HISTORY
This section considers Important events within Anglo-Sikh history such as early European accounts of Sikhs, the role ofSikhs in the armed forces and pre British Raj accounts.


 
 


Observations On The Sikhs

By George Forster, 9th June 1783


INTRODUCTION
It was in the summer of 1938 that at the suggestion of the late Sir Jadunath Sarkar I went to the Deccan in search of some documents bearing on the history of the Sikhs. I was at Satara in the months of August and September, and there in the historical Museum I was lucky enough to find very valuable private correspondence of Lords Ellenborough, Hardinge, Dalhousie and Gough and of some of the Political Assistants addressed to Frederick Currie as British Resident at Lahore. This has since been published by the Sikh History Society, Amritsar, under the title of Private Correspondence Relating to the Anglo-Sikh Wars.

During one of my stray rambles at Satara in the first week of August, I unexpectedly came across an old friend from Persia, Mr. Ratan Singh Minhas of the village of Padhiana, near Adampur, district Jullundur. He had left the Panjab, pressumably for good, and, having married a Maratha woman, had settled down at Satara. He knew my interests, and a few days later he brought to me an old envelope which, he said, he had picked up from amongst some waste papers at a shop near his residence. This cover, to my great surprise, contained two typewritten copies of letters, one of 16 pages "from George Forster to Mr. Gregory at Lucknow, dated in Kachmere, 1783," containing an Extract from another letter bearing on the Sikhs, and the other, 12 pages, "from Mr. (John) Griffith to Mr. (Alexander) Adamson, Bombay (dated Surat, 17th February, 1794), containing information respecting the characters of the inhabitants on the banks of the Indus. The second letter, which is more like an official Memorandum, as well contained a section on the "Dominions of the Seecks", in addition to sections on Sind, Kandahar. This was again a lucky find.

The first of these two letters, from Forster to Gregory, is marked "Home Miscellaneous, Vol. 685, pp. 90-114" and is in the form of a regular letter with a covering note in the beginning and the signature of George Forster (typewritten) at the end, mentioning the place and date of writing as "Charlotte Street. Portland Place, 9th June. 1785," while the second is marked "Home Misc. 456 B, pp. 625-99" on the top of the title-page.

On comparison, I find that the Extract sent by George Forster to Mr Gregory is from Letter XI of the first volume of his A Journey From Bengal To England, London, 1798, pp.253-95, with a few changes here and there. The original gives in brief the history of the rise and progress of the Sikh people from the time of Guru Nanak to the beginning- (February-March) of the year 1783 when, during his journey, he travelled through the eastern hilly tracts of the Panjab. He has also given therein his own observations and. impressions which are of considerable importance to the students and scholars of history. The concluding paragraph of this letter, not included in the Extract, is really significant.
It says:
In the defence and recovery of their country, the Sicques displayed a courage of the most obstinate kind and manifested a perseverence, under the pressure of calamities, when the common danger roused them to action, and gave but one impulse to their spirit. Should any future cause call forth the combined efforts of the Sicques to maintain the existence of empire and religion, we may see some ambitions chief led on by his genius and success, and, absorbing the power of his associates, display, from the ruins of their commonwealth, the standard of monarchy. The page of history is filled with like effects, springing from like causes. Under such a form of Government, I have little hesitation in saying that the Sicques would be soon advanced to the first rank among the native princes of Hindostan; and would become a terror to the surrounding states.

And this prophecy of George Forster came to be literally fulfilled in the person of, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-39), who not only took under his sheller the territories of the various Sikh Sardars but also conquered a number of states and consolidated them all into the kingdom of the Panjab, carrying its frontiers on all the four sides to the furthest possible limits unknown to history before him.

George Forster, the author of this letter, was a civil servant on the Madras establishment of the East India Company. He was a man of adventure and a scholar of considerable merit. He left Calcutta on May 23, 1782, on his long and arduous over- land journey to England and passed through the north-eastern hilly tracts, of the Panjab in February, March and April 1783. He was a keen observer of men and things and hasrecorded his impressions, and the information collected by him during the journey, in a series of letters, published in two volumes in London in 1798 under the title of A Journey from Bengal to England &c.

