Reflections on the preceding details, and on the condition of the Mahrattas as a military nation at this period – Their claims on Nizam Ally occasion a temporary union of the chiefs – Course of policy adopted by the English, in the negotiation which preceded the war between the Mahrattas and Nizam Ally – Discussions between the Courts of Poona and Hyderabad – war declared – assembly of the armies respectively – march to oppose each other – skirmish in which the Moghuls obtain some advantage – battle of Kurdla – extraordinary discomfiture of the Moghul army Submission of Nizam Ally, who surrenders the person of his minister, cedes large tracts of territory, and promises to pay three krores of rupees – Anecdote of the young Peishwa – Nizam Ally offended at the neutrality of the English, whose influence at Hyderabad is likely to be wholly superseded by a French party – Unexpected rebellion of the prince Ali Jah, occasions the recal of the English battalions – The rebellion suppressed by the exertions of M Raymond – Movements of the Mahrattas during the insurrection – No proof of their having been in any manner accessory to the rebellion – Nana Furnuwees at the summit of power, when his anxiety to preserve it, brings on an unforeseen catastrophe
The details in the last chapter, together with much of the preceding narrative, may tax the patience of the reader, but are, for the most part, absolutely necessary to elucidate our subject, and to afford a just view of the numerous authorities and interests which existed at this period among the Mahrattas. The empire founded by Sivajee now covered a vast
space; and had it been possible to combine its powers, to direct advantageously the peculiar genius of its people, and to render its various parts subservient to its general strength, the Mahrattas might still have extended their conquests, and a persevering predatory warfare would probably have arrested the rapid rise of the British nation in India. But the causes which drove the Mahrattas to predatory habits, and the circumstances which allured them to conquest, no longer existed, nor had they any chief whose authority was sufficient to unite them. They now lived under governments of their own, which were generally mild; the executive authorities, even if administered by persons tyrannically disposed; were not so powerful as to become arbitrarily oppressive, but they were at the same time too feeble to call forth all the resources which smaller states, better organized, could have commanded. The Mahrattas were still a military people; some member of every peasant’s family, and sometimes the fourth or fifth of a whole village had carried arms. Persons, once employed, were generally ready to return to the service when required, but pitched battles and regular warfare were unsuited to their genius; the Mahratta cavalry when accustomed to depend on regular infantry and cannon, lost their former surprising activity and confidence on distant enterprizes; even their courage, which, as a national virtue was never very conspicuous, had fallen below its ordinary level, and whilst some among them admired the wisdom of Mahadajee Sindia, and extolled the advantages to be attained by
disciplined armies and artillery, others, as we have already mentioned, more justly predicted, from the same cause, the certain overthrow of the Hindoo power.
The great object, however, of preserving the supremacy of the Peishwa, and of giving to the Mahratta nation that common excitement to action, founded on the immediate gratification of self-interest, became, for a short period, a point of much less difficulty than might have been anticipated. This tendency to union proceeded from the existing claims on Nizam Ally; in the settlement of which all the Mahratta chief were taught to expect a part; the death of Sindia left the entire management to Nana Furnuwees, and the English adopted a neutral policy on the occasion.
We have before noticed the nature of the claims on Nizam Ally. They were outstanding balances for a series of years, on account of Mouth and Surdeshmookhee. Discussions on the subject had been occasionally agitated by the Mahrattas for upwards of ten years; but the alliance in which they had been associated against Tippoo, had enabled Nizam Ally to procrastinate, and prevented the Mahrattas from insisting on a settlement of their affairs. In 1791 Govind Rao Kallay and Govind Rao Pingley, the Peishwa’s envoys at the court of Hyderabad, formally requested that Nizam Ally would appoint commissioners for investigating and adjusting the claims of their master. After considerable discussion, Nizam Ally delivered to these envoys, a set of demands, under thirty-four separate heads,
Chiefly regarding contributions unjustly exacted, and the revenues of different places improperly taken, or withheld by the Mahrattas. He also demanded reparation on account of damage sustained by the inroads of Pindharees residing within the Peishwa’s boundary. To all which, full and satisfactory replies, drawn up with remarkable a clearness and ability by Nana Furnuwees, were 7 promptly returned, followed by a set of articles, twenty-eight in number, demanding the adjustment of the Mahratta claims, some of which Nana proved to have existed since 1774. Nizam Ally was compelled to acknowledge some of these demands; others he evaded: but he promised in general terms to appoint some persons to settle the whole, as soon as the war with Tippoo had terminated; hoping, by that time, to obtain the interposition of the English58.
