top of page
Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Artificial Lakes in Bundēlkhand—Hindoo, Greek, and Roman Faith

On the 11th[1] we came on twelve miles to the town of Bamhaurī, whence extends to the south-west a ridge of high and bare quartz hills, towering above all others, curling and foaming at the top, like a wave ready to burst, when suddenly arrested by the hand of Omnipotence, and turned into white stone.

The soil all the way is wretchedly poor in quality, being formed of the detritus of syenitic and quartz rocks, and very thin. Bamhaurī is a nice little town,[2] beautifully situated on the bank of a fine lake, the waters of which preserved during the late famine the population of this and six other small towns, which are situated near its borders, and have their lands irrigated from it.

Besides water for their fields, this lake yielded the people abundance of water-chestnuts[3] and fish. In the driest season the water has been found sufficient to supply the wants of all the people of those towns and villages, and those of all the country around, as far as the people can avail themselves of it.

This large lake is formed by an artificial bank or wall at the south-east end, which rests one arm upon the high range of quartz rocks, which run along its south-west side for several miles, looking down into the clear deep water, and forming a beautiful landscape.

From this pretty town, Ludhaura, where the great marriage had lately taken place, was in sight, and only four miles distant.[4] It was, I learnt, the residence of the present Rājā of Orchhā, before the death of his brother called him to the throne. Many people were returning from the ceremonies of the marriage of 'sālagrām' with 'Tulasī'; who told me that the concourse had been immense—at least one hundred and fifty thousand; and that the Rājā had feasted them all for four days during the progress of the ceremonies, but that they were obliged to defray their expenses going and coming, except when they came by special invitation to do honour to the occasion, as in the case of my little friend the Sāgar high priest, Jānkī Sewak.

They told me that they called this festival the 'Dhanuk jag';[5] and that Janakrāj, the father of Sītā, had in his possession the 'dhanuk', or immortal bow of Parasrām, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, with which he exterminated all the Kshatriyas, or original military class of India, and which required no less than four thousand men to raise it on one end.[6] The prince offered his daughter in marriage to any man who should bend this bow. Hundreds of heroes and demigods aspired to the hand of the fair Sītā, and essayed to bend the bow; but all in vain, till young Rām, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu,[7] then a lad of only ten years of age, came; and at the touch of his great toe the bow flew into a thousand pieces, which are supposed to have been all taken up into heaven.

Sītā became the wife of Rām; and the popular poem of the Rāmāyana describes the abduction of the heroine by the monster king of Ceylon, Rāvana, and her recovery by means of the monkey general Hanumān. Every word of this poem, the people assured me, was written, if not by the hand of the Deity himself, at least by his inspiration, which was the same thing, and it must, consequently, be true.[8] Ninety-nine out of a hundred among the Hindoos implicitly believe, not only every word of this poem, but every word of every poem that has ever been written in Sanskrit.

If you ask a man whether he really believes any very egregious absurdity quoted from these books, he replies with the greatest naïveté in the world, 'Is it not written in the book; and how should it be there written if not true?' The Hindoo religion reposes upon an entire prostration of mind, that continual and habitual surrender of the reasoning faculties, which we are accustomed to make occasionally. While engaged at the theatre, or in the perusal of works of fiction, we allow the scenes, characters, and incidents to pass before 'our mind's eye', and move our feelings, without asking, or stopping a moment to ask, whether they are real or true.

There is only this difference that, with people of education among us, even in such short intervals of illusion or abandon, any extravagance in acting, or flagrant improbability in the fiction, destroys the charm, breaks the spell by which we have been so mysteriously bound, stops the smooth current of sympathetic emotion, and restores us to reason and to the realities of ordinary life. With the Hindoos, on the contrary, the greater the improbability, the more monstrous and preposterous the fiction, the greater is the charm it has over their minds;[9] and the greater their learning in the Sanskrit the more are they under the influence of this charm.

Believing all to be written by the Deity, or by his inspiration, and the men and things of former days to have been very different from the men and things of the present day, and the heroes of these fables to have been demigods, or people endowed with powers far superior to those of the ordinary men of their own day, the analogies of nature are never for a moment considered; nor do questions of probability, or possibility, according to those analogies, ever obtrude to dispel the charm with which they are so pleasingly bound.

They go on through life reading and talking of these monstrous fictions, which shock the taste and understanding of other nations, without once questioning the truth of one single incident, or hearing it questioned. There was a time, and that not very distant, when it was the same in England, and in every other European nation; and there are, I am afraid, some parts of Europe where it is so still.

But the Hindoo faith, so far as religious questions are concerned, is not more capacious or absurd than that of the Greeks and Romans in the days of Socrates and Cicero—the only difference is, that among the Hindoos a greater number of the questions which interest mankind are brought under the head of religion.

There is nothing in the Hindoos more absurd than the piety of Tiberius in offering up sacrifices in the temple, and before the image of Augustus; while he was solicited by all the great cities of the empire to suffer temples to be built and sacrifices to be made to himself while still living; or than Alexander's attempt to make a goddess of his mother while yet alive, that he might feel the more secure of being made a god himself after his death.[10]

In all religions there are points at which the professors declare that reason must stop, and cease to be a guide to faith. The pious man thinks that all which he cannot comprehend or reconcile to reason in his own religion must be above it. The superstitions of the people of India will diminish before the spread of science, art, and literature; and good works of history and fiction would, I think, make far greater havoc among these superstitions even than good works in any of the sciences, save the physical, such as astronomy, chemistry, &c.[11]

In the evening we went out with the intention of making an excursion of the lake, in boats that had been prepared for our reception by tying three or four fishing canoes together;[12] but, on reaching the ridge of quartz hills which runs along the south-east side, we preferred moving along its summit to entering the boats. The prospect on either side of this ridge was truly beautiful.

A noble sheet of clear water, about four miles long by two broad, on our right; and on our left a no less noble sheet of rich wheat cultivation, irrigated from the lake by drains passing between small breaks in the ridges of the hills. The Persian wheel is used to raise the water.[13] This sheet of rich cultivation is beautifully studded with mango groves and fields of sugar-cane.

The lake is almost double the size of that of Sāgar, and the idea of its great utility for purposes of irrigation made it appear to me far more beautiful; but my little friend the Sarīmant, who accompanied us in our walk, said that 'it could not be so handsome, since it had not a fine city and castle on two sides, and a fine Government house on the third'.