In addition to occasional references to the Sikhs in other letters, vide pp. i. 128-30, 128-99, 227-28 and ii. 83, 88, Forster has devoted Letter XI, pp. i. 253-95, exclusively to the Sikhs. In writing this he seems to have received a good deal of information from Colonel Polier, a Swiss Engineer, who had written a paper on the Sikhs in 1780, later on read at a meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (now the Asiatic Society) at Calcutta on December 20, 1787. In his own words, Forster was under "great obligations to Colonel Polier of the Honourable Company's service (1757-75, 1782-89) for having furnished me with large historical tracts of the Sicques". Like a genuine enquirer, he had "no tendency to discolour or misrepresent truth". "Guided by no views of interest, nor impressed by any frown of power, I was enabled", he says, "to examine the objects that came before me through a dispassionate medium". And he has succeeded in it to a very great extent. His letter under reference is a fairly objective study of the Sikhs of the second half of the eighteenth century and is a mine of useful information. God willing, it shall soon be made available in extenso, edited with such notes and comments as have become necessary in the light of more reliable documentary evidence.

The extracts given in the letter of George Forster to Mr. Gregory, dated 9th June, 1785, reproduced below, appear to have been made at random without any coherent link. But as they are all put together by the copyist without the separating indications, a few clarifying explanations have become necessary and are being given in the footnotes.

Dr Ganda Singh
Patiala,
March 9, 1960


OBSERVATIONS ON THE SIKHS
(From the observations of Colonel Polier and Mr. George Forster)

Sir,*

Having gone through the subject of the Powers, which bear the most conspicuous and efficient parts in the Transactions of Hindostan, or who were more immediately brought forward on the Theatre of the last War, I will proceed to lay before you a cursory Description of the Seicks and Afghans, nations who, from the remoteness of their Situations, and, having no European connections, are hitherto but partially known to us.

In my Route overland, I had an opportunity of procuring some sketches of the History of the Seiks, which were reduced into a form, and inserted in that collection of letters containing the relation of my Journey to Jumboo with which you already have been furnished.+

Though the whole Relation, as it now stands, may not closely point at the given object of this analisis, yet as it will prevent the trouble of Reference, and the selection of matter difficult to extract, and also appear more in order, I will with your permission subjoin it in this Place.


FOOTNOTE

*

Commonwealth Relation Office Library (formerly India office Library) records Home miscellaneous Series volume 6S5 (3). pp. 90-114.

+

This evidently refers to Letter XI given in the first volume of Forster's A Journey from Bengal to England (London, 1798) pp. 253-95.


Extract of a letter from Mr. Forster to Mr. Gregory at Lucknow, dated In Kachmere 1783.

"As several occasions have offered of introducing the Seicks to your Notice, it will obviously enough occur to you, that I should endeavor to give some description of this new and extraordinary people.

"Now, my dear Sir, you will be pleased to know that I do not possess a well grounded knowledge of the subject; I cannot deduce, satisfactorily to myself their story from the period, in which Nanock, the Institutor of their sect and their Lawgiver, lived. Nor can I affix a date with a sufficient exactness to the time of his existence.1 Neither can I follow them with necessary order, through the gradations and progress which they have made until they arrived at their present state of grandeur. You who are well apprized of the wretched deficiency of Materials for the formation of Eastern History and the irresistible tendency which our Eastern countrymen have to fiction and the pleasing produce of fancy, will make for me every indulgent allowance. One thing I will intreat of you to understand, that if I should not insert the whole truth, which does not result from the desire of suppressing facts, nothing but what you may place a confidence in, will be introduced."

"Under the shelter of this protecting Preliminary, I will proceed and inform you, that Nanock, the Founder of the sect of the Seicks flourished about 300 years ago.2 The place of his birth does not seem to be fixed on, but it is universally believed that he was interred at Amritsir:3 this Town is situated at the head of the Punjab about 120 miles to the South and by East of Jumboo, and in consequence of its being the burial place4 of Nanock is become of great importance and the Seicks hold it in the same degree of veneration and sanctity as Mecca is behind by the Mussulman.

