1966 thesis on the Pindaris
India Cultures Quarterly
The India Cultures Quarterly, v. 27, no. 2, 1971 Quarter Two, p. 55-70.
Editor: Dr. Henry H. Presler


P. F. McEldowney

I Introduction. II The Early History of the Pindaris: Their social and Military Organization. III Pindari Raids into British Territory. IV British Policy toward the Pindaris. V Conclusion: The Place of the Pindaris in Indian History.

Editor's Note: This paper by Philip F. McEldowney illustrates the type of paper produced by American students studying in the South Asia Programs in American Universities. He spent most of the first eighteen years of his life in India..... In addition, the paper provides an historical background for some antisocial groups now operating. Various books on the so-called "criminal tribes" have appeared with Indian authors in recent years. There are many books and articles on the gangsters and criminal syndicates in western countries. Crime is an international problem from which every nation suffers.


Govind S. Sardesai, a historian of the Marathas, has stated that the ' true history" of the Pindaris "has perhaps not yet been written."(1) In this he referred to the usual biased accounts of the Pindaris as the "enemies of society," written at the time when the Pindaris had become plunderers and freebooters. The study presented here does not pretend to be the "true history" of the Pindaris, for that would mean an examination of their useful place in the Maratha system of warfare from the time of Shivaji. Rather it is an examination of the Pindaris' role in the history of India during the early nineteenth century. For this purpose it is necessary to examine briefly the history of the Pindaris, their social and military organization, and their effect on the events in India during this period.

None of the literature about the Pindaris deals with them exclusively, but usually as a subsidiary subject in connection with the Indian states and Lord Hastings' (also Lord Moira or the Marquess of Hastings) policy. Edward Thompson's The Makings of Indian Princes and M. S. Mehta's Lord Hastings and the Indian States are such books. James Grant Duff (The History of the Marathas) and G: S. Sardesai (A New History of the Marathas) also deal with the Pindaris briefly, but in connection with the last phases of Maratha power. H. H. Wilson (The History of British India from 1805-1835) gives a good summary of the events of this period, chronologically, and in detail.

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Several contemporary reports and books were written about the Pindaris. Both Captain George Sydenham and Mr. Richard Jenkins compiled reports about the Pindaris for the Company, in order to assess their character and their numbers. Sir John Malcolm (A Memoir of Central India) provided a valuable analysis of the Pindaris often from first -hand experience, since he was an advisor to Lord Hastings before the War, a commander and political agent during the War, and the person assigned to Malwa (where the Pindaris had their bases of operation) after the War. Mr. Prinsep, secretary to Lord Hastings and having access to all materials received in Calcutta, wrote an overall view in his Political and Military Transactions of British India 1813-1818. Lieutenant-Colonel V. Blacker's The Maratha War of 1817, 1818 and 1819 gave in detail the military history of this war.

Though all of these accounts dealt with the Pindaris, the purpose of the studies was not concentrated on them. The Pindaris were included simply because they existed, but not because they played a significant role in the history of India during this period. It is the purpose of this study to examine whether this interpretation can still hold true.

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Their Social and Military Organization

Shortly after Lord Hastings arrived and took over the governorship in India, he became conscious of the menace of the Pindaris, Surveying the relationships of the various powers in India with the Company government, he concluded "I see around me the elements of a war more general than any which we hitherto encountered in India." (2) One of these "elements of war" was the Pindari menace, threatening the rich British frontier from the Hoogli to the Bhonsla's territories with a possible plundering incursion.

The Pindaris(3), as a group of freebooters and plunderers, were not new to India. The earliest reference was

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made by Firishta in 1689 in connection with Aurangzeb. They were probably attached to his army in the Deccan. Later when Muslim power declined and Maratha power increased, they attached themselves to the Marathas. At that time their main purpose to the Maratha army was to advance and plunder an enemy's camp just after the battle had ended. Dreading the Pindaris, the enemy would run and the Pindaris would plunder. loot, and burn the enemy's camp, making recovery unlikely. (4)

Up to 1800 Barun and Hiro were the main leaders of the Pindaris. They both served the Raja of Berar against the Nabob of Bhopal for some time. Enmity, however existed between them because of the suspicion surrounding the murder of Barun's son, Muhammad Husein. The Raja, finally in support of Hiro, seized Barun and kept him in prison until his death around 1800. Hiro also died at this time, and the leadership slowly evolved to other Pindaris. (5)

At the time of their power, each of these leaders had about 1000 horse under them. They received annual cash payments from the Raja of Berar for their employment, of from 90,000 rupees (for Biro) to 1.7 lakh of rupees (for Barun), and annual revenues from jagir and other lands in their possession of from 75,000 rupees (for Hiro) to 1.5 lakh of rupees (for Barun).(6)

In the following years, the Pindaris considerably increased their power and numbers from the figures above. The new leaders, who emerged between 1806 through the Maratha War of 1817-8119, were principally Karim Khan, Chito, and Wasil and Dost Muhammad.

