Text of the information plaque at Hessing’s Tomb, Agra and the Tomb inscription (below gallery)
Hessing’s Tomb (1803 AD)
This is the tomb of Col. John William Hessing who was Dutch and came to Ceylon as a freelance adventurer. He participated in the battle of Kandy in 1765. Then, he served the Nizam of Hyderabad and in 1784, entered the service of the Maratha chief Mahadji Sindhia. He fought several battles under the command of the French general De Boigne. Mahadji trusted him the most, and Hessing accompanied him to Poona in 1792. On Mahadji’s death there in 1794 he returned to Agra which was held by Marathas. He was made commandant of the fort and its Maratha garrison in 1799. He died here on 21 July 1803. The fort was captured by the British the same year. His tomb was built by his children.
It stands on a square platform which 11.25 feet high and 58 feet side, containing a crypt with the real grave and a corridor around it. An octogonal chabutra is attached to each corner in the form of a mini-tower. Twin stairways are also attached to it on the western side of the platform measuring 22 x 8.75 feet. The tomb reposes effectively in the middle of the main platform. It is square in plan with 34.75 feet side and 28.5 feet in height. Each facade has an iwan in the middle, flanked on either side by ornamental peshtaq (alcoves). It is essentially a Mughal design. Slender turrets are attached to the central iwan frame. They are crowned by pinnacles. Square turrets, 2 feet side, are attached to the corners of the tomb. These have vertical flutes and are surmounted by beautiful square chhatris. The tomb is roofed by a double-dome, crowned by mahapadma (Sheath of lotus petals) and Kalash finial. With pinnacles and chhatris of the turrets, it makes up a perfect superstructure. The interior is a square chamber 17.75 feet side with ribs-and-panels soffit. The cenotaph bears an inscription in English. As a whole it is a perfectly balanced and beautiful building and is rightly called “A Taj in miniature.” This is in fact, the most beautiful tomb of a European at Agra, and probably in India. Though a Dutch tomb, it belongs in letter and spirit, to Agra and the art of the Jamuna-Chambal region. It marks continuance of Mughal “ideas”, “feelings”, and “skills” in 19th Century A.D
1803 — HESSING, J. W. Colonel
John William Hessing, late a Colonel in the service of Maharaja Daulat Rao Sindhia, who, after sustaining a lingering and very painful illness for many years with true Christian fortitude and resignation, departed this life, 21st July 1803, aged 63 years, 11th months, and 5 days. As tribute of their affection and regard this monument is erected to his beloved memory by his disconsolate widow, Anne Hessing, and afflicted sons and daughters, George William Hessing, Thomas William Hessing and Magdalene Sutherland. He was a native of Utrecht in Holland and came out to Ceylon in the Military service of the Dutch E. I. Company in the year 1752, and was present at the taking of Candia by their troops. Five years afterwards he returned to Holland and came out again to India in the year 1733, and served under the Nizam of the Deccan. In the year 1784, he entered into the service of Madho Rao Sindhia and was engaged in the several battles that led to the aggrandizement of that Chief and wherein he signalized himself so by his bravery as to gain the esteem and approbation of his employer, more particularly at the battle of Bhondagaon near Agra in the year 1787, which took place between this Chief and Nawab Ismael Beg, when he then became a Captain, and was severely wounded. On the death of Madho Rao Sindhia in 1793, he continued under his successor, Daulat Rao Sindhia, and in 1798 he attained to the rank of Colonel and immediately after to the command of the Fort and City of Agra, which he held to his death.
[There is little to be added to the history given in the epitaph. He was born in 1740. There is no record of his adventures between 1763 and 1784. He served in De Boigne’s brigades of regular troops. The “several battles” are Lalsot, Chaksana and Patan. After Patan, he quarrelled with De Boigne and left him but Madhoji Scindia employed him to raise a bodyguard for him. which grew to 4 battalions. In 1800 he was compelled to resign his command by ill- health and retired as commandant of Agra to that city. He is described as a “good, benevolent man and a brave soldier.” His tomb is a miniature of the Taj in red Agra sandstone.]
Blunt, Edward. List of inscriptions on Christian tombs and tablets of historical interest in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Allahabad: Printed by W.C. Abel, Offg. Supdt., Govt. Press, United Provinces, 1911. Print. p. 46-47 Download.
Sri Aurobindo wrote these dialogues in 1910 or shortly before. He published the first two in the Karmayogin in 1910. The other three were published in 1920–23 without his editorial supervision; the fourth, between Jay Singh and Chh. Shivaji is reproduced here, from his manuscripts.
JAYSINGH: Neither of us has prevailed. A third force has entered into the land and taken the fruits of your work, and as for mine, it is broken; the ideal I cherished has gone down into the dust.
SHIVAJI: For the fruit I did not work and by the failure I am not amazed nor discouraged.
JAYSINGH: Neither did I work for a reward, but to uphold the ideal of the Rajput. Unflinching courage in honourable warfare, chivalry to friend and foe, a noble loyalty to the sovereign of my choice, this seemed to me the true Indian tradition, preferable even to the unity and predominance of the Hindu races. Therefore I could not accept your overtures. But I gave you the opportunity to accept my own tradition and, when faith was not kept with either of us, I saved my honour and assisted your escape.
SHIVAJI: God extended to me His protection and moved the heart of a woman to give me love and aid. Traditions change. The ideal of the Rajput has its future, but the mould had to be broken in order that what was temporary in it might pass. Loyalty to the sovereign of my choice, that is good; but loyalty to the sovereign of my nation’s choice, that is better. The monarch is divine by the power of God expressed within him, but he has the power because he is the incarnation of the people. God in the nation is the deity of which the monarch must be the servant and the devotee. Vithoba, Virat of the Mahrattas, — Bhavani, incarnate as India, — in that strength I conquered.
JAYSINGH: Your political ideal was great, but your standard of means was abhorrent to our morality. Ruse, treachery, pillage, assassination were never excluded from your activity.
