An inquiry into the reasons which induced Lord Cornwallis to refrain from subjugating Tippoo’s territory, is foreign to the object of this work – Opinion of the Mahratta ministers on this subject – Mahadajee Sindia’s proposals at the time of forming the confederacy against Tippoo, to which Sindia did not become a party – Sindia’s proceedings in Hindoostan – Battle of Patun – Ismael Beg defeated – Rajpoots continue the war – battle of Mairta – peace with the Rajpoots – The regular infantry of De Boigne – Holkar entertains the Chevalier Dudrenec and raises some regular corps – Ali Buhadur assisted by Himmut Buhadur establishes himself in Bundelcund – Sindia moves towards Poona – Surmises with regard to his intentions – declares that he is proceeding as bearer of the insignia of office, for the Wukeel-i-Mootluq, from the emperor to the Peishwa – Grand state ceremony on presenting the insignia – Sindia endeavours by various ways to gain the confidence of the young Peishwa to the prejudice of Nana Furnuwees – Discussions respecting the whirs of Hindoostan – Ismael Beg again raises disturbances, but is taken prisoner and confined for life in the fort of Agra – The troops of Sindia and, Holkar commit hostilities against each other – obstinate battle of Lukhairee – Sindia’s troops victorious – Consequences at Poona – Hostilities suspended in Hindoostan, by orders from the Peishwa and Sindia – the latter all powerful in Hindoostan – his attempts to render himself popular in the Deccan – perseveres in his endeavours to supersede Nana Furnuwees in the young Peishwa’s favour – Remarkable explanation betwixt, the Peishwa and Nana – Views of Mahadajee Sindia – his death
An enquiry into the reasons which induced Lord Cornwallis to refrain from the entire subjugation of Tippoo’s territory, is foreign to the object of
this work; it is only necessary to observe, that even Nana Furnuwees and Pureshram Bhow, the parties in the Mahratta state most inimical to Tippoo, were averse to the total overthrow of the Mysore state, and Mahadajee Sindia was decidedly hostile to that course of policy. The Mahrattas, who are not sensible of the effect which may operate on British authorities, from the influence of public opinion in England, attribute the moderation shown by the governor-general to the representations of Hurry Punt Phurkay42.
At the period when Lord Cornwallis was negotiating the alliance against Tippoo, he instructed Major Palmer, the resident with Sindia, to request, both of Sindia and Holkar, to use their influence at Poona, in effecting the desired connection between the Peishwa and the British government. Sindia offered to unite in the confederacy against Tippoo, provided two battalions similar to those granted to Nizam Ally, were sent to join the army, with which he proposed to march to the southward; and that the British government should become bound to protect his territory in Hindoostan during his absence. These proposals being considered inadmissible, he refused to become a party to the treaty of Poona43.
We left Mahadajee Sindia in the early part of 1790, endeavouring to conciliate his co-adjutors, intent on humbling the Rajpoots, securing the dependency of Ismael Beg, and preventing the incursions
of the Seiks. A temporary adjustment with Holkar and Ali Buhadur, enabled him to prepare for opposing Ismael Beg, whose hostile intentions soon became unequivocal, and the Rajpoot Rajas of Jeypoor and Joudpoor were pouring succours into his camp. Sindia, before risking a battle, endeavoured, with some success, to corrupt the regular troops with Ismael Beg, and at last ordered Gopaul Rao Bhow, Luckwa Dada, and De Boigne, to attack his camp near Patun, June 20, at a point which was left undefended, by a body of troops whom Sindia had secured in his interest; but, notwithstanding this advantage, Sindia’s officers being disappointed in the promised aid of Holkar, who stood aloof during the engagement, the utmost exertion was necessary to ensure success. Ismael Beg fought with his usual bravery, and a body of his Patans thrice charged through the regular infantry of the Mahrattas, cutting down the artillery-men at their guns. De Boigne displayed great personal energy on this occasion, and to his gallantry, and the discipline of his battalions, was justly attributed the great victory which ensued. Numbers fell on both sides44, but the army of Ismael Beg was completely routed, and that chieftain fled with a small retinue from the field of battle to the gates of Jeypoor. All his guns were taken, and ten battalions of infantry grounded their arms and surrendered.
