Page images
PDF
EPUB

into-dhurrahs, or tribes, commanded by sirdars; vatives of every country were promiscuously enrolled in their community, and he was welcomed as a worthy citizen who to a stout heart added a horse to carry him on his foray, and a sword to levy contributions. They are, however, all of the Moslem persuasion, and the other castes whom they admit to their association are distinguished by the name of Ogirru, or strangers, while they address each other by the appellation of Sura ey;' (brother.) At first, probably, they were less national; but as they acquired wealth and renown in the Mahratta contests, the vanity,' natural to man, induced even these banditti to pride themselves on being what they were, and therefore to draw a line between themselves, plunderers by descent through several generations, and their accessaries, who could only boast of circumstance, and not of lineage, to entitle them to the latrociniary honour. In their history we find the names of Heeroo and Burran mentioned as leaders of considerable note, and also Dost Mahummud and Ryan Khan the sons of the former. Their dignities are generally ephemeral, and genius and enterprize, often in a very few years, raise a person from obscurity to the highest consideration.

In the rapidity of their movements, their endurance of fatigue, their attachment to their horses, their want of discipline, and their predatory mode of warfare, the Pindarries strikingly resemble the least civilized of the Cossacks. Their number is stated to amount to between thirty and forty thousand; but in a community liable to such Auctuations it is not easy to form any very accurate idea of their real strength. A year of plenty reconciles many to peaceful habits, and a season of scarcity multiplies the horde of freebooters beyond the powers of common calculation. But whatever may be their force they chiefly inbabit the country north of the Nerbuddah, round Nimbawar, Kantapore, Goonass, Beresha, and part of the Bilsa and Bopaul territory. Unless when united on an incursion, they live together in societies of one or two hundred, which, as is the case in most irregular combinations, are governed by him who possesses the greatest personal influence. These chiefs are called * Mhorludar' or ' Thokdar,' from 'mhorla' or thok,' the name of the party, and when several of these are united the aggregate body is called toll; all detached parties are called “buzzucks; the main body lubbur,' and the leader or principal commander, 'lubbreea.'

The lubbreea has no hereditary claim to pre-eminence, but owes his power entirely to popular opinion; military talent is the only passport to this station. Thus raised, the obedience of the subject is not much to be relied upon. Men wild and independent are not to be restrained within bounds by voluntary submission; and as the chief can neither punish disobedience, nor compel a due regard to VOL. XVIII. NO, XXXVI.

his

6

G G

taking the chance of the random shot which the startled soldier discharges after them.

Their bivouack at night offers a singular contrast to the stillness of a disciplined army, with its brief, solemn, and regular interruptions. When it is difficult to keep together on account of the darkness, they are continually calling to each other by name, and, from the noise occasioned by their clamour, the general direction of the march is easily kept. If the lubbreea changes his course he sounds his trumpet, and the word is also passed from one to another; so that although much confusion ensues, they never so completely disperse but that they can again unite in a short time.-Should they be attacked at such a moment, it is sauve qui peut; they fly at full speed towards every point of the compass, and trust to chance to bring them together again ; yet, with great apparent disorder, there is still some degree of regularity among them, and some general principles by which they shape their conduct. Each thok' has its distinguishing luggee' or standard, and proceeds in as organized a state as circumstances admit; and though a thok sometimes separates from a lubbur, individuals seldom abandon their thok. The buzzacks, or divisions, headed by some resolute and aspiring man, detach themselves in bodies of ten and twenty, and scour the country to the extent of six or seven coss, either in advance or on the flanks of the lubbur. When attacked, they invariably endeavour to lead their adversaries into an ambush, or draw them, inadvertently, upon the main body; their practice being never to fight unless under great advantage.-Flight is accounted no disgrace with them; but when the rear is hard pressed, the most courageous and best mounted volunteer to defend it. Should the toll,' however, be dispersed, by defeat or otherwise, the lubbreea's trumpet is sounded to keep the fugitives together; and, as this signal may not reach the ears of the more distant parties, he sets fire to some stock of straw or stubble, as an indication of the spot where he is posted, and a rallying summons to his men. It sometimes happens that individuals lose the toll for several days; but, such is their acuteness, from long cuistom, that they will readily discover the track of their party, when those unacquainted with their habits would be utterly at a loss.

When the lubbreea arrives at the place where he intends to take up his quarters, he fixes his standard in the ground and dismounts; those behind immediately begin to collect forage as the signal for a general halt:--every one passes beyond the leader, who is thus left in the rear of the whole. The men of each thok keep as close together as possible, and in this respect resemble the highland clans of Scotland, as they are all either kinsmen, friends, or dependents of the thokdar. No other kind of order is observed in their en

campment

1

campment—no guards are posted, no scouts sent out-but the lubbreea is expected to watch for the safety of ail; which, as he cannot do by personal observation, he resorts to the frequent tulls or changes of position already noticed. So insufficient a precaution exposes them to be surprized ; and recent experience has shewn, that, both during their mid-day-halts and night encampments, they are extremely liable to be taken unawares and effectually assailed. It is, however, generally in their advance, and when free from apprehension that they scatter themselves so widely over the face of the country. In their retreat they proceed niore compactly, and, if pursued, make marches of an extraordinary length. As their object is not fighting, but plunder, they have seldom been known to resist the attack of even an inferior

enemy; and, if they are overtaken, they disperse, and re-assemble at some appointed rendezvous; or, if followed into their own country, through all their windings and doublings, and endless tulls, they immediately retire to their respective homes. They find protection either in the Vindhya mountains, in castles belonging to themselves, or from those Mahratta powers with whom they are openly or secretly connected; of these Scindiah and Holkar are the chief—to the former the most formidable branch of the Pindarries is attached, and not unfrequently exercises over his affairs an ascendancy, like that of the Roman soldiery, or the Strelitzes and Janizaries of modern times.

In all their expeditions the majority are mounted on a small, strong, and extremely active race of horses, on which they bestow the utınost care, especially in regard to their food, giving them the best of every kind of grain they can procure, raw: though in a period of distress, these animals are trained to undergo the same privations as their masters. It is a common opinion that the Pindarries give their horses large quantities of opium, to enable them to bear the fatigue to which they are constantly exposed; but this appears, from the best information that we can obtain, an erroneous idea. The prisoners universally state that such is not their practice. After a very laborious march, and when their cattle are much tired, those who have the means give them a small quantity, (about half a tola,) made into a ball with some flour and a little ginger, or some other stimulant. This is the only occasion when opium is administered, except in cases of illness. Gram is seldom given, as they think it liable to disagree with their small cattle, unless boiled.

Their usual pace is between a walk and a trot; they very rarely gallop. Like the Arabs, by constant practice, they acquire a perfect management of their steeds, but make no study of horsemanship as a science. In the day-time they take off the saddles, but never unsaddle during the night; on the contrary, they always sleep GG 3

with stancy G G4

with the bridles in their hands, and are in this respect ever prepared for battle or flight, or rather for the latter, since, on the slightest alarm, they spring on their horses, and are out of sight in an instant. It may be observed that they breed few borses themselves, but either procure them in their incursions, or are supplied by the Mabrattas from the large herds reared in Malwa. The proportion of these different sources of mounting their cavalry may be approximated by stating that, in the party commanded by Buksoo, which entered the Deccan in 1816, amounting to between two thousand and two thousand five hundred, there were not more than one thousand of the best description of horses, the remainder being a breed of hardy galloways. The speed of his horse is the great security of a Pindarry; while he possesses that animal no danger appals him, and it is therefore almost the sole object of bis regard; nothing argues greater negligence, nothing carries with it greater disgrace than the loss of his horse, on which it is figuratively imagined he should always be mounted: no success can afterwards wipe away the reproach.

The arms of the Pindarry are a lance or a spear and a sword, which he wields with admirable dexterity, though not exercised in that art; they are nevertheless fully sensible of the great advantage to be derived from the use of fire-arms, but very few of them carry matchlocks, on account of the inconvenience resulting from their weight. They feel their inequality in this respect, and, from their fear of musketry, seldom venture to attack a place so defended.

Having from the work before us, and from more full, and recent information of our own, on which we can perfectly rely, described the mode of warfare, the habits, and arms of this extraordinary race of men, we shall now proceed to take a more distinct view of the moral and physical qualities of the men themselves, and add a brief biography of their chiefs.

The Pindarries seem to possess several of those qualities which we most prize in a soldier-courage, and confidence in their leader to follow him through the greatest perils, strength of body to undergo the utmost privations and fatigues, and fortitude to endure them without repining. Unremitted exercise invigorates their limbs, and enables them to sustain hardships under which stronger men would perish. Their manner of life, ever various and exposed to risk, inspires them with a promptitude to act decisively in the most trying moments; and in situations where others would tamely surrender from despair, they find a resource in their invincible spirit, and hope of safety by flight. At times they wallow in abundance, while at other times they are destitute of common necessaries ; but they do not sink in despondency. On the contrary we may form some idea of their personal intrepidity and constancy from the resolution which instigates them to undertake journies to so great a distance from their homes, and through the midst of armies of whose superior prowess and power they have had incontestible proofs. Mounted on their small horses, frequently heavily laden, without any other guide than the intelligence of their lubbreea, they pass over an incredible tract of country, generally in bodies not exceeding two or three thousand men, holding an undeviating course until they reach their destination. The adventurous spirit of their leaders stimulates them to enterprizes wbich to weaker minds would appear impracticable, but in which they are well seconded by the devotion of their adherents. Their abstinence is often extraordinary. In a retreat their food is frequently nothing more than corn plucked from the fields as they pass, and separated from the chaff by rubbing between the hands. This, with a little water, is the only sustenance they can procure, till they attain some place of comparative security, when they again begin their ravages, and go on plundering friends and foes indiscriminately all the way to their own country. The worst feature of their character is displayed on these occasions. They every where commit the most dreadful enormities, and it may justly be said that all their good qualities are obliterated by their cruelty and barbarity.

Their progress is almost always marked by the smoking ruins of villages, the shrieks of women, and the groans of their mutilated husbands. What they cannot remove is remorselessly destroyed; and it has truly been observed, that were such pests permitted to continue their merciless depredations without molestation, the peninsula of India would in time become a desert, and the few inhabitants that survived the general wreck, a band of savage and licentious robbers.' Happily for the countries subject to their inroads, their stay in one place is but for a few hours, and two or three months the usual limit of their expeditions.

It has been supposed, from the apparent directness of their operations, that their information regarding the countries through which they pass, and at which their ravages are aimed, is unusually correct; but there are many instances in which chance rather than settled design has been their guide. They have no funds wherewith to pay the services of spies, but in their route they seize whomsoever the fortune of war throws in their way, and from the prisoners gather those particulars with which they wish to be acquainted. The probability of a large booty is the first subject of their inquiry, and the next the number of troops and quantity of fire-arms by which they are likely to be opposed. That the replies to these investigations, rather than previous intelligence, influence their motions, we would not state in opposition to the generally received opinion, were we unable to bring forward some proof in

support

« PreviousContinue »