SHIVAJI: Not for myself I fought and ruled, but for God and the Maharashtra dharma, the religion of Hindu nationality which Ramdas enunciated. I offered my head to Bhavani and She bade me keep it to scheme and plot for the greatness of the nation. I gave my kingdom to Ramdas and he bade me take it back as a gift from God and the Mahrattas. I obeyed their commands. I slew when God commanded me, plundered because it was the means He pointed out to me. Treacherous I was not, but I helped my weakness in resource and numbers by ruse and stratagem, I conquered physical force by keenness of wit and brain-power. The world has accepted ruse in war and politics, and the chivalrous openness of the Rajput is not practiced either by the European or the Asiatic nations.
JAYSINGH: I hold the dharma as supreme and even the voice of God could not persuade me to abandon it.
SHIVAJI: I gave up all to Him and did not keep even the dharma. His will was my religion; for He was my captain and I his soldier. That was my loyalty, — not to Aurangzeb, not to a code of morals, but to God who sent me.
JAYSINGH: He sends us all, but for different purposes, and according to the purpose He moulds the ideal and the character. I am not grieved that the Mogul has fallen. Had he deserved to retain sovereignty, he could not have lost it; but even when he ceased to deserve, I kept my faith, my service, my loyalty. It was not for me to dispute the will of my emperor. God who appointed him might judge him; it was not my office.
SHIVAJI: God also appoints the man who rebels and refuses to prolong unjust authority by acquiescence. He is not always on the side of power; sometimes He manifests as the deliverer.
JAYSINGH: Let Him come down Himself, then, as He promised. Then alone would rebellion be justified.
SHIVAJI: From whence will He come down who is here already in our hearts? Because I saw Him there, therefore I was strong to carry out my mission.
JAYSINGH: Where is the seal upon your work, the pledge of His authority?
SHIVAJI: I undermined an empire, and it has not been rebuilt. I created a nation, and it has not yet perished.
The complete Ājnāpatra (आज्ञापत्र), or the Royal Edict is available as an English translation from the Digital Library of India (DLI)
This translation was published in the Journal of Indian History, Volume VIII ,Part 1 in the year 1929 (Serial No. 22).
In this Volume, the text of the Adnyapatra has been split into 2 parts. The first section is in pages 81 – 105. The second section is in pages 207 – 233.
This is a very important primary source to gain an insight into the administrative setup of Shivaji’s kingdom, foreign/trade policy, management of forts, weapons and armoury of the time, duties of a king, practical wisdom on how to keep employees happy and satisfied, the nature of rewards and remuneration. It also describes the policy towards watandars and hereditary grants. It ends with a treatise on naval policy.
From the Introduction:
This Ājnāpatra was first published in the Marathi Monthly Vividha-dyānavistāra in 1875 and 1876. The original manuscript from which it was printed seems to have been lost. It was reprinted in the same magazine in 1890 and 1891. […] It was issued on November 21, 1716, by Sambhaji of Kolhapur (1712-1760). Rāmachandrapant Amātya is responsible for the contents. The importance of the work is due to Rāmachandrapant’s knowledge of Maratha state policy and the political events during the most important period of Maratha history from 1672 to 1717. He took part in the establishment of Swarājya under Śivāji, in its protection under Rājarām and Tārābai, and in the civil war between Tārābai and Shāhu. […] It mainly relates to the methods and principles of Śivāji the Great. They were approved of as the best, and laid down as the standard to be followed. This Ājnāpatra consists of nine chapters relating to various aspects of state policy. It seems to have been written when Rājarām was alive (1700), but issued later in 1716 under Sambhaji’s order.
Troubles of the Kingdom during the War of Independence
Troubles of the Kingdom during the War of Independence (Continued)
The General principles of State Policy and Organisation
Administrative and Ministerial Policy & Organisation
Policy towards Watandārs
Policy regarding Hereditary Vrittis and Inams
Policy about Forts and their Construction and Organisation
(This is a book extract from “Extracts and Documents Relating to Marāṭhā History; Volume 1; Śiva Chhatrapati; Being a translation of Sabhāsad Bakhar with extracts from Chiṭṇīs and Śivadigvijaya, with notes, By Surendranath Sen”. This book was published in 1920, and this is an exact reproduction (with some obvious corrections) of the matter in the book as it appears there.)
The book is available as a free download from here.
THE INFLUENCE OF PERSIAN ON OLD MARĀṬHI
(From Mr. V. K. Rajwade’s Māraṭhi Article)
In modern Marāṭhi, Sanskrit words abound as much as in modern Bengali, but in the Marāṭhi of Śivāji’s time there was a preponderence of Persian words, so much so that old Marāṭhi documents are as unintelligible to a non Persian-knowing Marāṭhā, as to a foreigner. Yet in the earliest Marāṭhi writings like Dnāneśvarī or, Parśarāmopdeś, not one word of Persian origin is found. From Śivāji’s time downwards the Marāṭhā writers were striving for eliminating Persian from their writings, and although the movement was crowned with eminent success, Persian has not failed to leave a lasting impression, not only upon the Māraṭhi vocabulary, but also upon its style and syntax.
