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Chapter 3 – To the Death of Mohammed Shah

Deplorable condition of the capital

For some time after Nadir Shah’s departure, the inhabitants of Delhi remained in a sort of stupor. They had not yet recovered the terror of the past, and the destruction of their fortunes: many of their of the houses were in ruins; much of the city was entirely deserted, and the whole infected by the stench of the bodies which still lay unburied in the streets. It was not till long after Nadir was gone, that the court awoke as if from a lethargy378.

and of the empire

The view of the empire which presented itself was as full of ruin and desolation as the capital. The army was destroyed, the treasury emptied, the finances all but annihilated; the Marattas still threatened on the south, and the only provinces which had not been laid waste by their ravages had now been destroyed by Nadir’s army.

Internal dissensions

To these unavoidable evils the court added internal dissension. The prevailing faction was formed of a few great families who, from their Turk descent, were called the Turani nobles: the heads were the vizir Kamr u din Khan and Asof Jah; and they were connected by intermarriages as well as by party. To them were opposed all those desirous

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of supplanting them, or jealous of their ascendency; among which number the emperor himself was thought to be included.

Proceedings of the Marattas

This divided government would have fallen an easy prey to the Marattas, had not circumstances procured it a respite from the encroachments of those invaders. If the power of Nadir Shah had been underrated by the Moguls, it was probably quite unknown to Baji Rao: and he seems to have been struck with amazement at the appearance of this terrible antagonist, in a field which he expected to have traversed unopposed. His first thought was to suspend all his plans of aggrandizement, and form a general league for the defence of India. “Our domestic quarrels (he writes) are now insignificant: there is but one enemy in Hindostan.” ... “Hindus and Mussulmans, the whole power of the Deckan, must assemble379.”

Baji Rao resumes offensive operations

When he was relieved from the fear of Nadir Shah, he returned to his old designs. He had a ground of quarrel with the Moguls, as the agreement made by Asof Jah had not been formally ratified by the emperor, and the obvious course for him was to have enforced his claim at Delhi: but he was led to choose the Deckan for the theatre of the war, that he might be at hand to watch the proceedings of the Bosla of Berar and the Geikwar of Guzerat, who were plotting to overthrow his power under pretence of emancipating the raja.

Attacks Asof Jah’s possessions

He disposed of the Bosla

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by engaging him in a remote expedition into the Carnatic, and then attacked Nasir Jang, the second son of Asof Jah, who had been left in charge of his father’s government, and was encamped with 10,000 men at Burhanpur.

1740, AH 1153

Is repulsed by Asof’s son, Nasir Jang

Baji Rao at first surrounded him, and probably expected the same success as he had lately met with against Asof Jah himself; but the young viceroy showed a vigour unusual to the Moguls of that day; and, being joined by a reinforcement, he attacked the Marattas, broke through their army, and had advanced to Ahmednagar on his way to Puna, when Baji Rao thought it prudent to come to an accommodation with him.

Perplexed affairs of Baji Rao

His death 1740, April 28; AH 1153, Safar

The peshwa seems now to have been reduced to perplexity by the variety of embarrassments which he had brought on himself380: and was returning to Hindostan (for what purpose is not known), when his plans were arrested by his death, which took place on the Nerbadda.

His sons

He left three sons: Balaji Rao, who succeeded him as peshwa; Ragonat Rao, or Ragoba, who was at one time much connected with the English, and was the father of the last peshwa; and Shamshir Bahadur, to whom (though an illegitimate son by a Mahometan woman, and brought up in his

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mother’s religion) he left all his possessions and pretensions in Bundelcand.

Wars in the Concan before Baji Rao’s death

During the last years of Baji Rao’s administration he had been engaged in wars in the Concan. They were chiefly conducted by his brother, Chimnaji; and, from the position of his enemies in forts and islands, protected on one side by the sea, and on the other by hills and jungles, required extraordinary exertions, and were attended with imperfect success.