'But', said I, 'no man's field is watered from that lake.'

'No', replied he, 'but for every man that drinks of the waters of this, fifty drink of the waters of that; from that lake thirty thousand people get ārām (comfort) every day.'

This lake is called Kēwlas after Kēwal Varmma, the Chandēl prince by whom it was formed.[14] His palace, now in ruins, stood on the top of the ridge of rocks in a very beautiful situation. From the summit, about eight miles to the west, we could see a still larger lake, called the Nandanvārā Lake, extending under a similar range of quartz hills running parallel with that on which we stood.[15]

That lake, we were told, answered upon a much larger scale the same admirable purpose of supplying water for the fields, and securing the people from the dreadful effects of droughts. The extensive level plains through which the rivers of Central India[16] generally cut their way have, for the most part, been the beds of immense natural lakes;[17] and there rivers sink so deep into their beds, and leave such ghastly chasms and ravines on either side, that their waters are hardly ever available in due season for irrigation.

It is this characteristic of the rivers of Central India that makes such lakes so valuable to the people, particularly in seasons of drought.[l8] The river Nerbudda has been known to rise seventy feet in the course of a couple of days in the rains; and, during the season when its waters are wanted for irrigation, they can nowhere be found within that [distance] of the surface; while a level piece of ground fit for irrigation is rarely to be met with within a mile of the stream.[19]

The people appeared to improve as we advanced farther into Bundēlkhand in appearance, manners, and intelligence. There is a bold bearing about the Bundēlas, which at first one is apt to take for rudeness or impudence, but which in time he finds not to be so.

The employés of the Rājā were everywhere attentive, frank, and polite; and the peasantry seemed no longer inferior to those of our Sāgar and Nerbudda territories. The females of almost all the villages through which we passed came out with their Kalas in procession to meet us—one of the most affecting marks of respect from the peasantry for their superiors that I know.

One woman carries on her head a brass jug, brightly polished, full of water; while all the other families of the village crowd around her, and sing in chorus some rural song, that lasts from the time the respected visitor comes in sight till he disappears. He usually puts into the Kalas a rupee to purchase 'gur' (coarse sugar), of which all the females partake, as a sacred offering to the sex.

No member of the other sex presumes to partake of it, and during the chorus all the men stand aloof in respectful silence. This custom prevails all over India, or over all parts of it that I have seen; and yet I have witnessed a Governor-General of India, with all his suite, passing by this interesting group, without knowing or asking what it was. I lingered behind, and quietly put my silver into the jug, as if from the Governor-General.[20]

The man who administers the government over these seven villages in all its branches, civil, criminal, and fiscal, receives a salary of only two hundred rupees a year. He collects the revenues on the part of Government; and, with the assistance of the heads and the elders of the villages, adjusts all petty matters of dispute among the people, both civil and criminal.

Disputes of a more serious character are sent to be adjusted at the capital by the Rājā and his ministers. The person who reigns over the seven villages of the lake is about thirty years of age, of the Rājpūt caste, and, I think, one of the finest young men I have ever seen. His ancestors have served the Orchhā State in the same station for seven generations; and he tells me that he hopes his posterity will serve them [sic] for as many more, provided they do not forfeit their claims to do so by their infidelity or incapacity.

This young man seemed to have the respect and affection of every member of the little communities of the villages through which we passed, and it was evident that he deserved their attachment. I have rarely seen any similar signs of attachment to one of our own native officers. This arises chiefly from the circumstance of their being less frequently placed in authority among those upon whose good feelings and opinions their welfare and comfort, as those of their children, are likely permanently to depend.

In India, under native rule, office became hereditary, because officers expended the whole of their incomes in religious ceremonies, or works of ornament and utility, and left their families in hopeless dependence upon the chief in whose service they had laboured all their lives, while they had been educating their sons exclusively with the view of serving that chief in the same capacity that their fathers had served him before them. It is in this case, and this alone, that the law of primogeniture is in force in India.[21]

Among Muhammadans, as well as Hindoos, all property, real and personal, is divided equally among the children;[22] but the duties of an office will not admit of the same subdivision; and this, therefore, when hereditary, as it often is, descends to the eldest son with the obligation of providing for the rest of the family. The family consists of all the members who remain united to the parent stock, including the widows and orphans of the sons or brothers who were so up to the time of their death.[23]

The old 'chobdār', or silver-stick bearer, who came with us from the Rājā, gets fifteen rupees a month, and his ancestors have served the Rājā for several generations. The Dīwān, who has charge of the treasury, receives only one thousand rupees a year, and the Bakshī, or paymaster of the army, who seems at present to rule the state as the prime favourite, the same.

These latter are at present the only two great officers of state; and, though they are, no doubt, realizing handsome incomes by indirect means, they dare not make any display, lest signs of wealth might induce the Rājā or his successors to treat them as their predecessors in office were treated for some time past.[24] The Jāgīrdārs, or feudal chiefs, as I have before stated, are almost all of the same family or class as the Rājā, and they spend all the revenues of their estates in the maintenance of military retainers, upon whose courage and fidelity they can generally rely.

These Jāgīrdārs are bound to attend the prince on all great occasions, and at certain intervals; and are made to contribute something to his exchequer in tribute. Almost all live beyond their legitimate means, and make up the deficiency by maintaining upon their estates gangs of thieves, robbers, and murderers, who extend their depredations into the country around, and share the prey with these chiefs, and their officers and under-tenants. They keep them as poachers keep their dogs; and the paramount power, whose subjects they plunder, might as well ask them for the best horse in the stable as for the best thief that lives under their protection.[25]

I should mention an incident that occurred during the Rājā's visit to me at Tehrī. Lieutenant Thomas was sitting next to the little Sarīmant, and during the interview he asked him to allow him to look at his beautiful little gold-hilted sword. The Sarīmant held it fast, and told him that he should do himself the honour of waiting upon him in his tent in the course of the day, when he would show him the sword and tell him its history.

After the Rājā, left me, Thomas mentioned this, and said he felt very much hurt at the incivility of my little friend; but I told him that he was in everything he did and said so perfectly the gentleman, that I felt quite sure he would explain all to his satisfaction when he called upon him. During his visit to Thomas he apologized for not having given over his sword to him, and said, 'You European gentlemen have such perfect confidence in each other, that you can, at all times, and in all situations, venture to gratify your curiosity in these matters, and draw your swords in a crowd just as well as when alone; but, had you drawn mine from the scabbard in such a situation, with the tent full of the Rājā's personal attendants, and surrounded by a devoted and not very orderly soldiery, it might have been attended by very serious consequences.

