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A History of the Mahrattas

Chapter I – From 1784 to 1787

Tippoo – Nurgoond – Origin and progress of the dispute respecting it – Tippoo’s treachery – takes Nurgoond – seizes Kittoor – forcibly converts many Hindoos – Nana Furnuwees proposes an alliance with the English – The latter less solicitous to co-operate than Nina expected – Nana applies to the Portuguese – French said to be in alliance with Tippoo – Reported alliance between the Mahrattas and the French – British Resident instructed to proceed to Poona – Mr Macpherson’s offer of assisting in the defence of the Mahratta territory – rejected by Nana Furnuwees Mahratta army advances to form a junction with Nizam Ally and Moodajee Bhonslay – Moodajee in close alliance with the Poona Court – Mahratta and Moghul armies unite – Plan of operations – Badamee taken – Nana Furnuwees returns to Poona, and Moodajee Bhonslay to Nagpoor – Holkar’s proceedings – Tippoo attacks Adonee – Gallant defence till relieved by the confederates – Adonee abandoned – Gujendergurh given up to Hurry Punt – Holkar makes a sudden march to Savanoor – his object – Burhan-ud-deen attacks him – is repulsed by Holkar, who is joined by the Nabob

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of Savanoor – Hurry Punt’s operations – Tippoo unexpectedly passes the Toongbuddra – Operations of the armies – Savanoor abandoned by the Mahrattas – Tippoo takes possession proceeds to Benkapoor – Hurry Punt takes Seerhutty – Feeble operations on both sides – Tippoo suddenly tenders proposals of peace – Peace concluded – Motives elucidated – Sindia


Tippoo, in assuming a right to the province of Beejapoor, and in threatening to attack the territory of Nizam Ally, had probably no other intention than to show the members of the confederacy, which he suspected was formed against him, that he was as well prepared to resist as they to prosecute the hostility meditated. At the subsequent accommodation with Nizam Ally, both parties understood that the adjustment was merely temporary. Tippoo continued to discipline his army and to prepare his forts with increased exertion; and as the crisis approached, the security of the frontier garrisons became a principal object of his attention.


The fort and district of Nurgoond, situated about twelve miles south of the Malpurba, belonged to a Bramin Dessaye, and had fallen under Hyder with the other Mahratta possessions south of the Kistna, in 1778. This district had only been subject to the payment of a moderate tribute, and Hyder, satisfied with the Dessaye’s submission, exacted nothing more than what had been usually paid to the Mahrattas. Tippoo, however, soon after his father’s death, had increased the demand, with which the Dessaye refused compliance; but concluding it would eventually be enforced, he

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secretly claimed protection from the Peishwa, whose subject he declared himself; and as secretly, through the agency of an Englishman in his service, named Yoon, applied to the Bombay government for the aid of some regular troops, representing that he was an independent Raja willing to cooperate in the invasion of Tippoo’s dominions. This application to Bombay was made before the treaty of Mangalore; but as no notice was taken of his overtures, the Dessaye continued to court the protection of the minister at Poona, and the friendship of the powerful Bramin family of Putwurdhun, with whom he is said to have been connected. When Tippoo, therefore, pressed his demand, Nana Furnuwees interposed, and declared that he had no right to exact more than the ordinary tribute, – “that Jagheerdars, on the transfer of districts, were liable to no additional payments: and that the rights of Suwusthanees1, who had been guilty of no treason against the state to which they owed allegiance, had been invariably respected2.” Tippoo replied, that he had a right to levy what he chose from his own subjects; and soon after detached two separate bodies of his troops to enforce demands beyond the Dessaye’s ability to pay, which was, in other words, an order to reduce his fort. The siege commenced in the month of March; and a body of Mahrattas, under Gunnesh Punt Behree and Pureshram Bhow Putwurdhun advanced to its relief. Tippoo’s wukeels still remained at Poona, and Nana Furnuwees had sent orders to the Mahratta commanders not

