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Chapter 2 – To the Departure of Nadir Shah

Mohammed Shah

1719, September; AH 1131, Zi Cada

General indignation against the Seiads

The murder of Farokhsir (in spite of his personal character, and the familiarity of such a catastrophe in Asia) produced a general feeling of horror, and led to suspicions regarding the premature deaths of his successors. The frequent change of pageants also drew attention to the moving power which they were intended to veil.

Internal dissensions of their party,

The authority of the Seiads, thus shaken in the public opinion, was further impaired by their own disagreement, as well as by the discontent of some of their principal adherents, and soon began to show signs of weakness in the inefficiency of the internal government.


The governor of Allahabad (a Hindu) rebelled; and, although Hosen Ali went against him in person, he only gave up his province on condition that he should receive that of Oud in exchange: the tributary state of Bundi required a strong force to settle some disturbances that broke out there; while the Afghan chief of Kosur, in the south of the Panjab, revolted, defeated the royal troops, and was not subdued without an effort. A furious contest between Hindus and Mussulmans also took

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place in Cashmir, in which the efforts of the government to maintain tranquillity were unavailing, until some thousand persons had fallen on the two sides, and much loss of property had been sustained.

Proceedings of Asof Jah

The most alarming sign of the times was in the proceedings of Chin Kilich Khan. This chief (whom, anticipating the title, I shall henceforth call Asof Ali, and whose descendants are known to Europeans as Nizams of the Deckan) was of a respectable Turk family, and was the son of Ghazi u din, a favourite officer of Aurangzib, under which emperor he also distinguished himself. He showed spirit in maintaining his dignity during the depression of the nobility by the mistress of Jehandar Shah and her relations349; and subsequently rose to importance (as has been related) by his services as viceroy of the Deckan. He had quitted the party of Farokhsir because he found he was not to be prime minister; and yet on the Success-of his new allies, he was not even restored to his viceroyalty, but made governor of the single province. of Malwa.

The disturbed state of that country gave him a pretence for raising troops; and he became so formidable

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to the Seiads, that they made a feeble attempt to remove him, offering him the choice of four other governments. This only showed Asof Jah that the time for dissembling was passed; and as he saw the difficulty of establishing a permanent control at the capital, he determined to lay the foundations of his power on a firmer basis, and turned his first attention to the conquest of the Deckan. He had there many old connections both with the Mussulmans and the Marattas.

1720, April; AH 1132, Jamadi u Sani

He establishes his power in the Deckan Defeats the armies of the Seiads

Immediately on his revolt he marched to the Nerbadda. By intrigue and money he obtained possession of the fort of Asirghar, and procured the junction of several officers of the province. He was pursued from Hindostan by a force under Dilawer Khan (a Seiad of Bara), and another under Alam Ali Khan (the nephew of the usurping brothers) was awaiting him at Aurangabad. Taking advantage of the impetuous character of Dilawer, he drew him into an engagement before he could be supported by his colleague, and totally defeated him in a battle fought near Burhanpur; Dilawer Khan himself was among the slain.

1720, June

He then turned against Mani Ali, whose force, though weakened by the desertion of some chiefs gained by Asof Jah, was still very powerful.

1720; July

A battle took place at Ballapur in Berar, in which large bodies of Marattas were engaged on both sides, and which terminated in the defeat and death of Alam Ali.

Alarm at Delhi

These events threw the Seiads into consternation,

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and, though secretly agreeable to the emperor and many of the nobility, filled the minds of reflecting men with dismal forebodings of the ruin of the empire. This gloom was rendered deeper among a superstitious people by a violent earthquake which occurred about this time, and seemed to threaten the existence of the capital; and in these depressing circumstances the brothers betrayed those signs of irresolution which are often the forerunners of great calamities.

Prudent conduct of Mohammed Shah

Mohammed Shah (tutored by his mother) had carefully avoided any opposition to the Seiads, and patiently waited for some change or circumstances favourable to the assertion of his own authority.

His plans against the Seiads Mohammed Amin Khan

He now began, with the utmost secrecy, to deliberate what could be done to accelerate his deliverance. His counsellor in this dangerous undertaking was Mohammed Amin Khan, one of the noblemen who had deserted Farokhsir when he proved a traitor to his own cause, and who had since adhered to the Seiads, though full of envy and disgust at their power and arrogance. He was in the habit of conversing in Turki with Mohammed, and by means of that language, which was unknown to Indian Seiads, he was able to ascertain the sentiments of the emperor, although closely surrounded by the connections and creatures of the brothers.

Sadat Khan

Hints interchanged in this manner paved the way to more private communications, and a party was gradually formed, the second place in which was occupied by Sadat Khan, originally a

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merchant of Khorasan, who had risen to a military command, and was the progenitor of the present kings of Oud. These combinations, however secret; did not fail to excite obscure apprehensions in the minds of the Seiads, and occasioned much, perplexity about the manner of disposing of the emperor during the approaching contest with Asof Jah.

Hosen Ali marches against Asof Jah, accompanied by the emperor

It was at length decided that Hosen Ali should march to the Deckan, and should carry the emperor and some of the suspected nobles along with him, while Abdullah should remain at Delhi, and watch over the interests of his family at home.

After much hesitation the brothers quitted Agra, and each marched off towards his destined station. The separation was judged by the conspirators to afford an opportunity for executing their designs. It was determined to assassinate Hosen Ali, and Mir Heider, a savage Calmuc, who (though a man of some rank in his own country) was ready for the most desperate enterprise, was pitched on to strike the blow. He waited for his victim as he passed in, his palankin, and attracted his attention by holding up a petition.

Assassination of Hosen Ali

1720, October; AH 1132, Zi Haj 6

Hosen Ali made a sign to his attendants to allow him to approach, and was about to read the petition, when Mir Heider plunged his dagger into his body. The blow was fatal; Hosen Ali rolled out a corpse from the opposite side of the palankin, and Mir Heider was cut to pieces in an instant by the fury of the attendants. The death of this powerful minister threw the whole camp into commotion. A fierce

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conflict took place between his adherents, many of whom were Seiads like himself, and the partisans of the conspirators; who were joined by numbers whose only object was to protect the emperor. Mohammed was with some difficulty prevailed on to show himself at the head of his own friends, and his appearance materially contributed to decide the fate of the day.

The emperor assumes the government’

The party of the Seiads was driven from the field, and many of its members, with all the neutral part of the army, made their submission to the emperor.

Difficult situation of Abdullah Khan

The intelligence of this event reached Abdullah Khan before he entered Delhi. Painful as it was in itself, it was as alarming in its consequences. Abdullah had now to oppose his sovereign without either right or any popular pretext in his favour; and he was made aware of his situation by the immediate breaking out of disturbances in the country around him.

He sets up a new emperor

But his energy rose with his danger. He proclaimed one of the princes confined at Delhi king, conferred offices and dignities in his name, and applied himself with vigour to strengthening his cause by securing the services of troops and officers.

Assembles an army

Few men of rank adhered to him; but by means of high pay he drew together a large, though ill-disciplined, army. He marched in little more than a fortnight after his brother’s death, and was joined as he advanced by Choraman, the raja of the Jats, and by many of his brother’s soldiers who deserted after having submitted to the emperor.

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1720, November; A.O. 1133, Moharram. Is defeated and taken prisoner.

On the other hand, Mohammed was reinforced by the arrival of 4,000 horse, hastily sent forward by Raja Jei Sing, and of some chiefs of the Rohilla Afghans. The armies met between Agra and Delhi. Abdullah was defeated and taken prisoner; his life was spared, probably from respect for his sacred lineage. Mohammed Shah immediately proceeded to Delhi, which he entered in great pomp, and celebrated his emancipation by an extensive distribution of offices and rewards.

1720, November or December; AH 1133, Safar

Sudden death of Mohammed Amin, the new vizir

Mohammed Amin was made vizir; but he had scarcely entered on his office, when he was taken ill, and died in a few hours.

