A Narrative of the Transactions in Bengal, During the Soobahdaries
About this text
A Narrative of Transactions in Bengal is a translation of Yusuf Ali Khan's Tarikh i Bangalah Mahabat Jangi. Tarikh i Bangala is an important source on the history of Bengal during the reign of Nawab Alivardi Khan. Yusuf Khan was son of son of Ghulam Ali Khan, a Diwan-i-Khalsa of Patna in Alivardi's government and became courtier at Alivardi's court. The text was composed after Alivardi's death, during 1763-64 when Yusuf Khan was at Allahabad. The text narrates Alivardi's gradual rise to power until his death, and also covers the period of Sirajuddaula, ending with Siraj's defeat at the Battle of Plassey. The text translated into English by Francis Gladwin was published in 1788 at Calcutta. Francis Gladwin at the instance of Warren Hastings concentrated on the study of Persian Literature. Gladwin was the first to translate from the Ain-i-Akbar, after he became a member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Gladwin later became the first professor of Persian at the Fort William College when it was founded in 1800.
The selected excerpts from A Narrative of Transactions in Bengal contain accounts on annual Maratha raids that took place during Alivardi's reign from 1742-1751. These raids brought about untold miseries to the people of Bengal. The repeated crop failures added to the sufferings of the inhabitants of the province leading to desertion of villages and migration.
Transactions in Bengal,
AZEEM US SHAN,
FROM THE PRESS OF
STUART and COOPER 1788
1.1. THE SOOBAHDARY OF ALIVIRDY KHAN,MEHABUT JUNG
But whilst Alyvirdy Khan was gratifying his revenge in desolating the territory of Moorbunje, his spies brought him intelligence that sixty thousand Mahrattahs, belonging to Ragoojee Bhoselah , the nephew of rajah Sahew, were marching from Nagpoor, under the command of Bhaskir Pundit, to invade Bengal. He turned back immediately; but before he got out of the wilds of Moorbunje, the Mahrattahs had entered the Burdwan province. He proceeded, by forced marches, till he arrived at Achalun Serai, within three coss of Burdwan. Here the Mahrattahs, who were as numerous as locusts, surrounded him in all sides: the Bengal troops, unacquainted with their manner of skirmishing, were under continual apprehension; and lost all their camp equipage and baggage. They were at one time thrown into such disorder, [Page 192] that the Mahrattahs had seized the elephant, upon which the Begum, Alyvirdy Khan's wife, was mounted, and were conveying her to their camp; when Mehsaheb Khan made a desparate attack; and, after great slaughter on both sides, recovered her from the enemy; he however, was killed in the action, and buried in the field of battle. At length, they fought their way to Burdwan, amidst incredible hardships and fatigues; the men having hardly slept for three days; and encountered such distress, from the want of provisions, that the men were compelled to feed upon the roots of plantain trees, and the cattle upon. the leaves of trees; and even of this hard fare there was a scarcity. The Mahrattas set fire to all the neighbouring villages; and the troops, being afraid to go out to forage, were again near perishing by famine In this situation, Alyvirdy Khan resolved upon fighting his way to Katuah; [Page 193] where he expected to find plenty of grain. He placed his artillery on his flanks, and marched in this manner during the night. But the Mahrattahs, being mounted on mares that could travel forty cose in a day; got the start of him; and, before his arrival at Kutuah, plundered, burnt, and destroyed, every thing they could find. The troops eagerly devoured the rice which they recovered from the flames; and by the exertions of the Hajee, they were soon supplied, by boats from Moorshedabad, with bread, and other necessaries for themselves; with sufficient fodder for the cattle.
The Mahrattahs continued at Kutuah during the rains, having placed garrisons all over the country. Meer Hubeeb, who had many acquaintances at Hooghly, having entered into a confederacy with Meer Abulhassan, of that place, marched, with Seessrow, and two thousand Mahrattahs, and arrived there at night. Abulhassan went to Mohammed Reza, who was carousing at a nautch, and told him that his old friend Meer Hubeeb, who had come alone to see him, was waiting for admittance. Mohammed Reza, being intoxicated with liquor, had no suspicion of treachery, and ordered the gate of the fort to be opened; when Meer Hubeeb, with the Mahrattahs, rushed in, and, securing Mohammed Reza, and Mirza Peyaren, the foujdar, got possession of the fort. Many of the principal [Page 196]inhabitants of Hooghly took refuge in the European settlements. The Moghuls, who were in the interest of Meer Hubeeb, were, by him, introduced to Seessrow, who, contrary to the general character of his nation, was a very worthy man, and took great pains to conciliate the minds of the conquered, by his mild and equitable government: the zemindars, encouraged by his conduct, readily settled with him for the revenues. He also kept upon good terms with the Europeans. He appointed Abulhassan foujdar of Hooghly, who administered justice, with the assistance of the cazees, and other officers.