The Rajpoots, however, still maintained the war, and a second battle took place at Mairta, in the Joudpoor territory, where they allowed themselves to be surprised by De Boigne, at dawn of day, on the 12th September; and although four hundred Rhatore cavalry made desperate efforts to re-animate their friends, and allow them to recover themselves, the general confusion was irretrievable. It was supposed that Sindia would have completely subjugated the Rajpoots, but the opposition and dissensions to which he was exposed from his colleagues, (A.D. 1792.) Holkar and Ali Buhadur, induced him to grant them peace on their promising to pay a moderate tribute annually45.
The force of De Boigne was now gradually augmented to 18,000 regular infantry, 6,000 irregulars, Nujeebs and Rohillas, 2,000 irregular horse, and 600 Persian cavalry. This last body was mounted, clothed, armed, and disciplined by De Boigne, to whom all the horses of it belonged. Districts in the Dooab yielding twenty-two lacks of rupees of net revenue were assigned for the support of this force, and the fortress of Agra was given up as a depot of small arms and cannon; of the latter De Boigne had upwards of two hundred serviceable pieces46. Sindia affected to consider this force as part of the emperor’s establishment, and
denominated them the imperial army; but such a flimsy veil was not calculated to deceive the watchful eye of his rivals, and Holkar, in particular, saw the growth of this power with rancorous jealousy. He retired across the Chumbul, and entertained in his service the Chevalier Dudrenec, a Frenchman, who raised and disciplined four battalions, the first troops of that description which the family of Holkar had ever used.
All Buhadur, at the suggestion of Himmut Buhadur, undertook the conquest of Bundelcund, in which province, after a long struggle, they succeeded in establishing themselves, but found infinite difficulty in reducing the country, and were perpetually involved in warfare and insurrection.
Whilst Sindia was engaged in contentions with his colleagues, he frequently declared his intention of repairing to Poona for the purpose of obtaining their recal; but Nana’s policy in supporting Holkar was well known, and Sindia’s situation was deemed too insecure to admit of his venturing on an excursion so distant. When he therefore moved towards Ousein, and actually commenced his march for Poona, various were the conjectures which ensued. Some considered that, jealous of the increasing power of the British, and their influence at Poona and Hyderabad, his views were directed to the establishment of his own authority at Poona, for the purpose, of preventing the ascendancy which it seemed probable they would obtain, especially if Tippoo’s dominions were conquered and partitioned. Others supposed that he had views on the territory of Nizam Ally, and
some believed that his sole object was to prevent the interference of Holkar in his late acquisitions in Hindoostan.
It is probable there was some foundation for all these surmises; certain it is that he had in view the control of the Bramins, and the establishment of his own authority at the Peishwa’s capital. After the battle of Patun, in June 1790, he obtained from the emperor, for the third time, patents constituting the Peishwa Wukeel-i-Mootluq, but which was now to descend to him as a hereditary office in unalienable enam, on condition, however, of appointing Sindia and his posterity his perpetual deputies. In order, therefore, to exhibit to his countrymen his absolute power over the imperial house of Timour, for which the Mahrattas in the Deccan had long a habitual respect, and to gratify the feelings of all Hindoos, the emperor invested Sindia with the right of selecting his heir from among his sons, and issued an edict forbidding the slaughter of bullocks and cows throughout the Moghul dominions.
Sindia’s march to the southward was very slow; and he often appeared as if deliberating whether he might venture so far from his own territory. He gave out that he was proceeding to Poona by the emperor’s orders, as bearer of the sunnuds and insignia of the office of Wukeel-i-Mootluq for the Peishwa. On his arrival at Bheer, near the Godavery, charged with such commissions from the emperor, he made some demands on Nizam Ally, the nature of which is not ascertained; but he endeavoured to induce him to make him a present of the fertile district of
Bheer, and bestow Aurungabad on the Peishwa. On being refused, he pretended to be much hurt at his want of courtesy.
Nana Furnuwees long doubted whether Sindia would actually come into the Deccan; but on being assured that he was on his route from Burhanpoor, he applied to Lord Cornwallis, through Hurry Punt Phurkay, for the permanent services of Captain Little’s detachment, which, in name of the Peishwa, he offered to subsidize; but the governor-general, for various reasons, declined assenting to the proposal.