1721, January; AH 1133, Rabi at Awal

In most cases, the sudden death of a prime minister would have been attributed to poison; but in this instance there was a manner of accounting for it still more acceptable to the popular love of wonder. An impostor had made his appearance at Delhi some years before, who produced a new scripture, written in a language of his own invention, framed from those spoken in ancient Persia, and had founded a sect in which the teachers were called Bekuks and the disciples Ferabuds. He had become so considerable at the accession of Mohammed, that the new vizir sent a party of soldiers to apprehend him. Before he was taken into custody, the vizir was seized with a violent illness, and his family, in alarm, endeavoured by presents and entreaties to avert the anger of the holy man. The Bekuk boldly avowed the miracle, but said his shaft, once shot, could not be recalled.

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He was nevertheless left undisturbed, and lived for some years after.

The office of vizir was only filled by a temporary substitute, being ultimately designed for Asof Jah.

Rapid decline of the monarchy 1721, AH 1133

Meanwhile, every day brought some fresh proof of the decline of the monarchy. The government of Guzerat had been conferred on Raja Ajit Sing as a reward for his adherence to the Seiads; the addition of that of Ajmir had been secretly promised by Mohammed, as the price of his friendship or neutrality in the contest between himself and those brothers, and a grant for life of both governments had been delivered to him under the royal seal. In spite of these engagements, Ajit was now removed from Guzerat; and although his deputy, a Rajput, endeavoured to keep possession by force, he was driven out by the Mussulmans of the province, and compelled to take refuge with his master at Jodpur. Ajit Sing, on this, occupied Ajmir with a large army of Rajputs, took and plundered Narnol, and advanced his parties to Rewari, within fifty miles of Delhi. All attempts to check his progress had been rendered ineffectual by the dissensions of the generals ordered against him, and their reluctance to undertake the duty; and when, at last, the commander-in-chief moved out to protect the capital, he was glad to agree to the terms originally proposed by Ajit, that he should submit to the loss of Guzerat on condition of being confirmed in Ajmir350.

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Asof Jah vizir 1722, January; AH 1134, Rabi u Sani

Soon after this, Asof Jail arrived at Delhi, and took possession of the office of vizir. Though he. had for sometime been apprised of his appointment, he thought it of more importance to secure his independence in the Deckan than to seize on the authority held out to him at the capital. He had been engaged in many transactions with the Marattas, who were rapidly assuming the form of a regular government, and it was not till he had settled affairs in that quarter to his satisfaction that he repaired to Delhi. He found the court in a state of the utmost weakness and disorder.

Indolence of the emperor His favourites

The emperor was given up to pleasure; his favourite advisers were young men of the same pursuits, and his mistress had such an ascendancy over him, that she was allowed to keep his private signet, and to use it at her discretion.

His dislike to Asof Jah

This state of things gave great disgust to Asof Jah, brought up at the austere court of Aurangzib, and, in spite of his predilection for intrigue, both able and willing to conduct a vigorous administration: but he had neither the boldness nor the power to seize the government by force;. and he made no progress in gaining the confidence of the emperor, who felt himself constrained by his grave manners, and importuned by his attempts to draw attention to public business, and who had no greater pleasure than to see his antiquated dress and formal courtesy burlesqued by his own dissolute companions.

Asof Jah Sent against the refractory governor of Guzerat

After some months of mutual dissatisfaction, the emperor and his favourites thought they had devised

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a plan to free themselves from their troublesome counsellor. Heider Culi, the governor of Guzerat, though one of the principal actors in the revolution which restored the royal authority, was offensive to the cabal for his proud and inflexible disposition; and they hoped, by embroiling him with Asof Jab, that both might be rendered more dependent on the court. They accordingly directed Heider Culi to give up his government to Asof Jah; on which the former chief, as they expected, repaired to his station, and made ready to defend his position of it by force of arms.

Quells the insurrection, and retains the government of the province

But this deep laid scheme ended in sudden disappointment; for their subtle adversary so well employed his talents for intrigue and corruption, that his rival’s army deserted almost in a body, and he speedily returned to Delhi, strengthened by the addition of a rich province to his former exorbitant command.

Expedition against the Jats of Bhartpur

No event of importance succeeded to Asof Jah’s return, except the murder of the deputy governor of Agra by the Jats; on which Raja Jei Sing351, the old enemy of that people, was appointed governor of Agra for the purpose of revenging the outrage. Choraman, the aged raja of the Jats, happened to die during the expedition; and Jei Sing, by dexterously supporting his nephew against his son and successor, brought about a

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division among the Jats, and at last placed the nephew in possession on condition of his paying tribute to Delhi.

Disgust of Asof Jah

He resigns his office, and sets off for the Deckan

1723, October; AH 1136, Moharram

The mutual aversion of the emperor and his vizir were not diminished after the return of the minister; and it was probably, at the moment, a relief to Mohammed, when Asof Jah, after securing his safety, by removing, on some pretence, from the capital, sent in his resignation and marched off for the Deckan. But this measure amounted, in reality, to a declaration of independence, and was viewed in that light by the emperor himself, who, although he graciously accepted Asof Jah’s resignation, and conferred on him the highest titles that could be held by a subject, did not on that account remit his active hostility.

The emperor instigates Mobariz Khan, governor of Heiderabad to supplant him

He sent orders to Mobariz Khan, the local governor of Heiderabad, to endeavour to dispossess the viceroy and assume the government of the whole Deckan in his stead. Mobariz entered zealously on the task imposed on him; and by the sanction of the emperor’s name, joined to his own influence and the enmity of individuals to his rival, he succeeded in collecting a powerful army. Asof Jab, always more inclined to art than force, protracted his negotiations for several months, during which he endeavoured to sow sedition among Mobariz’s adherents.

Mobariz defeated and slain

As he made little progress in this mode of hostility, he at last came to open war, and soon gained a decided victory over Mobariz, who lost his life in the battle. As the emperor had not avowed the

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attack which he had instigated, Asof Jah, not to be outdone in dissimulation, sent the head of Mobariz to court with his own congratulations on the extinction of the rebellion.

1724, October; AH 1137, Moharram

He then fixed his residence at Heiderabad; and, though he continued to send honorary presents, on fixed occasions, to the emperor, he thenceforth conducted himself, in other respects, as an independent prince.

Asof Jah’s policy towards the Marattas

But, although he was beyond the reach of attack from his former sovereign, he was by no means equally secure from his neighbours the Marattas. Their power, being now concentrated and in able hands, was too great for any resistance that he could oppose to it, and all the refinements of his artful policy were for a time employed to divert it from himself and to turn it against his enemies at Delhi.

Consolidation of the Maratta government

The change in the state of the Maratta government had been gradually brought about during a considerable period, and requires to be taken up from the commencement. Though Sabo had been set up as raja by the Moguls, it suited the policy of Asof Jah, during his first government of the Deckan (1713 to 1716), to assist his rival, Samba, at that time the weaker of the competitors. Other circumstances tended, soon after, to depress the party of Saho, who would never have recovered his superiority, but for the abilities of his minister, Balaji Wiswanat.

Balaji Wiswanat, peshwa

This person (the founder of the Bramin dynasty of Peshwas) was the hereditary accountant of a

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village in the Concan. He afterwards entered into the service of a chief of the Jadu family, whence he was transferred to that of the raja. He distinguished himself by many services; the most important of which was his bringing over Angria (a powerful chief as well as famous pirate), in the Concan, from the side of Samba to that of Saho.

His merits were at length rewarded with the office of peshwa, at that time the second in the state; the pirti nidhi, or delegate of the raja, being the first.

It was through his means that the cession of territory and tribute was obtained from Hosen Ali Khan (1717), and he was joint commander of the Maratta force that accompanied that minister to Delhi. At that time Saho (without in other respects laying aside the titles or the independence assumed by his predecessors) was content, in his intercourse with the Mogul court, to acknowledge himself a vassal of the empire. It was professedly in this quality that his troops accompanied Hosen Ali; and the fall of that chief did not necessarily make any change in their relation to the government. Under this view Balaji remained at. Delhi after the death of Farokhsir and ultimately obtained a ratification of the treaty by Mohammed Shah (1720).

Establishes the government of Saho

This recognition of his authority, together with other advantages, had established the ascendancy of Saho over his rival; and Balaji, before his death,.

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(which happened in October, 1720,) had the satisfaction of seeing him placed above the assaults of enemies, either foreign or domestic.

His complicated revenue system

The cessions by the treaty having given legality to what before was mere robbery, enabled Balaji to introduce some degree of order into the Maratta mode of collection. It appears extraordinary, at first sight, that he did not prefer a solid territorial possession to assignments on other proprietors, such as the chout and sirdesmuki; or that he did not, at least, consolidate those dues, by throwing those on the same territory into one head, and uniting it with the land revenue where that also belonged to the Marattas.

His motives

But it was by no means his object to simplify the claims of his government. He knew, from the relative power of the parties, that the raja would be a gainer in all disputed points with the Moguls, and was more anxious to obtain a pretext for interference and encroachment over an extensive territory than clearly defined rights within a small one. In furtherance of this policy, he claimed, as chout, one fourth of the permanent revenue fixed by Todar Mal and Malik Amber, of which but a small portion was now realised from the exhausted country; and, although he did not enforce this principle to its full extent, it still served to keep his claim undefined. It was not in dealing with the Moguls alone that he profited by keeping up this system of confusion: by granting the chout and sirdesmuki to different persons, and even

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inventing new subdivisions, so as to admit of further partition, he parcelled out the revenues of every district among several Maratta chiefs; so that while each had an interest in increasing the contributions to the general stock, none had a compact property such as might render him independent of the government. The intricacy produced in the affairs of the Maratta chiefs, by these innumerable fractions of revenue, led to another effect that Balaji had quite as much at heart it threw them entirely into the hands of their Bramin agents, and strengthened the peshwa’s power by increasing that of his cast. But, though this system of subdivision was general, it was not universal; some chiefs had already landed possessions in the old territory; and similar grants, more or less extensive, continued to be made from special favour. Every chief required a village or two for his head quarters, and all were anxious to possess the government claims on those of which they were natives or hereditary officers.

Baji Rao peshwa

His enterprising policy

Balaji Wiswanath was succeeded by his son, Baji Rao, the ablest of all the Bramin dynasty, and of all the Maratta nation, except Sevaji. Baji Rao did not at once enjoy the whole authority that had been possessed by his father. He had a powerful rival in the pirti nidhi, and the interests of those politicians were not more opposed than their opinions. The pirti nidhi was sincerely apprehensive of the effects of a further diffusion of the Maratta power: and he strenuously contended

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for the necessity of consolidating the raja’s present possessions, suppressing civil discord, and acquiring a firm hold on the countries in the south of the peninsula, before attempting to make any conquests in Hindostan. Baji Rao took a wiser as well as bolder view. He saw that the hordes of predatory horse, who were so useful in an enemy’s country, would be utterly ungovernable at home; and that it was only by forming an army, and establishing a military command, that an efficient internal government could be brought into existence. He therefore counselled an immediate invasion of the northern provinces, and pointed out the inward weakness of the Mogul empire, which was nowhere so rotten as at the core: “Let us strike,” said he, “the withered trunk, and the branches will fall of themselves.” The eloquence and earnestness with which he pressed his advice overcame all the doubts of the raja; and when urged by Baji Rao to allow him to carry his standard beyond the Nerbadda, he exclaimed, with enthusiasm, “You shall plant it on Hemalaya352.”

The results of these debates gave Baji Rao a preponderance in the councils of the raja, and his ascendancy daily increased from the necessity for his assistance.

Character of Saho, of Baji Rao

Though Saho was not destitute of abilities, his education in a Mussulman seraglio was alike unfavourable to hardiness of body and activity of mind; while Baji Rao, born in a camp

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and trained up a statesman and diplomatist, combined the habits of a Maratta horseman with an enlarged judgment and extensive knowledge. Unlike his cold-blooded brethren of the priestly class, his temper was ardent and his manner frank; he never flinched from fatigue or danger, and could make a meal of dry grain rubbed out of the husks between his hands as he rode along on a march.

Baji Rao ravages Malwa

His designs on the northern provinces were aided by the Moguls themselves. Shortly before the battle with Mobariz, Asof Jah was removed from his governments of Malwa and Guzerat. Raja Girdhar was appointed to the former province, and found no difficulty in occupying it, while the troops were drawn off to the contest in the Deckan; but was unable to defend it from the incursions of Baji Rao; and in Guzerat, Hamid Khan, Asof’s uncle, not only offered a strenuous resistance himself, but directly called in the aid of the Marattas.

Obtains a cession by the governor of the chout of Guzerat

1725, AH 1138

Asof Jah foments the dissensions of the Marattas

In return, he gave up to them the chout and sirdesmuki of the country under him; and Sirbuland Khan, the lawful governor, though successful in expelling Hamid, was, after a long struggle, obliged to confirm the grant.

Notwithstanding the loss of these governments, Asof Jah’s power was now so well established in the Deckan, that he thought he might venture on an attempt to reduce that of his formidable neighbours. For this purpose, he again availed himself of their internal dissensions. He first applied himself to the pirti nidhi, and by his means had

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nearly concluded a treaty, by which the chout and sirdesmuki on the country round his new capital were to be commuted for a territorial cession and a fixed pecuniary payment; but Baji Rao, faithful to his system of indefinite claims, and no doubt offended by the interference of his old rival, gave his decided opposition to the execution of the agreement; and Asof gained nothing by the negotiation, except the advantage of exasperating the jealousies of the Maratta ministers.

His next attempt of the same nature was of more importance. Samba, the claimant to the Maratta throne, though eclipsed by the superior fortune of Salto, had fixed the seat of his government at Colapur, and retained the southern part of the dominions of his family, while he continued to assert his claim to the whole. Asof Jah, without formally espousing his cause, affected to be in doubt to whom he ought to pay the money due from his country to the Marattas, and called on the parties to exhibit the grounds of their respective claims.

He is attacked and compelled to make concessions 1727, AH 1140

This demand was highly resented by Saho, and his anger found a willing instrument in Baji Rao. At the end of the rainy season, the peshwa invaded Asof’s territories, and first threatened Burhanpur; but when Asof Jah (now openly joined by Samba) moved to the relief of that city, Baji Rao changed the direction of his march, made a rapid incursion into Guzerat, where the chout had not at that time been confirmed,

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and after ravaging the province with fire and sword, returned with equal celerity to the Deckan. He now laid waste the country round Asof’s army, and so straitened his supplies, by the usual Maratta means, that he was obliged to renounce his connection with Samba, and to concede some other advantages to the Maratta government.

1729, AH 1141–2

After this adjustment, Baji Rao crossed the Nerbadda to ravage Malwa, and to extort Sirbuland Khan’s confirmation of his predecessor’s grant of the chout of Guzerat.

Accommodation between Saho and his rival Samba

During his absence the pirti nidhi surprised and defeated Samba, and at last compelled him to sign a treaty acknowledging Saho’s right to the whole Maratta country except a tract round Colapur, bounded on the west by the sea. This portion he was himself to retain, with the title of raja, and the same dignity as that assumed by Saho.

1730, AH 1142

Though this success raised the reputation of the pirti nidhi, it did not enable him to enter the lists with the peshwa, and Asof was obliged to look out for some other instrument to disturb the Maratta government.

Renewed intrigues of Asof Jah

Dabari, a great Maratta chief in Guzerat

He found one in the head of the family of Dabari, the hereditary senapati or commander-in-chief. This leader had been the principal means of establishing the Maratta power in Guzerat, and saw with indignation the fruit of his labours carried off by another. His jealousy derived additional bitterness from the ascendancy acquired by the peshwa, who now conducted the government without

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the least control on the part of the raja.

Marches to depose the peshwa

Incited by these feelings, and the promise of powerful co-operation from Asof Jah, Dabari assembled an army of 35,000 men, and set out for the Deckan, with the professed object of delivering the raja from the thraldom of his minister.

Is anticipated by Baji Rao, defeated and killed

Baji Rao had not an equal force at his disposal; but what he had was composed of old troops, and he saw the advantage of promptitude in acting against a combination. Without allowing time for Asof Jah to declare himself, he crossed the Nerbadda, entered Guzerat, and encountered Dabari not far from Barodra.

1731, April; AH 1143, Shawal

The superiority of his veterans over Dabari’s less experienced troops decided the victory in his favour, and he used it with prudence and moderation.

Moderation of Baji Rao, in settling Guzerat

Dabari having fallen in the action, he conferred his office, in the raja’s name, on his son, and left him in possession of the Maratta rights of Guzerat on condition of his paying half the produce, through the peshwa, to the government. As the son was an infant, his mother was appointed his guardian, and Guzerat was to be administered in his behalf by Pilaji Geikwar, an adherent of his father’s, and ancestor of the Geikwar family that still rules in Guzerat.

Origin of the families of Puar, Holcar, and Sindia

Most of the other great Maratta families had also their origin a little before this time. When Baji Rao began his incursions into Malwa he gave commands to Udaji Puar, Malhar Rao Holcar, and Ranaji Sindia. The first of these was a chief before his connection with the peshwa: he soon

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acquired a territory about Dhar, on the borders of Guzerat and Malwa; but never rose to such power as his colleagues or their descendants. Holcar was a shepherd on the Nira, south of Puna; and Sindia, though of a respectable family near Sattara, was in such abject poverty as to be a menial servant of Baji Rao’s. These chiefs, and others of this period, were no longer adventurers warring at the head of their own retainers, but officers of the peshwa, commanding divisions of his troops, and acting under his commission.

Compromise between Baji Rao and Asof Jah

Baji Rao had now the means of punishing the machinations of Asof Jah; but both parties began to perceive the advantages of a mutual good understanding: Baji Rao saw how much his supremacy at home would be endangered, during remote expeditions, by the enmity of so powerful and so insidious a neighbour; and Asof, besides other grounds of apprehension, felt by no means secure that the emperor might not revenge his defiance of the royal authority by transferring the viceroyalty to the peshwa, in whose hands such a title would not be inoperative. Accordingly, not long after Baji Rao’s return, the two usurpers entered into a secret compact, by which it was settled that Asof should support the government of Baji Rao, while the other carried his arms into Malwa, and pushed his conquests over the emperor’s remaining dominions.

Raja Abhi Sing of Marwar, viceroy of Guzerat

Baji Rao had, at this period, strong motives of his own for extending his views in the country

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beyond the Nerbadda. Immediately after his departure from Guzerat, the court of Delhi refused to ratify the grant of chout, removed Sirbuland Khan from the government, and conferred it on Abhi Sing, raja of Jodpur.

The appointment of an independent prince to such a charge would have been objectionable at any time; and the profligate character of Abhi Sing, who had acquired his power by the murder of his father, Ajit353, did not promise much fidelity on his part; but he possessed resources not enjoyed by the Mogul government, and seemed able by his own means, both to expel Sirbuland, and to defend the province against the Marattas.


The first of these objects was attained in one campaign; the second was not so easy of accomplishment. Pilaji Geikwar, though driven out of Barodra, still continued so formidable that the unprincipled Abhi Sing saw no means of overcoming him except by procuring his assassination.

1732 Procures the assassination of Pilaji Geikwar

Retaliation of the Marattas

This crime only roused the indignation of the Marattas without weakening their power. The son and brother of Pilaji appeared in greater force than ever, and not only ravaged Guzerat themselves, but raised all the surrounding hill tribes of Bhils and Culis, and threw the whole province into revolt and confusion. While the Rabat prince was completely occupied by these disturbances, the Geikwars made a sudden irruption into his hereditary territory,

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and penetrated to the neighbourhood of Jodpur itself.

Abhi Sing retires to Marwar

This attack, and the threatening aspect of the Maratta force in Malwa, compelled Abhi Sing to withdraw to his own principality, and the deputy whom he left in Guzerat could make but a feeble stand against the Marattas.

The affairs of that nation were not less prosperous in Malwa. Girdhar Sing, the governor of that province, had fallen in a battle with Baji Rao’s officers (in 1729); and his nephew, Deia Ram, who succeeded him, and had opposed a gallant resistance till this time, was defeated by Chimnaji, the peshwa’s brother, and lost his life in the battle.


Successes of Baji Rao in Malwa

When Baji Rao entered Malwa in person (1732), the government was in the hands of Mohammed Khan Bangash, an Afghan chief, who was also governor of Allahabad. He was at that period employed against a raja in Bundelcand, which lay between his two provinces; and the raja, reduced to extremities, had recourse to the aid of the Marattas. Baji Rao immediately obeyed the summons, came suddenly on Mohammed Khan, and before long compelled him to take refuge in a fort. The government of Delhi was too weak to afford him any relief, and he must have surrendered at discretion, but for the exertions of his own family. His wife sent her veil (the strongest appeal to Afghan honour) to her countrymen in Rohilcand. His son put himself at the head of the volunteers thus assembled, and by these means he was delivered

Page 571

from his difficulties and escorted to Allahabad.

Obtains possessions in Bundelcand

But this rescue of his person did nothing for his province. The raja of Bundelcand ceded the territory of Jansi on the Jamna in return for the services of Baji Rao; and afterwards, at his death, left him rights in Bundelcand, which in time led to the occupation of the whole of that country by the Marattas.

Raja Jei Sing II, viceroy of Malwa

Mohammed Khan’s ill success procured his removal from Malwa, and the province was conferred on Raja Jei Sing of Amber.

This prince, whose love of science makes him one of the most remarkable persons of his nation, was by no means so distinguished for his firmness or decision.

1734, His tacit surrender of the province to the Marattas

His hereditary connection with the Marattas, although not sufficient to induce him to betray his trust, facilitated an accommodation after he found resistance desperate; and the result was, that, in the succeeding year, he surrendered his province to the peshwa, with the tacit concurrence of the emperor, on whose behalf the territory was still to be held.

But if the Moguls thought to obtain permanent forbearance from Baji Rao by concession, they knew little of him or his nation; for though he for a time turned his attention to the internal affairs of the Deckan, he continued to press the formal cession of the chout and sirdesmuki of Malwa and Guzerat, and directed the chiefs whom he had left behind him to carry their incursions up to Agra. The Moguls on their part made

Page 572

great demonstrations, and sent out unwieldy and feebly conducted armies, whose operations served only to expose them to the contempt of the enemy.

Baji Rao increases his demands 1736

After some lapse of time Baji Rao again took up the negotiation in person; and in proportion as the progress of it disclosed the weakness of his adversaries, he continued to rise in his demands, until at length he insisted on the grant of a jagir, comprising the province of Malwa and all the country south of the Chambal, together with the holy cities of Mattra, Allahabad, and Benares. The emperor, though all his attempts at open resistance proved futile, was not reduced quite so low as to submit to such terms. He endeavoured to pacify the Marattas by minor sacrifices, and those they accepted without receding from their great object.

Further cessions by the emperor

Among the concessions were a right to levy tribute on the Rajputs, and to increase that already due from the territories of Asof Jah.

Alarm of Asof Jah

These were, doubtless, given with a view to embroil the Marattas with the last named powers, and they did not quite fail of their purpose; for Asof Jab began to perceive that he was pushing his present policy too far, and that he had now as much to fear from the weakness of the emperor, as he formerly had front his enmity. At the same time he was assiduously courted by the cabinet of Delhi, who no longer looked on him as a rebellious subject, but as a natural ally, capable of rescuing them from the danger that hung over them.

