. Anybo ly could hire the, services of British troops on
payment of money. It is contended that "the Rohilla war should be beyond defence by any critic with
Trial of Nand Kumar. Nand Kumar was a higher influential grahman of Bengal. He not only moved in
higher circles but also indulg¬ed in higher politics. He had been found guilty of carrying on intrigues with
those zamindars who had revolted against the English Company.
When differences arose between Warren Hastings and the members of his Council, Nand Kumar tried to
take advantage of them. He accus¬ed Warren Hastings of having been bribed to dismiss Mohd. Raza
Khan and of having sold several public offices. Philip Francis read the paper of accusation in the
presence of Warren Hastings. Nand Kumar requested to be heard in person in support of his accusation.
Warren Hastings refused to be confronted with Nand Kumar at his own Council table. He refused to
allow his Councillors to sit in judgment over him. He dissolv¬ed the meeting and departed. In his
absence, the other members of the Council called in Nand Kumar and decided to go on with the charges.
However, Nand Kumar was suddenly arrested and committed to prison on a charge of forgery. The
Council of the Governor-General protested and remonstrated, but a jury of the Supreme' Court found
Nand Kumar guilty of forgery and he was sentenced to be hanged and was actually hanged.
The legality of the trial and conviction of Nand Kumar has been questioned. The Supreme Court has
been accused of committing "a judicial murder." Critics point out that both the trial and conviction were
illegal. There is a controversy whether the English statute of 1728 relating to forgery was applicable to
Calcutta or not.
It was contended that there was a conspiracy between Sir Elijah Impey, the Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court, and Warren Hastings. The conviction and execution of Nand Kumar were the outcome of that
conspiracy. However, it is pointed out that Nand Kumar was not tried by the Chief Justice alone but by
other judges of the Supreme Court as well. He was held guilty not only by all the judges of the Supreme
Court but also by the members of the jury. However, it cannot be denied that the judges of Supreme
Court examined the defence witnesses in such a way that the whole of the defence of Nand Kumar
collapsed. That was an unusual procedure to adopt. Moreover, the judges of the Supreme Court
rejected the application of Nand Kumar for leave to appeal to the King-in-Council. Although this was a
very suitable case for leave to appeal, the same was refused. All these facts pointed out to the mala
fides °f the judges of Supreme Court.
According to P. E. Roberts, "It is very doubtful whether the Supreme Court had any jurisdiction over the
natives and there is practically ho doubt at all that the English law making forgery a capital Crime was
not operative in India till many years after Nand Kumar's alleged forgery had been committed."
Case of Chet Singh. Balwant Singh, father of Chet Singh, Was a vassal of the Nawab of Oudh. He was
the first Raja of Banaras. In
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
1775, Banaras was transferred to the Company by the Nawab of Oudh ana consequently the English
Company became the overlord of Chet Singh, He paid annually rent of his land to the Company and the
same couljj not be enhanced. However, he was bound to help his new masters iQ times of difficulty. In
1778, Warren Hastings asked for a special con. tribution of Rs. 5 lacs from Chet Singh and the latter paid
the same. Next year, a similar demand was made and was complied with after hesi-tation. In 1780, Chet
Singh was asked to give two thousand horses. The Raja pleaded his inability and offered to provide one
thousand horses. Although Hastings lowered his demand the Raja did not comply with the same. The
Raja had also not paid his regular tribute. Warren Hastings was in great financial difficulty. He imposed a
fine of Rs. 50 lacs on Chet Singh and marched to Banaras to realise the same. Chet Singh submitted to
Warren Hastings who got him arrested. However, the Raja managed to escape. There was rioting and b'
x>dshed. Situation was brought under control with some difficulty. Ultimately the Raja was deposed and
his nephew was put in his place. The latter was required to pay tribute at double the rate.
Warren Hastings' treatment of Chet Singh has been severely con¬demned. It is pointed out that Chet
Singh was not bound to help the English Company if the latter was in financial difficulty. Moreover,
Warren Hastings was too exacting. His conduct was unjust, improper and high-handed. It was tyranny
pure and simple. The very purpose for which Warren Hastings took all the tribue, was defeated because
the treasury of Chet Singh was looted by the troops and nothing fell into the hands of Warren Hastings.
Begums of Oudh. The Nawab Wazir of Oudh owed a lot of money to the English Company and he was
not in a position to pay. Warren Hastings wanted money very badly. The Nawab Wazir told Warren
Hastings that he could pay the money only if he was allowed to resume the Jagirs and treasures held by
his modier and grandmother, who were known as the Begums of Oudh. Although both the Jagirs and
treasures were guaranteed to the Begums by the Calcutta Council by the Treaty of Chanar of 1781,
Hastings allowed the Nawab of Oudh to take posses¬sion of them. The Nawab hesitated to take action
against his own mother and grandmother but he was forced to do so by Warren Hastings. The result was
that British troops were sent to do the job. The place of the Begums was surrounded. The two eunuchs,
who acted as stewards, were tortured in every possible way and ultimately were forced to part with the
money. With the money thus secured, the Nawab Wazir was able to pay off the debts of the Company.
Dr. V. A. Smith defended the action of Warren Hastings on the ground of expediency. According to him,
"Urgent necessities of the time justified Hastings in cancelling treaty obligation and putting a certain
amount of pressure on the Begums to make them disgorge." He also stated that the treatment meted
out to the Begums was mild according to the Indian standards. Moreover, Warren Hastings had no
personal knowledge of coercive measures adopted by the troops of the Company-However, such a
defence is insufficient to convince any impartial leader-It has been proved that Warren Hastings was the
moving spirit through-oat the period when the tragedy was being enacted. As a matter of fa<*» it was
Warren Hastings who forced the hands of Nawab Wazir when th* latter hesitated to take action against
his mother and .grandmother.- The doctrine of urgent necessity cannot be put forward to justify all the
*&s of Jxigh-handedness on the part of the English troops and the civil ser¬vants. According to Sir
Alfred Lyal? "The employment of personJ
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
-verities under the superintendence of British officers in order to extract nneV fr°m women and eunuchs
is an ignoble kind of undertaking; to ish hirn (N'awab) and actively assist in measure of coercion against
women P. J eunuchs was conduct unworthy and indefensible." Moreover, there \ nothing to prove that
the Begums of Oudh were in league with Chet Sinfch. H s\xch was l^e czsit ll was tne duty of Hastings to
put forward evidence in his possession to support this allegation.
Regulating Act and Council. The Regulating Act was passed in 1773 and it provided for the establishment
of a Supreme Court of Calcutta and Governor-General's Council. This Council was to consist of four
members and the Governor-General was given a casting vote only in the case of a tie. Out of the 4
members, 3 of them came from England and those were Clavering, Monson and Francis. Only Barwell
was in India at the time of his appointment. From the very beginning, the three mem¬bers who came
from England started opposing Warren Hastings. The result was that on many occasions Warren
Hastings was over-ruled and he was made to do things which he did not approve of at all. The majority
of his Council condemned the Rohilla war. The British Resident at Lucknow was called back. Likewise,
the Councillors recognised the claims of the Begums of Oudh to the Jagirs and the treasure. The same
Council allowed Nand Kumar to denounce Warren Hastings in the Coun¬cil itself.
The condition of Warren Hastings was so very difficult in his Coun¬cil that on one occasion he instructed
his agent to tender his resignation to the Company. However, things became better after a lapse of
time. In 1776, Monson died a natural death. In 1777, Clavering died of dysentery. In 1780, Warren
Hastings wounded Francis in a duel and the latter left for England. It has rightly been said that "the
members of the Council died, sickened and fled away.**
Warren Hastings and Supreme Court. The Regulating Act also set
up a Supreme Court at Calcutta. Unfortunately, the powers of the
Supreme Court were not clearly defined and that led to a conflict of juris¬
diction between the Supreme Court of Calcutta and the courts of the
Company. There were frequent tussles between the two authorities. In
the case of Raja of Cossijurah, the two authorities came into open con¬
flict. In this case, the Supreme Court issued a writ of capius against the
Raja for his arrest. The only way the defendant could save himself was
by means of furnishing security. Instead of doing that, the Raja con¬
cealed himself and thereby avoided the service of the writ, and the same
was returned without service. Warren Hastings was informed by the
Collector that the Raja was a zamindar and was concealing himself to
avoid the service of the writ and consequently the revenu* of the Com¬
pany was not being collected. Warren Hastings consulted the AdvocateGeneral and directed the Raja not to appear or plead before the Supreme
Court or in any way submit to its jurisdiction. A general notification
was issued by the Government that zamindars were not subject to the
jurisdiction of Supreme Court unless they accepted the same by their own
The Supreme Court took up the challenge and issued- another writ to sequester the land and property
of the Raja. Sixty men, headed by a sargeant of the Supreme Court, were sent to execute the wrif. The
Raja complained that the persons deputed by the Supreme Court entered his fjouse, beat and wounded
his servants, broke open and forcibly entered his enana, stripped his place of religious worship of its
ornaments and Prohibited his farmers from paying his rents.
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
The Governor-General and the Council instructed the Raja not t obey the process of the Supreme Court
and ordered the troops of th Company to intercept die party of the Sheriff and retain them in custody As
a matter of fact, the troops of the Company caught hold of the pay*! of the Court and brought them to
Calcutta. The Supreme Court took action against the Advocate-General and the officers who had seized
the Sheriff's party. The result was that the Advocate-General was put im0 prison.
Baboo Cassinaut brought an action against the Governor-General and the members of die Council
individually for trespass. To begin with, the Governor-General and the members of his Council appeared
before the Supreme Court, but later on they retired and refused to submit to any process which the
Supreme Court might issue. A petition was signed by the prominent British inhabitants of Bengal and
sent to British Parlia-ment against the exercise of its power by the Supreme Court of Cal¬cutta. The
result was the passing of the Amending Act of 1781. One of the objects of die new Act was to give relief
to certain "persons inv prisoned at Calcutta under die judgment of the Supreme Court and also
indemnifying die Governor-General and Council and all officers who have acted under their orders or
authority in the undue resistance made to the process of the Supreme Court." The Act of 1781 reduced
the powers of the Supreme Court and the conflict between the Supreme Court and the Court of the
Company was avoided.
According to Prof. Davies, "The importance of the Regulating Act in Hastings' life can hardly be overestimated. It marked a milestone in his career for die whole of the rest of his administration was to be
spent vnder die sway of this Act, he being the only Governor-General of India to suffer that unhappy
fate. Its consequences to India in general were to be serious but to him personally diey were to be
nothing less than catastrophic. For if ever a man has had his life ruined for him by Act of Parliament, that
man was Warren Hastings. The story of his life dur¬ing die next twenty years may be simply stated in
two sentences, thus; Parliament by passing this Act was the prime cause of the troubles and difficulties
in which he immediately became involved; and Parliament by impeaching him for the way he extricated
himself from these difficulties shifted on to his shoulders the responsibility for its own negligence and
Perhaps, if anybody deserved impeaching it was Lord North.-
the autnor and executor of the Act."
According to die same audior, "Contemporary opinion on the merits of the Act was very varied. It
naturally accorded widi George the third's ideas, and the expressed pleasure at its smooth passage to
the statute book. Equally, naturally, it was bitterly resented and condemned by the Company and its
friends. Burke denounced it as 'an infringement of national right, national faith, and natural justice.'
Others of them described it as a medley of inconsistencies, dictated by tyranny, yet bearing throughout
each line the mark of ignorance."
"The mark of ignorance was, indeed, but too plainly visible, nor need it excite surprise. The framers of
the Act were utterly ignorant of India and had not, it would seem, deemed it fit to consult those with the
possible exception of Lord Clive, who could have given diem good ad¬vice. Lord North might have paid
heed to Hastings' views, but the Afl was passed before he had time to deliver them. The suspicion rests
upon ministers of thinking more about obtaining for the Crown a share in the extensive patronage rights
of India than providing its government with a sound, workable constitution. In the eyes of both the
supporters and
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
orients of the J
opponents of the Act, the chief point at issue was the rights of the j£t India Company.
"A recent verdict on the Act is that it was 'probably on the whole
honest attempt to deal with a difficult problem. Yet, even if con^vably this be so, the fact remains that by passing it Lord North very
^arlY achieved a double title to fame as the minister who lost Great
Britain her Eastern as well as her Western Empire. The man who was
save him from this ignominy was Warren Hastings."
Foreign Policy of Warren Hastings: First Maratha War (1778-82). In 1772 Narayan Rao became the
Peshwa after the death of Madho Rao. However, he was murdered at the instigation of Raghoba who
himself wanted to become the Peshwa. Nana Farnavis took up the cause of the oosthumous son of
Narayan Rao against Raghoba. The latter asked for English help. By the treaty of Surat (1775),' Raghoba
agreed to give to »ne Government of Bombay Salsette and Bassein as the price of English help- This was
done without the knowledge of the Governor-General. The English attacked Salsette and defeated the
Marathas at Arass. Both the Governor-General and the Calcutta Council disapproved of the treaty of
Surat. A new treaty was concluded called the Treaty of Purandar (1776). According to it, all places
including Bassein taken by the English during the war since the Treaty of Purandar were to be restored
to the Peshwa. The island of Salsette and the small ones near Bombay were to remain in the possession
of the English. The city of Broach was to re-main with the English. The territory conquered in Gujarat by
the English was to be restored to the Peshwa and the Gaikwad to whom they belonged. The English
were not to give support to Raghunathrao in money or otherwise. He was to choose his residence and
Rs. 25,000 a month were to be paid by the Peshwa for his maintenance. However, the Directors of the
Company approved of the Treaty of Surat and war
1. As regards the details of this treaty, the former treaties concluded
between the Government of Bombay and the Marathas in 1739 and 175G
and all other agreements between the two Governments were ratified and
confirmed. Both parties agreed to abstain from assisting the enemies of
the other. The English were to assist Raghoba (Raghunath Rao) with
a military contingent of 2,500 men of which at least 700 were to be
Europeans. Those forces were to be equipped with "proper guns and
war-like stores as a field train of artillery''. To begin with, the English
were to send 1,500 men and the rest were to be sent afterwards, if asked
for. Raghoba agreed to pay to the Company annually Rs. 75,000/- from
the revenues of Ankleshvar. He also agreed to pay Rs. 1J lacs every month
for the military assistance which he was to receive. As a security for the
payment, Raghoba made temporary assignment of the Districts of Amod,
Hasot, Versaul and a part of Ankleshvar. He was to deposit jewels valued
*t Rs. 6 lacs to the English "as a security for the promised advance, pledg,ng himself to redeem them". He also agreed to give to the English in
perpetuity Bassein, Salsette, Jambusar, Olpad and small islands adjacent
to Bombay. He also agreed to procure for the Company the Gaikwad's
ware of the revenue in the town and parganas of Broach. Maratha raids
jjHo Bengal and the Carnatic were to stop. Any peace made with the
Poona Government was to include the English. Raghoba was to defray
IP expenses that might be incurred in taking possession of any of the
places ceded to the Company. He was to assist the ships of the Company
°T of persons under their protection, if wrecked,! and to protect the cargoes.
The Company agreed to establish | Raghoba "at Poona in the Government of the Maratha Empire." '
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
had to be continued. The English were defeated and had to concIU(j the Convention of Wargaon by
which they promised to surrender Raghoh restore all acquisitions made by them and give British
hostage. Warr** Hastings refused to ratify the convention. Goddard marched from Benin to Surat. He
captured Ahmedabad and made an alliance with the Gaikyfad of Baroda. He was defeated when he
advanced towards Poona. Main Podham captured Gwalior, the capital of Scindia. Colonel Gamac \L*
successful in surprising the camp of Scindia. A confederacy was formed against the English in 1779 and it
included the Nizam, Haidar Ali an2 the Marathas. However, Warren Hastings was able to bribe the Raja
0t Nagpur and make peace with Scindia.
Delhi ,
1803 X y„ x
Ultimately, the Treaty of Salbai was signed'in 1782. According to this treaty, the fort of Thana with
the island of Salsette was to remain
Khar da.
i yah
SKETCH-MAP Illustrating .the * [MARATHA WARS
in British possession. Twelve lakhs of rupees were to be paid to the English in cash for the
expenses they had incurred on account 0*
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
oaehunathrao. Raghunathrao was to receive an allowance of Rs. 3,15,000 only f°r n's maintenance. He
was to withdraw completely from the State affairs. The English were to retain the territory they had
conquered in Gujarat and to cease to interfere with the affairs of the Gaikwad.
Accoding to Smith, the Treaty of Salbai was one of the great land¬marks in the history of India. However,
Hastings' Maratha policy has been condemned. It is pointed out that the English got nothing more than
what they had already got by the Treaty of Purandar. The loss of men and money was superfluous. From
the point of view of the Marathas, jhe Treaty of Salbai was a great mistake. It was brought about by the
nervousness and selfishness of Scindia. If war had been continued, history might have been written
otherwise. The peace which was established by Warren Hastings with the Marathas was a stroke of
diplomacy which was invaluable to him in his southern wars.
According to Keene, "This treaty made an epoch in history. It was by means of this Treaty that without
annexing a square mile of territory the British power became virtually paramount in the greater part of
the Indian peninsula, every province of which with the one exception of Mysore acknowledged that
power as the greatest universal peace-maker." According to Sardesai, "This Treaty forms an important
landmark in the political history of India and it was being shaped for over a year. The British tried their
hand against the Marathas and suffered a set-back from which they found it difficult to recover their
position. Nana long con¬tinued to point out to Mahadji the flaws and shortcomings of that clumsy
agreement and urged that Upton's Treaty and the contract of Wadgaon should be fully carried out. But
Mahadji had no other alternative and did, it must be admitted, honestly try to secure the best bargain
possible. The fort of Thana and the fertile island of Salsette were finally lost to the perpetual regret of
the Maratha nation. Mahadji certainly raised his own importance by accepting the guarantee for the
proper observance of the terms. Hastings honoured him by offering his own friendship and allowing him
a free hand in the management of the imperial affairs for which Hastings came to be censured by British
diplomacy and which Mahadji did not fail to make the basis of his future rise." (New History of the
Marathas, Vol. Ill, pp. 119-120).
According to Dr. Shanti Prasad Verma, the Treaty of Salbai forms an important landmark in the political
history of India. But Keene was certainly exaggerating its effects on the future of British Empire in India.
V. A. Smith was less sweeping in his observation than Keene when he wrote that this Treaty not only
assured peace with the formidable power of the Marathas for 20 years but "marked the ascendancy of
the English M the controlling, although not yet the paramount government in India." Lt. Col. Luard is
right when he says that the Treaty "formed the turning point in the history of the English in India." But
he is merely para¬phrasing Keene and V.*A. Smith when he adds that without the acquisition of any
fresh territory, it established beyond dispute the dominance of the British controlling factor in Indian
politics, their subsequent rise in 1818 to the position of the paramount power being an inevitable result
of the position gained by the Treaty of Salbai." Warren Hastings took a more realistic view when he
modestly described it as "a successful negotiation
of peace
in the most desperate period of my distresses."
For the
English, the Treaty of Salbai was ,a clear acknowledgment of failure. Ac¬
cording to Janse and Banaji, "thelphrase 'annexing a square inch' smacks
of historical travesty in the light of the appalling territorial and political
sacrifices which the Governor-General consented to make
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
acquired by consent or Treaty were restored; indemnities which the Poon Darbar had promised to pay
by the Treaty of Purandar were witten ofr the Treaty formally acknowledging the Gaikwad's political
independence was torn up like a scrap of paper; Fateh Singh Gaikwad reverted to hit pre-war state of
quasi-vassalage; the Marathas attacked the British shippiQ8 with impunity. Yet we are asked to believe
that by the Treaty of Saibaf British power virtually became paramount in the greater part of the Indian
peninsula." According to Dr. Verma, "The loyalty of the Maratha chiefs had never been really put to the
test before. It was now put to die test and not found wanting. With the exception of Raghoba not a
single Maratha chieftain willingly colluded wiih the English. Everybody put his shoulder to the wheel and
gave the confederacy whatever strength he could. All internal differences were set aside. There were
grumblings but they were gracefully expressed. Weakness was tolerated; every little contribution made
to the common cause was given its due recognition.... The Treaty of Salbai was the result of closest
collaboration between the two leading figures of the Maratha State. Nana Phadnavis and Mahadji by
their supreme exertions in war and peace saved the Maratha Empire for a period of 20 years by pushing
back the rising tide of the English aggression from their territories and regaining their losses." (A Study
of Maratha Diplomacy, p. 390).
According to Dr. Sailendra Nath Sen, "The treaty of Salbai formed an important landmark in the history
of India as it secured to the English the alliance of the most formidable power in the country. The
foundation on which the British Empire in India rested in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was
weak. The structure which Clive had created was not yet sufficiently strong to resist the sweep of the
invasions of the Marathas and the Mysoreans. It was left to Hastings to turn • the tide by converting the
Marathas to an alliance with the English against Haidar AH. In the political game of chess Hastings had
won and in this respect the treaty of Salbai 'marked the ascendancy of the English as the con¬trolling,
although not yet the paramount Government in India." ' (Anglo Maratha Relations, 1772-1785, p. 210).
Rise of Hyder AH. Warren Hastings had also to fight against Hyder Ali (1722-82). Not much is known
about the ancestors of Hyder AH. One of his ancestors is said to have migrated to Southern India from
the Punjab. His father was a Nayak in die army of Subedar of Sira. Later on, he became Faujdar of the
Raja of Mysore who granted him the jagir of Budikota. It was at Budikota that Hyder Ali was born in
1721 or 1722. Hyder Ali did not receive any education and also did not accomplish much up to the age of
27. However, after that, he shot into prominence as a military leader. By dint of his military skill and
qualities of leader¬ship, he became the Faujdar of Dindigal in 1755., By misappropriating the revenues
of Dindigal, he managed to raise an independent army for himself. In 1763, he occupied Bednore. With
the booty which fell into his hands, he strengthened his financial position. He also conquered Canara. He
became the undisputed master of the Mysore State widi Seringapatam as its capital. He was able to
build up a strong war-machine within a short time.
There were many factors which were responsible for his unhappy re¬lations with the English East India
Company. In the earlier phase of his career, Hyder Ali had secured valuable aid from the French. In 1760,
a Portuguese bishop had promoted an alliance between him and the French. For his aid against the
English, Count Lally had agreed to pay Hyder Ali Rs. 10,000 per month and also the Forts of Thaigur and
Elvanasore. After the expulsion of the English, Hyder Ali was expected
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
Trichnopoly, Madurai, Tinnevelly, etc. The British force under to ^aV »|oie sent to prevent Hyder Alt
from joining the French was MaJ°!i However, the capture of Villenore by Coote exercised a demora-r°ute
jngUence on Hyder Ali and weakened his alliance with the French. ^H^n Hyder AH was busying in
crushing his opponents in Mysore, the
Hsh did much to discredit him. This was strongly resented by Hyder fr^ When Pondicherry surrendered
to the English in January 1761, «der AH took about 300 French soldiers in his service.
Anodxer factor which strained the relations between Hyder Ali and h British was the hostility between
Mohammed Ali, the Nawab of Car-atic and Hyder Ali. There were many districts in the Carnatic which
were claimed by both. Mohammed Ali allowed British troops to be stationed at Vellore and this was not
approved of by Hyder Ali. Hyder Ali also took into his service Raja Sahib, the son of Chanda Sahib and
eave protection to Mahfuz Khan, brother and rival of Mohammed Ali.
It is true that after the collapse of the French power in Southern India, Hyder Ali tried to patch up with
the British. As a matter of fact, he made an offer of friendship to the Madras authorities and the latter
sent Pourchier to test his sincerity! However, he had to return without meeting Hyder Ali as the time
and place of meeting could not be settled. The real reason seems to have been that the Madras
authori¬ties had a second thought and decided to check the expansionist activities of Hyder Ali. As a
matter of fact, the Madras Government en¬couraged the Nizam to take up arms against Hyder Ali and
offered to give necessary military help for that purpose.. A military alliance was entered into between
the English Company and the Nizam. The Nizam already enjoyed the support of the Marathas and thus a
triple alliance was formed against Hyder Ali. In November, 1767, the Madras Govern¬ment concluded a
treaty with the Nizam by which it agreed to pay him a tribute of Rs. 5 lakhs for the three Northern
Circars. The Modras Gov¬ernment also promised not to acquire the Circar of Guntoor as long as Basalat
Jang lived. The British promised military help to Nizam against his enemies. The Madras Government
was eager to acquire Carnatic and Balaghat which were then held by Hyder Ali and agreed to pay Rs. 7
lakhs to the Nizam for its Diwani. This engagement acknowledged the sovereignty of the Nizam over the
dominions of Hyder Ali. Both the Nizam and the Poona Government were very keen to prey upon the
territories of Hyder Ali and the British Government also agreed to help them.
First Mysore War (1767-69). The British alliance with the Nizam provoked Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore.
With British forces under Col. Smith, the Nizam advanced into Mysore in August 1767. It is true that
Hyder Ali was faced with a very serious situation but he rose to the occasion and was able to win over
the Marathas by promising them a sum of Rs. 23 lakhs. He also managed to win over the Nizam. The
result was that the English were left alone. The British fought well but the opposition of Hyder Ali and
his son Tipu was formidable. Tipu was able to reach near Madras itself and plundered its suburbs. The
Madras authorities became panickly and begged for peace. Hyder Ali virtually dictated the terms of
peace which were concluded on April 4, 1769. The treaty showed that Hyder Ali was both a strategist
and a diplomat. His success was also due to the efficiency and superiority of his vast cavalry which made
it possible for him to campaign on an ex¬tensive scale. The Court of Directors had to admit that the war
had been "very improperly conducted and most disadvantageously concluded"
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
The treaty of 1769 was based on the mutual restitution of conquest* but the fort and the district of
Kurur were to be retained by Hyder Ali There was also a provision for an alliance for mutual aid in case
either party was attacked by a third power. The Madras authorities had to agree to this clause as Hyder
Ali insisted on this. This was advantage, ous to Hyder Ali as he was always in danger of attacks from the
In 1770, Mysore was invaded by Peshwa Madhav Rao. The Madras Government was approached for
help by Hyder Ali against the Peshwa, but it decided to remain neutral. Hyder Ali treated this as a
violation of the terms of the Treaty of 1769. The Madras Government also refused to sup. ply war
material to Hyder Ali. The Bombay Government concluded a Treaty with Hyder Ali which allowed them
trading privileges in Mysore iu exchange for guns, saltpetre, lead, etc. However, that Treaty was
disapprov. ed by the Court of Directors in 1772. But that did not upset Hyder Ali. Bombay Government
also concluded the Treaty of Sufat in March, 1775 by which they committed themselves to support the
claim of Raghoba who was contesting for the Peshwaship. The British were to get Salsette and Bassein.
In spite of all this, Hyder Ali tried to establish friendly re-lations with the British and when ultimately he
failed he was very bitter. He took possession of the Maratha State of Gooti. He took many French¬men
in his service and also secured arms and stores from the French. He also made friends with the Dutch.
Things were very bad in Madras. Lord Pigot, its Governor, was con¬fined by certain members of the
Council and he died in detention in August, 1776. Sir Thomas Rumbold, his successor, was more
interested in making money than looking after the interests of his nation. British relations with Hyder Ali
took a turn for the worse. The British were getting involved in a war with the Poona Government on
behalf of Raghoba. In August 1778, the British attacked Pondicherry and after its occupation, they sent
an expedition against Mahe. Hyder Ali protested as he was getting his military supplies mostly through
Mahe. Hyder Ali sent his troops to defend Mahe but in spite of that Mahe fell in March 1779. This
embittered the relations between Hyder Ali and the British. The Nizam was also not happy with the
Madras Government as they withheld tribute for the northern Circars. It was under these
circum¬stances that the Grand Quadruple Alliance consisting of Hyder Ali, the Nizam, the Poona
Government and Bhonsle of Nagpur was formed against the British.
Second Mysore War (1780-4). Hostilities started in 1780. Bhonsle of Nagpur who was the enemy of the
Poona Government was won over by Warren Hastings and he left the alliance. The Nizam also deserted
Hyder Ali. The Poona Government also left the alliance. The result was that Hyder Ali was left alone to
fight against the British.
During the early phase of the war, the war-machine of Hyder Ali was superior to the British armies. The
army of Hyder Ali burst like an avalanche and swept away many villages and towns. It carried fire and
sword in the Carnatic. It was so near Madras that many of IH residents ran away in panic. The towns of
Porto Novo and Conjeevaram were plundered. The armies led by Col. Baillie and Col. Fletcher were
hacked to pieces. Munro, the Commander-in-Chief, threw his artillery in a tank and retired to Madras.
Hyder Ali occupied Arcot, the capital of Cranatic.
When Sir Eyre Coote took over the supreme command in the South, the situation was critical.
However, things began to improve. Sir Eyre
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
able to hold Hyder Ali and deal with him effectively at Porto Cfi°te. Tuiy 1781. Hyder Ali was forced to
recall Tipu who was besieg-^"^Wandiwash. The battle at Pollilure in August 1781 was a drawn ing | |78i,
Sir Eyre Coote inflicted a crushing defeat to Hyder Ali at ot>e. T Nagapatam and Trincomali were also
captured by the British. ^l0^'te" of these reverses, Hyder Ali continued to fight in a vigorous 1" -r He
was suffering from cancer and he died on December 7,
It cannot be denied that Hyder Ali was a leader of outstanding merit,
ldier endowed with superb strategic insight, an efficient administrator,
3 H'olomat of a high order, a man though unlettered, yet possessing a large
1 Pg 0f commonsense. He rarely lost his balance of mind, whether
^victory or in defeat. He was both a strategist and a diplomat.
After the death of~ Hyder Ali, the war was continued by Tipu. He iccessfully wrested Bednore but failed
to capture Mangalore. The British look fhe offensive and proceeded towards Seringapatam. Both sides
were ick of the war and ultimately the treaty of Mangalore was concluded on MaY 11, 1784. Tipu tried
to show that it was the English Company which had sued for peace. The English Commissioner who
negotiated the peace ireaty remained standing with his head uncovered and with a copy of the treaty on
his outstretched hands for nearly two hours as indicating that they were "using every form of flattery
and supplication to induce compliance". The Vakils of Poona and Hyderabad had also to undergo the
same humiliation.
After the conclusion of the Second Mysore War, the old conflict bet¬
ween the Marathas and Mysore started. Nana Fadnis resumed the tradi¬
tional policy of hostility towaids Mysore. Grant Duff points out that
Nana Fadnis was even eager to intervene in the final stages of the Second
Mysore War to create an impression that Tipu was "a Mahratta depen¬
dent as well as a tributory". It was his jealousy of the growing influence
of Scindia and the rivalry between Holkar and Scindia that kept him in¬
active. However, in 1784, Nana Fadnis 'and the Nizam concluded the
convention of Yadgir to fight against Tipu. The Poona Government was
eager to recover the territory south of the river Krishna ceded to Mysore
by the Maratha-Mysore Treaty of 1780. In the Maratha-Mysore war of
1796, the English remained aloof. However, their sympathies were with
the Marathas as they did not like the State of Mysore to become stable and
powerful. In spite of that, Tipu was successful in his fight against the
Marathas who were forced to accept his sovereignty over the territory
between the Krishna and the Tungabhadra. Tipu took up the title of
Tipu was aware of the British intrigues against him at Poona and Hyderabad and he tried to improve his
position by coming to some un¬derstanding with foreign powers. His efforts to get help from Turkey >nd
France failed.
When Tipu was occupied in the war with the Marathas and the rebe-Jltons of the chiefs in Coorg and
Malabar, he could not think of dis¬cing his relations with the English Company. However, the Rajas of
'ravancore and the Nawab of Carnatic who were the allies of the English,
ere active against him. Martanda Varma, the Raja of Travancore, j.'29-58), was dreaming of unifying
Malabar under his flag. Ram Varma,
'* nephew, who ascended the throne in 1758, was equally ambitious. h \ n8dom was threatened by the
rising power of Mysore and no wonder
e helped the English Company in the Second Mysore War and was re-
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
cognised as an ally of the English Company in the Treaty of Marig^u
In 1788, the English Company supplied the Raja two Battalions of i^
try to be maintained at his expense and stationed on his frontiers^"
security against aggression from Tipu. Finding himself strong and "
cure, the Raja tried to incite the vassals of Mysore in Malabar.
Estimate' of Warren Hastings. It goes to the credit of Warren Ij^ ings that from an ordinary writer of the
Company, he rose to the positj of the Governor-General of Bengal. In spite of the difficulties which k*
had to encounter in the country he was able to accomplish a lot. j should not be forgotten that
whatever he accomplished in India was don! in spite of the opposition in India and the lack of support at
home, t? colleagues in the Council were always ready to outvote him and har*! him in any manner
they could. He had to fight many wars and tW also at a time when he was practically getting no help
from the motW country as the latter was busy in a life and death struggle in North America. All
the European States tried to exploit the situation created |w [ the American War of Independence.
While the Home Government ]Q2 the American colonies, it goes to the credit of Warren Hastings- that
he **. able to consolidate the British position in India.
It is true that he made many mistakes of omission and commissioj and for those mistakes he was
impeached on his return to England. Xhe trial lasted from 1788 to 1795.1 In spite of the inconvenience
and ex. pense to which he was subjected by the impeachment, he was ultimately honourably acquitted.
According to Lord Macaulay, Warren Hastings "dissolved the double government. He transferred the
direction of affairs to the English hands. Out of a fruitful anarchy, he educed at least a rude and
imperfect order. The only quarter in which Britain lost nothing was the quarter in whidi her interests had
been committed to the care of Hastings. In spite of the utmost exertions of both European and Asiatic
enemies, the power of our Company in the East greatly augmented."
In his reply to his impeachment, Warren Hastings declared thus: "The valour of others acquired, I
enlarged and gave shape and conaj-tency to the dominion which you held there; I preserved it; I sent
forth id armies with an effectual but an economic hand, through unknown and hostile regions to the
support of your possessions; to the retrieval of one (Bombay) from degradation and dishonour; and of
the other (Madras) from utter loss and subjection. I maintained the wars which were of your formation
or that of others, not of mine."
Warren Hastings was the oldest of the able men who gave to Great Britain her Indian empire. He was a
versatile genius. He had a limitkn energy and strong determination. He was the first foreign ruler who
succeeded in gaining the confidence of the princes of India.
"Warren Hastings had both the virtues and the unscrupulousnesJ of an empire builder."
Burke took a prominent part in the denunciation of Warren Hast-ings. According to Lord Morley,
"Looking back across the ninety years that divide us from the memorable scene in the Westminster Hall,
w* may say that Burke had more success than at first appeared. If he did not convict the man, he
overthrew a system and stamped its principle* with lasting censure and shame. That Hastings was
acquitted was & material. The lesson of his impeachment had been taught with sufficient' ly impressive
force; the great lesson that Asiatics have rights, and tb* Europeans have obligations."
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
According to Lord Curzon, "1 doubt if in the entire history of public
any nian has been so cruelly persecuted or more persistently tried.
I^'unded Dy vindictive enemies, daily outvoted and insulted in his own
^^ril accused by his colleagues of the meanest of crimes, confronted
^° series of situations that might have daunted the most heroic spirit,
empty treasury and a discontented service, and beset by frequent
^health, Hastings showed a patience, fortitude, a fertility of resource, A a self-control that could only
have proceeded from a character pro-uidly conscious bodi of its own integrity and its power to prevail."
mti* Government of India, Vol. I, p. 152). Again, "Side by side with 'f- deep tenacity of purpose, there
was to be found in his nature a ten-JIV heartedness and generosity which, while it was constantly
imposed ^n by the crowd of blood-suckers, mendicant friends, and impoverish-Xjelatives who infested
him on every side, and while it tempted him !!Letimes m *ts public aspect to repose undue confidence
in quite un¬stable and unworthy persons (witness his unfortunate selection of Major crott as his
Parliamentary Agent in England), rendered him incapable of oarsimony in his own interest, and left him
almost alone among the higher civil servants of that time, in constant need of money, and, when tc
retired, in possession of a fortune which in those days might fairly be regarded as modest and which had
been acquired by honourable means. Even Macaulay pauses in his full-throated declamation to offer a
halting-tribute to Hastings' general uprightness with respect to money."
"There were many other attractive features in the character of the Governor-General. He was almost
the only one in the long list of the British rulers of India who took a real interest in literature; scholarship
and the arts. His. correspondence with the 'Great Cham' which is referred to and in part quoted in
Boswell's Life, is well-known. So is Boswell's appreciation of him as a man the extent of whose abilities
was equal to that of his power, and who, by those who are fortunate enough to know him in private life,
is admired for his literature and taste, and beloved for the candour, moderation and mildness of his
character. Hastings was well-versed in Persian and Arabic literature, and tried to establish a Per¬sian
Professorship at Oxford University. He founded with Sir William Jones the Asiatic Society of Bengal,
instituted the Mohammedan Madrassa or College at Calcutta, and patronised, even if he did not
understand Sanskrit. His library, both in India, where it was constantly replenish¬ed, from England, and
after his return, at Daylesford, testified to the wide &nge of his reading. Like most cultured men of that
day he dabbled in yersification, of a somewhat academic and pedestrian character, whether it took the
form of translation from the classics or of poems of his wife. On the other hand, he was the master of a
nervous and polished literary Jtykf and even the author of 'Junius', no mean authority, admitted that
there was no contending against the pen of Hastings. Macaulay acclaimed to"* as me real founder of
the school of official writing in India. He was ®* friend and patron of painters, as was testified by ,the
many portraits °* him by the foremost artists of the day; arid he encouraged the visits Q India and the
artistic work of Hodges, Zoffuny and Devis." (Ibid., PP- 154-55).
According to Prof. A.M. Davies, "Hastings has always been and will "Ways remain the subject of
controversy. He has suffered from friend T1" foe alike"; from opponents who have used unmeasured
and un-^ferved invective, from admirers who can see nothing but wisdom and Q. Y in his career. The
knowledge which most Englishmen have of r*Ve and Hastings has filtered through the rhetoric of
Macaulay. But *•* admirers of Macaulay's famous essays, with their purple patches like
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
diose which describe the night Clive spent before Plassey and the *, trial of Hastings in Westminster Hall,
must admit that Macaulay , ' a partial andleven a prejudiced view of some of the events, and thoseWK°^ sympathies are with Hastings must often wish that an historian with v pen and powers of
Macaulay would have written in defence of Hasti
"To some extent Clive's work was done once for all. Hastings' t»
is still being- tested, for he laid some of the foundations of our rule^?1
traditions in India. It was the work of a statesman and a scholar and w
labours for research into the past history of Indian literature and religj
were beyond praise."
According to the same writer, "The achievement of Warren HasuV in India is not to be estimated by the
criteria usually applied to empj,; builders—the number of battles won and enemies vanquished, the n^
ber of square miles of territory conquered and annexed, the plunder M the glory amassed. His generals
gained few battles; only the Rohilk and Chait Singh were vanquished; there were no conquests or
trophies w victory; there was no plunder and little glory; all the superficial evident of success were
strikingly lacking. To outward appearances he had done no more than justify his retention of his post
and the trust, reposed in bin by bringing the Company safely through a great crisis with its territorio
intact and its resources unimpaired. Actually, however, he had achieved immeasurably more and to
estimate what that more was we have onh to recall the extent of British power in India at the beginning
of hi administration; and to compare it with what it was at-the end. On the one hand, two weak
footholds on the coast at Madras and Bombay, m disputed but undefined authority over the vast,
chaotic, famine-stridn province of Bengal, a weak alliance with one native State, no friends, DO security,
bankrupt finances, demoralized officers, incompetent leaders. And on the other hand, an empire in
being that had conclusively proved itself to be the most powerful State in India, an empire that was built
on * cure foundations, buttressed with treaties, and alliances, doubly strong because it had gained the
respect and goodwill of no small part of the Indian world, and that only required a continuance of the
same able statesmanship to become the paramount power. The contrast is a fail measure of Hastings'
According to J. S. Cotton, "Indians and Anglo-Indians alike vener¬ate Hastings' name, the former as their
first beneficent administrator, tbt latter the most able and the most enlightened of their own class. If
Clivei sword acquired the Indian empire, it was the brain of Hastings diat pla* ned the system of civil
administration and his genius that saved the empiR in its darkest hour." "Hastings made no conquest,
but his subsidiaF system paved the way for the final overthrow or defeat of every po*" that sought to
hinder the growth of our Eastern empire."
According to another writer, Hastings applied unreservedly die ener^ boldness, tenacity and resource
which enabled him to grapple successfu11: with his enemies. He may be described with justice as the
Indian «'' the Chadiam of the East.
We may conclude with the following words of P.E. Roberts: ' ""' tings was perhaps the greatest
Englishman who ever ruled. A man * with some ethical defect possessed in a super-abundant measure,
the & bile and fertile brain, the tireless energy and the lofty fortitude v*1 distinguishes only the
supreme statesman."
Pitt's India Act (1784). This Act was passed by the-JJritish PajJJ ment in 1784.
of Control. A kind of d
Warren Hastings (1772-85)
It provided for a Board
1 was established from the Home Government. This system coned up to l858' The Pi"8 India Act was chan8ed in 1786 with a wnU t0 giving special powers to Lord
Sir John Macpherson (February 1785-September 1786).
Macpherson, the senior member of
When War-Hastings left India in 1785, Sir
rel1 £Xecutive Council of the Governor-General <• became the Governorr neral of Bengal. During the term of his office, he carried out many forms, with a view to effecting
economies in the expenditure of the
*r mpany. At ln's l*me' Mahadji Scindia was very strong. He got con1 over the Moghul emperor and was able to get from him the provinces
f AS1"3 and Delhi. He demanded Chouth even from the English Com„ny but the same was refused. Macpherson was relieved by Lord
grnwallis in 1786.
Bcveridge, H. Maharaja Nuncomar (183$),
jjowring. Hyder Ali and Sultan Tipu.
Davies. Warren Hastings and Oudh (1939).
Dodwell, H.H. (Ed.). Cambridge History of India, Vol. V.
Jones, M. Warren Hastings in Bengal.
Lyall, A. Sir Alfred. Life of Warren Hastings (1902).
Lyall, A. Rise of the British Dominion in India.
Mill, James. History of British India (1817).
Moon, P. Warren Hastings and British India (1947).
Roberts, P. E.
History of British India.
Sinha, N. K. Haidar Ali (1949).
Stephen, Sir J. The Story of Nuncomar and the Impeachment of Sir Elijah Impey (1905).
Strachey, Sir John. Hastings and the Rohilla War (1892).
Thompson & Garret. Rice and Fulfilment of British Rule in India.
Weitzman, Sophia. Warren Hastings and Philip Francis.
Lord Cornwallis (178&1793). Unlike Warren Hastings, Lord <w : wallis belonged to a high respectable
family of England. Before his a!! pointment as Governor-General of Bengal, he had acted as the
Command er-in-Chief of the British armies in North America in the American ty» of Independence. It was
he who had surrendered at York Town and thereby brought to a close the War of American
Independence, u. accepted the office of the Governor-General with great hesitation. It ^n. for his sake
that the Pitt's India Act was amended in 1786 so that he miri» combine in himself the powers of the
Governor-General and the Co^. mander-in-Chief. He was also given the power to over-rule the members
of his Executive Council. Throughout the period of 7 years when he acted as Governor-General, he
enjoyed the confidence of the Board of Control and the Prime Minister of England. No wonder, he was
able to accomplish a lot. The work of Cornwallis can be discussed under two heads:. foreign policy and
internal reforms.
Foreign Policy. As regards his foreign policy, he was determined to follow a policy of non-intervention
into the affairs of the Indian State as laid down in the Pitt's India Act. It may be pointed out that the Pitfi
India Act contained the following clause: Whereas to pursue schemes of conquest and extension of
dominion in India are measures repugnant to the wish, honour and the policy of this nation, the
Governor-General and his Council were not, without the express authority of the Cowl of Directors or of
the Select Committee, to declare wars or commence hostilities or enter into any treaty for making war,
against any of the country princes or States in India." In pursuance of this policy Cornwallis refused to
help the son of Shah "Alam to recover his throne of Delhi. He gave a stern warning to Mahadji Scindia
against interfering into the affairs of Oudh. However, he could not avoid a war against Sultan Tipu.
Third Mysore War (1790-92). Soon after taking charge. Lord Cornwallis in his letter of November, 1786
to the Court of Directors, anti¬cipated the possibility of a rupture with Tipu because "the ambition and
real inclination of Tipu are so well known, that should, unluckily, any difference arise with the French
nation, we must lay our account that the Carnatic will immediately after become the scene of a
dangerous war." Cornwallis was careful not to give the impression that the English were the aggressors.
He also did not want to expose the English to the risk of a war with Mysore without getting the help of
the Indian States or checking them from joining hands with Tipu. Cornwallis followed a very
questionable policy. In his effort to "conform to the letter of *" Act of Parliament (Pitt's India Act)
enforcing a system of neutrality-Lord Cornwallis violated its spirit, by not only entering into what wa*>
to all intents and purposes, a new treaty but undertaking engagements whicli contemplated the
dismemberment of the territories of an ally an thereby broke faith with him." (Beveridge).
The English had entered into a treaty of alliance with the Ni#™ in 1766 but that had become
ineffective on account of the subsequ*11
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John, Shore
which the English Company made with the rulers of Mysore. ,rc»oeS jn his letter dated July 1, 1789, Lord
Cornwallis stated that the K0W,eVof'l766 was still binding and effective. This implied that the British
■jefflLment did not question the claim of the Nizam to have sovereignty 5°v5(vs0re and dispose of its
territory in whatever manner he liked. This )fl ytually a declaration of war against Mysore. The Raja of
Travancore ""* * to take advantage of British hostility towards Tipu. In 1789, the ^"purchased the towns
and forts of Cranganore and Ayacottah from nutch. These forts were very important for the safety of
Mysore and 'l£ was already negotiating for their purchase. The action of the Raja 1'P oDviously an
unfriendly act. Tipu demanded the surrender of the
*aS on the ground that they belonged to his vassal, the Chief of Cochin. »ver, Lord Cornwallis directed
the Madras Government to support """oaja of Travancore. This made Tipu indignant.
In his effort to win over the other Indian powers against Tipu, Lord rornwalHs sent instructions to Malet,
the English Resident at Poona, '.o persuade the Peshwa to fight against Tipu. Very attractive terms were
offered to the Marathas. They were given the hope of recovering what ihey had lost to Mysore. A treaty
of alliance was signed on Junb, 1, 1790 with the Peshwa. The Nizam signed a treaty with the British on
luly 4» 1790. Both the treaties were defensive alliances against Tipu and provided for an equal share of
conquests. The English Company also conduded defensive alliances with the Raja of Coorg and the Bibi
of Cannanore. It is true that Tipu was aware of the gravity of the situation and he tried to secure French
help, but he failed on account of the Re¬volution in France. He also failed to win over the Nizam and the
Peshwa to his side. He appealed to Cornwallis for peace but that appeal also failed and the Third
Mysore War started.