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to precipitate hostilities; but by the time they arrived in the neighbourhood of Nurgoond, Tippoo’s officers had been compelled, from want of water, to raise the siege and encamp at some distance. They however sent, in derision, a message to the Bramin commanders, intimating that they had withdrawn their troops from respect to their master the Peishwa. Fired at the insult, the Mahrattas rode on to their camp, drove in their out-posts, and pressed forward, until repulsed by two of Tippoo’s regular battalions supported by the cavalry; when they retired with the loss of twenty men and an elephant. This premature attack was contrary to the orders of Nana Furnuwees; but as it had been made, he immediately directed Tookajee Holkar, with a considerable force, to support Gunnesh Punt and Pureshram Bhow; though he at the same time intimated to Tippoo, his concern for the quarrel, and his desire for an accommodation. Tippoo, whose motives will become apparent, expressed an equal readiness to meet his wishes, and even offered to pay two years’ tribute, provided his right of sovereignty was recognised in regard to Nurgoond. Nana Furnuwees, by the advice of Nizam Ally, and on assurance that submission only was required from the Dessaye, acceded to what Tippoo proposed, and everything appeared to be settled except the mode of payment, for which a period of twenty-seven days was allowed, and the Mahratta army recrossed the Kistna. But Tippoo had practised a gross deception:– Nurgoond left to its fate, submitted; and the terms promised to the unfortunate Dessaye were not observed. After

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evacuating the fort, he and his family were treacherously seized; his daughter was reserved for the Sultan’s seraglio, and the rest were immured in Cabuldroog, where they perished. The fort of Kittoor, which also belonged to a tributary Dessaye, had likewise been seized, and both that place and Nurgoond, before the opening of the fair season, were occupied by strong garrisons of the Sultan’s troops.

To crown these acts, as if he designed to render himself as odious as possible to the Mahrattas, Tippoo forcibly circumcised many of the Hindoo inhabitants of the territory south of the Kistna, and two thousand Bramins, disciples of Shunkeracharya3, destroyed themselves to avoid the detested violation.

Nana Furnuwees very soon found that he had been duped by Tippoo, and he even began to doubt how far he might rely upon the co-operation of Nizam Ally: the inefficient state of the Moghul army had not escaped his observation when they met at Eedgeer, and he was alarmed by accounts of the excellent state of discipline, to which Tippoo’s battalions had attained. These circumstances, combined with a report of Tippoo’s having entered into a new and closer alliance with the French, had the effect of overcoming his reluctance to calling in the aid of British troops. But as Nana imagined the English would join in an offensive alliance against Tippoo on almost any terms, and being solicitous not to pledge himself so far as to prevent his eventually receding, the overtures to Mr. Boddam, governor of Bombay,

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were made with much caution. In the month of July he sent an agent to that presidency, offering, on the part of the Peishwa, to give up to the Company, any two of Tippoo’s sea-ports on the Malabar coast, on condition of being assisted with a body of troops to co-operate in the reduction of his territory. Mr. Boddam received the proposal without expressing the least surprise at the inadequacy of the terms, and referred Nana Furnuwees to the supreme government, with an unfeigned indifference, which did not escape the quick sighted envoy, and from which Nana began to change his opinion of the English policy. Although Nana Furnuwees sent a private agent of his own to Calcutta, it was necessary to prosecute the negotiation through Mahadajee Sindia, whilst there was no British resident at the Peishwa’s court.

Sindia immediately applied to the Governor-general, through Lieutenant James Anderson then resident envoy in his camp, informed him of the probability of a rupture between the Peishwa and Tippoo, and artfully assumed as a matter of course, that the English would afford every assistance “as by the treaty of Salbye the friends and enemies of the Mahrattas and English were mutual.” He added, that the Peishwa was sure of the co-operation of Nizam Ally, that the terms of their alliance were, that each state should recover its lost territory, and, of any new acquisitions, there should be an equal participation. Mr. Macpherson, in reply, observed, that the treaty of Salbye did not stipulate that the friends and enemies of the two states should be mutual, but that neither party should afford assistance to the enemies of the other, and that by the treaty of

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Mangalore the English were bound not to assist the enemies of Tippoo. Mr. Macpherson, in declining the alliance, made strong general professions of friendship towards the Mahrattas, hinted at some reasons for dissatisfaction with Tippoo on the part of the British government, in consequence of his not having fulfilled all the stipulations of the treaty of Mangalore, and concluded, by assuring Sindia, that in case of any reverse, the British government would not suffer the Mahrattas to be overpowered.

