History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Suraj Mal’s Struggle with the Marathas

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History of the Jats

By K. R. Qanungo. Edited by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5.

Chapter V. Suraj Mal’s Struggle with the Marathas

Maratha invasion of Bharatpur

[p.51]: The Jats and the Marathas had met together for the first time in 1749, 1748.ed.) but then it was as auxiliaries fighting on opposite sides in the Kachhwaha War of succession after the death of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh. Three years tater (1752) Raja Suraj Mal and Malhar Rao Holkar had fought shoulder to shoulder as hired allies of Nawab Safdar Jang in his war against the Ruhela Afghans. During the civil war between the Emperor Ahmad Shah and the ex-wazir Safdar Jang in 1752, Ghazi-ud-din Imad-ul-mulk had invited the Marathas to aid him against Raja Suraj Mal and Nawab Safdar Jang. In Oct. 1753, Raghunath Rao, with a large army under renowned chiefs, started on his first expedition to Northern India, having for its main object the plunder of the flourishing Jat principality, yet unvisited by them. Raja Suraj Mal had not given them the least provocation to justify a war. They crossed the Chambal at the ford of Dholpur and entered the territories of Bharatpur. The Jat Raja sent his purohit Rupram Katari as an envoy to Raghunath Rao to negotiate for terms, and in the meanwhile hurriedly put Bharatpur, Ramgarh (modem Aligarh) and his other forts in a state of defence, stocking them with provisions and war materials. He concentrated his main arm at Kumher, mid way between Deeg and Bharatpur, the best strategic

[p.52]: position imaginable for the defence of the heart of his dominion. Raghunath Rao demanded the extravagant ransom (khandani) of one krore of rupees; Rupram agreed to forty lakhs at the utmost. The Marathas resumed their advance, and the envoy came back promising to procure a reply from his master. Suraj Mal wrote to Raghunath either to accept peacefully forty lakhs or to take to warr; and with the letter he sent five cannon-balls and some powder as samples of the hospitable fare he might expect in the Jat country. In January 1754 the invaders appeared before Kumher and the frowning look of that gaint fort dispelled their delusion. Raghunath in his avarice had overshot the mark, and now regretted his unjudicious demand. Somewhat cast down, he ordered batteries to be erected against the fort. With the imperial risala and topkhana,Ghazi-ud-din 1 joined the Maratha army and infused more vigour into the camp of besiegers.

Siege of Kumher (Jan. 1754-May 1754)

The Maratha batteries failed to make any impression upon the walls of Kumher and their main army was held at bay by the resolute enemy. One day, young Khande Rao Holkar,2 the only son of Malhar Rao Holkar, after taking his meal went, drawn by fate as it were, to an advanced battery and was shuck down by a stray bullet from a Jat swivel-gun (jazain).XVIII Revenge nerved the arm of the Marath, and the Jats began to feel its weight. Three months thus passed

1. He made a forced march of 22 kos from Hodal to Mathura in one day, (15th Rabi 11, 1167 = Feb., 1765). See Waqa, 85.

2. He was about thirty years of age at this time, The Waqa makes an entry, recording his death under the date 4th Jamada 1, 1167 A.H. = Wednesday, Feb. 27, 1754.XVIII This corresponds with the time "About a month and half after the begging of the siege" by Bhao Bakhar, p.4.

XVIII. Date of Khanderao's death is 17 March 1754. See P.C. Chandavat, Maharaj Suraj Mal Aur Unka Yug, 113, f.n.6; G.C. Dwivedi though does not give exact date, also indicate middle of March not in the month of February. The Jats: Their role in the Mughal Empire, 147. The memorial of Khanderao is situated in Gangersauli Village near Kumher fort. - Ed.

[p.53]: away, and every day the prospects became gloomier for Suraj Mal.There was no power in Hindustan, bold enough to lift a finger to help him openly against the Marathas. Rajputana lay prostrate at their feet; the Emperor of Hindustan was hostile and powerless, and even the ally Safdar Jang was too afraid of the Maratha lance to move alone. The destruction of Suraj appeared to be only a question of time.XIX Like a Rajput, the Jat calmly waited for that awful hour when the smoke of the horrible sacrifice of

