Thursday, November 23, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism

Maharaja Dalip Singh

The paintings of that era, read with accounts of those times give a fairly accurate picture of their subjects. Moorcroft, a veterinarian, was one of the earliest travellers to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's court, in 1820. Of the time spent by him with the Maharaja he wrote: On the evening of the 8th of May the Hakim came to conduct me to the presence of Ranjit Singh. Having passed through one of the western gates of the fort, we crossed the garden, in which stands the Jama Masjid, or principal mosque. Thence a long flight of brick steps led to a second gateway and court, crossing which we came to a third gate that opened into a more spacious enclosure, in which stood a number of horses caparisoned. From this we entered a large court flagged with marble, and on the side opposite the entrance was an open apartment, in which the Maharaja was seated. Upon my approach he partly rose from his chair, which was of gold, and pointed to another, of silver, opposite to him, for me to sit down upon. His courtiers sat upon the carpet on either side, forming a lane from his chair to mine. The gateways were well guarded, but here were only two matchlock men, sitting one on either hand of the Raja. After the ordinary inquiries I expressed my thanks to him for the attentions I had received Since entering his territories, and requested leave to offer the few rifles I had brought for his acceptance. These were a pair of double-barrelled, and a pair of three barreled pistols, a sword, and the model of a cannon, with carriage and all appurtenances complete. This miniature piece of ordnance was made by Mr. Donnithorne, the mint master at Farokhabad, and was of singularly beautiful execution. To these I added some white chown tails and bags of musk from the mountains. Ranjit was much pleased with the pistols, and still more with the cannon. Entering upon the main purpose of my travels, that of procuring horses, he ordered some of his to be exhibited and about fifty were passed in review. They had all rich bridles, saddles, and housings, and were of the breeds of Dhani and Ghep, forest districts in the Punjab, the Lakhi, Jangal, Rohtas, Atak, Kabul and Bokhara. One which had cost 1700 rupees at Bokhara was beautifully made except in the legs below the knees and hocks, where he was too slight. For a grey Persian horse the Raja told me he had given 7000 rupees, but it struck me as inferior to most of those exhibited. After the horses had been fully inspected I took my leave. Early on the following morning the Hakim came and took me to Ranjit, who wished me to see his horses exercised. I found him in a neighbouring garden seated on a chair under an awning without any guards, his courtiers sitting round him on carpets. When I was seated, fifty horses, different from those I had before seen, were brought forward. The space on which they were exercised was a garden-walk twelve feet broad. The rider (for only one was employed) mounted each horse in succession, and sometimes walked a few paces; but in general urged him at once into a short and high gallop, in which the fore action was very high, the hind low and quick. This was continued with great rapidity for a few yards, when the horse was suddenly turned on his haunches, and the same movements were repeated, or they were sometimes broken by rapid side movements in most perfect obedience to the action of the body and the hand. Not a single horse neighed, or was restive or vicious in the slightest degree, or was uneasy at mounting, or diverged from the path, although the Raja affirmed that they had not been ridden for some time past On the 10th I was present upon the Raja's invitation at the parade of two regiments which he had formed on the model of the Company's sipahis. The men were Sikhs, Hindustanis, and Gorkhas; the first were in general tall well-looking men; the second were of a mixed appearance; the last generally short but muscular. The Raja beheld them from the top of a low building at the palace, where I joined him. He seemed to take great interest in his regular battalions, but they are not popular amongst his officers. Desa Singh told Izzet Ullah that all Ranjit's conquests had been won by the sword, and he had never known the infantry and artillery of any service. The Raja told me that these regiments had been first trained by a Naik, who had deserted from the Company's service. He was very communicative. After the review he showed me some more of his horses, chiefly from Bokhara; and then consulted me on the State of his health, complaining much that he could not bear such strong potations as he had been used to do formerly; he told me also that he had once sent an account of his ailments to General Ochterlony, that a European surgeon might prescribe for him, and that he had in consequence received some medicines, but had never taken any of them. These were afterwards sent to me, and finding one of them to be elixir of vitriol, I mixed a few drops with water, and drank it in the presence of the Hakim, in order to remove any suspicion that might lurk in a mind so constituted as that of Ranjit appears to be. After I left him I received a message that I was at liberty to visit any part of Lahore, whenever and in what way I pleased, and desiring me to name what breed of horse I preferred, that the Raja might give me one. I returned due thanks for the Raja's kindness, but declined accepting the horse, at least until I should return from Bokhara.

Maharaja Dalip Singh

During the other days of my stay at Lahore, I had several interviews with the Raja, in all of which he conversed with the apparent absence of all reserve upon a variety of topics. One of his favourite themes was his stud. He told me that most of his horses were presents from his tributaries and zamindars, and that he not infrequently requited the donor of a superior animal with a village or a jaghir; no wonder, therefore, that he is not singular, however, in his passion. Every Sikh in the country keeps a horse and a brood mare, and rears colts for his own riding or for sale. The Raja monopolizes the best; for in the party, which escorted me from Jindiala there was only one good horse. Ranjit proposed to me, through Mir Izzet Ulish, to purchase some horses for him at Bokhara, and I readily assented; but there was some difficulty as to the model and the matter ended by my stating, that if he would be contented with but one, he should select it from the string I hoped to bring down The Raja consulted me also confidentially, regarding his health, which appeared to me to have suffered chiefly from intemperance and excess. On my departure I left a paper of remarks and instructions, which I heard was canvassed by a conclave of native doctors, and was honoured with their concurrence. In all probability it was but little attended to by Ranjit in practice . Ranjit conversed also freely upon his military arrangements, and upon his past exploits. He told me that he lost 1900 men in a few hours, in an attempt to carry the city of Multan by escalade, owing to its having been made whilst he was absent. The gates had been blown open, but strong mounds of earth had been reared behind them. The garrison amounted to 3000 men, the besiegers to 25,000; but the formers were all Pathans, and 'fought with one hand'. In answer to the question I put, how many survived the capture of the fort, he said 500, on which Himmel Sinh, a favourite courtier, guessing the drift of my inquiry, which was to ascertain the truth of the report that they had all been put to death immediately, remarked that not a man was killed after the fort surrendered. Speaking of the wealth of the city the Raja said it was estimated at four crores, on which Himmel Sinh observed that the Sikh officers did not attempt to restrain the soldiers from plunder, on account of the opposition that had been offered, and the loss sustained; and the Raja stated that very little of the booty had come to his share. Neither the Raja nor Himmel Sinh mentioned the severe captivity to which the gallant but unfortunate Nawab Sirafraz Khan is now subject at Lahore. The Nawab Mozaffer Khan was killed in the storm with two of his sons. Sirafraz Khan was a third Son. Although the troops plundered the city, they were compelled to relinquish their booty to the Raja, and the most valuable part came to the public treasury. Early on the morning of the 13th 1 had my audience of leave. The Maharaja was peculiarly communicative and familiar. He told me that when Lord Lake entered the Panjab in pursuit of Holkar, he felt a strong desire to see the European general and his officers. His courtiers endeavored to dissuade him, affirming that the very sight would be unlucky; but he was determined to gratify himself, and for that purpose disguised himself as a common trooper, and accompanied by a party of his soldiers, repaired to the British camp. They went to Mr. Metcalfe's tent, and sent word that some Sikhs had come out of curiosity to see the Sahibs, and begged he would indulge them. He immediately complied with their desire, but soon distinguished Ranjit Sinh amongst his visitors After many assurances of kindness towards me, and of friendship for the Company, he dismissed me with an honorary dress of valuable shawls, and similar distinctions of less value to Mir Izzet Ullah, and his son and brother. I had submitted to Ranjit Sinh a proposal to establish a fixed scale of duties for the admission of British merchandise into his territories, but he postponed the consideration of the arrangement until the return of his principal officers from the campaign in which they were now engaged, as he said he wished first to consult them upon the subject. This, however, I consider as an adjournment sine die. He readily consented to my proceeding through Mundi and Kulu to Ladakh, and in case of my being unable to reach Bokhara from Upper Tibet, I had his authority to pass through Kashmir with two hundred followers. He appointed Miri Mal to attend to me till Kulu, and furnished me with written orders to his officers to afford every facility to my journey In the evening Nur-ad-din, the Governor, came to conduct me through the city. Lahore is surrounded by a brick wall about thirty feet high, which extends for about seven miles, and is continuous with the Fort. The latter, in which the Raja resides, is surrounded by a wall of no great strength, with loop-holes for musketry; a branch of the Ravi washes the foot of its northern face, but it has no moat on either of the remaining sides. The palace within this enclosure, called the Saman Burj, which is of many stories, is entirely faced with a kind of porcelain enamel, on which processions and combats of men and animals are depicted. Many of these are as perfect as when first placed in the wall. Several of the old buildings are in ruins, others are entire, and throw into shades the meaner structures of more recent date. Ranjit Singh has cleared away some of the rubbish, and has repaired or refitted some of the ruined buildings of Jehangir and Shah-jehan; but his alterations have not always been made with good feeling or taste. The great square and buildings of the principal mosque have been converted into a place of exercise for his sipahi infantry, and he has stripped the dome of the mausoleum of Asof Jah, the brother of Nurjehan Begam, of its white marbles, to apply them to the erection of some insignificant apartments in the garden-court of the Mosque. The Diwan Am, or general hall of audience, is a long apartment supported by many pillars. The Diwan Khas, or private audience hall, is a suite of small chambers offering nothing remarkable. Lahore is said to have been twelve kos in circumference, and however this may have been, it is clear, from the ruins of buildings beyond the walls, that it' was once much more extensive than it is at present. Such of it as still remains within the walls is apparently very populous. The streets were crowded to an extent beyond anything I have ever witnessed in an Indian city. The houses were in general of brick, and five Stories high, but many were in a very crazy condition. The Bazaar follows the direction of the city wall, and is not far distant from it. The street is narrow, and this inconvenience is aggravated by platforms in front of the shops, on which the goods are displayed under projecting penthouses of Straw to protect them from the sun and rain. Through the centre of the remaining contracted space runs a deep and dirty drain, the smell from which was very offensive. The population consists of Mohammedans, Hindus, and Sikhs, the former in the greatest number I saw no building of any size or magnificence, except the mosque of the Nawab Wazir Khan. The wall of the city was still under repair, and 3000 men were said to be at work upon it and upon the moat, which the Raja was about to add to the defenses. The place, however, could oppose no effectual resistance to European assailants. Moorcroft went on to the hills and also left an authentic account of the court of Sansar Chand, the greatest patron of Kangra painting.

Sketch of Maharaja Dalip Singh by Queen Victoria will strive to be most comprehensive directory of Historical Gurudwaras and Non Historical Gurudwaras around the world.

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