Nana Furnuwees, the less solicitous the Governor-general appeared, became the more anxious to obtain the co-operation of the English, and he urged it the more, in consequence of a new treaty supposed to have been concluded between Tippoo, and the French. At last, either in despair of obtaining the aid of the English, or in order to quicken their decision, he made overtures to the Portuguese by whom he was promised assistance. It is certain that Nana believed in the existence of this new treaty between Tippoo and the French, as the Mahratta envoy at Pondicherry publicly remonstrated with the French governor, and accused him of having thereby violated the promises of the king of France to the Peishwa. The French governor denied the existence of such a treaty, and as a proof of what he alleged, proposed a closer connection with the Peishwa, a circumstance which is said to have greatly offended Tippoo, who was already jealous of the high and independent tone assumed by his French friends. The French envoy at Poona was treated with much

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attention, and it was believed that the Peishwa’s government had agreed to cede Rewadunda to that nation, on condition of their not assisting Tippoo.

These negotiations showed, more than ever, the necessity of appointing a British resident at the Poona court, and Mr. Malet, then in Calcutta, was instructed to repair to Bombay, and there await an invitation from the Peishwa to proceed to his capital.

In the meantime the army was assembling at Poona for the purpose of invading Tippoo’s territory, and Mr. Macpherson offered to send three battalions to assist in the defence of the Mahratta country, provided they were not employed within Tippoo’s boundary; but as Nana’s views extended to conquest he did not contemplate defence, and I therefore rejected the proposal4.

The periodical rains were this year of unusual duration, and the Mahratta army, under Hurry Punt Phurkay, did not quit Poona until about the 1st December. The troops advanced towards the eastern frontier for the purpose of forming a junction with Moodajee Bhonslay and Nizam Ally.

Moodajee, as we have had occasion to observe, had visited Poona during the preceding season; he showed a sincere desire to connect himself with the head of the state, and in the name of his son Rughoojee, entered on a new agreement, promising to adhere strictly to that which had been framed by Mahdoo Rao and Janojee in 1769. He pledged himself particularly never to assist the English against the Peishwa’s government, and

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promised to co-operate in the expected war with Tippoo, for which purpose he was now advancing.


Nana Furnuwees followed the army for the purpose of conferring with Nizam Ally, and overtook Hurry Punt at Punderpoor, whence they moved down the right bank of the Beema, and were joined by the Moghul troops, near the spot where the interview took place during the preceding season. It was now resolved to reduce the whole of Tippoo’s territories, and to divide the conquests into six equal parts, of which Nizam Ally should receive two shares, the Peishwa two, and Sindia and Holkar two shares between them; or one sixth each. It was further agreed that their first efforts should be directed to the recovery of the Mahratta districts between the Kistna and Toongbuddra. Tookajee Holkar and Gunnesh Punt Behree were detached with twenty-five thousand troops, chiefly horse, to attack a body of Tippoo’s under Burhan-ud-deen near Kittoor, and to expel his garrisons from that district; whilst the main army of the confederates advanced towards Badamee. As they approached that place, reports were received of Tippoo’s having marched with his whole army; and it was agreed, in case this intelligence should prove correct, to postpone the siege, but to encamp in the neighbourhood of Badamee until the rains had fallen, when the swelling of the rivers would, in all probability, secure them from interruption.

The prospect of a monsoon campaign was so little relished by Nizam Ally, that, in giving his assent to this plan of operations, he intimated his

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desire of returning to Hyderabad, and of leaving his general Tuhuwur Jung with 25,000 men, under the orders of Hurry Punt; a measure entirely conformable to the wishes of the Mahrattas, who felt themselves encumbered by the form and ceremony necessarily observed to the Soobeh of the Deccan.