With Angria

These enemies were Angria of Colaba, the Abyssinians of Jinjera, and the Portuguese. Angria, after his acknowledgment of Sabo Raja, remained in nominal dependence on the Maratta state, but employed his own resources with little or no control. His piracies (which he called “levying chout on the sea”) rendered him formidable to all his neighbours. The English made repeated attacks on him with considerable naval forces; and, on one occasion, with the co-operation of the Portuguese (1719); yet failed in all their attempts. The Dutch also sent a strong force against him at a later period (1724) with equal ill success. The peshwa interposed in a dispute between two brothers of the family, and received from one of the competitors two forts which they possessed in the Ghats (about 1731). The contest, however, continued; and the peshwa, though latterly assisted by an English fleet, was unable to bring it to a conclusion till the time of Baji Rao’s death381.

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With the Abyssinians of Jinjera

The war with the Abyssinians was still less successful. Those Mussulmans were as powerful at sea as Angria. They were, besides, in the practice of ravaging the Maratta territories on the main land, and had even seized on some of their forts. The utmost result of the peshwa’s efforts was to procure forbearance from those aggressions (1736)382.

With the Portuguese

The war with the Portuguese originated in the contest between the Angrias (1737). It ended in the loss of the Portuguese possessions in Salsette, Bassein, and the neighbouring parts of the Concan (1739). The difficulties encountered by the Marattas in this conquest may be estimated from their loss at the siege of Bassein, which they themselves admit to have amounted to 5000 killed and wounded. t

Balaji Rao

The storms which were gathering round Baji Rao at his death might have been expected to overwhelm his successor; but Balaji, however inferior to his father in other respects, was at least his equal in address; and the skill with which he availed himself of some favourable circumstances effected his deliverance from the difficulties with which he was surrounded.

Domestic enemies of Baji Rao

The dangers felt by Baji. Rao, besides his ill success against Nasir Jang, were caused by his financial embarrassments and his domestic enemies. The chief of his enemies were, the pirti nidhi, Raguji

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Bosla, and Damaji Geikwar.

The pirti nidhi Raguji Bosla

The first was the old rival of his family*; and, though much depressed, was still formidable. Parsoji, the founder of the Boslas, afterwards rajas of Berar, was a private horseman from the neighbourhood of Sattara though he bore the same name with the house of Sevaji, there is no proof that he was of the same descent. He, however, rose to distinction; and, being one of the first to join Raja Saho when he returned from Delhi, was further advanced by that prince, and invested with a right to collect all the Maratta dues in Berar and the forest country farther to the east. Raguji, his cousin, who was a favourite of Saho, and married to his sister-in-law, was raised to his station on his death, in preference to his son, who ought to have succeeded him. Raguji bad given offence to the peshwa by levying contributions to the north of the Nerbadda, in the tract which had been appropriated to the latter chief: he was likewise an object of jealousy, from the apprehension that he might prevail on Solo to keep up the name of Bosla by adopting him.

Damaji Geikwar

The Geikwar had been the guardian, and was now the representative, of Dabari, the chief of Guzerat, another of the peshwa’s rivals, whose own ignorance and debauchery incapacitated him for business383.

The last of Baji Rao’s difficulties arose from the enormous debts incurred in his military expeditions, which, from the exhausted state of the country,

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and some changes in the mode of war, no longer paid their own expenses.

His principal creditor, Baramatiker, was himself a man of some consequence, and of immense wealth: his unsatisfied demand had led to quarrels with Baji Rao, and Raguji secured his co-operation by promising to support his claims, and even to procure for him an indemnity, in the succession to the high office lately held by his debtor.

Their intrigues to prevent Balaji succeeding to the office of peshwa

Raguji, as has been mentioned, was on an expedition to the Carnatic, and was besieging Trichinopoly, when he heard of the peshwa’s death; and, although he instantly hastened to Sattara to oppose Balaji’s succession, he was obliged to leave the greater part of his army behind him: his views, also, were as inconsistent with those of the pirti nidhi as with the peshwa’s; and he had, therefore, no concert with that minister. Damaji Geikwar was not ready to take the field; and Nasir Jang, who soon after rebelled against his father, was too much occupied to profit by the Maratta dissensions. On the other hand, Balaji was already near the capital: he had been joined by a portion of his father’s troops under his uncle, Chimnaji, and the rest were disposable and at hand: the raja was surrounded by his creatures; and, above all, he was the head of the Bramin party; and as all the business, even of his enemies, was in the hands of that class, he had a prodigious advantage in every contest.