How far Marāṭhi was influenced by Persian is very interesting to note. Mr. V. K. Rajwade says that out of 91 words in a letter written by Diānat Rāv, a Brahman minister in the service of the Bijāpur Government, thirty were purely Persian and out of the rest all except three or four were translation of Persian words or terms. Even अखंडित लक्ष्मी प्रसन्न and परोपकारमूर्ति in the address of the letter are nothing but a literal translation of Dāmdaulathun and Mushfikmihrbān. The word सेवक so often found in Marāṭhi letters, is also, according to Mr. Rajwade, an imitation of Persian bandā — for such use is not found in the few Sanskrit and pre-Muhammadan Marāṭhi letters that have come down to us. It may be objected,—says Mr. Rajwade—that Diānat Rāv was an officer of a Muhammadan state and the prevalence of Persian in his letters, does not prove that other Marāṭhās also used so many Persian or Persianised words in their everyday language. In answer to this possible objection Mr. Rajwade points out that in a letter of Śivāji himself no less than 31 Persian words have been used and some of them more than once. The following figures collected by Mr. Rajwade is worth noticing
Date of letters
Percentage of Marāṭhi words
Nor was this influence confined to state papers and diplomatic correspondence alone. Although the general literature and poetry were better protected against the foreign invasion,they had not escaped altogether unscathed. And to illustrate how the poetic language also had been affected by Persian influence Mr. Rajwade quotes an extract from Eknāth’s writings. We quote here only half a dozen verses from the above mentioned extract and a cursory glance will convince the reader how far Persian had replaced words of purely Sanskrit origin—
Let us now see how far Marāṭhi syntax and style have been influenced by Persian. In Marāṭhi documents and state papers, we come across, at every step, expressions likes किल्ले A, मौजे B, and परगणे C; Mr. Rajwade points out that in pure Marāṭhi they should be किल्ला A, मौजा B and परगणा C, but the form in use is the Persian form Killā-i A, Maujā-i B and Parganā-i C. Some common expressions like शफथ खाणे (to swear) and हाक मारणे (to call out) are nothing but literal translation of Persian expressions like Kasam Khurdan and Bang jadan. Instances of this kind could be multiplied, it will suffice here if we simply quote from Rajwade some Persian adjectives and adverbs now in common use in Marāṭhi
हर (each), हर रोज
बे (without), बेदील (disheartened)
देखील, with, even
ते (to) चोळीस ते पान्नास
गैर (wrong) गैर राहा etc
A list of proper names of Persian extraction, once so common in Mahārāshṭra will also be of interest to us—
(1) Sultān Rāv, (2) Jān Rāv, (3) Bājī Rāv, (4) Rustum Rāv,(5) Śāhājī Rāv, (6) Śāhu, (7) Phirangojī Rāv, (8) Diānat Rāv,(9) Sarje Rāv, (10) Haibat Rāv, (11) Sarfojī Rāv, (12) Gul Bāī,(13) Daryājī Rāv, etc. And surnames like Chiṭṇīs Faḍnīs,Potnīs, Mushrif have also been borrowed from Persian. We may also note that for such sobriquets as अबा, बाब, अबु, अमा, मामा, अमी, मामी, नाना, नानी, काका, काकी, etc., Marāṭhi is indebted to Persian.
How far Marāṭhi writers have been successful in shaking off the influence of Persian may be seen also from a comparative study of the three bakhars presented here to our readers. In style as well as in language, Sabhāsad’s work gives evidence of the Persian influence, and the style and language of Chiṭṇīs and Śivadigvijaya as conclusively show that their work belonged to a period when Persian words had gradually yielded place to words of Sanskrit extraction
In the Bundelkhand region of modern-day Uttar Pradesh, about 150kms east of Jhansi, is the tiny village of Jaitpur. At Jaitpur, during the winter of 1728-29, the 79-year old sovereign, Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela was cornered by Muhammad Shah Bangash; Chhatrasal having lost all his forts one by one during the last two years. Jaitpur was the last bastion for the iconic Bundela warrior. The nearby Bundela kings of Datia and Chanderi had refused to help. In desperation the seasoned warrior sent a letter to Peshwa Bajirao I, with these lines, now a part of popular folklore:
जो गति ग्राह गजेन्द्र की सो गति भई है आज । बाजी जात बुन्देल की बाजी राखो लाज ।।
I am in the same plight in which the elephant king was, when caught by the crocodile. This Bundela is on the brink of losing, O Bajirao, come and save my honour
The letter triggered a series of events that led to significant geopolitical consequences in Central India and beyond. At a personal level for Bajirao, it resulted in his union with Mastani. A union, which had its own implications in Maratha history.
The story though, is bigger than that. It involved an ageing icon’s fight to protect his legacy, a gritty contest between two seasoned warriors, countless sacrifices in battlefield, and strategic masterstrokes by a legend on the rise.
The Key Players
Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela (4 May 1649 – 20 December 1731) was the founder of Panna State and an iconic figure in the history of Central India. He lost his parents Champat Rai and Lal Kunwar at a young age when they killed themselves to avoid capture by Aurangzeb’s forces. Chhatrasal later joined the services of Mirza Raja Jai Singh, and through him served the Mughals. He participated in the siege of Purandar against Shivaji in 1665 and received a Mansab in recognition of his services. He was later sent on campaigns against Bijapur and Deogarh. However, he found it difficult to adjust in the Mughal hierarchy, partly due to his father’s legacy. One day he left the Mughal camp on the pretext of hunting and proceeded to meet Shivaji, whom he admired. He met Shivaji probably at the Sinhgad Fort and received a warm welcome there. Chhatrasal wanted to serve under Shivaji, but Shivaji advised him to start his independent resistance in Bundelkhand so that the Mughal energies could be divided. Chhatrasal stayed with Shivaji for a few months. He proudly mentions learning archery with Shivaji’s forces. Returning to Bundelkhand, he started with a small band of 25 soldiers and a few horses. While he didn’t get the support of other Bundela clans initially, Aurangzeb’s religious policy, especially his drive towards temple demolitions drew a strong opposition from Bundelas and many of them united under Chhatrasal’s banner. At the time of Bangash war, Chhatrasal was at the peak of his career, ruling over a large territory in Bundelkhand, carved out, over the last sixty years.
Mohammad Khan Bangash (1665 – December 1743) was a Pashtun (Pathan) warrior of fame in the 18th century. The Bangashes hailed from the Karlani-Kagazi clan in the North West Province. During Aurangzeb’s reign many of them had settled in Ruhelkhand part of modern-day Uttar Pradesh. The Pathans had served in Mughal armies for several generations, but very few were given high ranks. They were kept at a certain distance, partly due to the legacy of Sher Shah Suri — a Bihari Pathan, and partly due to continuous skirmishes between Mughals and Pathans at the empire’s western frontier. Muhammad Khan was one of the few who had made it big in the Mughal court. He started his career as a part of the mercenary army of Yasin Khan Bangash. Every year, post-monsoon, Yasin Khan crossed the Yamuna with an army of 4-5 thousand soldiers and offered his services to various kings. They were often employed by Bundela Rajputs who were engaged in disputes with each other. Yasin Khan died in the battlefield in one such expedition, after which Mohammad Khan started on his own. Living as a freebooter with a sizeable army until the age of 48, his fortunes changed when he backed Farruksiyar’s successful bid for the Delhi throne, and thrived under subsequent rulers. During the reign of Muhammad Shah, he was appointed as the governor of Allahabad. The court of Muhammad Shah (nicknamed ‘Rangila’ for his merry ways) had a good share of political hustlers and conspirators. Bangash, however, was seen as a simpleton by many for his rustic lifestyle, but he had managed to hold his own because of his military skills.