Soon after the departure of Nizam Ally, it was ascertained that Tippoo had sent forward some troops from Bangalore; but had himself returned to Seringapatam, on which, it was immediately resolved to commence the projected siege. Operations began on the 1st May5. The fortified town of Badamee is built on the plain, with a small gurhee or citadel in the body of the place; but it is further protected by two hill-forts, one on each flank6. After battering the walls of the town for three weeks, they were very little injured; but it was determined to try the effect of an escalade. On the morning of the 20th May, twenty thousand infantry of the confederate armies were drawn up for that service. The garrison, consisting of upwards of three thousand five hundred troops, manned the works to oppose them; and when the assailants advanced, which they did with great resolution, they found the ditch and covert way full of small mines, constructed by digging pits, and placing in them large dubbers7 filled with

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gunpowder; these were fired, and proved exceedingly destructive; but the Mahrattas and Moghuls, vying with each other, rushed forward in a most impetuous, though tumultuous manner, applied ladders, mounted the walls in various places, and except a slight check, sustained at the gurhee, carried all before them within the town. The garrison fled to the forts above, closely followed by the assailants; but the pursuers did not succeed in entering with the fugitives. They however, continued to crowd up the face of the hills, though huge stones were rolled down, and a heavy fire of musketry opened upon them. Their casualties were numerous; but the garrison becoming intimidated at their furious and persevering attack, offered to surrender, if their lives were spared; a condition which was immediately granted8.

After the fall of Badamee, Nana Furnuwees returned to Poona, and Hurry Punt was left to prosecute the war. Moodajee Bhonslay went back to Nagpoor, but left the greater part of his troops with Hurry Punt, under his second son Khundoojee, promising to return with a reinforcement after the Dussera.

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While these operations were prosecuted by the grand army, the detachment which proceeded to the westward, under Holkar, had expelled Tippoo’s troops from every part of the Kittoor district, except the fort of the same name, which they invested, but could not hope to reduce.

Hurry Punt’s first care was to send back all his wounded from Badamee; he then moved towards Gujendergurh, but as the small fort of Seertee lay in his route9, he breached and stormed it; but scarcely had he accomplished that object, when he was informed, that Tippoo was marching to give him battle; and such was the vigilance of a corps of Beruds10 in Tippoo’s service, consisting of both horse and foot, that the address and dexterity of Mahratta spies, famous only where their own language is spoken, could obtain no correct intelligence of his motions, and the first certain accounts which Hurry Punt received, assured him that Tippoo was in full march to attack Adonee. That fortress was then held by Mohubbut Jung, son of the late Busalut Jung, and nephew of Nizam Ally, who was totally unprepared for a siege. The families and seraglio of the late Basalut Jung, as well as those of his sons, were then in the fort, and Mohubbut Jung’s first application was to Nizam

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Ally, calling upon him to save the honor of his house. A pressing requisition was also sent to Hurry Punt, who immediately sent forward Tuhuwur Jung, with the whole of the Moghul troops, and twenty thousand Mahrattas, under Krist Rao Bulwunt, and Rugonath Rao Neelkunt. These troops were on their march towards Adonee, when they received intelligence of the advance, towards Raichore, of the whole of the disposable force from Hyderabad, under Moghul Ally. A junction was formed at Bunnoor, when they moved towards Adonee, with an army of nearly sixty thousand men. Tippoo endeavoured to carry the place before the arrival of the approaching succour; his desperate but premature attempts, were most gallantly repulsed by Mohubbut Jung, and as the allies drew near, he was compelled to raise the siege, and retire some miles to the southward. The confederates had forded the Toongbuddra with difficulty; and, as the country to the southward of that river was entirely at Tippoo’s command, whilst they could place no dependance on the resources of the tract between the Kistna and Toongbuddra, much of which still remained to be reduced, they prudently resolved to withdraw the garrison from Adonee, and re-cross the latter river. The retreat was judiciously executed; but the unpardonable oversight of leaving the fort, guns, ammunition, and stores, without an attempt to render them unserviceable to their enemy, cancelled any merit the commanders might otherwise have claimed11.

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The troops from Hyderabad returned to that capital, and the main body rejoined Hurry Punt at Gujendergurh, of which place he had obtained possession by bribing the Killidar.

