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Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Sporting at Datiyā—Fidelity of Followers to their Chiefs in India—Law of Primogeniture wanting among Muhammadans

The morning after we reached Datiyā, I went out with Lieutenant Thomas to shoot and hunt in the Rājā's large preserve, and with the humane and determined resolution of killing no more game than our camp would be likely to eat; for we were told that the deer and wild hogs were so very numerous that we might shoot just as many as we pleased.[l]

We were posted upon two terraces, one near the gateway, and the other in the centre of the preserve; and, after waiting here an hour, we got each a shot at a hog. Hares we saw, and might have shot, but we had loaded all our barrels with ball for other game. We left the 'ramnā', which is a quadrangle of about one hundred acres of thick grass, shrubs, and brushwood, enclosed by a high stone wall.

There is one gate on the west side, and this is kept open during the night, to let the game out and in. It is shut and guarded during the day, when the animals are left to repose in the shade, except on such occasions as the present, when the Rājā wants to give his guests a morning's sport.

On the plains and woods outside we saw a good many large deer, but could not manage to get near them in our own way, and had not patience to try that of the natives, so that we came back without killing anything, or having had any occasion to exercise our forbearance. The Rājā's people, as soon as we left them, went about their sport after their own fashion, and brought us a fine buck antelope after breakfast.

They have a bullock trained to go about the fields with them, led at a quick pace by a halter, with which the sportsman guides him, as he walks along with him by the side opposite to that facing the deer he is in pursuit of. He goes round the deer as he grazes in the field, shortening the distance at every circle till he comes within shot. At the signal given the bullock stands still, and the sportsman rests his gun upon his back and fires. They seldom miss.

Others go with a fine buck and doe antelope, tame, and trained to browse upon the fresh bushes, which are woven for the occasion into a kind of hand-hurdle, behind which a man creeps along over the fields towards the herd of wild ones, or sits still with his matchlock ready, and pointed out through the leaves. The herd seeing the male and female strangers so very busily and agreeably employed upon their apparently inviting repast, advance to accost them, and are shot when they get within a secure distance.[2]

The hurdle was filled with branches from the 'dhau' (Lythrum fructuosum) tree, of which the jungle is for the most part composed, plucked as we went along; and the tame antelopes, having been kept long fasting for the purpose, fed eagerly upon them. We had also two pairs of falcons; but a knowledge of the brutal manner in which these birds are fed and taught is enough to prevent any but a brute from taking much delight in the sport they afford.[3]

The officer who conducted us was evidently much disappointed, for he was really very anxious, as he knew his master the Rājā was, that we should have a good day's sport. On our way back I made him ride by my side, and talk to me about Datiyā, since he had been unable to show me any sport. I got his thoughts into a train that I knew would animate him, if he had any soul at all for poetry or poetical recollections, as I thought he had.

'The noble works in palaces and temples,' said he, 'which you see around you, Sir, mouldering in ruins, were built by princes who had beaten emperors in battle, and whose spirits still hover over and protect the place. Several times, under the late disorders which preceded your paramount rule in Hindustan, when hostile forces assembled around us, and threatened our capital with destruction, lights and elephants innumerable were seen from the tops of those battlements, passing and repassing under the walls, ready to defend them had the enemy attempted an assault. Whenever our soldiers endeavoured to approach near them, they disappeared; and everybody knew that they were spirits of men like Bīrsingh Deo and Hardaul Lāla that had come to our aid, and we never lost confidence.'

It is easy to understand the devotion of men to their chiefs when they believe their progenitors to have been demigods, and to have been faithfully served by their ancestors for several generations. We neither have, nor ever can have, servants so personally devoted to us as these men are to their chiefs, though we have soldiers who will fight under our banners with as much courage and fidelity.

They know that their grandfathers served the grandfathers of these chiefs, and they hope their grandchildren will serve their grandsons. The one feels as much pride and pleasure in so serving, as the other in being so served; and both hope that the link which binds them may never be severed. Our servants, on the contrary, private and public, are always in dread that some accident, some trivial fault, or some slight offence, not to be avoided, will sever for ever the link that binds them to their master.

The fidelity of the military classes of the people of India to their immediate chief, or leader, whose salt they eat, has been always very remarkable, and commonly bears little relation to his moral virtues, or conduct to his superiors. They feel that it is their duty to serve him who feeds and protects them and their families in all situations, and under all circumstances; and the chief feels that, while he has a right to their services, it is his imperative duty so to feed and protect them and their families.