Bajirao I (18 August 1700 – 28 April 1740) was the 6th Peshwa (Prime Minister) in the Maratha empire. He was appointed Peshwa by Chhatrapati Shahu at a young age of 20 on the death of his father Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath. Bajirao’s appointment as Peshwa had been a contentious issue, as this was the first hereditary appointment of a Peshwa. Balaji Vishwanath reportedly needed assistance while getting on a horse. He compensated for his lack of horsemanship by providing his sons training in horse riding and use of weapons. Bajirao’s initial assignments as Peshwa were mostly diplomatic in nature, but he eventually started leading military campaigns. He proved to be a natural at it and soon a team of able commanders like Pilaji Jadhav, Malharrao Holkar and Ranoji Shinde converged around him. Some unresolved matters of finance and revenue put the Shahu’s house in confrontation with Nizam, the Mughal governor of Deccan. Bajirao argued against a compromise on lesser terms for Marathas, which led to a war with Nizam, who was forced to surrender tax assignments at Palkhed on February 1728.
Clouds of Conflict
During the reign of Farrukhsiyar, Bangash was granted the Jagirs of Sehand and Maudah in Bundelkhand. Diler Khan, a close aid of Bangash, was appointed to the charge of these Jagirs. Later, during the first year of Mohammad Shah (1719-20), the territories of Kalpi and Irichh were also assigned to Bangash. During the same year, reports came that the Bundelas plundered Kalpi and some towns and killed one of the administrators. Diler Khan was sent with a sizeable force to punish the enemy, and he managed to drive the enemy away from the plundered towns. The matter was pressed further by Diler Khan, against the advice of Bangash, which led to a war against Chhatrasal. In the ensuing battle Diler Khan and five hundred soldiers were killed while charging against a much larger army.
Around the same time Bangash was appointed the governor of Allahabad province. His territory included the eastern part of Bundelkhand, which was annexed by Chhatrasal during his expansion and where he exercised effective sovereignty. Bangash received an imperial order to act against Chhatrasal in 1723. He started with a force of 15,000 but halted the campaign after making initial gains. Later, in 1727, another imperial order was obtained to march against Chhatrasal and his sons who had overrun more territories in Bundelkhand.
The Long War
Chhatrasal’s letters from late 1726 show a mad scramble to arrange defenses against Bangash’s invasion. Finally, on 3rd January 1727, Chhatrasal wrote a letter to his son Jagatraj:
You have written that Bangash has arrived. He is encamping at Nadpurwa and has sent a message to you asking when you desire to give battle for he wants to fight with you with pre-intimation and not to catch you unawares. He has also asked to fix the place. He has an army of 73,000 and 89 guns. And you have asked me to come at the earliest.
The auspicious day for our march from here is Mah Badi 9, so I will start accordingly from here. I have dispatched 35 rockets and 29 guns which would reach (in due time). Mah Badi 7, Samwat 1783, place Mau.
Bangash was at the door and was asking for a pitched battle. The war was on!
The first battle became an insignificant footnote in what was going to become a gruelling campaign for both sides. Early momentum was with Bangash. He knew the territory well from his days as a mercenary. In the initial thrust he captured the forts of Luk, Chaukhandi, Garh Kakarelie, Kalyanpur, and Ramnagar. A long siege began at Tarahwan by Bangash’s son Qaim Khan against Chhatrasal’s grandson, defending from inside. While this siege was on, Bangash continued to overrun other forts. A fierce battle in Ichauli (12th May 1728) resulted in nearly 5,000 casualties for Bangash and 13,000 for the Bundelas. After each battle, the harrowed Bundelas moved to the next fort or took shelter in the jungles and ravines. Bangash’s army pursued them vigorously.
This battle sequence continued until Chhatrasal was cornered in Ajhnar in July 1728. Fortunately for Chhatrasal, monsoon arrived, which made placing of explosive mines quite difficult for the enemy to force a breach, for the next 4 months. Bangash was also starting to feel the shortage of funds and was getting disappointed from the lack of interest from the Imperial court. The action continued regardless. On 1st November 1728 Ajhnar fell. Chhatrasal shifted to Jaitpur, his last bastion. Tarahwan, in the east, also fell on 12th December 1728. This siege had resulted in more than 2,000 casualties for the Bundelas who offered tough resistance. The whole focus now shifted to Jaitpur, the last arena of this long drawn war.
Two years had passed under great difficulties and losses for both parties. During the course of this war, the nearly 80-year old Chhatrasal and his sons had received injuries. On one occasion his wife had led the action. The loss of life ran in several thousands for both sides.
Finally, Chhatrasal decided to surrender. Negotiations were opened and Bangash sent a message to the Mughal Emperor asking for terms of the settlement. He was hoping to bring his prisoners personally to the Imperial court. Chhatrasal and his family waited for their fate camping in the hills outside the fort. Sometime in December 1728 news arrived, that Giridhar Bahadur, the Mughal governor of the neighbouring province of Malwa had been killed by the Marathas in a battle led by Chimaji Appa, Bajirao Peshwa’s brother. Bangash probably kept an eye on the situation but didn’t see an immediate threat. He was so certain of his victory, he allowed a large part of his army to go back on leave.
Holi was approaching on 15th March, 1729. Chhatrasal’s sons requested that the family be allowed to move to Suraj Mau. Bangash consented, confident about his position and partly on account of Chhatrasal’s old age. On 12th March, 3 days before Holi, Bangash got the shocker.
Bajirao was just 11 kos (approx 22 miles) away, ready, with a large army.