"Nanock - to whose name his Follower's have added the appellation of Shaw which, be pleased to observe is usually bestowed on Faquirs, appears to have been well qualified


FOOTNOTE
1
Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion, was a contemporary of the Lodhi Sultans of of Delhi (1469-1526) and the first two Mughal Emperors of India (1526-39). He was born in 1469 during the reign of the first Lodhi Sultan Bahlol Khan (1450-88) and died in 1539 during the time of Emperor Humayun (1530-39, 1555-56).
2
In the year 1783, when this letter was writte:n, it was 244 years that he had died (1539), having lived for seventy years.
3
Guru Nanak was born at Talwandi Rai Bhoe, later known as Nankana Sahib, to the west of Lahore, now in Pakistan. He was not interred at Arnritsar. In fact, no Guru of the Sikhs died at Amritsar. Guru Nanak died at a place called Kartarpur (now in Pakistan) on the left bank of the river Ravi opposite to the town of Dera Baba Nanak in the district of Gurdaspur.
4
The importance of Arnritsar is due not to its being the burial place of Guru Nanak but to the Sikh (Golden) temple, called the Darbar Sahib, and other Sikh historical associations. The town was founded by the fourth Guru Ramdas in 1574, thirty-five, years after the death of Guru Nanak. It may also be mentioned that the Sikhs do not bury their dead but cremate them.

for the instituting and establishing a new Sect. It is said that he was inflexibly just, that he was rigorously abstinent, and that he possessed the most undaunted courage.

"When it is considered that the Worship of the Hindoos is, at this day loaded with endless ceremonies and accompanied with a ridiculous and a puerile Grimace, it will be allowed that the tenets of the System which Nanock framed, are grounded on no unreasonable Basis. The tenor and the grand purport of the Seick Religion pointedly requires an abolition of the Worship of images. Their places of Devotion are plain, and divested of every ornament and figure.

"Instead of the Intermediation of inferior Deities they are ordered to address the Supreme Being, through the medium of Nanock his favorite agent and Deputy. Though a very material difference exists between the religious tenets of the Hindoos and those of the Seicks, yet the groundwork of both exhibit strong features of similarity. The Article indeed of receiving Proselytes, in the Doctrine of the Seicks causes an essential deviation from the Hindoo system. It totally overthrows those wonderful Barriers which were constructed and affixed by Brimha,5 for the arrangement of the different ranks and Professions of his People. When the Nation of the Seicks becomes sufficiently populous and has acquired a competent stability, it is not improbable but an alteration may take place in that tenet.

"They permit the growth of the hair of the head and beard, they generally wear an Iron Bracelet on the left6 hand and the use of Tobacco is proscribed among them. Nanock, it is said first published his Doctrine amongst the Mountains bordering on the Northern Plains of Hindostan, and in that space which lies between Shirhind and Lahor. He was there in a situation of more security than had he dwelt in the open Country, and he had also the advantage of being in the neighbourhood of an opulent and a numerous people. No notice of consequence it would seem had been taken of the Seicks until the reign of Acber, when that active Prince in the course of his subduing the Hindoo Mountaineers, discovered their Haunts and nearly extirpated them.7

"This Emperor, it is recorded, was so hostile to them, and so determined on crushing the existence of their Sect, that he imposed a Price on the head of every Seick.8 From that era to the period of Nadir Shaw's return from his Delhi expedition, but few authenticated facts can be produced of the state; of this People-When the Nadir's army were returning homewards laden with spoil, and from their success and the general dread entertained of them, regardless of regularity and discipline they were, fiercely attacked