At the conclusion of the war, Lord Cornwallis did endeavour for effect a treaty of guarantee, founded on that article of the alliance Which regarded the assistance to be offered by the contracting parties, in case of an attack upon any, one of them by Tippoo, believing, that by such a treaty, be should render a general benefit to all parties, and secure the peace of India. But it was hardly to be supposed that any Indian statesman could appreciate such a design; and accordingly each of the native courts interpreted the proposal as it appeared to affect their own interests. The Nizam saw in it a disposition to assist him
and hoped to realize his meditated scheme of raising a barrier between himself and the Mahrattas, so that he might not only resist their future encroachments, but evade their present demands; at all events he had no doubt of obtaining a settlement, such as Hyder had effected with the Mahrattas, by paying a fixed tribute; and from which Tippoo, by the late treaty, was entirely absolved. The Mahrattas, on the other hand, viewed the proposal as an arrogant assumption of authority on the part of the British government, and it excited their jealousy, both as affecting their political consequence, and interrupting the settlement of their established dues. On the propriety of resisting this interposition both Mahadajee Sindia and Nana Furnuwees concurred; but they differed in their opinions with regard to the supposed designs of the English. Sindia conjectured that they projected an alliance with Nizam Ally for the, purpose of obtaining the command of the Nizam’s resources, and turning them against the Mahrattas; in consequence of which, for a short time previous to his death, he carried on a friendly correspondence with Tippoo Sultan. Nana Furnuwees, although he did not perceive the benevolent purpose by which Lord Cornwallis was actuated, took a more correct view of the subject, in supposing that the English, though desirous of becoming umpires, would not risk a war unless to save the Hyderabad state from being subverted; such a conquest, however, even in subsequent success, Nana Furnuwees never ventured to contemplate. When the treaty of guarantee was submitted to the court of Poona,
Mahadajee Sindia would have rejected it at once, but Nana, being anxious to keep well with the English as a check on Sindia, without giving a direct refusal; prolonged the discussion, although with no intention of assenting to what was proposed.
Sir John Shore succeeded to the charge of the government of British India, on the departure of the Marquis Cornwallis in August 1793. Nizam Ally had supposed the latter so intent on effecting the treaty of general guarantee, that he concealed the deep interest he felt in the success of the negotiation of Poona, until he saw the prospect of its failure. He then used every argument, and held forth every inducement in his power, to obtain a separate treaty-of guarantee for himself. Sir John Shore, however, did not think it adviseable to compel the Mahrattas to accept the mediation of the British nation, and adhered to a system, of neutrality, for a variety of reasons which it is unnecessary to enter upon. We need only remark, that whatever might have been the apparent advantage of the governor-general’s interference, if it had enabled Nizam Ally to effect his evasive purposes, it must have been recorded as an injustice to the Mahrattas.
From the period when the demands of the Mahrattas were formally renewed, whilst negotiations for the treaty of guarantee were in progress, Nizam Ally, probably without imagining that actual hostilities would take place, had been increasing his military force. A body of regular infantry which, during the war with Tippoo, had consisted of two
battalions under a respectable French officer named Raymond, were increased to twenty-three battalions. His army was much augmented after Mahadajee Sindia’s death, and he hoped, in consequence of that event, the Mahrattas might be easily satisfied, or successfully resisted,, even if he should not be able to obtain the interposition of the English59. When the envoy Govind Rao Kallay60 renewed his master’s demands, he produced a detailed statement, showing a balance in his favour of nearly two krores and sixty lacks, or twenty-six millions of rupees. Warm discussions took place between the envoy and Musheer Ool Moolk, when at last the former was told, in public durbar, that Nana Furnuwees must himself attend at the court of Hyderabad, in order to afford an explanation of the different items of their intricate claims. The envoy replied, “Nana Furnuwees is much engaged, how can he come?” “How can he come?” re-echoed Musheer Ool Moolk, “I will soon show how he shall be brought to the presence.” This menace was considered a sufficient declaration, and although negotiations continued till the last, both parties prepared to decide their differences by the sword. The war, whilst still at a distance, was extremely popular amongst the Moghuls; the grand army under Nizam Ally’s personal command, was assembled at Beder, and the camp exhibited much bustle and animation. The most vaunting threats were constantly heard from the ill-appointed disorderly
soldiery. Poona was to be pillaged and burned, the dancing girls already sung the triumphs of their army, and even the prime minister declared, in a public assembly, that “the Moghuls should now be freed from Mahratta encroachments; that they should recover Beejapoor and Candeish, or they would never grant peace, until they had despatched the Peishwa to Benares with a cloth about his loins and a pot of water in his hand, to mutter incantations on the banks of the Ganges61.”