Back in August 1728, Dado Bhimsen, one of the Maratha envoys in the Mughal court, wrote a letter to Bajirao. The letter was largely about Mughal preparations against the threat of Maratha invasion in Malwa. But it also contained the following lines:
“येक पत्र छत्रसाल बुंदेला त्यांसी बंगसासी लड़ाई आहे दसरा जालियावरी आमच्या फौजा त्या प्रांतास येतील, तुमची कुमुक होईल म्हणून लिहिले पाहिजे”
You (Bajirao) should write a letter saying that “Chhatrasal Bundela and Bangash are engaged in a battle. Our armies will come to that region after Dussehra and help you.
Bhimsen’s letter also mentioned Sawai Jai Singh’s support to the idea of Bajirao’s intervention.
At this time, Bajirao was busy collecting Chauth, exercising the recently acquired right from the battle of Palkhed. Peshwa’s ledger entries show an interesting pattern in his movements in subsequent months. He started from Pune in October 1728 and accompanied Shahu on pilgrimage to Tuljapur on 9th November 1728. From then on he moved north-east, all the while addressing administrative issues and collecting chauth. He maintained constant correspondence with Chimaji in Malwa. The Marathas had recently conquered Malwa and were besieging Ujjain where the slain Mughal governor’s nephew had put up a resistance.
The correspondence between Bajirao and Chimaji shows how Bajirao thought and worked. Bajirao and Chimaji shared a close bond with each other, were in constant touch, and carefully coordinated their moves.
On 29th December, 1729 Bajirao wrote to Chimaji that he intends to go “wherever hunger can be satiated (“Poat Bharavayas Jikade Jaane Tikde Jaaun”). It referred to collecting money. Shahu had incurred a large debt in raising the army and fundraising was a huge priority for the Peshwa. Subsequent letters show Devgarh to be the next destination of his march. Devgarh was ruled by a Gond tribal king, and covered the territory between Nagpur and Jabalpur. Finally, on 4th January 1729 Bajirao wrote about his intentions to proceed towards Bundelkhand after settling Deogarh. In another letter he asked Chimaji to be ready to proceed towards Bundelkhand, if needed. A small battle took place at Deogarh, and the matter was settled with ease. Sometime in February 1729, in Garha, he received the famous letter from Chhatrasal seeking help. Bajirao now moved with his trademark speed, crossing great distances in a day. Accompanied with a 25,000 strong cavalry force under 12 commanders, he went via Khajuri, Pawai towards Bikrampur. Peshwa’s ledger for 9th March at Bikrampur mentions sending two messengers towards Chhatrasal and one scout to conduct reconnaissance on Bangash. The intent was clear from then on. Next day, Bhartichand, a son of Chhatrasal, met him in Rajgarh. He reached Mahoba on 12th March, where Chhatrasal’s sons welcomed him. On 13th March he met Chhatrasal who presented of 80 mohars to him. The combined force, now swelled to 70,000, was now moving towards Bangash’s encampment in Jaitpur. Many local rajas and zamindars who were on the fence throughout the war, recognised the momentum and added to the numbers.
The rescue force reached within 1 Kos from Bangash’s camp and set about its business right away. This was a battle hardened army, very well experienced in lean warfare tactics. The first day, they raided the cattle of the camp followers. Small skirmishes occurred resulting in the loss of 3 soldiers from the besieging army. The next day, Bangash’s camp was surrounded from all sides. Camels and bullocks who had ventured out grazing from the camp were driven away. This was followed by a few skirmishes and casualties. The enclosure tightened further. All roads were closed and supplies were completely cut from all side. Prices of foodgrain rose rapidly with the worst quality of grain selling at rupees 20 per ser. Bangash’s army tried to force their way out with surprise raids. The Marathas made their incursions in the Bangash camp and retreated in the hills of Ajhner where they were largely camped. But this was a lost cause for Bangash. Qaim Khan, Bangash’s younger son, who had been engaged elsewhere, rushed to his father’s rescue with supplies and reinforcements. Bajirao sent a strong detachment under Pilaji Jadhav to intercept Qaim Khan, which created a gap in the perimeter. Thousands of Bangash’s soldiers used this opportunity to escape, leaving their commander to fend for himself. Pilaji Jadhav engaged Qaim Khan at Supa, which resulted in an utter rout of Qaim Khan’s army and a large booty for the Marathas.
Bangash had meanwhile barricaded himself inside Jaitpur fort. The besieged suffered severe shortage of food. Gun-bullocks and horses were slaughtered for food. Bajirao’s orders to his guards were to allow a safe passage to anyone surrendering his arms. A great many did, leaving Bangash with a skeleton of a force.
Bangash sent urgent messages to Delhi seeking help. After repeated SoS, the Emperor ordered his Bakshi, Khan Dauran to proceed towards Jaitpur. Khan Dauran dragged his feet and halted after a short march.
The siege went on for 4 months. Monsoon was about to set in, when cholera broke out in the Maratha army, resulting in over thousand deaths. Bajirao decided to return back. The job was done. Chhatrasal continued with the siege. Negotiations were again opened between Bangash and Chhatrasal. Finally, Bangash signed a covenant to never invade Chhatrasal’s territories again. In August 1729 he was allowed to leave, letting him out of his misery. Qaim Khan met him en-route to Mahoba, urging to resume the fight again, but Bangash was not interested in it anymore. He crossed Yamuna at Kalpi on 23rd September, and never looked at Bundelkhand again.
The battle ended Bangash’s connection with Bundelkhand. He retained the nominal authority of those Jagirs in Mughal books but never obtained any revenue from it. He continued to plead with the emperor and wazir to recover his battle expenses without success. During Nadir Shah’s invasion of India, Bajirao had sent a letter urging all Indian nobles to unite. Bangash was one of those who agreed with the cause, but in his letter to Bajirao he referred to the futility of his life in a couplet “dunya nakshe ast bat-ab o ziyada az sirab nast” (The world is nothing but an imprint on water, there isn’t much thirst left now). Once in a while he wrote to Harde Sah to recover a cannon and dues promised by Harde Sah in some previous agreements. He referred to Harde Sah as his friend and instructed him to take care of his properties. The legitimacy of Bangash’s claims remained jumbled in the 18th century world of fluid sovereignty. His ability to enforce his right only as strong as his sword, which he had lost decisively at Jaitpur. Though it can be argued that the intrigues and politics of the Mughal court failed him more than his sword. Irrespective of these setbacks, the warrior Pathan had clearly traversed a great journey since his days as a small time mercenary. He remained a somewhat significant figure in the Mughal court until his death in December, 1743. His death was likely caused by an abscess in his neck. Lying on his deathbed, he shot an arrow at the roof to prove his God given strength. He died 3 hours later. He is interned in the village of Nekpur Khurd in Farrukhabad.