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
To begin with, things did not go in favour of the English Comn
in spite of the help from the Marathas and the Nizam, in 1790, Comi'i?
himself took the command. He captured Bangalore and defeated y^**
but was .forced to withdraw on account of shortage of supplies. In 1^
Cornwallis captured the hill forts of Tipu and advanced upon Serin
patam. The Marathas*'completely desttoyed the Mysore territory, j--^"
ing his position helpless, Tipu sued for peace and the Treaty of Serih
patam was concluded in 1792. By this treaty, Sultan Tipu had to Jf"
up hall of his territory. He was to pay a war indemnity of S£ croref!S
rupees. He was to surrender two of his -sons as hostages.. The Enjrtjdf
the Nizam and the Marathas divided the acquired territory among them!
COIVM The English got Malabar, Coorg, Dindigul and Baramahal. -jj!"
Marathas r^ot territory on the north-west and Nizam on the north-east «r
Critics point out that Cornwallis could easily depose Sultan Tipu and annex the whole of Mysore. Had he
done so in 1792, no necessity for the fourth Mysore War would have arisen in the time of Lord Wellesta
However, Cornwallis was wise in not doing so. He followed a policy 0j caution. The Marathas and the
Nizam might have betrayed him. Sudi an act would not have been approved by the Court of Directors
and the Board of Control. War with France was imminent and the home au¬thorities were asking for
peace. Cornwallis was not eager to take over the management of the whole of Mysore and so he
deliberately stayed hit hands. Moreover, if Cornwallis had taken away the whole of the territory of
Sultan Tipu, he would have been forced to share the same with the Marathas and the Nizam. No
wonder, Cornwallis wrote thus: "We have effectually crippled our enemy without making our friends too
After the Third Mysore War, Tipu applied himself vigorously to internal administration. By 1794, he was
able to pay the war indemnity and redeem his sons. He reorganized his military forces. He improved the
fortifications of his capital. He encouraged cultivation and indus¬trial pursuits. The result was that
Mysore presented the picture of an efficient, well-managed and prosperous state. He was extremely
cautious in his relations with his neighbours. Nana Fadnavis also adopted a friendly attitude towards
Mysore, and refused to agree to a new treaty proposed by Cornwallis guaranteeing the allies against
aggression from Tipu.
Reforms of Cornwallis. Lord Cornwallis carried out a large number of reforms. Those related to the
services of the Company, the judicial system and the revenue settlement of Bengal.
Reform of Public Services. The servants of the English Company were both inefficient and corrupt. They
spent a lot of their time J" carrying on private trade. They were corrupt because they got very lo*
salaries. Cornwallis was determined to see that the servants of the Corn-pany become honest and
upright. He was able to induce the Directo** to pay good salaries to the servants of the Company. He
reduced tr<j number of officers but increased the salaries of others. He demand*1 whole-time service
from the servants of the Company. Private trade «a> completely prohibited. Cornwallis refused to oblige
those Englishntfn who came to India with chits from the Directors and members of *' Board of Control.
On one occasion, he refused to oblige so great a per' son as Dundas, President of the Board of Control.
While making appointments, he gave the best jobs only to tn , Europeans in general and the Englishmen
in particular. He was convi*»c'|
Lord Comwallis and Sir John Shore
,hat the Indians were unworthy of trust and thev mu Id not be allowed
fill in any but the humblest offices in the government. The exclusion
19 ue Indians from all effective share of the Government of their own
ntry was almost without a parallel. Comwallis treated the T"dians
^'th scorn. He stigmatized the whole nation as unworthy of trust and
wl paule of honourable conduct. The Comwallis system was calculated
1,1 debase rather than uplift the people fallen under the dominion of the
JPjjjpany. He would have got the same amount of loyalty, efficiency and
tightness from the Indian officers as he got from the Europeans and
englishmen if he had given them the same salaries.
Judicial Reforms. Comwallis carried out his judicial reforms in 1787, 1790 and 1793. The reforms made
by him in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa served as model for Madras and Bombay.
The main object of the reforms of 1787 was economy. The number of districts was reduced from 36 to
23 and for each district an Englishman yiho was a covenanted servant of the English Company, was
made the Collector. The latter was not only to collect revenue, but was also to act as a magistrate and
judge. The Collector was required to perform the three dvties separately in three different capacities
and not to combine them and exercise them all at one time. While sitting in the revenue court, he was
not to exercise the powers of a magistrate and vice versa. Appeals were to be taken to the Board of
Revenue at Calcutta from the decisions of the Maal Adalats. The final appeal in Revenue cases was to be
taken to the Governor-General-in-Council.
As regards civil cases, an appeal could be taken to the Sadar Diwani Adalat if the amount involved was
more than Rs. 1,000. Ordinarily the decision of Sadar Diwani Adalat was final. However, if tiie amount
in¬volved was more than Rs. 5,000 an appeal was to be taken to the King in-Council.
Provision was made for the creation of the office of the Registrar. The Collector as a judge of the
Mofussil Diwani Adalat was given the power to forward the cases up to Rs. 200 to the Registrar. The
decision-of the Registrar became valid only when they were countersigned by fl •"" Collector as a judge.
The one great defect of the system of 1787 was the concentratir •» of too many powers in the hands of
the Collector. Those powers we no>. only uncontrollable but in actual practice uncontrolled. The
combin¬ation of the functions of the collector, magistrate and judge in t\ e hands of one person was
against the theory of separation of powers, 'he judi¬ciary could not be independent of the executive.
Comwallis made certain reforms in the criminal justi*- c-i the coun¬try in 1790. The Sadar Nizamat
Adalat was shifted to Cat .utta. It was provided that that court was to meet at least once a week to
tnnsact business. It might meet more than once. It was required to keep ■<• regular record °» the work
done by it. It was given the authority to recommend cases to ^vernor-General-in-Council *or mercy. The
control of the Nawab over Jne Sadar Nizamat Adalat was completely abolished. This work was to °*
done by the Governor-General-in-Council with the he'p of chief Kadi ar»d two Mufties.
. Lord Comwallis provided for the establishment of four courts of ?rcuit. The three provinces of Bengal,
Bihar ami Onssa were divided •nto four divisions and for each of those division? a court of circuit was
Provided. Each circuit court was presided ov-r by two covenanted ^fvants of the English Company. It
was held by the chief Kadi .-and
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
Mufties who were appointed and removed by the Governor-GeneralCouncil on the ground of misconduct or incapacity for the perforaT '""
ot their functions. Each circuit court was required to move in its ^^
ion for the disposal of cases. The decisions of the circuit court wer-^
be executed by the magistrates. In the case of punishment of death ^
perpetual imprisonment, the decision of the circuit court had to be °r
firmed by the Sadar Nizamat Adalat.
The Collector of the district was maae a magistrate. He was »; the duty of apprehending murderers,
robbers, thieves, house-breakers a" other disturbers of peace. If after preliminary enquiry, the Collect
found that there was no prima facie case against the accused, he acquitt \ him. If he found the accused
guilty in a petty case, he convicted hin? But in serious cases, it was his duty either to put the accused in
Faujda jail to stand his trial before the circuit court or let him off on bail HH the time the court of circuit
met at the district headquarters. Th& were certain cases in which the Magistrate was not allowed to let
off tfo prisoners on bail, e.g., murder and robbery.
Cornwallis had found that on account of low salaries the judicial officers were taken from the dregs of
society. They were also tempted to accept bribes. Cornwallis provided for liberal salaries so that men ol
character and ability might join the judicial service. He defended the additional expenditure on the
ground that it was necessary for the ad-ministration of justice.
Other changes were made by Cornwallis in 1793. The Maal Adalati or revenue courts were abolished
and all revenue cases were transferred to the ordinary civil courts known as Diwani Adalats. Provision
was made for the establishment of a court of Diwani Adalat in every district ol the three provinces. Every
such court was to be presided over by a covenanted servant of the Company. At the time of taking
office, the judge was required to take a prescribed oath. Diwani Adalats tried both civil and revenue
cases, but they had nothing to do with criminal case. Ordinarily, cases were to be tried according to
Hindu law or Moham¬medan law. However, if there was no specific provision on any point, the same
was to be disposed of according to justice, equity and good con¬science.
A regulation of the same year made the servants of the Company liable before the courts of justice. It
was provided that the natives of India were to be allowed to bring cases against British subjects in the
Diwani Adalats*-If -the amount involved was not more than Rs. 500. If it was niore than Rs. 500, the suit
had to be filed in the Supreme Court at Calcutta.
Even those cases in which the Government was a party were to * tried by the ordinary civil courts.
Provision was made for four provincial courts of appeals for the tlutj presidencies. Their headquarters
were to be at Calcutta, Murshidap*^ Dacca and Patna. Every provincial court of appeal was to be
preside* over by three covenanted servants of the English Company. These cou^ were given both
original and appellate jurisdiction. Their decisions **J final in cases involving Rs. 1,000 or less. If the
amount was more, appeal could be taken to the Sadar Diwani Adalat.
The Sadar Diwani Adalat was to hear appeals involving more t*1. Rs. 1,000. Up to Rs. 5,000 its
decisions were final. If the amount volved was more, an appeal could be taken to the King-in-Council.
, Sadar Diwani Adalat was also given the power of supervising and con ling the working of the lower
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
provision was made for the appointment of Munsiffs to try petty
involving not more than Rs. 50. The number of Munsiffs was to
j end upon the volume of work. The proceedings of the Munsiffs were
•be submitted to the court of Diwani Adalat for approval. They did
'hfir work honorarily and consequently there were complaints of corrup%a ^d bribery.
In 1793, Cornwallis abolished die court fees which were previously -aid by die litigants. His view was that
arrears of work were due to the Jj'latoriness an(i inefficiency of administration of justice. The
deprived of his magisterial powers. The result was that he was to to only die work of rent collection.
Cornwallis tried to regulate the legal profession. It was provided that lawyers in future were to charge
only moderate fees prescribed by Government. If they violated this law, they were liable to be
disqualified. Formerly, die system of issuing regulations was not systematic and con¬sequently it was
difficult to ascertain die exact law of the country. It was provided diat in future all die regulations issued
in any year were to be printed and put in one volume. This facilitated reference.
Cornwallis deserves high praise for the judicial reforms carried out by him. Although he was criticised for
adding to the expenses of ad¬ministration, he defended the reforms on the ground that those were
absolutely necessary for the efficient administration of justice and the peace and prosperity of die
country. His view was that as the English Company was getting a lot of money from the people of India
in the form of revenue, it was criminal to make economy in the administration of justice. However,
his.system suffered from certain shortcomings. He avoided the appointment of Indians to jobs of
responsibility and position in the judicial hierarchy. Indians were appointed, only Munsiffs. This policy
continued up to the time of Lord William Bentinek, when the same was reversed.
Police Reforms. Formerly, die zamindars exercised police powers. It was their duty to maintain law and
order and arrest the suspected per¬sons. They also commanded die local police forces. The reform of
Cornwallis took away die police powers of the zamindars. He also divid¬ed the districts into small areas
and each of these areas was placed under a Darogha or superintendent under the supervision of a
representative of die Company in die district. The police services were Europeanised with fixed salaries
and functions.
Permanent Settlement of Bengal (1793). Another great achievement of Cornwallis was die permanent
settlement of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. When <n 1765 the English Company secured the Diwani of
Bengal, Bihar ted Orissa, it was found diat the ryot or the cultivator paid a fixed share of die produce of
his land either in cash or in kind to the zamindar. The Jitter was merely die collector of revenue.
However, his office gradually Q*d become hereditary. Thus, die zamindari, whidi was originally con-"let
agency, became something resembling a landed estate. Zcrmindar received the revenue, paid 9/10ths
to Viceroy and l/10di to himself.
e inherited his zamindari, and could sell or give away his office on obtaining permission and could
demand compensation if the State de¬rived him of it. He was responsible for maintaining peace within
his jurisdiction. In 1765, die work of collection of revenue was left in the
*nds of the natives, but in 1769, British supervisors were appointed to pontrol them. Things did not
improve in spite of this change. In 1772,
arren Hastings set up the quinquennial settlement' but die same was
Continued in 1777 on account of the failure of the experiment. The
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
old system of annual settlements was resorted to. In 1784, an Act Parliament directed the Court
of Directors to abandon the annual setri ment and frame permanent rules for the collection of land
revenue. ?
When Lord Cornwallis came to India he found "agriculture and trad decaying, zamindars and ryots
sinking into poverty and money-lend*? the only flourishing class in the community." The Directors of the
Com! pany were also alarmed at the steady deterioration of the revenue colleC. tion. It was found that
annual collection left the zamindars in arreari and did not benefit any class. They recommended a
moderate perrna. nent assessment as more beneficial both to the Government and the people They
condemned the employment of temporary renters and farmers who had no interest either in the State
or in the ryots. They oppressed the latter as much as they could. Cornwallis got these, instructions but
feit that it was not possible to carry them out. Certain changes had already been brought about in
revenue administration with the object of decen¬tralization. The Board of Revenue controlled the
collectors who were in charge of land revenue collections. In 1787 and 1788, annual settlements were
made by the Collectors. In 1789, a decennial settlement was made.
It was found that there were two schools of thought with regard to the revenue settlement. The school
led by James Grant emphasized the fact that the zamindars had no permanent rights whether as
proprietors of the soil or as officials who collected and paid the rent. The State was not bound by any
definite limit in its demands from them. The other school of thought was led by Sir John Shore. Its view
was that the pro-prietary rights in the land belonged to the zamindars and that the State was entitled
only lo a customary revenue from them. For an accurate settle¬ment, the proportion of rent actually
paid and the actual collections and payments made by zamindars and farmers should both be
ascertained. He was in favour of a direct settlement with the zamindars for 10 years. There were other
officials who were in favour of a permanent settlement with the zamindars. Cornwallis was of the
opinion that a decennial settlement would have all the disadvantages of an annual settlement. It would
not give the zamindars sufficient inducement to ensure the clearance of the extensive jungles in the
provinces. Sir John contended that a permanent settlement would result in an unfair distribution of the
assess¬ment particularly when there was no survey. In 1790, the rules for the decennial settlement
were published and it was stated that at the end of that period, the settlement would probably be made
permanent. In accordance with the orders of the Court of Directors, the settlement of Bengal, Bihar and
Orissa was made permanent in March 1793. The settlement was made as high as possible. As a matter
of fact, it was practi¬cally double of what it was in 1765. "It was possible to raise it so high because it
was declared to be final and permanent."
It is to be noted that the permanent settlement was not a hastily devised measure. It did not emanate
solely from Cornwallis. Many of the per¬manent officials recommended such a change. The new
settlement was based on the information acquired during many years of enquiry. It had also the full
support of the home authorities as it was sanctioned by Pitt. Prime Minister of England, Dundas,
President of Board of Control and the Court of Directors.
Provisions. The permanent settlement created a limited proprietary right in the land in the zamindars.
All rights of the State in the nature of Nazrana and permission to sell fees were given up. Magisterial
powers were taken away from zamindars. They were left with no police work' As long as they paid
revenue to the Government in time they were left
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
in their relation with their tenants. If they did not pay the land fl*6 nUCj a part oi their landi was to be
disposed of to recover the land ^venues.
Historians have passed conflicting judgments with regard to the
rtts and dtmerits of permanent settlement. Ace nxling to Marshman,
®? was a bold, brave and wise measure. Under the genial influence of
t\ territorial charter, which for the first time created indefeasible rights
j interests in the soil, population has increased, cultivation has been
» tended and a gradual improvement has become visible in the habits and
rtioiforts of the people." According to R. C. Dutt, "If the prosperity
nd happiness of a nation be the criterion of wisdom and success, Lord Cornwallis's Permanent
Settlement of 1793 is the wisest and most success¬ful measure which the British nation had ever
adopted in India." He further added that the permanent settlement was "the one act of British nation
within the century and a half of their rule in India which has most effectually safeguarded the economic
welfare of the people." On the other hand, Holmes condemned the permanent settlement in these
words: "The permanent settlement was a sad blunder. The interior tenants derived from it no benefit
whatever. The zamindars again and again failed to pay their rent charges, and their estates were sold for
the bene¬fit of the Government." In spite of these judgments, it is desirable to discuss the merits and
demerits of the settlement separately.
Merits. (1) The State was assured of a certain amount of land re¬venue from the people. It was not to
depend upon the results of annual bidding. If a zamindar did not pay the land revenue, the same could
be realised by settling a portion of his land.
,(2) The landlords knew that they had to pay a specific amount of money as land revenue to the
Government. If they put more labour and capital in the land and got more profit out of it, they stood to
gain because Government share was not to increase proportionately. It was absolutely fixed whether
the landlord cultivated their lands more or less. At the time of the settlement, many parts of the land
were covered with jungles and the same were cleared after the settlement.
Cornwallis thought that the permanent settlement of Bengal would play the same part in
creating a loyal class winch the establishment"of the Bank of England had played in the case of William
III and Mary. The zamindars who were made the owners of land could be counted upon to defend the
rule of the English Company against their rivals and opponents. It was found that these very zamindars
were loyal to the British Govern¬ment during the days of the Mutiny. No wonder, Setton Carr observes
that the political benefits of the settlement balanced its economic defects.
The permanent settlement gave popularity and Stability to the British Government and thus
helped to make the province the healthiest and most flourishing in India.
The permanent settlement set free the ablest servants of the Com¬pany for judicial work.
Formerly, they had to waste a lot of their time every year in offering the collection of revenue to the
highest bidder and realising the same amount.
The permanent settlement- avoided the evils of periodical settle¬
ments which, in spite of long intervals, produced economic dislocation,
evasion, concealment of worth and the deliberate throwing of land out
°f cultivation.
(7) It is true that the Government could not increase the land revenue
Lord Comwallis and Sir John Shore
in the future but it gained in an indirect manner. As the people K. came richer, the Government got
money by taxing them in various WaJ"
(8) A permanent land tax is inexpensive, uniform and certain. It j. all the advantages mentioned by
Adam Smith in his Canons of Taxation*
Demerits. (1) The immediate effect of the permanent settlement 0„ the zamindars was disastrous. Many
of them could not realise the lanj revenue from their tenants and consequently could not pay the money
to the Government in time. The result was that their lands were sold.
Contrary to the expectations, the landlords did not take much in,, terest in the development of
their lands. They became merely absentee landlords living in Calcutta or at the district towns on the
income de-rived from the tenants. It has rightly been pointed out that although Comwallis intended to
create a class of English landlords in Bengal, what he actually created was a class of Irish landlords.
The permanent settlement ignored the rights of the tenants. They were left absolutely at the
mercy of the landlords who could oust them at any time. The landlord could charge any amount of
money from the tenants he pleased. It is true that Comwallis had laid down that "the zamindar should
keep a register of his tenants and grant them Pattahi I or leases, specifying the rents they were to pay,
and that in case of any infringement of these rules, the ryot was to seek a remedy in an action against
him in the civil court," but unfortunately the registers were not kept and the Pattahs were rarely given.
The remedy of the civil court was a very expensive one and the poor tenants felt that they could not
take advantage of it. This state of affairs continued till the Government came to the rescue of the
tenants and safeguarded their interests by. passing tenancy legislation.
The Government lost for ever a share of the unearned increment. The deficit was estimated at
Rs. 4£ crores.
Bengal did not possess cadastral records till 189S and consequently
there was expensive litigation between the tenants and the landlords.
Setton Carr sums up his criticism thus: "The permanent settlement somewhat secured the interests of
the zamindars, postponed those of the tenants and permanently sacrificed those of the State."
According to fJL Roberts, "Had the permanent settlement been postponed for another 10 to 20 years,
the capacities of the land would have been better ascertained. Many mistakes and anomalies would
have been avoided, and the reforms brought about by Comwallis himself in the civil service would have
train¬ed up a class of officials far more competent to deal with so va»t a sub¬ject."
According to Baden-Powell, "The permanent settlement disappointed many expectations and produced
several results that were not anticipated." "A very great blunder as well as gross injustice was
committed when * settlement was made with the zamindars alone and the rights of property every bit
as good as theirs were ignored." "He (Comwallis) committed him¬self to a policy which in regard to the
three interested parties—the zamin¬dar, the ryot and the ruling power—assured the welfare of the first,
some¬what postponed the claims of the second and sacrificed the interests of the third." "The
permanent settlement in contrast to the chaotic system which it supplanted, had many fairly obvious
According to Dr. Tara Chand, "The Permanent Settlement deprived the State of a share in the increase of
rent which resulted from the general
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
vement of the economic conditions and handed over the entire un-iflJPr°, jncrement to the zamindars.
In the second place, while the set-ear°nt favoured a handful of landholders, it completely ignored the
inter-tlefl1^ jhat vast mass of the oppressed cultivators, whose resentment and **? tisfaction seemed to
evoke no sympathy. Munro wrote, "It seems ex-^ rdinary that it should ever have been conceived that a
country could (ra° mUch benefited by giving up a share of the public rent to a small
'fee of zamindars or mootadars as
by giving it to ryots, from whom
Jjl rent is derived'."
Cornwallis Completed the Work of Hastings. Dr. Aspinall rightly
pmarks that it is no disparagement of Cornwallis's work to point out that l, Qjmpleted what Hastings
had begun. In 1772, Warren Hastings had
holished the double government of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa which was c.t up in 1765 by Lord Clive. The
judicial and police reforms of Corn-wa]ljs completed that constitutional change. >
Warren Hastings had come to the conclusion that the servants of the Company were not likely to
become honest in their work unless their salaries were increased and their private trade was prohibited.
In 1774, he had prohibited the members of the Supreme Council from engaging in trade and had
increased their remuneration by means of a commission. In 1781, he introduced fixed salaries for the
members of the Committee of Revenue and commission of one per cent of net revenue. Cornwallis was
able to take the reform a step further. He extended the improved Kales of pay and allowances to all the
senior servants. However, he was not in a position to extend the prohibition of trade to all officials.
Warren Hastings had realised the danger of entrusting power into the hands of the Indian officials who
were as a rule corrupt. He had made the Collector the superintendent of the district criminal court. To
substitute English for Indian judges was merely the next step. The appointment by Warren Hastings of
Indian magistrates charged with the supervision of the Mofussil police and with the duty of arresting
and committing for trial did not prove a success. Consequently, these offices were abolished by Warren
Hastings. While doing so, he gave the magisterial powers to the judges of the civil courts.
^ The separation of revenue administration from civil jurisdiction, which was accomplished by
Cornwallis, was foreseen by Warren Hastings who began the change in 1780. The judges whom he
appointed in charge of new civil courts were not at all connected with revenue work. The bifurcation of
functions was only partial because the Collectors were still authorised to decide cases relating to
revenue and consequently the juris¬diction of the civil judge and the Collector was continually clashing.
It js probable that if Warren Hastings had stayed longer in India, he would have remedied the situation
in the same way as Cornwallis did in 1793.
In the matter of substituting English criminal law for Mohammedan
a^. Cornwallis went only a little further than Warren Hastings. -The
atter was of opinion that until the constitution of Bengal "shall have
named the same perfection" as the English, "no conclusion can be drawn
5°).^ English that can be properly applied to the manners and state
this country." The only legislative change made by Warren Hastings
to give very severe punishment to dacoits and their families. In many
7~**' .the Supreme Court intervened- to alter the unsuitable punishments
L!801?0^ by Mohammedan law. Undoubtedly Cornwallis made more
^ klP^tive power than Warren Hastings did. But even he was
had'0"5 in making changes in Mohammedan criminal law. Although he
very strong views regarding the superiority of the criminal law of
Lord cornwallis and Sir John Strote
Great Britain, he did not radically alter the Mohammedan criininai Generally, Cornwallis carried on the
work which Hastings had s» ^
He met with much less interference, criticism and obstruction
predecessor did.
The Code of Civil Procedure of Cornwallis was based on the
codes which Warren Hastings and Sir Elijah Impey had compiled and/*
which James Stephen had a word of praise.
It is for these reasons that it has been stated that "if the foundjuj.
of the civil administration had been laid by Warren Hastings, the 8^?
tore was raised by Lord Cornwallis.'*1 ^^
According to Lord Curzon, Lord Cornwallis was a man with
ordinary abilities but with a sterling character, a great fund of comnW sense and a superb and untiring
devotion to duty—who left a considf. able mark upon the Indian administration. Cornwallis was one of
tW men upon whom Government rely to do their business straightforward efficiently and well. For
twenty years he was the deus ex-machine L whom successive ministries turned to extricate them
from muddles or to place disordered affairs upon a stable basis. Even his failures never counted against
him. The surrender of York Town brought with it no censure, but was followed by other and higher
employments. Twenty years later the Treaty of Amiens which Cornwallis was sent out to negotiate,
proved to be obsolete almost as soon as it had been signed. But no one blamed its author. It was
always felt that Cornwallis had done his best in an honest, capable, commonense way, and that no
lower consideration than the honour of his country had guided his action. Thus, although destitute of
any pretension to genius and with quite mediocre intellectual gifts he filled post after post in the
internal and external services of Britain and was regarded as having comported himself in each with
credit and suc¬cess." (British Government in India, Vol. 1, pp. 16667). Again, "The administration of
Cornwallis, which was prolonged for seven years in spite of his frequently expressed desire to return,
was remarkable for his in¬ternal reforms, in which, with a courage that cannot be over-praised, he set
his face against the jobbery and corruption that still permeated the civil service, carrying the now
forgotten crusade of Clive to its logical conclusion by the grant of decent salaries to the "writers in
return for the prohibition of private trade. The civil and criminal courts were re¬formed, and the
inefficiency in the military services, which had reached the dimensions of a scandal, was severaly taken
in hand. The permanent settlement in Bengal, which is invariably associated with the name of
Corn¬wallis, but which was really the work of his civilian advisers (albeit the best of them. Sir John
Shore, who advocated a decennial term, was unfor¬tunately overrued, is now generally regarded as
having been a mistake, and has happily not been folkwyui in any other province. Perhaps, how-ever,
the most characteristic as d-feo the most creditable, of Cornwall's achievements was the fearless
c'diirage with which he fought against job¬bery in any form, refusing to yield a jot to the shameless
pressure that was brought to bear upon him from the highest Quarters in London, including the Prince
of Wales. Sir John Shore wrote of him: "The honesty of his
(I) Cf. "It must remain the verdict of histdry that Cornwallis merely developed under happier auspices
what Warren Hastings had begun, that in that part of this policy which was his own, he embarked from
the false premises that reform in India meant making it like the England of his ideals: and that he made
serious abiding mistakes from the best of motives i° the world."
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
• les is infl' "*,'e» ne " manly, affable, and goodnatured, of an ex-prin°P jujement. ana" he has a degree
of application to business beyond ^client j ^Qyjj suppose'; and again: 'His situation was uncomfortable
**atJival" he now receives the respect due to his zeal, integrity and inde-g£2fc application.'
"A study 01 Cornwallis's character and a survey of his administra-lIon leave us with •». very pleasant
impression of the service that can be rendered in an orieinl dependency—or, indeed, anywhere—by
transparent "°nesty of purpose, a total absence of self-seeking and unswerving devo-j'°n to duty.
CornwaiMs neither did nor attempted anything brilliant ut he neVer spared himself in making things
better than he found them
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
and in diffusing a general sense of contentment and stability. (Ibid., D
According to Dodwell, "Lord Cornwallis was a public servant who u* held national and not private
traditions. His service was to the CJOW and the people whom he governed, and he thus embodied fitly
the n^ spirit of Indian rule."
Sir John Shore (1793-98). It is true that Lord Cornwallis was oppose to the appointment of a civil servant
of the English Company as the G^, ernor-General of Bengal, but when in 1793 Cornwallis left India he wj,
succeeded by Sir John Shore who was a senior member of the Suprem. Council and was also intimately
connected with him in connection vj^j, the land reform. Durng the term of his office, Sir John Shore
follow^ the policy of neutrality as laid down in the Pitt's India Act. This poliq was carried to such as
extreme point that it lowered the prestige of th* English Company in India. According to Sir John
Malcolm, "It \»j, proved from the events of this administration that no ground of political advantage
could be abandoned without being instantly occupied by ^ enemy; and that to resign influence, was not
merely to resign power, but to allow that power to pass into the hands hostile to the British
Govern¬ment." The most important event of Sir John Shore'-s time was the attack of the Marathas on
the Nizam and the defeat of Nizam in the battle of Kharda in March 1795. The Nizam begged for British
help but the same was refused by Sir John Shore on the ground that such help wai likely t6 entangle the
English Company into the internal affairs of the Indian States. Such a treatment made the Nizam bitter
and he had to submit to humiliating terms of the Marathas. However, the Nizam was able to recover his
position on account of dissensions among the Marathas and on the whole the Nizam did not lose much.
Anyhow, the Nizam was not in a mood to forget and forgive the British betrayal of his cause.
Sir John Shore interfered in the affairs of Oudh. The Nawab died in 1797 and was succeeded by a son of
worthless character. To begin with, Sir John sanctioned die succession. However, where he came to
know that the son was the offspring of a menial servant, he reversed his decision, and set up a brother
of the late Nawab on the throne. He also entered into a treaty with the new Nawab. By the new treaty,
the Eng-lish Company was made responsible for the defence of Oudh. The Nawab was to pay an annual
subsidy of 76 lakhs of rupees. He also gave up the Fort of Allahabad to the English Company. He bound
himself to hold no communication with any foreign State. This treaty was pro¬bably due to the fear of
the attack of Zaman Shah of Kabul who was i» the Punjab at diat time.
In 1795, there occurred a dangerous mutiny of the European office0 of Bengal who threatened to seize
the administration. The situation w* so serious that Sir John Shore was forced to make many
concessions to u^ rebels. On account of his failure to deal with the situation, Sir Job" Shore was called
back in 1798 and was succeeded by Lord Wellesley.
According to Lord Curzon, "It cannot be said that in his five yea** rule Shore left any mark. He was a
typical Bengal civilian of the w*J type, a great revenue expert, an upright, dull, respectable, friendly J"n
of man, hating pomp of any sort, loving peace and economy, very p'0"* declining to work on Sundays
though not attending the services of 01 Church, and ultimately joining die Clapham sect after his
return England. As Major Toone, who had been one of Hastings' A.D-**
Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Shore
.-marked : 'A good man, but as cold as a greyhound's nose.' Shore had xfS\ ot the tastes of a scholar,
being a student of Urdu, Persian and w£bic; he wrote a journal in Latin, kept up his knowledge of Greek
and imposed mediocre verses and translations in the decorous 18th. century ^jj,on. While in India he did
not enjoy good health, and was always rhafing at the absence of his wife and family.
"Shore's strong views about economy had made him a strenuous critic f Hastings' regime, and he was
popularly regarded as a member of the Opposition or Francis's camp, until he was won over by personal
con-•act with Hastings, notably on the return journey of the latter to Eng¬land. This conversion excited
die not too kindly comment of William Hickey, who wrote in his Memoirs : "Mr. John Shore suddenly
and most unaccountably from an inveterate and bitter enemy became that gentle¬man's (i.e., Hastings')
sworn bosom friend." (British Government in India, Vol. I, PP. 171-72).
Aspinall, A. Cornwallis in Bengal (1931).
Dodwell, H.H. Cambridge History of India, Vol. V.
SetonKarr. The Marquis Cornwallis (1898).
LORD WELLESLEY (1798-1805)
Lord Wellesley, "the great Pro-Consul", was appointed the Govern. or General of Bengal at die age of 37.
He was one of the greatest of tu British rulers of India. The only persons who can stand comparison with
him are Lord Clive, Warren Hastings and Lord Dalhousie. In uv matter of actual achievements, he
beat all of them.
Condition of India in 1798," When Lord Wellesley came to India as Governor-General, the condition of
India was very critical. The Nizam was angry because the English Company had not helped him when he
was attacked by the Marathas in the time of Sir John Shore. He was organizing a body of regular troops
under a French officer named Ray-mond. He was not in a mood to come to terms with the English
Com¬pany. The Marathas were also feeling a sense of importance on account of their victory over the
Nizam.. They had huge resources and were controlling practically the whole of Central India. Scindia had
a power¬ful army which was trained and commanded by a Frenchman called Perron. Undoubtedly, the
key positions occupied by the French officers in the Indian States were a source of real danger to the
English Com¬pany. Sultan Tipu had not forgotten the humiliation to which he was subjected by Lord
Cornwallis when he was forced to give up half of his territory, pay a huge war indemnity and also
surrender his two sons as hostages. He was tiie deadly enemy of the English Company and open¬ly so.'
He was carrying on negotiations with the French Governor of Mauritius and Reunion. He had employed
French officers to drill his soldiers and train them. There was the danger of the invasion of Napoleon. He
was already on his way to the East.
Thus, the political situation in the country ^as not an easy one. The English Company had not much of
resources and it was left to the intelligence, bravery and resourcefulness of Lord Wellesley to tackle the
situation in a masterly manner. Within the next 7 years, Lord Wellesley was able to defeat and humble
the enemies of the English Company. Many of them submitted without striking a blow. However, before
he could finish his work, he was forced to resign in 1805.
The one thing to be noted with regard to Lord Wellesley is that when he came to India, he felt that the
policy of non-intervention was not at all practicable. That was due to the political condition in the
country. On account of the absence of a paramount power each State could do whatever it pleased.
There was no guarantee of peace. There was no supreme power to which an aggrieved State could
appeal for help. U°' der the circumstances, Lord Wellesley came to the conclusion that either the English
Company must become the Supreme power in the countrj or quit the country. There was absolutely no
half-way. It was w» this conviction in mind that Lord Wellesley started his work.
Subsidiary System. One of the great master strokes of Lord Wel"^ ley was the application of the
system of subsidiary alliances to a l**? number of Indian States. It was in this way that he was able to
add the resources of die English Company, oust the foreigners from
Lord Wcllesley (1798-1805)
States and make the English Company the arbiter in the affairs of j,idUn^.an states. However, it is wrong
to say that Lord Wellesley was tb« thor of the system of subsidiary alliances.
According to Sir Alfred Lyall, there were four stages in the evolu-com °* l^e SUDs^'ary system. To begin
with, the English Company Prill6*1 "^ witn lendinS a military contingent to help some Indian 'o th^'x^'8
was done by Warren Hastings when he lent British troops «m Nawab of Oudh to fight against the
Rohillas. The second stage h^e ^hen the English Company took the field on its own account. It
eoouUhUally assisted °y the
army of some Indian prince who was not strong
Coo,!? t0 do rfie JOD single-handed. In the third stage, the English Pany asked the ruler of the
State to give money so that troops might
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
be maintained for the defence of the State. Such a treaty was mad
Sir John Shore with the Nawab of Oudh in 1797. The Nawab pnJJz. by
to pay a sum of Rs. 76 lakhs a year. A similar treaty was made with '^
Nizam by. Lord Wellesley.
The English Company was not satisfied with the subsidies pai^ ,
the Indian rulers. In many cases, they were too irregular to be depJ7
ed upon. The result was that the English Company thought of anot?
form of subsidiary system under which an Indian State was made to Ji?
up a part of its territory so that out of its revenues the troops could ^
It is rightly pointed out that the English were not the originat©* of the system of subsidiary alliances.
According to Ranade, "the j^ (of subsidiary system) was in fact a mere reproduction on a more organ: ed
scale of the plan followed by the Maratha leaders a hundred yea. in advance when they secured the
grant of Chauth and Sardeshmu^ from the Imperial authority at Delhi." Some writers give credit to the
French. It is pointed out that it is men like Dupleix who started, the system of giving help to the Indian
rulers for money or other reward. However, it cannot be denied that it was Lord Wellesley who
perfected the system of subsidiary alliances.
Under the subsidiary system, the ruler who entered into a subsidiary alliance, was to give money or
some territory to the English Company for the maintenance of a contingent force. He was also to agree
to deal with foreign States only through the English Company. He was to havt no direct correspondence
or relations with them. If the ruler had any dispute with any other State, he was to make the English
Company his arbitrator. He was to turn out from his State all non-English European! whether they were
employed in the army or civil administration. The English Company was to undertake to defend that
State from external attack or internal trouble. It is clear that the subsidiary State surrender¬ed its
political independence in return for British protection.
Merits of the System. (1) It cannot be dented that the subsidiary system added to the resources of the
English Company and it was partly with the help of these resources that the English Company was ablew
establish itself as the paramount power in the country. The Indian States entering into subsidiary
alliances gave money or territories out of whose revenue troops could be maintained by the English
Company-Their troops were always at the beck and call of the English Company The result was that
although outwardly the troops were maintained witb the money of the Indian States for their defence,
actually they added to the resources of the English Company. It is well known that the Nizam entered
into a subsidiary alliance with the English in the time of Welle*" ley. With the money got from him, an
army was maintained and ptf under the charge of Sir Arthur Wellesley. That army was used in vanou1
campaigns in which Lord Wellesley was involved.
The system of subsidiary alliances enabled the English Compaq
to throw forward their military frontier in advance of theii politic*1
frontier. Although the English Company was not burdened with th«
responsibilifv of the administration of the States joining the subsidiary sy* j
tern, its influence was enhanced.
The evils- of war were kept at a distance from the territories *
the English Company, The territories under the English Company **
not suffer because the battles were fought in most case* in the territori*
of the States joining the subsidiary alliance.
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
/A) The system of subsidiary alliance did not arouse the jealousy of
5 European nations. The reason was that outwardly the indepen°.,~ nf the States was maintained.
dence ut-
/5) The English Company was able to exclude the influence of the nch horn, the Indian States.
Whenever a State entered into a sub-<Tarv alliance, the ruler had to drive out all Europeans who were
not Jnglishmen.
Demerits of the System. (1) The one great demerit of the system was hat the amount of money
demanded from the rulers of the Indian States was out of all proportion to their resources. The result
was that the rulers of the States paid the money to the Company even at the expense r tjie welfare of
their people. All kinds of methods were adopted to collect the money so that the English Company
might not have an excuse to demand territory from that State. However, in certain cases even when ^e
subsidy was paid regularly, the English Company forced the ruler to hand over certain territory for the
maintenance of the army. This was done by Wellesley when he forced the Nawab of Oudh to give
Gorakh-pur, Rohilkhand and the Doab for the maintenance of troops by the Company.
(2) The subsidiary system resulted in the internal decay pro¬tected States.1 It destroyed the initiative of
the ruling princes. It made them dependent on the English Company. The result was that the Indian
princes led lives of vice and corruption on account of the assurance that the English Company was
always there to help them in times of trouble. The people of the States were deprived of the natural
remedy of revolution. They had no chance of success even if they dared to revolt against their corrupt
(3) The Court of Directors did not approve of the subsidiary system because it created jealousy among
the Indian States against the English Company. Moreover, the Directors were also opposed to the policy
of annexing territories.
On the whole, the system of subsidiary alliances helped the English Company to tide over its difficulties
and emerge as a great power in the country.
Fourth Mysore War (1799). It has already been pointed out that Sultan Tipu had not forgotten the
humiliating treatment which had been meted out to him by Cornwallis. He was determined to have his
revenge. He sent his emissaries to Kabul, Constantinople, Arabia and Mauritius. The Sultan planted the
tree of liberty at Seringapatam. He was elected a member of the Jacobin Club of France. He tried to
correspond with Napoleon who was in Egypt at that time. French generals were drilling bis forces. The
situation was serious and Lord Wellesley at once made up his mind to deal with it with a firm hand.
Before taking action against Tipu, Wellesley tried to win over the Nizam and the Marathas and
succeeded so far as the Nizam was concern¬ed. The Nizam entered into a subsidiary alliance with the
English Com¬pany in September 1798. He agreed to make a payment for the main¬tenance of the
contingent force. He agreed to turn out the officers of other European nations. The French army of the
Nizam was disbanded.
1. According to Thomas Munro, "Wherever subsidiary system is in¬troduced, the country will soon bear
the marks* of it in decaying villages and decreasing population."
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
Having got the support of the ■ Nizam on his side, Lord Welle&i demanded absolute submission from
Sultan Tipu. As the latter did «' carry out the command, war was declared. The main army was und°'
General Harris and he proceeded towards Mysore. Arthur Wellesi,er the younger brother of the
Governor-General and later known as the jw^ of Wellington, was incharge of the Nizam's contingent. A
force fro e Bombay also marched towards Mysore. The armies carried everythine before them and
reached Seringapatam. Sultan Tipu refused to accem the humiliating terms offered to him and died
fighting in the rampafL of Seringapatam. This was in May 1799. After the victory, Wellesiev annexed
large and important territories which included Kanara, Coimbatorl and Seringapatam. Mysore was
surrounded on all sides by British terri. tory. The Nizam was given some territory as a reward for the
help givc« by him. Certain territories were offered to the Marathas also on certain conditions which they
refused to accept. A child of the Hindu family who had been turned out by Haidar Ali was placed once
again on the throne of Mysore.
Many critics have condemned the Fourth Mysore War as unnecessary and unjustified. It is pointed out
that the French danger was needlessly magnified by Wellesley. There is a lot of truth in this criticism.
Wellesley was a full-blooded imperialist to whom Tipu was a formidable hurdle in the expansion of the
British empire in Southern India and consequently the liquidation of Tipu was a top priority in his
political calculation. Wellesley knew that with the disappearance of Tipu from the political scene, the
steamroller of British imperialism would be able to crush very easily any opposition from the Marathas.
The Nizam was too weak a power to create any difficulty. Wellesley considered Tipu as the real enemy
of the British and hence took action against him. Otherwise, there was no moral justification for the war.
It cannot be denied that the Fourth Mysore War placed on the throne of Mysore a safe and dependable
vassal who was shorn of former prestige and glory. The British became the strongest power in Southern
India. They had no fear of rival combinations. The capture of Seringa¬patam was an event of great
importance after Plassey and Buxar.
Character of Tipu. It is wrong to say that Sultan Tipu was a savage, barbarous and cruel fanatic. He was
an industrious ruler who himself attended to every branch of administration. He was not cruel by
nature. He was cruel only towards his enemies and he hated the English from the very core of his heart.
He could never reconcile himself to co-operate with the English Company. He fought against the British
tooth and nail and died fighting, but could not think of coming to a compromise with them. He was
inclined towards the French and his preference for them continued all his life.
The English hated him and dreaded him. According to Kirkpatrik.
Sultan Tipu was "the cruel and relentless enemy the oppressive ana
unjust ruler and what not." According to Wilks, Haidar was seldom
1. It is pointed out that before starting the war. Lord Wellesley made full preparations. He personally
went to Madras towards the em of 1798 to direct the political and military arrangements. The Madrf*
Army of 20,000 men under General Harris was joined by 16,000 troopj from Hyderabad under Arthur
Wellesley. General Stuart commanded the Bombay force of more than 6,000 men and it assembled in
Malabar-Another large anny commanded by Col. Reed and. Brown marched fro# Trichinopoly.
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
and Tipu seldom right. Unlimited persecution united in detes-wrong ^.s ruje every Hindu in his
dominion. He was barbarous where tation ^^ v-ce an(j jn(juigent where it was virtue. If he had qualities
seVeJi1 for empire they were strangely equivocal. There is a Mysore pro-fi'h jhat "Haidar was born to
create an Empire, Tipu to lose one."l
However, there are other writers who have paid tributes to the in-nvence and other qualities of head
and heart of Sultan Tipu. Ac-rdiOK to Mill, "As a domestic ruler, he sustains an advantageous com-^rison
with the greatest princes of the East." According to Moor, ^When a person travelling through a strange
country finds it well culti-. J populous with industrious inhabitants, cities newly founded, com-V erce'
extending, towns increasing, and everything flourishing so as to •ndicate happiness, he will naturally
conclude it to be under a form of lovernment congenial to the minds of the people. This is a picture of
Tipu's country, and this is our conclusion respecting its government." Major Dirom remarked thus: "His
country was found everywhere full of inhabitants, and apparently cultivated to the utmost extent to
which the joil was capable; while the discipline and fidelity of his troops in the field, until their last
overthrow, were testimonies equally strange of the excellent regulations which existed in his army. His
government, though jtrict and arbitrary, was despotism of a politic and able sovereign."
There is not much to condemn the character of Sultan Tipu. His misfortune was that he was pitted
against the British Government which had endless resources. He could not find anybody to help him in
his hour of difficulty. While the English were able to win over the Marathas and the Nizam on the
occasion of the third Mysore War and the Nizam in the fourth Mysore War, Tipu had to fight alone. The
French on whom he depended failed him completely.
Tanjore, Surat and Carnatic. Lord Wellesley had to deal with Tanjore, Surat and Carnatic. In October
1799, Wellesley entered into a subsidiary treaty with the Raja of Tanjore. The Raja practically gave up
the administration into the hands of the English Company in lieu of the payment of £40,000 a year. In
the case of Surat, Wellesley abolished the double government, granted a pension to the Nawab and
took over the supreme control of the country into his own hands. As regards Carnatic, its government
was rotten and scandalous. It was alleged that the Nawab of Carnatic and his son had entered into
correspondence with Sultan Tipu. Although the evidence was not conclusive, Wellesley took over the
civil and military government of Carnatic in July 1801, when the Nawab died. The Nawab was allowed to
retain his title and he was to be paid 20 per cent of the revenue of his State.
Oudh. Wellesley's treatment of Oudh was altogether high-handed. The-Nawab of Oudh was asked to
disband a part of his army and receive a bigger subsidiary force. The Nawab resisted and even expressed
his willingness to abdicate. When Wellesley showed his readiness to accept Jbe offer of abdication, the
Nawab withdrew the offer. He declared that he was prepared to abdicate provided his sen was allowed
to succeed him. *he indignation of Wellesley knew no bouna* ?nd he was disgusted with the duplicity
and insincerity of the Nawab. Wellesley prepared a new draft treaty by which the size of the contingent
force vas to be increased and •be subsidy was increased to \\ million sterling. Wellesley did not care
L "-^uc contrast in character and policy between father and son
^Jjfr s why Haidar Ali was successful in found ne a kingdom and Timi
^ntrived to lose it."
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
at all for the protests of the Nawab. The result was that the Nawab »,v
However, in spite of this, Wellesley made new demands on th_ Nawab. Although the Nawab had paid
his subsidies regularly, Wellesfe! ■demanded and got the surrender of Rohilkhand and the southern
district! between the Ganges and the Jumna. All this amounted to about one-half of his dominions.
Naturally, the Nawab resented. Sir Alfred Lyall $*h that Wellesley "subordinated the feelings and
interests of his ally £ paramount considerations of British policy in a manner diat showed vert little
patience, forbearance or generosity. The only justification for such a policy was expediency."
Steps against the French Danger. Wellesley also took certain steps to meet the French menace. He was
in favour of an expedition against Mauritius but the English Admiral refused to co-operate and the
scheme had to be given up. He urged the ministry at home to capture Ceylon and Batvia from the Dutch,
but failed to secure their assent. He sent Indian troops to Egypt to co-operate in the expulsion of the
French fr^m that country. Wellesley also sent John Malcolm to Persia to counteract the French and
Russian advance in that direction.
Second Maratha War (1802-4). The Maratha State was not a uniBed State. It was merely a confederacy.
The Peshwa was weak and not in a position to control and direct the other Maratha chiefs. The
important Maratha chiefs were Srindhia, Holkar, Gaikwad and Bhonsla. The Marathas were not very
strong on account of the mutual jealousies of the Maratha chiefs.
