The return of the Afghan monarch to the Panjab, combined with his well-known power and activity, kept the new sovereign in a state of continued anxiety, and obliged him to sacrifice a portion of his independence for the sake of such allies as might secure him from foreign conquest. He therefore offered the appointment of vizir to Asof Jah; and on his declining it (which was soon followed by his death), he invited Nasir Jang (who succeeded Asof in the Deckan) to move to his assistance with all the troops he could assemble. But it was not long before he learned that the Durani king was occupied in the western part of his dominions; in consequence of which intelligence he was enabled to dispense with the aid he had solicited, and was left to make his internal arrangements in the way best suited to his own views. He appointed Safder Jang, the son of Sadat Khan, to be vizir; and as that nobleman retained his viceroyalty of Oud, the first efforts of the imperial government were directed to the suppression of the Rohillas, who had again become formidable in the northern part of that province.
Safder Jang’s prospect was favourable, for Ali Mohammed was dead; and he engaged Caiam Khan Bangash, the Afghan jagirdar of Farokhabad, to conduct the war against his countrymen: but Caiam Khan, though at first successful, lost his life in battle; and Safder Jang, disappointed in his main object, turned his misfortune to account, by dispossessing the widow of his ally of the greater part of her territory. His ungenerous conduct brought him no advantage: the people of Caiam Khan’s country rose upon his agent, and called in the Rohillas, against whom the vizir was obliged to march in person. He was accompanied by a very numerous army; but so ill disciplined, that they sacked their own town of Bara (so famous as being peopled by descendants of the Prophet), and massacred many of the inhabitants who resisted the outrage.
It is not surprising that such an army was routed by a very inferior force. The vizir himself was wounded; the Rohillas proceeded to carry their arms into his country; and, though beaten off from Lucknow and Belgram, they penetrated to Allahabad, and set the power of the vizir and the emperor alike at defiance.
Safder Jang saw his embarrassments increasing, while his own power of resisting them was exhausted, and had recourse to the humiliating expedient of calling in the Marattas. He applied to Malhar Rao Holcar and Jeiapa Sindia (whom the peshwa had recently sent back into Malwa), and induced them, by the promise of a large subsidy,
to join him with the greater part of their forces. By the same means he obtained a renewal of the services of Suraj Mal, raja of the Jats, who had been his confederate on the former expedition. With these auxiliaries, he defeated the Rohillas in a pitched battle, overran their country, and drove them into the lower branches of Hemalaya, which form their boundary on the north-east. To satisfy the claims of the Marattas, he authorised them to levy their subsidy from the conquered territory, and their ravages reduced it to a state from which it did not recover for years.
By the activity of these plunderers the Rohillas were reduced to such difficulties for subsistence, that they submitted to Safder Jang, and were content with the assignment of a few villages for the maintenance of their chiefs393.
The little advantage which the Mogul government gained by this success was more than compensated by the defeat of the governor of Ajmir, who had interfered in a civil war between two claimants to the principality of Jodpur.
While the weakness of the Mogul government was thus daily more displayed, intelligence arrived that Ahmed Shah Durani had again invaded the Panjab; and it was soon followed up by accounts of his having obtained complete possession, and by an ambassador demanding a formal cession of the province. The visit of Nadir Shah was still sufficiently
remembered to produce a ready compliance with the demand; and when the vizir arrived at Delhi with his Maratta allies, he found the arrangement concluded. There is no reason to doubt that he would himself have agreed to it if he had been on the spot, or that he would have disregarded it after it was made, if he had thought that he could gain by infringing it; but he had other grounds of dissatisfaction with the court, and he made this cession, which he represented as degrading, the pretext of his complaints.
During his absence in Rohilcand, his influence at court had been supplanted by a eunuch named Jawid, who was favoured both by the emperor and his mother. Safder Jang, finding that his presence did not restore his authority, took a course which had become familiar at Delhi: he invited Jawid to an entertainment, and had him murdered during the banquet. The emperor was naturally exasperated at this outrage, and he soon got a suitable instrument to avenge him on the vizir.
Ghazi u din, the eldest son of Asof hit, had remained at Delhi during the first part of the contest between his younger brothers; but, seeing an opening afterwards, he entered into a connection with the peshwa, and set off for the Deckan, accompanied by Holcar and Sindia. He died soon after his arrival at Aurangabad; and his son, a mere youth, whom he had left at Delhi, was promoted, by the vizir’s favour, to the title of Ghazi u din, and the high office of commander-in-chief. It was this young man that now guided
the operations designed against his benefactor. He was a specimen of such of the Mogul courtiers as were not quite sunk in sloth. Restless and ambitious, as skilful in dissembling his passions as incapable of controlling them, he looked on perfidy and murder as the natural means of attaining his ends, and was as reckless of consequences, as regardless of principle.