Karim Khan was perhaps the best known leader of the Pindaris. He was the son of a Rohilla, and rose to power in the service of the Nabob of Bhopal from whom he received land He also occasionally served Sindia. In 1806 he was at the height of his power and had not less than eleven parganas in the Malwa area and was receiving over 15 lakhs of rupees annually in revenue.(7) In the same year be was captured by Sindia through trickery. Namdar Khan, Karim Khan's nephew, continued the leadership of Karim Khan's diminished band, and directed his plunder toward Sindia's territory in revenge for his leader. In 1811 Karim Khan's

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ransom of six lakhs of rupees was paid by an arrangement with Sindia through Zalim Singh (of Kotah). Karim Khan reformed his band and met with Chito, another Pindari leader, during Dussehra of 1811. He wished to make a united effort against Nagpur, but Chito would not agree and left with his band. Sindia then decided to retaliate against Karim Khan and defeated his band, but Karim Khan was able to flee to the Pathan leader, Amir Khan. Amir Khan along with Holkar kept him in semi-confinement until 1817, when he again was released and reformed his band.

Chito the son of a Jat, was purchased during a period of famine by Dooble Meer, a horseman in Barun's band. He rose in the Raja of Berar's service, and became a leader of the Pindaris. In 1805 he received land and the title of Nabab from Sindia. But the latter confined him between 1807 and 1811. (8) He opposed Karim Khan in the leadership of the Pindaris as seen in the Dussehra mentioned above. A possible reason for this opposition to plundering Nagpur was because he had recently received a considerable amount of land from the Bhonsla of Nagpur. (9) Chito's power among the Pindaris seemed to increase while Karim Khan was confined by Holkar.

Dost and Wasil Muhammad the sons of Hiro, inherited the leadership of their father's band. Besides these Namdar Khan. Karim Khan's nephew, and Kadir Buksh, son of Barun, were important leaders of the Pindaris. Other petty leaders or chiefs conducted smaller bands.

Estimates of the strength of the Pindaris during this period (1806.1818) vary from 20,000 to 30,000. In 1814 one estimate calculated their strength at 27,000 horse of which Chito had 10,000, Karim Khan 6,000, Dost Muhammed 4,000, Holkar's Shahi 5,000, and Bara Bhai's division 2,000.(10) Another estimate was 21,000.(11) Whatever the estimates for this period, the Pindaris had increased from about 2,000 under Hiro and Barun. to the lowest estimate in 1814 of 20,000.

The reasons for this increase are various, but not completely proven. One of the reasons was that of surrounding conditions. Proponents of Lord Hastings' aggressive policy against the Pindaris pointed out that the treaties of 1805 with the Maratha powers were only half-measures which

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did not really solve the problem of Maratha control over west and central India. Also these treaties made the Maratha weak enough not to oppose the British but not strong enough to control the Pindari leaders. On the other hand the case favoring the Maratha powers stated that- it was advantageous for the Marathas to keep the Pindaris active so that they could help in case of Maratha opposition to the British. Furthermore the Marathas admired the Pindaris for their style of fighting, which was in the old Maratha tradition without contemporary European methods or weapons. They may have approved of the Pindari method of plpnder, which was similar though more disorganized and devastating than their own method of obtaining (chauth) 'tribute'.(12)

It is also uncertain as to the exact source of the increase in the numbers of the Pindaris. The Pindaris' earlier ancestors seem to have come from Bijapur in the Deccan. These were further augmented by Pathans, Muslims in general, and Rohillas.(13) Sir John Malcolm believes they come from-all classes and tribes, but retained their original customs.(14) He emphasizes that the very system of the Pindaris (plundering) often times produced the effect .of increasing their numbers. Thus many villagers, whose villages were plundered, found a horse and joined the Pindaris. Sydenham believes that every horseman discharged from a regular army, every vagabond with a horse and a sword, debtors, outcastes and unemployed could, and often did join the Pindaris.(15) It would seem that the Pindaris were drawn from all castes and classes; besides many areas of India. The decrease in Maratha troops after the Second Maratha War and the lack of military action by the Maratha states to employ irregular troops, probably helped to fill the rank of the Pindaris.(16)

A fairly static picture of Pindari society can be drawn between the year 1806-1814. Many Pindari leaders owned lands in the Nerbudda valley. and on these lands their families and followers subsisted when they were not plundering. Other lands were located within the territories of the ruler who employed or supported Pindari leaders.