XIX. Every ruler by diplomacy tries to win over the allies of his enemy- at the time of war against him. Surajmal also wrote to the Wazir Intizam- ud-daula and the Emperor against Imad-Maratha combine. The Jats also contacted Scinde whose estrangement with Malharrao Holkar was well known, G.C. Dwivedi observes- "But the rest of the version of Bhao Bakher seems to be overdrawn. The forts which in point of their strength evoked the lavish praise of all the contemporaries and which fifty years later were to baffle the mighty British for two long years, were not going to succumb to the Holkar's wrath only. Suraj Mal was a courageous man, he retained his habitual calm and poise even in most desperate situations. In the present ease, Kumher, to use his own words, was "almost impregnable" and it contained provisions sufficient to last "more than a year". All this militates against his supposed increasing despair. The fact, as borne out by the contemporary sources, is that despite the enemy "deluge" the Jats made persistent forays and thus kept the enemy in "great alarm". There was no night when their raids were not sure, just as no day passed by when the enemy convoys were not attacked. Backed by the fort artillery they hovered round "as if there was no enemy in the environment of harming them at all". The Marathi letters and the Court history generally support this defiant spirit of the defenders. Thus, we learnt that Naro Shankar had to seek safety in flight before a Jat force from Deeg. Another letter eludes to an encounter having taken place between the Marathas and the Jat foraying party from Deeg. The later, however, disappeared when Dattaji arrived on the spot. On the night of 1st April 1754 (7th Jamadi II), Suraj Mal interviewed the Jaipur general Natani, outside the fort of Kumher. Thereafter a Jat artillery force came out and attacked the enemy trenches in the plain. The battle was even with casualties on bothsides. Again, on 30th April a Jat squardon surprised Shivdeo, killing 41 Maratha soldiers and wresting his total sum of Rupees 29,500. Earlier (c. late in March) a Jat force from Wair under Bahadur Singh, fell upon a Maratha detachment and grabbed "a lot of money" along with a few (two or three) distinguished Maratha ladies of the Holkar's family. Malhar justly felt humiliated at this boldness. Suraj Mal was, however, courteous enough to send the ladies back honourably. These sporadic instances suffice to belie the fancied despair of Suraj Mal and his imminent destruction. "The Jats: Their role in the Mughal Empire, 147-148 f.n. 64-69. For diplomatic efforts by Suraj Mal see P.C. Chandavat,. 115-116. - Ed.

[p.54]: his females (Jauhar) would ascend to heaven, giving signal to him to rush forth sword in hand to find an honourable death.

Diplomatic efforts of Maharani Kishori

Though equally indifferent to death the Jatni, bred in a freer atmosphere, with a wider outlook of the world and a deeper penetration of human character than the Rajput lady, proved to be more optimistic and resourceful. Hansia3 (the 'smiling one', wife of Suraj Mal) roused the droping spirits of her husband, telling him to trust her and banish despair from his mind. She had heard of Jayaji Appa Sindhia, as a man, generous, straightforward, and chivalrous, who could be trusted more than any other Maratha chief; the mutual jealousy among the Maratha leaders, and their accessibility to bribe were also not unknown to her. In order to create division in the enemy's camp, she one night sent Tejram Katari, son of Rupram, with a letter from Suraj Mal and his turban to Jayaji Sindhia, to implore his protection and friendship by an exchange of head-dress. Jayaji made a noble response, accepted the pledge of Suraj Mal and sent him his own turban in exchange with an encouraging letter, and a leaf of the sacred Bel tree, taken from the offerings to his patron deity (Bel Bhandar), as the most solemn proof of his sincerity. The news of the incident leaked out and Holkar became despondent.4

Suraj Mal himself, spurred to exertion by his energetic wife, began to intrigue with the Emperor and the wazir Intizam-ud-daullah, who had viewed with misgivings the junction of Ghazi-ud-din with the Marathas. The timid Emperor also feared the dictatorship of Ghazi-ud-din no less than that of Safdar Jang. A mighty wicked spirit had been conjured up which might as well break the neck of the conjurers. He wrote letters to the Emperor as well as to the new wazir that Ghazi-ud-din by allying himself with the Maratha was bringing the empire to ruin. Who should stand across his path when he chooses to push aside his old uncle from the wazirat or deal harshly with His Majesty, if

3. The editor of Bhao Bakhar (p.5, foot-note 17) Sanskritises the name as Anasua, with unnecessary philological discussion. For a Jat girl, this is, however too learned and poetic a name beyond the comprehension of the country folk.

4. Bhao Bakhar, p.6.

[p.55]: no bridle is now put on his ambition and no check upon his sinister activities? Ghazi-ud-din had sent for some heavy cannon from the citadel of Delhi. But Intizam-ud-daula, who did not desire the success of his nephew, advised the Emperor not to send them. He shrewdly remarked that if the warlike resources of the Marathas, the vast wealth and strong forts, conquered from Suraj Mal, and the imperial topkhana were placed at the disposal of the turbulent and Un-scrupulous Ghazi-ud-din, his ambition would exceed all the bounds of imagination,

Surajmal's diplomacy

Suraj Mal and Intizam-ud-daula were busy in weaving a net of diplomacy round the Marathas and Ghazi-ud-din. The Emperor himself became a party to the conspiracy. Under the royal seal letters were sent to Maharaja Madho Singh of Jaipur, the Raja of Marwar; and Safdar Jang - who had all suffered much at the hands of the Marathas asking them to unite their forces under the imperial standard and relieve Hindustan of these southern pests. Assurances beig given by all, the actual plan of the intended attack was left to be devised by Suraj Mal.He suggested that the emperor, under the pretence of hunting and visiting the crown lands in the Doab should reach Koel [Aligarh], and halt there till Nawab Safdar Jang joined him. On the arrival of the Oudh troops he was to march rapidly to the city of Agra where the Kachhwaha and Rathor Rajas would meet him with their armies. The plan was to form a cordon on the Chambal, so that the enemy might not escape. If the Marathas raised the siege of Kumher and marched upon Agra, Suraj Mal was to come close behind them and join the Emperor.