In March 1800, Nana Fadnavis died at Poona and with him departed "all the wisdom and moderation of
the Maratha government." Both Scindhia and Holkar tried to establish their control over the Peshwa and
started fighting with each other. The Peshwa submitted to the con¬trol of Scindhia but Holkar would not
tolerate this. He attacked and defeated Scindhia and tried to establish his control over the Peshwa. This
was too much for the Peshwa who ran away to Bassein to secure help from the English Company. It was
in the circumstances that the Treaty of Bassein was signed on 31st December 1802. Both the Peshwa
and the English agreed that the friends and enemies of the one should be treated as the friends and
enemies of the other. The British were to protect the territory of Peshwa as their own. For that purpose,
a subsidiary force of not less than 6,000 regular infantry with the usual proportion of field artillery was
to be permanently stationed in die territory of the Peshwa. For the expenses of that force, the Peshwa
was to give to the British dis¬tricts yielding. Rs. 26 lakhs a year. The Peshwa was not to entertain in his
service any European hostile to the British. In the case of a dispute arising with die Nizam, die Peshwa
was to accept British arbitration. The Peshwa was to respect the treaty of friendship contracted by the
Gaikwad with the British and accept British arbitration in the case of a dispute The British and die
Peshwa were to give each other more military help whenever necessary. The Peshwa bound himself to
negotiate in no hostilities widi odier States widiout a previous consultation with the British Government.
As soon as the treaty was signed the British took the Peshwa to Poona and put him on his throne in May
1803. Holkar retired.
A lot 6f importance has been attached to the treaty of Bassein. ft has been regarded as one of the
important landmarks of British dominion in India. The English Company was able to bring the head of
the Marathas under its control. It must have been understood that such a state of affairs would not be
acceptable to the other Maratha chiefs. Those
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
ntered into the treaty must have known that war was inevitable. *k° In? to Arthur Wellesley, the treaty
of Bassein was made "with a \ccoTa" l°
The expected happened.
The Maratha chiefs gave expression to
- feelings of resentment and anger. Scindhia and Bhonsla at once l^eJ Kjned. Gaekwad and Holkar stood
apart. Scindhia and Bhonsla attack-'"^but they met with stiff resistance at the hands of the British
troops. ?il important battles were fought at Assaye, Aragaon and Laswari. The
wer of both Scindhia and Bhonsla was smashed and they both entered fHio separate treaties.
The treaty of Deogaon was made with the Raja of Berar and that r Surji Arjangaon was made with
Scindhia. By the treaty of Deogaon, Bhonsla gave Cuttack to the English and accepted a subsidiary
alliance. B« die ti)eaty of Surji Arjangaon, Scindhia accepted a subsidiary alliance and surrendered
Broach, Ahmednagar and the territory between the Ganges and the Jamuna including Agra ami Delhi
War with Holkar. Holkar had his differences with Scindhia and consequently did not Join hands with him
when the latter was fighting against the British. .But when Scindhia and Bhonsla were defeated, Holkar
made up his mind to continue the fight. He attacked die territor-' ies of die Rajputs and demanded
Chauth from the English Company. As was to be expected, Wellesley rejected those demands and war
was declared. Holkar forced Colonel Monson to retreat and inflicted upon him a crushing defeat in
Rajputana. The Raja of Bharatpur defied British authority. He also joined Holkar in an attack on Delhi,
but their attempt failed. Later on, Holkar himself was defeated. The efforts of Lake to conquer Bharatpur
failed and he suffered heavy losses. Lake made peace wiui die Raja of Bharatpur. When such was the
condition, Lord Wellesley was called back by die Home Government which was tired of his aggres¬sive
and expensive wars.
Estimate of Wellesley. Lord Wellesley was one of the greatest of die Governors-General of the English
Company. He has rightly been called a great pro-consul. One cannot help recalling to one's mind the
great work done by him. In 1798, die position of the English Company was precarious. By 1805,
Wellesley had foiled all the designs of the French, defeated and killed Tipu and humbled die Marathas.
Had he been given a little more time, he would have completely crushed the resistance of Holkar.
Dr. V. A. Smith gives his estimate of Wellesley in these words: "The Marquess of Wellesley is
undoubtedly entitled to a place in the front rank of the Governors-General by the side of Warren
Hastings, Marques; °f Hastings and Lord Dalhousie. Some audiors would award him the first place, but in
my judgment that honour belongs to Warren Hastings. Lord Wellesley, like Lords Lytton and Dufferin in
later times, looked upon the affairs of India as seen by a British nobleman and politician from a Foreign
Office point of view. He was a statesman rather than an administrator, concerned chiefly with matters
of high policy and little in-dined to examine closely the details of departmental administration. His policy
was directed to two main objects: The first was the elevation of the British Government to the position
of paramount power in India; or, to use his stately words, 'to establishing a comprehensive system of
alliance and political relation over every region of Hindustan and the °cccan.' The second object was die
full utilisation of Indian strength 80 that it might play a proper part in resistance to the menace of
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
world-wide ambition, which avowedly aimed at the overthrow of Brii'i
power in' the whole of India."
According to Lord Curzon, "There hardly exists in the gallery ^ British celebrities a man upon
whose character and achievements more 0 posite verdicts have been passed, or whose career more
fairly justje£ such a clash of opinion. One class of writers has seen in Wellesley Jj courageous and
farsighted architect of the empire, who carried out anj expanded the great work of Warren Hastings
and reared the central edihV, lofty and strong, of British dominion in the East. The opposite school
regards him, if not as the 'brilliant incapacity' of Croker, at any rate at embodiment of vanity in high
places, the 'Sujtanised Englishmen' 0t machintosh, who, by an excess of arrogance and self-esteem
failed in India as later in England, to attain the goal which his self-confident ambition had marked out
for him. The truth does not lie midway between these extremes. It is to be found in both of them.
Wellesley was at the same time both great and small, a man of noble conceptions and petty conceits, a
prescient builder of empire and a rather laughable person. On the Indian side of his career the
balance is, however, decidedly in his favour; and if his letters had not been published, which reveal him
in his mo$t petulant as well as in his most majestic moods, the credit balance would probably have been
even larger." (British Government in India, Vol. I p. 173). Again, "Many of Wellesley's enterprises in
India, apart from the Mysore and other campaigns, which added so much both to the glory and the
territory of the empire, and which incidentally laid the found¬ations of his younger brother's fame,
were characterised both by wisdom and imagination. But there was always a flavour of selfadvertisement about them, and they were as a rule too expensive, particularly in a country like
India which is liable to such sharp oscillations of policy to be sure of a prolonged existence. These
remarks apply to his project for a College of Fort William for the education of the young European
cadeis, which was first vetoed by the Directors and then only sanctioned in a very modified form, and to
his schemes for the encouragement of agriculture and horticulture and the study of the flora and fauna
of India (which led to the institution of Gardens and Menagerie at Barrackpore).
"But, unquestionably in all that he did or planned in India Wellesley was actuated by the highest sense
of public and personal duty, always operating, however, as a gracious dispensation from a benign
Providence. His administration was conscientious, laborious and upright, and was untouched by any ot
those public scandals that had disfigured the reign of some of his predecessors. Even his pomp and show
were dicated by the desire to full justice to a great station and a supreme responsibility" (Ibid., p. 175).
According to Warren Hastings, "Lord Wellesley has constructed a political system of vast strength and
extent, but of a weight which will require that it should be continually upheld by an arm as strong as his:
but that if they nominate a successor to him, of abilities much inferior to him, and of an activity of mind
not equal to his, the whole structure will fall to pieces and all that we formerly possessed be lost in the
same ruin." Again, "The Governor-General has committed the heinous crime of using expressions of
Ridicule and Contempt about the Company a! his table and the words have been carried home. If I were
in his con¬fidence, I would tell him that civility costs' little."
According to Lord Holland, "He (Wellesley) had more genius th*" prudence, more spirit than principle,
and manifestly despised his colleague5 as much as they dread him. Unlike most English
politicians, -he ***
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
a statesman than a man of business, and more capable of doing &1 ordinary things well, than
conducting ordinary transactions with safety CXtloropriety-" Again, "Yet there was a smack, a fancy of
greatness in °ii he a^; and though in his speedies, his manners and his actions he very open to ridicule,
those who smiled and even laughed could not Jespise him."
According to Alfred Lyall, Wellesley "crushed in a single brief mpaign the Sultan of Mysore; he disarmed
and disbanded the formid-hle corps d'armes of fourteen thousand sepoys under French officers that a
maintained by the Nizam; he took possession of the Carnatic, annexed half the dominions of the Oudh
vizier, forced all the great military States 'nto subjection or subsidiary alliance, and by completely
breaking down the power of the Maratha confederacy he removed the last important obstacle to the
accomplishment of our undisputed supremacy.
"We may regard with just admiration the high qualities shown by the Governor-General in the
prosecution of this magnificent career, his rapid apprehension of a complicated political situation, and
the vigour and address with which he carried out not only military operations and diplomatic strokes,
but also the reforms of internal administration, and the organization of government in the ceded or
conquered provinces. No man was ever a better subject for panegyric; nor is it worthwhile to scan too
closely, at this distance of time, the defects of a great public servant by whose strenuous qualities the
nation has very largely profited. It is essential, however, to lay stress, for historical purposes, on the
peculiar combination of circumstances which gave scope and encouragement to Lord Wellesley's ardent
and masterful statesmanship, and which enabled him to treat those who opposed him or criticized him
with the supreme con¬tempt that his home correspondence inability discloses. He had left England and
reached India in the darkest hour of the fierce struggle bet¬ween the French and English nations, when
Bonaparte's star was in the ascendant over Europe, when he was invading Egypt and meditating Asiatic
conquests, and when at home a powerful Tory Ministry was govern¬ing by measures that would in these
days be denounced as the most arbitrary coercion. At such a conjuncture there was little time or
inclin¬ation to look narrowly into Wellesley's declarations that the intrigues of the French in India and
the incapacity or disaffection of the native rulers reduced him to the necessity of dethroning or
disarming them, and that for our rule to be secure it must be paramount. As a matter of fact, he was
applauded and supported in measures many times more high-handed and dictatorial than those for
which Hastings had been impeached a dozen years earlier. During that interval the temper of the English
Parliament had so entirely changed, that he could afford to ride roughshod over all opposition in India,
and to regard the pacific Directors of the East India Company as a 'pack of narrow-minded old
To quote Lyall again, "The avowed object of Lord Wellesley had been to enforce peace throughout India,
and to provide for the permanent security of the British possessions by imposing upon every native
State the authoritative superiority of the British Government, binding them down forcibly or through
friendly engagement to subordinate relations with a paramount power, and effectively forestalling any
future attempts to chal¬lenge our exercise of arbitration or control. In short, whereas up to his time the
British Government had usually dealt with all States in India upon a footing of at least nominal political
equality, Lord Wellesley re¬vived and proclaimed the imperial principle of political supremacy. All "is
views and measures pointed -towards the reconstruction of another era-P,fe in India, which he rightly
believed to be the natural outcome of our
Lord WellesUy (1798-1805)
position in the country, and the only guarantee cf its lasting consolidate It must be acknowledged that
Wellesley's trenchant operations onk celerated the sure and irresistible consequences of establishing a
sL^ civilized government among the native States that had risen upon the ru^ of the Moghul empire; for
by swift means or slow, by fair means or fa!? ble, the British dominion was certain to expand, and the
armed opr^* tion of its rivals could not fail to be beaten down at each successive^.! lision with a
growing European power."
Lord Cornwallis (1805). Lord Cornwallis was sent to India for (k secoud time with the object of undoing
the mischief which Lord WellesU was considered to have done. He came to India with the determination
to revert to the policy of non-intervention. He tried to end the hostilities with Holkar and pacify
Scindhia. He* decided to restore Gwalior and Gohud to Scindhia. He also decided to give up all territory
west of the Jamuna and withdraw the protection of the English Company from the Rajput States.
However, Cornwallis could not carry out his policy as he died in October, 1805. He was in India for a
few months only.
Sir George Barlow (1805-7). When Lord Cornwallis died in 1805, Sir George Barlow, the senior member
of the Governor-General's Couij! til, was appointed the'Governor-General. Like a typical civil servant, Sir
George Barlow strictly followed the policy of non-intervention. He gave back Gwalior and Gohud to
Scindhia. He withdrew British protection trom the Rajputs. He also agreed to fix the Chambal river as the
boundary line between Stindhia's territory and the possessions of the English Com¬pany. He also
offered very advantageous terms to Holkar although his position had become very weak on account of
the action of Lord Lake. He was asked to enter into a subsidiary alliance.
However, Sir George Barlow forced the Nizam to abide by the tenm of the subsidiary alliance and
refused to allow him to make any alteration. The directors of the English Company asked Sir George
Barlow to with¬draw from the treaty of Bassein and allow the Peshwa to resume his old position.
However, he resisted the orders of the Directors and the treaty of Bassein continued.
Another event of Sir George Barlow's tenure of office was the mutiny of the sepoys at Vellore. Certain
orders had been passed demanding the putting on of certain kinds of military uniforms. New regulations
also prescribed the fashion of wearing the hair. The people considered it to be an interference -intq
their religious affairs. British officers were massacred. Lord William Bentinck, the Governor of Madras,
could not handle the situation satisfactorily and was consequently recalled.
Lord Minto (1807-13). Lord Minto succeeded Sir George Barlow in 1807. Before coming to India as
Governor-General', Minto was the Presi¬dent of Board of Control. He came to India with the firm
conviction that the policy of non-intervention was in the best interests of the English Company.
However, he had to modify his 'bolicy in certain cases.
In 1809, a Pathan chief called Amir Khan invaded Berar and he had with him 40,000 horsemen and more
than 20,000 Pindaris. The British Government had no obligation, moral or legal, to help Berar be¬cause
the Raja had refused to enter into a subsidiary alliance with the Company. In spite of this Lord Minto
intervened to put an end to the anarchy in the country. Amir Khan was defeated and turned out fro31
Berar and thus peace was maintained. In 1809, Lord Minto entered in'0 the Treaty of Amritsar with
Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Sir Charles Metcatfo played the most important part in this connection. The
Sikh territory
Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)
be on the other side of the Sutlej. This treaty was observed by **h°ihe parties £or S0 lonS veare"°^ hn Malcolm was sent by Lord Wellesley to Tehran on account of
•deal position. The Home Government also sent Sir Harford Jone?
tf* ?*the same job. The Indian Government accepted the treaty entered
f° bv the envoy of the Crown.
jute 7 .....
pipkins tone was sent to Kabul on a similar mission. However, he
Shah Shuja, the King of Afghanistan, at Peshawar. He agreed to
II1*Lse - the French and the Persians if they attacked India. However,
"PP^jch came out of it because Shah Shuja was himself turned out from
fa country.
Lord Minto took up the offensive against the French. He sent a
n-val expedition against the French colonies of Bourbon and Mauritius.
These islands were captured. Another expedition was sent to Java.
In 1813, the Charter of the English East India Company was renewed fa 20 years. The same year Lord
Minto was succeeded by Lord Hastings.
According to Lord Curzon, "Lord Minto was one of the class of Governors-General who leave no
particular mark on history and cease to be remembered either for good or ill. Coming out to pursue die
policy of peaceful isolation which had been unsuccessfully practised by his im-joedi'ate predecessors, he
soon found himself driven into courses which even Wellesley would have approved." (British
Government in India,
Ration, W.H. Marquess Wellesley (1897).
Malcolm, Sir John. Political History of India from 1784 to 1823 (1826).
Minto. Lord Minto in India (1880).
Mohibbul Hasain Khan. History of Tipu Sultan (1952).
Roberts, P.E. India under Wellesley (1929).
Tonres, W.M. Marquess WeBedey (1850).
Lord Hastings (181S-23). Lord Hastings or Earl of Moira was an. pointed the Governor-General of Bengal
in 1813 and he occupied that exalted office for a decade. He completed the work which was started' by
Warren Hastings and continued by Lord Wellesley. He came to India with a determination to follow a
policy of non-intervention into the affairs of the country, but later on felt that the situation of the
country was such that it was not possible to follow that policy. There were danger from many quarters
and only a policy of intervention could suit.
War with Nepal (1814-16). Lord Hastings had first of all to deal with Nepal. This country was inhabited
by the Gorkhas who were very hardy warriors. They had grown in strength by slow degrees and
established their control over the whole of the hilly region from the frontier of Bhutan in the east to the
Sutlej on the west. The Gorkhas were determined to extend their territory over the plains and that could
be done only at the cost of territory of the English East India Company.
The non-intervention policy of some of the Governors-General of Bengal encouraged them to attack and
occupy certain villages on the British side of the frontier. The climax was reached when the Gorkhas
occupied the districts of Butwal and Sheoraj. As the Marathas refused to restore them even when a
demand was made on them, war had to be declared in 1814.
All military strategists1 agree on the point that Nepal is a very difficult country from the military point of
view. It is true that elaborate plans were prepared in advance, but most of them were ill-executed. The
fight¬ing qualities of the Gorkhas also made victory over them a difficult task. General Gillespie who had
fought heroically in Java, was defeated and killed by the Gorkhas. Three more generals were defeated.
However, things improved under the command of Ochterloney. The English were able to occupy Almora.
Amar Singh, the Gorkha leader, was defeated and surrendered. Thereafter the Treaty of Sagauli was
signed in Mardi 1816.
By the treaty, the Gorkhas gave up most of their claims in the Tarai along their southern border. The
provinces of Garhwal and Kumaon were also surrendered and the English thus got the site of Simla. The
north-western frontier of the English company was carried right up to the mountains. The Gorkhas
were to accept a resident in their capital-
The importance of the Treaty of Sagauli cannot be over-emphasized. The friendship established
between the two countries in 1816 has continu¬ed since then. The Gorkha soldiers have been welcomed
in the Indian army. They are employed in very large numbers in many other jobs "T the Indians. The
treaty of 1816 thus established an abiding friendship between India and Nepal.
1. Cf., "Lord Hastings conceived and carried through the greates strategical operation ever undertaken
in India."
Peshwa Baji Rao I, they were attached to the Maratha army as irregular horsemen. After the third battle
of Panipat in 1761, the Pindaris settled themselves in Malwa and they attached themselves to Scindhia
and Holkar. Their two branches came to be known as the Scindhia Shahi and Holkar Shahi Pindaris. As
the power of the Maratha chief declined, the Pindaris began to do things independently. Wherever they
went, they carried fire and sword with them. Particularly in the time of Wellesley, their dumber
multiplied. This led to lawlessness in the country. The people suffered and the Pindaris gained.
The Pindaris did not form a regular army. The only link between 'he Pindari chief and his followers was
the prospect of plunder. Even loyalty to the chief was not continuous. The Pindaris were prepared l°
follow anybody who promised to get them booty. They did not form r'ny homogeneous body. All kinds
of elements joined the ranks of the
Lord Hastings and Amherst
Pindaris. There was no distinction between Hindu or a Muslim
were welcomed to the brotherhood. In most cases, the Pindaris ^
from the ranks of the disbanded leaders and fugitives from justice, j^"*
profligates "and unscrupulous persons from every caste and creed '
welcomed. The Pindaris had their special technique of fighting. -J?1* scrupulously avoided to give battle
to the enemy. They were always ' the look out for their victims. They attacked their target with the Sn °n
of lightning and managed to run away with all their booty. The Pind ^ have been compared to the
swarms of the locusts. As the Pindaris fai*^ ed the Maratha armies, they have been called the
scavengers of Marath^
The Pindaris were getting emboldened by the official policy of non intervention. In 1812, they attacked
Bundelkhand. In 1815 and jgjg they attacked and plundered the territories of the Nizam. In 1816, th/ led
an attack on Northern Circars. This was too much for the EngUc/ to put up with. Lord Hastings made
elaborate preparations for it. g' diplomacy, Lord Hastings was able to detach the Marathas from the
Pindaris. He made a subsidiary alliance with Apa Sahib, the Regent of Bhonsla's territory. He also forced
Scindhia to sign a treaty binding him to help English against Pindaris. Then comprehensive preparations
were made to hunt out the Pindaris. The army of Hindustan was commanded by *-"*rd Hastings himself.
The army of the Deccan was commanded by S*r Thoii^s Hislop. The ring of iron and steel was spread all
over the territory to n mt out the Pindaris. They were ruthlessly chased. Some of them were completely
destroyed and the others were broken up. Karim Khafl. one of he Pindari chiefs, surrendered. Wasil
Mohammed com¬mitted suicide. °.hitu was eaten by a tiger. Amir Khan was persuaded to disband fiis56vces and was made the Nawab of Tonk.
Critics of Lord, Hastings pointed out that his policy towards the Pindaris was a generous one. He should
have been more stiff with the enemies of civilization.
Third Maratha War (1817-18). Lord Hastings had tried his utmost to avoid a combination of the
Marathas and the Pindaris. In spite of this precaution, "the hunt of the Pindaris became merged in the
Third Maratha War." (V. A. Smith).
It is a matter of history that although the Peshwa had entered intol the treaty of Bassein in 1802, he was
not satisfied with his presfent posi¬tion and was intriguing to free himself from the British control. Such
aj move could not be palatable to the English Company.
In 1815, Trimbakji, a minister of the Peshwa, murdered a Brahmin envoy of the ruler of Gaekwar who
had gone to Poona under a British safe-conduct. As foul play was suspected, Elphinstone, the British
resi¬dent, forced Baji Rao Peshwa to surrender. Trimbakji. He also forced the Peshwa to enter into a
new subsidiary alliance and grant a piece oj territory for. the maintenance of the contingent force. He
compelled hfm to give up the headship of the Maratha Confederacy (1718).
As such a treatment was not liked by Baji Rao, he revolted, and attacked and burnt the British Residency.
Elphinstone managed f0 escape. In the battle of Kirki, the Peshwa was defeated.
Apa Sahib Bhonsla of Nagpur and Holkar declared war against the English. Apa Sahib was defeated at
Sitabaldi and forced to surrender-Holkar's armies were also defeated and crushed in the battle of
Mahidpu" The Peshwa was also pursued and defeated at Ashti and Koregaon. * 1819. Asirgarh was
captured. Baji Rao Peshwa was forced to surrenae himself to the British in 1818 and thus the third
Maratha War endeo-
Lord Hastings and Amherst
Fjnliinstone gave a very generous treatment to the defeated Peshwa. It • true that the office of the
Peshwa was abolished but Baji Rao was given 15 pension of Rs. 8 lakhs a year for his life. A
representative of the line
[Shivaji was put on the throne of Sitara. Apa Sahib of Nag-pur was deposed and a new Raja was put in
his place. The Narbada territories
[ ghonsla were annexed. Holkar was forced to enter into a subsidiary alliance and grant some territory
for the maintenance of the contingent irmy- He was also forced to give up all his claims on the Rajput
It is evident that the power of the Marathas was completely crushed and henceforth they were not in a
position to raise their head again. Yfarshman has described the results of the above wars in these words:
"The wars subdued not only the native armies, but the native mind and taught die princes and people of
India to regard the supreme command in India as indisputably transferred to a foreign power. It placed
the Company on the Moghul throne with a more absolute authority than Akbar or Aurangzeb had ever
According to Dodwell, "The settlement of 1818 marks the beginning of the paramountcy of the East
India Company. No State remained which could challenge its supremacy. No State remained which could
reject its alliance. The project of Wellesley had been realised. All the princi¬pal States of India had been
brought into agreement with the Company, and had placed in its hands the conduct of political
relations. Many had accepted a susidiary force, which implied a position of dependency. The peace of
India had been assured. The wars which for a century and a half had desolated India had been brought
to an end. But if the politi¬cal project of Wellesley had been completed one aspect at least had been
neglected. The treaties into which Moira had entered had not been treaties such as Wellesley would
have ratified, for they all omitted those stipul-ations on which he would have set a high importance.
Moira's treaties all included some clause intended to avoid all possibility of interference on the part of
the Company's government in matters of internal adminis¬tration. Unlike Wellesley, Moira limited his
views to the regions under the direct control of the East India Company, while Wellesley had en¬visaged
the good of India as a whole. Consequently the Company found itself committed to a number of
alliances by which it was bound to sup¬port the reigning prince without much regard, for the quality of
his ad¬ministration. The relations which had characterised the alliance with the Nawab of Arcot or with
the Nawab of Oudh were perpetuated over a wide field. The Governor-General, to whom it was given to
establish the paramountcy of the Company, did not choose with it to recognise the res¬ponsibility of the
Company for the general well-being of India. While, therefore, Moira's conduct of relations with the
Maratha princes was marked by an exact and vigorous estimate of political forces, he shrank from the
more extended responsibility which Wellesley sought, and which, if Wellesley had been left for another
year in power, he would probably have assumed. In short, the settlement of 1818" imposed upon the
Com¬pany all those ambiguities and uncertainties which were afterwards to mark its relations with the
native states." (The Cambridge Shorter History of India, pp. 485-87).
Internal Reforms—Judicial. Many reforms were carried out during the regime of Lord Hastings. The
problem facing the country was the ever-growing number of undecided cases in the courts of justice. As
the °ases were not disposed of for years, parties were forced in many cases to take the law in their own
hands. The problem could be tackled by in¬creasing the number of courts, but the Company was
reluctant to increase
Lord Hastings and Amherst
the number of courts because such a step involved additional expendii
.Publicists like Mill attacked the miserliness of the Company.
IIM814, Lord Hastings provided that there was to be a Munsif •
every Thana. These Munsifs were to be appointed by the judges of th Diwani Adalat although the
power of approval was left with the P vincial Court of Appeal. Munsifs were empowered to try cases
up to A? value of Rs. 64 and their own decisions were to be confirmed by |i judges of the
Diwani Adalat. Appeals could be taken to the biwJ ' Adalat from the decisions of the Munsifs.
The Munsifs could be rernj" ed on grounds of misconduct, incapacity or neglect of duty. In additi0V to
Munsifs, Sadar Amins were also appointed in every /ilia or city. "Vi,, number of the Sadar Amins
depended upon the requirement of the area Appointments were to be made by the judges of the
Diwani Adalat but the approval of the Provincial Court of Appeal was necessary. Thev were
empowered to try cases up to Rs. 150. However, Sadar Amins were not allowed to try cases in which
British subjects, Americans or Europeans were involved. Appeals could be taken against the
decisions of the Diwani Adalat.
An attempt was made to decrease the arrears of work by abolishing the right of appeal in certain cases.
Generally, only one appeal wai allowed. It was provided in lb 14 that appeals were to be taken from the
Diwani Adalat to the Provincial Court of Appeal. However, if the latter tried a case in its original
jurisdiction, an appeal could be taken to the Sadar Diwani Adalat.
Lord Hastings also increased the powers of the Registrars. Cases up to the value of Rs. 50 were to be
sent to the Registrars for disposal, hi exceptional cases, the Diwani Adalats were empowered to refer
cases in¬volving more than Rs. 500 to the Registrars. Provision was made for the taking of appeals
directly to the Provincial Court of Appeal against the decisions of the Registrars.
It was further provided that in future all cases whose value was not more than Rs. 5,000 were to be
instituted in the City Diwani Adalat oi Zilla Diwani Adalat. The Sadar Diwani Adalat was given the power
to transfer cases from the District or City Diwani Adalat to the Provincial Court of Appeal. It the amount
involved was more than Rs. 5,000. pro vision was made for the institution of those cases directly in the
provincial Court of Appeal. Sometimes, those cases could be transferred to the Sadar Diwani Adalat
It was provided in 1821 that if one Munsif was considered to be i»* sufficient for the work in hand, more
Munsifs were to be appointed for that purpose. They were allowed to try cases up to the value of Rs.
la"-Sadar Amins were also allowed to try cases up to the value of Rs. CM).
In 1815, it was laid down that no person was to be deemed to be qualified to be appointed to the office
of a judge of the Sadar Diwa"' Adalat unless he had previously officiated as a judge of the Provincial
Court of Appeal, for a period of not less than three years or had work1'11 not less than 9 years in
judicial capacity.
Lord Hastings provided in 1818 that the magistrates were to be ei» powered to give the punishment of
imprisonment with hard labour i'I' to two years corporal punishment of not more than 50 stripes.
Another regulation of 1821 provided that it should be competent f°r the Govemor-Gencral-in-Council to
authorise a Collector of Revenue or other officers employed in the management or
superintendence of an?
Lord Hastings and Amherst
Ay oi the territorial revenues to exercise the whole or any portion btit\ e powers and duties vested in
the magistrates or to employ a magis-oi * .* the collection of public revenue and also invest the person
so tr*tCi0yed with the whole or any portion of the powers of the Collector t&Levenue. The powers of
the Collector were increased tremendously.
Revenue Reforms. Lord Hastings appealed to the Directors of the
mpany tor a Permanent Settlement. However, his suggestion was
epted. Arrangements were made with the representatives of every
fae community for the adjustment of shares of the individuals.
The Bengal Tenancy Act was passed in 1822. Provisions were made veiy stringent.
Sir Thomas Munro was the Governor of Madras in 1820. He intro¬duced ilie Ryotwari system. There
were to be no intermediaries. Elphin-itone fixed the rights and rents of each ryot after a survey.
Education. Efforts were made to promote education among the people. A college was opened at
Calcutta for the spread of English langu¬age. Similar measures were adopted by the various orovincial
Press. To begin with, more liberty of action was given to the press and censorship was abolished.
However, restrictions were imposed soon after on ground of their necessity.
Estimate. Undoubtedly, Lord Hastings completed the work, of Lord VVellesley. After his departure in
1823, there was no serious rival of the English East India Company in India. Not only was the office of
the Peshwa abolished, Holkar was deprived of half of his territory. Bhonsla Raja became a vassal of the
English Company. Scindhia was humbled and made impotent. He established law and order in the
country after crushing the power of the Pindaris. Both his military achievements and internal reforms
accomplished a great deal. According to Mill. "The ad¬ministration of the Marquess of Hastings may be
regarded as the com¬pletion of the great scheme of which Clive had laid the foundations, and Warren
Hastings and Marquess of Wellesley had reared the super-struc¬ture. The growing pinnacle was the
w6rk of Lord Hastings and by him was the supremacy of the British empire in India proper finally
establish¬ed. Of the soundness of the work no better proof could be afforded than the fact that there
has been no national warfare since his administration. Rajputs, Matathas and Mohammedans have
remained at peace with one another under the shade of British power. The wars in which the latter had
been engaged have carried that power beyond the frontiers of Hindustan, but no interruption of
internal tranquillity from the Himalayas to the sea has been suffered or attempted."
Roberts has drawn a comparison between Lord Hastings and Lord Wellesley in these words: "His
material achievements challenged com¬parison with those of Lord Wellesley, but he was of course not
so great °r commanding a figure. He owed much to the success of his adminis¬tration to a brilliant band
of subordinates, men who had been trained *&d inspired by his great predecessor. Hastings did not
possess Wellesley's dignity, eloquence or originality; there was an element ot vanity in his otherwise
estimable character, and signs are not lacking that he would pdly have shown Wellesley's equanimity in
the face of reverses or his n°ble consideration of defeated generals. On the other hand, he conceiv¬ed
and carried through the grandest strategical operations ever undertaken "* India, in the course of which
twenty-eight actions were fought and a
Lord Hastings and Amherst
hundred and twenty fortresses taken without a single reverse. jje
less precipitate than Lord Wellesley, less harsh to errant native rulers *"**
he did not proceed against them till his case was very strong."
' arM
According to Lord Curzon, "This excellent and hard-working »,i deserves recollection for two other
achievements. It was he who made for the loss of Java, foolishly given back to the Dutch, by the
purchU'1 of Singapore, which has since become the most important naval base a ^
coasting station in the East. He earned the undying gratitude of ^•a'cllie by his efforts to cleanse and
beautify the city which commemorated service by attaching hU name or titles to more streets or
quarters tlj preserve the fame of any other Governor-General. Loudoun Street, Raw'1
Lord Hastings and Amherst
fet Hungerfprd Street, Moira Street (Hastings Street had already re-Str-ed the title in honour of an
earlier and more famous Hastings), the Ceiony of Hastings in the south-west corner of the Maidan,
Hastings Bridge, C°ected by public subscription over Tolly's Nullah in honour of his ad-crinislration-all
keep alive his name. With the proceeds of a great lottery !°e built the Strand Road along the river bpnk,
and added greatly to the menities of both the City and the Maidan. Perhaps he rendered a more
doubtful service in removing the historic pipal tree, under which Job Charnock was said to have sat and
smoked his hookah, as well as the battered pillar which Governor Holwell had set up over the remains of
the victims of the Black Hole and which it was left to me, 80 years later to replace.
"Lord Hastings was a man of strong domestic affections; and he felt very deeply the prolonged
separation from his wife and family. Lady Loudoun and their children had to go home in January 1816.
She re¬turned alone in 1819 to be with him during the remainder of his stay. When dying, he directed
that his right hand should be cut off and elapsed in that of his wife when she should follow him. This
strange but pathetic request was faithfully carried out. The hand, enclosed in a small box, vas deposited
in the family vault at Loudoun in Ayrshire, and when Lady-Hastings died, fouteen years later, it was
placed in her coffin."
John Adams (1823). The interval between Lord Hastings an>" J^rd Amherst was covered by John Adams
who was the senior member of the Calcutta Council. His rule lasted for 7 months. Adams name is
notor¬ious for his censorship of the press. He also put an end to the disgrace¬ful affairs of Palmer & Co.
He took action against Mr. Buckingham, editor of the Calcutta Journal, who was critical of the work of
the Gov-ernment. The editor was deported. He also passed orders that Palmer & Co. was not to lend any
more money to the Nizam. The English East India Company owed a lot of money to the Nizam on
account ef the annual tribute for Northern Circars. Adams ordered the payment to the Nizam who was
thus able to pay off Palmer 8c Co.
Lord Amherst (1823-28). The most important events of the reign o£ Lord Amherst were the First
Burmese War and the capture of Bharatpur.
First Burmese War (1824-26). Burma was an independent country. Its inhabitants were a source of
threat to the security and tranquillity of the possessions of the English East India Company. In 1817-18,
the Burmese forces threatened Assam. They also sent a letter to the Indian Government demanding the
surrender of Chittagong, Dacca, Murshidabad and Kossimbazar. However, the danger was avoided on
account of the' defeat of the Burmese at the hands of the Siamese. Peace did not last l°ng. In 1822, Siam
was conquered. The security of India was threaten-€d and the English Company had to take action. The
Burmese believed that no troops could stand against them. From the king to the beggar, they were hot
for a war with the English. The Burmese tried to provoke *e English as. much as they could. In 1823, they
attacked Shahpuri, a small island near Chittagong and commenced the war. Lord Amherst de-dared war
in February 1824.
It is rightly pointed out that Lord Amherst did not make adequate reparations for the war in Burma. The
work done by his subordinates *as also not up to the mark. The war in Burma was fought leisurely. The
Company failed to take the initiative in the war. The result was that war was prolonged, but ultimately
the Burmese were defeated. A treaty *yas sighed in 1826 between the Government of India and Burnv*.
By lhe Treaty of Yandaboo (1826), the Burmese king agreed to give to the
Lord Hastings and Amherst
English Company the province of Arakan and Tenasserim. Burmese { were to be withdrawn from Assam
and debar. They recognised th°r^ dependence of Manipur and entered into a commercial treaty.
They* I"1' agreed to lake a British Resident at their rspital and pay a war indent*
of one million pounds.
It lasted
spent mot^
It cannot be denied that the Burmese War was a very expensive A isted for tw* years. It is stated that if
Lord Amherst had spent m?*'
time on preparations, he might have been able to avoid many a pitfw' but unfortunately Lord Amherst
could not do otherwise. He was a mao of mediocre ability and never showed his firm grasp of the
problems o» the country
Capture of Bharatpur. There was a dispute at Bharatpur after th*
death of the Raja. The British Government recognised the claims <»
the minor. Durjan Sal, the other claimant, started war preparations
vindicate his right. The fort of Bharatpur was captured. A large nuj*
ber of persons were captured by the British troops. Sir Charles Metcai ^
wrote thus: "Our plundering here has been very disgraceful
Lord Hastings and Amherst
t rid of the price agents, I cannot establish the sovereignly of the c*° ° £aja whom we came professedly
to protect but have been plunder-1°,n die last Lotah since he fell into our hands."
A reference may also be made to the mutiny at Barrackpore. A Sepoy .imgnt was ordered to go to
Burma. The Sepoys thought that they fMd be losing their caste by doing so and refused to obey.
However, ^mutiny was crushed and the soldiers were shot.
•j-he Burmese war had made the Governor-General very unpopular
A die story of the mutiny at Barrackpore made him all the more so.
j* ffl tjje end of 1825, the ship of Amherst was labouring in very heavy
ten. He was saved for a time by the intervention of the Duke of
Wellington. However, in March 1826, the news reached the Governorr eral ^^ ne was about to be recalled. Calcutta took his side and so
1826. he made up his mind to resign. However, in May ed a' resolution of thanks and compliments from
the Court of Directors. In spite of that, his resignation which was submitted on the score of ill-health,
was accepted. In March 1828, Lord and Lady Amherst left Calcutta after a chequered reign. Among the
British rulers of India, Lord Amherst left one of the most inconspicuous and impalpable of impressions.
Laurie, W.F.B. Our Burmese Wars and Relations with Burma (1880). Mehta, M.S. Lord Hastings and
the Indian States. Nisbet, J. Burma Under British Rule and Before (1901). Phayre, Sir A. History of
Burma (1883).
Prinsep, H.T. History of the Political and Military Transactions in India during the Administration
of the Marquess of Hastings (1825). Snodgrass, Major. Narrative of the Burmese War (1827).
Roy, M. P. Origin, Growth and Suppression of the Pindaris. New Delhi. Sinha. B. K. The Pindaris,
According to Dr. Sinha, "The difficulties of Sahu and the great ty\i" tical unrest of Maharashtra are the
chief factors in the rise of the Peshv Their rise is neither phenomenal nor accidental. They gradually
workn their way up from an ordinary position to the headship of the State arwl eventually to de facto
sovereignty. Balaji Vishwanath is the founder of th» House of the Peshwas, who made the office
hereditary in their family, par-lysed the power of their colleagues and ultimately that of the king, rj-start
with, they occupied a rank second to the Pratinidhi's. They had first to sweep him aside before they
could make their position supreme in the State, and once supreme in the State, the king automatically
yielded place to them. And all these they achieved on account of their superior ability. Thus in the
attainment of supremacy they had first to eclipse the Pratinidhi and the rest of their colleagues, and
then the king. These two phases should be clearly noticed as the reader proceeds with the narra¬tive,
for this transfer of authority from the masters to the servant is so gradually, silently, carefully
accomplished that the successive steps import* ant as they were in relation to the whole move, escaped
all contemporary notice." (Rise of the Peshwas, p. 9).
Balaji Vishwanath (1714-20). Balaji Vishwanath enjoyed the trust and confidence of his master, ,Sahu,
and no wonder he was appointed to the post of Senakarte or Organiser of Forces. Balaji's ancestors
were Deshmukhs. He himself was employed as a clerk in the salt works at Chiplun. In 1689, he worked as
a revenue clerk and later on was appoint¬ed as Sar-Subah of Poona and Daulatbad. He seems to have
come into contact with the Mughals and Sahu about 1705. Sahu had a very high opi¬nion of the ability,
loyalty and character of Balaji. The latter was one of those persons who joined Sahu after his release. He
also played a very im¬portant part in crushing the opposition to Sahu.
Taking full advantage of the dissensions and intrigues at the Mughal court at Delhi, the Marathas gained
strength and influence. In 1719. Balaji Vishwanath was invited to Delhi to help the Sayyad Brothers.
Al¬though Farrukh Sayyar was killed in 1719, Balaji Vishwanath got three grants from Mohammad Shah,
the new Mughal emperor. The three grants are considered to be the foundation-stone of the great
fabric of the Maratha empire in India. The first grant gave to the Marathas the right of Chauth or onefourth share of the revenues of the Deccan and South¬ern India including Hyderabad, the Karnatak and
Mysore. The second grant gave the right of Sardeshmukhi or one-tenth share of the produce over and
above the Chauth. The third grant recognised the right of Swaraj or the entire sovereignty of the
Marathas over their country. Sahu was not to molest Sambhaji of Kolhapur and he was to pay an annual
tribute of Rs. 10 lakhs to the Mughal emperor. The emperor was to release and send back from Delhi
Sahu's mother, his wife, his brother and the members of the Maratha royal family detained at Delhi.
According to Dr. Sinha, "This journey of the Marathas to Delhi pr°*
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
rfd far-reaching consequences in their history. Besides its immediate images it deeply coloured the later
policy of the Marathas, and came as a(lv ve-opener to t|,crn in many respects. For long the Marathas,
who had
1(w~ that power actually meant. The halo of glory that surround-\ tj,e names of the
descendants of Babai and Akbar, whom the president
ked upon the imperial power and prestige with awe, witnessed at Delhi hat
f fort William addressed as 'the Absolute Monarch and Prop of the ft jverse', vanished into the lurid light
of utter contempt when the Marahas found them reduced to mere tools at the hands of the unscrupulous 1 rtjers, and dragged to
dishonour and ignominious death. Delhi reek-c. with blood, courtiers thriving in machination, the
emperor an instru¬ment of the ambitious nobles, the central authority levelled to the dust—
U Uiese revealed the realities about the Mughal empire. Long before, their great king Shivaji had
proved to his people that the Mughal army was not invincible, and the Mughal territory not inviolable.
Further they had been sufficiently disillusioned with regard to the real strength of the Mughals during
their War of Independence (1690-1707). Now they realiz¬ed full well that the Mughal empire was
rotten to the core, that it could never sustain its pristine glory and perhaps, who knows, it might fall to
the powerful blows of the Marathas. Balaji Vishwanath. a shrewd man of affairs as he was, must
have seen with the eyes of a statesman that the splendid structure of the Mughal empire was tottering
to its fall, and was a prize worth attempting, and worth fighting for. He and his other Mara-tha leaders
must have conjured up a glorious picture of Hindustan, the homeland of Hinduism and the treasure
house of Asia, a land consecrat¬ed by a thousand memories of Shri Ham and Shri Krishna so dear to the
Hindu heart. This holy land, this rich country, they must have thought, would be theirs, if they could
but overthrow the Mughals. And then what a difference it would make to Maharashtra.
Maharashtra, sterile and rugged, where "nature enforces a spartan simplicity, would flow in riches, milk
and honey. The gorgeous paraphernalia of the nobles, the polished luxury of the inhabitants, their
graceful manners and customs, health and beauty, bearing and speech, all testifying to a cultured
society; the ver¬dant plains of the Ganges and the Jumna, the flower and foliage, the de¬lightful sun and
shade—all these must have captivated the eyes and imagi¬nation of the rough, crude but intelligent
Chitpavan Brahmin, Balaji Vishwanth."
"And was this all? The prestige of their presence at the imperial capital, not as mercenaries, but as the
allies and supporters of the king¬makers held out to them a promise that they might some day make
and un-make emperors. Indeed it was the surest basis on which Balaji Vish¬wanath could confidently
build his policy of founding a Maratha empire o;i the ruius-of the Mughal empire." (Rise of the
Peshwas, pp. 67-68).
Balaji Vishwanath was able to accomplish a lot for the Marathas. When he came to power, he found his
country torn with a civil war, but he left it peaceful and prosperous, He won for his people Shivaji's Swarajya from the Mughals without a battle and he impressed the Mughal capital with the prestige of the
Maratha arms. He strengthened the posi¬tion of Sahu on his throne. At a time when the Maratha chiefs
were play-'ng a waiting game and loyalty was a rare commodity, he by his devotion and sincerity, was
able to win the confidence of Sahu and die respect oI the people.
Balaji Vishwanath laid the foundations of the future Maratha Con¬federacy. He was helped in this task
by the circumstances prevailing at
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
that time. As a result of the Deccan wars of Aurangzeb, the Mughal
pire was completely disintegrated and that helped the Marathas to a ^
the right of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi over the six Subahs of the I)2,,''e
The Maratha State set up by Shivaji was also completely destroyed'5'
the system of Jagirs came into existence in Maharashtra. Both the$» I*1*
tors changed the very nature of the Maratha State and laid the founda»*
of the Maratha Confederacy.
When Shivaji created the Astapradhans, he paid their salaries in ,.A There were no jagirs and no
hereditary office*. No change was madek Sambhaji, his son. It was during the time of Rajaram, that a
change J? made in the old system. Rajaram decided to follow a policy of system? tically plundering the
Mughal territories and for that purpose he a$^ ed the different parts of the Deccan to his commanders
or those who prT fessed obedience to him. Thus the Maratha commanders harassed th» Mughals
in every possible way. Rajaram allowed them to establish theif headquarters in their own areas and
also to rule over them. Out of thej* revenues, the commanders paid a share to Rajaram and kept the
rest to themselves. They acted on their own initiative and did not depend upon Rajaram for anything
except the grant of territory to them. They con. sidered the parts of the country granted to them as
their Jagirs which were won and maintained by them entirely by their own strength. The commanders
did whatever suited their interests and were not in any wa» obedient to Rajaram. They took pride in
their independence. Thi system continued not only under Rajaram but also under Tara Bai and Sahu.
It is pointed out that the Sawants of Wadi, Kanhoji Angre, Damaji Thorat, etc., did not care for the
authority of Tara Bai or Sahu. When after 1707, Sahu wanted to strengthen his hands, he had to ask
for the help of the Maratha chiefs who held big jagirs under him. These jargirdan supported Sahu on
the condition that their jagirs were not touched As a matter of fact, when Sahu came out
victorious, he gave more jagin to those who had helped him. The policy of Sahu was not to change
anything that was old and not to create anything that was new. The re¬sult was that the old jagirs
were allowed to remain in the hands of their holders. Had he tried to confiscate their jagirs, that might
have resulted in trouble. AM the high officials surrounding Sahu themselves had big jagirs and obviously
they were not prepared to part with the same. Balaji Vishwanath himself had huge jagirs and no
wonder he did not raise hU finger to abolish the system of jagirs. These jagirs had become
The grant of the right of collecting Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the six Subahs of the Deccan to the
Marathas by the Mughals in 1719 also favoured the growth of the Maratha Confederacy. The Maratbai
were given the right of collecting the above taxes but they were also re¬quired to maintain peace and
order in their territories. That seemed to be a very big job for the Marathas. Balaji solved the problem by
divid¬ing the different parts of the Deccan excluding the Swarajya to the various jagirdars of feudatories,
ministers of state or his favourites. Balaji him* self was to collect money from Khandesh and parts of
Balaghat. He as¬signed Balgam and Gujarat to the Senapati. He gave portions of Gond-wana, the
Painghat and Berar to Senasaheb Subah Kanhoji Bhonsla. He gave Gangathadi and Aurangabad to the
Sarlaskar. He gave the Karnatic to Fateh Singh Bhonsla. He gave Hyderabad, Bedar and the territories
between the Nira and Warn a to the Pratinidhi. The above officials u«f' allowed to collect Chauth and
Sardeshmukhi from thei> territories. Tb«y were allowed to keep a part of the revenues for the
maintenance of their
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
• hnients and send the rest to the royai treasury. They were inde--siabhs » their territories to all intents
and purposes. They were not pcndfin subordinate to the Peshwa or Sahu. They collected a lot of i" an^
r««m the territories assigned to them and thereby added to their
aic»ne> ^.^ possession of a lot of money and large armies enabled rCsoi'rc 'j^jnii iu terms of their
independence and to all intents and pur-ihem , Y wcrc actually independent. It was under these
circumstances ^°&eS he State formed by Balaji Vishwanath was later on called Maratha ^al, jeracy. The
nature of the confederacy remained the same. The •0"' ^ancre made later on was that with the
conquest of the various parts °n india bv the Marathas the territories under the Maratha commanders
kL-aine larger and in the same proportion they began to assert their in¬dependence more and more.