The result of his measures was a civil war; not determined as usual, by a battle in the field, but carried on for six months in daily combats in the streets of Delhi. The factious hostility of the parties was embittered by religious fury: the vizir was a Shia, and the test-word of his sect, and that of the Sunnis, became the war-cries of the combatants on each side.
At length, the vizir, finding his position becoming weaker, and alarmed at the approach of the Marattas under Malhar Rao, whom Ghazi u din had called in as an auxiliary, consented to make peace, retaining possession of the provinces of Oud and Allahabad. Ghazi u din, thus relieved, and anxious to employ his Maratta friends, while he revenged himself on a partisan of the vizir, marched against Suraj Mal, the raja of the Jats, in the siege of whose strong forts, especially Dig and Bhartpur, he found ample occupation for his army.
But the emperor was by this time more disgusted against with his arrogant and overbearing temper than he had ever been with Safder Jang; and moved out with what troops he could assemble, on pretence of hunting, but really to profit by the difficulties in
which Ghazi u din was entangled. So little judgment was shown in his ill-concerted operations that no step had been taken to secure the co-operation of Safder Jang; and it did not require the acuteness and activity of Ghazi u din to turn the whole scheme against his enemy.
Without discontinuing the siege on which he was employed, he sent his Maratta confederate against Ahmed; but when he heard that the emperor was taken prisoner in the battle which followed, he repaired in person to the camp, deposed the captive king, and put out his eyes, as well as those of the queen, his mother.
He then fixed on one of the princes of the blood for successor to the throne, and proclaimed him by the title of Alamgir II394.
Safder Jang died soon after this revolution, and Ghazi u din took the office of vizir to himself, leaving Shuja u doula, the son of Safder Jang, in possession of his father’s provinces, of which he was unable to dispossess him.
A longer period of tranquillity now elapsed than might have been expected from the restless ambition of the new vizir; but his internal government was still as arbitrary as ever.
At length he provoked a numerous body of troops to mutiny, and made himself personally so odious, that he was seized by
the insurgents and dragged through the streets without his slippers or his turban. Though threatened with instant death, he continued to revile his captors, and to say that they should pay for their insolence with their heads. At length he was rescued by the interposition of the officers; when he instantly ordered a massacre of the whole body, giving up their tents, horses, and property to plunder, so as not to leave a vestige remaining of the corps.
Alamgir, on pretence of saving the life of Ghazi u din, had offered, while the disturbance was at its height, to pay to the mutineers a considerable sum of arrears, if they would deliver their prisoner into his hands; but the proposal served only to awaken the suspicions of the vizir, who took additional measures to guard against the possible intrigues of his nominal sovereign.
When interrupted by this adventure, Ghazi u din was on his march towards Lahor, and he now continued his progress. Mir Manu, the Mogul governor of the Panjab, whom Ahmed Shah had continued in his office after the cession, had died. His son had been appointed his successor by the Durani monarch, but was an infant under the tutelage of his mother. This state of things presented an irresistible temptation to the young vizir: he immediately entered into a most amicable correspondence with the widow, claiming the hand of her daughter, to whom he had really been affianced, and advancing towards Lahor as if to
celebrate the marriage: when he had completely lulled all suspicion, he surprised the town and made the governess prisoner in her bed. While they were conveying her to the camp she broke into invectives against the treachery of her son-in-law, and prophesied the ruin of India, and the slaughter of its inhabitants, as the certain consequence of the vengeance of Ahmed Shah.
Her prediction was but too early accomplished; for Ahmed no sooner heard of the outrage offered to him than he flew to revenge it; and, speedily effecting his march from Candahar, passed through the Panjab without opposition, and soon presented himself within twenty miles of Delhi. Ghazi u din, having contrived to pacify the widow of Mir Manu and to procure her intercession, repaired at once to the Durani camp, and received pardon as far as his own person.
Ahmed Shah, however, insisted on pecuniary compensation, and marched on to Delhi to enforce his demand. Nearly all the horrors of Nadir Shah’s invasion were repeated on his arrival; for though not himself cruel like that monarch, he had much less command over his troops; and the city again became a scene of rapine, violence, and murder.
Nor were these sufferings confined to the capital; Ahmed Shah sent a detachment of his army, with Ghazi u din, to levy a contribution from Shuja u doula, and marched, himself, with a similar intention against the Jats. He took a fort called Balamghar after an obstinate resistance, and put the garrison
to the sword; but the action which leaves the deepest stain on his character, or rather on that of his nation, was the massacre at Mattra. This city (one of the most holy among the Hindus) was surprised by a light detachment during the height of a religious festival, and the unoffending votaries were slaughtered with all the indifference that might be expected from a barbarous people, accustomed to serve under Nadir, and equally filled with contempt for Indians and hatred for idolatry. Meanwhile Ahmed himself was advancing towards Agra, to which city, as well as to one of the Jat forts, he laid siege.