A grateful Chhatrasal offered approximately one third of his kingdom to Bajirao, adopting him as his son. Chhatrasal died in December 1731, less than two years after the battle. The poet-warrior had lived a lived a long, vigorous life and his career trajectory had emulated that of his role model Shivaji in many ways. In hindsight, Shivaji’s advice had worked out quite well for him. His giant footprints can be seen in the landscape of Bundelkhand and in the oral traditions of Bundeli people. A memorial for him was built in Dhuvela, the expenses for which were shared by his sons – Hirde Sah, Jagat Raj and Bajirao.
Between 1728 and 1729, all of central India had gone out of Mughal control, never to return. Marathas were now staring in all directions – especially Orissa, Bengal and … Delhi.
The Mughal Empire was crumbling and it’s foundation was being hammered hard by a young and impatient Peshwa who, clearly, had the “head to plan and the hand to execute“.
The much cited phrase about Bajirao “head to plan and the hand to execute” was first used by J. Grant Duff in ‘A History of the Mahrattas’
Sardesai, Govind Sakharam. (1931-34). Selections from the Peshwa Daftar, Vol 13 & 22
Gupta, Bhagwan Das. (1980). Life and Times of Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela
Gupta, Bhagwan Das. (1999). Contemporary Sources of the Medieval and Modern History of Bundelkhand, Vol 1
Irvine, William. (1878). The Bangash Nawabs of Farrukhabad. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Part 1- IV, 259-383
Dighe, Vishvanath G. (1944). Peshwa Bajirao I and Maratha Expansion
Sarkar, Jadunth (1932). Fall of the Mughal Empire, Vol 1
Way back, in 2009, a family wedding pulled me away in the fine month of December, to Kolhapur, a city steeped in history. The bastion of Maratha history, it is a photographer’s delight, full of colour and fine imagery. Once an agrarian town, now, a city bustling with industry. But history is in its spirit, always. When you seek bits of history, they are available to you, everywhere.
One such bit that caught my attention was a standard measure, called a Sher (शेर) that was being cleaned and polished for a wedding ritual. When the bride enters the groom’s residence for the first time, she strikes inward, a Sher, full of grain (usually Rice) at the threshold with her right foot (thumb, if you care for the finer details). This ritual is called “Maap Olandne” (माप ओलांडणे), loosely translated, “Crossing the Threshold (or Measure, literally)”. It signifies the ushering of wealth and food (धन, धान्य) by virtue of her entry. I believe, this is a common tradition followed in most Maharashtrian weddings.
My focus however, is the Sher.
This particular Sher was made in the year 1910 and has a rhomboidal inscription, each corner displaying म श्री छ प on it (M, Shri, Chh, P). This stands for महाराज श्रीमंत छत्रपाती परवाना (Maharaj Shrimant Chhatrapati Parwana). It’s the seal of the king, and was perhaps completely in copper.
So how much is a Sher?
1 Sher = 1.25kgs, so
4 Sher = 5kgs, which is also known as a Payli (पायली)
Other related Sher terminology:
1/2 a Sher = 1 Mapta (मापटं)
1/4 a Sher – 1 Chipta (चिपटं)
1/2 a Chipta = 1 Kolwa (कोळवं)
So here’s how a simple mistake or a turn of circumstances caused a great dish to become. Of all the happy accidents in history, I think I’ll peg this one as my favourite. As much as Sambar – my favourite dish! Of course, as accidents go, this discovery happened on one of my favourite blogs, Varnam, where he wrote of The Origin of Sambar. I couldn’t find the content the post had linked to, so some fun research led me to this:
“The Marathas were ruling Tanjore. Sambhoji was a great cook (the male clan members to note) and very fond of his amti with a handful of the tart kokum thrown in. In a particular season the kokum that was imported from the Maratha homeland did not reach the bare larder of the king’s kitchen. Sambhoji was cooking and the minions were shivering in their dhothis to tell him that his favourite dish could not be made that day. A smart Vidushak, who had been elected sous chef for the day, decided to solve the problem. He whispered in the king’s ears that the locals used very little tamarind pulp to gain a better sourness to the curry and that Sambhoji should experiment with this variation. Voila, the dish with the tuvar dal, vegetables, spices and the tamarind pulp was cooked and served by the king to his coterie. The court declared the dish an outstanding preparation (they had no choice with the king as Chef) and thus was born Sambhoji’s amti that in time became sambhar.”
Administrative land division in the Deccan, has followed a common pattern for about 2000 years, starting from the Satavahan reign, up to the Maratha rule. Administrative divisions broadly had three or four hierarchical subdivisions. The current administrative divisions in India — State > District > Tāluka (Tehsil) > (Block) > Village, more or less follow the same structure and hierarchy that was in practice since 230 BCE, of the Sātavāhan reign.
Each successive empire, made changes to the administration in their own ways. Some empires made changes to create a more cohesive empire and enable direct control of the administrative regions. Others, who were primarily interested in the revenue from the land, assigned the land to people as awards, or in lieu of cash, for services rendered. (The Jagirdari System) Depending on the nature of the assignment, these land owners, paid varying amount of tax to the centre. The changes that these empires caused, transformed the smallest revenue unit, as well as the name, and it’s place in hierarchy.
Chhatrapati Shivaji made some significant changes to administrative divisions as well as the method for revenue collection. Of these, there were two major changes; one, the survey and assessment of land (measurement as well as quality of land) was done in a detailed way, and two, the abolishment of the Jagirdari (the right to collect revenue) system. It’s usually accepted that the base system he followed was that of Malik Amber, and refined it to end harassment of the villagers by the semi-independent feudal lords, and ensure effective revenue collection directly by government appointed officials.