The financial arrangements made by Balaji Vishwanath also made the Peshwa and Sahu dependent
upon the Maratha military leaders. They had to depend upon the money which they were to get from
the Maratha chiefs. According to Dr. Sinha, "The king lived as a pensioner of the feu¬datories, expecting
only his 25% besides the Sardeshmukhi income. The military power had passed out of his hands and
by this arrangement he was made dependent on the big Sardars for the maintenance of his office. Balaji
did not realise the gravity of this mistake and he further weakened the position of the king by making it
a rule that the different establish¬ments of the royal households should be maintained by different
Sardars. The Sardars and the Astapradhans like the Bhonsla and Angre were called upon to maintain
the royal establishments by monthly payments. The Sachiv had to pay for the upkeep of the royal
stables; the Pratinidhi had to pay for that of the royal stores, and the Peshwa, for that of the royal
palaces. The officers appointed to see whether every feudatory was send¬ing his contribution every
month regularly or not was called the Rajajnya. This arrangement rendered the king only a pensioner of
the feudatories in all but name. The discredit of having thus undermined the strength of royal
authority goes to Balaji Vishwanath." (Rise of the Peshwas, pp. 79-80).
Sir Richard Temple has described the character and achievements of Balaji Vishwanath in these words:
"He was more like a typical Brahmin than any of his successors. He had a calm, comprehensive and
command¬ing intellect, an imaginative and aspiring disposition, an aptitude for ruling rude nature by
moral force, a genius for diplomatic combinations and a master of finance. His political destiny propelled
him into affairs wherein his misery must have been acute. More than once, he was threat¬ened with
death for which he doubtlessly prepared himself with all the stoicism of his race when a ransom
opportunity arrived. He wrung by power of menace and argument from the Mughals, a recognition of
Mara¬tha sovereignty. He carried victoriously all his diplomatic points and Bank into premature death
with the consciousness that a Hindu empire had been created over the ruins of Muhammedan power
and that of this empire the hereditary chiefship had been secured for his family."
According to Sardesai, "The services and achievements of this first Peshwa have nor* vet received
proper recognition in history, since they are matters of only recent research, Sahu in one of his letters
styles him atula Pornkrami-seraka, i.e., 'a servant of incomparable capacity, showing there-hv that Sahu
did not bestow his Peshwaship on a mere clerk in the employ of the Scnapati but on a worthy person of
proved merit after a full trial of 5 years and a close personal acquaintance going hack to a much longer
period. In fact, although sufficient details of this first Peshwa's life and
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
work have not yet been discovered; we have enough ground for asser • that his father and grandfather
had been in Shivaji's service, that he & sessed long and varied experience obtained by him during the
Miiou0*" Maratha struggle and consequently a secure grasp of the circumstances » the situation in
which Sahu and the whole nation came to be placed ujJr the death of Aurangzeb. » He also evinced rare
foresight and statesmansh"1 in utilizing all available resources towards completing the task of constru ^
ing a Hindu empire, which the Great Shivaji had set before himself arij which had all but crumbled away
during the troubles of the two preced ing reigns. Balaji had to look to the north as his path to the south
wa* permanently closed by the independent existence of Tarabai's kingdom" (Main Currents of
Maratha Histo>y, p. 93).
Baji Rao (1720-40). After the death of Balaji Vishwanath, his eldest son, Baji Rao, was appointed the
Peshwa by Sahu. This was done in spite of the opposition of his advisers and chiefs. At the time of coming to power, Baji Rao was hardly a youngman of 19. In spite of his youth, Baji Rao possessed plenty of
commonsense, intelligence and very good physique. He was well-versed in diplomacy and
administration. He correctly came to the conclusion that the Mughal power was declining and it was
possible to snatch away the provinces from it. Baji Rao made the following observation in that
connection: "Now is our time to drive the strangers from the country of the Hindus, and acquire
immortal renown. I Let us strike at the trunk of the uiithering tree, and the branches will fall off
themselves. By directing our efforts to Hindustan, the Maratha flag shall fly from the Krishna to Attock."
Sahu approved of his policy in these words: "You shall plant it beyond the Himalayas. You are, indeed, a
noble son of a worthy father." Baji Rao reorganised the armies of the State and started his campaigns in
1731. The Marathas' claim, to Chauth and Sardeshmukhi was recognised in that year. In 1732, the
Maratha armies over-ran the province of Malwa. Bundelkhand was conquered; and in 1737, Baji Rao
appeared before the very walls of Delhi. Nizam-ul-Mulk advanced from the Deccan to help the Mughal
emperor, but he him¬self was defeated near Bhopal and had to agree to a formal cession of Malwa and
Gujrat. According to Dr. Dighe, "The victory of Bhopal marks the zenith of the Peshwa's triumphant
career....By defeating die confederate armies at Bhopal, the Peshwa established the supremacy of
Maratha arms in India and announced the birth of a New Imperial Power." The Nizam also promised to
pay a war indemnity of Rs. 50 lakhs to Baji Rao. In 1739, the Island of Bassein was taken from the
Portuguese. Baji Rao died in 17^0 after putting the Maratha power on secure footing.
Baji Rao loved a Muslim dancing girl named Mastani. She was an exceedingly accomplished lady and was
the most charming lady of her time in India. She was a good musician and looked, after Baji Rao like a
devoted wife. It is said that Baji Rao's addiction to meat and wine was due to her influence. Both of
them died in 1740.
All his life Baji Rao tried to accomplish two things. He tried to expand the Maratha power in the north
and also tried to ensure harmoni¬ous co-operation of the Maratha Confederacy by a process of interdepend¬ence of its various members. As pointed out above, he succeeded in his mission of extending
the Maratha power in the north but in his second mission he failed. His attitude towards the Maratha
Confederacy was one of domination. What he aimed at was that the members of the Mara¬tha
Confederacy should be guided by the Peshwa. Their internal and external relations should be scrutinized
and controlled by him. They should not-make war and peace without his approval. His foreign con-
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
pre also meant to include the conquest of the Maratha Confeder-qii^^j did not want actually to rule over
Maharashtra but he wanted $fl- nate over the whole of Maharashtra.
'° ft ti Rao nas Deen a'lt^ze^i *°r n's aggressive attitude towards the Confederacy. It is pointed out
that he should have followed a
^vv of conciliation towards them. However, it appears that his own p<, enCe during the first 11 years of
office had brought him to the con-e*P? n tnat he could not expect sympathy and co-operation from his
col-^imes or the Maratha chiefs. The result of his policy was that a deep
'fitment was created against his domination.
Baii Rao enjoyed the confidence of Chhatrapati Sahu. The result
that Sahu left everything into the hands of the Peshwa, Baji Rao had h-« way in everything. This directly
resulted in undermining the author-. 0£ the Chhatrapati. The Peshwa decided to make Poona the city of
his power. In 1730, he started building a castle there and later on rhe same was strongly fortified. The
other Maratha chiefs also followed •he example of Baji Rao. Pratinidhi established his power at Karhad,
Sachiv at Bhore, Senapati at Telegaon and Bhonsla at Nagpur. Each of them regarded himself
independent of the King or the Peshwa. Such a jpirit led to the defiance of royal authority. Dr. Sinha
points out that the policy of domination ensured the rise of the Peshwa but enfeebled the unity among
the various members of the Maratha Confederacy and in¬directly hastened its fall.
Baji Rao was a great general and soldier. He possessed an indomit¬able courage and extraordinary
personal bravery) He was incomparable as a soldier. No amount of hardship or fatigue was too much for
his iron constitution. In guerilla warfare, he had no equal. He was next only to Shivaji. The way he
humbled the pride of Nizam-ul-Mulk shows his ability. He inspired his followers with confidence and
commanded their loyalty. He led them from victory to victory. His mobility and. brilliant tactics were
responsible for his success. His originality of plan,; bold¬ness of execution and eye for strategy show
that he was a great com¬mander. He stands head and shoulders above his contemporaries in
Maha¬rashtra. He had the head to plan and the hand to execute.
According to Sardesai, "It is not necessary to write separately about Baji Rao's character and
achievements. His deeds. speak for him. He stands next only to Shivaji in a military genius. Sahu's
discernment in selecting him for the Peshwaship at the early age of nineteen was more than justified.
That a boy in his teens assuming the highest position under the Maratha Chhatrapati, should be able
within twenty years to-extend the Maratha dominion in all directions, north., south, east and west and
to overcome great antagonists both at home and abroad is an achievement which stands to the
permanent credit of the Maratha race. Twenty years spent in breathless activity and tireless journeys
across the Indian continent from Srirangpattam to Delhi ami from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad, wore out
the iron constitution of this great man of action. The twenty years of his active career witnessed a
complete revolution in Ae character of the Maratha State and an entire redistribution of politi¬cal
power throughout India. At his death in 1740 the political centre of gravity shifted from the Court of
Delhi to that of Sahu. The system in¬troduced by Baji Rao's father and executed by him and his son,
equally transformed the constitution laid down by Shivaji and dotted the map of India with numerous
centres of Maratha power. Thus Baji Rao became the creator of greater Maharashtra." (New History of
the Marathas, 'Vol. II, p. 182).
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
Sir Richard Temple has summed up the character of Baji Rao . these words: "Baji Rao was hardly
surpassed as a rider and was ev forward in action, eager to expose himself under fire if the affair was
ardu ous. He was endured to fatigue and prided himself in enduring fl.' same hardship as his
soldiers and shared their scanty fare. He was moved by ardour for success in national undertakings
by a patriotic confident in the Hindu cause as against its old enemies Mohammedans and its u^ rival
Europeans, then rising above the political horizon. He lived to see the Marathas spread terror over the
Indian continent from the Arabian Sea to 'he Bay of Bengal. He died as he had lived in camp under
canvas among his men and he is remembered to this day among the Marathas at the fighting Peshwa
and an incarnation of Hindu energy."
According to H.G. Rawlinson, "He was the most remarkable man next to Shivaji himself that his nation
had produced. In the words of the historian of the Marathas, his was 'the head to plan and the hand to
execute.' Tall and commanding in appearance he was like all his family famous for his good looks. He
was equally great as a soldier and as a statesman.- He understood to perfection the peculiar tactics of
the Maratha horse, and his campaigns against the Nizam were masterpieces of strategy. He was as
chivalrous in the hour of victory as he was brave in the field. As politician he had the lofty and tarreaching ambitions of his father, and he lived to see the tiny Maratha race once 'a cloud no -bigger than
a man's hand', spread all over India, from Delhi to Tanjore. He was an eloquent and inspiring orator, and
if in private life he had something of the haughty and imperious reserve of the Chitpavan; he was a
generous master to those who served him faithfully." (Cambridge His¬tory of India, Vol. IV, p. 407).
According to Sinha, "Despie his great talents as a soldier and a leader of men, Baji Rao lacked some of
the sterling qualities of a statesman. He was domineering in his attitude towards others and overbearing
in his manners. He was a soldier to the core, and could never bear opposition. Fortunately, he possessed
resourcefulness in plenty, and, therefore, he could bear down all opposition. It is said that he had the
head to plan and the hand to execute. True, but too much masterfulness cuts at the root of
statesmanship. A little elasticity of temper adds salt to statecraft. Hence Baji Rac made many enemies in
his lifetime, and left as many be¬hind. He did not know how to conciliate. He knew how to domineer.
But domination even when dictated by absolutely selfless or disinterested motives antagonises people
more often than we suppose; and Baji Rao's domination was not disinterested. There is no gainsaying
the fact that he was deeply imbued with a love of self-glory though he was also deeply loyal to his chief
Sahu and to the cause of his country. He firmly believed that all he did, was for the good of Maharashtra
and that his lead was not only desirable but indispensable. Naturally he gave offence to many by such an
attitude as this. At the beginning of his regime he met with much opposition, and as he succeeded in
overcoming it step by step he gained greater and greater self-confidence. His brilliant victories mad*
him a terror to his enemies and a trust-worthy friend to Sahu. His atti-tude towards the Maratha
Confederacy was stern and unrelenti ng- He wanted that its members should woik in harmony, under
die guidance of the Peshwas. He would not let them go their own way, and would not brook any other's
authority than his own. Thus actuated he incurred the jealousy and hostility of many of the prominent
members of the Cofr federacy. The Pratinidhi, Dabhade, Raghoji Bhonsla, Fatteh Singh Bhonsla, and
Angre—all these nourished a jealousy against Baji Rao be
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
uSe he was both ambitious and domineering. He tried to suppress the <* e faults in others, and,
therefore, incurred the implacable hostility of
iLts. Had he been a little more conciliating and considerate, he would K ve won over many of those, who
became his avowed enemies." (Rise **the peshwas, pp. 202-3).
^laji Baji Rao (1740-61)
After the death of Baji Rao in 1740, his son Balaji Baji Rao became Peshwa.1 There was not much
opposition from his brothers. It is true that Balaji Baji Rao was not a man of parts himself, but he took
advant¬age of the worth of his own cousin, Sadasiva Bhao. Balaji consulted him •Jjj every important
affair of the state and did nothing without his advice, It was under the guidance of Sadasiva that the
Maratha power reached its climax in 1760.
Raghoji Bhonsla over-ran the whole of Central India and attacked Bengal many a time. He forced Ali
Vardi Khan in 1751 to give Orissa to the Marathas and also give Chauth of the Provinces of Bengal and
Bihar to the Marathas. Between 1752 and 1756, the Peshwa secured a promise of the Chauth of the
Imperial revenues of Northern India. In 1758, the Marathas occupied the Punjab and the Maratha flag
was unfurled over the fort of Attock. According to Elphinstone, "Their frontier extended on the north to
the Indus and Himalayas, and on the south nearly in the extremity of the Peninsula: all the territory
within those limits which was not thc'r own paid tribute."
Third Battle of Panipat (1761). The conquest and occupation of the Punjab by the Marathas brought
them into conflict with Ahmed Shah Abdali who started from Afghanistan to recover the same from the
Mara¬thas. The Marathas were also ready to meet him, and thus the famous Battle of Panipat was
fought in January 1761. Ahmad Shah Abdali had under his command about 40,000 cavalry and 35,000
infantry. Sadasiva Bhao had under his command 55,000 cavalry, 15,000 infantry and 15,000 Pandaris.
Both sides had artillery and other auxiliaries. Sadasiva Bhao was proud of his artillery strength and
against the advice of his generals, decided to fight a pitched battle. Abdali was able to cut off the lines of
communication of the Marathas. To begin with, the Marathas had the upper hand, but later on the
Afghans carried the day. Sadasiva Bhao was killed. Visvas Rao, the son of the Peshwa, was also killed.
Malhar Rao Holkar saved his life by running away from the battle-field. Mahadji Scindhia was able to
save his life but he became lame. There was a terri¬ble loss of life among the Marathas. The losses of
the Marathas army were reported to the Peshwa in these words: "Two Pearls have been dis¬solved,
twenty-seven gold inohars have been lost, and of the silver and popper the total cannot be reckoned."
The news was received by Balaji °aji Rao when he was coming to Panipat with reinforcements. However,
"* was too late. He retired broken-hearted to Poona and died in 1761, a few days later.
There is no unanimity of opinion among the historians with regard
jo the effects of the Battle of Panipat in 1764. According to Sardesai.
Notwithstanding the terrible losses in manpower suffered on that field
,'y Marathas, the disaster decided nothing. In fact, it pushed forward
n the distant sequal two prominent members of the dominant race. Nana
ftadnavis and Mahadji Sundhia, both miraculously escaping death on
1. He was also known as Nana Sahib. v
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
that fatal day, who resuscitated that power to its former glory. *>>, disaster of Panipat was
indeed like a natural visitation destroying hfl K^e leading to jao decisive political consequences. To
maintain that the & aster of Panipat put an end to the dreams of supremacy cherished bv ^L Marathas,
is to misunderstand the situation as recorded in conterm
Howevqr, this view is not accepted by other historians. Accord; to Sir Jpdunath Sarkar, "A dispassionate
survey of Indian history will shn how unfounded this (Maratha) chauvinistic claim is. A Maratha arm! did,
no doubt, restore the exiled Mughal emperor to the capital of h fathers in 1772, but they came then not
as king-makers, but as the domhu, tors of the Mughal empire and the real masters of his nominal
minister* and generals. That proud position was secured by Mahadji Scindhia onl» in 1789 and by the
British in 1803." There is a lot to be said for this view. The battle of Panipat was a decisive battle. The
flower of the Maratha army was cut off.1 After this battle, the Maratha dream of estab-lishing the
empire over the whole of India vanished. The Maratha defeat had a great demoralising effect. The
Indians after 1761 felt that the* could not depend upon the protection and friendship of the Marathas.
On account of the death of most of the Maratha captains and statesmen the pain was left open for the
"guilty ambition of Raghunath Dada, the most infamous character in Maratha history. Other losses time
could have made good, but this was the greatest mischief done by the debacle at Panipat.'' The internal
dissensions in the Peshwa family were responsible for the weakening of the Maratha power. It is this
fact which helped the English to rise to power. To quote Sardesai, "It is significant diat while the two
combatants, the Marathas and the Mussalmans were locked in deadly combat on the field of ancient
Kurukshetra, Clive, die first founder of the British empire in India, was on his way to England to explain
the feasibility of his dreams of an Indian empire to the Great Commoner, Lord Chatham, the then Prime
Minister. Panipat indirectly ushered in a new participant in the struggle for Indian supremacy. This is
indeed the direct outcome of that historical event, which on that account marks a turning point in the
history of India."
yThe Third Battle of Panipat "decided the fate of India." "The Marathas and the Mohammedans
weakened each other in that deadly con¬flict, facilitating the aims of the British for Indian supremacy."
Again, "If Plassey had sown the seeds of British supremacy in India, Panipat afforded time for the
maturing and striking roots."
According to Elphinstonej "Never was a defeat more complete, and never was there a calamity that
diffused so much consternation. Grief and despondency spread over the whole Maratha people; most
had to mourn relations and all felt the destruction of the army as a death-blow to then national
greatness. The Peshwa never recovered the shock. He slowly retreated from his frontier towards Poona
and died in a temple which he had himself erected near that city. The wreck of the army retired beyond
the Narbada, evacuating almost all their acquisitions in Hindustan. D1** sensions soon broke out after
the death of Balaji and the government o» the Peshwa never recovered its vigour. Most of the Maratha
conquests were recovered at a subsequent period; but it was by independent chiefo
1. According to Sir J.N. Sarkar, "It was, in short, a nation-w«de disaster like Flodden Field; there was not
a home in Maharashtra that had not to mourn the loss of a member and several houses their very
heads. An entire generation of leaders was cut off at one stroke."
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
* r the Maratha princes dissolved on the cessation of their common
he aid of European officers and disciplined sepoys. The Confeder-^ \ .he Maratha princes dissolved on
the cessation of theii
Causes of Maratha Defeat in the Battle of Panipat. The defeat of Marathas was due to many causes.
Almad Shah Abdali had a stronger ^r arv f°rce tnan tnat °* tne Marathas. Sadasiva Bhao, the
commander 10 I p Maratha forces, was no match for Ahmad Shah Abdali who was J "ttccily the ablest
Asiatic general of his time! The latter was a general 3 excellence. After the death of Vishwasrao, he
plunged into the battle-c*lH like an ordinary soldier and lost his life. Sadasiva Bhao could not main-n his
lines of communication with Delhi. The result was that for two jal nths before the battle, the Maratha
army was practically starving. The Marathas fought with hungry bellies in the battle-field. The
Marathas had lienated the sympathies of the Rajputs and the Jats and consequently hev could not
rely upon anybody's support. No wonder, nobody raised hjj fimcer i" defence of the Marathas. The
troops of Ahmad Shah Abdali were better armed than those of the Peshwa. While the < Marathas had
lances and swords, the Afghans were armed with muskets. In the hand to hand fight, the Maratha
artillery could not play its part but the Afghan muskets helped the Afghans to win the battle. While
the Afghans possess¬ed discipline of a very high order, the Marathas lacked the same. They were
individualists and refractory. They hated discipline with the hatred of 'lesser breeds without law'.
They extolled lawless caprice as liberty and howled against discipline, self-control and organised
teamwork of a true array or schools as the mark of a 'slave mentality' and the 'destroyer of their clan.'
The ill-disciplined Marathas lost the day to the well organ¬ised and well disciplined Afghan troops.
Sardesai has attributed the Maratha defeat at Panipat to the follow¬ing causes: Raghunathrao failed to
maintain order and discipline among the Maratha agents in the north. Holkar failed to restrain Najib
Khan from doing mischief. The Peshwa failed to go to the north and adjust matters when it was yet time
co mend them. Bhau Saheb failed to keep women and non-combatants behind at Bharatpur or at Delhi.
As soon as the to armies came face to face, Bhau should have at once attacked and maintained
communications with his base at Delhi. After the death of Vishvasrao, Bhau Saheb should not have
rushed headlong into the fight. Most of the Maratha horses had died on account of starvation in the
camp *t Panipat and the Marathas had to fight without their horses. They were accustomed to fight only
with their horses and not without them and ■H) wonder they failed. Sardesai thinks that it is wrong to
say that the Marathas lost the battle of Panipai because they gave up guerilla warfare.
Balaji Bajirao was a man of refined tastes, fond of luxurious life and ^joying splendour and fine arts.
During his regime, the social life of Maharashtra underwent great changes, in many directions. The camp
lift * the Marathas lost its original rudeness and simplicity, liic Peshwa Wa* an expert in accounts and
penmanship and exercised strict control ?*» receipts and expenditure. Public servants were drawn in a
special •JKtitution of the Secretariat called the Phad. The Peshwa used persua-"^ methods both in
diplomacy and war. There is no substance in the jjkgation that he favoured the Brahmans. He treated all
castes equally. We distributed patronage equally.
According to a contemporary writer, "Balajipant Nana secured the ^fection of the great Chhatrapati
Shahu and promoted in the service of ^ State all those who had been selected and raised to high
positions by
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
his father and uncle. He encouraged talent wherever he detected' bestowed titles, gifts and honours upon those who exhibited valoi *^
•capacity. "With a heart pressed towards public welfare, he mannerf^
services with highly qualified individuals. Sardars and people undi*J^
adventures and carried out grand conquests. His sweet, conciliatorv^
forgiving ways conquered the hearts even of his enemies. His conn ^
extended from Rameshwar to Indraprasta. Nana Saheb and Bhau w^
were both incarnations of divine qualities.
According to Kincaid, "the fame of Balaji Peshwa resounded jw
the Indus river to the southern seas."
According to Sir Richard Temple, "Balaji's character was formed the same lines as that of his father and
his disposition moved in the sanl! direction. But though a man of skilful address, of influence in cenin*)
and of ability in the field, he was inferior to his father both as soldi* and as a politician. He well knew
how to utilise the talents of ft^ about him, and some of his greatest successes were won for him by nj,
lieutenants. Still he was ever to the front, organizing or supervising, aQ* he saw the Maratha power
attain its zenith. It was under him that the Maratha cavalry fully one hundred thousand strong could
truly boast that they had slaked their thirst in every stream that flowed between Cape Comorin and the
Himalayas. But he did not take, perhaps he was not capable of taking, any step for rendering this widely
extended dominion advantageous to the people. He allowed Maratha rule to continue to be what it had
been from the first, more an organization of plunder than i system of administration. Personally he was
unscrupulous in this respect morally inferior to his father and grandfather."
According to Grant Duff, "Balaji Bajirao was one of those pririca whose good fortune originating in
causes anterior to their time, obtained in consequences of national prosperity, a higher degree of
celebrity than they may fully merit. He was a man of considerable political sagacity, of polished manners
and of great address. The territory under the im¬mediate care of the Peshwa had been in a progressive
state of improvement. Balajirao appointed fixed Mamlatdars or Subedars each of whom had charge of
several districts. They had absolute charge of the police, the revenue and the civil and criminal
judicature and in most cases had power of life and death. The commencement of a better system of
administra¬tion particularly for Maharashtra is ascribed to Ramchandra Baba Shen-wee and after his
death Sadashivrao improved on his suggestions. A Shas-tree of respectability named. Balkrishna Gadgil
was appointed head of the Poona Nyayadhisi or court of justice and the police was much invigorated at
the capital. Under the Government of Balajirao, Panchayats, the ordi-nary tribunals of civil justice, began
to improve. The Maratha dominion attained its greatest extent under Balajirao's administration and
most of the principal Brahman families can only date their rise from that period-In short, the condition,
of the whole population was in his time improved and the Maratha peasantry, sensible of the
comparative amelioration whi<* they began to enjoy, have ever since blessed the days of Nana Saheb
Sardesai points out two serious mistakes committed by Balaji Baj1" rao. In the first place, Balaji made a
mistake in taking British help t0 crush the Maratha navy headed by Angria, his own navy commander1
Secondly, he neglected to support Bhonsla's claims in Bengal when Siraj* ud-Diula was being hard
pressed by the British before the battle of P^ sey (1757). Bengal had been acquired by Raghunathji
and subjected to
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
nnual payment of Chauth in return for which the Marathas were th« \ t0 h«!p its Subedar. When the
Englishmen turned their arms ^°.t siraj-ud-Daula, it was the duty of the Peshwa to help him. In "^Jfthc
position of the Peshwa was secure. At that time, he was the ^rf' powerful ruler in India. A move on his
part against the British, "h hi Karnatak and in Bengal, would have at once checked their ad-^L
Unfortunately, the Peshwa paid undue attention to the politics V(Dclh» and contracted unnecessary
enmity with Ahmad Shah Abdali and J uRht aDoUt tne disaster of Panipat in 1761. He had no business to
beyond the SutIeJ imo the Punjab. It appears that the Peshwa did &t understand the real nature of the
British game and side-tracked his Mention to the Punjab. He was found wanting in sagacity and length !«
vision at a crucial moment. If he had understood all-India politics, il would have acted otherwise. The
result of his folly was that the Bri¬tishers were able to establish themselves in Bengal, Oudh and the
M,dhavrao I (1761-72)
Peshwa Balajirao left behind two sons, Madhavrao and Narayanrao, and one brother Raghunathrao.
Madhavrao was 16 years old at the time 0f the death of his father and became the Peshwa. His uncle
Raghunath¬rao had hoped to conduct the affairs of the State but that was not tolerated by Madhavrao
who is known as the greatest of the Peshwas. Although young, he possessed a mature judgment, a high
spirit and the talents of both a soldier and a statesman. To begin with, there was friction between
Madhavrao and Raghunathrao which later on developed into an open rup¬ture. Raghunathrao
demanded half the share of the Maratha State. Then started a civil war which ended in 1768 in the
victory of Madhavrao. Raghunathrao was captured and was confined in his palace at Poona.
The enemies of the Marathas tried to* take advantage of .the Maratha defeat in Panipat in 1761 and the
civil war in the country. Nizam Ali marched with all speed towards Poona but after a struggle for two
years he was defeated at Raksasbhuvan and was forced to surrender.
On account of Maratha failure at Panipat, Hyder Ali of Mysore tried to extend his influence in the
Karnatak and thereby destroyed all traces of Maratha influence in that region. The result was that
Madhavrao had to spend the best part of his time and resources in capturing his former territories and
exacting complete submission from Hyder Ali.
The Peshwa also subdued the Bhonslas of Nagpur, and forced them to accept him as the Peshwa and
the head of the Maratha State. They *ere also forced to support him against all rivals and enemies. The
treaty of Kankapur of 1769 with the Bhonslas is known as a master-stroke °f Madhavrao's valour and
capacity in organising the united power of the Maratha State.
The Peshwa also sent a strong expedition under two Maratha and Brahman commanders to restore the
Maratha prestige and claims at the 'fcurt of Delhi which had received a set-back after the battle of
Panipat. Mahadji Scindhia was one of the four leaders who were sent to Delhi. They won remarkable
success in that undertaking. They restored the Mughal emperor to the Delhi throne. They humbled the
Rohillas and carried out all the commitments usually understood by the terms Hindu-Pad-padshahi.
Madhavrao improved the moral tone of the Maratha administration.
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
Corruption was put down with a heavy hand. The revenue system %, reformed in the interests of all the
people. The judiciary began to h ^ tion efficiently under the famous Ram Shastri. The complaints 0f .7^
public were welcomed and attended to. The wrong doers were punish*? Many vexatious taxes were
removed. Definite rules and conditions of J* vice were framed for the jagirdars and their military
equipment. *r?" system.of Veth or exaction of forced labour from the lower classes ^ abolished. Every
kind of service had to be paid for in cash. Spies ^*J appointed to gather information from all over the
country. A new »«? ration of honest and efficient officials, clerks, accountants, supervisor, revenue
collectors and military suppliers came into existence. Commander* had to give up their lethargy and
learn obedience. A special branch f0r the manufacture of fire-arms and/ ammunition was set up and it
worked under the personal supervision of the Peshwa himself. Madhavrao \vjj not only a great
administrator but also a great commander of large armies. He often showed exemplary valour and skill
in strategy. He was a bene-volent despot. He devoted his whole life to the service of the people.
A mere reference to a large number of great personalities shows that the Peshwa had brought into
existence a large number of honest officers. Some of them were Ram Shastri, Govind Shivram, Tatya,
Naro Appaji, Mahadji Ballal Guruji, Trimbakrao Pethe, Gopalrao Patwardhan, Ram. chandra Ganesh,
Visaji Krishna, Nana Phadnavis, Moroba and Haripant Phadke.
According to Sir Richard Temple, "In some of the characters just
depicted there has been found virtue of the secondary type, energy, courage,
enthusiasm, patriotism and the like; but in none of them is to be seen
virtue of the purer, nobler, loftier quality. In Madhavrao there is virtue
of the best stamp. In trying moments he evinced not only presence of
mind but also a proud consciousness that by him an example should be
set to all around. He chose ministers with discrimination, some of whom
justified his choice by their subsequent achievements. He enforced strict¬
ness in the service of the State and strove to procure honesty so far as that
was procurable in a corrupt age. If an instance occurred of bad faith in
high place, he would denounce it with a frankness surprising to those
who lived in evil times. Though obliged to keep the uncle out of posi¬
tions which afforded opportunities of doing harm, yet he showed the ut¬
most consideration towards his relative. When two of his officers during
a siege wanted to fight a duel over a quarrel, he told them, instead, to
scale a deadly breach, promising to decree in favour of the disputant who
should first plant the national flag upon the rampart. His care extended
to the fiscal, the judicial, and the general departments. All men in his day
knew that the head of the State was personally master of the work, was
the friend of the oppressed and the foe of the oppressor, and was choosing
agents who would carry out his beneficent orders. His thoughtfulness and
considcrateness were untiring and were often shown in a signal or grace¬
ful .manner. For instance, he conferred benefits upon the descendants of
the cavalry leader Santaji Ghorpade, who had been assassinated by Shivaji'*
son and successor, in order that such tardy justice as might be possible
after the lapse of a generation, should be done. All the while, he was
engaged in war and politics. He had to hold his own against the Nizam
of the Deccan, to drive back Hyder Ali of Mysore, to retrieve that disaster
at Panipat which had grieved his father to death. While gieatly superior
to his predecessors as a civil ruler, he was not inferior to them as a war¬
like commander. His lieutenants were just retrieving the Panipat disaster
when his own health, always delicate, gave way
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
"That Madhavrao, a Hindu prince, should have done so much in so life as his, under such disadvantages
and despite such temptations br>e* uefore being cut off, in the heyday of his career, he should have
^wpd' such capacity as this, not only in affairs susceptible of manage-cV1°f bv youthful genius, but also
in matters ordinarily demanding the ^"Lvnre of ripe years, is truly astonishing. Indeed, he is forever to
Joerience of ripe years, is truly eXr
. as tne model prince, 'the flos regum' and as' one of the finest
fr!e«t that the Hindu nationality has ever produced." note"'
According to Kincaid, "Threatened both by domestic and foreign
mies, Madhavrao triumphed signally over all. Yet his triumph had
wiueht' him no rest. Victorious over his foes he had spent his years in
pless labour to better the condition of his people. Every department
quickened by his supervision, his industry and his example. His secret .ntelligence was faultless; and no
matter how remote the officer guilty of „ 0£ tyranny, he rarely escaped punishment. The Peshwa's
armies went well-equipped on service, for the entire military organization was under his direct control.
Quick to anger, he was no less quick to forgive. And the only fault {hat the harshest critic can find in this
admirable ruler is, that he shortened a life precious to his people by his arduous and unceas¬ing toil."
According to Grant Duff, "Although the military talents of Madhavrao were very considerable, his
character as a sovereign is entitled to far higher praise and to much greater respect than that of any of
his predecessors. He is deservedly celebrated for his firm support of the weak against the oppressive, of
the poor against the rich, and, as far as the constitution of society admitted, for his equity to all."
Narayanrao (1772)
When Madhavrao died of consumption in 1772, he was* succeeded by his younger brother Narayanrao.
His uncle Raghunath Rao, who was still in confinement, tried to escape. The attempt having failed, he
was put under severer vigilance. A plot was prepared to make Raghunath Rao the Peshwa and put
Narayanrao in confinement. However, Narayanrao was cut to pieces in the presence of Raghunath Rao
and the latter be¬came the Peshwa. There was a lot of resentment against the cruel mur¬der and the
enquiry which was held by Ram Shastri showed that Raghu¬nath Rao was the prime author of the
murder. The result was that the responsible ministers and leaders of Maharashtra formed a Council of
State known as the Bara Bhai for the conduct of the affairs. In 1774, a posthu¬mous son was born to the
widow of Narayanrao and he was named Madhav¬rao Narayan.
Madhavrao Narayan (1774-95)
Madhavrao Narayan who is also known as Sawai Madhavrao II was declared the Peshwa and Raghunath
Rao had to run away. The new Peshwa signed for 21 years and died in 1795.
Although Raghunath Rao had to go into exile, he did not keep 9uiet. He sought the help of the English
East India Company and the result was the Maratha War I. The war dragged on for many years and *a$
ended by the treaty of Salbai in 1782. As a result of that treaty, Raghunath Rao had to give up all claims
to the Peshwaship but he was S'ven a pension. During the Maratha War I, Mahadji Scindhia and Nana
\hadnavis distinguished themselves. In 1795, the Nizam was defeated by the Marathas.
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
Bajirao II (1796-1818)
When Madhavrao II died in 1795, there was a lot of confusion
Maratha politics. There were many intrigues for the appointment f'0
successor. To begin with, Nana Pbadnavis was in favour of ma?. '
Chimnaji Appa as the Peshwa. However, later on he changed his [^
and began to support Bajirao. Ultimately in 1796, Bajirao II became ri?1
Peshwa. The new Peshwa was the son of Raghunath Rao.
Bajirao was a worthless man. He was thoroughly unscrupulous, u had no training or competence for
the high office to which he was called* He believed in intrigues. Nana Phadnavis who had helped him
to con* to power was put in jail but later on was restored to his previous position However, the old man
died in 1800.
It was during his tenure of office that the Maratha War II was fought in the time of Lord Wellesley. In
1802, Bajirao II entered into treat? of Bassein with the English East India Company. The net result of that
was that the Peshwa came under the control of the Company. It wai later on that he realised that the
control exercised by the English Com. pany was too much for him. The result was that he began to make
efforts to release himself from the British control. This led to his participation in Maratha War III in the
time of Lord Hastings. Peshwa was defeated by the East India Company. In 1818 he surrendered. The
Peshwaship was abolished by the English Company. However, Bajirao was given a pension and he spent
the rest of his days in Uttar Pradesh in religious pursuits. He died on 28th January 1851.
Mahadji Scindhia (1727-1794)
It seems desirable to refer to two great personalities of this period: Mahadji Scindhia and Nana
Phadnavis. Both of them were contem¬poraries and both of them played an important part during the
Maratha; War I and came into prominence in Maratha politics. Nana Phadnavis controlled the Maratha
affairs at Poona and Mahadji busied himself in the north. Both of them served the Maratha State
fatthfully. It is point¬ed out by Sardesai that if Mahadji and Nana Phadnavis had not acted in concert
and brought all their resources to bear on the First Marath* War, there would have been an end of the
Maratha power.
Mahadji and Nana Phadnavis differed from each other in their phy¬sical features as in their mental cast.
"Nana, a Brahman, tall and thin, brownish in complexion with a Jong oval face, marked with large
piercing eyes and a long nose, the other a Kshatriya, of middle stature, dark, thick¬set, stout and
athletic, a typical Maratha soldier of his time. While Nana-was by nature strict and serious, regular and
hard-working, abstemious in words and action, difficult of approach and never given to sport, mirth or
company, hardly ever seen to laugh and of an extremely delicate and th«n constitution, Mahadji was, on
the other hand, of a jovial and merry tepv per.imcnt, ever surrounded by crowd of people, talking,
joking, laughing and enjoying company, taking counsel with all, but always so cautious ** to set people
entirely on a wrong scent, never to let others fathom hi* real intentions or plans; in fact, an exact
antithesis of Nana."
The life of Mahadji was one long period of strenuous activity. &a lite can be divided into 4 parti. During
the first pan up to 1761, he was an obscure figure over-shadowed by his brilliant brothers from 176' to
1772. His life w&s one of apprenticeship in which he acquired w* supreme fitness which later on helped
him to co operate with Nana Ph»d'
Rise and Fall of the-Peshwas
;s to defeat the English during the Maratha War I. During the third **rt he ga'ne^ valuable experience of
war and diplomacy on his own ini-f?.jye which he put it in actual test later on. During the 4th part, he
""ated tne kingdom which he left for his children.
According to Keene, "Mahadji was easily provoked and not easily ap-rfa$ed. If ne seldom forgave an
injury, he never forgot the benefit. If r ^as severe in punishment, when punishment seemed requisite,
he was IM implacable or given to cause needless pain; while in conferring re¬gards for service rendered,
his gratitude admitted neither stint nor obli¬vion- Consequently he was served with fidelity and
affection. It is im-nossible to read the memoirs of De Boigne without seeing how great a part «f
Scindhia's success was due to the admiration inspired by his moral char¬acter, and the confidence with
which his subordinates trusted to his con¬sistency of conduct, good faith and tenacity of purpose. He
was good humoured, if not exactly good tempered, and his countenance, in spite of an usually dark
complexion, was full of amiability and intelligence. His correct expression was happily caught by a young
Italian artist (Wales) who painted his portrait it Poona shortly before his death. His personal habits were
simple and abstemious. Better educated than was usual among men of his class, he was not only able to
read and write but was a good accountant and had a colloquial knowledge of Persian and Urdu. He was
versed in business and without caring for the details either of war or dvii administration, invariably
chose good agents, whom he trusted tho¬roughly, and who repaid him for his confidence. The officers
whom he employed at Ujjain and Gwalior were not less successful in fighting his. battles and managing
his affairs. He was an Indian ruler of successful capacity in times of exceptional difficulty. He was coldly
regarded if not positively disliked for his abandonment of old Maratha warfare and fav¬ouring Muslims,
such as chief adviser Ranakhan and his religious guide Mansur Shah."
The private life of Mahadji was pure and free from blemish. He was free from caste and religious bias.
He was equally respected by the Muslims and the Hindus. He employed Brahmans, the Prabhus,
Marathas arid Maharas. The Saraswat Brahmans attained special distinction in his service as soldiers and
diplomats. Mahadji was always careful and faithful to the Peshwa family. He never tried to assert his
independence. It was unfortunate that Nana Phadnavis was jealous of Mahadji and always tried to keep
him away from Poona.
Mahadji did not manage his financial affairs properly. He borrow¬ed a large amount of money from all
sources. A lot of money was pocket¬ed by unscrupulous middlemen. There was confusion and
misappropria¬tion. Money was poured into useless channels. Lands were deserted >nd cultivation was
stopped at many places. Robberies became frequent. Life became insecure. Mahadji agreed to pay the
expenses of the Mughal empire and his armies bu* he had no money to do so.
According to Malleson, "By the death of Mahadji Scindhia, the Marathas lost their ablest warrior, and
their most foreseeing statesman. In ™s life he had two main objects, the one to found a kingdom, the
other |° prepare for the contest for empire with the English. In both, it may •* said he succeeded. The
kingdom he founded still lives; and if the *rmy which he formed was annihilated by L*kc and Wellesley
eight years a*ter, it was because of the loss of his guiding hand, Had he lived, Mahadji ^ould have
brought under one standard the htrsemen and the French con-"nRent of Tipu, the powerful artillery of
the Ni7'<i*n, the whole force of
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
the Rajputs and every spear which Maratha influence could have coltafrom Poona, from Indore, from Baroda and from Nagpur. Even if*1*
final result might not have been attained, the great problem of con***
between a united India and the English would have been fairly IQ^
out. As it was, his death settled it. Thenceforth the sinister result w
only a question of time."
According to J.N. Sarkar, "Mahadji Scindhia, a heroic personalis dominates the North Indian history of his
time like a colossus. His »» sources were defective, his instruments and allies often played him fala^i
many an anxious crisis he had to face. Even sympathetic Residents ljv' James Anderson and William
Palmer predicted his sure downfall, /^J yet in the end he triumphed over all. We see the intense
religious fed. ing, modern nationalists may call it superstition, which formed the essena of his being. We
see the deep family affection, the habitual meekness of spirit, the respect for venerable persons, which
this strong and busy nij. of action displayed even at the height of his earthly glory.
"In establishing Maratha control over the Imperial Government of Delhi and wiping off the disgrace of
Panipat, Mahadji Scindhia had to labour alone, nay in the teeth of pinpricks and covert opposition by the
Court of Poona. The supreme glory of the Regency of the Empire of Delhi that he gained, with the
superlative titles of Wakil-i-Mutlak,- Bakhshi-ul-Mamalik, Amir-uI-Umra, Alija, Infant of the Throne, was
to him but t crown of thorns: the Muslim peers and former captains of the decadent Delhi State and
their North Indian Hindu underlings, the Rajput vassab and even some British Residents, exalted at each
disaster, each rebuff that he met with, and they counted the days of his sure extinction. And the Poona
Government denied to him money and armed help in his sorest need and even insulted him in public.
The Khilats and costly presents that he had won from the Emperor for the Peshwa (in December 1784),
were refused and left to rot at Ujjain for years together, as a brand of public humiliation put by his
master on the greatest and most successful Maratha general then living. He was called in the Poona
Minister's letters, a cheat, a disloyal servant, a selfish upstart bent on aggrandising himself by robbing
his holy Brahman Shrimant of the fabulous wealth of Delhi.
"All this Mahadji bore with infinite patience, just as he broke through the successive nets of intrigue
woven round him by his foreign enemies and nominal allies. He trimphed in the end, but that triumph
was clearly purchased at the expense of years of frustration, of swaying fortune, and of immense
personal suffering. He towers over Maratha history in solitary grandeur, a ruler of India without an ally,
without a party. He rear¬ed a devoted band of his own captains, and he triumphed in the end no doubt
and confounded his enemies and candid friends, but after what a tre¬mendous loss of valuable time and
avoidable waste of resources. If Nana Phadnavis had backed Mahadji at the outset, then the
unchallengeable posi¬tion which the great Scindhia gained for the Maratha race in January 1789, would
have been achieved fully four years earlier; and if such an early consummation had, as its natural effect,
prolonged Mahadji's life by sparing the needless agonies of the intervening four years' time of struggle
and reverses, then the whole course of Maratha history might have becontf different."
Nana Phadnavis (1742-1800)
Nana Phadnavis was born in 1742 and he died at the age of 58. H« was thin in body and half fair in
complexion. He was always serious
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
i was hardly seen laughing. He was very studious and regular in his hts He worked very hard at his
desk. He attended to all the details
'r the administration. He did not like the open methods of Mahadji A always worked in secret. He was
usually reasonable and fair in his
iTaling15- He WaS afraici to comnnt treachery or wrong. He was strict
punctually carrying on the work. However, he did not possess self-'"fficiency of Mahadji. He took
counsel with all separately, but acted
rcording to his own considered judgment. He was not at all loved as L was a stern task-master. He was
often in danger of assassination. On
bout 20 occasions, he had a miraculous escape from attempts on his life.
Nana lacked military leadership and that was a great disadvantage in the rough times in which he lived.
Nana did not possess a conciliatory spirit. He gradually removed all the members, one by one, of the
Bara-Bhai Council and concentrated all power in his own hands. If instead of that, Nana had shared
powers with others, there would have been better prospects for the future of the Marathas. It has been
suggested that if Nana Phadnavis had taken into confidence all the Maratha chiefs and pooled together
all the resources of the Marathas, the Marathas would not have fallen as they did under Baji-rao II.
Nana had too much love for power. It is suggested that if he had retired from politics in 1795, he would
have rendered a great service to the Maratha cause.
Another criticism of Nana Phadnavis is that he loved money too much. It is estimated that his private
property amounted to several lakhs. It was with a view to safeguarding his own money that he opposed
to the nomination of Bajirao Peshwa at the beginning.
According to Sardesai, Nana would have acquired a much higher place in history if he had subordinated
his love of power and monetary interest to the service of the nation.
Reference may be made to some of the tributes paid to Nana after his death. According to Captain
Browning, "Nana is gone and with him the Brahman raj. Poona has fallen." According to Palmer, "With
Nana has departed all the wisdom and moderation of the Maratha Government." According to Sir
Richard Temple, "Maratha administration lost all vestige ©f honesty and efficiency by the death of its
great Minister." According to Grant Duff, "Nana Phadnavis was certainly a great statesman. His principal
defects originated in the want of personal courage and in an ambition not always restrained by
principles. His life was entirely public. hi private he was a man of strict veracity, humane, frugal and
charitable. His whole time was regulated with the strictest order and the business personally transacted
by him almost exceeds credibility. Nana doubtless shines out as the last genius produced by the Maratha
Maratha Administration under ■ Peshwas. The Maratha administra¬tive system under the Peshwa was a
compound of the principles laid down >n the books of Hindu polity, arrangements made by Shivaji and
his successors and the modifications introduced by the Peshwas themselves.
The Peshwas rose to power as the power and prestige of Raja of Satara declined. From 1714 onwards,
the office of the Peshwa became here¬ditary in the family of Balaji Vishwanath. To begin with, the
Peshwa was one of the Astha Pradhan of Shivaji and that was not a hereditary aPpointment. Gradually,
the position of the Peshwa became supreme.
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
The genius of Balaji Vishwanath made the office of the Peshwa both
reme and hereditary.
Although the Peshwa showed to the Raja of Satara on public
sions the attention due to a ruler, they virtually controlled die whole***
ministration and even usurped the power of the Raja as the religious h
of the State. However, these powers were not granted to him merely^
cause he was a Brahman. The high position of Peshwa was recoRni^j
by the Maratha feudal nobility. He divided the revenues of each distri
among several Maratha chiefs. This sjrttem of sub-division of reven^
gave rise to complications in accounts and the Peshwa and his Brahnti*
Secretariat took advantage of the same. Perpetual feuds and jealoujj»l
were also created among the Maratha chiefs.