1740, August

He was accordingly appointed peshwa in spite of all opposition, and Raguji returned to his

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Success of Balaji

army at Trichinopoly, whither Baramatiker, in this change of circumstances, was glad to accompany him. Balaji, however, did not fail to apply himself to the liquidation of his debts; a task for which he was much better fitted than his father.

Balaji marches into Malwa

After more than a year spent on internal arrangements, Balaji turned his attention to his claims on Hindostan which had been encroached on by Raguji Bosla. For this purpose he procured from the raja a distinct assignment of all the Maratta rights and all tribute that might be collected to the north of the Nerbadda, excepting in the province of Guzerat. To give reality to this grant, Balaji marched towards the point from which he could most easily check the interference of Raguji: he crossed the Nerbadda, took Garra and Mandala, and was about to move on Allahabad, when he was recalled by an invasion of Malwa by Damaji Geikwar from Guzerat.

Revives his father’s demands on the court of Delhi

Damaji, who, perhaps, had no object but to make a diversion in favour of Raguji, retired on his approach; and Balaji took advantage of his position in Malwa to press the court of Delhi for a confirmation of the grant of that province extorted by Baji Rao from Asof Jab, which had remained in suspense during the Persian invasion. His views on this subject were facilitated by those very encroachments of Raguji which it had been so much his desire to check.

Invasion of Bengal by Raguji Bosla

This chief had, on his return from the Carnatic, sent a force into Bengal, under his Bramin minister, Busker Pandit, which had ravaged the province,

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threatening the viceroy himself when his troops were dispersed, and retiring into the southern and western hills when he was in force. Ali Verdi Khan384, then viceroy, maintained a good resistance to Basker Pandit; but he was alarmed at the advance of Raguji in person, and besought the emperor to afford him immediate assistance, if he did not wish to lose the province.

The emperor purchases the aid of Balaji by the formal cession of Malwa

The emperor conscious of his own weakness, ordered Safder Jang (who had succeeded his father, Sadat Khan, as viceroy of Oud) to undertake the task; at the same time, he took the more effectual measure of calling in the aid of Balaji Rao, and purchased it by a confirmation of the grant of Malwa385. Nothing could be more agreeable to Balaji Rao than this invitation. He immediately marched by Allahabad and Behar, and reached Murshidabad, the capital of the province, in time to protect it from Raguji, who was approaching from the south-west. He here received from Ali Verdi the payment of an assignment granted to him by the court of Delhi on the arrears of the revenue of Bengal; and being now zealous in the cause which he was so well paid

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for espousing, he marched against the invader.

Balaji defeats and drives out Raguji

1745, AH 1156

Raguji retired before him, but was overtaken, and suffered a rout, and the loss of his baggage, before he was completely driven out of the province. After this success Balaji returned to Malwa, whence, after some time, he set out for Sattara.

Fresh combinations against the peshwa

His presence was at no time more required; for Raguji, on his return from Bengal, determined to profit by Balaji’s absence, and was on full march for the capital. Damaji Geikwar was also approaching from Guzerat, and the agent of the pirti nidhi (who was himself disabled by sickness) was in active preparation to assist him. Balaji must have formed a high estimate of the power of this combination, since he thought the dissolution of it worth the sacrifice of those exclusive rights beyond the Nerbadda for which he had so successfully contended.

He buys over Raguji by liberal cessions

1744, AH 1157

He conceded to Raguji the right of levying tribute in all Bengal and Behar, if not also in Allahabad and Oud. By this adjustment the other confederates were left without support; but it suited the peshwa’s projects to temporise with them, and the storm which threatened go much disturbance was thus quietly dispelled. The concession to Raguji seems to have been dictated by sound policy: his views were henceforth turned towards the east, and his designs on the succession to the raja appear to have been laid aside. Bengal, indeed, soon afforded him sufficient employment.

Raguji again invades Bengal

Basker Pandit was again sent into that province: his operations in the field were successful but he

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His general murdered by the viceroy

1745, AH 1158

suffered himself to be inveigled into an interview with Ali Verdi, by whom he was treacherously murdered, and at the same moment his army was attacked and dispersed. Bengal was thus; for a time, delivered from the Marattas. But Ali Verdi’s chief support in his wars had been a body of Afghans, under a celebrated leader named Mustafa Khan; and with them he now quarrelled.