But by this time the summer was far advanced, and a mortality broke out among the Duranis, who are incapable of bearing heat: He was therefore obliged to be content with the money he had levied, and to direct his course towards his own dominions.
Before he went he married a princess of the house of Delhi, and contracted another to his son, afterwards Teimur Shah; and having been entreated by the emperor not to leave him at the mercy of the vizir, he appointed Najib u doula, a Rohilla chief of abilities and of excellent character, to be commander-in-chief at Delhi; in the hope that his own influence, even when at a distance, would render that nobleman a counterpoise to Ghazi u din395.
But no sooner had he quitted India, than Ghazi u din once more set him at defiance. He was at Farokhabad when the Afghan king departed, and he immediately gave the appointment of commander-in-chief to Ahmed Khan Bangash, the chief of that place, in supersession of Najib u doula. But as he was not sufficiently strong to effect another revolution by himself, he called in the aid of the Marattas, who were now in greater power than ever.
Although Balaji made peace with Salabat Jang (as has been stated) in the beginning of 1752, it was no obstacle to his entering into fresh intrigues with Ghazi u din the elder, the brother and competitor of Salabat. On the arrival of that prince from Delhi, Balaji joined him at Aurangabad with all his forces; and so numerous was the combined army, that even the aid of Bussy might have been insufficient to have saved Salabat Jang, if the danger had not been averted by the sudden death of Ghazi u din. After this Balaji became involved in affairs to the southward, and transactions with the French and English, which will be best related with the history of those nations. But as his government got settled at home, he ventured to release Damaji Geikwar, and to avail himself of his assistance in settling the province of Guzerat. He made severe terms, involving payments and reservations which led to many disputes in the end: but at first all went prosperously. Damaji set out in company with the peshwa’s brother,
Ragoba (1755), and they soon reduced the whole province to complete subjection and obedience. Ragoba next levied contributions on the Rajput states, and returned through Malwa to the Deckan. In the end of 1756 he was again sent into Malwa; and it was to him that the present application was made by young Ghazi u din. Supported by this ally, the vizir advanced on Delhi, occupied the city, and laid siege to the fortified palace, which held out more than a month.
It was, nevertheless, evident that Najib u doula could no longer withstand his enemies; and the emperor had already taken the precaution of sending his son, afterwards Shah Alam, to a place of safety; the escape of Najib himself was the principal difficulty remaining, and it was accomplished by means of a bribe to Malhar Rao Holcar. The emperor then opened his gates and received Ghazi u din as his vizir. Najib u doula retired to his own country, which was about Seharanpur to the north of Delhi, and divided from Rohilcand by the Ganges.
After the taking of Delhi, Ragoba remained encamped near that city, until he was called away to an important and easy conquest. When Ahmed Shah withdrew from India in the preceding year (1757), he left his son Teimur in charge of the Panjab, under the guidance of Sirdar Jehan Khan. Their most dangerous opponent was Adina Beg, a man of a turbulent and artful character, who had been deputy to Mir Manu, and whose
intrigues had mainly contributed to the various disturbances and revolutions in the Panjab. He had fled from the province when it was occupied by Ahmed Shah, and now returned for the purpose of continuing his factious designs. He first employed his influence with the Siks, who had recovered their strength during the past disorders; but not finding their power sufficient for his purpose, he applied to Ragoba, and pointed out the ease with which he might gain a rich prize for his countrymen.
Ragoba marched accordingly, took possession of Lahor in May, 1758, and occupied the whole of the Panjab, the Duranis retiring across the Indus without attempting a battle. The government was conferred on Adina Beg; and on his death, which happened soon after, a native Maratta was appointed his successor. Before this change, Ragoba had set off for the Deckan, leaving the Panjab in temporary security, and the Maratta affairs prosperous in other parts of Hindostan. A force had marched from Delhi under Dataji Sindia, for the purpose of pursuing Najib u doula into his retreat; and Najib, unable to resist, left his country to be plundered, and took post at Sakertal, a defensible ford of the Ganges.
He maintained himself with difficulty in this position through the whole of the rainy season: and during this period there was time to mature a combination, to which all the neighbouring princes were called by a common and urgent danger.