The Emperor started from the capital with his army, Court and harem, and by leisurely marches reached the neighbourhood of Sikandra.xx Nawab Safdar Jang also arrived at Mehdighat on the Ganges and encamped there expecting the Emperor at Koel. But the Emperor, instead of marching to Koel and putting himself in the shelter of its strong fort, delayed at Sikandra, enlisting new troops. In

XX. The author confuses Sikandrabad (21 KM west of Bulandshahar District) with Sikandra, the famous tomb of Akbar near Agra. Had the Emperor reached Sikandra the plan would have succeeded. For details of siege of Kumher see G.C. Dwivedi, The Jats: Their Role in the Mughal Empire, 145-150. - Ed.

[p.56]: the mean while Malhar Rao secretly left the siege-camp at Kuhmir with five thousand horses, intending to swoop down upon the unsuspecting royal quarry and appropriate the gain a one. The imperial camp was surprised; its treasures and equipages, and some of the ladies of the harem and the whole park of artillery fell into the hands of Marathas. The imbecile Emperor and his cowardly minister fled in disguise. The Marathas Chased them towards Delhi and besieged the capital. Intizam-ud-daula put the city in some sort of defence, foolishly expecting help from the Rajput princes Safdar Jang and Suraj Mal.5 Ghazi-ud-din withdrew his army from the siege of Kumher and joined the Marathas. Still suspecting a combination of enemies, he invited the Ruhela chief-Najib- ud-daula to his assistance, promising him a high post and a liberal subsidy.

The fort was captured; the Emperor with his mother and other relations was made prisoners. Intizam-ud-daula was dismissed from office and the eyes of the Emperor were blinded by the order of Ghazi-ud-din. He himself became wazir and raised to the throne another prince Aziz-. ud-din with the title Alamgir II. (10th Shaban, 1167 A.H. = 2nd June, Sunday, 1754), [Waqa, 91]. It was now too late for Suraj Mal to retrieve the situation. Safdar Jang was being watched by Najib-ud-daula, who was in league with Ghazi- ud-din. The rajas of Rajputana did not move, seeing that the plan had miscarried. Suraj Mal cannot be held responsible for the miserable fate of the Emperor, which the latter owned solely to his own negligence and want of discretion. Had he reached Koel encamped within its strong walls, surprise would have been impossible and his junction with Safdr Jang, who was waiting at Mehdighat, would have been easily effected. Such deplorable carelessness and lack of discipline prevailed in the Emperor's camp, that when Holkar fired some rockets at a distance to feel the pulse of the enemy, none in the imperial camp cared to go out and reconnoitre. Worse still they surmised that perhaps Aqibat

5. The best account of the counter-plot against Ghazi-ud-din and the intrigues of both parties are to be found in the Tarikh-i-Muzaffari [MS. 84-94] which differs considerably from the Siyar (text, ii. 48- 49).

[p.57]: Mahmud, a lieutenant of Ghazi-ud-din might be burning some village. They contentedly went to repose, but lo! the thieves broke in and the brave lords and princes were soon in headlong fight. At any rate the immediate object of [[Raja Suraj Mal]]'s diplomacy, viz., to turn away the Marathas from Kumher, was eminently successful. This unexpected success opened moralluring vistas of aggression to the Marathas. Standing behind the throne of the Great Mughal, the heart of the Maratha nation throbbed with a nobler impulse and they cast their wistful eyes upon the glimmering waves of the far-off Indus. The siege was practically raised when Malhar Rao and Ghazi-ud-din marched off towards Sikandra (bad). The Maratha army had already eaten up the supplies of the neighbouring country and scarcity pressed the besiegers more than the besieged. They dispersed in small bodies, leaving Jayaji Appa Sindhia before Kumher. Malhar Rao and Ghazi-ud-din, who still found themselves beset with many difficulties, forgot their old animosity and tried to win over so steadfast a friend and so redoubtable an adversary as Suraj Mal. Throuh the mediation of Sindhia, peace was concluded with him on the condition of the Jat Raja paying an indemnity of 60 lakhs. The Marathas evacuated the Jat territory, Raghunath Rao starting for home and Jayaji Sindhia for Marwar6 (June 1754).

6. Bhao Bakhar, p.10. It is doubtful whether the stipulated sum was paid at all. Persian authorities and French MS, are silent about it.

Chapter V. Suraj Mal’s Struggle with the Marathas

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