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Many of them were within the territory of the Nabob of Bhopal, and it was from this area. which included Nimwar, Sutwas, Raiseen, and Bhilsa, that the Pindaris conducted their raids.(17)

The basic "military" unit of the Pindaris was the durrah or band under a leader, and formed exclusively of horsemen. A leader, in turn, often recognized either Holkar or Sindia as his protector and patron. Consequently various durrahs belonged to the Holkar Shahi while others belonged to the Sindia Shahi. Sometimes over the years a durrah would change its allegiance from one Shahi to another, such as Karim Khan's durrah which changed over to Holkar's Shahi from Sindia's Shahi when Sindia captured him The designation of belonging to a Shahi became less important in later years.

When serving a Maratha chief, the Pindaris never expected to be paid in anything but the opportunity to plunder. In this basic respect they differed from the Pathans, lead by Amir Khan, who received regular pay for almost a similar service. These also differed from the Pindaris in that their main area of operations was Rajputana, while the Pindaris raided southward in the territories of the Marathas and the Nizam. The Pathan army contained a large number of infantary and some artillery, while the Pindaris relied completely on "cavalry." The few infantry of the Pindaris were stationed to guard their lands and small forts.

The Pindaris also generally differed from the Marathas, though Mr. Prinsep was concerned that they might "model into the same description of force that Timur and Ghengis Khan had directed to the devastation of the eastern world. The rise of Sivaji and of Haidar ... was a proof that such things could take place in India as well as in other countries."(18) But there was little comparison of the Pindaris with the Marathas or any other great power. The Pindari organization was directed toward one purpose-plunder. They raided selected areas for short times, and completely avoided confrontation or battle with any established power. It was not their desire to control land and people for any extended time. They also had no idea of union into a "state" - the origin of their numbers was diverse; they frequently changed allegiance to leaders; and they were not able to resolve differences between their durrahs in order to exert a united effort.

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The mode of existence and style of life of the Pindaris is best exemplified by a general description of one of their raids or labhurs. The Pindaris would usually gather together at a point just north of the Nerbudda river (often Nimwar) during the Dussehra festival which occurred in late October or early November after the monsoons). The leaders of the various durrahs would meet and discuss the prospects of plunder for the following season-winter. After the festival, parties of Pindaris would gather under a leader labhuri chosen especially for the particular raid (labhur). The labhuris would not be the leaders of the durrah itself. The leader would usually stay behind to direct or follow the process of a labhur through his "spies." These spies would often be dressed as mendicants or holy men and keep contact between the labhuri and the durrah leader.(19)

A labhur was usually composed of 1,000 to 4,000 horse of different quality. Out of 1,000, 400 were usually well-mounted and formed the advance. Most of these were armed with a common bamboo spear, eight to twelve feet long, but it was a policy that one out of fifteen to twenty men should carry a firearm. Four hundred besides the well mounted, would be indifferently mounted with a variety of weapons, while the rest (about 200) were servants, attendents, etc., on ponies or tattoos. (20) The labhur traveled extremely light with no camp equipment and could ride forty to fifty miles a day for several days They usually obtained what forage and food they needed along the way.

After crossing the Nerbudda, when it was low enough, they would proceed to a pre-set area and then spread to the surrounding villages in groups of fifty to sixty, and plunder. A picked group usually stayed at the centre to be of assistance to any of the plundering groups who encountered difficulty.

The plundering group would enter a village, search out its wealthy houses and persons, obtain their wealth by torture,(21) loot houses, exhaust their passion on the women, and kill anyone who opposed them. What loot they could not carry off, they often destroyed, and, before leaving they

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set fire to the village. They then returned to their center group and would perhaps move on to another center to continue plundering for several weeks or months.