Hazur Daphtar. The centre of the Maratha administration was the Peshwa Secretariat at Poona and it
was known as the Hazur Daphtar. \, was divided into many departments. It dealt with the revenues and
ex-penditure of all the districts, the accounts submitted by the village and district officials, the pay and
rights of all grades of public servants and the budgets of civil, military and, religious servants. The daily
register record¬ed all revenue income, all grants and payments and all payments received from foreign
territory. Thejse records became valueless in the time of Bajirao II on account of the chaotic state of
Village. The unit of Peshwa's administrative system was the self-contained and self-supporting village
community. At die head of each village was a headman called Patel. He was not paid by the Government
His post was hereditary and that was die subject of sale and purchase. The Patel was helped by Kulkarni
or village clerk and record-keeper who was always a Brahman. He was second in .importance to the
Patel and was paid in the same way as the Patel. The communal duties and wants of the village were
performed and supplied by Bara-Baluth or 12 heredi¬tary village servants who received a share of die
crops and other requisites. They were also helped by other 12 village servants called Bara-Baluth. The
carpenters, blacksmiths and other village mechanics and artisans gave Begar or forced labour.
Mamlatdar was in charge of a division called Sarkar, Suba or Prant. He was helped by Kama Vistar who
was in charge of a similar area called Pargana. The Kama Vistar was subordinate to the Peshwa's
Secretariat except in the case of Khandesh, Gujarat and Karnatak. Originally, Mamlat¬dar and Kama
Vistar were appointed for short terms, but they got renewals. They were responsible for every branch of
district administration includ¬ing agriculture, industries, civil and criminal justice, control of police and
investigation of social and religious questions. They received the State revenues and fixed die revenues
of each village after consultation with the Patel. They heard and decided the complaints of village
official. Under the existing system, there were many opportunities for bad admin* istration. In theory,
the accounts of Mamlatdars were not passed by the Secretariat at Poona until they tallied with the
accounts of die local offi¬cers. In all disputes regarding land, the Deshmukh was expeaed to pro¬duce
ancient records widi the history of all Inams and grants and the register to transfer of property which he
maintained. The registers of the Deshmukh were irregularly maintained and were often incompleteThese registers were checked by the Mamlatdars. There were in all " officers in each district.
In order to prevent wholesole misappropriation of public money, the
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
Government was accustomed to demand from the Mamlatdars ^ her officials the payment of a heavy
sum (Rasad) on their first ap-*nd °n t to a district. The Hazur Daphtar prepared for them estimates
P°'nUIbable income and expenditure of the district. In time of Baji-d Pi? jfoe posts of the Mamlatdars
and others were auctioned. The ra°. and menials were paid for 10 or 11 months in a year because it was
cle rfit that evei7 servant got s° much leave in a year.
judicial System. The Judicial System was very imperfect. There
p. no rules of procedure and no codified law. In several cases, the
we. 0biect was to bring about an amicable settlement between the partm3 Arbitration was considered to be the first step in the disposal of a
,eS't if arbitration failed, the case was transferred for decision to a
Panchayat appointed by the Patel in the village and by the leading rnerhants in urban areas. An appeal lay from the decision of the Panchayat
the Mamlatdar who usually upheld the verdict of the Panchayat. In
toite of hs primitive character, the Panchayat was a popular institution.
if the Panchayat did not decide the case properly, a re-trial took place.
The peasant obtained fair justice from the village Panchayat. However,
there was no justice if the big guns were involved in a case.
In criminal cases, the procedure of the other courts was repeated. However, the Panchayat was less
frequently appointed. The chief autho¬rities were the Patel in the village, the Mamlatdar in the district,
and Sarsubedar in the province and the Peshwa and the Nyayadhish at the headquarters. They
administered justice according to the popular cus¬tom tempered by the notions of the presiding
officers. No regular form of trial of the accused persons was prescribed. Flogging was frequently inflicted
with the object of extorting confession. Torture was also allow¬ed. After 1761, capital punishment and
mutilation of limbs were inflict¬ed upon persons convicted of dacoity and theft, murder or treason. The
usual methods of execution were hanging, cutting to pieces with a sword or crushing the skull. In the
case of Branmans, they were starved to death or poisoned. The ruler alone had the power of life and
death. False evidence figured in criminal inquiries and the only notice taken of false evidence was a mild
reproof from the Nyayadhish. The members of the family were taken away from the convict so that they
might not be spoil¬ed. Prisoners were kept in hill forts and gold often unlocked their gates.
Police System. The method employed was one of setting a thief to catch a thief. Every village kept its
own watchmen who belonged to the degraded Mahar tribe under the direct control of the Patel.
Watchmen were helped by gangs of hereditary criminal tribesmen. Each group was under the control of
its own Nayak or headman who Vas answerable to the Patel for theft or robbery committed in the
village. The system wiled to prevent crimes. Umeji Nayak, the famous Ramosi outlaw, com¬mitted many
crimes against persons and property when he was actually in receipt of a salary from the Bombay
Government for performing police duties in the Poona district. His methods showed that there was
nothing to prevent the village police from committing crimes settling them upon the innocent. Even the
petty chiefs and the estate-holders plundered the villages of their rivals. Whenever the crime was on the
increase, Govern¬ment strengthened the village police with irregular infantry from the Neighbouring hill
forts and levied a house-tax on the residents of the dis¬turbed area. The duty of the irregular infantry
was to support the village Police under the Patel and to oppose violence by force of arms. It did n°t
include the work of detection of crime.
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
In the time of Bajirao II, the district police system was chan the appointment of additional police officials
whose duty was to <j^ ^ and seize offenders. In the case of urban areas, magisterial and *C0Vt' powers
were given to the Kotwal. The latter also regulated prices ^f a census of the inhabitants, investigated
and decided disputes rep' ^ immovable property, supplied labour to Government, levied fees fro ^
professional duties given to the Nagaraka or police superintendent. ^
Army. The Maratha army consisted of the mercenary forces 0f
In a professional character. The Marathas were sent to the cavalry and th ■"
feudal chiefs and regiments under the control of the Peshwa. in 'J1' time of Shivaji they were
national in character, but later on they assu
knowledge of horse-breeding proved very useful. The infantry was m?
ly drawn from Northern India. The artillery was manned and command
ed by the Portuguese and Indian Christians. The military services of »k
Marathas were secured by the grant of fiefs. As the fiefs of the rival chirf
were in the same areas, there was a lot of internal strife and dissensio !
and that stood in the way of the solidarity of the State. "
The Maratha Government did practically nothing for the economi improvement and intellectual
advancement of the people. A large pJ portion of the revenues of the Government came from robbing
the terri tories of the neighbours. The Marathas did not construct works of pub. lie utility. The only thing
they did in the field of education was to giyt money to the deserving Pandits. The Marathas maintained
"JasudV (spies) and "Harkaras" (messengers) for political and military perform, ance and not for the
convenience of the public.
Sources of Revenue. The most important source of revenue was in the form of Chauth and
Sardeshmukhi. The Chauth was divided into (1) 25 per cent for ruler, (2) 66 per cent for Maratha Sardars
and chiefs for the maintenance of troops, (3) 6 per cent for the Pant Sachiv, and (4) 3 per cent for other
persons according to the pleasure of the ruler. Such a division of Chauth continued under the Peshwas.
Another important source of revenue was agricultural income from the village belonging to original
settlers who acquired the forests and who could not be deprived of their lands. The assessment was
based on a careful survey. Land was divided into three classes, viz., according to the character of the
crop, facilities for irrigation and productivity of land The Patel was the pnly official authority who could
speak for the rights of the villagers against the higher authorities. The cultivator had prac¬tically no
Dr. S.N. Sen has described the system of revenue collection in these words: "When the time for
collection came, the Mahar called the rate payers to the village Chawdi where the Patel held his office.
The Kulkan" of the village, accounts-keeper, was present there with his records to assist the Patel in his
work, and so were Potdars. The latter assayed and stamp' ed the money when paid, for which the rentpayer got a receipt from to Kulkarni. When the collection- was over, the money was sent to the Kara*
visdar with a letter under the charge of the Chaugula, and a similar K ter, often a duplicate copy, was
sent to the Deshmukh, under the charg of the Mahar. The Chaugula got a receipt from the Mamlatdar
fot' «* sum paid, which was carefully preserved in the Kulkarni's bundle of vilMF account. Sometimes
Shibandi was sent by the officer incharge of the & trict or Tarf to help the Patel in his work of collection.
The revet"1 was generally paid in four instalments and sometimes in three."
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
Another source of a revenue was the miscellaneous taxes such as tax
year's rent in 10 years on the lands held by the Deshmukh and
of ° ande, a tax on land kept for the village Mahars, a tax on lands
ted by wells, a house-tax levied from everyone except Brahmans and
officers, an annual fee for the testing of weights and measures, a
n the re-marriage of widows, a -tax on sheep and she-buffaloes, a pastaX te fee. a taX on me^on cultivation in river beds, succession duty, a
*ur* on the sale of houses, etc. When the Maratha Government was in
fU ncial difficulty, it did not mind levying on all land-holders Kurja-Patti
f0StyPatti equal to one year's income of the tax-payer.
Customs duties also brought some revenue. They were in the form
# taxes on trades and professions, taxes on projects and sale and octroi
°nd ferry charges. Brahmans were exempted from duty on things imoorted for their own use. They were also exempted from house tax and
JJher small taxes.
Another source of income was from the forests. Permits were sold for cutting timber. Some money was
also got from the sale of grass, bamboos, fuel, honey and pastures.
The Government also got some money by giving licences to approv¬ed goldsmiths for private mints. The
goldsmiths undertook to maintain a certain standard. In spite of this, the goldsmiths turned out spurious
and faulty coins. Such a thing happened in 1760 in a certain division. On such an occasion, all private
mints were closed and central mint was established which charged a fee of 7 coins for every licence.
The administration of justice also brought some money, although the income was not stable. A fee of
25% was charged on money bonds. Succession fee was charged and large sums of money were taken
away from persons suspected or found guilty of adultery.
No definite estimate of the total revenues of Maratha State can be given. The revenue depended upon
the robbing expeditions and could not be certain. On account of the unsettled condition of the country,
the Maratha Government raised large sums of money on the security of its revenue. The people were
impoverished on account of too much looting. The Constitution of the Maratha Government and army
was intended more to destroy than to create an Empire.
Causes of the Downfall of the Marathas. It goes without saying that after the disintegration and fall of
the Mughal Empire, .power fell into the hands of the Marathas. Their empire was vast. Their armies
were big. The Marathas themselves were great warriors and in fearlessness and bra-very they were
second to none in the world. However, in spite of these qualities, the Marathas failed to hold their own
against the British. This Was due to many causes.
(1) It is true that the Maratha Empire was a vast one, but it was
J|ot well-knit. It was not a unitary State and all power was not in the
tends of the Peshwa. The Maratha Empire was a confederacy. Power
*as shared by many Maratha chiefs and most important of them were
£°lkar, Scindhia, Bhonsla and Gaikwad. It is true that nominally the
eshwa was the head of the Maratha confederacy but, as a matter of fact,
' had no substantial control over the various Maratha chiefs. Every one
' them was independent in his own territory and did whatever he pleas**• They did not hesitate to intrigue against one another. It was not a
*PPy phenomenon to see Holkar, Scindhia or Bhonsla helping another
er against one another. Evidently, there was no discipline and solid-
Rise and Fall of the Peshwas
arity among the Marathas. They were not brought together even by a national emergency. They failed
to help one another against their co»n. mon enemies and the result was that all of them were defeated
one by 0ne by the English East India Company.
The Marathas did not bother about finance. Such a vital d» partment was absolutely ignored.
The result was that the Marathas w^fe always in need of money. This need they tried to satisfy by
plundering the country. Plundering raids by the Maratha chiefs in search of money were common. But
such a system can hardly bring any credit to fly. Government. No country can grow under such
circumstances. Even the people cannot have any devotion or loyalty to such a State. The Maratha
empire was bound to fall. The Marathas could plunder others when their own territory was small, but
when their own empire began to grow, they could not adopt the old device of plundering. This resulted
in shortage of finance. The Marathas did not set up an efficient system of adminis-tration. Nothing was
done to safeguard the interests of the people. Their rule was positively oppressive.
Another cause of Maratha failure was that they gave up their old method of fighting. The
Marathas were experts in guerilla warfare. They were not accustomed to pitched battles. However,
guerilla tactics were possible only so long as the Marathas had not set up an Empire of dieir own. When
they established their own Empire, it became absolutely necessary for them to protect the people from
foreign invasion. Conse¬quently, by the force of circumstances, the Marathas were forced to give up
their old method of fighting and that brought about their ruin.
The Marathas were poor students of geography. They did not bother to understand the
geography of the country which was indispensa¬ble for successful military operations. The result was
that their lack of knowledge of the geography of the country landed them into difficulties. If the
Maratha armies were moving to a destination, they might not be knowing that they would have to cross
a big river or mountain on the way. Such a handicap was suicidal for successful military operations. If
such was the condition of the Marathas, the Englishmen knew all about the Maratha territory. This
knowledge helped the Englishmen in their military operations.
The English Company had enormous resources at its disposal and the Marathas were no match
for them. The English were also the masters of diplomacy and the Marathas were merely children
before them in that difficult art.
Another cause of Maratha failure was the neglect of the study of science and of military training
and organization. Those who conduc¬ted the affairs of the Maratha State did not take note of what their
European neighbours were doing in India. When Bajirao and his brother Chimnaji conquered the Island
of Bassein from the Portuguese after a heroic fig}11 they failed to take the logical step of founding a
naval arsenal and ship" building base as a measure of self-defence. The Portuguese had docks afl*
foundries for making guns and experts to work them on scientific linf* These could have been continued
under Maratha management at Bassein-If that had been done, the Peshwas would not have been
helpless in n&~ matters. They would not have been forced to apply to Europeans for t& supply of shot,
cannon, power, ships, etc. The Peshwas and their advis^j were intelligent and it is a pity that they utterly
neglected the study ^ development of sciences which were absolutely necessary for the preser** tion of
their organization, artillery and trained infantry and no wonder ®
Rise and Fall of The Peshwas
Kjarathas ran away before the European guns. It is pointed out that no .faratha leader had the courage
to face the British gunmen even if they tfere very few in number. Sardesai points out if the Maratha
Government had possessed the necessary foresight and perseverance to organize their cghting on the
European lines they would have been able to resist the Britis'1 advance successfully.
Another cause of Maratha failure was the lack of organization or system in whatever they did.
There was no unity of command, no distribu¬tion of work and power, no clear-cut assignment of duties,
no methods, no system and no rule. Each Maratha chief pulled in his own direction. There was want of
attention to details and pre-arrangement. It is true that the Marathas saw the necessity of uniting for a
common purpose but no one came forward to do the needful in the matter. They never joined together
against a common enemy. The result was that they were individually defeated.
It is pointed out that the downfall of the Marathas synchronised with the end of the 18th and
the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, the position of the Marathas was the weakest and that
of the Eng¬lishmen was the strongest. Between 1794 and 1800, most of the expe¬rienced and able
persons in the Maratha kingdom were removed by the cruel hand of death. The old Ram Shastri had
already died in Novem¬ber, 1789. Mahadji Scindhia died in February 1794. Hari Pant Phadka died in
June 1794. Ahalya Bai Holkar died in August 1795. Peshwa Mahadeo Rao lost his life in October 1795 by
an accidental fall from the balcony of his palace. Tukoji Holkar died in August 1797. Parshuram Bhan
Patwardhan died on 18th September 1799. Nana Phadnavis died on 13th March 1800. Before the
Marathas were able to put their house in order, they were called upon to oppose the formidable British
power, strong in science, constitution, unity and naval supremacy. The supreme power at this time fell
into the hands of Bajirao II and Daulatrao Scindhia. Their misdeeds brought the Poona court and society
to such a moral deg¬radation that no one's life, liberty or honour was safe. People even in the distant
parts of the country had to suffer terrible misery through misrule, oppression, plunder and devastation.
The Sardars and Jagirdars, particular¬ly of the southern Maratha country, were so completely alienated
that they rushed for escape into the arms of the English. Bajirao was unscrupulous »nd incapable. It is
true that Yashwantrao Holkar tried his best to re¬move Bajirao and put in his place his brother Amritrao.
If he had suc¬ceeded in his objective, there would have been no chance for the British J° establish their
supremacy. However, the British did not allow that to * done and the result was that Bajiiao II ruined
everything. Bajirao II d,d not trust those who had been brought up under the old regime and *kcted his
advisers from menials, selfish priests or intriguing upstarts "*e Arajerao Ghatge. Persons like Bajirao II
surrounded by men of "toll minds and poor character could not hold their own against eminent
Penalities on the English side. Lord Wellesley and his two brothers '•fthur Wellesley and Henry Wellesley
were men of extraordinary capa-py and talent. The same could be said about men like Elphinstone, Sir
Jj>an Malcolm, Sir Barry Close, Col. Collins, Jonathan, Duncan and Sir
«omas Munro. Sardesai says that a nation possessing such able personal¬is for its agents is bound to
win success at any time.
Another cause of success of the British was their inquisitive nature
.. d their superior diplomacy. During the First Maratha War, the Brivr bad full and detailed information in their possession regarding the
*ratha Raj, its armies, the comparative worth of the various Jagirdars,
Rise and Fall of The Peshwas
their mutual relations and their family disputes. The British knew
could be won over and who were loyal to the Peshwa. When they st-'"
the war, they were prepared for any eventuality. Apart from Hor'h1'
Warren Hastings, Mostyn, Anderson, Upton, Malet and Goddard who v
actively participating in war, there were other British agents who l^
obtaining all kinds of information about the Maratha forts and their nr,^
tions, paths leading to them, the condition of the people, local disiW1
and political happenings. For seven years, Mostyn supplied useful jnr
mation about Poona to Bombay and Calcutta. Indeed, it can bo ,VJ
that he was the prime agent who provoked the war. On the oilier hand the Marathas had practically no
information about the English. Th knew practically nothing about England, her resources, her strength 1
India, etc. Even Nana Phadnavis did not at all possess such details. \y do not know any Hindu who had
learned the English language during A, Maratha regime and who could talk and correspond freely in that
laniju. age. On the other hand, there were a large number of Englishmen wj,0 had learned Indian
languages and could freely speak the same. It j, pointed out that even Nana Phadnavis was ignorant not
only of the geo. graphy of the outside world but even of India. The maps used by hjm were fantastic,
incorrect and useless. No wonder the Marathas failed.
(10) According to Rajwade, the want of scientific study by the Mara¬thas was the main cause of their
failure. To quote him, "If any of the Maratha troopers accompanying Peshwa Bajirao II in his fight before
the British regiments of General Smith and others during the early months of 1818, were asked why he
ran away and what particular fright had seized him, he would have unhesitatingly answered that he was
not at all afraid of white bipeds but of the wonderful long range guns which they handled and the
superior scientific equipment that they possessed in the art of con-ducting war." According to Ranade,
"If the innovation (of Scindhia's trained brigade) had been accompanied by the acquisition of the
requisite knowledge of military strategy and the scientific processes in the use and manufacture of
superior arms, the helplessness which paralyzed the native armies when their European officers left
them might ha\e been avoided; but no care seems to have been bestowed in this direction and they
were more helpless than ever on the battlefield."
According to Sardesai. the untimely and unexpected deaths of mauv of its great men at different
times were responsible for the failure of the Marathas. The untimely death of Shivaji brought the
Mughal Emperor down upon Maharashtra. The untimely death of Bajirao I >D 1740 freed the Nizam
from extinction and made his dynasty permanent in the Deccan. The death of Peshwa Madhavrao let
loose the latent dis-solving forces i/pon Maharashtra and hastened its ruin. The death ot Madhavrao II
in 1795 brought to the Maratha leadership the evil genius of Bajirao II. According to Elphinstorte, "It was
the good fortune of th#e British that neither Bajirao nor Scindhia possessed the strength and spin1 to
stand forth boldly at a critical moment. If there was any other mot* intrepid man occupying the
Pcshwa's position at the time, it is not di"1' cult to conceive how the British would have fared. The
Marathas ha« at their command ample means of waging a successful war—arms, money-army and
ammunition. Everything was ready. They only lacked a lead* Both Bajirao in the south and Daulatrao in
the north became traitors • then nation and lost the game."
Another cause of Maratha failure was the narrow conservanj and racial arrogance inherent in
the traditional system of caste. Tj* Brahman rulers set in motion reactionary forces and revived old
Rise and Fall of The Peshwas-
i of supporting bold reforms for the regeneration of society. Men '^TR iirao II cared more for earning
religious merit by distributing jobs like BaJ(jlC Brahmans than for the security of the State. According to
9*°? AC "An Englishman is a born political animal possessing the glitter-W nlis'h of a gentleman, but
diabolic at heart. Where politics is con¬ing P? ^g wiU not respect even his own father, much less any one
else, ^"as no wonder, therefore, that with our high talk of spiritual greatness,
'l W^nt down in a short moment before the Englishmen." we wcul
fchare has given certain reasons for the failure of the Marathas. Ac-rdins t° mm> tne -Maratnas did not
possess any national sentiment. The f°ternal jealousy and selfish treachery among them triumphed
over the '"hlic interest. While individually the Marathas were clever and brave, P v lacked the
corporate spirit so essential for national independence. The scientific spirit of inquiry and
improvement was entirely absent fflong them. They neglected to develop artillery as the main
support £ defence. The pernicious system of allowing lands in lieu of pay for military service proved
ruinous. After the death of Madhavrao I no capa¬ble leader appeared in Maharashtra. The Marathas
as a race lacked the virtue of discipline and methodical pre-arrangeme^^. The British were past
masters in the art of diplomacy and the Marathas could not stand against them.
In his despatch dated 17th August 1817, Sir Thomas Munro pointed out some of the defects of the
Marathas in these words: "When I con¬sider the weakness of the native States and the character of the
chiefs under whose sway they now are, I see little chance of a protracted resist¬ance from them. They
have no force to turn our armies and lengthen out the contest by a predatory invasion of our territories.
They may run ahead of a few days but will have no time to rest or plunder. They will be exhausted and
overtaken. It is not that they want resources, that they have not men and horses, but that there is no
one amongst them possessed of those superior talents which are necessary to direct them to
'"There is so little system or subordination in native governments that much more energy is required
under them than under the more regular governments of Europe to give full effect to their resources.
Daulatrao Scindhia was never formidable even in the height of his power. The great means which he
possessed were lost in his feeble hands. The exertions of Holkar against Lord Lake were still weaker than
those of Scindhia. The power of Holkar's as well as Scindhia's government has so much declined since
that time (1805) that it is scarcely credible they would venture to oppose us. The superiority of our
Government is so great that the event of any struggle is no longer doubtful."
Dodwell, H.H. (Ed.). Cambridge History of India, Vol. V, Chapter 23.
Duff, Grant. History of the Marathas.
Joshi, V.V. Clash of Three Empires.
Kincaid and Parasnis. History of the Maratha People.
Mahamahopadhyaya. Prof. D.V. Potdar Commemoration Volume (1950).
Sardesai, G.S. New History of the Marathas (1946)
Sardesai, G.S. Main Currents of Maratha History.
Sen, S.N. Administrative System of the Marathas (1925)
Sen, Surendra Nath. Anglo-Maratha Relations
Sinha. Rise of the Peshwas.
arrival of Lord William Bentinck marked the beginning 0t in many ways. He was a man of resolution,
capacity and «*: •*
new era in many ways. He was a man ot resolution, capacity and Helped by his previous experience in
Madras and an efficient stafi"*^ officials, he consolidated and re-organised the administrative
machinen. He was a true liberal of his day and was thoroughly in accord with th, ideals that inspired the
era of Catholic Emancipation and parliamentary reform. He was the first Governor-General who acted
on the theory th™ the welfare of the people was the main duty of the British in India, tt, infused into
oriental despotism the spirit of British freedom. Although he was considered to be unsuccessful as the
Governor of Madras he is COQ. sidered to be one of the greatest of the Governors-General of India. He
is famous not for his conquests but for the large number of reforms carried out by him in various fields.
It is a matter of common knowledge that the wars of Lord Hastinn and Lord Amherst cost a good deal to
the Indian exchequer. The Nepal IVar, the Third Maratha Wrar, the First Burmese War and the action
against the Pindaris practically exhausted the Indian treasury. When William Bentinck reached India he
found a deficit budget. The time for the renewal of the Charter of the Company was coming near and
the Directors wanted to present a favourable picture of Indian administration with a view to convincing
the people. No wonder, economy, reduction and increase in the total revenues of the State became the
watchwords of Bentinck's policy.
Financial Reforms. William Bentinck appointed two committees to inquire into the expenditure on civil
and military affairs of the Company and make recommendations for its reduction. The committees went
into the whole matter and made their recommendations. Accepting their recommendations, William
Bentinck abolished many sinecure jobs, cut down the allowances and reduced the salaries of the civil
servants. In the case of the military establishment, much could not be attempted. How¬ever, he halved
the Bhatta .allowances paid to the military personnel. Even before William Bentinck, the Directors of the
English Company had tried to reduce the allowances but they had failed. Now, they ordered William
Bentinck to reduce the Bhatta immediately. Consequently, iD November 1828 an order was i.ssued by
which the Bhatta was required by fifty per cent at all stations within four hundred miles of Calcutta.
There was a lot of agitation against the Governor-General who was openly insult¬ed and condemned by
the Anglo-Indian press. In spite of this opposition. William Bentinck stuck to his guns and ultimately the
opposition died out.
He abolished the Provincial Courts of Appeal and Circuit. Accord' ing to Bentinck, these courts served as
"resting places for those member5 af the services who were deemed unfit for higher responsibilities." A
l°l of savrftg was made from this account.
William Bentinck to Auckland
An attempt was made to increase the revenues of the Company by w*ridating the op ium trade.
Bentinck evolved the system of licences for the direct conveyance of opium from Malwa to Bombay and
thereby added to the revenues of the Company.
Even before the assumption of Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orfssa by the Company, grants of revenuefree lands had'been made to indivi¬duals and institutions. The English Company also confirmed those
grants. A Regulation of 1793 and another of 1819 empowered the Collectors to examine the validity of
the grants. There was a suspicion that many grants were fictitious and illegal. A Regulation of 1828
directed the Col¬lectors to look into the legality or otherwise of those grants. Special Com¬missioners
were appointed to hear appeals from the decisions of the Col¬lectors. The parties concerned pleaded
that they could not produce their documents on account of the passage of time. The Government did
not accept this plea and consequently many revenue-free lands were resumed by the Government. This
resulted in a lot of discontentment among the people, but William Bentinck was able to add to the
revenues of the Com¬pany.
At this time, the revenue settlement of the North-Western Province was carried out. We are told that
William Bentinck attended to this pro¬blem as soon as he came to India. He personally went on a tour of
the province and consulted the best brains on the subject. He evolved a plan of settlement which
became law in 1833. Land was surveyed. A classi¬fication of the soil was made. Settlement was fixed for
thirty years. It was made either with ryots or the zamindars or the village community. Undoubtedly the
revenue settlement encouraged the improvement of the 'soil and guaranteed the Government a
definite amount of revenue.
The employment of Indians in the service of the Company also re¬sulted in some economy. The salaries
paid to the Indians were much lower than those paid to the Europeans.
The result of the above reforms was that the finances of the English Company were rehabilitated.
Instead of a deficit of one million, Bentiiuk left behind a surplus of two millions.
Judicial Reforms. The judicial system of the Company suffered from three evils, viz., delay, expense and
uncertainty, Calcutta had be¬come too distant for the newly-acquired territories. In the work of judi¬cial
reforms, Bentinck was assisted by Sir Charles Metcalfe, Butterworih Bayley and Holt Mackenzie.
In 1829, William Bentinck abolished the Provincial Courts of Appeal and Circuit. These courts were not
doing their work enthusiastically. Their work was falling in arrears. These judges did not acquire
sufficient knowledge and acquintance with the people of the country. They fail¬ed to protect the people
from the oppression of the police. The under-trials were made to live in prison for months before their
cases were heard and disposed of. No wonder William Bentinck decided to abolish these courts.
However, he appointed Commissioners of Revenue and Circuits. The Bengal Presidency was divided into
twenty divisions and a Commis¬sioner was appointed for each division. These Commissioners were
requir¬ed to perform the same duties which were formerly performed by the judges of the Provincial
Courts of Appeal and Circuit. The Commission¬ers were also given the duty of supervising the Collectors
of Revenue and the police within their areas. However, these Commissioners were fhem-
'William Bent inch, to Auckland
selves placed under the control of the Sadar Nizamat Adalat and Board of Revenue for their criminal
and revenue functions respectively.
In 1829, a Regulation provided that the magistrates were to have the power of awarding punishment of
two years' imprisonment with lar. our. Appeals were to be taken to the Commissioners.
A Regulation of 1831 provided for the summary disposal of cases re¬lating to rent. Collectors were given
the power to decide those cases summarily. Their decisions were to be final. Those could be reversed
only by means of regular suits in civil courts.
Another Regulation of 1831 provided that respectable Indians were to be appointed in the Zila Courts
and City Courts. Indian judges were to try cases up to the value of Rs. 300. These judges were known as
Munsifs. They were to get fixed salaries from the Government.
It was provided in 1831 that principal Sardar Ameens were to be ap¬pointed by the Governor-Generalin-Council. Respectable Indians were to hold these offices. They were to get regular salaries. Appeals
were to be taken from their decisions to the Zila or City Courts. Neither the Ameens nor the Munsifs
were empowered to try cases in which Americans and European British subjects were involved.
Bentinck decided to set up a separate Sadar Diwani Adalat and Sadar Nizamat Adalat at Allahabad and
these courts started working from the beginning of 1832.
A Regulation of 1832 introduced the jury system in Bengal. Its ob¬ject was to help the European judges
to take advantage of the assistance of respectable Indians for the disposal of cases before them.
European judges were given the power to refer a case to a Panchayat of the Indians and the latter was
required to make inquiries regarding the matter in question, and send a report to the judge. ' Provision
was made for the appointment of Indian assessors to help the judges. They were required to give their
opinions individually.
William Bentinck abolished the use of Persian as court language and ordered the use of vernacular for
that purpose. This was a great boon to litigants who could express their grievances in their language.
Administrative Reforms. Lord William Bentinck reversed the policy of Lord Cornwallis with regard to the
employment of Indians in the ser¬vice of the English East India Company. Cornwallis had no faith in
Indians and consequently insisted upon the employment of Europeans. It was found that it was very
expensive to employ Europeans while Indians could be employed on much cheaper wages-. Indians
were available for clerical jobs on account of the spread of English language. Bentinck intro-duced three
grades of Indian judges and the highest of them called Sadar Amins were given a salary of Rs. 750. The
employment of Indians remov¬ed one of their grievances. This new policy was in accordance with the
principle laid down in the Charter Act of 1833. That Act laid down that "no native of India nor any
natural born subject of His Majesty should be disabled from holding any place, office of employment by
reason of his reli¬gion, place, of birth, descent or colour." William Bentinck followed the lines suggested
by Sir Charles Metcalfe, viz., "native functionaries in the first instance of all departments. The European
superintendents, uniting the local powers of judicature, police and revenue in all their branches,
through the districts over which they preside; Commissioners over them and
William Bentinck to Auckland
Board over them communicating with and subject to the immediate con¬trol of the Government."
Will«am Bentinck appointed a Board of Revenue at Allahabad for the North-Western Province.
Educational Reforms. It is well-known that the Charter Act of 1813 -Hotted a sum of Rs. one lakh a year
for the "revival and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British
territories." The Government of India could not make up its mind as to how the money was to be spent
and the same was allowed to accumulate every year. In 1823. Mr. Adams appointed a Committee of
Public Instruction to make suggestions. However, much could not be done on account of pre-occupa
tion with the First Burmese War. William Bentinck had to tackle this problem. There were two schools of
thought on this question. H.H. Wil¬son was the leader of the Orientalists and Sir Charles Trevelyan was
the leader of the Anglicists. The arrival of Lord Macaulay as Law Member strengthened the hands of
those who stood for the expenditure of money on English education. Ultimately, the issue was decided
in favour of the English language. Practical considerations were responsible for deciding the issue. It was
felt that not only the Government of India would get cheap clerks but there would be greater demand
for English goods. Even Indians like Raja Rammohan Roy were in favour of the English language. Bv a
resolution of March 1835, William Bentinck declared that "the great object of British Government ought
to be the promotion of literature and science among the natives and that the funds appropriated for
education should be best employed on English education alone."
It cannot be denied that the English education gave the Indians a lingua franca and thereby helped the
cause of nationalism in the country. The Indians were introduced to the treasures of western
In 1835, a Medical College was opened at Calcutta. Thus the know¬ledge of the western theory of
medicine began to be given to the students in India.
Social Reforms. William Bentinck was responsible for the abolition of Sati and Thugee. Both these
customs involved death. The only dif¬ference was that death in the case of Sati took place voluntarily
and in the case of Thugee was inflicted by Thugs on others. Nobody knows the origin of the custom of
Sati. Undoubtedly, it was an old custom which prevailed among the higher castes. It was considered to
be a privilege and honour and that is why it was accompanied by the recitation of sacred hymns. The
widowed woman burnt herself along with her husband. She was made to put on all her clothes and
ornaments and after the act of burning was over the Brahmans were able to put all the gold into their
pockets. This created vested interests and hence the custom was continued in spite of pro¬tests from
time to time. It is well-known that Akbar tried to suppress the custom of Sati. Albuquerque had done the
same. The Peshwas also prohibited this custom within their territories. In 1823 the Court of Dir¬ectors
made an inquiry into the custom and hinted at the possibility of prohibiting it by law if there was no
danger of any great opposition. Lord Amherst had invited opinions on this question and it was found
that there was no unanimity. William Bentinck came to the conclusion that there was no possibility of
any serious consequences if the Sati was made a penal olfence. He was helped in this task by Raja
Rammohan Roy. By a regu¬lation of December 1829, Bentinck declared the practice of Sati as illegal and
punishable as "culpable homicide." There was strong opposition from the
William Bentinck to Auckland
O'chodox sections of society but William Bentinck had the courage of
reformer and he carried out the reform. There was agitation for som'
time but the same died out after passage of time.
As regards the Thugs they were bands of hereditary robbers and mur. derers who carried out their
crimes in a uniform manner. The existence of the associations of Thugs first came to the notice of the
British after the capture of Seringapatam in 1799. A few hundred of them were captured in the Mysore
territory where they particularly flourished. A few year$ later further arrests in the Arcot district led to
the discovery that the Thuja operated in many parts of India and enjoyed the protection of petty chief,
tains and zamindars in many places. It was found that they worked in gangs, and confined their
attention to travellers. Their customary method of murdering was by strangling. Their children were
regularly trained in their profession. They robbed the poor and the rich and were ready to corr.init
muiuti foi the sake of a few rupees. The gangs of Thugs often trntained as many as 300 men. In such
cases, they worked as sub-gangs and gathered as a body only when it was absolutely necessary.
Thornton has explained the method of the working of the Thugs in these words: "Some variations have
existed in the manner of perpetrating the murders; but the following seems to be the most general:
While travel¬ling along, one of the gang suddenly throws a rope or cloth round the neck of the devoted
individual and retains hold of one end, the other end being seized by an accomplice. The instrument of
death, crossed behind the neck, is then drawn very tight, the two Thugs who hold it pressing the head of
the victim forward: a third villain, who is in readiness behind the traveller, seizes him by the legs, and he
is thus thrown on the ground. In this situation there is little opportunity of resistance. The operation of
the noose is aided by kicks inflicted in the manner most likely to produce vital injury, and the sufferer is
thus quickly despatched.. .Such are the per¬severance and caution of Thugs that, in the absence of a
convenient oppor¬tunity, they have been known to travel in company with persons whom they have
devoted to destruction, for several days before rhey executed their in¬tention. If circumstances favour
them, they generally commit the murder in a jungle, or an unfrequented part of the country, near a
sandy place or dry water-course. Particular tracts are chosen, in every part of India, where they may
exercise their horrid profession with the greatest conveni¬ence and security. Much-frequented roads,
passing through extensive jun¬gles, where the ground is soft for the grave, or the jungle thick to cover
them, and where the local authorities take no notice of the bodies, are fav¬ourite spots. The Thugs
speak of such places with the same affection and
nthusiasm as other men would of the most delightful scenes of their early
Inside each band of Thugs there were regular ranks and gradations. A Tnug with a great reputation as a
strangler or whose ancestors had been Thugs from time immemorial or who could bribe or hoodwink
the local officials, or who was a natural leader ot men, became a Jamadar. A person vho was an
outstanding member of the profession became a Subedar. What¬ever things were captured by the
Thugs, had to be divided among many persons. The leader was given a special share of the plunder. First
of all portions were set aside for the local polygars or chieftains whose conniv¬ance was important.
Something was set apart for the performance of reli¬gious ceremonies. After that two shares were given
to the actual murderer and a share eacii was given to the ordinary member of the gang. The Thugs had
great faith in religious superstitions. They believed that if they act-
William Bentinck tc Auckland
ording to the rules and observed the omens, the Hindu Goddess Kali
\d not ('esert tnem- One of the Thugs told Sleeman thus: "That
w° v (or Kali) instituted Thugi and supported it, as long as we attended
her omens and observed the rules framed by the wisdom of our ancestors,
nothing can ever make us doubt."
The English East India Company did something in this field to remove he curse of Thugee, but there was
not much progress. In 1829. the agent f the Governor-General in Narbada territories was instructed to
take ac¬tion against all the Thugs wherever they might be. Captain Sleeman was appointed as the
Assistant of the Agent. The officials of the Company throughout India were directed to send to him
not only reports of lill cases * Thugee, but also all facts which might help to unearth the secrets of the
Thugs. A study of the reports showed that in Mysore alone, hundreds 0f persons were murdered
annually by the Thugs.
There were four main difficulties in the way of successful operations against the Thugs. The first
difficulty arose from the very nature of the crime which was usually done in secret. The magistrate of
Chittoor ob¬served thus: "It is only necessary to consider the habits of the phansigors to be convinced
of the extreme difficulty of discovering and convicting them and how inadequate the ordinary measures
of State and the operation of the present laws are for effecting those objects. The scene of their
crimes is always out of their own districts, seldom within thirty miles of their usual places of abode; they
have sometimes left their homes for several months together and faced journeys of many hundreds of
miles. Their victims are generally travellers with whose circumstances they become acquainted at
public choultries; they frequently change their names and sometimes go by several names, the latter to
prevent detection; murder their victims at a distance from towns or large villages in public roads leading
through jun¬gles or uncultivated land, in which they bury their bodies; they sometimes take with them
some of their children (boys under twelve years of age) the less to attract notice and suspicion. The
headman of the gang some¬times rides on a horse; they generally have with them some bullocks or
tattoo ponies to carry the plundered property; by these means they normally pass for merchants, the
character they frequently assume. A gang is always suffi¬ciently numerous to allow several persons
belonging to it being stationed at a short distance from the places where their victims are.put to death,
to give alarm in the case of approaching danger. They never commit rob¬bery unaccompanied with
murder; they first strangle their victims and then plunder them."
Another difficulty in the way of the Government was that the Thugs enjoyed the protection of the
chiefs, zamindars and officials and consequent¬ly could do whatever they pleased without any fear of
punishment. The Thugs were required to pay lot of money in the form of Nazrana. A Thug approver
stated that not he alone but his father also was a Thug. The approver also produced a list of the Thugs
who paid tribute to the Gwalior State. All the houses of the Thugs were taxed and one of the Thugs was
required to collect the money. When the Thugs returned from their expeditions, they made presents to
their leaders. According to an¬other approver, the Thug leaders "keep up a direct understanding with
the local authorities in Bundelkhand, in whose limits they and their followers reside; and invariably on
their return from an excursion, Conciliate their forbearance and favour by suitable Nazranas."
Connivance by local rulers **s perhaps the rule rather than the exception.
Another difficulty was that many Thugs had alternative sources of live-
William Bentinck to Auckland
lihood. They spent most of their time in a respectable occupation a^d practised Thugee occasionally. It
was difficult to suspect such persons.
Another difficulty arose from the new standards of proof demanded by the courts under English
officials. Many persons, known to the people 0f the locality to be Thugs, were acquitted for want of
rigorous evidence. Sometimes an honest informer was punished because his case was not proved in a
legal sense.
To meet the above difficulties, two measures were adopted. An Act was passed by which the mere fact
of belonging to a gang of Thugs was made an offence punishable with imprisonment for life. It was often
possi-ble to prove association where evidence of a commission of a specific offence was not
forthcoming. Moreover, Sleeman and his colleagues made skilful and discriminating uses of approvers. A
Thug against whom evidence was clear was pardoned after making a full confession. That helped the
autho¬rities to know more about the Thugs and their whereabouts. It is stated that within six years,
about 200 Thugs were arrested, about 1,500 were put to death or transported for life and the rest were
confined to a reformatory at Jubbulpore.
According to Hindu law, if a Hindu became a convert to Christianity, he was not entitled to a share in the
property of his family. The law Was changed in such a way that even if a Hindu was converted to
Christianity, he was to be entitled to his share in the paternal property.
Public Works Reforms. The irrigation schemes started in the time of Lord Minto were taken up in the
time of William Bentinck. Canals were dug for the distribution of water in the North-Western Province.
Roads were improved. The Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Delhi was built and from Bombay to Agra
was started.
Relations with Indian States. The Mughal Emperor complained of the inadequate allowance given to
him. Although Raja Rammohan Roy went to England to plead the cause of the Mughal Emperor, nothing
came out of it. This created bitterness.
William Bentinck followed a policy of non-intervention with regard to the dependent States. After the
death of Nizam Sikandar Shah of Hydera¬bad in 1829, Nazir-ud-Daula became the Nizam and the latter
requested the British Government to remove the British officers. The request was granted.
There were disturbances in Jaipur. The Rani and her lover were exe¬cuted in 1835. The British Resident
was assailed. However, the policy of non-intervention was followed.
In the case of Bhopal, Sikandar Begum took over the administration into her hands. There was a lot of
confusion and trouble in the State. In spite of that, the British Government remained neutral.
In the case of Gwalior and Sind, no consistent policy was followed. Sometimes a policy of intervention
was followed and sometimes that of non-intervention.
As regards Mysore, there was a lot of confusion and mis-government In the State. The people revolted
against the ruler. William Bentinck intervened and took over the administration of the State in his own
hands. This arrangement continued up to 1881.
William Bentinck was responsible for the annexation of the State oi Coorg. The ruler of Coorg became
insane and put to death every mate member of the royal family. He oppressed his subjects. The
result was
William Bentinck to Auckland
that the British Government denied him its protection. As this had no effect, war was declared against
the Raja. He was defeated and captured and the State was annexed.
William Bentinck sent Colonel Pottinger with instructions to enter into a commercial treaty with the
Amirs of Sind. Although the latter hesi¬tated, they were forced to enter into a treaty on account of the
danger of Sikhs.1
Bentinck met Maharaja Ranjit Singh at a Durbar held at Rupar in 1831. The object of this meeting was to
bring the two countries to¬gether so that they might cooperate with each other in the event of a
Russian advance.
Charter Act of 1833. The Charter renewed the monopoly of the Eng¬lish Company for 20 years. It
centralised legislation.
Estimate of Bentinck. The glories of William Bentinck were the
glories of peace and not of war.3 He was responsible for rehabilitating
the finances of the English Company. He removed the legitimate grievan¬
ces of the Indians by admitting them into the service of the Company.
He carried out many useful reforms in the social, administrative and
judicial fields. He introduced the steamship navigation on the Ganges.
R.C. Dutt has summed up his achievements in these words: "William
Bentinck's seven years' rule was an era of peace, retrenchment and reform.
He secured tranquillity in the East India Company's dominions and lived
at peace with the Indian powers. He reduced the public debt, decreased
the annual expenditure and showed a surplus. He commenced that re¬
vised settlement, of land revenue in Northern India which gave relief to
landlords and cultivators. He admitted the educated people of India to
the higher appointments in the revenue and judicial departments. He
abolished the practice of sati and suppressed the crime of thugee. He
promoted English education in India and endeavoured to carry out the
maxim that the administration of India was primarily for the interest of
the people."
"Lord William Bentinck infused into oriental despotism the spirit of British freedom." "William Bentinck's
part in consolidating British authority in India was a great and honourable one."
Lord Macaulay wrote on the base of Bentinck's statute at Calcutta the following inscription: "To William
Cavendish Bentinck, who during seven years ruled India with eminent prudence, integrity and
benevolence; who, placed at the head of a great empire, never laid down the simplicity and moderation
of a private citizen; who infused into oriental despotism the spirit of British freedom; who never forgot
that -the end of govern¬ment is the happiness of the governed; who abolished cruel rites; who effaced
humiliating distinctions: who gave liberty to the expression of public opinion; whose constant study it
was to elevate the intellectual and moral character of the nation committed to his charge." Macaulay
also referred in another place to "the veneration with which the latest gene¬ration of Hindus will
contemplate the statue of Lord William Bentinck."
According to Grenville, "He (Bentinck) is a man whose success in
According to Alfred Lyall, Bentinck's treaties with Ranjit Singh and the Amirs of Sindh "were in
point of fact the preliminary steps that ^d us, a few years later on, upon the wide and perilous field of
Afghan politics." (British Dominion in India, p. 313).
"Peace hath her vic»«*r««s no less renowned than war."
William Dentinck to Auckland
life has been greater than his talents warrant, for he is not right-head A
and has committed some great blunder or other in every public situati
in which he has been placed but he is simple in his habits, popular ^
his manners, liberal in his opinions, and magnificently hospitable in \?
mode of life." Is
H.T. Prinsep who knew William Bentinck intimately wrote thus about him: "It was not in Lord William
Bentinck's nature to give his implicit confidence to anybody except his wife, and he never took any i^.
portant step without consulting her. She had been trained to diplomacy at Naples and in Sicily, and I
cannot say that her advice and influence was other than beneficial." Again, "He had a great love of
change and desire to meddle with every institution of practice that he found in work or prevailing. It is
impossible to deny that some of his changes were beneficial, but he as often muddled what he meddled
with as improved it, and he left a great deal to be done by those who succeeded him in order to bring
the machine of Government back into good working order." Again, "Lord William Bentinck wrote more
Minutes than all the other Governors-General of India put together, but they were mostly on subjects of
little moment. If he had to discuss a great question, he did not bring to it any originality of view or
commanding intelligence and power of reasoning that carried with it the conviction of those who read
and had to carry out the ideas and propositions he desired to see adopted. But there never was a more
honest man in his intentions, and in the distribu¬tion of his patronage."
Lord William Bentinck was succeeded by Sir Charles Metcalfe who was one of the ablest servants of the
English East India Company. It was he who had negotiated the Treaty of Amritsar with Ran jit Singh in
1809. He had also worked as Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Province. The only important
event of his time was the abolition of the restrictions on the Indian Press. The Home Government was so
much annoyed at this act of the Governor-General that it decided to recall him. His period of office
lasted for a few months.
, LORD AUCKLAND (1836-42)
The most important event of his reign was the First Afghan War which has been discussed at length in
Chapter XXXI. His Afghan policy has been universally condemned.