Holkar still lay before Kittoor, apparently in careless inactivity; when decamping suddenly, he made one march of upwards of sixty miles to Savanoor, with the Nabob of which he had been some time in correspondence. The immediate object of Holkar’s Movement, was an attempt to seize the person of Ragwundur Naik, one of Tippoo’s principal bankers, but he had just time to escape across the Toongbuddra, and only two or three inferior soucars fell into Holkar’s hands, from whom he exacted a ransom of two lacks of rupees. Burhan-ud-deen, with a body of Tippoo’s troops, attacked Holkar: but the Mahrattas, joined by the Nabob of Savanoor, repulsed them; and on the ensuing night, Burhan-ud-deen retired to Jereeanwutty on the Wurdah, thirty miles above Savanoor.

About the year 1779, the Nabob of Savanoor had married the sister of Tippoo, and on that occasion Hyder restored the whole of the twelve districts originally dependant on his principality, on condition, that he should keep up two thousand Patan horse for the service of the state. Tippoo entertained a personal enmity against the Nabob, and on his accession to power, found a pretext for indulging it, owing to the Nabob’s having omitted to keep up the stipulated number of horse. Following a systematic plan, Tippoo mulcted and plundered both the Nabob and his subjects: so that it was not surprising the Nabob should seek the first opportunity

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of throwing off his allegiance and declaring, as he now did, for the Mahrattas.

Hurry Punt’s operations, after obtaining possession of Gujendergurh, were directed against Buhadur Benda and Kopaul; the former had been delivered up and he was in _treaty for the latter, when he was astonished by information of Tippoo’s having actually crossed the Toongbuddra at Gurhghaut12, with the greater part of his army, in basket boats. Hurry Punt advanced towards him: but finding the ground very unfavourable for the operations of his cavalry, he encamped at the distance of ten miles, where Tippoo made two unsuccessful attempts to surprise him. Grain and forage being extremely scarce, in order to procure supplies as well as to draw Tippoo into the plain, Hurry Punt proceeded to Savanoor. Tippoo marching along the bank of the Kistna, followed him, and encamped in a strong position within six miles of the confederates, keeping the town of Savanoor between the camps. In this situation both parties continued for fifteen days, until, on the 1st of October, two hours before dawn, the Mahratta camp was alarmed by a sudden firing, which was speedily answered by the Mahratta artillery. Tippoo, who had headed the attack in person, on discovering where their guns were posted, directed his principal effort to that spot, which induced Hurry Punt to draw them off until day light, when they again opened on the assailants. The position occupied by the Mahrattas

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was still very unfavourable; their horse were prevented from charging by the steep banks of a rivulet, which Tippoo cautiously refrained from crossing, and after cannonading for several hours, he withdrew to his encampment.

There was a scarcity of forage in the Mahratta camp, and their own situation, and that of their enemy, precluded all hope of being able to gain any advantage by continuing at Savanoor. Hurry Punt, therefore, deemed it necessary to retire, although he thereby sacrificed the capital of his new ally. The Nabob of Savanoor reluctantly fell back with him ten miles, where the confederates took up a new position. Tippoo possessed himself of the town, but declined advancing upon them: he lay inactive at Savanoor, until the Mohurrum, when he retired to celebrate that festival at Benkapoor, leaving Hurry Punt to breach, storm, and take Seerhutty, a fortified town twenty miles N.E. of Savanoor, without interruption. Tippoo having deposited his heavy baggage in Benkapoor, moved from that place; but aware of his enemy’s superiority in cavalry, he did not quit the broken ground on the banks of the Wurdah and Toongbuddra. Proceeding down the left bank, he encamped between Kopaul and Buhadur Benda, and again obtained possession of the latter place. The confederates followed him, and endeavoured to cut off his supplies; but their own forage being brought from a great distance, whilst Tippoo drew his with facility from the south bank of the Toongbuddra, they soon abandoned the attempt.

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Tippoo renewed his endeavours to surprise the camp of the confederates, and on one occasion took some baggage belonging to the Moghuls13.