After they had obtained all the plunder they wished, or had exhausted an area, they would return with their loot to their base across the Nerbudda. Here they would exchange and sell their loot with merchants, paying off debts and living gayly for a few days.

The total loot of a raid was divided in various ways sometimes one-fourth went to the leader of the durrah, one-fourth to the labhuri, and the rest to the plunderers. Sometimes one-fourth was also given to the recognized head such as Sindia or Holkar. In some cases the leader would select only one or two items of great value from the loot for his share.

After several days of rejoicing, and when the loot was exhausted, the party would either return to its more peaceful life, or if they felt successful, would go out on another labhur. This, of course, is only a general description. Particular raids often varried from this usual pattern.

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The menace of the Pindaris existed for several years before the Pindaris penetrated British territory itself. At first the Pindari raids were directed toward the territories of the Peshwa, Nizam, Bhonsla, Bhopal, and even Holkar and Scindia, and were as regular as the seasons. But in 1812 and 1813, and again during the three years before the last Ang o Maratha War, the Pindaris extended their raids to include British territory. The .first raids were small and in the north, but the later ones in the south caused great devastation and alarm. From first-hand observation, British officers were able to recount vividly the scenes of plunder and devastation, which had been reported from compiled information for some years by officers in the Nizam's territories. These raids also proved conclusively to the Company government that defensive measures would not be adequate to contain or eliminate the Pindaris.

The first labhur into British territory occurred in 1812 on the frontier of Mirzapur. It was reported that a durrah of Dost Muhammad (22) was headed for the territory of the Raja of Nagpur when it met an "expelled" zamindar from Allahabad. He told them that there were few troops in the Mirzapur area at this time, and that it was a wealthy area.

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The Pindaris changed their direction of plunder and went through the territory of the Raja of Rewah into the district of Mirzapur. This group, at first reported at from 1,200 to 12,000 but later determined at 3,000, plundered five or six villages and threatened, but did not enter, the city of Mirzapur. It then crossed the Son river, went through a district of the Raja of Nagpur and back to its base.(23) By the time reports reached the government, the Pindaris had left. In order to prevent such raids from occurring again, the government sent troops to defend this frontier and formed a treaty with the Raja of Rewah. (24) There were no more raids in this area.

The following winter (1812-1813), the Pindaris made the second incursion into British territory, this time in the west around Surat. Five thousand horse were reported to have plundered four or five villages, and the frightened people in the area fled to Surat for protection. The Pindaris returned to their base with a great loot, before any troops were sent against them. They contemplated another raid, but never carried it out.(25)

The following two seasons the Pindaris made no serious incursions into British territory. As a prelude to the worst devastation of British territory, the Pindaris made raids into the Nizam's territories in October and November of 1815. During this raid, the Madras Presidency was probably saved from plunder by the Pindaris because of the high level of the Krishna (or Kistna) river, along which the Pindaris raided down to the frontier of Musalipatnam. They succeeded in avoiding Colonel Doveton's positions (in service of protecting the Nizam's territories), and returned to Nimwar with a booty so large that merchants from Ujjain were required to come for its sale.(26)

Encouraged by this success, the Pindaris prepared for another raid, larger than the first, which headed south in February (1816). It reached the western frontier of Musalipatnam on March tenth and remained in the Company's

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territories for the next twelve days plundering and looting, especially the Guntur and Cuddapah districts. As a show of their swiftness and destructiveness, this group of Pindaris plundered 146 villages and covered 76 miles in two days alone (March eleventh and twelfth).(27) Though Madras troops were dispatched, they did not overtake the Pindaris before they had recrossed the Krishna. Colonel Doveton in the Nizam's territory, was able to surprise a small group of Pindaris once but by May this group had again returned to their base.

The commission, sent to assess the destruction caused by this raid in the Company's territories, reported 182 killed, 505 wounded, 3633 tortured, and many cases of women who had thrown themselves into wells or in other ways committed suicide in order avoid pollution or disgrace. Mr. Dalzell, in Guntur at the time of the raid, reported the picture of Pindari destruction as "the most consummate misery I ever recollect to have witnessed."(28) He also reported how an on-the-spot defense by local pariahs (a low caste) had defended the collector's office from being plundered, and the "heroic" inhabitants of Ainavole, who had burned themselves and their village after having failed in defending themselves against the Pindaris. (29) The villages became deserted for several weeks, as the inhabitants fled with their most valued possessions to the hills for protection. But Mr. Ross, collector of Cuddapah, reported that this was sometimes an even worse fate, since the hill peoples, Lumbardis and Koorchievors, plundered these refuges of their valuables. (30) The desertion of the villages showed that the people had lost confidence in the protective power of the British. This moral injury was probably worse than the material loss. (31)

By the following October (1816) a line of defense had been established by Colonel Walker along the southern bank of the Nerbudda. It was only after considerable difficulty that three groups finally got through these defenses. For simplicity, they can be designated at the Bidar, Poona, and Ganjam groups.