However, Lord Auckland carried out a few reforms. Before his time, the English in India enjoyed certain
privileges with regard to their deal¬ings with the Indians. They had the power to take their cases to the
Supreme Court at Calcutta. Lord Minto was of the opinion that the dis¬crimination was unjust and must
be abolished. An Act was passed by which Englishmen in civil suits were put on the same footing as the
Indians. This Act was called by the Englishmen by the name of "The Black Act."
Lord ■'Auckland set up a large number of scholarships for the various Government schools in India. He
also announced that the medium of instruction in all primary schools was to be the vernacular language
of the area concerned. He set up medical colleges at Bombay and Madras.
With a view to meeting the menace of famines, Auckland sanctioned a large scheme of irrigation for the
people of Doab. On account of the outbreak, of the First Afghan War, the scheme could not be carried
out as no money was available.
William Bentinck to Auckland
; dons with Indian States. Lord Auckland threatened the ruler
t0 depose him in case he did not improve his administration.
0f ln(Jornjng proved effective and the administration was improved.
£a;a 0f Satara resented his weak position and carried on nego-
■ M with other interested and disaffected elements. The Government tinii°ns. asUed him to admit his
fault but the latter refused to do so. of ^^it was that he was deposed and sent as a state prisoner to
Banaras. ^brother was put on the throne.
As regards Oudh, Lord Auckland entered into a treaty with its ruler.
treaty was disallowed by the Home
Government. Although Lord
Hand knew the true state of affairs, he concealed the same from the
i of Oudh and merely informed him that only a part of the treaty
hd been changed by the Home Government. Such an act of duplicity
Was unpardonable.
According to Trotter, "Cold-mannered, reticent, shy, good-natured robust of figure, disliking all pomp or
parade, and delighting in regular official work, Lord Auckland was eminently fitted by temperament and
lone experience to discharge the most exacting duties of quiet times." According to Grt-nville, "He
(Auckland) was a man without shining qua¬lities or showy accomplishments, austere and almost
forbidding in his man¬ner. Silent and reserved in society, unpretending both in public and in private life,
and in the House of Lords taking a rare and modest part in
debate Nevertheless he was universally popular.... H'.w understanding
was excellent, his temper placid, his taste and tact exquisite, his disposi¬tion, notwithstanding his
apparent gravity, cheerful; and under his cold exterior there was a heart overflowing with human
According to H.T. Prinsep, "He was a good man of business, an as¬siduous reader of all papers, and very
correct and careful in any of the drafts he approved and passed but he was much wanting in promptness
of decision and had an overweening dread of responsibility which caused the instructions he gave which
were often penned by himself, to be so unsatisfactory that his agents had generally to decide for
themselves what to do in the difficulty." Again, "Lord Auckland was much esteemed by the society of
Calcutta, native as well as European. He had many amia¬ble qualities, and his two sisters, especially the
elder, contributed much to establish his popularity. But he was the author of no great measure to
improve the internal administration, and in his general policy he showed a hesitation and want of
decision that prevented his being looked upon as a Governor-General of whom India might be proud. He
was consider-ed to have yielded too much to his Private Secretary (John Colvin), who °n occasions when
the Governor-General called his Members of Council and others into private consultation with himself,
would take the whole initiative of the discussion whiie his Lordship sat listening with his hands *t the
back of his head; and fiom having thus so much thrown upon him ne got the nickname of Lord Colvin
among the younger Civil Servants."
Bearce, George D. British Attitudes Towards India. Joulger, D.C. Lord William Bentinck (1897). ^ans,
R. Lord Amherst (1894). More, R.W. Hindu Infanticide (1860). jjeeman, W.H. / Rambles and
Recollections, •takes, Eric. The English Utilitarians and India. laylor, ?,feadows. Confessions of a
Thug. '•'ompson, E. Sutee (1928). 'rotter, L.J. Earl of Auckland (1905)
^rd Ellenborough (1842-44). Lord Ellenborough was appointel
a time ;vhen the situation in India was very serious on account of K*
British bungling in Afghanistan in the time of Auckland. He was a m
of vigour and decision. Before his coming to India, he had acted as th"
President of Board of Control. e
The first work done by Lord Ellenborough was that he brought th first Afghan War to a successful close.
The credit may be shared by vari ous English generals who actually conducted the campaigns but he also
can claim his share.
Annexation of Sindh (1843). Another important event of the Gov-ernor-Generalship of Lord
Ellenborough was the conquest and annexation of Sindh in 1843. It seems desirable to discuss at this
place the Anglo. Sindh relations from the beginning of the 19th century up to its annex* tion.
Sindh was ruled by a number of chiefs or Amirs of the Talpura tribe who had originally come from
Baluchistan. The important Amirs were at Khairpur, Hyderabad and Mirpur. The Amir of Khairpur
claimed suzerainty over other Amirs.
In 1809, the English Company entered into a treaty with the Amirs by which the latter undertook not to
allow any settlement of "the tribe of the French" in Sindh. In 1831, Burnes went on a mission to Lahore
and he passed through the liver Indus. It is stated that when a Syed saw the ship of Burnes passing
through the river Indus, he remarked thus: "Alas, Sindh is now gone since the English have seen the
In 1831, MahaTaja Ranjit Singh suggested to William Bentinck the partition of Sindh between himself
and the British. The Governor-Gene¬ral did not accept the suggestion. However, the English Company
forced the Amir of Hyderabad to enter into a treaty in April 1832 on the follow¬ing terms:
"That the two contracting powers bind themselves never to look with the eye of covetousness
on the possessions of each other.
"That the British Government has requested a passage for th« merchants and traders of
Hindustan by the rivers and roads of Sind o) which they mav transport their goods and merchandise
from one countr} to another and the said Government of Hyderabad hereby acquiesces >" the same
request on the following conditions: (a) that no person sha" bring any description of military stores by
the above river and roads, (o/ that no armed vessel or boats shall come by the said river.
"That no English merchant shall be allowed to settle the Scind* but shall come as occasion
requires and having stopped to transact tbe'r business, shall return to India.
This treaty was renewed in 1834.
Ellenborough and Hardinge
vf haraja Ranjit Singh was very anxious about the conquest of Sindh h British Government refused to
allow him to do so. As a matter
of fact the British Government took the Amirs under its own protection. A* a result of the favour done
to them. Lord Auckland forced the Amirs in 1838 to have a British Resident at Hyderabad.
When the first Afghan War broke out and Maharaja Ranjit Singh refused to allow the British forces to
pass through the Punjab Lord Auck¬land decided to send the British troops through Sindh. The British
Gov¬ernment did not care at all for the treaty of 1832. As a matter of fact, the Amirs were merely
informed that "while the present exigency lasts.... die article of the treaty prohibiting the use of the
Indus for the convey-
Ellenborough and Hardinge
ance of military stores must necessarily be suspended." Not conten with this, a demand was made for a
large sum of money in commutaf of Shah Shuja's claim for tribute. The Amirs argued that they had
cea0*1 paying any tribute to Shah Shuja during his 30 years exile from K.ahi Shah Shuja himself had
exempted them from all claims in 1833. At ♦{!• the British Resident remarked thus: "How this is to be
got over, T JT* not myself see." In spite of this difficulty, the money was exacted fo? them. They were
also warned that "we have the ready power to cJj? and annihilate them, and we will not hesitate to call
it into action, should it appear requisite however remotely for either the integrity or safety M our
Empire, or its frontiers."
Sir John Keane threatened to advance on the capital of Sindh and the Amirs were forced to enter into a
new treaty in February 1839. £ven this treaty was arbitrarily revised by Auckland and his advisers in
favour of the Company and sent back to the Amirs for their signatures. The latter "objected, implored
and finally gave way by affixing their seals to the re. vised documents." Lord Auckland himself described
the effects of thj, treaty in these words: "The confederacy of the Amirs is virtually dissolv-ed, each chief
being placed in his own possessions, and bound to refer his differences with the other chiefs to our
arbitration that Sind is formal, ly placed under British protection and brought within the circle of our
Indian relations; that a British force is to be fixed in lower Scinde, at Tatta or such other point to the
westward of the Indus as the British Gov¬ernment may determine, a sum of three lakhs of rupees per
annum, in aid of the cost of this force being paid in equal proportions by the three Amirs."
During the Afghan War, Sindh was made the base of operations. Al¬though the Amirs could have done
some mischief at this critical moment, they were absolutely faithful to the English Company. In spite of
mis, charges of disaffection and hostility were levelled against them by the Gov¬ernment of India. The
charges were so vague that it was practically im¬possible to substantiate them.
At this time Major James Outram who was the British Resident at Hyderabad, was superseded by Sir
Charles Napier who was put in supreme •control, both military and political. According to Innes, "Sir
Charles con¬ducted his operation on the theory that the annexation of Sind would be a very beneficent
piece of rascality for which it was his business to find an excuse—a robbery to be plausibly effected."
Sir Charles got an opportunity on account of the disputed succession at Khairpur. Without going into the
merits of the claims of. the various parties, Sir Charles decided in favour of Ali Murad. He also declared
that the charges against the Amirs were proved to be correct. He tried w> impose fresh treaties on the
Amirs. In December 1842, those treaties were sent to them for ratification. The Amirs were asked to
accept the treaties by 20th January 1843. Outram arranged a meeting with the Amirs at Khairpur to
persuade them to accept them. But even before that, Napier attacked and destroyed the fortress of
Imangarh, a fortress lying half-**! between Khairpur and Hyderabad. When the meeting at Khairpur
too* place, the Amirs of lower Sindh were present and the Amirs of Upr* Sindh were delayed by the
machinations of Ali Murad. Two days laf ' the Amirs of Upper Sindh reached Khairpur with their seals to
be affix to the treaty. Napier refused them permission and ordered them &a to Hyderabad. In spite of
the representations of Outram, Napier star!j. his march towards Hyderabad. It is contended that if he
had stayed «"
Ellenborough and Hardinge
towards Hyderabad, the treaties would have been signed and war
ided. According to Thornton, Sindh was treated by Napier "as though
'h rights of the Governor-General of British India to parcel it out at his
I asure were unquestioned and unquestionable and, moreover, as if it
desired to exercise this right in a manner as offensive as possible to
*t *f. who were to suffer privation from the exercise." those
It may be mentioned that by the new treaties required to be signed, ue Amirs were to S've important
territories to the English Company in j. 0f tribute. They were to provide fuel to the English steamers
navi¬gating the Indus. They were also to give up their right of coining money n favour of the British
The acts of highhandedness on the part of Napier excited the war¬like Baluchis who attacked the
residence of Outram on 15th February, 18-13- Outram managed to escape to a steamer. Regular war
started. The important battles were fought at Miani and Dabo in February and March respectively. On
27th March, 18<*3, Napier occupied Mirpur. Napier communicated his victory to Lord Ellenborough in
the well-known phrase: "Peccavi, I have Sindh." Sindh was annexed in August 1843. The Amirs were
exiled. Napier got £70,000 as his share of the prize money. Outram was given £3,000 but he distributed
the same among chari¬table institutions. Outram wrote to Napier thus: "I am sick of policy; I will not say
yours is the best, but it is undoubtedly the shortest—that of the sword. Oh! How I wish you had drawn
it in a better cause."
The Sindh policy of Lord Ellenborough and Sir Charles Napier has been universally condemned. The
Directors of the Company disapproved of it although they had no courage to restore the same to the
Amirs. It cannot be denied that the Amirs had given absolutely no provocation to the English. They were
absolutely loyal throughout. They did not merit the treatment which was actually meted out to them.
According to Innes, "If the Afghan episode is the most disastrous in our Indian annals, that of Sindh is
morally even less excusable." Napier himself wrote thus in his Diary. "We have no right to Seize Sind, yet
we shall do so and a very advantageous, useful, humane piece of rascality it will be....My pre¬sent
position is not, however, to my liking, we had no right to come here and are tarred with the Afghan
brush." On' this. Dr. Marshman remarks thus: "The rascality is more apparent than the advantage except
to the Qpiors to whom it brought a real draught of prize money of which seven lakhs fell to the share of
the General-in-Chief."
The. conquest of Sindh was in every respect the aftermath of the Afghan disaster According to
Elphinstone, "Coming after Afghanistan, Jt put one in mind of a bully who had been kicked in the streets
and went home to beat his wife in revenge, it was the tail of the Afghan storm."
According to Dodwell, "In this Ellenborough's policy has almost uni¬versally been condemned. The
Directors of the Company made it a pre¬text for an embittered attack on a man who had -offended,
them in other w»; and the Whigs naturally were glad to attack the man who had not Mtaied to expose
Auckland's misconduct.
Napier's phrase, 'a good, , !1est> useful piece of rascality,' represents
the common judgment. But notion that the Amirs were attacked and their country annexed simply
rfUse 'hey were weak is scarcely tenable. The main culpability lies of h /^l!ck''indEllenborough's responsibility is limited to his treatment sta' C s'tUat'on which he inherited. He found
the rulers of this frontier sei • enSaSed in intrigues which were hostile though certainly not in them 65
dangerous. He was clearly entitled to decide whether or not to e::-
Ellenborough and Hardinge
act the penalty. That was a question not of political morals but of po>. tical expediency. The size of the
state, the immediate danger of it|j trigues, afle not relevant matters. Viewed broadly, the annexation of
$inr» seems comparable with the assumption of the Carnatic. In both cW advantage was taken of foolish
and hostile conduct to secure a considerahi political advantage. Ellenborough, like Wellesley, was more
concerned \ consolidate and strengthen the position of the East Indian Company tjjaft to make
benevolent gestures jn the idle hope that others would follow v* futile an example." (The Cambridge
Shorter History of India, pp. 59ft
According to Ramsay Muir, "Sindh is the only British acquisition in India of which it may fairly be said
that it was not necessitated by circus, stances and that it was, therefore, an act of aggression."
According u. P.E. Roberts, 'The conquest of Sindh followed in the wake of the fir$t Afghan War and it
was morally and politically its sequel."
War with Gwalior. Another event of the reign of Ellenborough was the war with Scindhia. In 1843,
Jankaji Scindhia died without any issue. His widow, Tarabai, adopted a son and a regent was appointed
with the permission of the Governor-General. The regent was dismissed and a kind of civil war started in
the territory. There was the danger of the revolt of the army. The Governor-General demanded the
reduction ot the troops. Negotiations failed and hostilities started. The Scindhia army was defeated at
Maharajpur and Paniar. A new treaty was made by which the army was cut down to 9,000 men. A British
contingent of 10,000 was enlisted. The affairs of the minor rulers were placed under a Council of
Regency which was to follow the advice of the Resident.
Recall of Ellenborough. The Court of Directors was not at all happy with the way in which things were
being managed in India by Lord Ellenborough. They also highly disapproved of the insubordinate and
hectoring tone in which they were addressed by their Governor-General The Duke of Wellington warned
the Governor-General of the gathering storm and blamed him for his long absence from the seat of
Government Ellenborough himself was conscious that recall was in the air. There was an exchange of
unpleasant letters between the Governor-General and the Court of Directors in which the former
declined to resign, and challenged the Directors to remove him. In June 1844, the Directors took him at
his word and although he was supported by the Board of Control he was ordered by the unanimous vote
of the Court of Directors to return- By identifying himself at every stage with the army and the military
policy Ellenborough had not merely alienated but exasperated the European Civil Service. Although he
was much esteemed by the army whose side he had so openly taken, his departure was witnessed
without regretAccording to Lord Curzon, "With better judgment and less vanity Ellenborough might have been a
considerable ruler; for he had conspicuous talents, and I remember -Mr. Gladstone telling me that he
thought nim &* best Speaker of his day in the House of Lords. As it is, he was the short¬est-lived and the
least successful of all the Governors-General." Lo"? Macaulay observed thus in the House of Commons
on 19th March, I*"5 about Ellenborough: "We have sometimes sent them. Governors vihof" they love,
and sometimes Governors whom they feared, but they ^evfi before had a Governor at whom they
Lord Hardinge (1844-48). Hardinge was a brave soldier anJ W well acquainted with the arts of war
and peace. He was a hero of the Pen' sular War and had participated in the battle of Waterloo. Before
Ellenborough and Hardinge
India as Governor-General, he had remained in Parliament for 20 years ^nd worked as Secretary of War.
The most important event of his reign was the first Sikh War. The war started in December, 1845. The
important battles of the war were fouffht at Mudki, Firozshah, Aliwal and Subraon. The war was ended
by .. Treaty of Lahore (1846). The English got the Doab and an indemn-. v 0f 1A crores of rupees. The
Sikh army was reduced to 22,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry. Henry Lawrence was left as Resident.
Hardinge also carried out certain reforms. He issued an order that all appointments in public services
were to be given to those persons who had received English education. Salt duty was reduced and many
octroi duties were abolished. Free trade was encouraged. Expenditure on the military was reduced. The
native states were asked to abolish Sati within their territories. He made arrangements for the
preservation of ancient ihonuments in India. He suppressed the practice of human sacrifice pre¬valent
among the Gonds in the hilly tracts of Orissa.
Colchester, Lord. The History of the Indian Administration of Lord
Ellenborough (1874). Lambrick, H.T. Sir Charles Napier and Sind (1952). Law, A.L. India under
Ellenborough (1926). Napier, William. The Conquest of Sindh (1845). Outram, Sir J. Conouest of
Sind (1846). Young, Keith. Sinde in the Forties.
The Sikhs who were originally a religious sect were hammered into a military power by their conilict with
the Afghans. When Ahmed Shab Abdali withdrew in 1767, they occupied the country between the
Jumna and Rawalpindi. It is true that for some time that progress was checked by the Marathas, but
when the Maratha power was broken by Lord Lake in 1803, the Sikhs began to entertain new hopes of
progress and growth in the future.
Ranjit Singh was born in 1780. At the age of 19, he helped Zaman Shah, the Afghan ruler of Kabul, in
invading the Punjab. Out of grati¬tude, Zaman Shah appointed Ranjit Singh the Governor of Lahore in
1799. He was also given the title of Raja. In 1802, he made himself master of Amritsar. By and by, he
brought under his control the Sikh Misls or fraternities west of Sutlej.
Ranjit Singh was encouraged by the policy of non-intervention fol¬lowed by Sir George Barlow (1805-7).
He intended to extend his author¬ity over the territory known as the Cis-Sutlej states. These Sikh states
were formerly under Scindhia, but when the latter was turned out from Hindustan, they informally came
ujnder British protection. In 1806, some Sikhs chiefs of these states quarrelled among themselves and
asked for the intervention of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The latter accepted the invita¬tion, crossed the
Sutlej and occupied Ludhiana. When this happened, the Sikh chiefs were alarmed and they appealed to
the British Govern¬ment for protection. At that time, Lord Minto was the Governor-General and he was
determined to keep the power of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to the line west ol the Sutlej. The British
Government declared that they would not allow Ranjit Singh to establish his control over the Cis-Sutlej
states, and there was every possibility of war between the two powers. At this time, Ranjit Singh
hesitated. Negotiations were started and Charles Metcalfe was sent for that purpose. After many delays,
the Treaty of Amritsar was signed in 1809. This treaty fixed the river Sutlej as the boundary line between
Maharaja Ranjit Singh's territory and that of the English Company. It established 'perpetual amity"
between the two powers.
If Maharaja Ranjit Singh could not extend his territory in the East, he tried to extend the same in the
West. In 1810, he led an expedition against Multan which was ultimately annexed in 1818. He got
Kangra from the Gurkhas and Attock from the Afghans in 1813. He took advan¬tage of the lawlessness
that prevailed in Afghanistan and became indepen¬dent of that territory. In 1814, he gave shelter to
Shah Shuja and relieved him of his Koh-i-Noor. In 1819, Ranjit Singh conquered Kashmir and in 1823
Peshawar passed into his hands. It was formally annexed in 1834. He had his designs on Sindh but could
not achieve them on account of the British opposition. He died in 1839 at the age of 50.
Anglo-Sikh Relations (1809-39). It seems desirable to discuss at length the relations between the English
and Maharaja Ranjit Singh from the time
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
signing of the Treaty of Amritsar to the death of the Lion of the
of -ab. It nas a'reacty Deen pointed out that one of the effects of the treaty
Pa£njritsar was that the British Government was able to take the CisrSutlej
under its protection. Ranjit Singh's advance in the East was checked
»tatehe was given a carte blanche so far as the region to the west of the Sutlej
but concerned.
Metcalfe is said to have told Ranjit Singh that in 20 years
W'Lould reap the fruits of his alliance with the Britisri. In 1827, the Maha^rold Wade that "His words have been verified." raja
Up to 1812, there were some doubts and suspicions. A small fort was
.j at Phillaur near the British frontier and Muhkam Chand was put in h' tee of it. It served as a frontier
outpost, a station of defence and a wateh-wer. Even deserters from the British army were received by
Muhkam fhand. However, after some time, the relations between Ranjit Singh and he English Company
began to improve and continued to be cordial up to IR93. During this period the English were busy with
the Gurkhas and .ul Marathas and Ranjit Singh was busy in conquering Multan, De-nial, Kashmir,
Peshawar and the hills and plains of the Punjab.
There was a change in the British attitude. That was due to the fact jiat Ranjit Singh came to be
considered as a rival of the British in India and consequently an attempt was made to check and curb his
power. There WCre certain disputes with regard to the indefinite Cis-Sutlej frontier. Out of the 47
territories claimed by Ranjit Singh, 12 were disputed. In 1827, ihe British Government decided most of
these 12 cases practically in their own favour. The claim of Ranjit Singh to Ferozepur was disallowed
al¬though he claimed that the Sikhs of Ferozepur were among the oldest of his subjects. The reason for
this given was by Murray in these words: "The capital Lahore is distant only 40 miles with a single river
to cross, fordable lor 6 months in the year. The post of Ferozepur from every point of view items of the
highest importance to the British Government whether as a check on the growing ambition of Lahore or
as a post of consequence." Ferozepur was occupied by the British in 1835 and a military cantonment
was made in 1838. There were protests against this but the British Gov-trnment ignored them.
Between 1822 and 1828. British attitude was to watch very carefully the activities of Maharaja Ranjit
Singh. According to Murray, "The British Government must not lose sight in a moment of repose and
tran¬quillity of one of the principal and original motives of the advance of our ""ops to the frontier."
_ In 1815, Pirthi Bilas. the Vakil of the Gurkhas, and Seo Dat Rai, a "liable person of the Raja of Bilaspur,
approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh "d requested him to help the Gurkhas in their war with the British, to
JMt to the bankers to lend them 5 lakhs of rupees and to help the Gur-■ s, t0 cross the Jumna and the
Ganges. The Maharaja expressed his Jj^ility to help the Gurkhas against the British although he was very
un-. Ppy when the Gurkhas were defeated. Likewise he did not respond to * appeal of the ex-Peshwa
Baji Rao in 1822. He also ignored the re¬vets 0f ^ ex.fcjng 0f Nagpur in 1820. He did not adopt any
hostile Uude towards thes.English Company when it was busy in the Burmese vr- In 1825-26, he did not
go to the help of the people of Bharatpur. Wilier of Bharatpur offered Rs. one lakh for every day's march
and Rs. ® >f he brought 20,000 troops to his assistance.
Between 1827—1831, there was an insurrection at Peshawar led by Ahmed against Ranjit Singh.
It is true that the British Government not give any help to the Syed either directly or indirectly but
un¬itedly it connived at the help given to the Syed by his own subjects.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
In the case of Sindh, Ranjit Singh wanted to have Shikarpur ^-. was regarded as the gate of Khorasan,
and of great importance t0 ? industry of Asia. It had a commercial connection with many remote ma,?.
The possession of Shikarpur could give Ranjit Singh some control 0v Afghanistan and Baluchistan. More
than half of the population of Shib? pur was that of the Sikhs and only about one-tenth of the people w
Muslims. Before taking any action, Maharaja Ranjit Singh sounded tk» British Government. However,
the latter was reticent. Although Pot^ ger was negotiating at that time a commercial treaty with the
Amirs of Sindh, that fact was not mentioned to Ranjit Singh at the time of hi meeting with William
Bentinck at Rupar. Ranjit Singh did not opp^ the British Government on the point of commercial treaty
and also did not press his claims on Shikarpur,
In 1835, Ranjit Singh once again began to make preparations for the defence of Shikarpur and an attack
on Sindh. In September 1836, the Maharaja held his Durbar and gave a Khilat to Nao Nihal Singh and
directed him to proceed to Multan and from there to Mithankot. Ht was also to inform the rulers of
Sindh that if they did not pay the tribute to the Maharaja, Shikarpur would be occupied. Hari Singh
Nalwa was sent to join the prince. Diwan Sohan Mai, Governor of Multan, also advanc¬ed. War seemed
to be imminent, but Ranjit Singh did not precipitate matters on account of the stiff attitude of the British
Government. He was not prepared to give up his British alliance for the sake of Sindh.
Ranjit Singh and William Bentinck met at Rupar. So far as the British Government was concerned, its
underlying motive for the inter¬view was to give the world an impression that there was complete amity
between Ranjit Singh and the British Government in India. Ranjit Singh also wanted to emphasize the
fact that he was acknowledged as the head of the Khalsa by the British Government.
It is well known that when Burnes was sent to Kabul to negotiate a treaty with Dost Mohammad, the
latter expressed his willingness to enter into an alliance on the condition that the British Government
helped him to get Peshawar from Ranjit Singh. Burnes's view was that if the British Government asked
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the latter would be only too glad to give up Peshawar because that was not a
profitable affair. In spite of this suggestion, Lord Auckland refused to ask Ranjit Singh to give Peshawar
to Dost Mohammad. The result was that negotiations with Dost Mohammad fell through and Burnes
had to come back empty-handed Lord Auckland made it clear that he was not prepared to do anything
which was likely to create any suspicion in the mind of Ranjit Singh.
In 1838, the Tripartite Treaty was signed between Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Shah Shuja and the English
Company. Ranjit Singh at first show^ hesitation to enter into this treaty. He was an unwilling partner
because he felt that he was going to have in Kabul a dependent ally of the British in Shah Shuja but he
also knew that he could not improve his position bv remaining aloof. There was a meeting of Ranjit
Singh and Auckland in November 1838 at Ferozepur and Ranjit Singh got an undertaking t',al the British
troops would not pass through the Punjab. However, on &' count of the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839.
and the disorder and conf11 sion that prevailed in the Punjab, the British Government was able ,0 take
its troops and convoys through the Punjab during the First Afghan War. It is pointed-out that one of the
objects of the Tripartite tre»lJ was to check the power of Ranjit Singh in Sindh. One of the articles • the
treaty provided that Shah Shuja was to give up his claims of sup1*
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
macy an^ arrears °f tribute over the Amirs of Sindh and matters were to ' left to the mediation of the
British Government. The British Govern¬ment was preparing the way for the annexation of Sindh.
It is pointed out that in the last decade of his carrier, Ranjit Singh jjd not deal with the British
Government in a firm manner. Probably ^at was due to the fact that he felt the English to-be too strong
for him. «e feared to expose his kingdom to the risk of war and consequently de¬cided to follow a policy
of surrender before the British Government.
According to Dr. Sinha, a political alliance means a rider and a horse. "In this Anglo-Sikh alliance, the
British Government was the rider and Ranjit Singh was the horse. The English limited Ranjit's power on
the East, on the South and would have limited him on the West if that were possible. Evidently, a
collision between his military monarchy and British imperialism was imminent. Ranjit Singh, the
Massinissa of British Indian history, hesitated and hesitated forgetting that in politics as in war, time is
not on the side of the defensive. When the crash came after his death under far less able men, chaos
and disorder had already supervened and whatever hope there had been when he was living, there was
no more when he was dead. In his relations with the British Government, Ranjit Singh is seen at his
worst. He never grandly dared. He was all hesitant and indecision."
Civil Administration of Ranjit Singh. According to Dr. G.L. Chopra, "The only administrative plan which
could serve as a precedent for the organisation of civil departments was that of the Mughals."— (The
Punjab as a Sovereign State). There was a close resemblance between the Mughal system of
administration and that of Ranjit. Singh. In all essential matters there was no departure. The Maharaja
did not avail himself of European intelligence and experience in civil administration as he did in the case
of military organisation. A very limited number of Europeans were employed in civil capacity. In 1805,
the Maharaja was advised by Holkar to organise a regular treasury, but he did not do so till 1808 on
account of his military pre-occupation. In 1808, Diwan Bhawani Das was appointed Finance Minister and
it is the Diwan who divided the financial transactions of the State among the following Daftars:—
(i) Daftar-i-Abxoab-il-Mal. This Department dealt with the accounts of the revenue receipts, and was
subdivided into (a) Jama Kharch-i-Taalu-qat, and (b) Jama Kharch-i-Sairat. The Taaluqat section
comprised en¬tries referring to the land revenue; while the Sairat included all other sources of income,
the most important being Nazrana, Zabti, Abkari, Wajihati-i-Moqarai and Chaukiyar.
Nazrana was a tribute paid to the supreme ruler of the state on different occasions under various
circumstances by his subjects, specially by prominent vassals and dignitaries. Sometimes, it was in the
form of fixed annual charge from a subordinate chieftain. Sometimes it was the price paid to the
conqueror for the retention of a piece of territory by a defeat¬ed prince. Zabti formed a source of
considerable income to the Sikh ruler, who often punished his delinquent .officials with fines or
forfeitures of property or both. Besides, in several cases, he withdrew grants of land from the
descendants of his deceased Sardars. They were sometimes re¬tained by the state while sometimes
they were regranted to others in lieu of cash payment.
Abkari included all charges made on the sale of opium, bhang, spirits
Maharaja Ran jit Singh and His Successors
and other drugs. The income derived from this source was compara»insignificant.
Wajuhat-i-Moqarari included both the profits of justice and chcorresponding to the stamp duties of modern times. The receipts unT5
this head were collected in different ways. First, certain charges i»
made for the redress of grievances by means of judicial decisions, j:*1*
paid for criminal acts may be put under this head. Then there were hi?
ceeds from various charges levied on petitions addressed by the pen!?
either to the Sikh ruler or to one of his ministers.
Lastly, we may include the payments made for the affixation of A. Royal seals on all kinds of private
Chaukiyat. There, was a very comprehensive scale of duties wjjjj were levied, under forty-eight different
heads, and on most articles of <Jail» consumption. No discrimination was made between articles of
luxun and those which formed the necessaries of life. Charges were generalh made in cash. Griffin
writes that the mode of collection was extreme** vexatious, the country was covered with custom
houses at which merchant! were treated with insolence and oppression. An article paid duty on be-ing
taken into a town, a second time on being taken into a shop, and a third time on re-export.
Land Revenue System. In India, land revenue has been the mainstay of every government. In the
beginning of Ranjit's career, the system known as Batai was re-introduced on the old Mughal plans to
regulate ap¬portionment of produce between the cultivator and the government. Thji system continued
until 1823 and constituted the first period.
In the second period, which began in 1824 and extended over nearly a decade, the Batai system was
replaced by a system of assessments known as Kankut. According to this, the share of the government
was reckoned out of a standing crop, the \alue of which was estimated in terms of money. The portion
for the state was now collected in cash. It was a distinct improvement on the old method, because it
saved tlie officials from two¬fold responsibility, viz., guarding the grain from being stolen by the
pea¬santry and carrying it to distant markets for sale. The adjustment of expenditure to income
was made much easier and far more certain than before, owing to the ability of the government to
estimate its share in money beforehand. Even the Kankut system was found partly ineffec¬tive
because it enabled the government to estimate its income only just before the end of a harvest.
Hence it was difficult to make a correct forecast in advance. After 1834, Ranjit Singh began to
encourage the practice of farming out the revenues of large area of irrigable lands to the highest
bidders, for period varying from three to six years. By these con¬tracts, the farmers were required to
present detailed accounts of the ex¬tent of the cultivated area and the total amount of produce in their
dis¬tricts. This practice of leasing was developed by selling the farms of the village, as a whole, to the
villagers themselves.
As a rule, the scate demand may be said to have varied from two-fifths to one-third of the year's
produce. This proportion prevailed in all districts which had been fully conquered and which ivere fairly
cultivatedOn further investigations, we come to the conclusion that the share of the gross produce -which
belonged to the government was never rigidly fixed at one uniform* rate. It varied from place to place,
according to the productivity of the crops, the means of -irrigation and other facilities of cultivation.
Maharaja Ran jit Singh and His Successors
addition to the regular share of the produce the state claimed a
of Abwabs (cesses). These were collected along with the land
0f which they formed a fixed proportion. The percentage, how-
r<vC differed, the usual rate varying from 5 per cent to 15 per cent of
The revenue was collected twice a year, a month or so after the reapc ^e two harvests called Rabi and Kharif. The chief officer incharge
'l^ihe collection in a district was the Kardar (collector) and he was assist°\ kv subordinate officials like Muqadams (foremen), Patwaris (revenue
cfssors) and Kanungos (hereditary registrars)
The proceeds of revenue
a e ^nt in the district treasury under the control of the Kardar and
•ere either transmitted to Lahore or disposed of according to the wishes
*f the ruler.
(ii) Daftar-i-Abiuab-il-Tahwil. This was the second department and _s concerned with the records of
accounts of income and expenditure sent Dv officials. The cashiers were called Tahwildars. At first, this
depart¬ment dealt with accounts of a varied nature. But when separate offices of record, income and
expenditure were set up, the work of this office became more limited.
(iii) Daftar-i-Taujhihat. This attended to the accounts of the royal household, such as the expenses of the
Zanana, presents and Khilats, enter¬tainments of guests, and Tosha-Khana.
(iv) Daftar-i-Mawajib. In this office were kept the accounts of pay and other emoluments in the various
governmental services, such as the army, the civil staff, and the clerical establishment. This department
was gradually divided into several branches to deal with the ever-increasing volume of work.
(v) Dajtar-i-Roznamcha-i-ikharjal. This office was set up to register accounts of daily expenditure under
various heads. Hence it dealt with various items from this standpoint.
These Daftars passed through several changes concerning details of organisation in subsequent years.
Each of them was subdivided into branches to cope with the administrative developments.
Territorial Divisions and Local Administration. The Punjab was divided into four Subas: Lahore, Multan,
Kashmir and Peshawar.
Each Suba was divided into Parganas-, each Pargana into Taluqas and every Taluqa was made of 50 to
100 Mauzas. This division followed largely the system of the Mughals. The administration of a Suba was
en¬trusted to a Nazim (Governor) whose duties were analogous to those of 'he Lieutenant-Governor
before the Reforms of 1919. He had under him ' number of Kardars. There was one Kardar for every
Taluqa. The Kardars differed in position and importance according to the extent of territory under their
charge. The Nazim occupied a higher position than 'hat of an average Kardar, but his functions were
largely of an appellate character and of a more general nature. The Kardar came into immediate c°ntact
with the people in their daily activities. He was a revenue collec-,0r- a treasurer and an accountant, a
judge and a magistrate, an excise and customs officer, and a general supervisor of the people on behalf
of ,,lc government.
Judicial Arrangements. -There were no written laws in existence in "* days of Ranjit Singh. Judicial'
decisions were made in accordance with cl'stomary principles. The procedure was crude and simple
and no dis-
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
tinction was made between civil and criminal cases. The settlement disputes rested with the
Panchayat. This was a body of five men wh' were the elders of the village. The qualification for its
membership J19
tnP nnSVSsmtl r»f lanH onH a rprtain amount f\f 1/->/-Q1 inflnPlirs inH _..
. *J
the possession of land and a certain amount of local influence and
The Panchayat was more like an arbitration court. Hence its decisio were revised by the Kardars,
whenever they were rejected by either pan In towns, justice was administered by the Kardars who also
decided ri!' more important cases within their Taluqas. In the cities, cases were deck ed by the Nazims or
by more important Kardars and sometimes separate officials were appointed to devote themselves
entirely to judicial vvork They were known as Adaltis (justices). A distinct court was set un at the capital
town known as Adalat-i-Ala (exalted). Its functions rj! sembled those of a High Court of present day.
Civil cases were of a varied nature. First of all, there were cases of betrothals and matrimonial
engagements, which were decided by the Panchayats. There were breaches of contracts, sales on credit
and the like. In these decisions, great importance was attached to the sworn testi¬mony of witnesses. In
such matters, the government of Ranjit Singh levied fees on the successful party. Civil suits regarding
landed property were decided on evidence obtained from records which were regularly kept in
As regards crimes, the infliction of capital, punishment was reserved i to the ruler himself. The
punishment for murder or other physical in- I juries was meted out to the offenders more often in the
form of fines than bodily chastisement. Mutilation was employed in exceptional circums¬tances.
On the whole, it may be said that the rigour of punishment de- | pended upon the nature of the
crime, the personal disposition of the magistrate and likelihood of his action being reported to the
Though to all intents and purposes Ranjit's judicial system was crude and simple, yet in actual practice it
suited to the social and political en¬vironments of the people of the Punjab. The abuse of authority on
the part of local officials was limited by several considerations. Firstly, the term of office of Ranjit Singh's
officials depended on good behaviour. The consciousness that their dignity, prestige and social status
and even their private wealth and property depended solely on the favour of their master, acted as a
restraining influence on their arbitrary actions. Secondly, the Maharaja's frequent and unexpected tours
introduced a real risk of com-plaints of bribery and corruption reaching his ears. Another factor
con¬tributing to the same result was the practice of deputing special justices to tour in different districts
for the purpose of hearing complaints and deciding cases of particular importance. The greatest merit of
the system lay, however, in its simplicity and in the absence of those legal intricacy and technicalities
which, if introduced among the Sikh peasantry, wouW have beset the path of justice with difficulties.
Ranjit Singh's Government. He established in the Punjab a P"1; and unmitigated despotism. He
transformed the whole constitution ° the Sikhs from an irregular commonwealth of a loose federal type
in10 J military monarchy based on personal rule.
Under Ranjit Singh's personal despotism, the Punjab was govern^ in a manner which generally suited
the existing state of society. Vn'at> life throughout was little interfered with. Its local affairs were n**1'
subject to the Panchayats. One great secret of the popularity of f, Maharaja's rule was that it kept open
to the humblest citizen the p<>sSl
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
• « of acquiring position and wealth. Another great merit of Ran jit's l'u. rjtv was that he never based it
upon his own inherent superiority, 3U aiiY 'Divine Right Theory of Supremacy. He never arrogated to
him-°l. any high-sounding titles, or claimed supernatural powers. On the
irarv, he always showed that his actions were directed to the glory of
c? Khalsa. Under Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs had achieved brilliant triumphs,
v after city had acknowledged their authority, until a large kingdom
h d been created, whose military resources now commanded awe and reverce alike from the neighbouring States and distant rulers.
The despotism of Ranjit Singh may be described as benevolent. He aS no alien ruler from the point of
view of race and religion. Under i :s authority, the economic resources were wholly utilized in the
kingdom. Through the blessing of his rule, the people of the Punjab evolved a degree of law and order,
and entered upon a period of peace and prosper¬ity which had not been enjoyed for several
Army of Ranjit Singh. There has been considerable confusion among writers about the year in which
Ranjit Singh first raised regular units. Most of them state that the idea originally struck the prince in
1809, while observing the discipline of Metcalfe's escort. In 1805, Holkar had entered the Punjab and in
the course of conversation with Ranjit Singh, he urged upon him the desirability of organising the
treasury, constructing defensive fortifications and disciplining forces. Ranjit Singh visited Lake's camp in
disguise and observed the drill of the Company's troops. Yet the greater incentive to reforming activities
came from the agreement with Metcalfe. This agreement created great anxiety in Ranjit Singh's mind as
to the safety of his kingdom. Experience led him to decide that the maintenance of a strong standing
army was indispensable for triumphs of diplomacy and war.
In the Khalsa Darbar, records of the army of Ranjit Singh were divid¬ed into two sections—the Fauj-i-Am
or the regular army, and the Fauji-i-be-Qawaid or the irregular force.
Fauji-i-Am or Regular Army. The regular army may be sub-divided into three parts: (a) Infantry, (b)
Cavalry, and (c) Artillery.
(a) Jnfanlry. The creation of the infantry was a gradual process which began soon after 1805 and
continued throughout Maharaja's reign. The Sikhs looked upon service with contempt and refused to
join its ranks. But Ranjit Singh persisted in his efforts and ultimately succeeded in over¬coming, their
traditional prejudices. The result was visible in 1818, when the inhabitants of the Punjab, both Sikhs and
others, began to dominate the service. In 1822, the Maharaja employed French officers in his service.
Most of them had taken part in the Napoleonic campaigns, and were fully conversant with the latest
methods of Western tactics and drill. Under the personal supervision of Ranjit Singh, they performed
their duties energeti¬cally, and in a few years organised and trained an efficient force.
The early organisation of the infantry was simple. It consisted of a number of Paitans, to each of which
two horse guns were attached on an average, to form them into separate units. Each of these was put
under a Commandant. This organisation was expanded later on as the strength °' a battalion increased.
Later, the Paltan or battalion became a part . a targe organisation called a brigade. On an average, a
brigade con¬fined four battalions of infantry, a small varying strength of cavalry, and a battery of eight
to ten horse-guns. A company of Beldars was general-'V attached to it.
Maharaja Ran jit Singh and His Successors
At the time of Ranjit Singh's death, eight hundred formed the ffi-mum strength of a battalion, which was
divided into eight companies e"1" of which in turn was composed of four sections. The average
strengthCt, a company was one hundred, while a section comprised roughly twer.0* five men. As
regards officers, the Commandant was assisted by an Ad/* ant and a Major. Each company was under a
Subedar who was assi'sl"' by two Jamedars. Each section of a company was commanded by a Haw dar,
who also had a Naik for his assistance. The officers of the battalia were sons or relatives of Sirdars, or
members of the landed gentry. \^ the Sirdar had two or more sons the Maharaja usually took one whit"
young, and trained him for service. The non-combatant establishment J! each battalion included a
Munshi, a Mutassaddi, and a Granthi, in add' tion to the manual workers, such as Khalasis, Saqqas,
Gharyalis, Beldars Jhanda Bardars, Mistris, Kaunas, and Tahilyas.
The uniform of the infantry was scarlet. There were, however, dil ferent coloured facings to distinguish
the regiments. The trousers were of the blue cotton cloth; and the turbans were of same colour. The
belts were of black leather. The .men were usually armed with sword, musket and bayonet.
Fauj-i-Khas or French Legion. This was the model brigade of the Sikh army. It was raised in 1822 by
Generals Vdntura and Allard. Its normal strength was four battalions of infantry, two regiments of
cavaln, and one troop of artillery comprising twenty-four guns. Special efforts were made in its training,
and in point of discipline and equipment, it grew to be the best organised section of regular army. The
infantry sec¬tion of the brigade consisted of the- Khas battalion, a Gurkha battalion, and two more
commanded by Dcva Singh and Sham Sota. The cavalry portion comprised a Khas regiment, and a
dragoon regiment. The anil lery was known as the corps of General Ilahi Baksh.
As regards the officers of the Khas brigade, Dr. Murray says: "To each company in these battalions there
is attached one Subedar, one Jaroe-dar, four Hawildars, and four Naiks; and to each battalion one
Command ant and one Adjutant.
"The Fauj-i-Khas had, as its emblems, the eagle and the tri-colom flag, with an inscription of the Martial
Guru Govind Singh embroidered upon it. It used French words of command. Thus it has been often
called the French Brigade or the French Legion."
Captain Wade saw parades of the infantry section of the Fauj-i-KM5 in 1827, five years after it had been
constituted, and described his imptff sions thus: "They were all dressed, armed, and equipped like the
Raj*' other regular battalions but in a neater and superior style. It was ind«° impossible not to admire
the high degree of perfection to which M. »e" tura had brought his Legion."
(b) Cavalry. When Ranjit Singh began reforming his troops aK 1805, his idea was to create a
disciplined force of all the three branc He accordingly attempted to introduce the European drill among
irreg1* horsemen. The proud Ghorcharas regarded the new practices as the tr> of a dancing girl, and
refused to abandon their old method of war This led to the raising of new recruits, which, coupled with
Ranjit s P 1 occupation in organising the foot service, hindered rapid progress.
0j the arrival of Allard
in 1822, there were only four trained regimen ^ cavalry in Sikh service. The total number of drilled
horsemen was . thousand against ten thousand foot. After 1822, the progress was y
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
jn 1829, seven years after Allard's arrival, the strength of the regular horse increased more than four
A cavalry regiment was, at first, composed of men of different creeds like the Pathans, Rajputs, Dogras,
and others. Its number varied from one hundred to more than five hundred men. Later on, this service
became popular among the Sikhs themselves; and the number of regiments increas¬ed. Regiments of
large numerical strength were divided into Risalas, the strength of which ranged from one hundred and
fifty to two hundred. The officers in the cavalry were similar to those as in an infantry battalion; and
similar was the arrangement of non-combatants. The pay of the cavalry regiment was much higher than
in the infantry.
The regidar horsemen have been described as "mean-looking, illdress-ed an wrechedly mounted," and
their hore trappings as "of the leather of worst quality." In the field, their conduct corresponded with
their general appearance.
(c) Artillery. In the beginning two guns were usually attached to each infantry battalion, there being no
distinct detachment of artillery in existence. In 1810, however, a separate corps was raised and placed
under an officer called Darogha-i-Topkhana. Two years later, this corps formed the principal unit of the
artillery, and as such was called Topkhana-i-Khas. It was commanded by a Muslim officer, named Mian
Ghuas Khan. The entire Topkhana was now divided into four sections, the first comprising Aspi guns, and
the second Gavi guns. The third consisted of a separate horse battery; while the last comprised a
number of guns which were dis¬tributed over various battalions of infantry. The Ghubaras and Zambyraks were organised into Deras called Dera-i-Zamburkhana. In 1814 a fresh battery was raised, but the
separate battery of the earlier period was assigned to the regular army. As a result of the reforming
efforts of both these officers, General Court and Colonel Gardner, the entire Tophkhana was
reorganised. It was divided into three sections, (i) Topkhana-i-Jinsi, (ii) Topkhana-i-Aspi, (iii)
Zamburkhanas. The mixed batteries of the first were composed of Aspi guns, and Gavi guns and
howitzers. The Top¬khana-i-Khas was amalgamated with other batteries to form one of the three
principal sections of the regular army. In 1835 when the army was organ¬ised into brigades, the
artillery branch underwent further modifications.
There was a close resemblance between the internal organisation of a battery and a battalion of
infantry, the average strength of a ten-gun battery being two hundred and fifty men, including noncombatants. Each battery was sub-divided into sections, every section comprising two guns and eight to
ten gunners. The ten-gun battery was officered by a Com¬mandant, assisted by an Adjutant and a
Major; while, each section was under a Jamedar, with a Hawaildar and a Naik to assist him.
The training and organisation of the artillery on European
lines was
accomplished in less than a decade. General Court, to whom
this task
was chiefly assigned, joined the Sikhs in 1827, and within a few years, he
raised the corps to a high pitch of efficiency.
Fauj-i-be-Qawaid or the Irregular Army. It was composed chiefly of Norsemen. These were divided into
two sections—Ghorchara Khas and *»e Misaldar. The former was a single organisation, and was
recruited tr°m amongst the yeomen or landed gentry. Many members were relatives °1 the dignitaries
of the court. They supplied their own equipment, and He«"e regularly paid at first in Jagirs but later on
in cash. The Misaldars comprised all the petty chiefs who, having been recently dispossessed of their
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
territories by Ranjit Singh, had consented to serve under him at the head of their respective bands of
horsemen. The latter thus represented all classes of society, and were regarded as inferior in social
status to the Kha* troops. This difference was visible in their horses and equipment. Th* Misaldars grew
in numbers, and at the end of the reign, formed by f^. the greater proportion of the irregular cavalry.