FOOTNOTE
5
The caste system of the Hindus, evidently referred to by Forster, is ascribed to Manu, the great law giver of the ancient Hindus, and was not introduced by Brahma.
6
The iron bracelet, called Kara, is not necessarily worn on the left wrist. It may be worn on any wrist, though it is generally worn on the right.
7
Emperor Akbar was not hostile to the Sikh Gurus at all. In fact, he was friendly to them.
8
It was Emperor Bahadur Shah I (1707-12, son of Aurangzeb) during whose reign the Sikhs were actively persecuted and a royal edict was issued on the 29th of Shawwal in the 4th regal year, December 10, 1710, to kill the disciples of Nanak (the Sikhs) wherever they were found -- 'Nanak-praston ra har ja kih ba-yaband ba-qatl rasanand'. This order was repeated during the time of Emperor Farrukh-Siyar, and "to give effect to this mandate, a reward," according to Malcolm, "was offered for the head of every Sikh." (Sketch of the Sikhs, 85; Miltah-ut-Tawarikh, 398; M'Gregor, History of the Sikhs, i. 113)

by the Seicks who routed their rear and stripped them of great part of their plunder. Towards the latter end of Mahomed Shaw's reign and the beginning of that of his Successor, when the charm, which since Tamerlane's conquest of Hindostan, had bound together that extensive and Grand Empire, and had proclaimed it invincible throughout Asia was broken, and it may be said, wholly dissolved, the Seicks
rushed out of their fortresses where they had been patiently waiting for the occasion and seized on or ravaged the greatest part of the Punjab*.

"After various struggles with the Mussulmen, the Seicks possessed themselves of Sirhind, Lahor and Moultan, but they were attacked and driven out of a great part of their new acquisitions by the Afghans under their famous Chief Abdullah,+9 who was afterwards more generally known in India and Afghanistan by the name of Ahmed Shaw. This Prince affected great indignation at the Seicks presuming to occupy the Imperial Palace of Lahor, and that the supposed pollution might be wiped away, on his retaking that city, it is said he caused many of the Seicks to be put to death, and ordered that the facing and the steps of the great reservoir of water should be washed with their blood. The Seicks by making some extraordinary and well timed efforts in their turn drove the Afghans out of that part of Hindostan and that they might exhibit an Example of forbearance to their enemies and a restraint of the Power of revenge, the warmest passion in the breast of an Asiatic, and yet that they might not seem insensible of the injury, which had been offered to them, poured the blood of swine in those places which the Afghans had washed with that of theirs'. In a war which the Seicks had with Timur Shaw, the present Afghan Emperor, they lost the Province of Moultan, which, contrary to the general character of the Seicks, for Military ability, was given up with scarcely any resistance.

"This instance of such unusual Remissness in them seems to me very inexplicable, unless it was occasioned by their internal dissentions.10

"The Government of the Seicks, if any fixed denomination can be applied to it, may be termed Aristocratical. Their Chiefs are numerous and wholly independent of each other. They eventually act in concert with, and in opposition to their own Body, as in the case of Mhah Singh who has succoured the Rajah of Jumboo against the Seick Chief who invaded that Country.11


FOOTNOTE
*
So denominated from a Persian Compound, meaning five Rivers or Waters which intersect this Country. (Forster)
+
or Ahmed Khan. (Forster)
9
Ahmad Shah Durrani (1722-72).
10
In the winter of 1778-79, Sardar Ganda Singh Bhangi was embroiled with other chiefs and could not personally look to the defence of Multan which was surrendered by a lieutenant of his after a show of resistance. Cunningham, History of the Sikhs, 123.
11
This refers to the struggle between Sardar Maha Singh Sukkarchakkia and Sardar Jai Singh Kanhaiya in 1783, when Surbakhsh Singh, son the Kanhaiya Sardar, was killed in a battle near Batala. Latif, History 01 the Panjab, 311.

"From the observations which I have made of the Seicks they would appear to be a haughty and a high spirited people. Once I travelled in the company of a Seick Horseman for some days, and though I made to him several tenders of my acquaintance, he treated them all with great reserve, and a covered sort of disdain. There was no reason to be particularly offended at his hauteur towards me, for he regarded every other Person in the same manner. His answer, when I asked him very respectfully in whose service he was retained, seemed strikingly characteristic of what I conceive to be the disposition of the Nation. He said, in a tone of voice and with a countenance which glowed with and was keenly animated by the warm Spirit of Liberty and independence, that he disclaimed an earthly Master, and that he was the servant only of his Prophet.