The Marattas were already masters of the Panjab:
they had concerted with Ghazi u din a plan for taking possession of Oud; and they talked without the least reserve of their intended conquest of the whole of Hindostan. The apprehensions excited by this state of things induced Shuja u doula to forget his old enmities, and to enter into a league with Najib u doula and his former opponents the Rohillas, the most considerable of whom was Hafiz Rehmet Khan. As soon as Dataji Sindia was apprised of this confederacy he detached Govind Rao Bondela396 to invade Rohilcand. So effectually was the order performed that 1300 villages were destroyed in little more than a month, while the Rohillas were obliged to retreat for safety into the mountains. They were relieved from this distress by Shuja u doula. He marched from Lucknow immediately on the invasion, surprised the Marattas, and drove them with heavy loss across the Ganges. Dataji Sindia’s force was weakened by the losses of his detachment; but he had a stronger motive for desiring peace, in the reported approach of Ahmed Shah from Cabul: terms were therefore proposed to Shuja u doula and the confederates, and a peace was concluded, which was of no long continuance397.
The Afghan king was occupied in the north-western part of his dominions, when his son was
expelled from the Panjab (1758); and, when about to march to recover that country, he was arrested by the revolt of Nasir Khan, the ruler of the Beloches, who made an attempt to establish his entire independence. The operations necessary to place the affairs of that country on a satisfactory footing delayed Ahmed Shah for a considerable time; after which he moved by the southern road of Shikarpur to the Indus; and, marching up that river to Peshawer, he crossed it in the month of September, and advanced into the Panjab.
The Marattas offered no opposition, and he avoided the swollen rivers and exhausted country by keeping near the northern hills, until he crossed the Jamna opposite Seharanpur. During the shah’s advance, Ghazi u din, mindful of Alamgir’s connection with that monarch and with Najib u doula, took alarm at the thoughts of his intrigues and his vengeance.
He therefore at once gave orders for his assassination, and raised another member of the royal family to the throne. This prince’s title was never acknowledged: Shah Alam, the heir apparent, was absent on a scheme for getting a footing in Bengal; and the confederate princes carried on their operations without any ostensible head398.
At this time the Marattas, though not supported by their allies the Jats, had 80,000 horse of their own in the field; but they were in two bodies at some distance from each other; and the hatred of.
the country people, who were exasperated by their depredations, kept them in ignorance of the movements of the enemy. Ahmed Shah came suddenly on the body under Dataji Sindia, and so effectually surprised it that the chief and two thirds of the force were cut to pieces on the spot. The other division under Malhar Rao Holcar was still at a distance, and commenced its flight towards the country south of the Chambal: it was drawn from the direct line by the temptation of plundering a convoy, and was overtaken and almost destroyed by a Durani detachment which had made a prodigious march for the purpose399. Long before these reverses, Ragoba had arrived in the Deckan. The glory of his conquests did not reconcile the Maratta court to the financial results which they produced: instead of an ample harvest of plunder, as used to be customary, he had brought home near a million sterling of debt. This unproductive campaign appeared to more disadvantage when contrasted with that in which the peshwa’s cousin, Sedasheo Rao Bhao (best known in India as “the Bhao”), was engaged: he had remained as home minister and commander-in-chief in the Deckan, had just obtained possession of Ahmednagar, and was on the eve of a settlement, afterwards concluded at Udgir, by which territorial and pecuniary cessions of great extent were obtained from Salabat Jang, and such a burden imposed
on the Mogul government in the Deckan as it never was able to recover. This contrast led to jealousy on the part of Ragoba, who, to Sedasheo’s remonstrances on the profusion of his expenditure, replied that the Bhao had better undertake the next expedition himself, when he would find the difference between that and serving in the Deckan. Sedasheo took him at his word, and an exchange of duties was forthwith agreed on.
The Maratta power was at this time at its zenith. Their frontier extended on the north to the Indus and Hemalaya, and on the south nearly to the extremity of the peninsula: all the territory within those limits that was not their own paid tribute. The whole of this great power was wielded by one band: a settlement had been made with Tara Bai, by which the person of the raja was consigned to his nominal minister, and all pretensions of every description were concentrated in the peshwa400.
The establishments of the Maratta government had increased with its power. Its force was no longer composed of predatory bands alone; it included an army of well-paid and well-mounted cavalry in the direct service of the state, and 10,000 disciplined infantry, who, though a very imperfect copy of that commanded by Europeans, were far superior to any infantry previously known in India.
The Marattas had now also a train of artillery
surpassing that of the Moguls, which they had so long regarded with awe and envy. They even endeavoured to assume the pomp which was characteristic of their rivals. Rich dresses, spacious tents, and splendid caparisons became common among them, and their courts and retinues were formed on the Mogul model.