Alyvirdy khan was all this time meditating revenge, and making preparations to strike a decisive blow. Whilst the Mahrattahs were dispersed all over the country, collecting the revenues, free from all apprehension of being attacked; he suddenly marched from Moorshedabad, and crossed the river, opposite to Kutuah, over a bridge of boats, which had been constructed during the night. The Mahrattahs being entirely off their guard, were slaughtered like sheep; and Bhaskir Pundit, with all the troops he could collect, retreated to Ramgurh; and from thence passed through the jungles to Orissa. Sheikh Moassoom, the naib [Page 198] soobahdar of Orissa, having only a small force, and being deferred by the zemindars, fell a victim to the Mahrattahs, who became entire masters of that province.
When Alyvirdy Khan arrived at Burdwan, he paid the arrears due to his troops, besides a gratuity of two months pay; and promoted such of the officers as had distinguished themselves in the action at Kutuah. He then proceeded to Cutteck ; and, after several skirmshes, drove the Mahrattahs out of Orissa. He appointed for his naib in Orissa, Abdullrusool Khan, the nephew of Mustafa Khan; and leaving him in Cutteck, with five or six thousand cavalry and infantry, returned to Bengal.
Upon the defeat of Bhaskir Pundit at Kutuah, Seessrow evacuated Hooghly, and retreated to Bishenpoor. The other Mahrattahs, who were dispersed over the country, also fled.
But new troubles soon arose; for Bhaskir, despairing of reconquering Orissa, led the Mahrattahs through Bhauglepoor and Rajemahl towards Bahar, and when Alyvirdy Khan went in pursuit of them, turned about, and got before him to Moorshedabad. He pursued them with such haste, that he arrived whilst they were plundering the quarter of Baloochee ; when, upon hearing the sound of his drums, they abandoned their prey, and fled to Ramgurh; whither also Alyvirdy Khan followed them. For three years the Mahrattahs annually invaded Bengal; but no decisive battle was fought during the whole of that time.
Alyvirdy Khan, having formed an intimacy with Aly Bhiey, a Mahrattah chief, who was a Mussulman, invited him to Moorshedabad; and persuaded him, that being weary of hositlities, he was ready to purchase a peace, [Page 200] by consenting to pay the chowth Aly Bhiey, having mediated a treaty upon these terms, with the Mahrattah chiefs at Dungengur, Alyvirdy Khan, at their requisition; sent rajah Jangeeram, and Mustafa Khan to satisfy the treaty on his part, by the most solemn oaths, according to their respective faiths. At the meeting it was agreed, that the Mahrattah chiefs and Alyvirdy Khan should have an interview; after which, the ambassadors took their leave, and returned to Moorshedebad. Alyvirdy Khan expecting great satisfaction at the peace, caused it to be proclaimed every where, and gave orders for khelauts, Jewels, elephants, and other presents, to be prepared, against the arrival of the Mahrattah chiefs.
The place appointed for the interview, was the plain of Munkereh; where there was [Page 201] pitched for their reception, a magnificent tent, of an immense size, in the lining of which a considerable number of armed men were concealed. The Mahrattah army was encamped at some distance, and Bhaskir Pundit, Aly Bhiey, and twenty other chiefs, came to Alyvirdy Khan's tent, attended by only twelve thousand cavalry. As soon as the Mahrattah chiefs had entered the tent, the doors were secured, so that no one could come in or out. Bhaskir Pundit advanced to embrace Alyvirdy Khan, who callled out "dispatch this vile infidel !"when the men, who were concealed within the tent, upon hearing this signal, instantly rushed out with their swords drawn, and butchered the defence less Mahrattahs. During the massacre, Alyvirdy Khan got out of the tent; and mounting on an elephant, commanded his troops to fall upon the Mahrattahs, who were standing carelessly near the tent. Some effected their escape; but the greater part were killed, or taken prisoners. When intelligence of the massacre reached the Mahrattahs, who were in Burdwan, [Page 202] and other parts of Bengal, they fled to Nagpoor; but in their retreat, many were seized, and killed by the zamindars.
After the rains, during the festival of the Desherah,which is the time that the Mahrattahs always commence their expeditions, Ragooje Boselah entered Bengal with a mighty army, to revenge the death of Bhaskir, and the other chiefs. The desolated the country wherever they came; and killed mutilated all who fell into their hands.