"The Seicks, it is asserted, believe, tho they do not loudly insist on it, that Nanock is an Incarnation of Vishnow,*12 which the Hindoo Prophecies have foretold, is yet to exist and is to be the last one.

"The force of the Seicks may be said to wholly consist in Cavalry, they have in their army some Artillery, but it is so aukwardly managed and so ill attended to, that little benefit is derived from it. A Seick Horseman is armed with a Matchlock and a sabre, both in their kind, excellent. In this matter I speak from a real knowledge, for in the course of my travels, I had twice an opportunity of meeting with their Parties, each of which might consist of 200 men. The Horses were better than any I had ever seen either amongst the Hindoo or Mussulman Troops in the Eastern parts of India. The men were well clothed, chiefly in white Iamahs+, and their arms, together with their accoutrements, which consisted of priming horns and Ammunition Pouches, were in good order. The latter were mostly covered with our scarlet cloth and ornamented with gold lace.

"From the great predilection which the Seicks have for fire arms, and the constant use which they make of them, their mode of attack and defence, is different from that of any other Cavalry in Asia.

"A party from thirty to forty and fifty will advance on a gallop close up to the enemy and previously to the giving their Fire that they may do it with the greater certainty they draw in their Horses, at the performance of which Manoeuvre, the animal is so thoroughly trained, that most of them, on receiving a gentle stroke on the neck, will stop on the full career. Immediately on their pieces being discharged, they retreat about 100 paces, load, and repeat the same mode of annoying the enemy.

"It is not from this peculiarity in their discipline that the Seicks have made themselves formidable.

"This in my opinion is a great defect in their army. and if they persist in a continuance of it to the entire exclusion of Artillery, it may yet be a long space of time, ere they are enabled to drive the Afghans out of Hindostan, or extinguish the remains of the Mogul Government. Both which objects they entertain sanguine hopes of


FOOTNOTE
*
The Supreme Being of the Hindoos. (Forster)
12
There is no such belief recognized or commonly current among the Sikhs.
+
A Long Callico Gown. (Forster)

accomplishing, and in the probable evolution of the fate of Empires, this event may be expected.

"The success and Conquests of the Seicks have principally arisen from their unparalelled activity and the endurance of an almost incredible fatigue. These Constitutional Endowments they derive from an invariable Exercise of every species of temperance which gives them powerfull advantages over the debauched and debilitated Mussulman".

"A Body of Seick Troops has been known to make daily marches of 40 miles; and this exertion has not been confined to a single operation, which would not be remarkable, but it has been continued for many days.

"In 1782 the Territories of the Seicks, which towards the limits are often varying, were bounded on the north by the grand chain of mountains, which extend in a curved line across the Head of the Punjab; on the East by the Possessions of the Emperor, and his officers, which take in the Districts of Panipet and Kamal ; on the south-East by the Country of the Jauts, which was conquered by Najjif Khan and still continues annexed to the remains of the Empire, and on the South by Moultan; and the West and North-West by the Indus, and the Districts of Attock, which are now under the Dominions of the Afghans.

"From their being possessed of an ample, and a fertile Territory, and being when not occupied in Military service, much attached to the Business of Agriculture, and well skilled in it, it must be supposed that the revenues of the Seicks are very considerable, tho it would be presumptuous in me to attempt at ascertaining the amount.

"The Subah of Lahor in the Reign of Aurungzebe produced the annual revenue to Government according to Mr. Bernier of 246 Lacks and 95 thousand Rupees; and from the general character of the Seicks for their knowledge in the cultivation of Lands, I should imagine that there had been no decrease in the Reyenue, since the country has been in their possession.

"Their Military Force also must be great, but I am as little enabled to reduce that point to any certainty as to fix the amount of their Revenue.

"A Seick will say that his Country can furnish 4, or 500,000 Horsemen, and to authenticate his story, he tells you, that every person, even in the possession of a trifling property keeps a Horse, Matchlock and Side Arms. In which case, and if we can believe that they can produce when in unity 200,000 Horse, their Force in Cavalry must be greater, than that of any power now existing in Hindostan.