This show of greatness did not seem misplaced in the peshwa and his ministers, who were Concan Bramins, a comely race, prepared by the mildness and gravity of their manners to take up dignity without any appearance of incongruity; but it sat very ill on the little active Marattas, whose sturdy figures and vulgar manners gave a ludicrous effect to their attempts at a stately demeanour.
Whatever the nation possessed either of power or magnificence was brought forth to give weight to Sedasheo Bhao. The news of the misfortunes of Sindia and Holcar were only a fresh stimulus to exertion; and it seemed to be resolved, by one great and decisive effort, to put the finishing stroke to the conquest of Hindostan401.
The prince thus elevated was naturally haughty and overbearing, proud of the new greatness of his family, and puffed up by recent success into an overweening confidence in his own abilities both as a statesman and a soldier. He was accompanied by Wiswas Ran, the peshwa’s youthful son and heir apparent, and by all the great Bramin and
Maratta chiefs without exception. Many Rajput detachments were sent to join him as he advanced, and Suraj Mal is said to have reinforced him with a body of 30,000 Jats.
This experienced old chief, who had long been accustomed to act with the Marattas, took occasion to advise the Bhao to leave his infantry and guns, and all his heavy baggage, in the Jat territory, where it would be protected by strong forts, to advance with his horse alone, to harass his enemies in the Maratta manner, and protract the war until the Duranis, who had already been many months in India, should be constrained by the climate to withdraw to their native mountains. This prudent counsel, though seconded by the Maratta chiefs, was at once rejected by their commander, who looked down on a victory obtained by such means, and who also attached an undue importance to his regular infantry and guns. This was not the only occasion on which he slighted Suraj Mal, whom he treated as a petty zemindar, incapable of judging of politics on a large scale. He also offended his Maratta chiefs by his Bramin pride, as well as his imperious manner of exercising his command, and the absence of the freedom and familiarity to which they were accustomed in their leaders.
In this manner he advanced to Delhi, which was held by a small garrison of Duranis and their partisans, Ghazi u din having taken refuge in the Jat country. The great extent of the city walls enabled a party of Marattas to climb up a neglected bastion, and
the citadel yielded to the artillery after attempting a short defence. The Bhao made an injudicious as well as ungenerous use of this conquest. He defaced the palaces, tombs, and shrines, for the sake of the rich ornaments which had been spared by the Persians and Afghans. He tore down the silver ceiling of the hall of audience, which was coined into seventeen lacs of rupees402, and seized on the throne (no longer so precious as of old), and on all other royal ornaments. He even proposed to proclaim Wiswas Rao emperor of India, and was only prevailed on to postpone the measure until he should have driven the Duranis across the Indus. All these proceedings alarmed and disgusted Suraj Mal, who was unwilling to go to extremities with his own near neighbours. He soon after entered on a secret consultation with Shuja u doula, and withdrew to his own territory without openly renouncing his alliance with the Marattas. The Bhao affected to treat this defection as a matter beneath his notice.
During this time the shah was cantoned for the rains at Anupshehr, on the frontier of Oud, whither he had been drawn by an important negotiation. He was sure of cordial assistance from Najib and the Rohillas, but the co-operation of Shuja u doula was by no means equally certain. Though that ruler could not declare against the Mahometans,
his interests counselled neutrality, and he had a hereditary disinclination to joining Ahmed Shah, to whom his father, Safder Jang, had been openly opposed.
It was to influence him that the Shah advanced to Anupshehr; and this movement, with the persuasion of Najib u doula, who paid him a visit for the purpose, succeeded in procuring his accession to the Mussulman cause. He nevertheless kept up a constant communication with the Marattas, which might serve to secure an accommodation, if expedient, and was in the meantime a useful channel for overtures between that people and the shah403.
After this arrangement was concluded, Ahmed was still prevented moving by the violence of the periodical rains: but before that season was well over, he broke up his cantonment, and marched towards Delhi. His movement was accelerated by hearing that the Bhao had set out with a picked force to attack Cunjpura, on the Jamna, sixty miles above Delhi, where there was a Durani garrison, under an officer of distinction. On reaching that river near the capital, he found it still swollen and rapid: he proceeded up the banks in search of a ford, until he got near Cunjpura, where he had the mortification to hear that the place had been taken, and the whole garrison put to the sword.
Enraged at this disgrace inflicted almost before his eyes, the shah passed the river, between fording
and swimming; and though he lost many men in this bold undertaking, it made so great an impression on the enemy, that they hastened to remove out of his reach, and soon retired to Panipat, where they threw up works round their camp, encompassed by a broad and deep ditch, and protected by their numerous artillery. The Bhao’s force consisted of 55,000 cavalry in regular pay, with at least 15,000 predatory Maratta horse, and 15,000 infantry, of whom 9000 were disciplined Sepoys, under Ibrahim Khan Gardi, a Mussulman deserter from the French service. He had 200 guns, with numerous wall pieces, and a great supply of rockets, which is a favourite weapon with the Marattas. These troops, with their numerous followers, made the numbers within his lines amount to 300,000 men404.