He is reconciled to the emperor

The result of this state of circumstances was to

Page 573

determine Asof Jah to support the emperor; but while he was engaged in these deliberations, Baji Rao was advancing towards the capital. By the time he had himself arrived within forty miles of Agra his light troops were ravaging the country beyond the Jamna, under the command of Malhar Rao Holcar; and while so employed they were attacked and driven back on the main body by Sadat Khan, governor of Oud, who, with a spirit very unlike his contemporaries, issued from his own province to defend that adjoining. This check, which was magnified into a great victory, and accompanied by reports of the retreat to the Deckan of the whole Maratta army, only stimulated Baji Rao to wipe off the disgrace, and (as he said himself) to show the emperor that he was still in Hindostan. An army had been sent out to oppose him under the vizir, Kamr u din Khan.

Baji Rao appears before Delhi 1737, AH 1149

While it lay inactive near Mattra, Baji Rao suddenly quitted the Jamna, passed off about fourteen miles to the right of the Mogul army, and, advancing by prodigious marches, all at once presented himself before the gates of Delhi.

The consternation produced by his appearance may easily be imagined; but as his object was to intimidate, and not provoke the emperor, he forebore from further aggression, and endeavoured to prevent the destruction of the suburbs. He was unable entirely to restrain the devastation of his followers, and he made that a pretext for drawing

Page 574

off to some distance from the city.

He retreats

This retrograde movement induced the Moguls to attempt a sally, and they were driven back into the town with heavy loss. By this time, however, the vizir had been joined by Sadat Khan, and was on his march to relieve the capital; and Baji Rao deemed it prudent to commence his retreat, a step involving no dishonour, according to the Maratta rules of war. His intention, at the time, was to have crossed the Jamna lower down, and to have plundered the country between that river and the Ganges; but the approach of the rainy season, and the advance of Asof Jah, determined him to return at once to the Deckan, where his presence was also required for other objects.

1737, AH 1150 Arrival of Asof Jah at Delhi

After the peshwa’s retreat Asof Jab pursued his march to Delhi, and was invested with full powers to call out all the resources of the state; while the governments of Malwa and Guzerat were conferred on his eldest son, Ghazi u din. But to so low a point was the power of the empire reduced, that, with all the means at his disposal, he could only complete the army under his personal command to the number of 34,000 men.

Marches against Baji Rao

He was, however, furnished with a fine train of artillery, and supported by a reserve under the command of Safdar Jang, the nephew of Sadat Khan of Oud. With this force he advanced to Seronj, while Baji Rao crossed the Nerbadda at the head of an army said by. himself to be 80,000 strong, and probably superior in numbers to that

Page 575

of Asof Jah354. This disparity ought not to have deterred the Mogul general from an engagement; for the Marattas had never been formidable in pitched battles; and with them, more even than with other enemies, it was of importance to assume a superiority at the commencement of a campaign. Asof Jah, on the contrary, probably from reliance on his artillery, as well as the caution natural to his disposition and his advanced age, determined to await an attack in a favourable situation, close to the fort of Bopal.

1738, January, Is attacked by Baji Rao, near Bopal;

The strength of his position availed him nothing against such an enemy: the Marattas laid waste the country round him, intercepted his supplies, attacked every detachment that attempted to show itself beyond his lines, and completely broke off the communication between him and his reserve.

The effects of these operations so straitened Asof Jab, that at the end of a month or six weeks he was obliged to attempt a retreat towards the north. He had probably lost many of his cattle, and, although he left his baggage at Bopal, he had still a heavy train to drag along with him. His movements, in such circumstances, were slow, and were further impeded by the Marattas: though deterred by his artillery from attempting a general attack, they harassed him with rockets, and hung

Page 576

And constrained to make great cessions on the emperor’s part

1738, February; AH 1150, Raman

on his rear with their cavalry, until, after some marches at the rate of three or four miles a-day, he was obliged to submit to his fate, and enter into terms with the peshwa. By this convention, he engaged to cede all the country from the Nerbadda to the Chambal (including all Malwa), and to use his best endeavours to procure from the emperor a confirmation of the cession, and a payment of fifty lacs of rupees355.

Asof Jah was then permitted to pursue his retreat to Delhi, and Baji Rao took possession of his conquests: but before he could receive the promised confirmation from the emperor, the progress of the transaction was arrested by one of those tremendous visitations which, for a time, render men insensible to all other considerations.

Invasion of Nadir Shah

The empire was again reduced to the same state of decay which had on former occasions invited the invasions of Tamerlane and Baber; and a train of events in Persia led to a similar attack from that country.

Previous transactions in Persia

The family of Safavi, after having reigned for 200 years (about the usual duration of an Asiatic dynasty), fell into a state of corruption and decay, and was at last dethroned by the Afghans of Candahar.

Western Afghans

An account has already been given of the north-eastern portion of the Afghan nation356; but the western tribes, who were the actors in the revolution

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in Persia, differ from those described, in more points than one.

Their country is on the high table land357 which is supported on the east by the mountains of Soliman, and separated by them from the plain on the Indus. On the north, a similar bulwark is formed by the range anciently called Caucasus, which overlooks the low level of the Oxus and of the Caspian Sea358. The part of this table land westward of Herat belongs to the Persians; and that eastward of the same city, to the Afghans.

There are fertile plains in this tract, and on the most extensive of them are the cities of Cabul, Ghazni, Candahar, and Herat359; but the greater part consists of high downs, ill-suited to agriculture, and inhabited by pastoral tribes, who live in tents. They have the same government and the same character as the north-eastern Afghans, except that they are much less turbulent and contentious. In the pastoral tracts, the Afghans, are almost unmixed; but a great part of the population of the plains, including the cities, consists of Tajiks, who speak Persian, and are the same

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people that occupy similar situations in Persia and Transoxiana.

The plains alone formed the conquests of the Persian and Indian kings. The Afghan tribes remained independent; though those near the possessions of the two great monarchies must no doubt have been influenced by their power360.


Abdalis (or Duranis)

The greatest of the western tribes were the Ghiljeis, who inhabited the country round Candahar, and the Abdalis361, whose original seat was in the mountains of Ghor, but who chiefly resided at the time now spoken of in the country round Herat. These tribes were always rivals, and often at war with each other.

Revolt of the Ghiljeis

During the reign of Shah Hosen (the last of the Safavis), the Ghiljeis had given such offence to Persia as to provoke a formidable expedition against them. Gurgin Khan, the prince of Georgia (a convert from Christianity to the Mahometan religion), was sent to Candahar with an army of upwards of 20,000 men362, a force his opponents were unable to withstand. But so galling was the yoke of the Persians, that the Ghiljeis, ere long, resolved to run all risks to throw it off. They were headed by Mir Weis, their hereditary chief, a man of talents and enterprise, and well aware of the feeble condition

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of the Persian empire. Conducting his operations with equal caution and boldness, Mir Weis surprised Candahar, expelled the Persians from the surrounding country, and formed his acquisitions, with the original possessions of his tribe, into an independent state. This achievement took place in 1708, and was followed by repeated attempts of the Persians to recover Candahar, in which they were at one time assisted by the Abdalis. In 1716 that tribe joined the Ghiljeis against them, and took Herat, and overran the greater part of Persian Khorasan. The two tribes however, continued their mutual hostilities: the Persians profited by their disunion, and persevered in operations against both until 1720; when the chief of the Ghiljeis formed the bold resolution of carrying the war into Persia, and striking at once at the existence of the government which had oppressed him and his people.

Conquest of Persia by the Ghiljeis

Mir Weis had died in 1715, and was at first succeeded by his brother; but his son, whose name was Mahmud, before long seized on the government; and it was by him that the invasion of Persia was planned. The Persians had before this been defeated in a great battle with the Abdalis, who now threatened Meshhed, and whose progress was assisted by the incursions of the Uzbeks from the Oxus.

The north-western part of Persia, also, had been invaded by the Lezgis, from Mount Caucasus;

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and the misconduct of the government itself made it weaker than those foreign attacks.

Mahmud left Candahar with 25,000 men. He first marched to Kirman, and thence to Yezd, from which place he moved directly on Isfahan363.