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The Bidar group plundered around Bidar and Nirmal during the latter part of December, but owing to indecision among their leaders did not cross the Krishna and Tungabhadra into the Company's ceeded districts. In the middle of January, Major Macdowal was able to surprise and completely route them, causing this group to disperse and return to their bases. Another smaller group had separated from the main Bidar group, and it plundered the we- tern coast of India, having difficulty from British troops only in recrossing the Nerbudda. (32)

The Poona group had entered the Peshwa's territory in the last part of November, and was completely routed by Major Lushington, December twenty-sixth near Poona It returned in confusion, and also had difficulty in recrossing the Nerbudda.

The Ganjam group was the only one of these three groups to penetrate into Company territory, but the circumstances of their raid did not differ much from the others. After having passed through Walker's defences, the group headed east and appeared in the Northern Circars in the middle of December. They plundered Kimedi, and then almost all of the district and even part of the town of Ganjam. Mr. Spottiswoode, collector of Ganjam, reported that the estimation of four lakhs of rupees, taken in money and jewels from Ganjam town alone, was low. (33) The people again fled and feared that the Pindaris might even plunder Puri and the temple of Jaganath. But the Pindaris left by the end of December without raiding these places. They had only been surprised twice-once by Major Oliver after the Kimedi raid, and again more thoroughly by Major Borthwick after the Ganjam raid. This party had trouble returning to their base, even though warned by Wasil Muhammad (whose durrah they belonged to ) of the defensive preparations. By this time, the line of defense had been extended further east and north from Walker's original line, and Captain Caulfield succeeded in attacking and practically destroying this group. The fugitives were again attacked by Major Clarke, and only some returned to their base.(34)

Except for two unsuccessful attempts to plunder in the cast in Bundelkhand, these were the last raids of the Pindaris on British territory. During the rainy season of 1817, Karim Khan who had again been released, tried to form a Pindari defensive, but disagreement among the Pindari leaders, particularly Chito, destroyed any hope of a concerted effort even in the face of the impending threat of a war with the British.

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Following the Second Maratha War, the policy of the British government had been to maintain the treaties made at that time, and to insure against any further expansion of British territories or increase in political responsibility. The Company government had generally upheld this policy since that time. The first strong advocate for a change was Lord Hastings.

Though Lord Hastings had not always been favorable to a policy of expansion and aggression in India, (35) almost from the time he arrived in India, he began to advocate a policy which would place the British in a paramount position in India. He received strong opposition from the Court of Directors and his own Council, however, preventing him from taking action on this judgement.

The Court of Directors had sent strict prohibitions "from engaging in plans of general confederacy, and offensive operations against the Pindaris, either with a view to their utter extirpation, or in anticipation of an apprehended danger."(36) Lord Hastings, however, continued to represent his policy for the tranquilization of Central India. It involved not only the elimination of the Pindaris, but the establishment of a confederacy of native states with Britain at its head. He presented this policy to the Council in Calcutta in 1815, but it was rejected.(37)

The Pindaris played a prominent role in formulating the policy of Lord Hastings and the Court of Directors. Lord Hastings continued to receive reports of the destructiveness of the Pindaris,(38) and, reacting to the reports of the raids in 1815-1816, wrote "......I am strictly forbidden by the Court

of Directors to undertake the suppression of the fiends who occasioned this heart rending scene (the self-distruction of Ainavole, lest I should provoke a war with the Marathas." 39

The Court, however, after having received a report of these same raids, sent Lord Hastings reluctant permission to "surpress the Pindaris and destroy their further

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means of action."(39) But before this was received in Calcutta the Council had passed a resolution, in light of the raids in late 1816, that they could no longer refrain "from any system of offensive operations against the Pindaris..."(40) and that they were unanimous in the opinion "that the adoption of vigorous measures for the early suppression of the Pindaris has become the indispensible obligation of our public duty."(41)

Armed with this sanction, Lord Hastings began to put into operation his plan for the extermination of the Pindaris. Since the relations between the Pindaris, Indian states, and the British government have been dealt with more fully and adequately elsewhere,(42) it is sufficient to relate only some of the important aspects in connection with the Pindaris.

