History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Legacy of Suraj Mal

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History of the Jats

Contribution to the History of Northern India (Upto the Death of Mirza Najaf Khan, 1782)

By Kalika Ranjan Qanungo. Edited and annotated by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5.

Chapter IX: Legacy of Suraj Mal


Maharaja Suraj Mal and his family

[Page 91] Raja Suraj Mal was about 55 years old at the time of his death. He had virtually exercised the sole management of the affairs of the State for over twenty years before and after the death of Badan Singh. By his four wives, he left five[1] sons:

  1. Jawahar Singh,
  2. Ratan Singh,
  3. Nawal Singh,
  4. Ranjit Singh and
  5. Nahar Singh.

The first two were born of a lady, popularly reputed to have been a Rajputni, possibly of Gauruaa caste, the third was the son of a Malin (gardener class) mother, the last two were born of the women of his own tribe.[2] But the mother of none of these enjoyed the particular


1. Wendel says four; but it is a common fact of history supported by the authority of persian histories that Ranjit Singh, who succeeded his brother Raja Nawal Singh- was also a son of Suraj Mal. This makes the number five. The narrative of Wendel though extremely valuable as a contemporary history, is vitiated by some inaccuracies about well-known facts.
2. Col. Tod says that Jawahar and Ratan Singh were born of a wife of Koormi caste (an agricultural tribe inferior to the Jats). But father Wendel who lived at the Court of Jawahar Singh- and knew him intimately asserts that they were born of a wife of the Gore caste (French MS., 51). Elsewhere he adds, "There are men who claim that the Gorees are a little more noble than the Jats, and that they are a species of decayed Rajputs, either fallen into decadence or mixed, but always one degree higher than the Jats as regards their extraction" (ibid. p. 74). This exactly tallies with the notice of the Gaurua caste, whom (Sir H.M Elliot calls "an inferior clan of Rajputs” (Memoirs of the Races, i 115). The author of lmad-ud-Saadat maintains that Jawahar's mother was a Rajputni (Pers. text p. 56). "It has been asserted that the Gaurua of the Mathura and Gurgaon districts is only a Rajput who practises karewa (marrying elder brother's widow). [Gaz. N. W. P, Old series, vol. viii, 1, p. 73]
a. Gaurua is a variant of Gauru, which is a Jat clan - Wiki editor

[Page 92] affection of the old Raja, who loved most dearly his masculine and barren wife the famous queen Rani Kishori, popularly called Hansia. Jawahar was fortunate enough to be adopted by this lady, whose influence and affection shielded the rebellious youth from the worst effects of the wrath of his father. He and his brother rose to high rank, as mansaodars of the Mughal Court. But Ratan Singh, addicted to pleasures in early youth grew up a voluptuary without any ambition for power or martial fame. Nawal Singh and Ranjit Singh were youths of mediocre abilities, and were little heard of during the father's lifetime. Nahar Singh, the youngest, whom Suraj Mal thought of leaving as his successor and whom the Jat chief had already begun to initiate in the arts or-government, was a boy of dull and narrow out-look and of weak intellect. Nahar [the Lion] resembled a lamb in character and presented a sad contrast to his eldest brother. He was a typical "good boy," obedient to his father's will, respectful to his superiors, devout and religious, with great reverence for the Brahmans, unostentatious and docile, fit for anything but ruling men and administering a State in stormy times. Jawahar feared neither God nor man, and would defy both in the pursuit of ambition and revenge. Possessed of great military talents and administrative capacity, subtle, active and audacious he was a born ruler of men; yet Suraj Mal rightly divined that this son of his would bring ruin upon the Jats.

Relation between Suraj Mal and Jawahar Singh

The relation between Suraj Mal and Jawahar could never be cordial, as between a self-made miserly millionaire and his young, foppish son who looks upon his father as no better than a peevish and overbearing steward, and makes grievance of the salutary checks laid upon his own extravagance. Theirs were two different types of mentality incapable of understanding each other. Suraj Mal, in spite of the change of his former condition and the immense wealth he had piled up had not at all given up the primitive simplicity of his race in what concerned his own mode of living. He however, made a decent provision-very liberal according to his standard - which he thought, ought to suffice for the maintenance of his son in dignity and affluence. But young Jawahar was extravagant and would always press for a