He was opposed at Gulnabad, in the neighbourhood of that capital, by an army of very superior numbers, admirably equipped, and furnished with twenty-four pieces of cannon364. But the spirit of the Persians was declined and their councils divided: the Afghans obtained a complete victory, and soon after began operations against the town. Isfahan had at this time attained to its highest pitch of magnificence and population365. The last advantage became a calamity on the present occasion; for the Afghans, finding themselves unable

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to make an impression on the walls, had recourse to intercepting the supplies. It seemed a wild project to blockade so extensive a city with 20,000 men, to which amount. the Afghans were now reduced; yet so well did Mahmud supply the want of numbers by vigilance and activity, that the inhabitants before long began to suffer all the horrors of famine. The extent of this calamity, and the miseries endured by the besieged, are described by most writers as surpassing the greatest extremities ever known on such occasions366. This disproportioned contest continued for no less than six months; a proof of the prostration of the courage of the Persians as well as of their powers of endurance. At length, after all their sallies had been repulsed, and all the attempts of troops from the provinces to force in convoys had failed, the necessity of submission became apparent. The king went forth with all his principal courtiers in deep mourning, surrendered himself to Mahmud, and with his own hand placed the diadem on the head of the conqueror (October, 1722).

Their tyrannical government

Mahmud’s government was, at first, exercised with unexpected leniency; but his garrison in Cazvin having been surprised and massacred by the inhabitants of that city, he became alarmed for his own safety, put several of the Persian chiefs to

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death, and compelled all the armed part of the population to quit the city on pain of a similar fate. Though the cruelties of the Ghiljeis have been extravagantly exaggerated367, it is easy to imagine the insolence and barbarity of a tribe of shepherds suddenly raised to uncontrolled power over their former oppressors, and rendered deaf to compassion by a consciousness of numerical insignificance which could find no protection but from terror.

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Mahmud had not reigned two years when the agitation and anxiety he was exposed to, together with the effect of religious austerities and penances which he superstitiously imposed on himself, unsettled his reason. He became raving mad, and either died or was put to death; when he was succeeded by his nephew, Ashref (April, 1724).

Their wars with the Turks and Russians

The new king was a man of talents and vigour. Before he had completed the conquest of Persia, he was assailed at once by the Russians and Turks, who had entered into a confederacy for dismembering the kingdom. The western provinces were to belong to the Porte, and the northern, as far as the Araxes to Russia. Ashref turned his attention in the first instance to the Turks: he defeated them in repeated actions, and compelled them to acknowledge his title; but he was not able to expel them from the conquests they had made. The Russians, though led by the czar Peter in person, were less dangerous from the strong country through which they had to advance: they had, however, made their way to Resht, on the south of the Caspian Sea, when their career was interrupted, and afterwards abandoned, in consequence of the death of the czar.

Rise of Nadir Shah

But Ashref’s most formidable enemy was now rising nearer home. Tahmasp, the son of Hosen, had fled from Isfahan, and had remained under the protection of the tribe of Kajar, on the shore of the Caspian, with nothing of the royal dignity but the name. The first sign of a change of fortune

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was his being joined by Nadir Culi, the greatest warrior Persia has ever produced.

This chief, who had first collected troops as a freebooter, now appeared as the deliverer of his country. He raised the courage of the Persians by his example and his success, called forth their religious zeal, and revived their national pride, until, by degrees, he elevated them from the abject condition into which they had sunk, to as high a pitch of military glory as they had ever before enjoyed.

He drives out the Ghiljeis, and recovers Khorasan from the Abdalis

His first exploits were the capture of Meshhed and the recovery of Khorasan from the Abdali and Mohammed Khan of Sistan, who had seized on part of that province: he afterwards engaged the Ghiljeis under Ashref,. who advanced to the northern frontier to attack him, drove them, in a succession of battles, to the southern limit of the kingdom, and so effectually wore down their army that they at last dispersed, and gave up the possession of their conquest, which they had retained for seven years. Most of their number were killed in the war or perished in the desert on their return home. Ashref was murdered by a Beloch chief between Kirman and Candahar (January 1729).

Nadir next marched against the Turks, whose treaty with Ashref left them in possession of part of the Persian territories. He had already recovered Tabriz, when he received intelligence of a rising of the Abdalis, and was obliged to return to Khorasan.

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On his former successful expedition against that tribe, he had followed up his victory by measures of conciliation. By those means, and from their common enmity to the Ghiljeis, he gained a strong party among the Abdalis, and to its leader, he confided the charge of Herat.

Renewed invasion of the Abdalis

The other party had now gained the ascendancy, had overrun Khorasan, and laid siege to Meshhed, then held by Nadir’s brother, Ibrahim, whom they had just before defeated in the field. They had even formed a connection with the Ghiljeis: but the new allies had no sooner met, than their old enmities broke out, and they separated more estranged than ever.

Nadir takes Herat,

This war was more tedious than the former one, the siege of Herat alone occupying ten months; but the Abdalis were this time completely subdued.

and gains the attachment of the Abdalis

Nadir again took measures to attach them to him after his victory, and as he not long after embraced the Sunni religion, they became the most devoted of his followers.

The length of time occupied in these operations produced a crisis in the affairs of Persia. While the sole function of the government was the employment of the army, the king naturally remained a mere pageant in the hands of the general; but when restored to the capital, and acknowledged throughout the kingdom, he became a person of more importance; and, during the absence of Nadir, he took upon him the exercise of all the royal prerogatives.

He deposes Tahmasp Shah

Nadir was not at all disposed to acquiesce in

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such a transfer of authority, and, as soon as he had settled the affairs of Khorasan, he repaired to Isfahan, and, taking advantage of the odium created by an unfavourable treaty with the Turks, he deposed Tahmasp, and raised his infant son to the nominal sovereignty. This may almost be considered as the avowed commencement of his own reign; but it was not till he had gained many victories over the Turks, recovered the whole of the territory occupied by that nation and the Russians, and made peace with both powers, that he formally assumed the title of King of Persia. Before he was invested with that dignity, he repaired with his army to the plain of Moghan, to which place he summoned the civil and military officers, the governors of districts, the magistrates, and all the other men of distinction in the empire, to the number of 100,000 persons.

Is himself elected king

By the unanimous voice of this assembly he was offered the crown, which, after some affected reluctance, he accepted, on condition that the Shia religion should be abolished, and that of the Sunnis established throughout Persia (1736)368.

He suppresses the Shia religion

By this change of religion Nadir hoped to eradicate all attachment to the Safavis, whose claims were founded on their being the champions of the Shia sect; but as the Persians remained at heart as much devoted as ever to the national faith, the

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real effect of the measure was to produce an alienation between the new king and his subjects, and led to consequences equally calamitous to both.

Though little aware of this result at the time, Nadir felt that a throne established by a succession of victories must be maintained by similar achievements: he therefore determined to gratify the pride of his countrymen by retaliating on their former conquerors, the Ghiljeis, and restoring Candahar to the Persian monarchy.

Invades the Ghiljeis

He made great preparations for this expedition, and set out on it at the head of an army estimated, by some authorities, at 80,000 men369. He had, on this occasion, the hearty co-operation of the Abdalis, while the Ghiljeis were dispirited and disunited.

Takes Candahar

But they had not so far lost their martial character as to yield without a struggle; and it was not till after a close blockade of nearly a twelvemonth that Nadir ventured on an assault of Candahar: even then he was more than once repulsed before the city fell into his hands (March, 1738). While the siege was pending, he settled the greater part of the surrounding country; and, at the same time, his son, Reza Cull Mirza, who had marched from Meshhed against the Uzbeks, not only conquered the province of Balkh, but

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gained a victory on the Oxus, over the king of Bokhara, in person.

His conciliatory policy

Nadir’s conduct towards the Ghiljeis was moderate and politic: he took no vindictive measures in retaliation for the invasion of Persia; he treated the Ghiljeis like his other subjects, and enrolled many of them in his army; but he removed a portion of the tribe from their lands round Candahar, which he made over to the Abdalis, and particularly to that part of them who had been settled about Nishapur, in the west of Khorasan370.