He ultimately obtains the chout of Bengal and a cession of Cattac

A serious revolt ensued, of which Raguji took advantage; and, although the revolt was at last subdued, and many other vicissitudes befell the contending parties, yet Raguji was so far successful in the end, that, in 1751, not long before the death of Ali Verdi, he obtained a cession of Cattac (the southern division of Orissa), and an engagement for the payment of twelve lacs of rupees (120,0001.) as the chout or tribute of Bengal.

Affairs of Asof Jah

Revolt of Nasir Jang

Asof Jah returns to the Deckan

His death 1748, June; AH 1161, Jamadi u Sani

During all this time the Marattas had been entirely free from disturbances on the side of the Moguls in the Deckan. Asof Jah had been recalled from Delhi, in 1741, by a revolt of his second son, Nasir Jang; and when it was suppressed, he was involved in disturbances in the subordinate government of Arcot, which occupied him till he died, at the age of 77.

His death led to contentions among his sons; which, being unconnected with events in the other parts of India, and chiefly influenced by the French and English, will be best understood when we come to relate the proceedings of those nations.

Death of Saho Raja 1749 (about December)

The death of Asof Jah was followed, before the

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end of the succeeding year, by that of Saho Raja; and the latter event produced the crisis for which the peshwa had all along been preparing, and which was to decide the future fortunes of himself and his descendants.

Intrigues and contests for the succession

As Saho was without issue, it was necessary by the Hindu custom that he should adopt a successor; and the same custom restricted the choice to his kindred. The nearest kinsman, in this case, was the raja of Colapur; and his claim, in itself so difficult to set aside, was supported by a close alliance with Sawatri Bai, the wife of Saho and the rival and enemy of the peshwa.

Though the government was entirely in the hands of Balaji, the personal conduct of the raja was almost as much under the control of his wife; the imbecility into which he had of late years fallen rendering him incompetent to judge for himself. There was, therefore, a continual danger of her prevailing on Saho to adopt the raja of Colapur; and it was impossible for Balaji to anticipate her, as he was unprovided with a claimant, and could not yet venture to seize on the government in his own name.

Boldness and address of Balaji

In this perplexity he had recourse to a stratagem well worthy of the subtlety of his class. Tara Bai, the widow of Raja Ram, who had so long maintained the claims of her son, Sevaji II., in opposition to Saho, was still alive at an advanced age; and although her enmity to the peshwa was not abated, she was tempted, by the prospect of recovering her influence, to enter into the designs

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of that minister. In furtherance of their project, a secret intimation was conveyed to Saho, that a posthumous son of Sevaji II. had been concealed by Tara Bai, and was still alive. Saho made known his supposed discovery to the peshwa, and it was determined to question Tara Bai. It may be imagined that she readily admitted the fact; but the whole story was treated with ridicule by the other party, and Sawatri Bai redoubled her vigilance to prevent the raja from acting on the delusion produced by it.

Alleged abdication of Saho in favour of Balaji

She was safe from an adoption which could not take place without a certain degree of publicity; but she was circumvented by a stroke of audacity for which she could not have been prepared: it was no less than an assertion that the raja had signed an instrument, transferring all the powers of his government to the peshwa, on condition of his maintaining the royal title and dignity in the house of Sevaji through the grandson of Tara Bai. It is said that this important deed was executed at a secret interview between Balaji and the raja: but whether the signature (if genuine) was obtained by persuasion or fraud; when the deed was produced; and how far its authenticity was admitted at the time, are left in an obscurity which is rendered more mysterious by the conduct of Balaji and Tara Bai in circumstances which will appear in the sequel386.

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Balaji takes possession of the government


At the moment of the death of Saho, the peshwa called in a fresh force to Sattara, and seized on the head of the opposite party. He then proclaimed the grandson of Tara Bai by the title of Ram Raja, and took measures to promote the influence of that princess, with the intention of turning it to his own use. After these preparations, he summoned the great chiefs to court, that the new arrangements might be confirmed by their recognition. Damaji Geikwar did not attend, but Raguji Bosla appeared as an ally, and, after some affected inquiries, acknowledged the succession of Ram Raja. The former concessions to him were confirmed, and he received, in addition, a portion of the lands of the pirti nidhi, which were now confiscated. Various other chiefs received advantages calculated to bind them to the new government; and, among others, Sindia and Holcar received assignments of the whole revenue of Malwa, except a small portion granted to other chiefs387.