Alivirdy Khan was preparing to march from Moorshedabad, with a powerful army, when Ballajee Row, another Mahrattah chief, was sent into Bengal by Mahommed Shah to his assistance. Ballajee Row was the son of Bajeerow[Page 203] Pundit Purdhan, the general of rajah Sahoo, who was at this time an infant; and Ballajee was at enmity with Ragoojee. Alyvirdy Khan plalinly saw, that by continuing, the offensive alliance, his country would become the prey of both armies; and therefore fought to be rid of them as soon as possible, availing himself of the enmity between the two chiefs. He sent vakeels, with considerable presents, to Ballajee; and thereby engaging him firmly in his interest, they united their forces in Bheerbhoom; upon which Ragoojee thought proper to retreat. However Alyvirdy Khan was afterwards obliged to purchase the departure of his ally Ballajee, by the farther payment of a large sum of money.
At this juncture Ragoojee sent into Orissa an army of Mahrattahs, commanded by his adopted son, rajah Janoujee, with Meer Hubeeb, to collect the chowth: in this army were many of the dependents of the late Mustafa Khan. When Janoujee had conquered Orissa, Meer Huheeb sent an offer of peace to Alyvirdy Khan, upon condition of his paying the chowth, Nowazish Ahmed Khan, Hassan Aly Khan, Juggut Seat, and the Royroyan, were inclined to purchase a peace; but Alyvirdy Khan rejected the proposal with indignation.
Shumsheer Khan, and some other Patans, of Derbungah, who had been connected with Mustafa Khan, and held a correspondence with the Mahrattahs, demanded their pay, in a mutinous manner, during the war; when Alyvirdy Khan, being suspicious of them, paid them their arrears, and dismissed them. When they returned to Derbungah, they offered their service to Zeineddeen; and, as they were known to be good troops, he readily engaged them.
Shumsheer Khan, and his officers accordingly crossed the Ganges, with three hundred cavalry, under pretence of paying their compliments to Zeineddeen Khan, upon being taken into his employ. They waited upon him at his palace of Chehelsitoon, in Patna; and after paying their respects, seared themselves on each [Page 207] side of him. Shortly after, whilst he was engaged in familiar conversation, one of the Patans, named Morad Sheer Khan, seeing him off his guard, ripped up his bowels with a jemdher, and he expired on the spot. The three hundred Patans who were waiting without, rushed in, and murdered all the servants of Zeineddeen who were present. They treated the Hajee with the vilest indignities, put him to death with tortures, possessed themselves of lacks of treasure, violated the women of his family, and made them prisoners: after which they sacked the city, paying no respect to age, sex, or character. Shumsheer Khan collected together about a thousand cavalry, and marched into Bengal.
Alyvirdy Khan was encamped at Amaneegunge engaged against the Mahrattahs, [Page 208] when he received intelligence of the massacre at Patna. Being greatly afflicted at the murder of his brother and nephew, be determined to take instant revenge upon Shumsheer Khan, and the other assassins. Bur his troops mutinied on account of their pay, and could not be persuaded to march, till Nowazish Ahmed Khan had supplied, from his own funds, sufficient money to discharge their arrears; which is reported to have been eighty lacks of rupees.
Alyvirdy Khan left Nowazish Ahmed Khan at Moorshedabad, and marched himself to Patna. The Mahrattahs hung upon his march, and engaged him in continual skirmishes, till he arrived a little beyond the town of Bar; where he was joined by rajah Soonder Singh, zemindar of Tokaree. The Afghans now charged him in front, and the Mahrattahs in the rear; but his troops fought with desperate valour; and Shumsheer Khan, with most of the other chiefs, being killed by cannon shot, the Afghans took to flight; and, upon their retreat, the Mah[Page 209]rattahs dispersed; setting at liberty the women and family of Zeineddeen Ahmed Khan, and the Hajee.
Alyvirdy Khan, having appointed Surrajed dowleh to succeed his father Zeineddeen Ahmed Khan, as naib of Bahar, and made rajah Jankeeram his dewan, returned to Moorshedabad, to oppose the Mahrattahs.
As the Mahrattahs were still very powerful, Alyvirdy Khan did not make any stay at Moorshedabad, after his return from Bahar; but marched to the relief of Orissa. Syed Nour[Page 210]rullah Khan, and some Mahrattah chiefs who had shut themselves up in Bharahbatty, by promises of safety, were prevailed upon to surrender; when Alyvirdy Khan had them treacherously put to death.
The provinces having been thus annually invaded by the Mahrattahs for twelve years, without any hopes of preventing their return by hostile measures, Alyvirdy Khan was persuaded to conclude a peace, by agreeing to pay them the chowth of the three soobahs. After a long negociation, the treaty was finally concluded, upon these terms; and Orissa was ceded to the Mahtattahs, in satisfaction of the chowth. Mesaleheddeen Mohammed Khan was appointed naib on the part of Alyvirdy Khan, to act in conjunction with the Mahrattah officers.