His difference with the government of India

The acquisition of the Ghiljei territory brought Nadir to the frontier of the Mogul empire. The extreme weakness of that monarchy could not escape his observation; and the prospect of repairing the exhausted resources of Persia from so rich

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a mine was scarcely a greater temptation than the means of employing the warlike tribes now subject to his authority, and combining their rival energies in an undertaking so acceptable to them all.

While engaged in the siege of Candahar, he had applied to the court of Delhi for the seizure or expulsion of some Afghans who had fled into the country near Ghazni. The Indian government was probably unable to comply with this demand, and they seem also to have had some hesitation in acknowledging Nadir Shah’s title: for these reasons they allowed a long period to elapse without returning an answer. Nadir Shah remonstrated in. strong terms against this neglect of his application, and without further delay advanced on Ghazni and Cabul.

1738, May AH 1151, Safar

Another messenger, whom he now dispatched to Delhi, having been cut off by the Afghans in the mountains, Nadir thought himself fully justified in an invasion of India. Cabul had fallen into his hands with little difficulty; but he remained in that neighbourhood for some months for the purpose of settling the country, and did not commence his march to the eastward till near the approach of winter.

1733, October; AH 1151, Shaban

Supineness of the court of Delhi

The court of Delhi had been too much absorbed in the dread of the Marattas and its own internal factions to pay much attention to the proceedings of Nadir. As long as he was engaged in a contest within the old territory of Persia, they looked on with total indifference; and even when he had invaded their own territory and taken Cabul, they still expected that

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the mountain tribes between that city and Peshawar would check his further advance. But the money, which, in regular times, was paid for the purpose of keeping up an influence with those tribes, had for some years been withheld; and they had no inclination, if they had possessed the power, of interfering in favour of the Moguls.

Nadir invades India

1738, November; AH 1151, Ramzan

It was therefore with dismay proportioned to their former supineness that the Moguls learned that Nadir had passed the mountains, had defeated a small force under one of their governors, had thrown a bridge of boats over the Indus, and was advancing into the Panjab.

Notwithstanding a faint show of opposition attempted by the governor of Lahor, Nadir met with no real obstruction till he approached the Jamna, within one hundred miles of Delhi, when he found himself in the neighbourhood of the Indian army.

Defeats Mohammed Shah

Mohammed Shah had at length exerted himself to collect his force: he had been joined by Asof Jah, and had moved to Carnal, where he occupied a fortified camp. Sadat Khan, the viceroy of Oud arrived in the neighbourhood of this camp about the same time with Nadir Shah; and an attempt to intercept him by the Persians brought on a partial action, which ended in a general engagement. The Indians would in no circumstances have been a match for the hardy and experienced soldiers opposed to them; and they were now brought up in confusion and without concert, Asof

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Jah having, from some real or pretended misconception, taken no part in the action371.

1739, February 13; AH 1151, Zi Cada 15

The result was the rout of the Indian army; Khani Douran, the commander-in-chief, was killed, and Sadat Khan taken prisoner; and Mohammed had no resource but to send Asof Jah to offer his submission, and repair, himself, with a few attendants, to the Persian camp. Nadir Shah received him with great courtesy, and allowed him to return on the same day to his own encampment. He did not on that account desist from pressing his advantages; for he soon after obliged Mohammed to join his army, and in this manner the two kings marched on towards Delhi. Different accounts are given of the negotiations carried on during the interval, which were embarrassed by the rivalry of Asof Jah and Sadat Khan; but such intrigues could have no result of consequence, for Nadir had the power completely in his own hands, and required no prompter to tell him how to exercise it.

Advances to Delhi

1739, March; AH 1151, Zi Haj

The army reached Delhi in the beginning of March, when both kings took up their residence in the royal palace. Nadir distributed a portion of his troops throughout the town; he ordered strict discipline to be observed, and placed safeguards in

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different places for the protection of the inhabitants.

Insurrection of the inhabitants

These precautions did not succeed in conciliating the Indians, who looked on the ferocity of these strangers with terror, and on their intrusion with disgust372. On the second day after the occupation of the city a report was spread that Nadir Shah was dead, on which the hatred of the Indians broke forth without restraint. They fell on all the Persians within their reach; and from the manner in which those troops were scattered throughout the city, a considerable number fell sacrifices to the popular fury. The Indian nobles made no effort to protect the Persians; some even gave those up to be murdered who had been furnished for the protection of their palaces373.

Nadir Shah at first applied his whole attention to suppressing the tumult, and, though provoked to find that it continued during the whole night, and seemed rather to increase than diminish, he mounted his horse at day-break, in the hope that his presence would restore quiet. The first objects that met his eyes in the streets were the dead bodies of his countrymen; and he was soon assailed with stones, arrows, and firearms, from the houses.

General massacre by the Persians

At last one of his chiefs was killed at his side, by a shot

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aimed at himself; when he gave way to his passion, and ordered a general massacre of the Indians374. The slaughter raged from sunrise till the day was far advanced, and was attended with all the horrors that could be inspired by rapine, lust, and thirst of vengeance. The city was set on fire in several places, and was soon involved in one scene of destruction, blood, and terror.

At length Nadir, satiated with carnage, allowed himself to be prevailed on by the intercession of the emperor or his prime minister, and gave an order to stop the massacre; and, to the infinite credit of his discipline, it was immediately obeyed375.

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Nadir’s extortions

But the sufferings of the people of Delhi did not cease with this tragedy. Nadir’s sole object in invading India was to enrich himself by its plunder, and he began to discuss the contributions from the moment of his victory. His first adviser was Sadat Khan: that nobleman died soon after reaching Delhi, when the work of exaction was committed to Sirbuland Khan and a Persian named Tahmasp Khan; and their proceedings, which were sufficiently rigorous of themselves, were urged on by the violence and impatience of Nadir.

His rapacity and violence

They first took possession of the imperial treasures and jewels, including the celebrated peacock throne. They afterwards seized on the whole effects of some great nobles, and compelled the rest to sacrifice the largest part of their property as a ransom for the remainder. They then fell on the inferior officers and on the common inhabitants: guards were stationed to prevent people leaving the city, and every man was constrained to disclose the amount of his fortune, and to pay accordingly. Every species of cruelty was employed to extort these contributions. Even men of consequence were beaten to draw forth confessions. Great numbers of the inhabitants died of the usage they received, and many destroyed themselves to avoid

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the disgrace and torture. “Sleep and rest forsook the city. In every chamber and house was heard the cry of affliction. It was, before, a general massacre; but, now, the murder of individuals376.”

He prepares to return

Contributions were also levied on the governors of provinces; until Nadir was at length convinced that he had exhausted all the sources from which wealth was to be obtained, and prepared himself to return to his own dominions.

The country west of the Indus ceded to him

Mohammed Shah restored

He made a treaty with Mohammed Shah, by which all the country west of the Indus was ceded to him. He married his son to a princess of the house of Teimur, and at last he seated Mohammed on the throne, invested him, with his own hand, with the ornaments of the diadem, and enjoined all the Indian nobles to obey him implicitly, on pain of his future indignation and vengeance.

Amount of the treasures carried off by Nadir Shah

At length he marched from Delhi, after a residence of fifty-eight days, carrying with him a treasure in money, amounting, by the lowest computation, to eight or nine millions sterling, besides several millions in gold and silver plate, valuable furniture, and rich stuffs of every description; and this does not include the jewels, which were inestimable. He also carried off many elephants, horses, and camels, and led away the most skilful

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workmen and artisans, to the number of some hundreds377.


349. Being rudely stopped in a narrow street, to make way for a woman who had unbounded influence with the mistress, and through her with the emperor, he ordered his attendants to repel force with force, dispersed the favourite’s retinue, and compelled her to quit her elephant, and escape on foot to the palace.

350. Seir Mutakherin. Tod’s Rajasthan.

351. Khafi Khan. Scott’s Deckan, vol. H. p. 187. Briggs and Grant Duff make it Ajit Sing, as does the old translation of the “Seir Mutakherin;” but probably all on one authority.