In these feeble operations, neither party could boast of much advantage, and the confederates were at a loss to account for Tippoo’s motives in suddenly tendering proposals of peace. Even after the arrival of two envoys of high rank, Budr-ul-Zeinan Khan, and Ali Reza Khan, who negotiated through Tookajee Holkar and Gungadhur Rastia, Hurry Punt for a time imagined, that Tippoo’s professions were only a prelude to some stratagem. His suspicions contributed to prolong the negotiation, for although an armistice took place on the 10th February, the peace was not concluded till April. The Mahrattas obtained the cession of Badamee, Kittoor, and Nurgoond; the other towns and districts reduced by them were restored to Tippoo. Tippoo also agreed to pay forty-five lacks of tribute, thirty of which were immediately produced, and the remainder promised at the expiration of a year. Adonee was restored to the nephew of Nizam Ally; but Tippoo had destroyed the works and carried off the guns. The Nabob of Savanoor obtained a promise of the restoration of that portion of his territory which he possessed prior to his marriage with Hyder’s daughter, but dreading Tippoo’s treachery,

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he did not venture to return to Savanoor at this period, but continued with his Mahratta friends at Poona14.

Tippoo’s motives for acceding to a pacification, so disadvantageous, have been imputed15, it would appear justly, to his apprehending that the English were about to take part against him. Mr. Malet had not only been invited to Poona as resident, but at the request of Nana Furnuwees he had joined him at Badamee, a circumstance which Tippoo conceived, bespoke a very intimate connection; but the acting governor-general was studious to allay any alarm it might create, and had partly succeeded. Shortly afterwards, however, in September 1786, Lord Cornwallis, having assumed charge of the supreme government, addressed letters to the Peishwa and Nizam Ally, in which although he expressly intimated his determination to take no part in the war between the confederates and Tippoo Sultan, yet the state of military efficiency in which it became the immediate care of the new governor-general to place all the presidencies, occasioned a bustle and apparent preparation which seem to have convinced Tippoo, that the designs of the English were decidedly hostile; and may not merely account for his earnestness to terminate the war with the confederates, but afford some reason for that rancorous hostility which led him to persevere in schemes for annihilating the power of the British nation in India.

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The appointment of a resident at the Peishwa’s court was not more a cause of alarm to Tippoo, than of jealousy to Mahadajee Sindia. A tardy acquiescence was obtained from Sindia to the measure, and in order to reconcile him to it as much as possible, Mr. Malet was instructed to send his despatches to the supreme government through the resident for the purpose of being submitted for Sindia’s information and obtaining his opinions. But Sindia was at this period, and for several years afterwards, too much occupied by his own vast projects in Hindoostan, to be able either to prevent the English from establishing their influence at Poona, or to direct much of his attention to the affairs of the Deccan. The history of his progress will be found in the ensuing chapter.


1. Bramins who possess old hereditary Jagheers are so styled.

2. Mahratta MS.

3. A famous Gooroo of the southern Mahratta country.

4. Bengal and Bombay Records.

5. Poona Records. Mahratta MS.

6. Sir C. Malet’s dispatches.

7. Dubbers are large vessels, which, in appearance, resemble immense blown bladders; they are extremely useful for many purposes, but principally for preserving oil and ghee. They are made of hides, which are first beaten into a pulp, and then spread in thin coats over shapes composed of clay, and as each coat dries, a new one is added, until the requisite thickness has been attained. When the whole of the coats become solid and dry, the clay is broken to dust and shaken out. Dabbers are sometimes made larger than a wine pipe, and will last upwards of a century.

8. Poona Records and Malet’s despatches.

9. Hurry Punt’s official report to the Peishwa. I do not know the exact situation of Seertee; the Hindoo names frequently differ from the Mahomedan. The propagators of the Koran have always been prone to bestowing new, and the Hindoos to retaining old appellations.

10. The class of people already described, resembling the Ramoosees of Maharashtra, and improperly called Beders.

11. Hurry Punt’s despatches. Bombay Records. Wilks.

12. Col. Wilks calls this place Burrucknaut. It is not marked in any map that I have seen, nor do I know its precise situation.

13. Just at this period, the following letter appears in the official correspondence of Hurry Punt, and in his own hand writing – “The loss sustained by the army, in consequence of the cholera morbus, is very great; medicines are liberally supplied; some do recover, but by far the greater part die.”

14. Poona Records. Mr. Chaplin’s report.

15. Wilks.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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