For administrative pur. poses, the Ghorcharas were divided into several Deras, each Dera comprij. ing
several minor groups of horsemen, which were called Misls. The men in a Misl belonged to a single dan.
Their leader was usually the descend-ant of one under whom they had originally joined Ranjit Singh's
Army These Misls were of varying strength, ranging from twenty-five to seventy! five men. In 1822, the
Deras were grouped into' bigger divisions, each of which was put in charge of a high dignitary of State. In
these appoint-ments, care was taken to keep these clans intact. Lord Auckland saw the Ghorcharas
during his visit to the Punjab in 1838 and considered them to be "the most picturesque troops in the
Recruitment and Pay. Enlistment in the army was voluntary and recruits could always be found in
abundance. This was due to several cau-ses. In the first place, many of the tribes inhabiting the Punjab
possessed martial traditions of a higher order. Secondly, a considerable social pres¬tige was attached to
the profession of arms. Thirdly, Ranjit Singh's per¬sonal attitude to the fighting forces secured an
abundant supply of men •who sought military careers.
Ill the days of the Misls, the troops were paid either out of the plun¬der or by grant of land, usually
liable to the payment of revenue. The latter system continued under Ranjit Singh. It was, however,
found un¬suitable tor the needs of a standing army. Hence the system ©f cash pay¬ments in the form
of monthly salaries was introduced.
Though the salaries were fixed at a monthly rate, in practice they were never paid at regular intervals.
The army remained in arrears on an average from four to six months, and payments were made three or
four times a year. This was partly due to the inefficiency of the pay de¬partment, but to a greater extent
to the deliberate policy on the part of the Sikh ruler, who thereby checked the insubordination and
desertion of his men. For purposes of distribution of pay, the army was divided into three branches—
Fauj-i-Sowari, Fauj-i-Am, and Fauj-i-Filajat. The irregu¬lars were paid at first by the commanding officer
of each unit, and after¬wards by a Dewan 'attached to each division. The regulars were always paid
through a Bakshi. Payments to the third branch were made through Thanedars. The paymasters of all
three branches submitted an estimate based on the approximate strength of the units under their sway,
to the central treasury at the capital.
The pay in the regular army of the cavalry was higher than the in¬fantry; but the artillery and the
infantry were paid much the same. The emoluments of the Ghorcharas were still better than those of
the regular horsemen. Instead of a regular system of pensions for long service, occ* sional jagirs and
donations of money were bestowed, but no systematic provision was made for the widows or children
of those who lost their liv** in the field.
Personality of Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh is known as the Li°n the Punjab. He ws so popular with his
subjects that Sir Repel Grift*11' who wrote fifty years after the death of the Maharaja, was constrained
t0 remark thus: "Although half a century has passed since his death, *"' name is still a household
word in the province; his portrait is still preserve"
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
• castle and cottage. It is a favourite subject with the ivory painters of Anrritsai and Delhi."
As regards the physical features of the Maharaja, he was not hand-come at all. According to Baron
Hugel, "I must call him (Maharaja Banjit Singh) the most ugly and unexpressing man I saw throughout
the Punjab. His left eye which is quite closed disfigures him less than the other, which is always rolling
about wide open and is much distorted by disease. The scars of the small-pox on his face do not run into
one an¬other but form so many dark pits in his greyish brown skin; his short straight nose is swollen at
the tip; the skinny lips are stretched tight over his teeth which are still good.... He has a thick muscular
neck, thin arms and legs, the left foot and left arm drooping, and small well-formed hands."
According to Griffin, the Maharaja was "the beau ideal of a soldier-strong, spare, active, courageous and
enduring." He was excellent as a horseman and a swordsman. He had great capacity for work and he
work¬ed from early morning till late in the evening. With his indefatigable capacity for work, he could
give suggestions and guidance on very minute points. He had a wonderful memory. According to
Jacquemont, "He knew the name, position and history of from ten to twelve thousand vill¬ages in his
kingdom." He was so inquisitive that he put hundreds of questions to those who came to see him.
According to Sinha, "His con¬versation was a nightmare even to a man of the intellectual capacity of
Jacquemont." The topics he discussed ranged "from war to wine, and from learning to hunting with
breathless rapidity." He was a great pat¬ron of learning. He gave rent free lands to the Pathshalas and
Madrasas. He also gave them monthly grants. He patronised scholars like Munshi Sohan Lai, Mian Shah
Muhammad, Diwan Amar Nath and Ganesh Dass. Munshi Sohan Lai wrote his famous book known as
Umdat-ut-Tawarikh in Persian. Amar Nath was the author of Zafar Nama. Ganesh Dass wrote Fateh
Nama Guru Khalsa Ji Ka.
The Maharaja followed a policy of religious toleration. In spite of his love for his own religion, he treated
the other religions generously. This is evident from the fact that he employed the Faquir Brothers, the
Dogra Rajas, and Brahmin Khushal Singh and Tej Singh. According to Griffin, "The tolerance of the
Maharaja was due rather to indifference and selfishness than to any enlightened sentiment," but
whatever the origin, his liberalism had an excellent effect on his administration.
The Maharaja was a great statesman. He cleverly came to the con¬clusion that it was practically
impossible to make any headway against the Englishmen, It was with this conviction that he entered
into a treaty of Anvritsar with the English in 1809. Not only that, he hesitated through¬out his long reign
from fighting with the English. He tried to get as Wuch as he could from the British Government but did
not strain the rela¬tions to the breaking point.
Critics point out to some of his faults. He loved opium, wine and "ancing girls. He had his weakness for
Moran and Gul Begiim. He was greedy and unscrupulous. This is clear from the way he got the Kohi-iN°or from Shah Shuja.
In spite of his shortcomings, he was a great man in many ways. He ^as a born ruler of men. In the words
of Griffin, "Men obeyed him by jnstinct and because they had no power to disobey. The control which "e
exercised, even in the closing years of his life over the whole Sikh peo-
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his Successors
pie, nobles and priests, was the measure of his greatness." Again, "He was great because he possessed
in an extraordinary degree the qualities with-out which the highest success cannot be attained; and the
absence of the commonplace virtues which belong to the average citizen, neither diminish, ed nor
affected in any way the distinction of his character."
Estimate of Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh was a great warrior and statesman. The establishment of authority
all over the Punjab, Kashmir and Peshawar is a proof positive of the qualities of head and heart
possess¬ed by Ranjit Singh. His genius helped him to create a centralised State. Although he was
supreme, he styled himself as the first servant of the Khalsa. He always used the word Sarkar or Khalsaji
instead of Maharaja. He collected together generals and administrators and with their help was able to
make the Punjab a powerful State. His employment of the Mus¬lims and Europeans shows that he had
no religious bias in him. Although he was absolutely illiterate, he possessed a lot of commonsense. He
was the master of details and no wonder he was able to set up a strong State in the Punjab.
According to Cunningham, "Ranjit Singh found the Punjab a waning confederation, a prey to the factions
of its chiefs, pressed by the Afghans and the Marathas, and ready to submit to English supremacy. He
conso¬lidated the numerous petty States into a kingdom, he wrested from Kabul the fairest of its
provinces, and he gave the potent English no cause for interference. He found the military array of his
country a mass of horse¬men, brave indeed but ignorant of war as an art, and he left it mustering fifty
thousand disciplined soldiers, fifty thousand well-armed yeomanry and militia, and more than three
hundred pieces of cannon for the fiel. His rule was founded on the feelings of a people, but it involved
the joint action of the necessary principles of military order and territorial exten¬sion and when a limit
had been set to Sikh dominion, and his own com¬manding genius was no more the vital spirit of his race
began to con-sume itself in domestic contention." (History of the Sikhs, p. 200).
Ranjit Singh's Responsibility for Ultimate Decline of Sikh Power. According to Dr. G.L. Chopra, "Ranjit
Singh has been held responsible for the ultimate decline of his kingdom. It is generally said that he
commit¬ted the grave blunder of allowing the acquisition of vast territorial power and influence by the
Dogra chiefs. This view, on the whole, has a sub¬stantial element of truth. Nevertheless, it must not be
supposed that the Maharaja was blind to the dangers of his policy. We have already seen how he
whittled down the possession of his Sirdars, even to the point of incurring blame for ingratitude to his
servants. In the consistent pursuit of such a policy, however, the Maharaja felt a characteristic difficulty
of destroying vested interests, which he himself had once created. It is, in¬deed, very difficult if not
almost impossible, for a despot, much of whose power depends on the maintenance of a semi-feudal
nobility, to curtail the size of their holdings. Thus Ranjit failed to follow consistently the policy of
reducing the people of the Punjab to a more or less uniform political level; the most glaring example of
such a failure was the grant of an extensive and contiguous territory to a single Dogra family."
Dr. Chopra also points out that the despotic and personal character of Maharaja's rule was also
responsible for the ultimate decline of the Sikh power. To quote him, "That he was a 'State in person' is
more parti' cularly true of him than of several other despots known to history. Hence his death was
certain to bring a rapid paralysis of the central authority in the kingdom. His court also, as has already
been discussed in the pre-
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
• us chapter, was composed of diverse elements and conflicting interests; v*. tne harmonious cooperation of its members was only possible under
"own unifying authority. His ministers were mostly favourites and ad
\lnturers, wno had never been allowed to exercise much personal initia¬
te and were always taught to reflect in their actions the sole will of
*i,-j'r monarch. Consequently, when that monarch died their efforts were
directed to individual gain and advantage rather than to collective beneflt while the absence of any competent successor revealed the inherent
weakness of all States based on personal absolutism."
After pointing out the above two factors. Dr. Chopra refers to the threat from the side of the English
East India Company and says that the annexation of the Punjab was inevitable as the Company was
determined to annex" the whole of India. Dr. Chopra says that "such subtle and funda¬mental causes
were working against the independence of the Punjab, as ^e ruler of Sikhs could not possibly provide
against-,.,,even if he had dis¬played a better political genius."
The Punjab Politics from 1839 to 1845. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, the whole of
the superstructure raised by him fell to pieces. The army became all powerful. It made and unmade
kings. Con¬fusion and disorder reigned everywhere. The hostility between the Dogras and the
Sindhianwalas added to the confusion. For six long years, there was absolutely no law and order in the
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was succeeded by his eldest son known as Kharak Singh. Dhian Singh became his
Wazir. He was opposed by Sher Singh, another son of Ranjit Singh, and Nao Nihal Singh, his own son.
Chet Singh, a favourite of Kharak Singh, was murdered. Kharak Singh died in November 1840. His son
Nao Nihal Singh also was killed by a fall of a gateway in the Lahore fort. There arose some difficulty with
regard to the succession to the throne and ultimately it was decided that Mai Chand Kaur should
become the regent for the expected son of Nao Nihal Singh. Dhian Singh was to act as Wazir and Sher
Singh was to work as Viceroy. Sher, Singh did not approve of the new arrangement and con-sequently
usurped power in January 1841 and proclaimed himself as Maha¬raja. It was during the reign of Sher
Singh that English troops and con¬voys were allowed to pass through the Punjab on their way to Kabul
to participate in the First Afghan War. In June 1842, Chand Kaur was murdered. In September 1843, Sher
Singh was murdered. Then came the turn of Dhian Singh who was disposed of similarly. Dhian Singh's
»n, Hira Singh, made up his mind to have revenge for the death of his father. He put Dalip Singh, a
minor, on the throne and himself became *e Wazir. Rani Jindan, mother of DaHp Singh, became regent.
Hira Singh was assisted in his work by one Pandit Jalla. Throughout this period, it was suspected, that
the English had their hand in the anarchy Prevailing in the Punjab. In December, 1844, Hira Singh was
murdered. After this, power fell into the hands of Jawahar Singh and Lai Singh, the toother and
paramour of Rani Jindan. In September, 1845, Jawahar Singh was shot dead and Lai Singh became the
Wazir. On 11th Decem-'*r 1845, the Sikh army crossed the Sutlej and on 13th December, the war *«
declared by the British.
First Sikh War (1845-46). The most important cause of First Sikh w*r was the problem of the Khalsa army
which was facing Lai Singh and ^ar»i Jindan. The army had become independent of the civil authority 'nd
for six long years had acted as kingmakers. This very army was res¬ponsible for the conquest of the
whole of the Punjab in the time of Ranjit
• --—*«»c
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Succeuvrs
Singh," but after his death there was absolutely no one to control it. jt is rightly said that fire is a good
servant but a bad master. Likewise, when the Khalsa army could not be controlled by anybody, it began
to kill an those who came in its way. The French Generals like Ventura were turn, ed out and the country
was helpless before the tyranny of the army Various sections managed to win it over by means of
presents and gijfo but there could be no stability under such circumstances.
The main problem facing the Punjab was how to deal with the Khalsa army. No wonder, both Rani
Jindan and Lai Singh felt that the only way to deal with the Khalsa army was to make it fight against the
British If it was successful, it would have the whole of India to conquer and thereby it would be kept
busy. If-it was defeated by the English, its num¬ber and strength would be reduced. It was with that idea
that the Sikh army was ordered to cross the Sutlej.
An effort was made to convince the Khalsa army that the English were bent upon invading the Punjab. It
was pointed out to them that after the annexation of Sindh, the turn of the Punjab was sure to come.
The English were massing their troops on the Sutlej. The military post of Ludhiana had more than 35,000
troops. A similar number of British troops was stationed at Fcro/cpur. Likewise, a large number of troops
were concentrated at Ambala. All this military activity alarmed the Khalsa army. It came to believe that
the only motive of the English was to at¬tack the Punjab. The English had built a brigade of boats for
crossing the Sutlej. They had also increased their troops in Sindh. The Sikh leaders were also aware of
the scheme of men like Burncs, Macnaughten and Napier for the dismemberment of the Punjab.
The British collected pontoons near Ferozcpore for a bridge of boats for the convenience of the British
army to march into the Sikh territory. They established a ground supply depot at Basian near Rajkot. This
was an unmistakable sign of the readiness of the British to undertake the threatened operations against
the Sikhs at an early date. Broadfoot, the British envoy at Ludhiana, was a man of boundless ambition.
Presuming that the Sikhs were not likely to give any cause for offence, he tried to provoke them and
with that object in view, he treated the Cis-Sutlej terri¬tories of the Punjab as if those were under British
jurisdiction. That wl a clear violation of the Treaty of Amritsar. He adopted an arrogant and overbearing
attitude towards the officials of the Lahore Durbar. At one time, Lai Singh, a Judge in the service of the
Lahore Durbar, who wa< crossing the Sutlej on official duty, was made under duress to recross the river
and his party was even fired at. The insulting and provocative behaviour of the British annoyed the
Lahore Durbar.
Raja Suchet Singh, the youngest brother of Dhian Singh and Gulan Singh, had secretly deposited at
Ferozepore a large quantity of coins ai» bullions worth about 15 lakhs of rupees. After his death, the
Lahore Durbar claimed the treasure. Legally and morally, the treasure belong^ to tlie Lahore Durbar, but
the British Government refused to hand o*1 the treasure to the Lahore Durbar.
A village named Moron in the Nabha territory had been fi1^"-.!.;
Raja Jaswant Singh of Nabha to Maharaja Rarijit Singh in 1819. " ,$ latter gave the same to Sardar
Dhanna Singh, in 1843, Jaswant S««g^ son, Raja Devinder Singh, became displeased with S. Dhanna
Singh a resumed the gift. The soldiers of jogindcr Singh even plundered the P^ pcrty of Dhanna Singh
That was absolutely illegal and high-hanflJ The gift had been made to Ranjit Singh and not to Dhanna
Maharaja Ran jit Singh and His Successors
therefore the Raja of Nabha had no right to resume it. The British Gov¬ernment justified the action of
the ruler of Nabha in spite of the protests of Lahore Durbar. There was a certain island in the ri^er Sutlej
near ferozepore. That belonged to the Lahore Durbar but the same was occu¬pied by the British.
The British Government carried on propaganda against the Lahore J)urbar. They sent spies and agents
provocateurs to the Punjab. British officials and the press started intensive propaganda in order to
prepare the people of India and England for a war between the British Government and the Lahore
Durbar and to cover their war-like preparations. A speech of Sir Charles Napier was published in the
Delhi Gazette wherein he open¬ly and threateningly stated that the British were going to declare war
against the Sikhs.
Under the circumstances, the war was inevitable and it actually broke out in December, 1844. According
to the British, the immediate cause of the war was the crossing of the river Sutlej by the Sikh army on
Decem¬ber 11, 1845. However, considering the fact that the British army had already left Ambala for
the Sutlej on December 6, 1845, it cannot be deni¬ed that the British wanted only an excuse to start the
war. It is also to be remembered that when Lord Hardinge declared war against the Lahore Durbar on
December 13, 184* the Lahore army was still encamped on its own territory.
The most important battles of the First Sikh War were those of Mudki, Ferozshah, Aliwal and Sabraon.
The Sikhs were defeated in the battle of Mudki. That was partly due to the treachery on the part of Lai
Singh who left h;s followers just at the time when victory was in sight. The Sikhs also committed the folly
of not destroying 7,000 British troops under Sir John Little who were their mercy.
The battle of Ferozshah was fought on 21st December, 1845. The Sikhs put up a very stiff resistance and
the position of the English was really critical. Sir Hugh Gough wrote that "during that night of horrors,
we were in a critical and perilous state." This time the treachery of Teja Singh helped the British. He ran
away from the battlefield leaving the Sikh armies without a commander.
For more than a month, there was practically no fighting. That was partly due to the fact that the Khalsa
army was without a leader and the British were so much stunned that they did not know what to do.
The Sikhs found a leader in Ranjhor Singh and he defeated Sir Henry Smith at Buddiwal on 21st January
1846. Ranjhor Singh not only gave up the pursuit of the enemy but also left Buddiwal and the same was
reoccupied ty Sir Henry Smith. The Sikhs were defeated in the battle of Aliwal and Ranjhor Singh ran
At this time, Gulab Singh managed to become supreme at Lahore and he started negotiations with the
British Government -with a view to achieving his own selfish ends. It was settled between the parties
that ,tle Sikh army should be attacked by the English and when beaten it was 'J be openly disbanded by
its own Government. The passage of the Sutlej Vas not to be opposed and the road to the capital was to
be kept open 10 the victors. For all this service to the British Government, Gulab Singh as to receive
Kashmir. It was under these circumstances that the battle °l Sabra&ii was fOUght. Lai Singh also had sent
a plan of the Sikh posi-,0Jl at Sabraon to the English three days before the battle. It was in this
ln»osphere of treachery and shameful treason that the Sikh soldiers foueht
Maharaja Ran jit Singh and Ms Successors
against the British. Soon alter the first attack, Teja Singh ran awav
either accidentally or by design sank a boat in the middle of the K ^
of communication." The Sikhs were without a leader and no w0n!r*e
were defeated. The battle of Sabraon has been called the bloodiest h '
of the war. The whole of the river Sutlej at that place ran red on^
count of the blood of the Sikh soldiers. After Sabraon, British arm*C"
marched- on to Lahore and occupied the same on 20th February, u^
The Treaty of Lahore was signed in March 1846. "•
Lord Hardinge decided not to annex the Punjab and four reaso have been put forward for the same. It
was thought that the existen^ of a Hindu State between Afghanistan and British India would be af
vantageous to the Company. Another reason was that the annexation nf the Punjab would not be
profitable on account of the large amount of money that would be required to be spent on the newly
acquired province Another reason given is that Lord Hardinge doubted the strength of the English to
occupy the whole country. Still another reason that is put forward is that the English did not annex the
Punjab out of their respect for the memory of Ranjit Singh who was their faithful ally for many de-cades.
The rival claims of Lai Singn and Gulab Singh who had helped the English in winning the First Sikh War,
gave some headache to Lord Hard¬inge. Both of them wanted to be supreme at Lahore.. Ultimately, a
way was found to reward both of them. Lai Singh was to be recognised as the Chief Minister of
Maharaja Dalip Singh and Gulab Singh got the State of Jammu and Kashmir on the payment of a sum of
one million ster¬ling The amount was reduced by one-fourth by the British Government.
Treaty of Lahore (1846). By the Treaty of Lahore the British got the Cis-Sutlej States, the Jullundur Doab
Hazara. The Sikhs were io pay an indemnity of 11 crores of rupees. They were able to pay only half a
crore out of their treasury and for the balance of it the State of Jammu and Kashmir was sold to Gulab
Singh. The Sikh army was re¬duced to 25 battalions of infantry and 12,000 cavalry The Sikhs were
deprived of all those guns which were used by them against the English. The Sikh Government agreed
not to employ British subjects or subjects of any European State without the concurrence of the British
Government. Passage was to be allowed to the British troops through the Punjab Maharaja Dalip Singh
was recognised the ruler of the Punjab. A British force was to be stationed at Lahore and was to be
withdrawn only by the end of the year. Henry .Lawrence was appointed the British Resident at Lahore.
After, the Treaty of Lahore, things did not work smoothly in the Pun¬jab. Lai Singh and other Sikh
leaders were opposed to the handing over of Jammu and Kashmir to Gulab Singh and their territory was
given to them only after the intervention of the British troops. Rani Jindan and Lai Singh were accused of
creating the trouble. An enquiry was made into their conduct and thev were found guilty. Lai Singh was
sent to Banaras
In December 1846, another treaty known as the Treaty c} Bhairovial was made by the British
Government with the Lahore Durbar. By this treaty, Council of Regency consisting of 8 pro-British Sikh
chiefs was ap" pointed arid the council vvas to act under the advice and guidance of the British Resident.
A British force was to be maintained at Lahore and the Sikhs were to pay Rs. 22 lakhs every year. This
arrangement was to continue up to 1854 when Maharaja Dalip Singh was expected to becofltf
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and tfis Successor*
. r By this treaty, the Sikhs became virtually the masters of the Punjab.
In 1847 and 1848, many reforms were carried out in the Punjab which against the interests of the Sikh
nobility. This added to their dis-W tent. The disbanded soldiers were naturally discontented because
they ifd lost their salaries and other allowances. The Sikhs bitterly r**Q&te*i hpir defent particularly
because those were due to treachery on the part f thir leaders. They also resented the activities of
the British agents who were carI7mg on negotiations with the tribesmen on the frontier. TheY did
not approve of the concessions given to the Muslims in the mat¬ter of Azan or call for prayer and cow
slaughter. Rani Jindan was bitter at the loss of her power and was determined to have her revenge.
She was accused of conspiracy and sent away to Chunar. Her deportation was resented by the Sikhs.
Second Sikh War (1848-49). There is no doubt that discontentment prevailing in the Punjab would have
resulted in a war sooner or later, but the revolt of Mul Raj, Governor of Multan, precipitated matters*.
He was the Governor of Multan since 1844. Previous to that, his farther Sawan Mai was the Governor of
Multan. Mul Raj was asked by the Lahore Durbar to pay the succession duty of one crore of rupees. He
expressed his inability and was asked to pay Rs. 18 lakhs. On account of the inter-vention of the First
Sikh War, Mul Raj was able to postpone the payment, but demand was renewed after the war. The sum
now demanded was Rs. 19 lakhs. As the payment was not made by him, he was ordered to pay Rs. 20
lakhs and give up one-third of his territory. His annual tri¬bute of Rs. 12 lakhs was increased to Rs. 18
lakhs. The Lahore Durbar also tried to interfere in the internal affairs of Multan. Mul Raj express¬ed his
desire to resign provided the whole matter was kept a secret and 1.0 charges were brought against him
and he was asked to render one year's accounts. The British Resident refused to accept these terms and
ordered him to resign unconditionally and render accounts for 10 years. The demand for 10 years'
accounts was simply stupid as he had not been the Governor of Multan for more than 4 years. The
British Hesident sent Anderson and Agnew with Sardar Khan Singh to take over the ad¬ministration. Mul
Raj handed over the Multan fort to them on 19th April 1848. The people of Multan got infuriated at the
sight of English¬men. There was a revolt on 20th April and the two British officers were murdered.
The British Government could have taken action at once but they waited for months and during that
interval rebellion spread all over the Punjab; Sir Hugh Gough, the Commander-in-Chief, was of the
opinion that the heat of the Punjab at the time was not favourable to large scale operations. It was
decided to have a winter "hunt" after the rains.
On 10th October, 1848, Lord Dalhousie declared thus: "Unwarranted be precedents, uninfluenced by
example, the Sikh nation has called for war, and on my word, sirs, they shall have it with a vengeance."
On 16th November, Gough crossed the river Ravi and on 22nd November was fought the battle of
Ramnagar. In December 1848, the siege of Multan Was started and it surrendered in January 1849. On
13th January 1849, Was fought the battle of Chillianwala. It was a drawn battle. In Febru¬ary 1849 was
fought the battle of Gujarat which has been called the "bat¬tle of guns." The Sikhs were defeated and
the war ended on 13th March 1849. On 29th March 1849, the Punjab was annexed. Maharaja Dalip
Singh was deposed and given a pension. Lord Dalhousie rejected the
Maharaja Ranjit Singh and His Successors
suggestion of administering the Punjab with Dalip Singh on the throne According to him, "By
maintaining the pageant of a throne we should leave just enough sovereignty to keep alive among the
Sikhs the memory of their nationality and serve as constant nucleus for intrigue." Again "When I am
forcibly convinced that the sovereignty of our State requires us to enforce subjection of the Sikh people,
I cannot abandon that neces-sary measure merely because the effectual subjection of the nation
involves in itself the deposition of their prince... .While deeply sensible of the responsibility I have
assumed, I have an undoubting conviction of the ex¬pediency of the justice and of the necessity of my
act. What I have done I have done with a clear conscience, in the honest belief that it was im! peratively
demanded of my duty to the State."
The annexation of the Punjab by Lord Dalhousie has been condemn¬
ed by many writers. According to Trotter, the policy of Dalhousie was
"unprincipled and unjustifiable." When Diwan Mul Raj and Chattar
Singh revolted, it was the duty of the British Government to suppress them.
Dalhousie had no business to wait for months to allow the other Sikh ele¬
ments to revolt. It was a dirty plan "deliberately adopted by the Resi¬
dent and the Governor-General, contrary to the advice of the Council of
According to Bell, the annexation of the Punjab was "a violent breach of trust." Dalhousie "violated
treaties, abused a sacred trust, threw away the grandest opportunity ever offered to the British
Government of plan¬ting solid and vital reform up to the northern limits of India; and bv an acquisition
as unjust as it was imprudent, weakened our frontier, scat¬tered our military strength and entailed a
heavy financial burden upon the Empire. That, I believe, will be the verdict of posterity and his¬tory
upon the transactions which have just passed under our review."
It is pointed out that after the Treaty of Bhairowal of December 1846, the British Government had
become responsible for the administra¬tion of the Punjab during the minority of Maharaja Dalip Singh
who was a ward of the British Government. It was the duty of the Governor-General and the British
Resident at Lahore, Sir Frederick Currie, to crush the. revolts of Diwan Mul Raj, Chattar Singh and Sher
Singh. They had no business to delay matters. If they failed in their duty, Maharaja Dalip Singh was not
to blame. The latter had absolutely no power in his hands. It was the Khalsa army and not the Lahore
Government which began the Sikh War and the Khalsa army alone should have been, punished after its
defeat. There was absolutely no justification for dethroning Maharaja Dalip Singh. He was absolutely
Some of the British officers were also opposed to the annexation of the Punjab. Sir Henry Lawrence was
one of them. However, he failed to convince Lord Dalhousie. Major Edwards was also opposed to
annexa¬tion. To quote him, "It was my own belief at the time that had the Multan rebellion been put
down at once, the Sikh insurrection would never have grown out of it; it was a belief shared, moreover
(as well as I remem-ber) , by every political officer in the Punjab, and I for one still think so now." Again,
"With respect to the Sardars, I believe them to be heart and soul on our side."
We may conclude by saying that Dalhousie's annexation of the Pun-jab was based on a policy of
expediency and necessity. According to Bell, the Second Sikh War could have been avoided. To quote
him, "I can perceive no advantage, material or moral, that has been gained by any
Maharaja Ran jit Singh and His Successors
person or class that could not have been more fully and effectually con¬ferred and secured without
annexation than with it."
After the annexation of the Punjab in March 1849, the administra¬tion of the province was put under
the control of a Board of three mem¬bers. Lord Dalhousie was himself to control the whole of it through
the Hoard. After some time, the Board was disbanded. Henry Lawrence was asked to go to Rajputana as
an agent for Governor-General. John Law¬rence was appointed the Chief Commissioner of the Punjab.
The Punjab was divided into four divisions and each of them was put under a Com¬missioner. The
divisions were subdivided and put under the control of Deputy Commissioners and the latter controlled
the Tehsildars and Naib Tehsildars. The Sikh army was completely disarmed and disbanded. Arms were
taken away- from the people of the Punjab. The Jagirs of the Sikh nobles were confiscated. A strong
police force was raised and put undei the supervision of English officers. Village watchmen were
appointed. The landlords were given police powers to maintain law and order within their localities. A
frontier force was raised from the tribes. The judi¬ciary was reorganised under the supreme control of
the Judicial Commis¬sioner Under him were the Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, Teh¬sildars,
etc. A code of law was prepared to give rough and .ready justice to the people. Roads, bridges and
canals were constructed. Agriculture was improved. Loans were given to the people for the
improvement of land.
The result of all these reforms was that law and order was established in the Punjab within a short
period. The people got contented. So great was the measure of their contentment that when after the
lapvc of eight years, the mutiny broke out in 1857, the Sikhs did not join it. On the other hand, the Sikh
soldiers went to Delhi to crush the mutiny.
Banerjee, A.C. Anglo-Sikh Relations.
Bell, Evans. Annexation of the Punjab.
Chopra, G.L. The Punjab as a Sovereign State
Cunningham, H.S. History of the Sikhs.
bough and Innes. The Sikhs and the Sikh Wars (1897).
Griffin, L. Ranjit Singh.
Khushwant Singh. Ranjit Singh, Maharajah of Punjab )1780-183(J). iff, S.M. History of the Punjab (1891).
Mahajan, Jagmohan. Annexation of the Punjab.
Osborne, W.G. Court and Camp of Ranjit Singh (1840).
Sinha, N.K. Ranjit Singh
(1945) .
Sinha, N.K. The Rise of the Sikh Power (IQW\
Lord Dalhousie was born in 1812 and came to India as Governor.
General at the age of 35. He had entered Parliament in 1837 and acted
as President of the Board of Trade in the Ministry of Peel. He was a
great imperialist and did all that he could to add to the British dominion
in India. He is rightly called the' builder of the British Empire in this
country. Undoubtedly, he was one of the greatest of the Governors-General
of India- Neither in ambition nor in hard work, could he be defeated by
any one. His eight years of office are full of important events in everv
He was a great annexationist. He annexed territories for the uniform¬ity of administration, consolidation
and addition to the resources of the treasury. To quote him, "No man can deprecate more than I do any
extension of the frontiers of our territory which can be avoided or which may not become indispensably
necessary for considerations of our own safety, and of the maintenance of tranquillity of our provinces.
But I can¬not conceive it possible lot any one to dispute the policy of taking advant¬age of every just
opportunity which presents itself for consolidating the territories which already be'tong to us by taking
possession of States which may lapse in the midst of hem; for thus getting rid of those petty
inter¬vening principalities which -pay be made a means of annoyance, but which can never, I venture to
think, be a source of strength for adding to the re¬sources of the public treasury and for extending the
uniform application of our system of Government to those whose best interests we sincerely believe,
will be protected thereby."
Conquests of Dalhousie—Punjab (1849). The First Sikh War was fought in the time of Haydinge and the
Second War was fought in the time of Lord Dalhousie. The real cause was that although the Sikhs were
defeated in the First war, their power was not crushed and they were de¬termined to have revenge, for
their previous defeat,
Mul Raj, the Governor of Multan, revolted and put to death the English officers who were sent there.
For many reasons, Lord Dalhousie did not interfere at He wanted the Lahore Durbar to take
action. Moreover, he preferred to take action against the rebels after the rainy season. Two important
battles of the Second Sikh War were those of Chilianwala and Gujrat. The first was a drawn battle and
the second was decisive. The Sikhs were completely defeated and they laid down their arms. The Punjab
was annexed in March 1849. Dalip Singh, the Sikh Maharaja, was given a pension. The Punjab was put
under a Board of three Commissioners. However, the Board was abolished later on and Sir John
Lawrence was appointed Chief Commissioner. It was he who was responsible for the settlement of the
Second Burmese War (1852). The real cause of the Second Bur¬mese War was the determination of
Dalhousie to exclude all European powers from Burma. He could not tolerate the idea of France or any
other country capturing any part of Burma. However he got an excuse to interfere into the affairs of
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
Under the Treaty of Yandaboo, the English merchants were allowed
settle «n Burma and carry on trade. As their commercial rights were
101 Refined precisely, each party interpreted them in its own way. The
Fnelisn merchants had their grievances but they stuck on to the trade on
Vount of the high profits made by them.
The imperialist character of Dalhousie encouraged the English trad-to appeal t(> h*m for tne removal of
their grievances. . They sent him ' long petition in which they narrated all the wrongs suffered by them.
Dalhousie welcomed the petition as God-sent. He declared that the Treaty of Yandaboo had been
violated and the Burmese Government must a., damage for the wrongs done to the Englishmen.
Commodore Lam-[Lrt was sent to Rangoon for this purpose. On account of the behaviour of Lambert,
the Burmese Government could not satisfy the demands of Lhe Government of India. The result was
that there was the exchange 0f guns and the Second Burmese War started. Even before the declara¬tion
of war, a British force was sent under General Godwin. Martaban was taken, Rangoon a.nd Bassein also
fell into the hands of the English. Later on, Prome was occupied. Thus, the British were able to bring the
whole of lower Burma under their control. Negotiations were start¬ed by no treaty was signed. Lord
Dalhousie, declared the annexation of Pegu by a Proclamation issued in 1852. According to Arnold, "The
Sec¬ond Burmese War was neither just in its origin nor marked by strict equity in its conduct or issue."
Dalhousie's view was that the annexation of Pegu was "unavoidably demanded by sound views of
general policy." Again, "Although this conquest be an evil it will not be an evil altogether without
mitigation. If conquest is contemplated by me now, it is not a positive good but solely as the least of
those evils before us from which we must of necessity select one."
Doctrine of Lapse. The name of Dalhousie is famous for nis applica¬tion of the Doctrine of Lapse in very
many cases. However, it is wrong to sa'y that he was the creator of this doctrine. The Directors of the
Eng¬lish Company had declared in 1834 that permission to adopt on the failure of natural heirs "should
be the exception and not the rule, and should never be granted bu.t as a special mark of favour or
approbation^' It was declared in 1841 that every effort should be made to abandon "no just and
honourable annexation of territory or revenue." The only thing done by Dalhousie was that he employed
the Doctrine of Lapse in as many cases as possible. The basis of the Doctrine of Lapse was that as the
English Company was the paramount power in India, the dependent States could not pass to the
adopted son without the sanction of the pawmount power and the latter had the right to withhold the
It has been contended that Dalhousie applied the Doctrine of Lapse only to dependent States. However,
no precise distinction was drawn between independent, allied, dependent and subordinate States. The
omission might have been intentional. The result of this was that any State could be annexed by merely
stating that it was a dependent State although there was nothing to prove that. It is well-known that
Dalhousie annexed Karauli on the ground that it was a dependent State. He was Pw-ruled by the
Directors on the ground that it was a protected ally and n°t a dependent State. No wonder. Sir John
Strachey came to the con-blion that the distinction between dependent and allied States was my-•'•ical.
Lord Dalhousie wrote thus on the subject: "I take occasion of re-IHing my strong and deliberate opinion
that in exercise of a wise and n,ud policy, the JBriiish«Government is bound not. to put aside or neglect
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
such rightful opportunities of acquiring territory or revenue as may frorn time to time present
themselves, where they arise from the lapse of sub. ordinate States, by the failure of all heirs, of every
description whatsoever or from the failure of natural heirs where the succession can be sustained only
by the sanction of the Government being given to the ceremony of adoption by Hindu law." Lord
Dalhousie applied the Doctrine of Lapse in the case of Satara in 1848, faitpur and ShambaJpur in 1849,
Baghat m 1850, Udaipur in 1852, Jhansi in 1853 and Nagpur in 1854.
As regards Satara, its Raja'", died in 1848 without leaving any son. However, he adopted a son
before his death. Dalhousie declared the adoption as invalid because his sanction Was not taken. The
Court of Directors declared that "By the general law and custom of India, a de-pendent principality like
that of Satara cannot pass to an adopted son without the consent of the paramount power; that we are
under no pledge direct or constructive to give such consent; and that the general interest committed to
our charge is best consulted by withholding it." Accord¬ing to Arnold, the annexation of Satara was "a
rich but not a lawful prize." It is wrong to maintain that the State of Satara was a British creation. The
English Company entered into a treaty with Satara in 1819 with a view to conciliating the Marathas. The
treaty was made between the two powers on the basis of equality. No amount of quibblings can justify
the action of Dalhousie.
As regards Nagpur, its Raja . died in 1853. He did not adopt any son before his death. However, he had
directed his queen to adopt a son. Under the Hindu law, such an adoption is perfectly valid. The Rani
adopted Yaswant Rao. However, instead of recognising Yaswant Rao as the adopted son of Rajah of
Nagpur, the British Resident took posses¬sion of the territory. It was declared that on account of the
absence of legal heirs, the State lapsed to the English Company. According to Dal¬housie, the case of
Nagpur "stands wholly without precedent. We have before us no question of inchoate or incomplete or
irregular adoption. The Rajah has died and has deliberately abstained from adopting an heir. His widow
has adopted no successor. The State of Nagpur conferred by the British Government in 1818 on the
Rajah and his heir has reverted to the British Government on the death of the ruler without any heir.
Jus¬tice and custom and precedent leave the Government wholly unfettered to decide as it thinks best.
Policy alone must decide the question." Ac¬cording to Arnold, "The real law by which Nagpur was added
to the Bri¬tish Dominion was, it must be pronounced, the old but not on that account more respectable,
the law of the strongest."
As regards Jhansi, it was given by the Peshwa to the English in 1817. In the same year, Lord Hastings put
Rao Ramchandra on the throne of Jhansi and by a treaty guaranteed the right of succession in
perpetuity. Rao Ramchandra died in 1835. His adopted son was not recognised and Raghunath Rao was
put on the throne. The latter died in 1838 and was succeeded by Gangadhar Rao who also died in 1853
without leaving any child behind. Before his death, he adopted Anand Rao as his son and requested the
English Company to recognise him as such. Dalhousie re¬fused, to recognise him and annexed the State.
Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi had her revenge in the mutiny.
Annexation of Berar (1853). Dalhousie annexed Berar in 1853. The reason was that the Nizam owed a lot
of money to the English Company on account of the charge of the contingent forces. As the Nizam had
no1 made payments, the debt reached the figure of £780,000. A new treaty
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
s made with the Nizam by which he gave Berar to the English for the intenance of the contingent force
and the payment of the debts.
Anglo-Oudh Relations (1765-1856). Before referring to the annexa-n of Oudh in 1856 by Lord Dalhousie,
it is desirable to refer to the relations of the rulers of Oudh with the English Company .from 1765 to
1856. It has already been pointed out that the Nawab Wazir of Oudh yias defeated in 1765 in the battle
of Buxar and taken prisoner along with Shah Alam. British troops also marched into Lucknow The whole
of Oudh was at the mercy of the British troops. In spite of this, Lord Clive decided to restore to the
Nawab of Oudh his conquered territories. He was made to part with only Kora and Allahabad. These
districts were given to Shah Alam to maintain his dignity. Lord Clive followed a buffer State policy
towards Oudh.
In 1773, Warren Hastings got back Kora and Allahabad from the Mughal Emperor who had gone over to
the side of the Marathas. Both these districts were sold to the Nawab of Oudh for Rs. 50 lakhs. The
Nawab of Oudh got British help in the Rohilla war and annexed Rohil-khand. In January 1775, a new
treaty was imposed by the anti-Hastings majority in the Council on the new ruler of Oudh. The Nawab
was for¬ced to give up the sovereignty of Banaras. He was also made to agree to the increase of the
subsidy to be paid for the British troops. It is well-known that Warren Hastings was instrumental in the
maltreatment of the Begums of Oudh. He has been rightly condemned for his attitude. His conduct was
absolutely high-handed.
In the time of Cornwallis, the Nawab requested the English Com¬pany to relieve him of the expenses of
the British troops in Oudh. There were two brigades in Oudh at that time. One of them was a permanent
Brigade of Kanpur and the other was known as the temporary Brigade stationed at Fatehgarh. The
Nawab appealed again in 1781 and 1784 for the withdrawal of the temporary Brigade. Although
Cornwallis did not grant the request of the Nawab in full, he reduced the subsidy to Rs. 50 lakhs a year.
In 1797, Sir John Shore intervened in a disputed succession in Oudh. He put Sadat Ali on the throne and
made a new treaty with him. By the new treaty, the English Company became responsible for the
defence of Oudh in return for an annual tribute of Rs. 70 lakhs. Tthe Allahabad fort was given to the
English Company. It was also provided that there was to be no increase in the subsidy except in the case
of necessity. The Governor-General was given the discretion to add to the troops in the case of
When Lord Wellesley came as Governor-General, the condition of Oudh was deplorable. Its
administration was a byword for inefficiency, corruption and oppression. The problem was a
complicated one. While inefficiency and corruption demanded action, the loyalty of the Nawab to the
English Company did not allow the English to intervene effectively. Moreover, the Nawab paid regularly
and punctually the instalments of the subsidy. Although the amount already paid by the Nawab was- too
much for his paying capacity, Lord Wellesley demanded the increase of the British troops in Oudh and
also demanded an increase in the subsidy.
Lord Wellesley made further demands on the Nawab. First of all, the Nawab agreed and then withdrew
his consent. He even agreed to abdicate on the condition that his son was allowed to succeed him. The
British Government did not accept his offer. British troops were ordered
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
to march into Oudh and the Nawab was ordered to find money for paing them.
The real desire of Wellesley was to force upon the Nawab the cession of territory in lieu of revenue
payments. Consequently, the Nawab was confronted with entirely new demands. He was either to cede
the whole of his dominions retaining only a nominal sovereignty or cede as much territory as would
yield revenue equal to the subsidy to be paid for. Prar. tically, half of the Nawab's dominions were
annexed by Wellesley. The treaty was signed in November 1801 and the territory surrendered was
Rohilkhand and the Lower Doab.
The result of Lord Wellesley's policy was that Oudh was entirely sur¬rounded by British territory except
on the north. The policy of main-taining Oudh as a buffer State was given up. With regard to the
terri¬tory left in the hands of the Nawab, he was required to act in accordance with the direction of the
Company. It cannot be denied that the ceded territory was violently and compulsorily snatched away
from the Nawab, The "introduction of additional troops into Oudh was a violation of the existing
"It has been said that the Oudh action was the most highhanded of all Wellesley's despotic actions. He
would hardly have denied all this but he would have justified it. The tangle of conflicting interests could
only be" cut by the sword, and he did not hold the sword in vain."
In the time of Lord Hastings, the Nawab of Oudh paid huge sums of money to the English Company
towards the expenses incurred by the English Company in the Gurkha War. It was contended that the
Nawab should pay because the defeat of the Gurkhas had added to his security. As an appreciation of
the contribution made by the Nawab, the latter was allowed by the English Company to assume the title
of king. How¬ever, this outraged the Muslim loyalty to the Mughal Emperor Leonard says in Cambridge
History of India that "in the Governor-General's opinion ■♦his act would benefit the British Government
by causing a division bet¬ween these important leaders of Mohammedan community It also met with
approval of all experienced British officials."
William Bentinck tried to fill his empty treasury from Oudh. He visited Lucknow and warned the king
that "unless his territories were •governed upon other principles than those hitherto followed and the
pros¬perity of the people made the principal object of his administration, the precedents afforded by
the principalities of Carnatic and Tanjore would be applied to the kingdom of Oudh and the# entire
management of the country would be assumed by the Company and the king would be trans¬mitted
into a State prison."
In the time of Lord Auckland, Nasir-ud-Din died in 1837 under very suspicious circumstances. The
Dowager Queen put a son on the throne. However, the English put Mohammed Ali Shah as its ruler. A
new treaty was onade with Mohammed Ali Shah in 1837 by which the English CoB>-pam got the right of
assuming the management of the Company in U* case' ipf gross misrule. He also agreed to pay Rs. 16
lakhs for the main-tenanKe of an auxiliary force. This treaty was disallowed by the Direc¬tors *>f the
English Company and the Governor-General was directed to inform the ruler of Oudh accordingly.
Unfortunately. Lord Aucklano did not communicate this fact to the ruler of Oudh. The latter was mere-to
informed that he would not have to pay for the auxiliary force. It *. an act of treachery on the part of a
Governor-General and he should iw
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
have g°ne so 'ow *n n's act'on- The result was that the King of Oudh and many others remained under
the impression that the Treaty of 1837 waS in force. This Treaty was included in Government
publications and aS referred to by Sir John Lawrence in 1844. Lord Hardinge also re¬ferred to the Treaty
of 1837.
Lord Dalhousie was determined to deal with Oudh in a very effec¬tive manner. The Government of
Oudh was rotten and openly so. The country would have been annexed long ago but for the consistent
loyalty 0f the king.
In 1848, Sleeman was sent to Lucknow by Dalhousie as a Resident to undertake the reconstruction of an
oppressed country. In 1849, he was instructed to make a tour and report on the conditions prevailing in
the country. Sleeman reported that the people killed their female child¬ren and buried them alive.
Lucknow was in perpetual turmoil of pro¬cessions, illuminations and festivities. The only companions of
the king were fiddlers and buffoons. The ambition of the king was limited to the reputation of being
known as the best drum-beater, dancer and poet of the day. Most of his associates were outcastes from
the low classes. The king was always in need of money and used the military aid to squeeze as much as
he could. The peasantry grew swift-footed. The governing classes had no sympathy for the subjects and
the latter suffered terribly under the tyranny of the officials. The officials took delight in plundering the
Although the condition of Oudh was far from satisfactory, Sleeman was opposed to the annexation of
the country. His view was that "the annexation of Oudh would cost the British power more than the
value of such kingdom and would inevitably lead to a mutiny of the sepoys." Moreover, the^iative States
were "the breakwaters, and when they are all swept away, we shall be left to the mercy qf our native
army which may not be always sufficiently under control." Sleeman stressed the educational value of
the native States in so far as they afforded an opportunity to those Indians "whose habits unfitted them
to become humbler and accept low jobs and swagger with their sword and matchlock in the States." In
1851, Lord Dalhousie himself jouneyed on the borders of Oudh and he tells us that he heard the use of
heavy Cannon for the purpose of collecting revenues by the servants of the king. In spite of this,
Dalhousie hesitated to take action.
In 1854, Sleeman was replaced by Outram as. Resident. The n^w Resident reported that the
administration of the country was an orgy of niassacre and corruption set to music.