[page 93] larger allowance from his father. He soon created a circle of his own, and had a Court and train of which the expenses amounted far above what Suraj Mal had given him. Though brought up in a rude provincial town amidst a peasant population, his equipage, his fashion, his diversions all suggested an Amir of the Empire and the courtly airs of Delhi which he had not failed to observe well. Suraj Mal was greatly displeased, and in many ways tried to make his son understand the extreme aversion that he felt for his conduct. These remonstrance’s the more frequent and pressing they were, the more they soured the spirit of Jawahar. Already at a young age, Jawahar had commenced to nourish very high hopes and to indulge in outbursts of a fiery and enterprising spirit. Suraj Mal employed the military talents of his son in many expeditions, where he acquired great fame. He made his son commandant of Deeg, hoping that would satisfy him. But contrary results followed. A party opposed to Balaram, Mohan Ram and other influential chiefs of his father's Court, soon gathered round him there, and he persuaded himself that Balaram's group were turning his father's mind against him. Suraj Mal rebuked his son, for allowing himself to be guided by evil advisers, whom it was necessary for his own good to dismiss. But these paternal remonstrances were treated with usual indifference. What was worse Jawahar prepared for an armed revolt.

Jawahar Singh resolved to set himself as an independent ruler at Deeg and defend it to the last against his father. With the assistance of his desperate associates, he took possession of the city and did, in truth all acts of war. Suraj Mal, having tried in vain to make him return to his duty, had no other expedient than to go and besiege his son in person. In order to come most quickly to a conclusion with his son, he threatened to apply extreme rigour to the wives and children of those that followed his party. Jawahar put up a stiff resistance. Not content with defending Deeg against the efforts of his father, he resolved to try issue on the plain. He came out and attacked his father's troops; a fierce struggle ensued under the walls of the fort. After a while, the rebels were forced to turn their backs; but not their Maloch-like leader. Jawahar who rushed into the thickest of

[Page 94] the fray, and fought with ardour and courage befitting a nobler cause, was brought to the ground at last covered with wounds - a sword-cut, a lance thrust and a musket shot. Suraj Mal, who would rather see Deeg lost than his own son dead - hastened out of breath to snatch him away from the hands of those who in spite of all the prohibitions and cries of the father, hurried to give him the death blow. His life was saved; but owing to the three wounds, his right arm became weak and he limped in after-life [Wendel, 34-36j.[3]

A dark cloud hung upon the mind of Suraj Mal; the prospect of another civil war and family dissensions after his death made the closing years of his life extremely. He saw with alarm the rise of a strong party, headed by his most powerful chiefs, Balaram, Mohan Ram and others, who were bent upon opposing with arms, if necessary, the succession of Jawahar. He knew the character of his people which his son did not and cared not to understand. Jawahar gave himself the airs of an aristocrat and never failed to bring home to the mind of his nearest kinsmen and relatives, his own superiority and right to rule them by reason of his birth. Nothing was more offensive to the Jat, who, like the Mohan would not fear to tell any pretender to his face, "What art thou that I am not? What shalt thou be that I shall not?" Besides, the character of the prince was least calculated to create confidence in others. He was harsh, cruel, vindictive, and dissimulating to a degree. The pen of a sympathetic observer could depict him


3. In all fairness to Jawahar Singh, it is proper to add to following remarks of Father Wendel: "Although it is not other than very true that Jawahar Singh had been dragged into this wicked affair partly by his own spirit, and partly by the counsels of the persons he had about himself-nevertheless it was certain that mostly, the aloofness of Suraj Mal towards him and a certain indigence to which on certain occasions the son found himself reduced with all his comrades by the miserliness of his father, or the wickedness of those who according to his (Suraj Mal's) orders, supplied the money for the maintenance expenses of Jawahar Singh, obliged him to take that measure of last violence." This rebellion took place in 1755 before the invasion of Ahmad Shah Durrani.

[page 95] as no better than as a second Mihir-kula, a man who "has a up to the present time caused it to be seen that he is never more satisfied than when he has occasion to make war against someone, i.e., to render others unhappy, and cause to flow before his eyes a river of human blood" (Wendel, MS., 34]. He never forgave any injury or insult, and never failed to retaliate. All the old chiefs became apprehensive of the safety of their offices, wealth and lives under his regime. To have crushed these powerful associates of his cabinet and battlefield, in order to smooth Jawahar's path to the throne would have been, for Suraj Mal, the undoing of his life's work. So he decided to deprive such a son of his birth-right, rather than see the Jat power perish, although he esteemed silently Jawahar's resolution and 'bravery, and judged him to be solely worthy of succeeding him.

The territory of the Jat country

Map of Bharatpur state at the time of Maharaja Suraj Mal

But it was too much to expect that Jawahar would sit idle, and tamely submit to this injustice and be disinherited. So Suraj Mal proposed to create for him another kingdom outside the hereditary dominion of his house which he meant to leave to his more tractable son Nahar Singh. This suggested the scheme of the conquest of Haryana and the formation of a buffer State where the exuberant energy and military genius of Jawahar would find ample occupation in holding his appanage against the Ruhelas and the Abdali. It was undoubtedly a wise policy, and the site chosen for the contemplated kingdom was excellent. Haryana, which was and still is ethnologically a Jat country, accepted Suraj Mal's rule with alacrity and welcomed it as a release from the unbridled tyranny of a Muslim military aristocracy.