352. Grant Duff, and Maratta MSS. quoted by that author, vol. i. p. 482–486.

353. Tod’s Rajasthan, vol. ii. p. 91.

354. According to the present way of speaking among the Marattas, “lak fouj,” which ought to mean 100,000 horse, will seldom be found to imply more than 10,000 or 15,000 fighting men.

355. 500,000l.

356. Page 250.

357. The city of Cabul is 6000 feet above the sea. (Burnes’s Travels, vol. i. p. 151.)

358. See an essay by Mr. J. Baillie Fraser, in Transactions of the Royal Geographical Society.

359. Herat is just beyond the ridge which divides the waters that run to the south from those that flow northward to the Oxus; but it is on the same level with the rest of the table land, and may be regarded as forming a part of it.

360. The Abdalis agreed about the beginning of the seventeenth century to pay tribute to Persia on condition of protection against the Uzbeks.

361. Now called Duranis.

362. Malcolm’s Persia, vol. i. p. 601.

363. He had before been, for a time, in possession of Kirman, while in a temporary alliance with Persia against the Abdalis. (Jones’s Histoire de Nadir Shah, introduction, sect. 6.)

364. “The Persian soldiers looked fresh and showy, and all their equipments, from their tents in which they reposed, and the dresses they wore, to the gold and enamelled furniture of the sleek horses on which they rode, were rich and splendid. The Afghans had hardly a tent to cover them, their horses were lean from fatigue, the men were clothed in tatters, and tanned by the rays of the sun; and, throughout their whole camp, it was emphatically observed, nothing glittered ‘but their swords and lances.’” (Malcolm’s Persia, vol. i. p. 623.)

365. Hanway, following Chardin, states the inhabitants at 600,000 souls (vol. ii. p. 164.); and although the comparisons drawn by travellers between this city and those of India render so great a population incredible, yet it cannot be unreasonable to admit one third of it, or 200,000 souls.

366. The poet Mohammed All Hazin, however (who was in Isfahan during the siege), contradicts these statements, and doubts if any man actually died of hunger. (Belfour’s Memoirs of Hazin, p. 122.)

367. An example may be found in the different accounts of the transaction just mentioned. Hanway, who is by no means given to exaggeration, but who sometimes drew his information from popular rumour or from worse authority, asserts that Mahmud extirpated the whole of the nobility, and hunted down their children, turning them out, one by one, like beasts of chase; and that he afterwards ordered the slaughter of every man, civil or military, who had received pay (in however humble a capacity) from the former government, commencing the massacre by the execution of 3000 of the late king’s guards. On the other hand, the author of the “Nadirnameh,” whose statement may almost be considered as official, and who certainly had no wish to extenuate the atrocities of Mahmud, relates that “he formed a design to massacre the Persians; and, on the same day on which the Afghans arrived from Cazvin, he caused one hundred and fourteen persons to be put to death, confounding the good with the bad, and the small with the great.” (From Sir W. Jones’s French translation, vol. v. of his Works, p. 12.) The same author relates that soon afterwards his evil genius led him to massacre all the princes of the blood, and that he put them to death, to the number of thirty-nine. These statements are not very consistent with the idea of a massacre by thousands; and it may be observed, that, during all this time, Shah Hosen was left alive, and so far from being cruelly treated, he complained of his condition because he was confined to a small palace, and only attended by five male and five female servants. (Malcolm’s History of Persia, vol. i. p. 644.)

368. Nadirnameh. Jones’s Works, vol. v. p. 237. Hanway represents Nadir as only stipulating for a toleration of the Sunni religion, and subsequently abolishing that of the Shias.

369. Malcolm’s History of Persia, vol. ii. p. 68. Hanway (vol. ii. p. 355.) says that this army of 80,000 men was closely followed by another of 80,000; but these great numbers do not seem probable to the west of the Indus, where the vast armies, common in India, are very seldom seen.

370. Jones’s Nadirnameh, Works, vol. v. p. 275. The account of the Ghiljei conquest is almost entirely drawn from Hanway and the “Nadirnameh:” that of Nadir Shah’s proceedings chiefly from the latter work. Hanway is himself a man of judgment and veracity, but his facts seem sometimes to rest on the authority of the “Dernière Revolution de la Perse,” a sort of version, we are told, of the notes of Father Krusinski, a Polish Jesuit, which, though founded on good information, is too fanciful and highly coloured to be at all depended upon. It bears a considerable resemblance, in these respects, to Catrou, formerly mentioned (in the reign of Shah Jehan). Krusinski’s own work has since been published in Germany, but I have never seen it. The “Nadirnameh” is a Persian history, by Mirza Mehdi, who is stated by Sir J. Malcolm to have been confidential secretary of Nadir Shah. Though a minister and a panegyrist, he is a much more faithful historian than Abul Fazl, and his style, in Sir W. Jones’s French translation at least, is much clearer and more compact.

371. The journal translated by Fraser (Life of Nadir, p. 151.) makes Nadir’s whole army, with the followers, who were all armed, amount to 160,000; but an enumeration, by a news-writer in his camp, states his whole force, when at Peshawer, at 64,500 fighting men, and 4000 followers. (Ibid. pp. 140, 141.)

372. Fraser.

373. Hazin states the number cut off at 700 (p. 281. of Mr. Belfour’s edition of the original; in the translation, p. 299., it is 7000, but doubtless from an error of the press). Scott (vol. ii. p. 207.) makes it 1000.

374. Fraser, p. 183.

375. The authentic accounts differ about the suspension of the massacre. It is said that Nadir, during the whole period, sat in gloomy silence in the little mosque of Rokn u doula, in the Great Bazar; where Mohammed Shah and his nobles at length took courage to present themselves. They stood before him with downcast eyes, until Nadir commanded them to speak; when Mohammed burst into tears, and entreated Nadir to spare his subjects. I wish there was better authority than Dow for this not improbable anecdote. The best accounts of the massacre are that of Hazin, who was an eye-witness, and whose narrative is copied, almost verbatim, by the author of the “Seir Mutakherin;” aid the journal of a native Indian, who was secretary to Sirbuland, given by Fraser, in his “History of Nadir Shah.” The succeeding transactions (in some of which the writer must have been an actor) are minutely recorded in the same journal. Hazin informs us the massacre lasted for half the day, and that the numbers slain were beyond calculation. Fraser makes the amount from 120,000 to 150,000; but the author of the “Nadirnameh” seems nearest the truth, and probably below it, in stating that the slaughter continued for almost the whole day, and that about 30,000 persons were put to the sword during the course of it. Scott (vol. ii. p. 207.) restricts the number to 8000, but he does not give his authority; and it is incredible that so small a result should be produced by many hours of unresisted butchery by a detachment of 20,000 men, which was the body employed on it.

376. The words between inverted commas are drawn from Scott (vol. ii. p. 210.); but the substance is the same in all the narratives.

377. The various sums of money enumerated by Scott amount to between 8,000,000l. and 9,000,000l. The “Nadirnameh” says fifteen crores of rupees; Fraser, thirty crores of rupees; and Hanway, thirty crores, which he estimates at 37,500,000l.; and all these sums are the money alone. The imperial treasures must have been greatly encroached on since the reign of Shah Jehan: the peacock throne, which Tavernier estimated at 6,000,000l., is only valued, in the “Nadirnameh,” at 2,000,000l., and in Scott, only at 1,000,000. Many stories which were current at the time, about the causes of this invasion, are preserved in Dow’s “Hindostan.” According to those narratives, Nadir was invited to India by Asof Jah and Sadat Khan, and the loss of the battle of Carnal was concerted between those chiefs. Nadir Shah rewarded their treachery by spitting on their beards, and ordering them to be driven from his court. The two nobles, thus disgraced, agreed to end their shame by a voluntary death; but, as they were rivals, and each suspected the sincerity of the other, they sent spies to discover whether the resolution was carried into effect. Asof Jah, the more crafty of the two, took an innocent draught, and soon after pretended to fall down dead; on which Sadat, deceived by the artifice, swallowed real poison, and forthwith expired. These fictions, like many others which are believed in times of agitation, disappear when full light is thrown on the period.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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