Sindia was very apprehensive of a connection of that kind; and, to allay Nana’s well-founded jealousy of his regular infantry, he only brought with him a small party, under an Englishman of respectable character, named Hessing, and one complete battalion, commanded by Michael Filoze, by birth a Neapolitan, a low, illiterate man, of worthless character, but of considerable address and cunning. Sindia arrived at Poona on the 11th June, and pitched his camp near the Sungum, or junction of the Moota and Moola rivers, the place assigned by the Peishwa for the residence of the British envoy and his suite; and hence the Sungum and the Residency, a spot for many reasons interesting, and well known to most of our countrymen who have visited that quarter, became synonymous.
Nana Furnuwees did everything in his power to prevent the Peishwa’s acceptance of the titles and insignia brought from the emperor; he represented the impropriety of adopting some of the
titles, especially that of Maharaj Adeeraj (the greatest of great Rajas) which was inconsistent with the constitution of the existing government of the Mahratta empire. But Sindia persisted; and permission for the Peishwa’s acceptance of all the honours, was formally obtained from the Raja of Satara. Nine days after his arrival, Nana Furnuwees visited Sindia, who received him in the most cordial manner, refused to sit on his musnud in the minister’s presence, and treated him with the greatest respect. On the ensuing day Sindia paid his respects to the Peishwa, carrying with him numberless rare productions and curiosities of Hindoostan, for the young Prince. The following morning was appointed for the grand ceremony of investing the Peishwa with the title and dignity of Wukeel-i-Mootluq, and Sindia spared no pains to render it as imposing as possible. A grand suite of tents was pitched at a distance from his own camp. The Peishwa proceeded towards them with the most pompous form. At the further end of these splendid apartments, a throne, meant to represent that of the emperor of the Moghuls, was erected, on which was displayed the imperial firman, the khillut, or dresses of investiture, and all the principal insignia. The Peishwa on approaching the throne made his obeisance thrice, placed 101 gold mohurs upon it as a nuzur, or offering, and took his seat on its left. – Sindia’s Persian secretary then read the imperial firmans, and amongst others, the edict which prevented the slaughter of bullocks and cows. The Peishwa then received the khillut, consisting of nine articles
of dress, five superb ornaments of jewels and feathers, a sword and shield, a pencase, a seal and inkstand, and two royal morchuls, or fans of peacock’s tails, accompanied by a nalkee47, a palkee48, a horse and an elephant; besides six elephants bearing the imperial standard, two crescents, two stars, and the orders of the fish and of the sun. The Peishwa retired to an adjoining tent and returned clothed in the imperial khillut, when he resumed his seat; and Sindia, followed by Nana Furnuwees and such of the Peishwa’s officers as were present, offered nuzurs of congratulation. When the Peishwa arose to return to his palace he was followed by Sindia and Hurry Punt carrying the morchuls and fanning him. He entered Poona seated in the Nalkee; the concourse of people assembled to witness the procession was exceedingly great; the pomp and grandeur displayed was beyond anything that the inhabitants of Poona had ever seen, whilst the clang of thousands of musical instruments, the shouts of the
populace, volleys of musquetry, and salvos of cannon, seemed to give all the effect that the projector of this state ceremony could possibly desire.
The investiture of Sindia by the Peishwa, as deputy to the Wukeel-i-Mootluq, immediately followed on their arrival at the Peishwa’s palace; but on this occasion, and on several others, the pretended humility of Sindia gave disgust, when he insisted on being considered as the hereditary servant of the Peishwa, entitled only to carry his slippers, and addressed by no higher title than that of Patell. Though this affectation was meant to be in conformity with Mahratta taste, it failed in its effect. No Bramin of education was pleased or deceived by such coarse self-disparagement, and the old Mahrattas, though Mahadajee Sindia had purchased some hereditary privileges in the Deccan, would much more readily have acknowledged his new imperial titles49, than have assigned to him the appellation of Patell, a distinction which they considered due only to the legitimate Sindia, Patell of Kunneirkheir. The Mankurees, and those cavaliers who considered themselves the old officers of the Rajas of Satara, though some among them could scarcely term the horse he rode his own, refused to enter the imperial tents with the Peishwa, nor would they present nuzurs to him as Wukeel-i-Mootluq. Nuzurs were presented to Sindia by his officers on returning to his own camp, but the feeling among his
countrymen, which was too strong to escape his notice, proved to him the necessity of much caution in the prosecution of his designs.