"The Seicks have taken possession of all the country of Zabeta Khan, and have left to him little more than Ghous Gheer his principal town and fort.

"This weak Chief in every thing the reverse of his Father, thought to obtain the protection of the Seicks, by becoming one of their Sect. He has been grievously disappointed, for when I was in that neighbourhood his Fort was beseiged by the Seicks, and he had been obliged to call in a Body of Mercenaries to his assistance. The name which he had assumed in consequence of his Conversion was Nemez Sing,13 the first


FOOTNOTE
13
In fact, Zabita Khan had taken the name of Dharam (Durm) Singh as stated by Forster himself. A Journey from Bengal to England. i. 282, footnote. The word Nemez is Namar, meaning Muslim prayer. A pious Muslim who recites his prayers regularly is generally known as Namazi

part of which is evidently in Allusion to his former profession of faith.

"The Seicks do not seem to be at all rigorous in their requisitions from Mussulmen Proselytes, who, if they abstain from eating Beef Flesh, which is held in as much Abhorrence by the Seicks as by the Hindoos, they are indulged in every other article.

"The Nation of the Seicks may be said to have wholly sprung from Hindoo Converts, not but many Mussulmen have been admitted amongst them, yet they constitute a small portion of the whole People and are immediately distinguished from the Hindoo Seicks, as well in the difference of Manner, as in the dissimilarity of Features.

"The Word Seick is I apprehend a Corruption of Sing,14 which signifies in the Hindoo Language a Lion, and which Title is given to every Seick, in the same Manner as the Khan is taken by the Afghans and Patans. This supposition I have been the farther induced to make from having observed, that by many of the Mussulmen, and likewise amongst themselves, they are denominated Seicks and Sings indiscriminately".

In this Account, which may I be allowed to say has a reasonable claim to authenticity you will see that the Seicks are a very respectable People, and when united in a common Cause must be powerful and formidable.

They generally in their predatory Excursions into the Countries of the neighbouring Hindoo Rajahs act as may be correspondent with their respective views, and are often seen engaged in opposite alliances, and in Hostilities with each other. But when incited by any grand national Concern, their Chiefs became confederated, and their Armies are combined.

The Seick Forces were wholly united, during the War which they carried on against the Afghans, whom they ultimately drove out of the Punjab, and have maintained, firm possession of it since that period.

In the beginning of the Year 1783 a considerable Body of Seicks came thro the Territories of Zabita Khan who as I have before noticed is become a Dependant on them, and approached the Ganges, where it forms the Western limit of Rohil Cund, with the design of crossing the River and invading the Possessions of the Vizier. At that time I happened to be travelling through Rohil Cund, and was a Witness of the disorder and general Terror which prevailed amongst the Inhabitants, many of whom, quitting the open Towns and Villages retired into Forts and Places inaccessible to Cavalry.

The Seicks perceiving the difficulty and danger of passing a River in the face of an Enemy, for the Vizier's Troops had been drawn together and stationed on the Eastern Bank of the Ganges to oppose their crossing, retired into their own Country. This fact has been adduced to show that the Seicks did command an undisturbed Passage to the


FOOTNOTE
14
The word Seick (Sikh) is not a corruption of Sing. It is, in fact, the Panjabi (Prakrit) form of Sanskrit Shishya which means a disciple. The surname Singh (lion) Was taken by the Sikhs when Guru Gobind Singh instituted the order of the Khalsa in 1699 after which all Sikhs who received baptism and undertook to follow the discipline of the Khalsa were known as Singhs.

borders of the Vizier's Territories, without any effectual opposition being made, either by Zabita Khan, or the Emperor's Officers.

The rapid progress which Scindia has lately made in the Northern Quarter of India, and the ascendancy which he has thereby gained in the Government of Delhi and Agra, must soon place him in the Situation of becoming an avowed opponent of the Seicks, and in the course of events will throw him between that Nation and the Vizier, to whom, from the reason before stated in the sketch of Scindia this Chief will become a more secure Barrier, than that which has hitherto existed.