The establishment of the peshwa’s authority was not effected without some attempts at insurrection, and was endangered by a temporary quarrel between him and his cousin, Sedasheo Bhao; but it was at length so fully completed as to leave Balaji at liberty to engage in the affairs of foreign states.

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Marches against Salabat Jang, the son of Asof Jah

He then undertook the cause of Ghazi u din Khan, the eldest son of Asof Jah, against Salabat Jang, his third son, who was in possession of the family inheritance, after the death of two other competitors cut off during a civil war. He had before transferred his residence to Puna, and he now left Ram Raja at Sattara in perfect freedom, but under the control of Tara Bai. He then marched into the Nizam’s territory, and was already in the neighbourhood of Salabat’s army, when he received intelligence which obliged him to relinquish his undertaking, and to return by forced marches to his own country.

He is recalled by the insurrection of Tara Bai and Damaji Geikwar

He had no sooner set out on his campaign than Tara Bai, whose ambition and violence were not tamed by age, secretly invited Damaji Geikwar to march with his army to Sattara: at the same time she proposed to Ram Raja to assert his sovereignty; and finding the raja averse to her design, she took advantage of the approach of Damaji to seize his person and confine him to a dungeon. She had it still in her power to have made use of her prisoner’s name: instead of that she proclaimed him an impostor, and carried on the government without any ostensible authority but her own.

Notwithstanding the rapidity of the peshwa’s return, his officers had already more than once encountered the Geikwar; and the advantage, after some alternations of success, was on their side, when Balaji arrived. But that wily Bramin trusted to other arms than the sword: he procured a

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Balaji seizes Damaji by treachery

meeting with Damaji, at which he treacherously made him prisoner; attacked his army, thus deprived of their leader; and, in the end, completely broke up and dispersed his force. Tara Bai, though stripped of military force, and founding no title on the raja’s pretensions, had still some inexplicable influence which prevented the peshwa from crushing her.

Salabat Jang advances on Puna

Superiority of the invaders – M Bussy

1751, November

She derived aid at the present moment from the advance of Salabat Jang, who invaded the Maratta dominions in his turn, and was more formidable than any of his predecessors since Aurangzib, being accompanied by a French subsidiary force of 500 Europeans and 5000 Sepoys under M. Bussy, the most distinguished of the officers of his nation that ever appeared in India. Though Mali opposed the invasion with all the resources of Maratta war, he soon learned their inefficiency against his new adversary, who repulsed his assaults, beat up his camps, and, before long, established a general impression of his own superiority. By these means the army advanced to within twenty miles of Puna. Balaji probably felt little uneasiness about his infant capital, but was alarmed by the discovery that the invaders were in communication with Tara Bai and the raja of Colapur, and made overtures for peace; which were in the course of negotiation, when he was unexpectedly relieved from the presence of his enemies.

Balaji is saved by a mutiny of Salabat’s army 1752

However superior to all parties in the field, Bussy was dependent on the civil arrangements of the prince with whom he served; and the mismanagement of

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Salabat and his ministers had embarrassed his finances, thrown his troops into arrears, and brought on such discontents that the army became nearly ungovernable: at the same time Raguji Bosla (who had just obtained the cession of Cattak and the tribute of Bengal formerly mentioned) broke into the Nizam’s part of Berar, took the forts of Gaweilghar and Narnala, and threatened further hostilities.

An armistice concluded

Salabat was therefore well satisfied to make up an armistice, and move back to his own dominions; where new troubles, in which the Marattas were again actors, awaited him at no distant day.

Transactions at Delhi resumed

The division of India into several states, and the necessity of pursuing their separate histories, make it difficult, at this stage, to preserve the order of time, and have carried us on in the Maratta transactions for several years beyond the date to which those of Delhi have been brought down. These last, however, were for a long time of little importance. On the departure of Asof Jah for the Deckan (1741), his place at court was taken by his son, Ghazi u din, whose political connection with the vizir, Kamr u din Khan, was strengthened by his being married to the daughter of that minister. Their union enabled them to resist many intrigues and combinations, which were stained with treachery and assassinations, on both sides, beyond the worst epoch of former history.

Rise of the Rohillas

The only event of importance within that period

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was the rise of the Rohillas, an Afghan colony, which acquired possession of the country east of the Ganges from Oud to the mountains, and made a considerable figure in later times. Their chief was Ali Mohammed, a Hindu convert, adopted by an Afghan officer; and they were themselves mostly composed of Eusofzeis and other tribes of the north-east.

The emperor marches against them

1745, AH 1156

Though no long period had elapsed since their appearance as a state, they had already attained to considerable importance; and it required an expedition headed by the emperor to bring them into temporary submission.

Fresh invasions from the side of Persia

Revolutions in that country

But a far more formidable combination of the same people was forming within their native limits; and fresh invasions were prepared for India, by the death of her most dreaded enemy.

Tyranny of Nadir Shah

Though Nadir Shah had not attained to sovereignty without incurring all the varieties of guilt by which that prize must be purchased in the East, and although he had more than once given instances of barbarous severity in his treatment of some offending towns, yet, on the whole, up to the taking of Delhi, he was, perhaps, less sanguinary than the generality of Asiatic monarchs, especially those of Persia. But the scenes of spoil and slaughter to which he was there habituated, together with the intoxication of uninterrupted success, appear to have commenced an alteration in his character which gradually changed him from a rigorous, but not unjust, master, into a cruel and capricious tyrant. These qualities did not at once

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disclose themselves to their full extent. The first years after his return from India were occupied in the conquest of the kingdoms of Bokhara and Kharizm, which he subdued and evacuated as he had done India; in an attempt to reduce the hill tribe of Lezgi; and in three campaigns against the Turks: but when this war was terminated by a treaty, and the mind of Nadir remained without a vent for its natural energy, it turned its powers against itself, and became the abode of dark suspicions and ungoverned passions.

His fears of the Shias

His chief uneasiness arose from the religious prejudices of his countrymen. Though he had endeavoured to render the Sunni religion more acceptable, and to give it something of a national character, by placing its establishment under the special protection of the Imam Jafir, who was a descendant of Ali, and a favourite saint in Persia, yet he was aware that the people were still zealous Shias, and that the feelings of the sect were turned against him by the priests, whose lands and stipends he had confiscated immediately after his accession. He therefore looked on every Persian as his enemy; but was especially jealous of his eldest son, Rezza Culi, who, he thought, was the fittest instrument for the purposes of the disaffected. He had been wounded in a forest, on one of his campaigns, by a shot from a secret hand; and although there was no reason to think that the assassin was not one of the enemy, yet he could not divest himself of the belief that he was an emissary of the prince. The working of

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He puts out the eyes of his son

these feelings at last led him to put out the eyes of Rezza Culi; and his remorse, instead of softening his heart, exasperated his fury. He now taunted all who entreated him for mercy with their failure to intercede when his own son was in danger. His conduct became that of an open enemy of his species.

His intolerable cruelties

His cruelties were equalled by his extortions; and both were accompanied by threats and expressions of hatred against his subjects. These oppressions led to revolts, which drew on fresh enormities: whole cities were depopulated, and towers of heads raised to commemorate their ruin: eyes were torn out; tortures inflicted; and no man could count for a moment on his exemption from death in torments. During the two last years of his life his rage was increased by bodily sickness, until it par-took of frenzy, and until his subjects were compelled to lay plots for ridding themselves of a tyrant whose existence was incompatible with their own.

His favour to the Afghans

In his distrust of his countrymen, he had entertained a body of Uzbek mercenaries; and he had thrown himself, without reserve, on the Afghans, taking a pleasure in mortifying his old soldiers by a marked preference of their former enemies and his own. He now began to harbour a design for employing these new allies in hostility to his own nation, of whom he lived in constant dread. On the day before his death, while labouring under some presentiment of evil, he leaped on his horse in the midst of his camp, and was on the point of flying from his own army to take refuge in a fortress.

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When his mind was somewhat calmed, after this act of madness, he sent for the Afghan chiefs, appealed to their fidelity for the preservation of his life, and concluded by instructing them to disperse his Persian guards, and to seize on his principal nobles. These orders were not given so secretly but they came to the ears of those so nearly concerned; and as the night was to pass before their destruction was accomplished, they had time to anticipate it by the assassination of their enemy.

He is assassinated by the Persians

1747 June; AH 1160, Jamadi u Sani

A number of the conspirators, among whom were the captain of his guard and the chief of his own tribe of Afshar, entered his tent after midnight; and, although they involuntarily drew back when challenged by that deep voice at which they had so often trembled, yet they soon recovered their courage: one of them made a blow at the king with a sabre, and brought him to the ground; he endeavoured to raise himself, and attempted to beg his life; but the conspirators only redoubled their blows until he expired;– “the boast, the terror, and the execration of his country388.”

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Retreat of the Afghans

On the next morning an attack was made on the Persians by the Afghans, under the command of Ahmed Khan Abdali, who was joined by the Uzbeks. It was made in the hope of being still in time to rescue the shah; but, considering the inferiority of the numbers of the Afghans, they may be reckoned fortunate in making good their retreat to their own country, near the frontier of which the death of Nadir took place389.

Ahmed Khan Abdali

Ahmed Khan was the son of Zeman Khan, the hereditary chief of the Abdalis, who headed them on their first conquest of Khorasan. He was descended of the family of Sadduzei, which was looked on with a sort of religious veneration by their tribe; and although only twenty-three years of age, he had been distinguished by the particular notice of Nadir Shah390.

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Ahmed crowned king at Candahar October 1747

He had, therefore, already, the command of his own tribe, which he hastened to confirm; and, extending his influence over the neighbouring tribes and countries, before the end of the year he was formally declared king at Candahar.

Changes name of Abdalis to Duranis

From some superstitious motive he changed the name of his tribe from Abdali to Durani, by which it has been since known391.

His skilful management of his unruly subjects

He modelled his court on that of Nadir Shah, and assumed all the pretensions of that monarch, but exercised them with the moderation that was required by his circumstances. He was absolute in the plains and cities, as well as in Balkh, Sind, Cashmir, and other conquered provinces; he left the Afghan tribes to their internal government, retaining only power enough to secure their contingents of troops or money, and to preserve tranquillity. Belochistan, Sistan, and some other places remained under their native chiefs, and owed allegiance and military service. The dissensions of Persia prevented his being disturbed on that side, and enabled him to take possession of most of

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Khorasan; but he saw the difficulties of further progress in that direction, and contented himself with protecting Shah Rokh, the son of Nadir Shah, in Meshhed, while his own immediate dependencies were confined to the east of that city.

His views on India

It was to India that he looked for conquest, as well as for pecuniary resources and employment for his army; and his first operations in that kingdom took precedence, in point of time, of the settlement of several of the other countries just mentioned.

He occupies the Panjab

His coronation, indeed, was scarcely over, when he began his march for the east, and soon brought all the country up to the Indus under his authority. The circumstances of the Panjab invited his further advance. The viceroy was in revolt, and had no aid from Delhi, so that he offered but a feeble opposition; and Ahmed, after taking possession of Lahor and other towns on the road, pursued his march to the Satlaj. When he reached that river, he found the fords occupied by the Mogul army, which had been sent from Delhi to oppose him, under Prince Ahmed, the heir apparent, and the vizir, Kamr u din Khan.

He is repulsed by an Indian Army under Prince Ahmed, the heir apparent

1798, March; AH 1161, Rabi ul Awal 26

Though his force did not exceed 12,000 men392, he saw that his best

Page 621

chance lay in a vigorous use of it; he crossed the river where there was no ford, left the Indians in his rear, and took Sirhind, where their baggage and stores had been deposited. Among other advantages of this success, he got possession of some guns, with which he was before entirely unprovided. His boldness intimidated the enemy, who halted when they approached him, and intrenched their camp. A small body of horse could do little in such circumstances; and although the Mogul vizir was killed by a cannon ball, while at prayers in his tent, yet his army continued to repel the Duranis till the tenth day, when, after a general and desperate attack on the intrenchments, during which a party of them made its way into the midst of the camp, the assailants were totally repulsed and defeated, and compelled to march off homewards during the ensuing night.

The Mogul prince forthwith sent a viceroy to the Panjab; but as he was immediately afterwards recalled to Delhi by the illness of his father, Ahmed Shah turned back before he had reached the Indus, and did not quit the Panjab until the new viceroy had engaged to pay a permanent tribute.

Death of Mohammed Shah

1749, April; AH 1161, Rabi u Sani 26

Mohammed Shah expired within a month after the battle of Sirhind, and was succeeded by his son, who bore the same name as his Durani neighbour.


378. Fraser.

379. Grant Duff, vol. I. p. 547.

380. He writes thus to his spiritual guide:– “I am involved in difficulty, in debt, and in disappointments; and like a man ready to swallow poison: near the raja are my enemies, and should I go at this time to Sattara, they will put their feet on my breast. I should be thankful if I could meet death.” (Grant Duff, vol. i. p. 559.)

381. Grant Duff.

382. Grant Duff.

383. See p. 562.

384. Called also Mohabat Jang.

385. Captain Grant Duff states that the grant was not confirmed until after the expulsion of Raguji, in 1743; and it may not have been formally delivered over till then; but his own abstract of the grant (vol. ii. p. 15.) bears the date of Jamadi ul Awal, in the twenty-fourth year of Mohammed Shah’s reign, which would be about May, 1742. Balaji, on his part, was to furnish 4000 horse at his own cost, and 8000 more to be paid by the emperor.

386. I possess no facts relating to this revolution but what are given by Grant Duff; but I have been led to conclusions somewhat different from that author, both with regard to the reality of Ram Raja’s descent, and the bona fide consent of Saho to the transfer of the sovereignty.

387. Of 1,500,000l., which formed the whole revenue, 750,000l. was allotted to Holcar, 650,000l. to Sindia, and 100,000l. to Puar and other chiefs. (Grant Duff, vol. ii. p. 40.)

388. Père Bazin (Lettres Edifiantes, vol. iv.). This Jesuit, who accompanied Nadir Shah as his physician in the last years of his life, gives the best account of that period. The other authorities for his history are, Sir John Malcolm’s “Persia,” the “Nadirnameh” (translated by Sir. W. Jones), and Hanway. Hanway gives a different view of the transactions relating to Rezza Cull, but Bazin’s is confirmed by the “Nadirnameh,” which, likewise, gives a lively picture of the tyranny and atrocities of Nadir Shah. (Livre vi. chap. xix. p. 398. Jones’s Works, vol. v.)

389. An animated description of this unequal contest, and of the valour and good order with which the 4000 Afghans conducted their retreat, is given by Bazin, who was a spectator of the action, “an milieu des balles et des sabres.”

390. The person of a Sadduzei was inviolable, and no officer, of whatever rank, could put an Abdali to death without the authority of a Sadduzei. I have been led to think that the common story of Ahmed’s having been a macebearer of Nadir Shah’s originated in the circumstance that the word (chobdar), which on the west of the Indus belongs to a few of the greatest officers of state (who carry wands or gold sticks), is in India applied to a common macebearer; yet it is not probable that one of those high offices would be conferred on the chief of a foreign tribe. Ahmed’s early history is well known. He was a prisoner with the Ghiljeis when Candahar was taken by Nadir Shah. That conqueror received him with favour, assigned him an honourable maintenance, and sent him to reside in Mazunderan (Nadirnameh, vol. v. of Jones, p. 274.). His object probably was, to keep him at a distance from his tribe as long as the country was unsettled; for it appears, from a contemporary writer, who accompanied the Persian camp, that “Nadir Shah always kept a watchful eye over him; but the officers of all ranks treated him, in private, with great respect.” (Memoirs of Abdoolkereem, p. 176.)

391. By an unaccountable confusion the Indians sometimes call the Duranis, Ghiljeis; in the north they are also called Khorasanis; but Durani is the usual as well as the correct appellation.

392. He marched with this number from Candahar; and although it was probably increased before he crossed the Indus, it would necessarily be again reduced by the garrisons in the Panjab. The “Seir Mutakherin” says he had “not more than 67,000 horse;” which would be a greater army than that of Nadir Shah: but the life of Hafiz Rehmet, translated by Mr. Elliott, gives the more reasonable number of 15,000 men (p. 25.).

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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