Lord Dalhousie's recommendation was that while the King of Oudh be allowed to retain his title, the
entire administration of the country j* vested in the Company in perpetuity. On account of the
consistent loyalty of the King, Dalhousie did not recommend his forcible abdication and annexation of
his territory The members of the Executive Council JjJ Lord Dalhousie were divided with regard to the
future of the Oudh •*ne majority was opposed to Dalhousie's views In January 1856, Dal-?°usie got the
orders of the Directors with regard to the future of Oudh. **e was to offer to the King a kind of Vatican
sovereignty, the title of king, •aequate funds and full jurisdiction short of death over Lucknow palace
Pfrks: Outram was sent back to Lucknow and a brigade followed him.
"e king refused to accept the new position and was deposed. He was J*J}t to Calcutta. In justification
of the act, Lord Dalhousie wrote thus:
*he British Government Would be guilty in the sight of God and man
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
if it were any longer to aid in sustaining by its countenance an admih-tration "fraught with suffering to
millions." The Indians do not seem 'S have cared for the material gains which followed in the wake of
the nexation of Oudh. They preferred their own misrule to the strict jJ1 of the British with the
insolence of the Chaprasis and other petty official*
The annexation of Oudh created a feeling of awe and despair i the minds of the rulers of the Indian
States. They began to fear the! safety. They could say to themselves:
"Another year, another deadly blow, Another mighty Empire overthrown. And we are left, or shall be
left alone."
Sleeman's opinion was that annexation of Oudh was a political blun. der. According to him, the English
used their giant's strength like a giant and injured their reputation in the eyes of the Indians. During the
mutiny the sepoys of Oudh brought about havoc and added to the diflicul-ties of the British. It has
rightly been maintained that the forced abdica-tion of Wajid Ali Shah and the annexation of Oudh were
offences against good faith and public conscience.
Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1857)
The character of Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Oudh, demands a detailed treatment. He was bom in
1822 and he ascended the throne in 1847 at the age of 25. He was jolly and good-natured and the
gayest of the gay rulers. He studied Persian, rode horses, shot tigers, started loving at an early age and
also composed love poems in Urdu. All efforts to train him as' a rider failed.
He was a man of high tastes. He loved architecture. He had a flair for landscape gardening. Under his
inspiration, the Nuzurbagh gar¬den was constructed with canals on two sides from which fountains
play¬ed. He planned and supervised the construction of three palaces, one for summer, one for winter
and one for the rainy season. However, the supreme passion of his life was Ishq or love. He surrounded
himself with Paris or fairies and put them all in a special palace called Parikhana. They were handsomely
paid and richly dressed and they were his special pro¬perty. He sang and danced with them. He held
inquiries into their petty thefts. He watched over their loyalty and turned out anyone whom he did not
like. The Parikhana was guarded by a band of women who were trained to carry out his commands.
Ishqnama or the diary of Wajid Ali begins thus: "The Lord of the world has bestowed the taste of love on
every human being, and everyone has had his growth in the ever-blooming garden of love. Hence, I too
have been nourished with the spring and flowers of love. And as I got this woe of love from the very
beginning, I have noted down my own tale of romance and love from the beginning up to the present
From the time of his succession to the throne, Wajid Ali Shah did not show any interest in the
administration of his territory. He was raw, impulsive and irresponsible. He dra things in a hurry and
later on re¬pented for having done so. There are many interesting stories about the follies of the ruler.
It is stated that once upon a time, a complaint was made to him that a particular Jain jeweller had
sacrificed a Brahmin boy while building a temple of Parsnath. Without making any enquiry, the temple
was demolished. There were protests and ultimately Wajid Ali Shall admitted that he had absolutely
no administrative experience and
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
why the mistake had been made. The house of the officer who il>at Sponsible for the trouble was pulled
down. It is also stated that *aS "upon a l'me wnen n's Chief Minister was going to see him, he was
0(iceut Uv four ruffians and he was not let off till they were paid Rs. 50,000
aS ransomWaiid AH Shah had a command of the Persian language and he was
a master of Urdu. He wrote over 100 books in those languages.
u° poems fill several big volumes. He was an expert in music. He was
i greatest patron of Indian music and dance of his time. Music and
Aice were the breath of the Parikhana and its master was the patron of
well-known Lucknow Thumri. Wajid Ali was also fond of drama.
' - troupe consisted of 361 persons, out of which 84 were women. Their
I salary amounted to Rs. 11,859 per month.
Wajid Ali was the father of modern Urdu stage. Amanat, the well-known Urdu poet of Lucknow, wrote
his famous Inrfer Sabhn under his patronage.
As the administration of Oudh was not efficient. Lord Dalhousie gave Wajid Ali Shah a warning. The king
was so much affected that he left the whole administration in the hands of the Resident and himself
joined the company of poets, eunuchs, musicians and dances. His companions took the law into their
own hands. They robbed the people of their money and set free their friends from jails. When the
Resident gave him a warning, Wajid Ali entered into an agreement by which it was agreed that
"eunuchs, singers, and other improper persons should not be employed either directly or indirectly, nor
would they interfere with the matters of administration."
Wajid Ali Shah was surrounded by gay persons. His ministers lack¬ed ability and character. The officials
were corrupt and quarrelsome. The landed aristocracy had no respect for the court. The Resident
wanted an efficient government but nobody knew what efficiency was.
In Ayodhya, there was a shrine of Hanuman called Hanumangarhi. This shrine was under the charge of
Bairagis. Some Muslims forcibly entered the shrine and offered prayers. English troops intervened to
stop the trouble which was taking the shape of a Jehad.
By the end of 1855, the administration of Oudh had completely col¬lapsed, but Wajid Ali Shah continued
to play Krishna to his Paris. The peasantry groaned. The communal situation was unsatisfactory. The
patience of the Governor-General was exhausted. On 23rd January, 1856, General Outram was directed
by the Governor-General to take over Oudh. The Resident was ordered to get a treaty signed from Wajid
Ali Shah and H the latter refused to do so, the Resident was to take over the adminis¬tration. On 30th
January 1856, the Resident conveyed his directions to •he Minister. The king expressed his desire to
discuss the matter with 'he Resident. The Resident declined to do so but conveyed his instruc¬tions to
the mother of the king.
On 4th February 1856, when General Outram went to see Wajid J*", he found the palace deserted and
surrounded by gloom. The guards h-id laid aside their arms and removed their turbans. The artillery had
J^er» dismantled. When Outram presented the letter of the Governor-general to Wajid Ali, his innocent
question was: "What wrong have I lQrnrnitted?" The Resident assured the king that the Government
had Provided for his maintenance, honour and dignity. The king read the •eaty and asked: "Who am I
now? Treaties arc necessary only between
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
equals. Who am I now that the British Government should enter •
a treaty with me? The kingdom is the creation of the British, ni?*0
have to issue the commands to ensure their fulfilment." And the ^
added, "I am not in a position to sign the treaty. I would not even ^
for maintenance. Let me go straight to England and throw myself a. *?
feet of t£e British throne for mercy."
On 5th February, 1856, Wajid Ali Shah discharged all his troops rv 7th February 1856, he finally refused^
to sign the treaty and consequlJ/, the Resident took over the administration of Oudh as Chief
When Wajid Ali Shah left Luck now, thousands of persons accomo* ed him. In spite of all his failings, he
was loved by the people of Lud now. The parting scenes were pathetic. Every one shed tears. It .T thus
that Wajid Ali Shah disappeared from the scene. He died on Set tember 1, 1857. One may feel pity for
him but probably he got what]* richly deserved.
Abolition of titles and pensions. Dalhousie was not content with UU annexation of territories. He also
tried to abolish titles and pensions. The first victim of his policy was Dhondu Pant or Nana Sahib who
was the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II. Baji Rao had been given a pension of Rs. 8 lakhs a year. He
adopted Nana Sahib as his son and asked for the recognition of the Company. Baji Rao died in 1852 and
Lord Dal¬housie rejected the claim of Nana Sahib. According to Sir John Kaye, the action of Dalhousie
was harsh. Arnold described it as grasping.
In 1855, the Nawab of Carnatic died without leaving any male issue, Azimjah was the heir and he applied
to the Madras Government for reco¬gnition. The view o£ the Governor was that the title' and pension
wen personal and "the semblance of royalty without power is mockery of autho¬rity which must be
pernicious—that it is impolitic and unwise to allow pageant to continue which, though it has been
politically harmless, may at any time become a nucleus for sedition and agitation." Lord Dalhousie
endorsed the views of the Madras Governor in these words: "I entirely agree with Lord Harris in holding
that the treaty of 1801 confers no right o_f hereditary succession. It is purely a personal treaty There is
no mention of heirs and successors in any part of the treaty and no grant of anything is made by it of any
one except to the Nawab Azim-ud-Dowla himself."
The Raja of Tanjore died in 1855 and left a widow and two daught¬ers. He was a king without a kingdom
and enjoyed a nension and some jagirs. Consequently, on the death of the Rajah, Dalhousie stopped the
pension and confiscated the jagirs. The case went to the Privy Council and was decreed in favour of the
Company. Lord Kingsdown made the following observations in his judgment: "It is extremely difficult to
dis¬cover in these papers any grant of legal right on the part of the East India Company into the
possession of this Raja, or of any part of the pro¬perty of the Raja on his death. The Raja was an
independent sovereign of territories undoubtedly minute and bound by treaties to a powerf'"
neighbour, which left him practically little power of free action, but we did not hold his territory such as
it was, as chief of the British Crown, or of the East India Company, nor does there appear to have been
any pre' tence for claiming it on the death of the Rajah without a son, by Wl legal title, either as an
escheat or as Bona Vacantia."
Administrative Reforms of Dalhousie►^jLord Dalhousie carried out many reforms in various fields. The
keynotes of his reforms was central'
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
• n The object of the reforms was to gather all the threads of power li9XX0u\s own hands. Dalhousie
organised the non-regulation system to i°t0 tne new needs of the Indian Empire. Under this system, the
ad-^Mstration was to be carried on by a Commissioner who was to be res-01 "sible directly to the
Governor-General-in-Council. Its chief merit was P** nomy of personnel. It did not make any distinction
between civil and eC"litary government. The District Magistrate was given all the powers in "a'rious
fields. The unfortunate effect of this system was that it demorali¬sed the people.
Military Reforms. Lord Dalhousie carried out a large number of refoims in the military field. He started
the general movement of troops from Bengal towards the west. The headquarters of the Bengal artillery
»fere shifted from Calcutta to Meerut. The Army Headquarters were gra¬dually shifted to Simla. He also
started the policy of reduction, disinte¬gration and distribution. He encouraged the enlistment of
Gurkha regi-ments in the Indian army. He raised a new irregular force in the Pun¬jab. He asked the
home authorities to increase the number of British troops in India so that there might be no possibility
of revolt by the Indian troops. Dalhousie was always afraid of a conspiracy among the Indian troops.
Telegraphs and Railways. These two departments got a great im¬petus from Dalhousie. Their
development was considered to be neces¬sary from the point of view of the defence of the Indian
empire and also for the encouragement of British investments in India. He entered into contracts with
English corporations for the construction of railways. All kinds of facilities were given to them for
construction work. They were also guaranteed interest by the government irrespective of the profits. A
few strategic lines were constructed at an enormous cost to the Indian re¬venues, but this helped the
English capitalists to make huge profits. Tele¬graph wire linked up the various parts of India and this fact
helped the English a great deal during the mutiny.
Commercial Reforms. In the interests of the British traders and manufacturers, Lord Dalhousie followed
the .policy of free trade. All ports of India were declared free. Improvements were made in lighthouses
and harbours. All hindrances in the way of the flow of goods and capital were removed. AH the coastal
trade of India fell into the hands of Eng¬lish capitalists. This led to the economic exploitation of the
Public Works Department. Before Dalhousie, the Military Member was in charge of the Public Works
Department. The work on the civil side was neglected. Consequently, Lord Dalhousie appointed a
commis¬sion in every Presidency to report on the state of affairs. The result was that public works were
withdrawn from the control of the military. A separate Public Works Department was srarted in every
Presidency and >ts important officers were the Chief Engineer and Executive Officers. They were all
imported from England. The recognised Department of Public Wo«ks took up the task of constructing
roads, canals and bridges.
Postal System. Dalhousie also removed the defects >n the postal sys¬tem. He reorganised the system on
the recommendations of a commis¬sion. He started a uniform rate of half anna for letters not exceeding
half a tola in weight for the whole of India. The sender of the letter was to pay the charges in the fenr of
stamps. Dalhousie's reforms icnoved corruption from Postal Department.
Wood's Dispatch of 1854. Sir Charles Wood, President of Board of
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
Control, sent his famous dispatch on education. According to this dis. patch, education was entitled to
the first claim of the government. \t the apex of the educational structure were to be universities on the
model of the London University in the Presidencies. These universities were to be merely examining
bodies and not teaching institutions. Colleges were to be affiliated to the universities and were to
provide education for intermediate and degree classes. There were also to be high schools and Anglovernacular schools. Their medium of instruction was to be the vernacular of the province. Private
enterprise in the field of education was to be encouraged by the Government. There was to be a
Director-General of Education for the whole of India. Education was to be en¬tirely secular. Universities
were established in 1857 in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
Dalhousie's Responsibility for the Mutiny. Dalhousie left India in 1856 and the mutiny broke out in 1857.
Naturally, the critics attributed the mutiny to the acts of omission and commission of Lord Dalhousie. It
was stated that Lord Dalhousie was in a hurry to annex States to the Indian Empire. He should have been
more considerate towards the sen¬timents of the Indians. It is true that the various annexations and
con-quests brought more money into the coffers of the English Company, but it cannot be denied that
they created the unfortunate impression that the territory of no Indian prince was safe. It was feared
that the unscru¬pulous Government of the Company was ready to find out an excuse for whatever it
did. The people lost faith in the sense of justice of the Eng¬lish. The' application of the Doctrine of Lapse
made matters worse. It created a large number of discontented persons who were ready to avail of any
opportunity to hit back against the English Company. No won¬der, Rani Jhansi brought about havoc.
Likewise, the refusal to pay the pension to Nana Sahib turned him into a bitter enemy. The abolition of
pensions of the Raja of Tanjore and the Nawab of Carnatic was un-fortunate. It was during his time that
a very large number of British troops were sent to fight in the Crimean War. The proportion of the
British troops as compared with the Indian troops became very low. Lord Dalhousie asked the Home
Government to fill in the gap, but the same was not done in spite of many reminders. The result was
that when the mutiny broke out the Indian soldiers found themselves in a very advan-tageous position
on account of the shortage of British troops in India. However, for this not Dalhousie but the Home
Government was to blame.
Dalhousie himself was not in favour of the annexation of Oudh. He was over-ruled by the Directors in
this matter and it is they who should share the blame for its annexation.
Dalhousie carried out his reforms with the best of motives but every move of his was suspected. It was
feared that every effort was being made by the Indian Government to convert the people to Christianity
<>r otherwise to injure their sentiments.
On the whole, we may say that Lord. Dalhousie was partly responsi¬ble for the mutiny of 1857. His
policy towards the Indian States created a sense of despair among the Indian Princes and that led to
revolt. He should have tried to carry his people with him and also avoid all thps* measures which could
in any way create misunderstanding and suspiao° in the minds of the innocent Indians.
Continued Sickness of Dalhousie. Dalhousie suffered throughout n> Indian career from an ill-health that
was partly responsible for his frettu» ness and which also made his manifold exertions truly heroic. He
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
it luly ^49 that he was broken in health when he started from England ' nd he landed in Calcutta an .
invalid and almost a cripple. As time oassed on and Dalhousie strained himself under the stress of
circumstan-JL he became a prey to a lamentable combination of maladies. He prac¬tically lost his voice.
He became lame in the right leg and thus deve¬loped inside an open and incurable sore of the shinbone. There were frequent attacks in the head and many other subsidiary ailments. Dr. Alexander Grant
who was the surgeon of Dalhousie in India has written a faithful account of the sufferings and ailments
of Dalhousie. On every day of the eight years which he spent in India, the life-blood of Dalhousie was
drop by drop being drained away.1
Estimate of Dalhousie. According to Lord Curzon, Lord Dalhousie left a mark upon India inferior to none
of his predecessors and acquired "a reputation second only to that of Warren Hastings. The career of
Dalhousie did, indeed, provoke at the time and has ever since aroused, though in a diminishing degree
as time has proceeded, a controversy that recalls the fate of his famous predecessor. The formidable
fighters of Gough and Napier, whom he encountered and overthrew, the forceful per¬sonality of the
two Lawrences, whom he alternately conciliated and coerc¬ed, the tremendous sweep of his territorial
acquisitions, and the range of his administrative reforms, the masterful character of the man himself
and the appealing nature of the convulsion with which India was shaken to its foundations almost
immediately after his retirement, and which might, not without plausibility, be in some measure
regarded as the consequence of his rule—all of these combined to make the reign of Dalhousie a theme
of legitimate and even embittered disputation which did not die down till long after the subject of the
controversy, at once too ill and too proud to defend himself, was in the grave. The protagonists in this
furious pole¬mic, Sir John Kaye and Edwin Arnold on the one side, the Duke of Argyll and Sir Charles
Louis Jackson on the other, filled the arena with their vehement denunciation of defence. Later the
ranks of the defen¬ders were strengthened by the powerful aid of Captain L.J. Trotter, Sir William
Hunter, and Sir Richard Temple, while the biographer of Sir John Lawrence held a midway position
between. Dalhousie himself look¬ed for his vindication to the subsequent publication of his own papers
and correspondence, although, with a self-restraint that perhaps had in it more of dignity than of
wisdom, he left in his will a direction that no portion of his private papers should be made public until at
least fifty years after his death." Again, "As an Imperial administrator, Dalhousie was not in¬ferior to the
greatest of the great men whose genius for organisation has built the British Empire in the East. He was
splendid in his organisa¬tion of war, an Abraham Lincoln in the Orient. But he was even more splendid
in his organisation of peace; and no sooner had he annexed a Province or confiscated a State than his
plans for the new regime, elaborat¬ed in the most minute detail, were ready, and he began to erect the
new structure almost before the debris of the old had been removed. Whether such a man, after his
eight years of Indian autocracy, would ever have "ent his neck to the yoke of official life in England, even
though he had excelled it in his pre-Indian career, is more than doubtful. He himself again and again
repudiated both the capacity and the desire. Public "fe on a lower plane than that on which he had
moved, and on what he
1. The fiery soul, which working out its way, Crippled the puny body to decay, And o'er informed its
tenement of day.
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
considered the sordid stage of British politics, possessed for him no attrac. tion. Whether the retention
or the recovery of health would have alter. ed his attitude it is impossible to say; that he would have
been willing to rust from idleness, is unbelievable; that some form of public service woul^
have claimed his incomparable talents is more than likely. While on his return journey he even discussed
the possiblity of accepting the War Office if offered to him, but this would only be on terms which he
could hardly expect to be conceded; since he was, he confessed, 'a curious compound of the radical and
the despot.' That he would have re-entered a,Cabinet or, had he done so, that he would have succeeded
in showing that a Gov¬ernor-General of India can also be a Prime Minister of Great Britain «eem* to me
Lord Dalhousie (1848-56)
According to Ramsay Muir, "The distinctive features of modern India have been far more influenced by
Dalhousie's work than by the Mutiny tself or DV tne constitutional adjustments which followed it."
Arnold, E. Dalhousie's Administration of British India (1861). Hunter, W.W. The Marquis of Dalhousie.
Lee-Warner. life of Marquis of Dalhousie. Malleson. The Indian Mutiny of 1857.
Sleeman, W.H. Journey Through the Kingdom of Oudh (1885). Trotter, L.J. Life of Marquis of
Dalhousie, 1889.
Its Character
The view of the British historians was that the outbreak of 1857 w a Mutiny. The fashion was originally
set by the Government of the <fo Earl Stanley, the then Secretary of State for India, while reporting jJL
events of 1857 to Parliament, used the term "Mutiny" and most of the Ent. lish writers on the subject
followed his lead and writers like Charles Ba? G.W. Forrest, T.R. Holmes, M. Innes, J.W. Kaye, G.F.
Macmunn, G3 Malleson, C.T. Metcalfe, Earl Roberts and others used the term "Mutiny-in this
connection. Sir John Lawrence was of the opinion that the Mutin* had its origin in the army and its
cause was the greased cartridges and nothing else. It was hot attributable to any antecedent conspiracy
what, soever, although it was taken advantage of by the mutineers to increase their number. The view
of Sir John Seeley was that the Mutiny was a "wholly unpatriotic and selfish sepoy mutiny with no native
leadership and no popular support." The British officers conducting the trial qf Bahadur Shah II held him
responsible for originating the Mutiny in con¬spiracy with the Shah of Iran and other Muslim rulers of
the Middle East. Sir Theophilius Metcalfe deposed in the trial of Bahadur Shah that six weeks before the
outbreak, a seditious poster was found pasted on the walls of Jama Masjid proclaiming that the Shah of
Iran would invade India and all the Muslims should be ready to join the Jehad. British historians are of
the view that Nana fahib organised the revolution lonj before its outbreak at Meerut. To quote Kaye,
"For months, for yean, indeed ever since the failure of the mission to England had been apparent, they
had been quietly, spreading their network of intrigue all over the country. From one native court to
another, from one extremity to another of the Great Continent of India, the agents of Nana Sahib had
passed with overtures and invitations, discretely perhaps mysteriously worded, to prin¬ces and chiefs of
different races and religions, but most hopeful of all to the Marathas. Nana Sahib's two most important
agents were Rungo Bapoji in the South and Azimullah in the North."
There were also writers who considered the revolt of 1857 the «• suit of a Hindu conspiracy. The Hindus
were said to have a genius f<" conspiracy. "They possess a power of patience of foreseeing results, <»
carefully weighing chances, of choosing time and weapon, of profiting by circumstances, never losing
sight of the object desired, taking advantage of every turn of fortune—all qualities invaluable for success
in intrigue-It was contended that the circulation of the Chapatis was originated by the Hindus and the
rebellion was successfully engineered by the emissar^5 of the Peshwa under the guidance of Nana
The view of Dr. Alexander Duff was that the revolt was neither Hind" nor Muslim in character. It was the
spontaneous outcome of the fratefl* ising sepoys of all castes and creeds.
The Revolt of 1857
The view of Lord Canning, the then Governor-General of India, was
"The struggle which we have had has been more like a national war
T*0 a local insurrection. In its magnitude, duration, scale of expendiire a1** in some °* its moral features, it partakes largely of the former pacter."
The view of Thompson and Garratt is that for four months during ,he summer of 1857, it seemed that
the Mutiny might develop into a real war of Independence, but by September 1857, it was clear that the
j,0 were in revolt were incapable of working to any settled plan or of subordinating themselves to a
national leader. Their prestige was wan-joe and their commanders had proved themselves incompetent
except in guerrilla warfare. They conclude by observing that the Mutiny may jje considered either as a
military revolt, or as a bid for the recovery of their property and privileges by dispossessed princes and
landlords or as -m attempt to restore the Mughal Empire or as a peasants' war.
Professor P.E. Roberts accepts the view of John Lawrence and Seeley and observes that the Mutiny was
mainly military in origin but it occur¬red at a time when for various reasons there was social and
political dis¬content in the country and the mutineers took advantage of the same.
Many Indian writers have described the events of 1857 as a War of Independence. V.D. Savarkar wrote
his book called "War of Indian In¬dependence" in which he tried to show how the Mutiny was really a
War of Indian Independence. Asoka Mehta has pointed out to the nation¬al character of mutiny in his
book entitled "1857, The Great Rebel¬lion." He admits that the sepoys were the mainstay of the
rebellion and they bore the brunt of the struggle to break the chains that imprisoned India. They gave
the backbone to the resistance and became its shield and spear. However, besides the sepoys millions of
Indians took part in the rebellion. The number of the civilians killed was as large as that of the sepoys.
They joined the struggle to free their country and to redress their grievances. The rapidity with which
the revolt spread shows that in some areas at least, the rebellion enjoyed strong mass support. At many
stations, the sepoy were egged on to action by the citizens. Those who sided with the British had to face
social ostracism. Those who could not join openly, non-co-operated with the British. General Havelock
could not get boats and boatmen to ferry his soldiers across the river. Al¬though labourers at Kanpur
were pressed into service by the British, they managed to escape at night. At many places, the natives of
all classes tried 'o keep aloof from the British. The decisive evidence showing the na-jional character of
the rebellion is the note of common harmony it struck "» both the Hindus and Muslims. Even the British
Government found it difficult to separate the two communities. The Mughal Emperor prohibit¬ed the
cow slaughter throughout the country to conciliate the Hindus. In a letter to Rajas of Rajputana, the
Mughal Emperor wrote, "It is my ardent *ish to see that the Feringi is driven out of Hindustan by all
means and *t any cost. It is my ardent wish that the whole of Hindustan should be free, but the
Revolutionary War that is being waged for the purpose will not be crowned with success unless a man
capable of sustaining the ^hole bufden of the movement, who can organise and concentrate the
different forces of the nation and unify the whole people in himself, comes
The Revolt of 1857
forward to guide the rising. I have no desire left of ruling over jn., after the expulsion of the English for
my own aggrandizement. If aj, ^ your native Rajas are ready to un-sheath your sword to drive away ^
enemy, then I am willing to resign imperial powers and authority in jj* hands of any confederacy of
native princes who are chosen to exercise 1?! The Hindus responded to the offer of the Muslims. Nana
Saheb dec]. ed his allegiance to the Mughal Emperor. It was only after the fa^ Delhi that the Sikhs joined
the British army in large numbers. All nc shows that the Mutiny was a national rising, although on a
limited scaU
In his book entitled "Eighteen Fifty Seven", Dr. S. N. Sen says tfo, the story of the chapatis lends some
colour to the theory of prior prepau. tion, propaganda and conspiracy. The view of Wilson was that a
date and time had bee-n fixed for a simultaneous rising at all the military yj. tions of India, but he did
not give any evidence in support of his vie* His view is contradicted by the known facts. The rising at
Meerut «^ not pre-meditated and the same was the case at other places. The sepoys and their leaders
were not in league with any foreign power. The onk foreign power which was approached by the
rebels was that of Nepal and that was done after the collapse of the mutiny and not during it. The
remarkable thing-about the mutiny was that it had its recruits from many sources. The
movement began as a military Mutiny, but it was not confined to the army. Moreover, the army as
a whole did not join the revolt and a considerable section of the army actively fought on the side of the
government. Every disarmed regiment was not necessarily dis¬loyal and every deserter was not a
mutineer. The rebels came from every section of the population. At all stages, both Hindus and
Muslims were well represented in the rebel army. Nana had his Azimullah Khan, Bahadur Khan his
Sobha Ram and the Rani of Jhansi her trusted Afghan guards. Outside Avadh and Shahabad, there
was no evidence of dial general sympathy which would invest the mutiny with the dignity of a
national war. At the same time, it is wrong to dismiss it as a military rising. The mutiny became a
revolt and assumed a political character when the mutineers of Meerut placed themselves under the
king of Delhi and a section of the landed aristocracy and civil population declared in his favour. "What
began as a fight for religion, ended as a war of inde¬pendence; for there was not the slightest doubt
that the rebels wanted to fet rid of the alien government and restore the old order of which the ling of
Delhi was the rightful representative." The revolt assumed na¬tional dimensions in Avadh although in
a limited sense. The Mutiny wai not a war between the white and the black. No normal issue was
involv¬ed. Truth was (he first casualty and both sides were guilty of false pro¬paganda. According to
Dr. Sen, the struggle may be described as "a W of fanatic religionists against Christians." The Mutiny
was not » conflict between barbarism and civilisation. It was an inhum;in fight between the
people driven msd by hatred and fear. Burning and hanging expc* ditions were an important routine
and no distinction was made between the innocent and 1'lie guilty. The Mutiny was inevitable
because no de¬pendent nation could have ever reconciled itself to foreign domination' A despotic
government must ultimately tuie by the *word and in In#j sword wife in the custody of the sepoy «rmy.
Between the sepoys and *W
The Revolt of 1857
lish masters, there were no common ties of race, language and religion. ^ Mutiny was inherent in the
constitution of the Empire.
In "History of the Freedom Movement in India," Dr. Tara Chand that it is misleading to use the term
Mutiny to describe the up¬heaval of 1857-8. There was no doubt that the army was abundantly in-0lved
in the revolt. It was equally true that the drive was supplied by .hc Bengal Army, although there were
signs of disaffection in some regi-ments in the other Presidencies also. However, the outbreak was not
con¬fined to the army. It was not a Mutiny in the ordinary sense of the term- *ts causes were deeper
than those involved in usual breaches of military discipline. Dr. Tara Chand has referred to various
authorities in support of his view.
Dr. Tara Chand comes to the conclusion that while it is inappropriate to give the designation "Mutiny" to
the events of 1857, it was also not proper to call them "The national war of independence." It has to be
admitted that the war against the British was not inspired by any senti-ijent of nationalism because in
1857 India was not yet politically a nation. It is true that the Hindus and Muslims co-operated, but the
leaders and fol¬lowers of the two communities were moved by personal loyalties rather than by loyalty
to a common motherland. Nonetheless, the upheaval of 1857 was a war for the liberation of India from
the yoke of the foreign¬er because he had given mortal offence to the dignity and self-respect of the
ruling class which exercised social influence and carried the burden of administration. He: had also
antagonised the masses by his oppressive land revenue policy and by his economic measures which
ruined their arts and crafts. On the whole, the rising of 1857 was an attempt to halt the process of
dissolution of the medieval order. The uprising of 1857 Was a general movement of the traditional elite
of the Muslims and the Hindus—princes, landholders, soldiers, scholars and theologians (Pandits and
Maulavis). The Emperor of Delhi, the King of Avadh, some Nawabs and Rajas, Talukdars arid Zamindars
and the soldiers, whether Pathans, Mughals, Rajputs or Brahmins of northern India, comprised the main
body of the rebels. The class composition of the insurgents reflected the geographical disposition of the
movement and sheds light upon the mo¬tives of the participants. There is no doubt that practically all
those who belonged to this order were disaffected although some of them abstained from active
participation on account of their peculiar circumstances. The diiefs and landlords constituted the
leadership of this rebellious host, the ^gular and irregular troops of the English East India Company and
of the princes, its fighting arm and their dependents and peasants became followers. 'They had common
traditions and common grievances. They ^pathised with one another in their misfortune. The loss of
territory "id political power affected them all. If the higher section was depriv-** of the titles of
authority, the others had lost avenues of employment and position of influence and profit. Scholars,
theologians, poets, crafts-men and artists were left without patronage. Many of those whose
here¬ditary occupation was fighting, were rendered jobless and many were |*liged to drift into the
army of the English East India Company. Dr. rara Chand refers to the charge sheets drawn by the leaders
of the move-ttent against the British Government in support of his view.
The view of Dr. R.C. Majumdar is that the revolt of 1857 was not at
The Revolt of 1857
all a national movement. He has given many facts and figures to jk. that its leaders had their own axes to
grind. They were not inspired K*, any feelings of nationalism as such. There was no cordiality between th
Hindus and the Muslims. Bahadur Shah did not heartily co-operate yw, the mutineers. Rani Jhansi also
did not side with them at the begumjJ1 and actually did so when she was faced with a trial by the British
Govern ment. The Muslim Nawabs did not treat their Hindu subjects prop^L even during the days of the
mutiny. Dr. Majumdar points out that the Muslims as a community had their special grievances against
the BritiA who had deprived them of their former paramountcy. In spite of that Muslim swords were
pointed against the Hindus rather than against the British and many Hindus prayed for the collapse of
the mutiny. The mutineer sepoys of both the communities freely sacked Indian towns and murdered
their fellow countrymen. Not one voice was heard to cry; "Let me die so that India be free!" Once the
British launched their campaign of ruthless suppression and reprisal, all "rebels" were obliged to fight on
to save their skin. The view of Dr. Majumdar is that the true significance of "1857" lies in the inspiration
which its memory afford¬ed to the later freedom movements and for such inspirational purpose, it
matters nothing that the sordid and unhappy facts have become shrouded in a fog of pious makebeliefs.
We may conclude with the following words of Asoka Mehta: "The rebellion of 1857 was more than a
mere sepoy mutiny and was an eruption of the social volcano wherein many pent-up forces found vent.
After the eruption, the whole social topography had changed. The scars of the rebellion remained deep
and shining."
Causes of Revolt: Political
The Revolt of 1857 can be "attributed to many causes. As regards the po¬litical cause, Dalhousie's
doctrine of lapse and annexation of the territories of the native rulers had created a spirit of uneasiness
and suspicion through¬out India. The Punjab was annexed in 1849. The Raja of Satara died in 1848 and
Dalhousie did not recognise the adoption of a son made by him before his death and annexed the state
of Satara. The Raja of Nag-put died in 1853. Dalhousie did not recognise the adopted son and die British
resident took possession of the territory. The ruler of Jhansi died in 1853 and Dalhousie refused to
recoguise his adopted son and annexed the state. In 1853, Berar was annexed. In 1856, the state of
Avadh was annexed although its ruler had always been faithful to the British Gov¬ernment. Tins
annexation angered the soldiers of the English East India Company most of whom came from Avadh.
They had now to pay hightf taxes on the lands held by their families in Avadh. The British Government
confiscated the estates of a majority of the Taluqdars or Zamindars and they became the opponents of
the British rule in India. The annexation of Avadh was resented not only by the Muslims but also by the
other rulerS of India. It created among them a spirit of despair. Even the mo* faithful and loyal among
them could not be sure of their future. The British Government had ordered that on the death of the last
Mugh* Emperor, his successor was to give up his ancestral palace and leave soP1? thing of its royal
splendour. Remarks made by high British officials ere*' ed the impression that the Government had
made up its mind to put aI>
The Revolt of 1857
* to the native states. Sir Charles Napier is said to have observed, Sere I 'he Emperor of India for 12
years, no Indian prince should
!jt# The Nizam should be no more heard of—Nepal would be ours." i|v stopping the annual pension of
£80,000 to Nana Sahib, the adopted L ot the last Peshwa Baji Rao II, the British made him their deadly
any. The Hindus regarded him as the legitimate successor of Baji Rao gJi his exclusion was considered to
be unjust. He proved himself to be a prince among conspirators.
The annexation of a native state not only deposed the King, but also lirnited the scope of the Indians to
get higher administrative jobs. That created bitterness among the higher strata of the Indian society. At
the tjgie of the settlement of newly acquired territories, the old claims of the native aristocracy were
severely scrutinized by the officials who favoured toe peasants against the landlords. That also created
bitterness. Lord gentinck's resumption of rent-free lands brought a lot of money to the Government, but
reduced to poverty many landowners whose title deed-' jiad been lost or who had held land by long
prescriptive right. In the gve years preceding the -mutiny, the famous Inam Commission in Bombay
confiscated about 20,000 estates. After the annexation of Avadh, Jackson vaii appointed Chief
Commissioner for Settlement. He critically examin¬ed the titles of the Taluqdars and most of them were
left without any means of subsistence. The native army was disbanded and about 60,000 men lost their
livelihood. The discontented soldiers and Taluqdars join¬ed the ranks of the rebels.
The English officers were aloof, exacting and unimaginative. Even the best among them "insulted the
native gentry whenever they had the opportunity to do so. The administrative machinery was inefficient
and insufficient. The strain on it was so great that whenever a new terri¬tory was conquered and
annexed it roused a very bad feeling and led to many agrarian outrages." Even the landlords were
refused the right of adoption and their estates were confiscated by the government. The lot of the
landlords was so bad that it was difficult for them to raise loans even at 30 per cent or 40 per cent of the
value of the land. There was I lot of uncertainty about land. The government officials very often
can¬celled private transfers of land and interfered even with the decisions of the courts. The Raja of
Manpur was deprived of 116 out of 158 villages. Another Raja had his Taluka curtailed by the severance
of 138 villages out of 216 villages. The Collector was ordered by the <Sadar Board not to carry the
decree passed in his favour into effect. Many Taluqdars lost half of their villages and the others lost their
all. Heavy assessments end increased duties made them frantic.
Courts of law tried to bring all the people on the same footing. The British officials took pride in
introducing the principle of civil equality ttnong the people. It was found that the principle of civil
equality was lot applied to Europeans. The caste spirit permeated the whole adminis¬tration. When the
system of flogging for civil offences was abolished, a period of imprisonment was substi'uted for the
same. These changes *ere not approved of by the peop'e.
One of the causes of the revolt was the fear among the Hindus that
The kevolt of 1857
their religion will be destroyed by Christianity. Both the army anj population were under the fear that
the Government intended to °V'' everybody a Christian as the Mohammedans had done before, activity
was extended by the Englishmen in all parts of the country "^ many occasions, the meetings of the
missionaries were held at. the h quarters of the districts under the chairmanship of the Collectors
•S? Hindu law of property was changed with a view to facilitate the conve • of the Hindus to
Christianity. Formerly, a convert from Hinduism °D not allowed to inherit property but that hurdle
was removed by the en ment of the Converts' Inheritance Act in 1850. The British made ^ secret
of their intention to convert the Indians to Christianity. Mr. V gles, Chairman of the Directors of the
East India Company, made the f i lowing statement in the House of Commons: "Providence has
entrusw the extensive Empire of Hindustan to England in order that the ban. ner of Christ should
wave triumphant from one end of India to the other Every one must exert all his strength that there
may be no dilatorinea on any account in continuing in the country the grand Work of makint all Indians
Christians." Rev. M. A. Sherring stated thus in 1858-59 » "The Indian Church during the Great
Rebellion," "The whole land hat been shaken by the missions to its innermost centre. The Hindu
trem-bles for his religion, the Mohammedan for his." The Friend of India, a Calcutta newspaper,
published the following extract from a correspondent, "All classes of natives imagine that they are to
be converted by force. Amongst the native soldiery this erroneous imagination dangerously exists." The
sepoys in the Bengal army had come to believe that the foreigners wanted to make them
Christians. The Bengal Hurkaru wrote that the sepoys had come to believe that the Governor-General
of India had pro¬mised the Home Government to convert them all in three years. Lt.-Col. Wheeler
distributed tracts and was considered unfit for his post. When asked to explain his conduct, he
admitted that he was in the habit of speak¬ing to the natives of all classes about Christianity and he
did that "from a conviction that every converted Christian is expected or commanded by the scriptures
to make known the glad tidings of salvation to his lost fel¬low-creatures." Answering the charge of
preaching conversion, he cat* gorically admitted, "As to the question whether I have endeavoured to
con¬vert sepoys and others to Christianity, I would humbly reply: that has been my object." Lord
Canning, Governor-General of India, passed the following orders on the conduct of Wheeler, "I allude
the rumours whtdi reached the government (hat Col. Wheeler had lately addressed the m*11 of his
regiment on religious subjects. Col. Wheeler's answers were n°l satisfactory but no punishment
was given." No wonder, a lot of dis¬satisfaction was created. There was bitter controversy on the
subject o\ conversion in the Calcutta Press. Even the Governor-General was accus¬ed of conniving at
the conversion of Indians to Christianity. He *,aS guilty of subscribing to every society which had for
its object the conver¬sion of the natives. Lord Canning's subscriptions to the Bible Society and
missionary associations were a matter of common knowledge. Co Sykes refuted in the House of
Commons the charge that Christianity ** not encouraged by the Government of the East India
Company. He Pu°' ed reliable figures to show the ever-increasing employment of chapla,n and
Bishops in India from 1836-37 to 1855-56. He drew his informal0
The Revolt of 1857
a return read before the House of Commons and asserted that "It
^fbe b°rne in mind that *** this outlay of £2,453,882 in 20 years for Chris-■ purposes was from taxes
pa;d by heathens." He further observed, "iVhY in I"0"1'3 tne Company proclaimed its Christianity at the
cannon's uth by saluting the Bishops when they arrived at military stations? The °\joys necessarily asked
the cause of the salute and were toM it was to Jf ibonour to the Head of the Christian Church, the Lord
Padre Sahib I" - n Lord Dalhousie wrote thus, "It is announced as a certain fact of very great significance
that the young Prince, Maharaja Duleep Singh had en¬ured into the Christian Community and it is
announced also as a matter of great significance that the daughter of the Raja of Coorg had been
bap¬tised and that our Gracious Sovereign was her god-mother."
The Commissioner at Fatehpur had put up at his own expense, four pillars at each entrance to the city
inscribed in Urdu and Hindi with the •Ten Commandments."
Most of the missionaries who came to India were intolerant, dogmatic and fired by the Victorian zeal
and they quoted the Old Testament more often than the New. They regarded the conversion of the
whole coun¬try to Christianity as only a matter of time and they considered it "ripe for the harvest."
They were everywhere, not only in their churches but in prisons, schools and market places. The Indians
did not object to their propagating their religion, but they found that they were not con¬tent with
explaining Christ, but were also busy ridiculing the rites and practices of the Indians. The missionaries
claimed a "monopoly of truth" for Christianity. They regarded it not only as their vocation but also their
positive duty to convert everyone with a dark skin. India was to be not only a jewel in the British Crown,
but also a Christian jewel. They believed that the country was being governed for the good of its
inhabitants and Christianity was a part of it.
No wonder,' the leaders of the revolution of 1857 raised the cry of re¬ligion and faith in danger and the
Indian sepoys rallied round their ban¬ner. The famous Delhi Proclamation issued between 11 May and
15 May 1857 declared that all Europeans were united on the point of depriving the Army of their
religion and to convert them to Christianity by the force of strong measures. In his Proclamation of 6
July, 1857, Nana Sahib dec¬lared that the Englishmen had calculated that seven or eight thousand
Europeans would be sufficient to convert all the people of India to Chris¬tianity. A Proclamation issued
by Bahadur Shah on 25 August 1857 call¬ed upon the Pandits, Fakirs and other learned persons to join
the holy war against the English, who stood condemned by the Sunnah and the Sas-•ras. It was declared
that the people of Hindustan, both Hindus and Muslims, had been ruined under the tyranny and
oppression of the Eng¬lishmen. In his circular letter dated 2 January 1858, addressed to the Chiefs of
Bundelkhand, Shrimant Maharaja Peshwa Bahadur, the nephew of Nana Sahib, called upon them to
defend their faith. The Rani of Jhansi "accused Englishmen of having over-thrown our religions. They had
Caused books to be written and circulated throughout the country and brought a number of pressures
to spread their religion. Maulvi Liaquat Ali of Allahadbad openly declared Jehad and incited the Muslims
to mas¬sacre all the Christians. A similar call was made to the Muslims by Bir-
The Revolt of 1857
jees Kudur Wali of Oudh in his Proclamation. In his proclamation dat 17 February, 1858, Mirza Feroz
Shahzada accused the English of comtnittj^ all kinds of excesses and tyrannies with the object of
converting India*1* to Christianity by force and of subverting and doing away with the ML gions of the
Hindus and Muslims. He called upon the people to join Jeh^i against the British.
As regards, the Military cause, there was lot of discontentment among the Indian soldiers. The highest
pay attainable by a Sepoy as Subedar of the infantry was less than the minimum pay of a raw European
recruit. \^ ^ften there was no promotion of an Indian soldier. He may enter as a Risaldax and retire as a
Risaldar. The Government did not trust the Indian soldiers. "In every company there are two or three
native oft. cers who, when they are t«ft good, are discharged from service with full n» on retirement, on
the pretext of rewarding them. So soon as Sepoys be, come attached to them, so soon as they encroach
upon the admiration and respect which must be the exclusive property of European officers, they are
immediately discharged." The self-respect of the Sepoys was trampl ed upon at every step. "It is by no
means uncommon for an officer to cvfse and swear at his men on parade and use most disgusting terms
of abuse to them." A contemporary English observer wrote: "The Sepoy U esteemed as an inferior
creature. He is swored at. He is treated rough¬ly. He is spoken as a 'Nigger.' He is addressed as 'Suar* or
pig. The younger men treated him as an inferior animal."
The number of British troops in India was never very large but the Company was able to recruit without
trouble from the native Indians. With the British in the ratio of one in four thousand, the ratio of troops
had been fixed by a former Governor-General as one British soldier to three native soldiers and had
never been less than one to four. On ac¬count of the Crimean War and the trouble in Burma, China and
Persia, the ratio had been allowed to become almost one to eight. There were 40,160 European troops
as against 3,11,000 native troops and among them were 5,362 British officers.
Originally, the native soldiers were low-caste Afghan or Turkish mer-cenaries. With a view to make the
army more national, the sons of the land-owners and peasants were deliberately recruited. In the army
of Ben¬gal, three-fifths of the men serving in the 63 infantry regiments came froin Avadh, "the nursery
of soldiers." As the servants of the British in their home, they were treated there as nothing or even with
contempt as the British against the corrupt native government. However, when Avadh was annexed in
1856, all their privileges disappeared. When they went home, they were treated there as nothing or
even with contempt as the slaves of the British. Many of them were Brahmins while the cavalry
con¬sisted of Muslims.
It is true that the native soldiers seemed to be foyal to the British, but there had been previous instances
of trouble among them. In 1806, thei* had been a mutiny of the native soldiers at Vellore when they
were order¬ed to wear a new style of headidress which included a leather cockade 9 lieved to be made
of cow hide or pig skin. In 1824, a regiment widen
The Revolt of 1857
fdered to go to Burma defied the orders on account of a dispute over
was . g pots and also because they believed they were to be transported
050sea in defiance of their caste feelings. In 1852, the 38th Native Infantry
f «*d to cross the sea to Burma. However, in 1856, the General Service
%v listment ^ct was Passe<* to 8've tne authorities absolute power to take
soldiers out of India. To cross the Kala Pani was pollution to the
rthodox Hindus who considered themselves to be reduced in caste. No
T dian soldier would eat salt pork or ship's biscuits. This was very much
_te(j as the new law was to apply to all the future entrants to the
-ny, which was considered to be a monopoly of a class of people in the
The increased ratio of Indian troops to British troops gave a sense of self-confidence to the Indians.
There were small mutinies or near-mutinies at different places. These were signs of hatred between die
white and coloured people. Almost all of them were caused by the fear that the British were trying to
break caste and convert the sepoys to Chris¬tianity- Rumours started circulating among the native
soldiers. It was rumoured that all the Company's armies .had been killed in Burma and all the British in
the Crimea. It was said that English women were to be brought to India to marry Indian princes whose
children would then be¬come Christians and all sepoys would be baptised. There was to be a mass
murder of sepoys by a mine under the parade ground. The British had polluted the sugar and mixed
ground bullox's bones with flour and the sepoys were to be forced to eat cow's flesh. Although the
government heard all these rumours, it did nothing to discount them. Ignoring the fact that the Indian
soldiers regarded service in the form of a trade guild in which son followed father in the handling of
weapons, the government officers continued to disregard their customs and religions. Though
out¬wardly all seemed to be calm, below the surface, there was a highly in¬flammable situation and
some common cause was required to unite the different religions against the British and that was
provided by the intro¬duction of the greased cartridges.
The Greased Cartridges
The Government of India decided to replace the old heavy brown Bess smooth-broke musket with which
most of the Company's army was equipped with new Enfield rifle which had proved very effective in the
Crimean War. To load the new rifle entailed extracting from a pouch a cartridge with a greased patch at
the top which was torn off with the teeth 'nd then used to assist in ramming the bullet down the barrel.