The territories that formed the kingdom of Ch. Shivaji, were annexed from four different states: Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Delhi, and Vijayanagar. This meant, that he also inherited four systems of land division and revenue. To overcome the differences, Ch. Shivaji, instituted a uniform system of land assessment and revenue collection.
The largest administrative unit during this time was a Prānt, which was the same as a Subāh, during the Mughal reign. By some accounts, during Shivaji’s time there were fourteen Prants. Yet, some historians do not think that the Prant and the Subah were the same. One theory is that the kingdom was divided into three Prants, which were further divided into Subahs. The second theory, is that Prants were different from Subahs; the three Prants were overseen by the three ministers, and the Subahs were smaller outlying provinces. The second theory makes sense, since we have information that Ch. Shivaji assigned the responsibility of three Prants to his Ministers, and they could not have been Subehdars.
The Subah consisted of a Parganā (This term was probably introduced in the 14th century, and means, “tax paying land”) or a Mahāl. Pargana and Mahal have often been used interchangeably. Some sources point to a Mahal being a revenue paying area (with an annual produce below a 100,000), and note it as a sub-division of a Pargana. We also see a clear mention that two Mahals made up a Subah. The word Mamlá came into use for this sub-division during the Peśhwā rule. The size, origin, and the nature of the sub-division becomes the source for this confusion. As researchers look at different letters, this interpretation broadens.
The Pargana or the Mahal was divided into Tarfs (Original, Arabic, Taraf, meaning ‘direction’) or Karyat, which is a Mahal composed of ten or twelve villages. (The number of villages vary from source to source)
The last independent unit was the Village, often called Maujā. Also referred to as Grām, Dehe, and Khede. A coastal village came to be known as Mire or Mirya.
If a village had a market, it was known as a Kasbā. The actual marketplace in the Kasba, was called a Peth. Like their parental counterparts, villages also had a life of their own. They shrunk, expanded, or formed new villages. Villages had suburbs, which were called Majrá, Pádi, Wádi, or Khári. These were formed when farmers lived on farms that were away from the villages. As tenants and workers joined in, they formed small communities, or suburbs of villages. Majra, Padi, Wadi, and Khari are synonymous; Khari seems to be the word used for such communities in coastal areas.
For over two-thousand years, villages in India have been democratic and republic. Notwithstanding the coming and going of empires, the villages managed themselves. This feature seems to have withstood time, till the advent of the British.
As Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose says,
“With the advent of the Mohammedans, a new synthesis was gradually worked out. Though they did not accept the religion of the Hindus, they made India their home and shared in the common social life of the people—their joys and sorrows. […] In architecture, painting, music—new creations were made, which represented the happy blending of the two streams of culture. Moreover, the administration of the Mohammedan rulers left untouched the daily life of the people and did not interfere with local self-government based on the old system of village communities. […] The British people, unlike the invaders of the old, did not make India their home. […] Moreover, they endeavoured to imitate the autocracy of the Mohammedan rulers without following their wise policy of complete non-interference in local affairs.”
What was the nature of the self-government of the villages? Who were these people and how did they manage their village. In the next post, we will look at the village communities in the Deccan, with specific governance issues during Ch. Shivaji’s time.
शिवकालीन महाराष्ट्र (Shivkaleen Maharashtra); by Kulkarni, A. R.
The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol VIII; The Maratha Supremacy
Extracts and Documents Relating to Maratha History; Vol I; Śiva Chhatrapati; Being a Translation of Sabhasad BakharWith Extracts from Chitnis and Sivadigvijay, with Notes, Sen, S. N.
The Judicial System of the Marathas; Gune, V. T.
Administrative System of the Marathas, Sen, S. N.
शिवकाल (Shivkaal), Part 1, Dr. Khobrekar, V. G.
Statemaking and Territory in South Asia: Lessons from the Anglo–Gorkha War (1814–1816); Bernardo A. Michael
Indian Rural Economy during Early British Rule – Part 1 [Link]
The Indian Struggle: 1920 – 1942; Subas Chandra Bose, Edited by Sisir K. Bose & Sugata Bose
This is the full text of the letter written by Chh. Shivaji to Aurangzeb, in 1657, regarding the imposition of Jaziya (Jizya) — a religiously required per capita tax levied by a Muslim state on non-Muslim subjects permanently residing in Muslim lands under Islamic law. [Wikipedia]. The letter is polite, but assertive in its tone and reveals Shivaji’s philosophy and reasoning.
The letter is an extract from “History of Aurangzib: Based on Persian Resources”, Volume III – North India: 1658-1681, by Sir Jadunath Sarkar. The book is available for online viewing at the Panjab Digital Library (free sign-up required). We have reproduced the letter as it appears in the book. Any errors or peculiarities of language belong to the author.
If you find something amiss, please let us know through the comments.
To the Emperor Alamgir —
This firm and constant well-wisher Shivaji, after rendering thanks for the grace of God and the favours of the Emperor, — which are clearer than the Sun, — begs to inform your Majesty that, although this well-wisher was led by his adverse Fate to come away from your august Presence without taking leave, yet he is ever ready to perform to the fullest extent possible and proper, everything that duty as a servant and gratitude demand of him.
My excellent services and devotion to the welfare of the State are fully known to the princes, Khans, Amirs, Rajas and rais of India, to the rulers of Persia, Central Asia, Turkey and Syria, to the inhabitants of the seven climes of the globe, and to wayfarers on land and sea; and very likely their light has flashed on your Majesty’s capacious mind. So with a view to rendering good service and earning the imperial favour, I submit the following words in a spirit of devotion to the public welfare :—
It has recently come to my ears that, on the ground of the war with me having exhausted your wealth and emptied the imperial treasury, your Majesty has ordered that money under the name of jaziya should be collected from the Hindus and the imperial needs supplied with it. May it please your Majesty! That architect of the fabric of empire. [Jala-ud-din] Akbar Padishah reigned with full power for 52 [lunar] years. He adopted the admirable policy of universal harmony (sulh-i-kul) in relation to all the various sects, such as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Dadu’s followers1, sky-worshippers (falakia2), malakias3, materialists (ansaria), atheists (daharia), Brahman and Jain priests. The aim of his liberal heart was to cherish and protect all the people. So, he became famous under the title of the World’s spiritual guide’ (Jagat Guru).