A principal object was to gain the confidence of the young Peishwa, to which, the rarities he had brought from Hindoostan, and the splendid spectacle with which he had been gratified, paved the way. The frank, unreserved manners of Sindia, who talked to the young prince of hunting and hawking, and carried him out on frequent excursions to see those field sports, were things so very different, and so much more agreeable, than the sedate and grave observance of decorum habitual to Nana Furnuwees, that Sindia soon became his constant companion. Parties to the country, in the neighbourhood of Poona, constantly took place, to which the young prince was invited, and Nana thought it advisable to give his assent, although he clearly saw the design of Sindia, and watched his proceedings so vigilantly, that it was difficult for him to find opportunities of conversing with Mahdoo Rao unobserved. When they did occur, Sindia never failed to comment on the manner in which he was treated, and to assure him, that he had both the power and the inclination to render him independent of such tutelage. But although Mahdoo Rao readily entered into every scheme of pleasure suggested by Sindia, his natural good disposition and judgment rendered it by no means easy to shake his confidence in Nana Furnuwees; and at first he combated Sindia’s arguments with warmth; but the customary restraints before unfelt
began to be irksome, and Sindia’s society proportionally more desirable.
Sindia’s public affairs at the Durbar seemed principally to refer to Hindoostan; he represented the large sums he had spent in extending the empire, and procuring such honours and dignity for the Peishwa; he petitioned for the payment of his expenses, the entire management of affairs in Hindoostan, and finally for the recal of Holkar and Ali Buhadur. In reply to these, the minister always demanded, in the first instance, an account of the revenue of those districts which he had subdued so easily, and had enjoyed so long. Many discussions on these subjects took place, and many circumstances occurred, tending to strengthen the mutual jealousy of Sindia and Nana; but they for some time maintained every form of civility and respect, whilst their respective parties in Hindoostan, though engaged in service together in the Rajpoot country, were almost in a state of open rupture.
The restless spirit of Ismael Beg, and his enmity to Sindia, rendered him a fit instrument for disturbing the tranquillity of Hindoostan; to which, after Sindia’s departure, he was secretly prompted by the intrigues of Tookajee Holkar; but, after assembling a considerable force, his career was stopped sooner than was anticipated.
The widow of Nujeef Khan refused to surrender the fort of Canoond to Sindia’s officers. A force marched against her under M. Perron, the officer second in command to De Boigne. Ismael Beg
advanced to her assistance, gave Perron battle outside the walls, and being defeated, entered the fort. He there assisted in the defence, which was well maintained, until the widow, having been killed by a stone shell, the garrison became dispirited by the accident, and began to think of betraying Ismael Beg to ensure themselves favourable terms. This treachery, however, the latter prevented by giving himself up to M. Perron, who promised, on the faith of his commanding officer, De Boigne, that he should not be put to death. The terms were observed, but he was ever after confined in the fort of Agra, where he died, in 1799.
Subsequent to the surrender of Canoond, which happened before Sindia reached Poona, Holkar’s and Sindia’s armies were levying tribute together in the Rajpoot territory; they had also taken two forts, when, quarrelling about the spoils, their jealousy burst forth into open hostilities, which brought on the battle of Lukhairee, near Ajimere, on which occasion Gopaul Rao Bhow, Luckwa Dada, and De Boigne, with twenty thousand horse and nine thousand regular infantry, defeated Holkar’s army, consisting of thirty thousand horse and the four battalions of Dudrenec. The attack was planned by De Boigne, and the conflict the most obstinate ever witnessed by that officer. By the explosion of twelve tumbrils of ammunition, his brigades were thrown into great confusion, but being posted in a wood, Holkar’s cavalry could not take advantage of the disaster. Dudrenec’s battalions fought until they were nearly annihilated. Their guns, thirty-eight in number, were all taken; the
shattered remains of the corps retreated precipitately into Malwa, where Holkar, in impotent rage, sacked Oujein the capital of his rival. When accounts of these proceedings reached Poona, the ostensible cordiality of Sindia and the court, was for a time obstructed, and precautions were adopted by both parties, as if apprehensive of personal violence. Nana Furnuwees called in the aid of Pureshram Bhow, who arrived with 2000 horse.