Little more remains to be said of the Seicks, than when they shall find themselves checked in their views by the power of Scindia on the East side of their Dominions (if he continues in prosecuting the object which has now engaged him) that they will, it maybe concluded, turn their attention towards the Afghans, their declared Enemies, who still hold valuable and extensive Possessions in Hindostan.

The Afghans are the indigenous Possessors of that Tract of Country which extends from the Indus to the Confines of the Province of Chorason in Persia, and stretches in a Southern Direction from the Mountains of Tartary to the Sea Coast. Nadir Shaw in his March into Hindostan was detained a considerable time (it is said a Year) in reducing the famous Fortress of Kundahar, and in forcing a passage through Afghanistan. Nor had he accomplished this Service, so effectually, without the Assistance of a large Body of Afghans, who were brought over to espouse his Cause, at the Instance of one of their principal Chiefs, then known by the Name of Abdallah or Ahmed Khan and afterwards in consequence of the Empire which he founded, distinguished by the Title of Ahmed Shaw.

Immediately on the event of the death of Nadir, which happened in 1748, this Afghan officer withdrawing his Forces from the Persian Army returned into his own Country, and supported by a veteran Army and a strong family Influence, he became enabled to proclaim himself Master of all the Afghan Territories. After having fully established his Authority, he penetrated into India, and there making important conquests and meeting with various Success, as has been mentioned in the Sketch on the Seicks, Ahmed Shaw returned into his own Dominions, and died about fourteen Years ago,15 at the new City of Kundahar, which he himself built, and had designed to be the Capital of his Country.

Ahmed Shaw was succeeded by his eldest Son Timur, who has chosen Cabul as his place of Residence, and has made, I think two Expeditions into India, where on the Issue of an obstinate Contention with the Seicks, this Prince retained the Possession of the little Kingdom of Kachmire, the Town Districts of Attock, together with the Province of Moultan, including in it the Territories of Scinde.


FOOTNOTE
15
Ahmad Shah Durrani died at Toba Maruf in the Suleman hills on the night of October 16-17, 1772, and was carried to and burried at Kandahar.

Khahmire is governed on behalf of the Emperor, by an Afghan officer, who, on the remitting a Peshcush16 of Seven Lacks of Rupees to the Treasury, is permitted to exercise a Sovereign Authority there, and who indeed, from the peculiar situation of this principality, it being walled in by a Circle of lofty Mountains and its remote distance from the Seat of Empire, from which also, it is divided by the Indus a River of a most difficult Passage, with reason deems himself a very independant chief, and does not seem to be in any wise affected by the operation of any Power in India.

The Surdar of Attock, an Hindostan Mussulman, is a Tributary of Timur Shaw, and is assessed the annual Sum of 50,000 Rupees, which is collected, or not, as the Motions of the Shaw's Army may be directed; and the Territory of Scind, laying to the Southward of Attock, were, while I was in the neighbourhood of that Country, in a Manner dismembered from the Afghan Empire, no Revenue having been remitted to Cabul for two years or any Measure adopted to reduce it to obedience.

The Chief of Moultan confiding in his local advantages, and presuming on the indolent Administration of the present Shaw who now evinces no Mark of an enterprizing disposition, and whose time is chiefly passed in the Haram, has assumed a great degree of Independence, and shows only such observance to the orders sent from Cabul as may be correspondent with his own Conveniency. This Province, which, in the grand division of the Mogul Empire includes also Scind produced in the reign of Aurung-Zebe, according to Mr. Bernier, a Revenue of 118 Lacs of Rupees, which at this day is diminished to more than half of that Amount.

In this outline you will perceive that the Afghan Dominion in India is not founded on either a flourishing or a firm Basis, and that under the Aluspices of Timur Shaw, there is little reason to expect that it will be extended or that from it he will derive any considerable Influence in the Affairs of Hindostan.

It has been often rumoured at the Court of Delhi, and the Report has also prevailed in our parts of India, that Timur is determinately bent on crossing the Indus with a large Army for the purpose of securely establishing the present Mogul Family on the, Throne, and investing it with the Powers, of which it has been so long deprived. But this is an idle tale calculated merely to raise the Spirits of a drooping Court, or to amuse the News Mongers of the Bezar-and so distant from the truth that, instead of being in a Condition to undertake Foreign Expeditions, this Prince seems afraid of quitting his Capital and seldom even leaves his Palace.*

Thus Sir, to the utmost of my abilities, and with a scrupulous adherence to the Spirit of the Facts which have presented themselves, and which I have carefully avoided


FOOTNOTE
16
Peshkash, a tribute
*
In 1783 when I was at Caboul, there was a general Outcry against the Shaw by the Soldiery for his not having issued any Payment to his Army for upwards of two Years; and I likewise learned that since the Year 80, when he had made a Journey to the City of Peshour. which he usually did in the Winter to avoid the Colds of Caboul. and was there nearly cut off by a strong disaffected Party, he had Dot shown any Inclination of moving out of his Capital.

to discolour or warp by any prejudice or political Bias, have I discussed the Subject, which you were pleased to intrust to my Investigation, and I shall receive a very high sense of pleasure, should my Mite have added to your store of Information, or in any degree facilitated the important Service in which you are engaged. But, Sir, permit me to observe, that with every precaution which foresight or sound Judgement is capable of exercising, and aided by the most wise and salutary Regulations for the strengthening and directing any System of Government in India, yet it will be oftentimes strongly agitated by effects arising from foreign Alliances and Connections.

From the reasons which I have been induced to point out, it is shown that Madajee Scindia who is drawn to us by the attraction of self interest, may, with a provident attention become a powerful and a valuable Ally, particularly for the purpose of influencing the Poonah Councils in their Operations against Tippoo Sultan, or checking the Behar Rajah in any hostile views on our Bengal Possessions yet this Tenure is now held on the Life and Fortunes of one Man for Scindia has no heir to his Dominions, and were he now to die, they are not so firmly consolidated nor have they been so long in his Possession, as to ensure their devolving on any nominated Successor. The Existence of States in Hindostan must ever rest on precarious and unsubstantial Grounds, having no fixed Principle for their Support, or established Ordinances for the Security of the People, and where the Rulers of them are subject to be cut off on every occasion, when the Passions of Ambition or Revenge can with the hope of success be gratified.

When you consider, Sir, the grand Revolutions which have taken place in that quarter of the World, even within no wide Compass of time, and deserve the depressed reverse of Fortune which the Mogul Empire has undergone, you must testify a wonder mingled with an Awe, and as a Man you must feel a humiliating Mortification.

In the Year 1707 when Aurung-Zebe died, it may be said without any violation of the truth, that Hindostan,* whether for its Military Resource, its Wealth or Magnitude, was the most distinguished Empire in the World; and at that period, it is to be noted that the English were known, only on the Sea Coasts of that Country and occupied, under many restrictions, merely the Profession of Merchants.

Permit me for a Moment to direct your attention to the view, which at this day is exhibited at Delhi, where you will see the heir of the Grandson of Aurung-Zebe, from the decline of the fortunes of his House, reduced to such urgent distress, as to solicit in the Country, so lately under the dominion of his Ancestors, a Maintenance from an English Subject.

Pardon this Digression which I have been led into by the desire of holding up to you so lively an Image of the Instability and rapid Declension of this Eastern Empire, and I


FOOTNOTE
*
This Empire was bounded on the North by the Mountains of Tartary, on the West by the Territories of Kandahar, on the South by the Indian Ocean, and on the East, by the Kingdoms of Arcan and Ava; Forrnina in length, reckoning from Cabul to Cape Comerin a space of ] 800 Miles, and in its extreme breadth 1600 Miles, and producing, according to Mr. Bernier a Revenue of 20 Millions Stellina.

will now wholly close this Analysis, with expressing an unfeigned wish, that the Measures which have been adopted for the Regulation of our Government in India, may be successful and permanent, and that the Effects arising from wise and Vigorous Councils may be amply experienced.

I remain
Sir
With the greatest respect
Your most obliged Servant

Charlotte StreetPortland Place
9th June 1785.

(Signed) GEORGE FORSTER

 


Source:Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, Dr Ganda Singh




 
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