Next, the Emperor Nur-ud-din Jahangir for 22 years spread his gracious shade on the head of the world and its dwellers, gave his heart to his friends and his hand to his work, and gained his desires. The Emperor Shah Jahan for 32 years cast his blessed shade on the head of the world and gathered the fruit of eternal life, — which is only another name for goodness and fair fame, — as the result of his happy time on earth.
He who lives with a good name gains everlasting wealth,
Because after his death, the recital of his good deeds keeps his name alive.
Through the auspicious effect of this sublime disposition, wherever he [Akbar] bent the glance of his august wish, Victory and Success advanced to welcome him on the way. In his reign many kingdoms and forts were conquered. The state and power of these emperors can be easily understood from the fact that Alamgir Padishah has failed and become bewildered in the attempt to merely follow their political system. They, too, had the power of levying the jaziya; but they did not give place to bigotry in their hearts, as they considered all men, high and low, created by God, to be [living] examples of the nature of diverse creeds and temperaments. Their kindness and benevolence endure on the pages of Time as their memorial, and so prayer and praise for these (three) pure souls will dwell for ever in the hearts and tongues of mankind, among both great and small. Prosperity is the fruit of one’s intentions. Therefore, their wealth and good fortune continued to increase, as God’s creatures reposed in the cradle of peace and safety [in their reigns] and their undertakings succeeded.
But in your Majesty’s reign, many of the forts and provinces have gone out of your possession, and the rest will soon do so, too, because there will be no slackness on my part in ruining and devastating them. Your peasants are down-trodden; the yield of every village has declined, in the place of one lakh (of Rupees) only one thousand, and in the place of a thousand only ten are collected, and that too with difficulty. When Poverty and Beggary have made their homes in the palaces of the Emperor and the Princes, the condition of the grandees and officers can be easily imagined. It is a reign in which the army is in a ferment, the merchants complain; the Muslims cry, the Hindus are grilled; most men lack bread at night, and in the day-time inflame their own cheeks by slapping them [in anguish]. How can the royal spirit permit you to add the hardship of the jaziya to this grievous state of things? The infamy will quickly spread from west to east and become recorded in books of history that the Emperor of Hindustan, coveting the beggars’ bowls, takes jaziya from Brahmans and Jain, yogis, sannyasis, bairagis, paupers, mendicants, ruined wretches, and the famine-stricken, — that his valour is shown by attacks on the wallets of beggars, — that he dashes down [to the ground] the name and honour of the Timurids!
May it please your Majesty! If you believe in the true Divine Book and Word of God (i.e. the Quran), you will find there [that God is styled] Rabb-ul-alamin, the Lord of all men, and not Rabb-ul-musalmin, the Lord of the Muhammadans only. Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are [diverse pigments] used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines [of His picture of the entire human species]. If it be a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of Him. If it be a temple, the bell is rung in yearning for Him only. To show bigotry for any man’s creed and practices is equivalent to altering the words of the Holy Book. To draw (new) lines on a picture is to find fault with the painter.
Lay not thy hand in disapproval on anything you see, be it good, be it bad,
To call the handiwork faulty is to find fault with the craftsman.
In strict justice the jaziya is not at all lawful. From the political point of view it can be allowed only if a beautiful woman wearing gold ornaments can pass from one country to another without fear or molestation. [But] in these days even the cities are being plundered, what shall I say of the open country? Apart from its injustice, this imposition of the jaziya is an innovation in India and inexpedient
If you imagine piety to consist in oppressing the people and terrorising the Hindus, you ought first to levy the jaziya from Rana Raj Singh who is the head of the Hindus. Then it will not be so very difficult to collect it from me, as I am at your service. But to oppress ants and flies is far from displaying valour and spirit.
I wonder at the strange fidelity of your officers that they neglect to tell you of the true state of things, but cover a blazing fire with straw! May the sun of your royalty continue to shine above the horizon of greatness!
[R. A. S. MS. 71 ascribes the authorship of this letter to Shivaji, A. S. B. MS, 56 to Shambhuji Orme’s Fragments, p. 252, to Jaswant Singh, and Tod, i. ch, 13 to Maharana Raj Singh, Now, Shambhuji and Jaswant are ruled out by the dates. The internal evidence and autobiographical details of the writer apply to Shivaji and not to Raj Singh R. A. S. MS. adds that the letter was drafted by Nila Prabhu, the Persian Secretary (Parasnis) of Shivaji, In the penultimate paragraph of the letter, Rajah Ram Singh is given for Rana Ram Singh by A. S. B. MS. and Orme but no Jaipur chieftain could have been “the head of the Hindus” I have critically discussed and annotated this letter in Modern Review, January, 1908, pp. 21-23].
[End of Reproduction]
They were known as Dādu panthis (دادو پنتی). A Dādu panthi is “a follower of the religious sect of Dādu, a cotton cleaner of Ahmedabad, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, who endeavoured to establish a sort of monotheistical worship.” (Wilson’s Oriental Langiage Glossary of Terms, p. 117, col. 1).
Shivaji seems to refer to the Parsees under this name. According to Steingass, filk (فلق) means “a fire-worshipper”. If we read the word (فلق) as falaq heaven, the falakia would mean heaven or sun-worshippers. In that sense also the word would apply to Parsees.
The Sect of Malakites
Above notes, from “Asiatic Papers, Dr Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, Page 165″
The Mansabdari system is often considered to be the cause of the Mughal Empire’s decline. It was a complex system of assigning grants to nobility and a means of effective tax collection as well as remuneration.
The Mansabdars were appointed to all civil and military posts except that of judiciary, and the positions like wazir, bakshi, faujdar and Subedar were held by the Mansabdars. The Mansabdar appears to be a central Asian institution. There is a view that this institution came to India with Babur. During Babur’s time, instead of the term of Mansabdar, the term Wajahdar was used. There is a definite difference between these two terms of Mansabdari and Wajahdari system. Under the regime of Akbar, Mansabdari system became the basis of military and civil administration. It is also believed that Akbar followed the principles of Changiz Khan in fixing up the grades of Mansabdars.