Lord Hastings began by forming treaties with several states around the Pindaris, with the purpose of obtaining their cooperation against the Pindaris. In justifying this step he claimed, "I have insisted on rendering the British government safe against the growth of any similar pests (as the Pindaris) by binding states who can crush such associations in their bud." (43)

Sindia, who had often been acknowledged as the nominal head by the Pindaris, presented a special problem. In recent years he had been regarded with suspicion by the British government. It was thought that if any native power could control the Pindaris, it was he. Sindia had been able to keep Karim Khan in confinement for several years. After Karim Khan's release and subsequent attempt to plunder Sindia's territory, Sindia had defeated him, and caused him to seek the protection of Amir Khan and Holkar. Again, when the Pindaris had raided British territory, he had sent a force against them to control them. But this force was unsuccessful, and it was generally recognized to have been dispatched in order to placate the British rather thin to suppress the Pindaris.(44)

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Just before the campaign opened, Lord Hastings decided to force Sindia to choose sides - he could cooperate with the British against the Pindaris or be recognized as an enemy. Meanwhile Lord Hastings had collected the troops in the North for the campaign, and they were close enough to be a threat to Sindia's territory. Sindia signed the treaty in late October.

Amir Khan, the Raja of Bhopal, several Rajputana states and others signed treaties with the British at this time also. "Political arrangements" were completed for the War.

A full account of the Third Maratha War and of the Maratha and Pindari War, has been given by Lieutenant-Colonel Blacker. (45) Only a brief account is necessary here. Lord Hastings planned to destroy the Pindaris by driving them from their bases of operation, and then making sure they could not escape. In essence, this plan succeeded. In the North, the Bengal forces were arranged from Agra through Bundelkhand. In the south Thomas Hislop commanded the Deccan army, which, after some delay, marched across the Nerbudda into the old bases of the Pindaris during the last part of November. Wasil Muhammad and Karim Khan fled towards Sindia, while Chito fled toward Holkar's court. The former groups were prevented from getting to Sindia, and turned west going into the area of the Chambal river. They were again driven from refuge here and returned south toward their bases. Chito, meanwhile, had also returned after the defeat of Holkar, and here, near their old territory once again, their groups were defeated and fled.

Karim Khan gave himself up to Sir John Malcolm, who was in Malwa at this time, and many other Pindari chiefs followed his example. Wasil Muhammad fled to Sindia's court, was handed over to the British, and, after his plan for escape was discovered, committed suicide. Chito participated in events connected with Appa Sahib (the Nagpur Bhonsla), but had to flee alone into the jungle after Appa Sahib's defeat His body was found later. He had evidentially been killed by a tiger while trying to find a hiding in the forest. (46)

Other events had occurred during this campaign. The Peshwa, Holkar, and Appa Sahib had all started aggressions against the British and been defeated At the end campaign in 1819 the predatory powers of Central India had been

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defeated along with the other seeds of rebellion. Central India was now free from the misery of plundering horseman and "anarchy."(47)

Arrangements were made by Sir John Malcolm for the Pindari leaders, their families and following, to settle in Gorakhpur (in northern India) with pensions and land. (48) Only Namdar Khan, Karim's nephew, was allowed to settle near the old bases of the Pindaris in Bhopal. Karim Khan had lands providing 16,000 rupees per annum, while Kadir Baksh (another Pindari leader) had lands of 400 rupees per annum. As if by irony, the tatter's house was attacked in 1822 by dacoits from Oudh, and four of his people were killed, many wounded, and some of his property taken. (49)

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The full and complete history of the Pindaris is yet uncertain. Before the nineteenth century their character was much different from what it became in the early nineteenth century. They had at one time served as useful auxilaries to Maratha chiefs. But by the early nineteenth century when the Marathas no longer were able to employ them for military operations, their numbers and power increased, they became almost independent from any control, and they continued their plundering practices though they were no longer serving as a useful part in a military expedition. In this period they developed a completely different role, which consequently made it necessary to change their style of life and mode of operations. The more formal powers had become bound by treaties which limited their power, and prohibited them from engaging in any military operations The Pindaris, not limited by the restraints of a formal power, grew in this vacuum.

It is not certain why the Pindaris began raiding British territories. Perhaps it was because these areas promised richer plunder, or perhaps the Pindaris received encouragement from Indian states who were resentful of British power. Whether the Pindaris unconsciously or purpose-

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fully raided British territory, it was, in the end, their undoing. Lord Hastings pleaded an unheeded case against the Pindari menace and for the tranquillity of Central India, until the Pindaris began to raid and plunder British territories, disturbing the all-important peace there, and killing British subjects. As soon as these particular actions were reported, London gave its reluctant permission to rd Hastings. This provided him with the key which open a large part of India to British control. It is not known what Lord Hastings would have accomplished if he had not had the excuse of the Pindaris.

Probably Lord Hastings exaggerated the menace of the Pindaris in relation to the security of British control in India. Though the Pindaris were never willing to fight. and though they were practiced in the arts of swiftness, endurance, and evasion, the defenses, established by the British two years before the War, had begun to work against the Pindaris. But these defenses were expensive, and it could not be determined how long they would be necessary. With the failure of Sindia to control the Pindaris, the British ; took over the responsibility, and decided to rely on a certain i all-out effort in place of the uncertainty of waiting.

All the reports and studies of the areas in which the Pindaris lived, and in which they plundered, indicated that they had no permanent effect on the social and economic conditions of those area s.(50) Some temporary effects are reported -land revenue decreased in some areas where the Pindaris had recently plundered. (51) But whether the Pindaris had really effected a decrease, or that they were a good excuse for not paying revenue, is not known.

The Pindaris did have a permanent effect on the history of India, though indirectly. Their menace and the need to eliminate them were the main reasons that made it possible for the British to gain a paramount position in large areas in the Indian subcontinent.

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1. G. S. Sardesai, A New History of the Marathas (Bombay: 1948 ). p 477.

2. Marquess of Hastings, The Private Journal of the Marquess of Hastings, Marchioness of Bute, daughter, ed. (London: 1858), p. 47.

3. The etymology of the term Pindaris had been suggested from various terms. The one most commonly suggested is from pinda, an intoxicating drink enjoyed by the Pindaris. The Pindaris themselves claim this was the origin of their name ( see Sir John Malcolm, A Memoir of Central India, and Ross of Bladensburg, The Marquess of Hastings, p. 51). Other origins however are given such as pandour, and pendha or peindhar - meaning a body of stragglers (Sardesai, A New History, p. 474 ). The Pindaris are often compared to the Cossacks who rendered a similar service in the Russian army, and to the Companies which roamed and plundered Europe in the fourteen century.

4. Sardesai, New History, p. 477.

5. Jenkins, memoranda relative to the Pindaris, in the year 1812, found in the Parliamentary Papers, 1818, vol. XI, p. 273.

6. Jenkins, Memoranda. Parli. Papers, 1818, vol. XI, p. 273.

7. Henry T. Prinsep, A Narrative of the Political and Military Transactions of British India, 1313-1818 (London : 1820), p. 25.

8. Jenkins, Memoranda, P. P., 1818, vol. XI p. 271.

9. Prinsep, Narrative, p. 27.

10. George Sydenham, A dispatch dated 24th April 1814 Parliamentary Papers 1818, vol. XI, p. 286-66.

11. Lieutenant Colonel V. Blacker, Memoir of the British Army in India during the Maratha War of 1817, 1818 and 1819 (London : 1821), p. 18.

12. Prinsep, Narrative, p. 26n.

13. Jenkins, Memoranda P. P. 1818, vol. XI, p. 270.

14. C. H. Payne, Malcolm's Memoir of Central India (London: n.d.), p.104.

15. Captain George Sydenham, Memorandum of the Pindaris towards the close of 1809, Parliamentary Papers, 1818, vol. XI, p. 245.

16. Mohan S. Mehta, Lord Hastings and the Indian States, 1813-1823 (Bombay 1930), p. 9.

17. Jenkins lists the land held by the Pindari leaders. and the areas in which they cantoned P. P. 1818, vol. XI, p. 272-275.

18. Prinsep, Narrative, p. 20.

19. Jenkins, Memoranda, P. P.1818, vol. XI, p. 271.

20. Prinsep, Narrative, 22-23.

21. There were various methods of torture which the Pindaris used in order to discover where wealth was hidden. The most common of these was to enclose a a person's head in a bag of dust, ashes, hot ashes, and/or hot chillis, and to pound him on the back or face until he breathed and choked on the ingredients, and until he told where he kept his wealth. Another one was when two heavy wooden beams or yokes where placed one under a person lying down and the other on top of him. Two Pindaris would their sit on the ends and press the beams together, or in this manner hold the person down for a beating. See H. H. Wilson, The History of British India, vol 2 (London : 1896 ), p. 190-191.

22. But Prinsep says of Karim Khan's Durrah, Narrative, p. 29.

23. Extract from a dispatch from the Governor General in Council to the Secret Committee, dated 25th March 1814, Parliamentary Papers 1818, vol. XI, p. 249-60.

24. Ross of Bladensburg feels this was a punitive measure against the Raja for having allowed the troops to pass through his territory. Reports in the Parliamentary Papers seem to indicate that the Raja bad only the alternative of having his area plundered or to let the Pindaris through and therefore that he cannot be blamed.

25. A dispatch from Jenkins in Nagpur to Warden in Bombay dated 25th March, 1814, P. P. 1818, vol. XI, p. 269.

26. Prinsep, Narrative, p.116.

27. Ibid.

28. Dalzell, dispatch to the Madras Secretary: dated 15th March 1816, P. P. 1818, vol. XI, p. 278.

29. Ibid., dated 18th March 1816.

30. Ross dispatched to Board of Revenue, dated 24th March 1816 P.P. 1818 vol. XI, p. 269.

31. Mehta, Lord Hastings, p. 100.

32. Prinsep, Narrative, p. 165.

33. Spottiswoode, letter to the Board of Revenge, dated 6th January 1817 P. P., 1818, vol. XI, p. 285.

34. Prinsep, Narrative, p. 169.

35. Mehta, Lord Hastings, p. 15.

36. Secret letter to Bengal, 29th September 1815 as quoted in Wilson, British India, p. 199.

37. Mehta, Lord Hastings, p. 17-23.

38. Most of these reports have been stated above in letter and dispatches from Dalzell, Mr Ross and Mr Spottiswoode. He also received letters from the various residents at the courts at Hyderabad and Nagpur.

39. John F. G. Ross of Bladensburg, The Marquess of Hastings and the Final Overthrow of the Maratha Power (Oxford: 1900), p. 91. Also Lord Hastings, Private Journal, p. 113.

40. Ross, The Marquess, p. 96.

41. Governor General, dispatch to the Secret Committee, dated 21st December 1816, Parliamentary Papers, 1819, vol. XVIII, p. 640 - 641.

42. Mehta, Lord Hastings and Edward Thompson, The Making of the Indian Princes (London : 1943).

43. Governor General, dispatch to the Secret Committee, camp two marches west of Julawa, 4th November, 1817, P. P., 1819, vol. XVIII, p. 686-688.

44. Mehta, Lord Hastings, p. 101-103.

45. Blacker, Memoir (1821).

46. Wilson, British India, p. 386.

47. Marquess of Hastings's summary of the operations in India with their results, Parliamentary Papers, 1831-32, vol. VIII, p 186.

48. Sir John Malcolm, dispatch to Mr. Adams, dated 22nd March 1818, P. P. 1819, vol. XVIII, p. 686-688.

49. Wilson, British India, p. 297 n.

50. Baden Powell states (in his Land Revenue Systems of British India, 1892) that the plundering of the Pindaris, Rohillas, and such bands did have an effect, but it was not lasting.

51. Mr Long, Magistrate of Raiamundry, stated that after the Pindaris had raided and the inhabitants of the area fled, "some of the zamindars have represented that the Ryots take advantage of the times to refuse paying their kists," P. P., 1818, Vol. XI, p. 280.

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Editor Henry H. Presler began The India Cultures Quarterly [ISSN 0019-4166) in the early 1960s and continued as its editor into the 1980s. The journal carried articles on a wide range of topics, but often focused on religions of India, especially Hinduism, and especially as practiced in and around the town of Jabalpur in central India. While this journal included the writings and essays of Henry Presler, of his colleagues at the Religion Department under Dr. Presler's directorship, and by many others, the extensive research and data collected and recorded by Dr. Presler and his colleagues are archived and available at the University of Virginia library's Special Collections, listed as the " Papers of Henry H. Presler." An online Guide details some of the 225 items in this collection.

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