Any man outside might have seen the blade gloaming, and, not observing distinctly why it had been drawn, might have suspected treachery, and called out "To the rescue", when we should all have been cut down—the lady, child, and all.'

Thomas was not only satisfied with the Sarīmant's apology, but was so much delighted with him, that he has ever since been longing to get his portrait; for he says it was really his intention to draw the sword had the Sarīmant given it to him. As I have said, his face is extremely beautiful, quite a model for a painter or a statuary, and his figure, though small, is handsome. He dresses with great elegance, mostly in azure-coloured satin, surmounted by a rose- coloured turban and a waistband of the same colour.

All his motions are graceful, and his manners have an exquisite polish. A greater master of all the convenances I have never seen, though he is of slender capacity, and, as I have said, in stature less than five feet high.

A poor, half-naked man, reduced to beggary by the late famine, ran along by my horse to show me the road, and, to the great amusement of my attendants, exclaimed that he felt exactly as if he were always falling down a well, meaning as if he were immersed in cold water. He said that the cold season was suited only to gentlemen who could afford to be well clothed; but, to a poor man like himself, and the great mass of people, in Bundēlkhand at least, the hot season was much better.

He told me that 'the late Rājā, though a harsh, was thought to be a just man;[26] and that his good sense, and, above all, his good fortune (ikbāl) had preserved the principality entire; but that God only, and the forbearance of the Honourable Company, could now serve it under such an imbecile as the present chief'. He seemed quite melancholy at the thought of living to see this principality, the oldest in Bundēlkhand, lose its independence. Even this poor, unclothed, and starving wretch had a feeling of patriotism, a pride of country, though that country had been so wretchedly governed, and was now desolated by a famine.

Just such a feeling had the impressed seamen who fought our battles in the great struggle. No nation has ever had a more disgraceful institution than that of the press-gang of England. This institution, if so it can be called, must be an eternal stain upon her glory—posterity will never be able to read the history of her naval victories without a blush—without reproaching her lawgivers who could allow them to be purchased with the blood of such men as those who fought for us the battles of the Nile and Trafalgar. 'England expected every man to do his duty' on that day, but had England done her duty to every man who was on that day to fight for her? Was not every English gentleman of the Lords and Commons a David sending his Uriah to battle?[27]

The intellectual stock which we require in good seamen for our navy, and which is acquired in scenes of peril 'upon the high and giddy mast', is as much their property as that which other men acquire in schools and colleges; and we had no more right to seize and employ these seamen in our battles upon the wages of common, uninstructed labour, than we should have had to seize and employ as many clergymen, barristers, and physicians.

When I have stood on the quarter-deck of a ship in a storm, and seen the seamen covering the yards in taking in sail, with the thunder rolling, and the lightning flashing fearfully around them—the sea covered with foam, and each succeeding billow, as it rushed by, seeming ready to sweep them all from their frail footing into the fathomless abyss below—I have asked myself, 'Are men like these to be seized like common felons, torn from their wives and children as soon as they reach their native land, subject every day to the lash, and put in front of those battles on which the wealth, the honour, and the independence of the nation depend, merely because British legislators know that when there, a regard for their own personal character among their companions in danger will make them fight like Englishmen?'

This feeling of nationality which exists in the little states of Bundēlkhand, arises from the circumstance that the mass of the landholders are of the same class as the chief Bundēlas; and that the public establishments of the state are recruited almost exclusively from that mass. The states of Jhānsī[28] and Jālaun[29] are the only exceptions. There the rulers are Brahmans and not Rājpūts, and they recruit their public establishments from all classes and all countries. The landed aristocracy, however, there, as elsewhere, are Rājpūts- either Pawārs, Chandēls, or Bundēlas.

The Rājpūt landholders of Bundēlkhand are linked to the soil in all their grades, from the prince to the peasant, as the Highlanders of Scotland were not long ago; and the holder of a hundred acres is as proud as the holder of a million.[30] He boasts the same descent, and the same exclusive possession of arms and agriculture, to which unhappily the industry of their little territories is almost exclusively confined, for no other branch can grow up among so turbulent a set, whose quarrels with their chiefs, or among each other, are constantly involving them in civil wars, which render life and property exceedingly insecure.

Besides, as I have stated, their propensity to keep bands of thieves, robbers, and murderers in their baronial castles, as poachers keep their dogs, has scared away the wealthy and respectable capitalist and peaceful and industrious manufacturer.

All the landholders are uneducated, and unfit to serve in any of our civil establishments, or in those of any very civilized Governments; and they are just as unfitted to serve in our military establishments, where strict discipline is required. The lands they occupy are cultivated because they depend almost entirely upon the rents they get from them for subsistence; and because every petty chief and his family hold their lands rent-free, or at a trifling quit-rent, on the tenure of military service, and their residue forms all the market for land produce which the cultivators require.

They dread the transfer of the rule to our Government, because they now form almost exclusively all the establishments of their domestic chief, civil as well as military; and know that, were our rule to be substituted, they would be almost entirely excluded from these, at least for a generation or two. In our regiments, horse or foot, there is hardly a man from Bundēlkhand, for the reasons above stated; nor are there any in the Gwālior regiments and contingents which are stationed in the neighbourhood; though the land among them is become minutely subdivided, and they are obliged to seek service or starve. They are all too proud for manual labour, even at the plough. No Bundēlkhand Rājpūt will, I believe, condescend to put his hand to one.

Among the Marāthā states, Sikhs, and Muhammadans, there is no bond of union of this kind. The establishments, military as well as civil, are everywhere among them composed for the most part of foreigners; and the landed interests under such Governments would dread nothing from the prospect of a transfer to our rule; on the contrary, they and the mass of the people would almost everywhere hail it as a blessing.

There are two reasons why we should leave these small native states under their own chiefs, even when the claim to the succession is feeble or defective; first, because it tends to relieve the minds of other native chiefs from the apprehension, already too prevalent among them, that we desire by degrees to absorb them all, because we think our government would do better for the people; and secondly, because, by leaving them as a contrast, we afford to the people of India the opportunity of observing the superior advantages of our rule.

'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,' in governments as well as in landscapes; and if the people of India, instead of the living proofs of what perilous things native governments, whether Hindoo or Muhammadan, are in reality, were acquainted with nothing but such pictures of them as are to be found in their histories and in the imaginations of their priests and learned men (who lose much of their influence and importance under our rule), they would certainly, with proneness like theirs to delight in the marvellous, be far from satisfied, as they now are, that they never had a government so good as ours, and that they never could hope for another so good, were ours removed.[31]

For the advantages which we derive from leaving them independent, we are, no doubt, obliged to pay a heavy penalty in the plunder of our wealthy native subjects by the gangs of robbers of all descriptions whom they foster; but this evil may be greatly diminished by a judicious interposition of our authority to put down such bands.[32]

In Bundēlkhand, at present, the government and the lands of the native chiefs are in the hands of three of the Hindoo military classes, Bundēlas, Dhandēlas, and Pawārs. The principal chiefs are of the first, and their feudatories are chiefly of the other two. A Bundēla cannot marry the daughter of a Bundēla; he must take his wife from one or other of the other two tribes; nor can a member of either of the other two take his wife from his own tribe; he must take her from the Bundēlas, or the other tribe.

The wives of the greatest chiefs are commonly from the poorest families of their vassals; nor does the proud family from which she has been taken feel itself exalted by the alliance; neither does the poorest vassal among the Pawārs and Dhandēls feel that the daughter of his prince has condescended in becoming his wife. All they expect is a service for a few more yeomen of the family among the retainers of the sovereign.

The people are in this manner, from the prince to the peasant, indissolubly linked to each other, and to the soil they occupy; for, where industry is confined almost exclusively to agriculture, the proprietors of the soil and the officers of Government, who are maintained out of its rents, constitute nearly the whole of the middle and higher classes.

About one-half of the lands of every state are held on service tenure by vassals of the same family or clan as the chief; and there is hardly one of them who is not connected with that chief by marriage. The revenue derived from the other half is spent in the maintenance of establishments formed almost exclusively of the members of these families.

They are none of them educated for civil offices under any other rule, nor could they, for a generation or two, be induced to submit to wear military uniform, or learn the drill of regular soldiers. They are mere militia, brave as men can be, but unsusceptible of discipline. They have, therefore, a natural horror at the thought of their states coming under any other than a domestic rule, for they could have no chance of employment in the civil or military establishments of a foreign power; and their lands would, they fear, be resumed, since the service for which they had been given would be no longer available to the rulers.

It is said that, in the long interval from the commencement of the reign of Alexander the third to the end of that of David the second,[33] not a single baron could be found in Scotland able to sign his own name. The Bundēlkhand barons have never, I believe, been quite so bad as this, though they have never yet learned enough to fit them for civil offices under us. Many of them can write and read their own language, which is that common to the other countries around them.[34]

Bundēlkhand was formerly possessed by another tribe of Rājpūts, the proud Chandēls, who have now disappeared altogether from this province. If one of that tribe can still be found, it is in the humblest rank of the peasant or the soldier; but its former strength is indicated by the magnificent artificial lakes and ruined castles which are traced to them; and by the reverence which is still felt by the present dominant classes of [sic] their old capital of Mahoba.

Within a certain distance around that ruined city no one now dares to beat the 'nakkāra', or great drum used in festivals or processions, lest the spirits of the old Chandēl chiefs who there repose should be roused to vengeance;[35] and a kingdom could not tempt one of the Bundēlas, Pawārs, or Chandēls to accept the government of the parish ['mauza'] in which it is situated. They will take subordinate offices there under others with fear and trembling, but nothing could induce one of them to meet the governor. When the deadly struggle between these two tribes took place cannot now be discovered.[36]

In the time of Akbar, the Chandēls were powerful in Mahoba, as the celebrated Durgāvatī, the queen of Garhā Mandlā, whose reign extended over the Sāgar and Nerbudda territories and the greater part of Berār, was a daughter of the reigning Chandēl prince of Mahoba. He condescended to give his daughter only on condition that the Gond prince who demanded her should, to save his character, come with an army of fifty thousand men to take her.

He did so, and 'nothing loth', Durgāvatī departed to reign over a country where her name is now more revered than that of any other sovereign it has ever had. She was killed above two hundred and fifty years ago, about twelve miles from Jubbulpore, while gallantly leading on her troops in their third and last attempt to stem the torrent of Muhammadan invasion. Her tomb is still to be seen where she fell, in a narrow defile between two hills; and a pair of large rounded stones which stand near are, according to popular belief, her royal drums turned into stone, which, in the dead of night, are still heard resounding through the woods, and calling the spirits of her warriors from their thousand graves around her.

The travellers who pass this solitary spot respectfully place upon the tomb the prettiest specimen they can find of the crystals which abound in the neighbourhood; and, with so much of kindly feeling had the history of Durgāvatī inspired me, that I could not resist the temptation of adding one to the number when I visited her tomb some sixteen years ago.[37]

I should mention that the Rājā of Samthar in Bundēlkhand.[38] is by caste a Gūjar;[39] and he has not yet any landed aristocracy like that of the Bundēlas about him. One of his ancestors, not long ago, seized upon a fine open plain, and built a fort upon it, and the family has ever since, by means of this fort, kept possession of the country around, and drawn part of their revenues from depredations upon their neighbours and travellers. The Jhānsī and Jālaun chiefs are Brahmans of the same family as the Peshwā.

In the states governed by chiefs of the military classes, nearly the whole produce of the land goes to maintain soldiers, or military retainers, who are always ready to fight or rob for their chief. In those governed by the Brahmanical class, nearly the whole produce goes to maintain priests; and the other chiefs would soon devour them, as the black ants devour the white, were not the paramount power to interpose and save them.

While the Peshwā lived, he interposed; but all his dominions were running into priesthood, like those in Sāgar and Bundēlkhand, and must soon have been swallowed up by the military chiefs around him, had we not taken his place. Jālaun and Jhānsī are preserved only by us, for, with all their religious, it is impossible for them to maintain efficient military establishments; and the Bundēla chiefs have always a strong desire to eat them up, since these states were all sliced out of their principalities when the Peshwā was all-powerful in Hindustan.

The Chhatarpur Rājā is a Pawār. His father had been in the service of the Bundēla Rājā; but, when we entered upon our duties as the paramount power in Bundēlkhand, the son had succeeded to the little principality seized upon by his father; and, on the principle of respecting actual possession, he was recognized by us as the sovereign.[40]

The Bundela Rājās, east of the Dasān river, are descended from Rājā Chhatarsāl, and are looked down upon by the Bundēla Rājās of Orchhā, Chandērī, and Datiyā, west of the Dasān, as Chhatarsāl was in the service of one of their ancestors, from whom he wrested the estates which his descendants now enjoy.

Chhatarsāl, in his will, gave one-third of the dominion he had thus acquired to the strongest power then in India, the Peshwā, in order to secure the other two-thirds to his two sons Hardī Sā and Jagatrāj, in the same manner as princes of the Roman empire used to bequeath a portion of theirs to the emperor.[41] Of the Peshwā's share we have now got all, except Jālaun. Jhānsī was subsequently acquired by the Peshwā, or rather by his subordinates, with his sanction and assistance.[42]


1. December, 1835.

2. In the Orchhā State. This seems to be the same town which the author had already visited on his way to Tehrī on the 7th December. Ante, Chapter 19 note [15].

3. Ante, Chapter 12 following note [9].

4. Sodora in the author's text; see ante, Chapter 19, note 11.

5. 'Bow-sacrifice.'

6. The tradition is that a prince of this military class was sporting in a river with his thousand wives, when Renukā, the wife of Jamadagni, went to bring water. He offended her, and her husband cursed the prince, but was put to death by him.

His son Parasrām was no less a person than the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, who had assumed the human shape merely to destroy these tyrants. He vowed, now that his mother had been insulted, and his father killed, not to leave one on the face of the earth. He destroyed them all twenty-one times, the women with child producing a new race each time. [W. H. S.] The legend is not narrated quite correctly.

7. Rāma Chandra, son of Dasaratha.

8. When Rām set out with his army for Ceylon, he is supposed to have worshipped the little tree called 'cheonkul', which stood near his capital of Ajodhya. It is a wretched little thing, between a shrub and a tree; but I have seen a procession of more than seventy thousand persons attend their prince to the worship of it on the festival of the Dasahara, which is held in celebration of this expedition to Ceylon. [W. H. S.]

'As Arjuna and his brothers worshipped the shumee-tree, the Acacia suma, and hung up their arms upon it, so the Hindus go forth to worship that tree on the festival of the Dasahara. They address the tree under the name of Aparajita, the invincible goddess, sprinkle it with five ambrosial liquids, the 'panchamrit', a mixture of milk, curds, sugar, clarified butter, and honey, wash it with water, and hang garments upon it. They light lamps and burn incense before the symbol of Aparajita, make 'chandlos' upon the tree, sprinkle it with rose-coloured water, and set offerings of food before it' (Balfour, Cyclopaedia, 3rd ed., s.v. 'Dasahara').

The 'cheonkul' is the chhonkar or chhaunkar (Prosopis spicigera, Linn.), described by Growse as follows:—

'Very common throughout the district; occasionally grows to quite a large tree, as in the Dohani Kund at Chaksauli. It is used for religious worship at the festival of the Dasahara, and considered sacred to Siva. The pods (called sangri) are much used for fodder. Probably chhonkar and sangri, which latter is in some parts of India the name of the tree as well as of the pod, are both dialectical corruptions of the Sanskrit sankara, a name of Siva; for the palatal and sibilant are frequently interchangeable' ('List of Indigenous Trees' in Mathurā, A. District Memoir, 3rd ed., Allahabad, 1883, p. 422).

Sundry leguminous trees are used in Dasahara ceremonies in the different parts of India, under varying local names.

9. Credo quia impossibile.

10. This comparison is not a happy one. The elements in some of the Hindoo myths specially repulsive to European taste are their monstrosity, their inartistic and hideous exaggeration, their accumulation of sanguinary horrors, and their childish triviality. Few of the classical myths exhibit these characteristics. The vanity or policy of Tiberius and Alexander in believing themselves to be, or wishing to be believed, divine, has nothing in common with the grotesque imagination of Puranic Hinduism.

11. The roots of Hinduism are so deeply fixed in a thick soil of custom and inherited sentiment, the growth of thousands of years, that English education has less effect than might be expected in loosening the bonds of beliefs which seem to every one but a Hindoo the merest superstition. Hindoos who can read English with fluency, and write it with accuracy, are often extremely devout, and Hindoo devoutness must ever appear to an outsider, even to a European as sympathetic as the author, to be no better than superstition.

A Hindoo able to read English with ease has at his command all the rich stores of the knowledge of the West, but very often does not care to taste them. Enmeshed in a web of ritual and belief inseparable from himself, he remains as much as ever a Hindoo, and uses his skill in English merely as an article of professional equipment. 'Good works of history and fiction' do not interest him, and he usually fails to digest and assimilate the physical or biological science administered to him at school or college.

In fact, he does not believe it. The monstrous legends of the Purānas continue to be for his mind the realities; while the truths of science are to him phantoms, shadowy and unsubstantial, the outlandish notions of alien and casteless unbelievers. These observations, of course, are not universally true, and a few Hindoos, growing in number, are able to heartily accept and thoroughly assimilate the facts of history and the results of inductive science. But such Hindoos are few, and it may well be doubted if it is possible for a man really to believe the amount of history and science known to an ordinary English schoolboy, and still be a devout Hindoo.

The old bottles cannot contain the new wine. The Hindoo scriptures do not treat of history and science in a merely incidental way; they teach, after their fashion, both history and science formally and systematically; grammar, logic, medicine, astronomy, the history of gods and men, are all taught in books which form part of the sacred canon.

Inductive science and matter-of-fact history are absolutely destructive of, and irreconcilable with, veneration for the Hindoo scriptures as authoritative and infallible guides. It is impossible, within the narrow limits of a note, to discuss the problems suggested by the author's remarks. Enough, perhaps, has been said to show that the many-rooted banyan tree of Hinduism is in little danger of overthrow from the attacks either of history or of science, not to speak of 'good works of fiction'.

12. A 'dug-out' canoe is rather a shaky craft. When two or three are lashed together, and a native cot (chārpāi) is stretched across, the passenger can make himself very comfortable. The boats are poled by men standing in the stern.

13. Ante, Chapter 24, note 1.

14. This prince is not included in the authentic dynastic lists given in the Chandēl inscriptions. He was probably a younger son, who never reigned. The principal authorities for the history of the Chandēl dynasty are A.S.R., vol. ii, pp. 439-51; vol. xxi, pp. 77-90, and V. A. Smith, 'Contributions to the History of Bundēlkhand', in J.A.S.B. vol. 1 (1881), Part I, p. 1; and 'The History and Coinage of the Chandēl (Chandella) Dynasty' in Ind. Ant., 1908, pp. 114-48. A brief summary will be found in Early History of India, 3rd ed. (1914), pp. 390-4. Most of the great works of the dynasty date from the period A.D. 950- 1200.

15. The long ridges of quartz traversing the gneiss are marked features in the scenery of Bundēlkhand.

16. The author always uses the phrase Central India as a vague geographical expression. The phrase is now generally used to mean an administrative division, namely, the group of Native States under the Central India Agency at Indore, which deals with about 148 chiefs and rulers of various rank. Central India in this official sense must not be confounded with the Central Provinces, of which the capital is Nāgpur.

17. On this lake theory, see ante, Chapter 14, note 13.

18. During a residence of six years in Bundēlkhand the editor came to the conclusion that most of the ancient artificial lakes were not constructed for purposes of irrigation. The embankments seem generally to have been built as adjuncts to palaces or temples. Many of the lakes command no considerable area of irrigable ground, and there are no traces of ancient irrigation channels. In modern times small canals have been drawn from some of the lakes.

19. The desolation of the ravines of the rivers of Central India and Bundēlkhand offers a very striking spectacle, presenting to the geologist a signal example of the effects of sub-aerial denudation.

20. This pretty custom is also described, in Tod's Rājasthān; and is still common in Alwar, and perhaps in other parts of Rājputāna (N.I. Notes and Queries, vol. ii (Dec. 1892), p. 152), It does not seem to be now known in the Gangetic valley.

21. Principalities, and the estates of the talukdārs of Oudh also descend to the eldest son. The author states (ante, Chapter 10, see text before note [10].) that the same rule applied in his time to the small agricultural holdings in the Sāgar and Nerbudda territories.

22. This statement is inexact; Hindoo daughters, as a rule, inherit nothing from their fathers; a Muhammadan daughter takes half the share of a son.

23. But it is only the smaller local ministerial officers who are secure in their tenure of office under native Governments; those on whose efficiency the well-being of village communities depends. The greatest evil of Governments of the kind is the feeling of insecurity which pervades all the higher officers of Government, and the instability of all engagements made by the Government with them, and by them with the people. [W. H. S.]

24. Ante, Chapter 23, text at note [8].

25. In the Gwālior territory, the Marāthā 'āmils' or governors of districts, do the same, and keep gangs of robbers on purpose to plunder their neighbours; and, if you ask them for their thieves, they will actually tell you that to part with them would be ruin, as they are their only defence against the thieves of their neighbours. [W. H. S.] These notions and habits are by no means extinct. In October, 1892, a force of about two hundred men, cavalry and infantry, was sent into Bundēlkhand to suppress robber gangs. Such gangs are constantly breaking out in that region, in most native states, and in many British districts. See ante, chapter 23, text following note [13].

26. My poor guide had as little sympathy with the prime ministers, whom the Tehrī Rājā put to death, as the peasantry of England had with the great men and women whom Harry the Eighth sacrificed. [W. H. S.] Ante, Chapter 23, beginning to note [9].

27. The cruel practice of impressment for the royal navy is authorized by a series of statutes extending from the reign of Philip and Mary to that of George III. Seamen of the merchant navy, and, with few exceptions, all seafaring men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, are liable, under the provisions of these harsh statutes, to be forcibly seized by the press-gang, and compelled to serve on board a man-of-war.

The acts legalizing impressment were freely made use of during the Napoleonic wars, but since then have been little acted on, and no Government at the present day could venture to use them, though they have never been repealed. The fleet sent against the Russians in 1855 was the first English fleet ever manned without recourse to forcible impressment: see the article 'Impressment' by David Hannay, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1910. The work by J. B. Hutchinson entitled The Press- gang Afloat and Ashore (London: Nash, 1913) gives copious details of the infamous proceedings.

28. The Brahman chief of Jhānsī was originally a governor under the Peshwā. The treaty of November 18, 1817, recognized the then chief Rāmchand Rāo, his heirs and successors, as hereditary rulers of Jhānsī. Rāmchand Rāo was granted the title of Rājā by the British Government in 1832, and died without issue on August 20, 1835 (N.W.P. Gazetteer, 1st ed., vol. i, p. 296). See post, Chapter 29.

29. The chiefs of Jālaun also were officers under the Marātha Government of the Peshwā up to 1817. In consequence of gross misgovernment, an English superintendent was appointed in 1838, and the state lapsed to the British Government, owing to failure of heirs, in 1840 (ibid. p. 229).

30. Ante Chapter 23, note 13.

31. Lapse of years has increased the distance and the enchantment, so that modern agitators and sentimentalists discover marvellous excellences in the native Governments of the now remote past. The methods of government in the existing native states have been so profoundly modified by the influence of the Imperial Government that these states are no longer as instructive in the way of contrast as they were in the author's day.

32. The author consistently held the views above enunciated, and defended the policy of maintaining the native states. He was of opinion that the system of annexation favoured by Lord Dalhousie and his Council 'had a downward tendency, and tended to crush all the higher and middle classes connected with the land'. He considered that the Government of India should have undertaken the management of Oudh, but that it had no right to annex the province, and appropriate its revenues (Journey through the Kingdom of Oude, p. 22, &c.). Since 1858 the policy of annexation has been repudiated. See Sir W. Lee-Warner, The Protected Princes of India (Macmillan, 1894), and The Native States of India (1910).

33. A.D. 1249 to A.D. 1371.

34. The Hindi spoken in different parts of Bundēlkhand comprises several distinct dialects: see Kellogg, A Grammar of the Hindī Language, 2nd ed., 1893; and Grierson, Linguistic Survey, vol. vi (1904), pp. 18-23, where the dialects of Eastern Bundēlkhand are discussed. Bundēlī, the speech of Bundēlkhand proper, will be treated as a dialect of Western Hindi in a volume of the Survey not yet published. Sir G. Grierson has favoured me with perusal of the proofs, and has used materials collected by me in the Hamīrpur District nearly forty years ago. Bundēlī has a considerable literature.

35. The editor was told of a case in which two chiefs suffered for beating their drums in Mahoba.

36. See ante, Chapter 23 note 11, and Chapter 26 note 14, and the authorities there cited. The Chandēl history occupies an important place in the mediaeval annals of India. Several important inscriptions of the dynasty have been correctly edited in the Epigraphia Indica. Mahoba is not now a 'ruined city'; it is a moderately prosperous country town, with a tolerable bazaar, and about eleven thousand inhabitants.

It is the head-quarters of a 'tahsīldār', or sub-collector, and a station on the Midland Railway. The ruined temples and places in and near the town are of much interest. For many miles round the country is full of remarkable remains, some of which are in fairly good preservation. The published descriptions of these works are far from being exhaustive. The author was mistaken in supposing that the power of the Chandēls was broken by the Bundēlas.

The last Chandēl king, who ruled over an extensive dominion, was Paramardi Deva, or Parmāl. This prince was defeated in a pitched battle, or rather a series of battles, near the Betwa river, by Prithīrāj Chauhān, king of Kanauj, in the year 1182. A few years later, the victor was himself vanquished and slain by the advancing Muhammadans. Mahoba and the surrounding territories then passed through many vicissitudes, imperfectly recorded in the pages of history, and were ruled from time to time by Musalmāns, Bhars, Khangārs, and others.

The Bundēlas, an offshoot of the Gaharwār clan, did not come into notice before the middle of the fourteenth century, and first became a power in India under the leadership of Champat Rāi, the contemporary of Jahāngīr and Shah Jāhan, in the first half of the seventeenth century. The line of Chandēl kings was continued in the persons of obscure local chiefs, whose very names are, for the most part, forgotten. The story of Durgāvatī, briefly told in the text, casts a momentary flash of light on their obscurity. The principal nobleman of the Chandēl race now occupying a dignified position is the Rājā of Gidhaur in the Mungir (Monghyr) district of Bengal, whose ancestor emigrated from Mahoba.

The war between the Chandēls and Chauhāns is the subject of a long section or canto of the Hindi epic, the Chand- Rāisā, written by Chand Bardāi, the court poet of Prithīrāj, of which the original MS. in 5,000 verses still exists. It was subsequently expanded to 125,000 verses (E.H.I., 3rd ed., 1914, p. 387 note). The war is also the theme of the songs of many popular rhapsodists. The story is, of course, encrusted with a thick deposit of miraculous legend, and none of the details can be relied on. But the fact and the date of the war are fully proved by incontestable evidence.

37. The marriage of Durgāvatī is no proof that her father, the Chandēl Rājā, was powerful in Mahoba in the time of Akbar. It is rather an indication that he was poor and weak. If he had been rich and strong, he would probably have refused his daughter to a Gond, even though complaisant bards might invent a Rājpūt genealogy for the bridegroom.

The story about the army of fifty thousand men cannot be readily accepted as sober fact. It looks like a courtly invention to explain a mésalliance. The inducement really offered to the proud but poor Chandēl was, in all likelihood, a large sum of money, according to the usual practice in such cases. Several indications exist of close relations between the Gonds and Chandēls in earlier times.

Early in Akbar's reign, in the year 1564, Āsaf Khān, the imperial viceroy of Karrā Mānikpur, obtained permission to invade the Gond territory. The young Rājā of Garhā Mandlā, Bīr Narāyan, was then a minor, and the defence of the kingdom devolved on Durgāvatī, the dowager queen. She first took up her position at the great fortress of Singaurgarh, north-west of Jabalpur, and, being there defeated, retired through Garhā, to the south-east, towards Mandlā.

After an obstinately contested fight the invaders were again successful, and broke the queen's stout resistance. 'Mounted on an elephant, she refused to retire, though she was severely wounded, until her troops had time to recover the shock of the first discharge of artillery, and, notwithstanding that she had received an arrow-wound in her eye, bravely defended the pass in person. But, by an extraordinary coincidence, the river in the rear of her position, which had been nearly dry a few hours before the action commenced, began suddenly to rise, and soon became unfordable.

Finding her plan of retreat thus frustrated, and seeing her troops give way, she snatched a dagger from her elephant-driver, and plunged it into her bosom. . . .

Of all the sovereigns of this dynasty she lives most in the recollection of the people; she carried out many highly useful works in different parts of her kingdom, and one of the large reservoirs near Jabalpur is still called the Rānī Talāo in memory of her. During the fifteen years of her regency she did much for the country, and won the hearts of the people, while her end was as noble and devoted as her life had been useful' (C.P. Gazetteer (1870), p. 283; with references to Sleeman's article on the Rājās of Garhā Mandlā, and 'Briggs' Farishta', ed. 1829, vol. ii, pp. 217, 218).

A memoir of Āsaf Khan Abdul Majīd, the general who overcame Durgāvatī, will be found in Blochmann's translation of the Aīn-i-Akbarī, vol. i, p. 366.

38. Samthar is a small state, lying between the Betwa and Pahūj rivers, to the south-west of the Jālaun district. It was separated from the Datiyā State only one generation previous to the British occupation of Bundēlkhand. A treaty was concluded with the Rājā in 1812 (N.W.P. Gazetteer (1st ed.), vol. i, p. 578).

39. Gūjars occupy more than a hundred villages in the Jālaun district, chiefly among the ravines of the Pahūj river. The Gūjar caste is most numerous in the Panjāb and the upper districts of the United Provinces. It is not very highly esteemed, being of about equal rank with the Āhīr caste and rather below the Jāt. Gūjar colonies are settled in the Hoshangābād and Nīmār districts of the Central Provinces. The Gūjars are inveterate cattle-lifters, and always ready to take advantage of any relaxation of the bonds of order to prey upon their neighbours. Many sections of the caste have adopted the Muhammadan faith.

40. The small state of Chhatarpur lies to the south of the Hamīrpur district, between the Dasān and Ken rivers. The town of Chhatarpur, on the military road from Bānda to Sāgar, is remarkable for the mausoleum and ruined palace of Rājā Chhatarsāl, after whom the town is named. Khajurāho, the ancient religious capital of the Chandēl monarchy, with its magnificent group of mediaeval Hindoo and Jain temples, is within the limits of the state, about eighteen miles south-east of Chhatarpur, and thirty-four miles south of Mahoba. The Pawār adventurer, who succeeded in separating Chhatarpur from the Panna state, was originally a common soldier.

41. Concerning Chhatarsāl (A.D. 1671 to 1731), see notes ante, Chapter 14 note 9, and chapter 23 note 11. He was one of the sons of Champat Rāi. The correct date of the death of Chhatarsāl is Pūs Badi 3, Sanwat, 1788 = A.D. 1731. Hardī (Hirdai) Sā succeeded to the Rāj, or kingdom, of Pannā, and Jagatrāj to that of Jaitpur. These kingdoms quickly broke up, and the fragments are now in part native states and in part British territory. The Orchhā State was formed about the beginning of the sixteenth century, and the Chandērī and Datiyā States are offshoots from it, which separated during the seventeenth century.

42. As already observed (ante, Chapter 26, note 29), the Jālaun State became British territory in 1840, four years after the tour described in the text, and four years before the, publication of the book. The Jhānsī State similarly lapsed on the death of Rājā Gangādhar Rāo in November, 1853. The Rānī Lachhmī Bāī joined the mutineers, and was killed in battle in June, 1858.

The book




1893 1915




Annual Fairs held on the Banks of Sacred Streams in India


Hindoo System of Religion


Legend of the Nerbudda River


A Suttee on the Nerbudda


Marriages of Trees—The Tank and the Plantain—Meteors—Rainbows


Hindoo Marriages


The Purveyance System


Religious Sects—Self-government of the Castes—Chimneysweepers—Washerwomen —Elephant Drivers


The Great Iconoclast—Troops routed by Hornets—The Rānī of Garhā—Hornets' Nests in India


The Peasantry and the Land Settlement




The Silver Tree, or 'Kalpa Briksha'—The 'Singhāra', or Trapa bispinosa, and the Guinea-Worm


Thugs and Poisoners


Basaltic Cappings of the Sandstone Hills of Central India—Suspension Bridge—Prospects of the Nerbudda Valley—Deification of a Mortal


Legend of the Sāgar Lake—Paralysis from eating the Grain of the Lathyrus sativus


Suttee Tombs—Insalubrity of deserted Fortresses


Basaltic Cappings—Interview with a Native Chief—A Singular Character


Birds' Nests—Sports of Boyhood


Feeding Pilgrims—Marriage of a Stone with a Shrub


The Men-Tigers


Burning of Deorī by a Freebooter—A Suttee


Interview with the Rājā who marries the Stone to the Shrub—Order of the Moon and the Fish


The Rājā of Orchhā—Murder of his many Ministers


Corn Dealers—Scarcities—Famines in India


Epidemic Diseases—Scape-goat


Artificial Lakes in Bundēlkhand-Hindoo, Greek, and Roman Faith




Pestle-and-Mortar Sugar-Mills—Washing away of the Soil


Interview with the Chiefs of Jhānsī—Disputed Succession


Haunted Villages


Interview with the Rājā of Datiyā—Fiscal Errors of Statesmen—Thieves and Robbers by Profession


Sporting at Datiyā—Fidelity of Followers to their Chiefs in India—Law of Primogeniture wanting among Muhammadans




The Suicide-Relations between Parents and Children in India


Gwālior Plain once the Bed of a Lake—Tameness of Peacocks


Gwālior and its Government


Contest for Empire between the Sons of Shah Jahān


Aurangzēb and Murād Defeat their Father's Army near Ujain


Dārā Marches in Person against his Brothers, and is Defeated


Dārā Retreats towards Lahore—Is robbed by the Jāts—Their Character


Shāh Jahān Imprisoned by his Two Sons, Aurangzēb and Murād


Aurangzēb Throws off the Mask, Imprisons his Brother Murād, and Assumes the Government of the Empire


Aurangzēb Meets Shujā in Bengal, and Defeats him, after Pursuing Dārā to the Hyphasis


Aurangzēb Imprisons his Eldest Son—Shujā and all his Family are Destroyed


Second Defeat and Death of Dārā, and Imprisonment of his Two Sons


Death and Character of Amīr Jumla


Reflections on the Preceding History


The Great Diamond of Kohinūr


Pindhārī System—Character of the Marāthā Administration—Cause of their Dislike to the Paramount Power


Dhōlpur, Capital of the Jāt Chiefs of Gohad—Consequence of Obstacles to the Prosecution of Robbers


Influence of Electricity on Vegetation—Agra and its Buildings


Nūr Jahān, the Aunt of the Empress Nūr Mahal, over whose Remains the Tāj is built


Father Gregory's Notion of the Impediments to Conversion in India—Inability of Europeans to speak Eastern Languages


Fathpur-Sīkrī—The Emperor Akbar's Pilgrimage—Birth of Jahāngīr


Bharatpur—Dīg—Want of Employment for the Military and the Educated Classes under the Company's Rule


Govardhan, the Scene of Kriahna's Dalliance with the Milkmaids




Declining Fertility of the Soil—Popular Notion of the Cause


Concentration of Capital and its Effects


Transit Duties in India—Mode of Collecting them


Peasantry of India attached to no existing Government—Want of Trees in Upper India—Cause and Consequence—Wells and Groves


Public Spirit of the Hindoos—Tree Cultivation and Suggestions for extending it


Cities and Towns, formed by Public Establishments, disappear as Sovereigns and Governors change their Abodes


Murder of Mr. Fraser, and Execution of the Nawāb Shams-ud- dīn


Marriage of a Jāt Chief


Collegiate Endowment of Muhammadan Tombs and Mosques


The Old City of Delhi


New Delhi, or Shāhjahānābād


Indian Police—Its Defects—and their Cause and Remedy


Rent-free Tenures—Right of Government to Resume such Grants


The Station of Meerut—'Atālīs' who Dance and Sing gratuitously for the Benefit of the Poor


Subdivisions of Lands—Want of Gradations of Rank—Taxes


Meerut-Anglo-Indian Society


Pilgrims of India


The Bēgam Sumroo



Abolition of Corporal Punishment—Increase of Pay with Length of Service—Promotion by Seniority


Invalid Establishment


Thuggee and the part taken in its Suppression by General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B., by Captain J. L. Sleeman

Supplementary Note by the Editor

Additions and Corrections

Maps Showing Author's Route


bottom of page