The Jat country : At the time of Suraj Mal's death the possessions of the Jats consisted of the districts of Agra, Dholpur, Mainpuri, Hathras, Aligarh, Etah[4], Meerut, Rohtak, Farrukhnagar, Mewat, Rewari, Gurgaon and Mathura, apart from the original principality of Bharatpur. "The right bank of the Ganges forms its [of the Jat kingdom] eastern boundary, the Chambal the southern, the suba of Agra included in the


4. Etah-Agra Division- bounded on the north by the river Ganges, on the south by Mainpuri district, on the east by Badaun district and the west by Jalesar pargana of the Agra district, lies between long 78°-29' and 79"-19' and latitude between 27° and 28°.

[Page 96] territory of the Raja of Jaipur the western, and the suba of Delhi the northern; its length is about 100 kos, east to...west and 70 kos, north to south [Le Nobab Rene Madec, sec. 45].

Wealth of Maharaja Suraj Mal

As regards the finance of the State, Father Wendel says "Opinions differ on the subject of the treasure and property which he Suraj Mal left to his successor. Some estimate it as 9 (nine) krores, others less. I have enquired into his annual revenue and expenditure from men who managed them; all I could learn as more credible is that all his expenses were not above 65 lakhs a year nor below 60, and he had at least during the last 5 or 6 years of his reign, not less than 175 lakhs of revenue annually. He added 5 or 6 krores of silver to his ancestor's treasure .... To-day (after the accession of Jawahar Singh) up to 10 krores are in the treasury of the Jats ... Much is buried-not known where. Suraj Mal fruitless dug at Deeg a large tract of land to recover part of the hoard of Badan Singh. This has given that city a tank and citizens have thus got water to their advantage! Notwithstanding the common opinion regarding the treasures of the Jats, I always believe that there is not so much money in their hands" [Wendel, 51, 52]. Years have not at all affected - but rather magnified - the popular belief, about the fabulous wealth of the house of Bharatpur. The secret vaults of its treasury are still supposed to contain many rarities and choice plunder of Delhi and Agra, which few can hope to see.

"Besides the treasure, Suraj Mal left to his successor nearly 5,000 horses, 60 elephants, 15000 cavalry in-his pay,


5.Imad-us-Saadat is the only Persian chronicle which gives, though incidentally, a hint about the wealth of Suraj Mal. Rao Radha Kishan (informant of the author Ghulam Ali), who had been for a long time a trusted adherent of Suraj Mal says that, Suraj Mal made to him a prophecy about the issue of the Third Battle of Panipat and in the course of the talk said, "I who possess territories, yielding one krore and a half, and have in my treasury five or six krores af rupees," have been made to part company with him [the Bhao] for nothing (Imad, Pers. text. 72). This is substantially a correct estimate.

[Page 97] more than 25,000 infantry (besides those in fortresses), [ibid. p. 55]. The author of the Siyar says -

"He [Suraj Mal] had in his stable twelve thousand horses, mounted by so many picked man, amongst whom he had himself introduced an exercise of firing at a mark on horseback and then wheeling round in order to load under shelter, and these men had by continual and daily-practice become so expeditious and so dangerous marksmen, and withal so expert in their evolutions, that there were no troops in India that could pretend to face them in the field. Nor was it thought possible to wage war against such a Prince with any prospect of advantage." [Siyar, iv. 28].

Suraj Mal as we learn from the Memoire of Jean Law, the French freelance captain, was also on the look-out for Europeans for training his infantry regiments in European discipline, so much admired by all his contemporaries. The party of M. Law[6] was attacked by 10,000 cavalry under Rao Durjan Singh (a relative of Suraj Mal and commandant of a small province of Atrauli[XXV] in the Doab), on 23 March, 1758, while he was encamped on the eastern bank of the Kalini river. His intention was to capture the Europeans and send them prisoners to Suraj Mal, who had been long desiring to have such people in his service. Fortunately, however, they escaped and the desire of the Jat Raja remained unfulfilled.


6. See Memoire of Jean Law (pp. 312-313), edited by Alfred Martineau. The Kalini river of the text is evidently the Kalindi river, a tributary of the Ganges, flowing through the tehsil of Atrauli (16 miles to the north-east of Aligarh on the Ramghat Road).
XXV. Atrauli had never been a province big or small. From the days of Akbar upto 18th Century, it remained a mahal or sub-division of the sarkar of Koil of Suba of Agra. During the 19th Century it became a Tahsil sub-division of Aligarh district. J.M. Siddiqui, Aligarh District; A Historical survey, p.113, f.n. 7. - Ed.


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