This imprudent reinforcement furnished Sindia with a pretext for greatly increasing the parties of Hessing and Filoze who accompanied him, and for bringing down one of his infantry brigades, the command of which was confided by De Boigne to M. Perron. But as neither party was desirous of attaining their end by prosecuting the war, positive instructions were despatched to their respective officers, to refrain from hostilities, and to await the pacific settlement of their disputes by orders from the Peishwa.
The result rendered Sindia all powerful in Hindoostan, but he was conscious of his unpopularity in the Deccan, and strove to overcome it. With this view he had, on his arrival at Poona, espoused the cause of Govind Rao Gaekwar in a manner which will be hereafter explained, and upon one occasion, when Nana Furnuwees, during the minority of the Punt Suchew, assumed charge of his lands, Sindia, who knew that the proceeding met with general disapprobation interposed, conveyed the Suchew to Poona, in opposition to the orders of the minister, re-established him in his possessions, and dismissed Bajee Rao Moreishwur,
the agent whom Nana had placed in charge of the Suchew’s territory. This daring interference gave rise to a quarrel which was with difficulty appeased by the mediation of Hurry Punt Phurkay; but fresh disputes arose in consequence of Sindia’s more undisguised attempts to induce the Peishwa to seek his protection. On one occasion, in particular, a conversation took place in a boat at Lohgaom, which being overheard and repeated, caused an immediate alarm in the mind of Nana, and he took the first opportunity of coming to an explanation with the Peishwa. He addressed himself both to his judgment and feelings, enumerated the services he had performed for him and for the state, described the views of aggrandizement entertained by Sindia, pointed out his foreign troops, his departure from ancient usage, and his want of connection with the Mahratta people, over whom and the Bramin sovereignty, he was bent on establishing an absolute power. – With these observations he contrasted his own situation, his inability to preserve order or to resist the encroachments of Sindia, if unsupported by his prince; and finally, lamenting in tears, the probable effects of the evil counsels by which he had been misled, he tendered his resignation, and declared his resolution to proceed to Benares. Mahdoo Rao was greatly affected. In a transport of grief he begged his forgiveness, entreated his stay, and promised to be forever guarded in his conduct. But notwithstanding this re-establishment of influence, Sindia by his great power, would probably have ultimately prevailed over his
rival, although the unqualified support of Hurry Punt to all the measures of the minister, the friendship of the powerful Bramin families of Rastia and Putwurdhun, together with that of the old Mankurees, some of them great Jagheerdars, formed a strong opposition to the views of Mahadajee Sindia. But in the midst of his ambitious schemes he was suddenly seized with a violent fever which in a few days terminated his existence. He breathed his last at Wunowlee, in the environs of Poona, on the 12th February 1794.
42. Mahratta MSS. Hurry Punt’s letters.
43. Bengal Records.
44. One translation of a native newspaper in the Bengal Records, says 11 or 12,000 of the Mahrattas were killed.
45. Mahratta letters and M.S. Palmer’s despatches. Indian newspaper and General De Boigne.
46. General De Boigne.
47. A nalkee is a sort of sedan chair without a top, having four poles, two behind and two before, never used but by the emperor or persons of the very highest rank.
48. A palkee is totally different from the more useful and convenient, though less splendid conveyance, commonly used by Europeans, and termed by them palanquin. The natives, who call them meynas, also use the same conveyance, but the palkee is a sort of short bed-stead, over which a pole very much curved in the middle, is fastened, and above all, a scarlet cloth stretched on bamboos, as an awning, and sometimes very highly ornamented, is placed. When used by ladies, there are screens affixed to the upper cloth.
49. These were Raja, Maharaj, Mahdoo Rao Sindia, Mudar Ool Muham, Ali Jah Buhadur.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage