Page images
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]







All rights reserved

[ocr errors][merged small]

I THINK the purpose of this book will be explained most easily by stating how it came to be written.

Any officer who has served in India with native troops must have perceived how genial and cordial are the relations among all ranks, from the commanding officer down to the private, so long as a regiment is on active service. The dangers and hardships which have to be endured by all, keep alive and strengthen the feeling of comradeship. But when the regiment returns into quarters this feeling dies away. It is not that the English officer is, at heart, less interested in the wellbeing of his men, but that there is no longer any object of interest common to both, outside of the mere routine of their profession. They have nothing to talk about. The native soldier knows nothing of English history or of anything that interests Englishmen; and very few English officers know more of the men they command than that they are called Sikhs, Afghans, Ghoorkhas, or Mahrattas. What these names signify-what was the history of those who bear them, in the past: what are the memories

which still thrill them with pleasure or pride-these are matters of which the officers in our native army have small knowledge. And what a potent magnet for winning the hearts of our native soldiers is, from this ignorance, permitted to rust unused, is known only to those who do possess this knowledge, and have watched its effects.

Eight or nine years ago, being in England upon medical certificate, it occurred to me that I might usefully employ my leisure in drawing up brief historical sketches of the races from which our native army is chiefly recruited. A work of this kind, it seemed to me, was just what young officers needed to put them in the way of understanding the men they had to command in the field and in quarters. I had collected a large quantity of matter concerning the Mahrattas, the Sikhs, and the Afghans; but when I commenced to deal with Muhammadanism in India, I found myself at fault. The (so called) Mogul empire was a mystery for which I could find no satisfactory explanation. Under the stress of what impulse had these invaders abandoned the uplands of Central Asia to erect an empire at Delhi and Agra? They styled themselves Muhammadans, but it was clear that the religion they professed, and which they affirmed to be identical with that in the Koran, had passed through a number of transforming influences before it assumed the form it exhibited in India. What was the history of these transformations? Elphinstone

« PreviousContinue »