He may change sides as often as he pleases, but the relations between him and his followers remain unchanged. About the side he chooses to take in a contest for dominion, they ask no questions, and feel no responsibility. God has placed their destinies in dependence upon his; and to him they cling to the last. In Mālwa, Bhopāl, and other parts of Central India, the Muhammadan rule could be established over that of the Rājpūt chief only by the annihilation of the entire race of their followers.[4]

In no part of the world has the devotion of soldiers to their immediate chief been more remarkable than in India among the Rājpūts; and in no part of the world bas the fidelity of these chiefs to the paramount power been more unsteady, or their devotion less to be relied upon.

The laws of Muhammad, which prescribe that the property in land be divided equally among the sons,[5] leaves no rule for succession to territorial or political dominion.

It has been justly observed by Hume: 'The right of primogeniture was introduced with the feudal law; an institution which is hurtful by producing and maintaining an unequal division of property; but it is advantageous in another respect by accustoming the people to a preference for the eldest son, and thereby preventing a partition or disputed succession in the monarchy.'

Among the Muhammadan princes there was no law that bound the whole members of a family to obey the eldest son of a deceased prince. Every son of the Emperor of Hindustan considered that he had a right to set up his claim to the throne, vacated by the death of his father; and, in anticipation of that death, to strengthen his claim by negotiations and intrigues with all the territorial chiefs and influential nobles of the empire.

However prejudicial to the interests of his elder brother such measures might be, they were never considered to be an invasion of his rights, because such rights had never been established by the laws of their prophet. As all the sons considered that they had an equal right to solicit the support of the chiefs and nobles, so all the chiefs and nobles considered that they could adopt the cause of whichever son they chose, without incurring the reproach of either treason or dishonour.

The one who succeeded thought himself justified by the law of self-preservation to put, not only his brothers, but all their sons, to death; so that there was, after every new succession, an entire clearance of all the male members of the imperial family.

Aurangzēb said to his pedantic tutor, who wished to be raised to high station on his accession to the imperial throne, 'Should not you, instead of your flattery, have taught me something of that point so important to a king, which is, what are the reciprocal duties of a sovereign to his subjects, and those of the subjects to their sovereign? And ought not you to have considered that one day I should be obliged, with the sword, to dispute my life and the crown with my brothers? Is not that the destiny, almost of all the sons of Hindustan?'[6]

Now that they have become pensioners of the British Government, the members increase like white ants; and, as Malthus has it, 'press so hard against their means of subsistence' that a great many of them are absolutely starving, in spite of the enormous pension the head of the family receives for their maintenance.[7]

The city of Datiyā is surrounded by a stone wall about thirty feet high, with its foundation on a solid rock; but it has no ditch or glacis, and is capable of little or no defence against cannon. In the afternoon I went, accompanied by Lieutenant Thomas, and followed by the best cortège we could muster, to return the Rājā's visit. He resides within the walls of the city in a large square garden, enclosed with a high wall, and filled with fine orange-trees, at this time bending under the weight of the most delicious fruit.

The old chief received us at the bottom of a fine flight of steps leading up to a handsome pavilion, built upon the wall of one of the faces of this garden. It was enclosed at the back, and in front looked into the garden through open arcades. The floors were spread with handsome carpets of the Jhānsī manufacture.

In front of the pavilion was a wide terrace of polished stone, extending to the top of the flight of the steps; and, in the centre of this terrace, and directly opposite to us as we looked into the garden, was a fine jet d'eau in a large basin of water in full play, and, with its shower of diamonds, showing off the rich green and red of the orange-trees to the best advantage.

The large quadrangle thus occupied is called the 'kila', or fort, and the wall that surrounds it is thirty feet high, with a round embattled tower at each corner. On the east face is a fine large gateway for the entrance, with a curtain as high as the wall itself. Inside the gate is a piece of ordnance painted red, with the largest calibre I ever saw.[8] This is fired once a year, at the festival of the Dasahra.[9]

Our arrival at the wall was announced by a salute from some fine brass guns upon the bastions near the gateway. As we advanced from the gateway up through the garden to the pavilion, we were again serenaded by our friends with their guitars and excellent voices. They were now on foot, and arranged along both sides of the walk that we had to pass through. The open garden space within the walls appeared to me to be about ten acres.

It is crossed and recrossed at right angles by numerous walks, having rows of plantain and other fruit trees on each side; and orange, pomegranate, and other small fruit trees to fill the space between; and anything more rich and luxuriant one can hardly conceive. In the centre of the north and west sides are pavilions with apartments for the family above, behind, and on each side of the great reception room, exactly similar to that in which we were received on the south face.

The whole formed, I think, the most delightful residence that I have seen for a hot climate. There is, however, no doubt that the most healthy stations in this, and every other hot climate, are those situated upon dry, open, sandy plains, with neither shrubberies nor basins.[10]

We were introduced to the young Rājā, the old man's adopted son, a lad of about ten years of age, who is to be married in February next. He is plain in person, but has a pleasing expression of countenance; and, if he be moulded after the old man, and not after his minister, the country may perhaps have in him the 'lucky accident' of a good governor.[11] I have rarely seen a finer or more prepossessing man than the Rājā, and all his subjects speak well of him.

We had an elephant, a horse, abundance of shawls, and other fine clothes placed before us as presents; but I prayed the old gentleman to keep them all for me till I returned, as I was a mere voyageur without the means of carrying such valuable things in safety; but he would not be satisfied till I had taken two plain hilts of swords and spears, the manufacture of Datiyā, and of little value, which Lieutenant Thomas and I promised to keep for his sake.

The rest of the presents were all taken back to their places. After an hour's talk with the old man and his ministers, attar of roses and pān were distributed, and we took our leave to go and visit the old palace, which as yet we had seen only from a distance. There were only two men besides the Rājā, his son, and ourselves, seated upon chairs.

All the other principal persons of the court sat around cross-legged on the carpet; but they joined freely in the conversation, I was told by these courtiers how often the young chief had, during the day, asked when he could have the happiness of seeing me; and the old chief was told, in my hearing, how many good things I had said since I came into his territories, all tending to his honour and my credit.

This is a species of barefaced flattery to which we are all doomed to submit in our intercourse with these native chiefs; but still, to a man of sense, it never ceases to be distressing and offensive; for he can hardly ever help feeling that they must think him a mere child before they could venture to treat him with it. This is, however, to put too harsh a construction upon what in reality, the people mean only as civility; and they, who can so easily consider the grandfathers of their chiefs as gods, and worship them as such, may be suffered to treat us as heroes and sayers of good things without offence.[12]

We ascended to the summit of the old palace, and were well repaid for the trouble by the view of an extremely rich sheet of wheat, gram, and other spring crops, extending to the north and east, as far as the eye could reach, from the dark belt of forest, three miles deep, with which the Rājā has surrounded his capital on every side as hunting grounds. The lands comprised in this forest are, for the most part, exceedingly poor, and water for irrigation is unattainable within them, so that little is lost by this taste of the chief for the sports of the field, in which, however, he cannot himself now indulge.

On the 19th[13] we left Datiyā, and, after emerging from the surrounding forest, came over a fine plain covered with rich spring crops for ten miles, till we entered among the ravines of the river Sindh, whose banks are, like those of all rivers in this part of India, bordered to a great distance by these deep and ugly inequalities. Here they are almost without grass or shrubs to clothe their hideous nakedness, and have been formed by the torrents, which, in the season of the rains, rush from the extensive plain, as from a wide ocean, down to the deep channel of the river in narrow streams.

These streams cut their way easily through the soft alluvial soil, which must once have formed the bed of a vast lake.[14] On coming through the forest, before sunrise we discovered our error of the day before, for we found excellent deer-shooting in the long grass and brushwood, which grow luxuriantly at some distance from the city.

Had we come out a couple of miles the day before, we might have had noble sport, and really required the forbearance and humanity to which we had so magnanimously resolved to sacrifice our 'pride of art' as sportsmen; for we saw many herds of the nīlgāi, antelope, and spotted deer,[15] browsing within a few paces of us, within the long grass and brushwood on both sides of the road. We could not stay, however, to indulge in much sport, having a long march before us.


1. Some readers may be shocked at the notion of the author shooting pig, but, in Bundēlkhand, where pig-sticking, or hog- hunting, as the older writers call it, is not practised, hog-shooting is quite legitimate.

2. The common antelope, or black buck (Antilope bezoartica, or cervicapra) feed in herds, sometimes numbering many hundreds, in the open plains, especially those of black soil. Men armed with matchlocks can scarcely get a shot except by adopting artifices similar to those described in the text.

3. Sixteen species of hawks, belonging to several genera, are trained in India. They are often fed by being allowed to suck the blood from the breasts of live pigeons, and their eyes are darkened by means of a silken thread passed through holes in the eyelids.

'Hawking is a very dull and very cruel sport. A person must become insensible to the sufferings of the most beautiful and most inoffensive of the brute creation before he can feel any enjoyment in it. The cruelty lies chiefly in the mode of feeding the hawks' (Journey through the Kingdom of Oude, vol. i, p, 109). Asoka forbade the practice by the words: 'The living must not be fed with the living' (Pillar Edict V, c. 243 B.C., in V. A. Smith, Asoka, 2nd ed. (1909), p. 188).

4. The wording of this sentence is unfortunate, and it is not easy to understand why the author mentioned Bhopāl. The principality of Bhopāl was formed by Dost Mohammed Khān, an Afghān officer of Aurangzēb, who became independent a few years after that sovereign's death in 1707. Since that time the dynasty has always continued to be Muhammadan.

The services of Sikandar Bēgam in the Mutiny are well known. Mālwa is the country lying between Bundēlkhand, on the east, and Rājputāna, on the west, and includes Bhopāl. Most of the states in this region are now ruled by Hindoos, but the local dynasty which ruled the kingdom of Mālwa and Māndū from A.D. 1401 to 1531 was Musalmān. (See Thomas, Chronicles of the Pathan Kings of Dehli, pp. 346-53.)

5. All near relatives succeed to a Muhammadan's estate, which is divided, under complicated rules, into the necessary number of shares. A son's share is double that of a daughter. As between themselves all sons share equally.

6. Bernier's Revolutions of the Mogul Empire. [W. H. S.] The author seems to have used either the London edition of 1671, entitled The History of the Late Revolution of the Empire of the Great Mogul, or one of the reprints of that edition.

The anecdote referred to is called by Bernier 'an uncommonly good story'. Aurangzēb made a long speech, ending by dismissing the unlucky pedagogue with the words: 'Go! withdraw to thy native village. Henceforth let no man know either who thou art, or what is become of thee.' (Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, pp. 154-161, ed. Constable and V. A, Smith, 1914.) Manucci repeats the story with slight variations (Storie da Mogor, vol. ii, pp. 29-33).

7. Compare the forcible description of the state of the Delhi royal family in Chapter 76, post. The old emperor's pension was one hundred thousand rupees a month. The events of the Mutiny effected a considerable clearance, though the number of persons claiming relationship with the royal house is still large. A few of these have taken service under the British Government, but have not distinguished themselves.

8. The author, unfortunately, does not give the dimensions of this piece. Rūmī Khān's gun at Bījāpur, which was cast in the sixteenth century at Ahmadnagar, is generally considered the largest ancient cannon in India. It is fifteen feet long, and weighs about forty-one tons, the calibre being two feet four inches.

Like the gun at Datiyā, it is painted with red lead, and is worshipped by Hindoos, who are always ready to worship every manifestation of power. Another big gun at Bījāpur is thirty feet in length, built up of bars bound together. Other very large pieces exist at Gāwīlgarh in Berār, and Bīdar in the Nīzam's dominions. (Balfour, Cyclopaedia, 3rd ed., s.v. Gun, Bījāpur, Gawilgarh Hill Range, and Beder.)

9. The Dasahra festival, celebrated at the beginning of October, marks the close of the rains and the commencement of the cold season. It is observed by all classes of Hindus, but especially by Rājās and the military classes, for whom this festival has peculiar importance. In the old days no prince or commander, whether his command consisted of soldiers or robbers, ever undertook regular operations until the Dasahra had been duly observed.

All Rājās still receive valuable offerings on this occasion, which form an important element in their revenue. In some places buffaloes are sacrificed by the Rājā in person. The soldiers worship the weapons which they hope to use during the coming season. Among the Marāthās the ordnance received especial attention and worship. The ceremony of worshipping certain leguminous trees at this festival has been noticed ante, Chapter 26 note 8.

10. Few Europeans nowadays could join in the author's enthusiastic admiration of the Datiyā garden. The arrangements seem to have been those usual in large formal native gardens in Northern India.

11. This lad has since succeeded his adoptive father as the chief of the Datiyā principality. The old chief found him one day lying in the grass, as he was shooting through one of his preserves. His elephant was very near treading upon the infant before he saw it. He brought home the boy, adopted him as his son, and declared him his successor, from having no son of his own.

The British Government, finding that the people generally seemed to acquiesce in the old man's wishes, sanctioned the measure, as the paramount power. [W. H. S.] The old Rājā died in 1839, and the succession of the boy, Bijai Bahādur, thus strangely favoured by fortune, was unsuccessfully opposed by one of the nobles of the state.

Bijai Bahādur governed the state with sufficient success until his death in 1857. The succession was then again disputed, and disturbances took place which were suppressed by an armed British force. The state is still governed by its hereditary ruler, who has been granted the privilege of adoption (N.W.P. Gazetteer, 1st ed., vol. i, p. 410, s.v. Datiyā).

12. The fact is that all Oriental rulers thoroughly enjoy the most outrageous flattery, and would feel defrauded if they did not get it in abundance. Even Akbar, the greatest of them, could enjoy it, and allow the courtly poet to say 'See Akbar, and you see God'. Indians find it difficult to believe that European officials really dislike attentions which are exacted by rulers of their own races.

13. December, 1835.

14. This theory is probably incorrect. See ante, Chapter 14, note 7, on formation of black soil.

15. Nīlgāi, or 'blue-bull', a huge, heavy antelope of bovine form, common in India, scientifically named Portax pictus. By 'antelope' the author means the common antelope, or black buck, the Antilope bezoartica, or cervicapra of naturalists. The spotted deer, or 'chītal', a very handsome creature, is the Axis maculata of Gray, the Cervus axis of other zoologists.

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


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