The minister at Poona was soon enabled to collect a very great army. No events had taken place since Sindia’s death, except such as appeared favourable to Nana’s power, and the prospect of sharing in the expected advantages brought to his standard all the chiefs whose attendance was important. Doulut Rao Sindia and Tookajee Holkar were already at Poona, and the Raja of Berar had set out to join. Govind Rao Gaekwar sent a detachment of his troops; the great southern Jagheerdars, composing the Bramin families of Putwurdhun and Rastia, the Bramin Jagheerdars of Mallygaom and Vinchoor, the Pritee Needhee, the Punt Suchew, the Mahratta Mankurees, Nimbalkur, Ghatgay, Chowan, Duflay, Powar, Thorat, and Pahtunkur, with many others less conspicuous, attended the summons. But this was the last time the chiefs of the Mahratta nation assembled under the authority of their Peishwa.
Nizam Ally was first in the field, and slowly advanced from Beder along the banks of the Manjera, toward the Mahratta frontier.
The Peishwa quitted Poona in January, and his army marched at the same time, but by different routes, for the convenience of forage. There were upwards of one hundred and thirty thousand horse and foot in the Mahratta army, exclusive of ten thousand Pindharees. Of this force upwards of one half were either paid from the Peishwa’s treasury, or were troops of Jagheerdars, under his direct control. Doulut Rao Sindia’s force was more numerous and more efficient than that of any other chieftain, although the greater part of his army remained in Hindoostan and Malwa. Jooba Bukhshee commanded immediately under Doulut Rao, and had lately joined him with a reinforcement; – the whole consisted of twenty-five thousand men, of whom ten thousand were regular infantry under De Boigne’s second in command, Monsieur Perron. Rughoojee Bhonslay mustered 15,000 horse and foot; Tookajee Holkar had only ten thousand, but of these, two thousand were regulars under Dudrenec, and most of the Pindharees were followers of Holkar. – Pureshram Bhow had seven thousand men.
Nana Furnuwees consulted the chief officers separately62. He appointed Pureshram Bhow to act as commander-in-chief. The Pindharees and some other horse were ordered on to plunder in the neighbourhood of the Moghul camp, and destroy
their forage; the heavy baggage, properly protected, remained one march in the rear, and the best of the horse with the regular infantry supported by upwards of one hundred and fifty pieces of cannon, were sent forward to attack Nizam Ally, who with an army amounting in all to one hundred and ten thousand men, advanced towards Kurdla and descended the Mohree Ghaut; a body of the Peishwa’s household troops under Baba Rao, son of the deceased Hurry Punt Phurkay, attacked the Moghuls when descending the Ghaut and being driven off with some loss, Nizam Ally on the same evening sat in durbar and received nuzurs of congratulation on his victory.
On the ensuing day, when the Moghuls were on their march from Kurdla to Purinda, the Mahrattas appeared on their right, and were soon perceived to be in great force. Nizam Ally halted his own elephant, sent off his baggage to the left, and directed Assud Alee Khan with the cavalry, supported by seventeen thousand regular infantry under Raymond, to attack the Mahratta army. Pureshram Bow prepared to receive them.; he took his own station in the centre with the Peishwa’s and Holkar’s troops; Rughoojee Bhonslay commanded the right wing, and Doulut Rao’s army formed the left. Pureshram Bhow rode forward to reconnoitre, supported by Baba Rao Phurkay and Khassee Rao, the son of Tookajee Holkar. He had only advanced a short distance when he was suddenly charged by a, body of Patans, under Lal Khan, a native of Baloochistan, who displayed great personal energy, cut down several men, and,
with his own hand, unhorsed and wounded Pureshram Bhow. But Hurry Punt Putwurdhun, the Bhow’s eldest son, seeing his father fall, instantly attacked the aggressor and killed him on the spot. The Patans, however, did not desist on the loss of their leader: being well supported by Alif Khan, the son of the Nabob of Kurnoul, and Sulabut Khan the son of Ismael Khan, nabob of Elichpoor, they persevered until the advanced party of the Mahrattas gave way, and were driven back in such confusion, that they communicated a panic to a great portion of their army, and thousands fled precipitately from the field. Baba Rao Phurkay, though in charge of the Juree Putka, seemed about to follow the fugitives, but was prevented by Jooba Bukhshee, who rode up, reproached him as a coward, and told him if he sought a place of safety he would find it behind Sindia’s troops.
By this time the regular battalions on both sides had approached within musket-shot of each other, and the Moghul cavalry were advancing to the support of their infantry with apparent steadiness, when Rughoojee Bhonslay assailed them with a shower of rockets, at the same moment that they received the fire of thirty-five pieces of cannon, judiciously placed on an eminence by Perron. In the course of a very few minutes the whole of the cavalry were put to the rout; but Raymond’s infantry stood their ground, and had even obtained some advantage over Perron’s battalions, when Raymond, by repeated and peremptory orders, was compelled to follow Nizam Ally, who had already retreated towards Kurdla. By the time the detached
portions of the Moghul army had been made acquainted with their leader’s intention, the sun had set, and darkness soon augmented the general confusion of the troops. Shots still continued to be exchanged in different directions after the night fell, and few men, except those of the half-disciplined battalions of Raymond, could find their own particular division. At last, the multitude, worn out by fatigue and vociferation, gradually sunk to rest, or lay down to await the return of day. But in the stillness of night, a small patrol of Mahrattas in search of water for their horses, came by chance to a rivulet, where lay a party of Moghuls, who, discovering what they were, instantly fired upon them. Raymond’s sentries, being in the neighbourhood, also fired, when their whole line, who lay on their arms, with their muskets loaded as they had retreated, started from their sleep, and instantly fired a sort of irregular volley. The alarm which such a discharge of musketry occasioned, in the state of the Moghul army at that moment, may be conceived. The uproar suddenly became greater than ever, and many of Raymond’s Sepoys, seized with the general panic, quitted their ranks and mingled in the confusion. At last the moon rose, and Nizam Ally, in perfect consternation, sought refuge within the walls of Kurdla, a very small fort surrounded by hills. Most of his troops fled, plundering the baggage of their own army as they went off: but they were not allowed to carry away this ill-gotten spoil unmolested; the Mahratta Pindharees overtook them next day, and, without experiencing the
slightest opposition, stripped the panic-struck fugitives of everything.
The Mahrattas advancing in the morning, found guns, stores, and baggage; and all the usual wreck of an army, strewing the ground; but their surprize was still greater on perceiving Nizam Ally shut up in Kurdla, and about one tenth of the original number of his troops lying round the fort. No people are more active and vigilant than Mahrattas on such occasions; their most distant parties soon heard of this joyful intelligence, and came swarming, “to plunder the Moghuls,” whom in a short time they had completely enclosed, and on the ensuing day opened batteries, which commanded the fort as well as the position of the troops. Nizam Ally endured this hopeless exposure for two days, but, on the morning of the 15th March, he solicited and obtained a cessation of arms. The preliminary demand made by the Mahrattas was the surrender of the minister, Musheer Ool Moolk, that amends might thus be made for the insult offered to the Peishwa, in threatening to seize Nana Furnuwees. They next exacted territorial cessions, extending along the frontier from the district of Purinda on the south, to the Taptee river on the north, comprehending the fort of Doulutabad, and such part of those districts, formerly conquered by Sewdasheo Rao Bhow, in 1760, as had been restored to Nizam Ally. Three krores of rupees were promised on account of arrears of revenue and expences of the war: besides which, by a separate agreement, Nizam Ally ceded territory yielding three lacks and eighteen thousand rupees,
in lieu of Rughoojee Bhonslay’s claims for Ghas-dana, in Gungthuree, estimated at three and a half lacks annually. Nizam Ally likewise promised to pay up the arrears due to Rughoojee Bhonslay, amounting to twenty-nine lacks, and to collect their respective shares of revenue in Berar, according to ancient usage, for all which the Peishwa afterwards became Rughoojee’s guarantee.
It was with extreme reluctance that Nizam Ally agreed to surrender the person of his minister. Musheer Ool Moolk urged him to the measures especially, as under the circumstances in which they found themselves, they did not consider the other conditions so immoderate as might have been expected. The minister was delivered over to a party of two hundred Mahrattas, by whom he was escorted to their camp. The Peishwa met him at the outskirts, and received him with distinction, but his person was carefully guarded. The Mahrattas were rejoiced to excess by this triumph, and a remark of the young Peishwa, when rallied by Nana Furnuwees on the melancholy which his countenance betrayed at the time of Musheer Ool Moolk’s Arrival, was as just, as from him it was interesting. “I grieve,” said he, “to observe such degeneracy as there must be, on both sides, when such a disgraceful submission has been made by the Moghuls, and our soldiers are vaunting of a victory, obtained without an effort.” There were scarcely two hundred men lost by both those two great armies in the battle, though a considerable number of the Moghuls were killed in the subsequent confusion,
and during the time they were surrounded; but to this day, it is one of the great boasts of the old Sillidars in the Mahratta villages, that they were present in the glorious field of Kurdla.
During the action, the British envoys at the respective courts of Nizam Ally, and the Peishwa, were in the neighbourhood. Nizam Ally was much incensed against the English for their neutrality, which he considered an abandonment of promised friendship. On his return to Hyderabad, he dismissed their two battalions, and ordered a great increase to the corps of Monsieur Raymond, assigning districts for their maintenance, in the same manner as Sindia had done. The influence of the English was further diminished, by the captivity of Musheer Ool Moolk, a great friend to their nation, and it was likely to be wholly superseded, by the growing power of the French party, when an event occurred which induced Nizam Ally to recal their battalions, and the intercourse formerly subsisting was gradually renewed. The event alluded to was nothing less than the rebellion of Nizam Ally’s eldest son, Ali Jah, who, from the time of the convention at Kurdla, had been actively engaged in a conspiracy, the ring-leaders of which were all of the party most inimical to Musheer Ool Moolk, and the English interests.
On the night of the 28th June, Ali Jah quitted Hyderabad, pretending to be forcibly carried off by a Mahratta, named Sewdasheo Riddey, for the purpose of obtaining the authority of his name in raising an insurrection. He was soon joined by many of his partizans, and took the route of Beder,
of which fortress, and several other places of less consequence, he obtained possession. The season of the year was unfavourable to his success; but the vast body of unemployed horsemen in the country (fifty thousand of the Kurdla fugitives having been discharged by Nizam Ally in one day), rendered the insurrection extremely alarming, especially as several officers of rank joined the prince, and Tippoo, as was given out, had promised to support him.
M. Raymond undertook to suppress this rebellion. He followed the prince to Beder, pursued him to Aurungabad, took him prisoner, and was bringing him to Hyderabad; but Ali Jah, unable to face his father, put an end to his existence by poison, before they reached the capital.
On the return of the Peishwa to Poona, Nana Furnuwees was employed in distributing the late acquisitions63, and in settling various affairs with the different chiefs. Pureshram Bhow and Rughoojee Bhonslay remained in the neighbourhood of the capital, but Holkar and Sindia encamped at some distance, the former at Jejoory, and the latter at Jamgaom, until news arrived of Ali Jah’s rebellion, when they repaired to Poona, with what view is not ascertained, nor is there any proof that the Mahrattas were instrumental to the rebellion, although it was suspected by Nizam Ally, and has been affirmed by Moghul historians.
By the middle of September, Doulut Rao had obtained his audience of leave, and proceeded to Jamgaom, on his route to Hindoostan; – Pureshram Bhow had returned to the family Jagheer at Tasgaom; – Holkar continued at Poona, where Rughoojee Bhonslay also remained until the middle of October, when he was dismissed with great honour, receiving new sunnuds for a portion of territory, lying on the south side of the Nerbuddah, which had been originally assigned to his grandfather by Ballajee Bajee Rao, in 1750, but twelve of the districts64 had not yet been conquered from the chiefs, who, in the confusion that followed the decline of the Moghul empire, had become independent65.
Nana Furnuwees was now at the summit of prosperity; without the intervention of a foreign power, he had obtained every object of his ambition. Doulut Rao Sindia was favourably disposed towards him, and his ministers and officers were more intent on forwarding their own particular views in the government of their young master, than in schemes for controlling the Poona court. Tookajee Holkar had become imbecile, both in mind and body, and his officers were subservient to Nana. Rughoojee Bhonslay was completely secured in his
interests, and the Bramin Jagheerdars were of his party. The Peishwa’s government had thus every prospect of regaining the tone and vigour it had possessed under the great Mahdoo Rao, but Nana’s fondness of power, and his anxiety to preserve it, brought on a catastrophe which speedily undermined his authority, overturned the labours of his life, and terminated his days in trouble and in misery.
58. Mahratta MS. and original papers.
59. Mahratta MSS. and English records.
60. He was still alive when I left India in January 1823.
61. Persian and Mahratta MSS.
62. The memoranda in his own handwriting of the different opinions, were found in the Poona Records. He seems to have adopted the plans of Jooba Bukhshee and Tookajee Holkar.
63. The whole of the particulars of this distribution were found, amongst the Poona records; but much confusion having subsequently arisen, the intended arrangements were never entirely completed.
64. These were 1st. Bachaee. 2d. Beechea. Bd. Burgee. 4th. Bhowangurh. 5th. Sypoor Choureeagurh. 6th. Khooreybharee. 7th. Kuthooteea. 8th. Pullahoo. 9th. Dujwurdha. 10th. Mookundpoor. 11th. Surnalpoor. And 12th. Ramgurh.
65. This chapter is on the authority of original Mahratta papers, Persian and Mahratta MSS., and English records.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage