Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Dhōlpur, Capital of the Jāt Chiefs of Gohad—Consequence of Obstacles to the Prosecution of Robbers
On the morning of the 26th, we sent on one tent, with the intention of following it in the afternoon; but about three o'clock a thunder-storm came on so heavily that I was afraid that which we occupied would come down upon us; and, putting my wife and child in a palankeen, I took them to the dwelling of an old Bairāgī, about two hundred yards from us.
He received us very kindly, and paid us many compliments about the honour we had conferred upon him. He was a kind and, I think, a good old man, and had six disciples who seemed to reverence him very much. A large stone image of Hanumān, the monkey-god, painted red, and a good store of buffaloes, very comfortably sheltered from the pitiless storm, were in an inner court.
The peacocks in dozens sought shelter under the walls and in the tree that stood in the courtyard; and I believe that they would have come into the old man's apartment had they not seen our white faces there. I had a great deal of talk with him, but did not take any notes of it. These old Bairāgīs, who spend the early and middle parts of life as disciples in pilgrimages to the celebrated temples of their god Vishnu in all parts of India, and the latter part of it as high priests or apostles in listening to the reports of the numerous disciples employed in similar wanderings are, perhaps, the most intelligent men in the country.
They are from all the castes and classes of society. The lowest Hindoo may become a Bairāgī, and the very highest are often tempted to become so; the service of the god to which they devote themselves levelling all distinctions. Few of them can write or read, but they are shrewd observers of men and things, and often exceedingly agreeable and instructive companions to those who understand them, and can make them enter into unreserved conversation.
Our tent stood out the storm pretty well, but we were obliged to defer our march till the next day. On the afternoon of the 27th we went on twelve miles, over a plain of deep alluvion, through which two rivers have cut their way to the Chambal; and, as usual, the ravines along their banks are deep, long, and dreary.
About half-way we were overtaken by one of the heaviest showers of rain I ever saw; it threatened us from neither side, but began to descend from an apparently small bed of clouds directly over our heads, which seemed to spread out on every side as the rain fell, and fill the whole vault of heaven with one dark and dense mass. The wind changed frequently; and in less than half an hour the whole surface of the country over which we were travelling was under water.
This dense mass of clouds passed off in about two hours to the east; but twice, when the sun opened and beamed divinely upon us in a cloudless sky to the west, the wind changed suddenly round, and rushed back angrily from the east, to fill up the space which had been quickly rarefied by the genial heat of its rays, till we were again enveloped in darkness, and began to despair of reaching any human habitation before night. Some hail fell among the rain, but not large enough to hurt any one.
The thunder was loud and often startling to the strongest nerves, and the lightning vivid, and almost incessant. We managed to keep the road because it was merely a beaten pathway below the common level of the country, and we could trace it by the greater depth of the water, and the absence of all shrubs and grass. All roads in India soon become watercourses—they are nowhere metalled; and, being left for four or five months every year without rain, their soil is reduced to powder by friction, and carried off by the winds over the surrounding country.
I was on horseback, but my wife and child were secure in a good palankeen that sheltered them from the rain. The bearers were obliged to move with great caution and slowly, and I sent on every person I could spare that they might keep moving, for the cold blast blowing over their thin and wet clothes seemed intolerable to those who were idle. My child's playmate, Gulāb, a lad of about ten years of age, resolutely kept by the side of the palankeen, trotting through the water with his teeth chattering as if he had been in an ague.
The rain at last ceased, and the sky in the west cleared up beautifully about half an hour before sunset. Little Gulāb threw off his stuffed and quilted vest, and got a good dry English blanket to wrap round him from the palankeen. We soon after reached a small village, in which I treated all who had remained with us to as much coarse sugar (gur) as they could eat; and, as people of all castes can eat of sweetmeats from the hands of confectioners without prejudice to their caste, and this sugar is considered to be the best of all good things for guarding against colds in man or beast, they all ate very heartily, and went on in high spirits.
As the sun sank below us on the left, a bright moon shone out upon us from the right, and about an hour after dark we reached our tents on the north bank of the Kuārī river, where we found an excellent dinner for ourselves, and good fires, and good shelter for our servants. Little rain had fallen near the tents, and the river Kuārī, over which we had to cross, had not, fortunately, much swelled; nor did much fall on the ground we had left; and, as the tents there had been struck and laden before it came on, they came up the next morning early, and went on to our next ground.
On the 28th, we went on to Dhōlpur, the capital of the Jāt chiefs of Gohad, on the left bank of the Chambal, over a plain with a variety of crops, but not one that requires two seasons to reach maturity. The soil excellent in quality and deep, but not a tree anywhere to be seen, nor any such thing as a work of ornament or general utility of any kind. We saw the fort of Dhōlpur at a distance of six miles, rising apparently from the surface of the level plain, but in reality situated on the summit of the opposite and high bank of a large river, its foundation at least one hundred feet above the level of the water.
The immense pandemonia of ravines that separated us from this fort were not visible till we began to descend into them some two or three miles from the bed of the river. Like all the ravines that border the rivers in these parts, they are naked, gloomy, and ghastly, and the knowledge that no solitary traveller is ever safe in them does not tend to improve the impression they make upon us. The river is a beautiful clear stream, here flowing over a bed of fine sand with a motion so gentle, that one can hardly conceive it is she who has played such fantastic tricks along the borders, and made such 'frightful gashes' in them.
As we passed over this noble reach of the river Chambal in a ferry- boat, the boatman told us of the magnificent bridge formed here by the Baiza Bāī for Lord William Bentinck in 1832, from boats brought down from Agra for the purpose. 'Little', said they, 'did it avail her with the Governor-General in her hour of need.
The town of Dhōlpur lies some short way in from the north bank of the Chambal, at the extremity of a range of sandstone hills which runs diagonally across that of Gwālior. This range was once capped with basalt, and some boulders are still found upon it in a state of rapid decomposition. It was quite refreshing to see the beautiful mango groves on the Dhōlpur side of the river, after passing through a large tract of country in which no tree of any kind was to be seen.
On returning from a long ride over the range of sandstone hills the morning after we reached Dhōlpur, I passed through an encampment of camels taking rude iron from some mines in the hills to the south towards Agra. They waited here within the frontier of a native state for a pass from the Agra custom house, lest any one should, after they enter our frontier, pretend that they were going to smuggle it, and thus get them into trouble.
'Are you not', said I, 'afraid to remain here so near the ravines of the Chambal, when thieves are said to be so numerous?'
'Not at all,' replied they. 'I suppose thieves do not think it worth while to steal rude iron?'
'Thieves, sir, think it worth while to steal anything they can get, but we do not fear them much here.'
'Where, then, do you fear them much?'
'We fear them when we get into the Company's territories.'
'And how is this, when we have good police establishments, and the Dhōlpur people none?'
'When the Dhōlpur people get hold of a thief, they make him disgorge all that he has got of our property for us, and they confiscate all the rest that he has for themselves, and cut off his nose or his hands, and turn him adrift to deter others. You, on the contrary, when you get hold of a thief, worry us to death in the prosecution of your courts; and, when we have proved the robbery to your satisfaction, you leave all this ill-gotten wealth to his family, and provide him with good food and clothing for himself, while he works for you a couple of years on the roads. The consequence is, that here fellows are afraid to rob a traveller, if they find him at all on his guard, as we generally are, while in your districts they rob us where and when they like.'
'But, my friends, you are sure to recover what we do get of your property from the thieves.'
'Not quite sure of that neither,' said they, 'or the greater part is generally absorbed on its way back to us through the officers of your court; and we would always rather put up with the first loss than run the risk of a greater by prosecution, if we happen to get robbed within the Company's territories.'
The loss and annoyances to which prosecutors and witnesses are subject in our courts are a source of very great evil to the country. They enable police-officers everywhere to grow rich upon the concealment of crimes. The man who has been robbed will bribe them to conceal the robbery, that he may escape the further loss of the prosecution in our courts, generally very distant; and the witnesses will bribe them to avoid attending to give evidence; the whole village communities bribe them, because every man feels that they have the power of getting him summoned to the court in some capacity or other, if they like; and that they will certainly like to do so, if not bribed.
The obstacles which our system opposes to the successful prosecution of robbers of all denominations and descriptions deprive our Government of all popular support in the administration of criminal justice; and this is considered everywhere to be the worst, and, indeed, the only radically bad feature of our government.
No magistrate hopes to get a conviction against one in four of the most atrocious gang of robbers and murderers of his district, and his only resource is in the security laws, which enable him to keep them in jail under a requisition of security for short periods. To this an idle or apathetic magistrate will not have recourse, and under him these robbers have a free licence.
In England, a judicial acquittal does not send back the culprit to follow the same trade in the same field, as in India; for the published proceedings of the court bring down upon him the indignation of society—the moral and religions feelings of his fellow men are arrayed against him, and from these salutary checks no flaw in the indictment can save him.
Not so in India. There no moral or religions feelings interpose to assist or to supply the deficiencies of the penal law. Provided he eats, drinks, smokes, marries, and makes his offerings to his priest according to the rules of his caste, the robber and the murderer incurs no odium in the circle in which he moves, either religious or moral, and this is the only circle for whose feelings he has any regard.
The man who passed off his bad coin at Datiyā, passed off more at Dhōlpur while my advanced people were coming in, pretending that he wanted things for me, and was in a great hurry to be ready with them at my tents by the time I came up. The bad rupees were brought to a native officer of my guard, who went with the shopkeepers in search of the knave, but he could nowhere be found.
The gates of the town were shut up all night at my suggestion, and in the morning every lodging-house in the town was searched for him in vain—he had gone on. I had left some sharp men behind me, expecting that he would endeavour to pass off his bad money immediately after my departure; but in expectation of this he was now evidently keeping a little in advance of me.
I sent on some men with the shopkeepers whom he had cheated to our next stage, in the hope of overtaking him; but he had left the place before they arrived without passing any of his bad coin, and gone on to Agra. The shopkeepers could not be persuaded to go any further after him, for, if they caught him, they should, they said, have infinite trouble in prosecuting him in our courts, without any chance of recovering from him what they had lost.
On the 29th, we remained at Dhōlpur to receive and return the visits of the young Rājā, or, as he is called, the young Rānā, a lad of about fifteen years of age, very plain, and very dull. He came about ten in the forenoon with a very respectable and well-dressed retinue, and a tolerable show of elephants and horses. The uniforms of his guards were made after those of our own soldiers, and did not please me half so much as those of the Datiyā guards, who were permitted to consult their own tastes; and the music of the drums and fifes seemed to me infinitely inferior to that of the mounted minstrels of my old friend Parīchhit.
The lad had with him about a dozen old public servants entitled to chairs, some of whom had served his father above thirty years; while the ancestors of others had served his grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and I could not help telling the lad in their presence that 'these were the greatest ornament of a prince's throne and the best signs and pledges of a good government'.
They were all evidently much pleased at the compliment, and I thought they deserved to be pleased, from the good character they bore among the peasantry of the country. I mentioned that I had understood the boatmen of the Chambal at Dhōlpur never caught or ate fish. The lad seemed embarrassed, and the minister took upon himself to reply that 'there was no market for it, since the Hindoos of Dhōlpur never ate fish, and the Muhammadans had all disappeared'.
I asked the lad whether he was fond of hunting. He seemed again confounded, and the minister said that 'his highness never either hunted or fished, as people of his caste were prohibited from destroying life'. 'And yet', said I, 'they have often showed themselves good soldiers in battle.' They were all pleased again, and said that they were not prohibited from killing tigers; but that there was no jungle of any kind near Dhōlpur, and, consequently, no tigers to be found.
The Jāts are descendants of the Getae, and were people of very low caste, or rather of no caste at all, among the Hindoos, and they are now trying to raise themselves by abstaining from killing and eating animals. Among Hindoos this is everything; a man of low caste is 'sab kuchh khātā', sticks at nothing in the way of eating; and a man of high caste is a man who abstains from eating anything but vegetable or farinaceous food; if, at the same time, he abstains from using in his cook-room all woods but one, and has that one washed before he uses it, he is canonized. Having attained to military renown and territorial dominion in the usual way by robbery, the Jāts naturally enough seek the distinction of high caste to enable them the better to enjoy their position in society.
It had been stipulated that I should walk to the bottom of the steps to receive the Rānā, as is the usage on such occasions, and carpets were accordingly spread thus far. Here he got out of his chair, and I led him into the large room of the bungalow, which we occupied during our stay, followed by all his and my attendants. The bungalow had been built by the former Resident at Gwālior, the Honourable R. Cavendish, for his residence during the latter part of the rains, when Gwālior is considered to be unhealthy. At his departure the Rānā purchased this bungalow for the use of European gentlemen and ladies passing through his capital.
In the afternoon, about four o'clock, I went to return his visit in a small palace not yet finished, a pretty piece of miniature fortification, surrounded by what they call their 'chhāonī', or cantonments. The streets are good, and the buildings neat and substantial; but there is nothing to strike or particularly interest the stranger.
The interview passed off without anything remarkable; and I was more than ever pleased with the people by whom this young chief is surrounded. Indeed, I had much reason to be pleased with the manners of all the people on this side of the Chambal. They are those of a people well pleased to see English gentlemen among them, and anxious to make themselves useful and agreeable to us.
They know that their chief is indebted to the British Government for all the country he has, and that he would be swallowed up by Sindhia's greedy army, were not the sevenfold shield of the Honourable Company spread over him. His establishments, civil and military, like those of the Bundēlkhand chiefs, are raised from the peasantry and yeomanry or the country; who all, in consequence, feel an interest in the prosperity and independent respectability of their chief.
On the Gwālior side, the members of all the public establishments know and feel that it is we who interpose and prevent their master from swallowing up all his neighbours, and thereby having increased means of promoting their interest and that of their friends; and they detest us all most cordially in consequence. The peasantry of the Gwālior territory seem to consider their own government as a kind of minotaur, which they would be glad to see destroyed, no matter how or by whom; since it gives no lucrative or honourable employment to any of their members, so as to interest either their pride or their affections; nor throws back among them for purposes of local advantage any of the produce of their land and labour which it exacts.
It is worthy of remark that, though the Dhōlpur chief is peculiarly the creature of the British Government, and indebted to it for all he has or ever will have, and though he has never had anything, and never can have, or can hope to have, anything from the poor pageant of the house of Tīmūr, who now sits upon the throne of Delhi; yet, on his seal of office he declares himself to be the slave and creature of that imperial 'warrior for the faith of Islam'.
As he abstains from eating the good fish of the river Chambal to enhance his claim to caste among Hindoos, so he abstains from acknowledging his deep debt of gratitude to the Honourable Company, or the British Government, with a view to give the rust of age to his rank and title. To acknowledge himself a creature of the British Government were to acknowledge that he was a man of yesterday; to acknowledge himself the slave of the Emperor is to claim for his poor veins 'the blood of a line of kings'. The petty chiefs of Bundēlkhand, who are in the same manner especially dependent on the British Government, do the same thing.
At Dhōlpur, there are some noble old mosques and mausoleums built three hundred years ago, in the reign of the Emperor Humāyūn, by some great officers of his government, whose remains still rest undisturbed among them, though the names of their families have been for many ages forgotten, and no men of their creed now live near to demand for them the respect of the living.
These tombs are all elaborately built and worked out of the fine freestone of the country and the trellis-work upon some of their stone screens is still as beautiful as when first made. There are Persian and Arabic inscriptions upon all of them, and I found from them that one of the mosques had been built by the Emperor Shāh Jahān in A.D. 1634, when he little dreamed that his three sons would here meet to fight the great fight for the throne while he yet sat upon it.
1. December, 1835.
2. The author's remark that in India the roads are 'nowhere metalled' must seem hardly credible to a modern traveller, who sees the country intersected by thousands of miles of metalled road. The Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Lahore, constructed in Lord Dalhousie's time, alone measures about 1,200 miles. The development of roads since 1850 have been enormous, and yet the mileage of good roads would have to be increased tenfold to put India on an equality with the more advanced countries of Europe.
3. Ante, Chanter 36, notes 26 & 27.
4. The Baiza Bāī was the widow of Daulat Rāo Sindhia. He had died on March 21, 1827. With the consent of the Government of India, she adopted a boy as his successor, but, being an ambitions and intriguing woman, she tried to keep all power in her own hands. The young Mahārājā fled from her, and took refuge in the Residency in October, 1832. In December of the same year Lord William Bentinck visited Gwālior, and assumed an attitude of absolute neutrality.
The result was that trouble continued, and seven months later the Mahārājā again fled to the Residency. The troops then revolted against the Baiza Bāī, and compelled her to retire to Dhōlpur. This event put an end to her political activity. Ultimately she was allowed to return to Gwālior, and died there in 1862 (Malleson, The Native States of India, pp. 160- 4). The author wrote an unpublished history of Baiza Bāī (ante, Bibliography).
5. Long since abolished.
6. The law now permits the person injured to be compensated out of any fine realized.
7. The system of employing gangs of prisoners on the roads was open to great abuses, and has been long given up. The prisoners are now, as a rule, employed only on the jail promises, and cannot be utilized for outside work, except under special circumstances by special sanction.
8. The notes to this edition have recorded many changes in India, but no change has taken place in the difficulties which beset the administration of criminal law. They are still those which the author describes, and Police Commissions cannot remove them.
The power to exact security for good behaviour from known bad characters still exists, and, when discreetly used, is of great value. The conviction of atrocious robbers and murderers is, perhaps, less rare than it was in the author's time, though many still escape even the minor penalty of arrest. The want of a sound moral public opinion is the fundamental difficulty in Indian police administration—a truth fully Understood by the author, but rarely realized by members of Parliament.
9. The title of the Dhōlpur chief is now Mahārājā Rānā. In 1905 his reduced army numbered 1,216 of all ranks (I. G., 1908). The force is not of serious military value.
10. The identification of the Jāts, or Jats, with the Getae is not even probable. The anchor exaggerates the lowness of the social rank of the Jāts, who cannot properly be described as people of 'very low caste'. They are, and have long been, numerous and powerful in the Panjāb and the neighbouring countries. It is true that they hate Brahmans, care little for Brahman notions of propriety, either as regards food or marriage, and to a certain extent stand outside the orthodox Hindoo system; but they are heterodox rather than low-caste.
The Rājās of Bharatpur, Dhōlpur, Nābha, Patiālā, and Jīnd are all Jāts. The Jāts are a fine and interesting people, who seem to suffer little deterioration from the notorious laxity of their matrimonial arrangements. They are skilled and industrious cultivators. A saying has been current in Upper India that, if the British power is ever broken, the succession will pass to the Jāts.
11. This is the Brahman and Baniyā theory. A high-spirited Rājpūt of Rājputāna, full of pride in his long ancestry, and yet fond of wild boar's flesh, would indeed be wroth if denounced as a low-caste man. It is, however, unfortunately, quite true that all races which become entangled in the meshes of Hinduism tend to gradually surrender their freedom, and to become proud of submission to the senseless formalities and restrictions which the Brahman loves.
12. Akbar II. He was titular emperor from A.D. 1806 to 1837, and was succeeded by Bahādur Shāh II, the last of his line. The portrait of Akbar II is the frontispiece to volume i of the original edition of this work, and a miniature portrait of him is given in the frontispiece of volume ii.
13. One of these tombs, namely, that of Bībī Zarīna, dated A.H. 942 = A.D. 1535-6, is described by Cunningham (A.S.R., xx, p. 113, pl. xxxvii), who notes that according to an obviously false local popular story, the lady was a daughter of Shāh Jahān, who lived a century later. This story seems to have misled the author. No inscription of the reign of Shāh Jahān at Dhōlpur is recorded.
14. The three sons were Dārā Shikoh, Aurangzēb, and Murād Baksh.
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
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
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
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
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
Pilgrims of India
The Bēgam Sumroo
ON THE SPIRIT OF MILITARY DISCIPLINE IN THE NATIVE ARMY OF INDIA
Abolition of Corporal Punishment—Increase of Pay with Length of Service—Promotion by Seniority
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