Ahmed Shah had about 40,000 Afghans and Persians, 13,000 Indian horse, and a force of Indian infantry estimated at 38,000, of which the part consisting of Rohilla Afghans would be very efficient, but the great majority the usual rabble of Indian foot soldiers405. He had, also, about thirty
pieces of cannon of different calibres, chiefly belonging to the Indian allies, and a number of wall pieces.
The inferiority of the shah’s force making an attack on the enemy’s camp impossible, he was obliged to encamp also, and to throw up lines round his army. The occurrence of a general action being thus suspended, the Bhao’s prospects were by no means unfavourable. He had ordered Govind Rao Bondela to collect what troops he could on the lower course of the Jamna, and that chief now appeared with 10,000 or 12,000 horse in the rear of the Durani camp. He kept at a safe distance from the army, but spread over the country in the Maratta manner, so as to intercept all supplies. It is probable that the Bhao employed his own light cavalry in the same manner; for before much time had elapsed, the Mussulman camp began to suffer severely from the scarcity of provisions.
But although the Duranis were not accustomed to the desultory warfare used by the Marattas, they made up for their deficiency by the bold and
rapid movements of their detachments; and on this occasion, a body of their horse under Attai Khan, the grand vizir’s nephew, made a march of upwards of sixty miles, surprised Govind Rao’s camp about daybreak, and completely destroyed his party, Govind Rao himself falling in the action. When the Duranis had got the command of the open country, the Bhao soon felt the difficulty of his situation, inclosed in a fortified camp with such a multitude as he commanded.
The Marattas are excellent foragers. Every morning at daybreak, long lines of men on small horses and ponies are seen issuing from their camps in all directions, who return before night loaded with fodder for the cattle, with firewood torn down from houses, and grain dug up from the pits, where it had been concealed by the villagers; detachments go to a distance for some days, and collect proportionately larger supplies of the same kind; and convoys, each of many thousands of oxen, are also brought in from remote countries by banjarras, a sort of camp grain dealers, who partake of the character of the soldiery more than of the mercantile body. All these resources were now cut off; and after the Marattas had entirely eaten up and consumed the town of Panipat, which was within their lines, they began to feel the severest pressure of want.
While things were tending to this conclusion, neither party was inactive in its efforts to hasten the crisis. Continual skirmishes went on between
the armies: the Marattas made three vigorous attacks on the Durani lines; convoys were always attempting to make their way into the camp; and though one charged with treasure from Delhi fell into the hands of the Afghans, others were secretly forwarded by Suraj Mal and the Rajput chiefs; and as the Bhao bore his difficulties with dignity and resolution, their extent and daily increase were unknown to his enemies. In these circumstances, the Indian allies lost all patience, and wearied Ahmed Shah with their importunities that he would put an end to their fatigues by a decisive action: but his constant answer was, “This is a matter of war with which you are not acquainted. In other affairs do as you please; but leave this to me.” He had a small red tent pitched in front of his entrenchment, to which he repaired every morning in time for prayers at day-break, and where he generally returned to dine in the evening. He was on horseback for the whole day, visiting his posts, and reconnoitring the enemy; and never rode less than fifty or sixty miles a day. At night he placed a picket of 5,000 horse as near as he could to the enemy, while other parties went the rounds of the whole encampment. “He used to say to the Hindostani chiefs, ‘Do you sleep; I will take care that no harm befalls you;’ and to say the truth, his orders were obeyed like destiny, no man daring to hesitate or delay one moment in executing them406.”
During this time, the Bhao’s embarrassments became daily more urgent; and he made frequent applications to Shuja u doula through Casi Rai (the author of our Narrative) to mediate a peace between him and the Mussulmans. When his proposals were made known to the shah, he replied that he was only an auxiliary, and had no views of his own; that he claimed the entire control of the war, but left the Hindostani chiefs to carry on their negotiations as they pleased. The majority of those chiefs were well disposed to an accommodation, which would have been particularly acceptable to Shuja u doula; but Najib always steadily opposed the overtures, and succeeded in impressing on the rest the ruin to which they would be exposed if the shah left India while the Maratta power was still entire.
It is not difficult to conceive what must now have been the state of the Maratta host, cooped up amidst the stench of a blockaded camp, among dead and dying animals, surrounded by famished followers, and threatened with the terrible consummation of the evils which they already suffered. Among their last efforts, they sent out a foraging party, with innumerable camp followers, to endeavour to bring in some relief; but the helpless crowd was discovered by the enemy; and slaughtered in prodigious numbers. On this the chiefs and soldiers surrounded the Bhao’s tent in a body; they said that they had entirely exhausted the last remains of their provisions, and that it was better to run any risk in the
field than to perish in misery. The Bhao agreed to their wish: they all partook of bitel leaf; and swore to fight to the last; and orders were given to make the attack on the next morning before daybreak.
In this extremity the Bhao wrote to Casi Rai a short note with his own hand: “The cup is now full to the brim, and cannot hold another drop. If anything can be done, do it, or else answer me plainly at once; hereafter there will be no time for writing or speaking.”
Casi Rai was communicating this note to Shuja u doula about three in the morning, when his spies came to report that the Marattas were getting under arms. Shuja immediately repaired to the shah’s tent, and desired he might be awakened without delay. The shah soon made his appearance, ready dressed; and, mounting a horse which always stood saddled by his door, he rode towards the enemy, ordering his own troops out as he advanced.
One of his first steps was to send for Casi Rai, and interrogate him about the source of the intelligence he had communicated. This he did as he was moving forward, until, about a mile from the camp, he met some Durani horsemen loaded with plunder, who reported that the Marattas had deserted their camp and fled. On hearing this, Ahmed turned to Casi Rai and asked him what he said to that ? but while he was yet speaking, the Marattas announced their presence by a general
discharge of their artillery along the whole of their line. “On this the shah, who was sitting upon his horse smoking a Persian kallian, gave it to his servant, and with great calmness said to the nabob (Shuja), ‘Your servant’s news is very true I see.’” He then sent orders to hasten the advance of his own army. When objects became discernible, the colours of the Marattas were seen advancing slowly and regularly with their artillery in front. The shah drew up his army opposite, and, himself, took post at his little red tent, which was now in the rear of the line.
The Mussulmans did not make much use of their guns; and as those of the Marattas approached, the shot went over the heads of their adversaries. The actual engagement was begun by Ibrahim Khan Gardi, who rode up to the Bhao, respectfully saluted him, and said, “You have often been offended with me for insisting on regular pay to my men; you shall now see that we have not earned it in vain.” He then seized a colour with his own hand, and ordered his battalions to cease firing and charge bayonets. Their attack fell on the Rohillas, whose undisciplined valour only increased their loss, and who were broken after a prodigious slaughter. Their defeat laid open the right of the grand vizir, who commanded the centre of the Durani line, and who was now charged by the Bhao and Wiswas Rao with the flower of the Maratta army. In this charge, Attai Khan, the vizir’s nephew, was killed by his side, and his
Duranis were forced to give ground; but he himself dismounted, and, with the few that were near him, determined to die at his post. Shuja u doula was next to the grand vizir’s division, but could not see what was passing for the dust: finding the sound of men and horses in that quarter suddenly diminish, he sent Casi Rai to inquire the cause. He found the grand vizir on foot in full armour, in an agony of rage and despair, reproaching his men for quitting him, and endeavouring to bring them back to their ranks. “Ride to Shuja u doula,” Said he, “and tell him that if he does not support me immediately, I must perish.” But Shuja, though he kept his ground, did not venture to take part in the action.
Meanwhile these transactions had not escaped Ahmed Shah; and the reserve which he had ordered up arrived at the critical moment to prevent the destruction of the grand vizir. The battle now became stationary, but the advantage still inclined to the Marattas; until Ahmed, after rallying the fugitives and ordering all who refused to return to be cut down, gave orders for an advance of his own line, and at the same time directed a division on his left to wheel up and take the enemy in flank. This manoeuvre was decisive; for though the closest combat was raging in the centre, where the Bhao and Wiswas were engaged on horseback, and where they fought on both sides with spears, swords, battle-axes, and even daggers, yet, “all at once, as if by enchantment, the whole Maratta
army turned their backs, and fled at full speed, leaving the field of battle covered with heaps of dead.”
The victors pursued them with the utmost fury; and as they gave no quarter, the slaughter is scarcely to be conceived; the pursuit continuing in every direction for fifteen or twenty miles. A large proportion of those who escaped from the enemy were cut off by the peasants; and great numbers, who fell alive into the hands of the Duranis, were cruelly massacred in cold blood. The shah himself was not exempt from a share in these barbarities: for he not only took no means to prevent them, but, at the instigation of Najib, he made a strict search for Jancoji Sindia, who was concealed by a Durani chief, and who was made away with to prevent detection. He also compelled Shuja u doula to give up the gallant Ibrahim Khan, who had been made prisoner; sent for him into his presence to reproach him; and then gave him over to the grand vizir to be placed in confinement, where he died of his wounds within a week407.
The body of Wiswas Rao was found, and a headless trunk which was believed to be the Bhao’s; but the fate of the latter was so far from certain, that, many years after, an impostor obtained credit for a time by assuming his character. The whole
number of the slain is said to have amounted to near 200,000408. Almost all the great Maratta chiefs were killed or wounded, except those who had been left with a force at Delhi; and Malhar Rao Holcar, who was accused of too early a retreat. Mahaji Sindia, afterwards the founder of a great state, was lamed for life; and Nana Farnavis, who long kept off the downfal of the peshwa’s government, narrowly escaped by flight409.
Never was a defeat more complete, and never was there a calamity that diffused so much consternation. Grief and despondency spread over the whole Maratta people; most had to mourn relations, and all felt the destruction of the army as a death-blow to their national greatness.
The peshwa never recovered the shock. He slowly retreated from his frontier towards Puna, and died in a temple which he had himself erected near that city410. The wreck of the army retired beyond the Nerbadda, evacuating almost all their acquisitions in Hindostan411. Dissensions soon broke out after the death of Balaji, and the government of the peshwa never regained its vigour. Most of the
Maratta conquests were recovered at a subsequent period; but it was by independent chiefs with the aid of European officers and disciplined Sepoys.
The confederacy of the Mahometan princes dissolved on the cessation of their common danger. Ahmed Shah returned home without attempting to profit by his victory, and never afterwards took any share in the affairs of India.
The actors in the last transactions having now all left the stage, the history of the Mogul empire here closes of itself. Its territory is broken into separate states; the capital is deserted; the claimant to the name of emperor is an exile and a dependent; while a new race of conquerors has already commenced its career, which may again unite the empire under better auspices than before.
393. The “Life of Hafiz Rehmet” gives an account more favourable to the success of the Rohillas.
394. The above account is from the “Seir Mutakherin,” and Grant Duff’s “History of the Marattas.”
395. The above account is chiefly from the “Seir Mutakherin:” it agrees, in most respects, with the Afghan accounts; but the latter state that Ahmed Shah did not leave Delhi, and that the whole expedition to Agra, as well as that to Mattra, was commanded by Sirdar Jehan Khan.
396. A Maratta Bramin, so called from his employment in “Bundelcand,” and ancestor of the late chief of Sagar and Calpi.
397. Seir Mutakherin, and Grant Duff.
398. Seir Mutakherin. Ahmed Shah’s proceedings are from Afghan accounts.
399. Seir Mutakherin. Grant Duff.
400. Chiefly Grant Duff.
401. Seir Mutakherin. Grant Duff.
402. 170,000l. Casi Rai’s Narrative (Asiatic Researches, vol. iii. p. 97.). Grant Duff makes the 170,000l. include all the plate in the palace.
403. Casi Rai, the author of the Narrative, was one of the agents in this intercourse.
404. Grant Duff agrees with Casi Rai in making the paid horse and infantry 70,000, as above, and estimates the predatory horse and followers at 200,000. Casi Rai states the whole number at 500,000. (Asiatic Researches, vol. ill. p. 123.)
405. The accounts of the Duranis themselves make the number of the army that crossed the Indus 63,000; but, from a comparison with Nadir Shah’s force, and that of Shah Zeman, in later times, as well as from the incorrectness of Asiatic muster-rolls, I conceive the amount to be much exaggerated. There must also have been a great reduction from garrisons in the Panjab and other places, casualties in action, and deaths from the climate during the hot season and rains; so that I think 40,000 a sufficient allowance for the Afghans. The Indian numbers are from Casi Rai: Shuja u doula had only 2000 horse and the same number of foot. Casi Rai’s statement, that the Duranis had forty guns of their own, is quite contrary to their own account and to all probability.
406. Casi Rai.
407. Casi Rai says he was treated with the greatest cruelty, and that it was reported that poison was put into his wounds; but that was not a moment when vengeance (if there had been any motive for it) would have taken so indirect a course.
408. Grant Duff, vol. ii. p. 156.
409. The account of Sedasheo Rao Bhao’s campaign is compiled from Grant Duff, the Seir Mutakherin, and Casi Rai’s account of the battle of Panipat (in vol. iii. of the Asiatic Researches, p. 91, &c.). This last is, perhaps, the best specimen to be found of narrative by an Indian. The Afghan accounts of Ahmed Shah’s proceedings also furnish some information.
410. Grant Duff.
411. Sir J. Malcolm’s Malwa, vol. i. p. 120, 121.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage