Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

PINDARREES OF INDIA.

THERE are three species of uncultivated life particularly striking. These are expressly marked by Faria, Tacitus, and one of the Hebrew writers. “The outrages committed in Ceylon,” says Faria a, “obliged the natives to seek refuge among the wild beasts of the mountains, to shun the more brutal outrages of man.” “ The Chauci," says Tacitus b, “are the noblest among the German nations: and they maintain their greatness more by justice, than by violence. Without any illegitimate desires or wishes, and confident of their strength, they live quietly and in security; neither provoked, nor provoking to war. But when roused by oppression, they never fail to conquer.” “ The five spies of Dan,” says a Hebrew writer, “went to Laish, and saw the people that were there, how they dwelt, careless after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate to put them to shame in any thing.” That is, they lived in such a state of security and innocence, that even a magistrate was not required for their safety. A state of honourable poverty, in which every father was a patriarch in the midst of his family.

Now let us contrast these pictures with the state of society, in which the Pindarrees of India disgrace the form and figure of men. These outlaws have an origin much earlier, than has been generally supposed; for their ancestors fought against the army of Aurungzebe. When at peace, they live in societies of one hundred, one hundred and fifty, and two hundred, governed by local chiefs. In times of excursion, they are assembled by the trumpet of their great chief, whom they style Labbrea. When this chief has resolved upon an excursion, he mounts his horse, and proceeds to a distance, preceded by his standard-bearer, and attended by trumpeters. At the sound of the trumpets the clans quit their occupations like magic, and join his standard. He then marches forward, waiting for no one ; and his followers join him as fast as they can, taking with them provisions only for a few days. Wherever they go, they carry want, destruction, death, torture, and consternation. When attacked, they fly in all directions, and trust to chance and their own individual skill to unite again. By a large fire made at night the scattered forces know the post of their chief, and all endeavour to join him as soon as possible. They have little order, no guards at night, and no scouts by day; they are, therefore, frequently surprised.

a Mickle's Dissertation, Portugal, Asia, c. ii.

b De Moribus Germ., cap. xxxv.

Their pride and chief care consist in their horses, which they feed in the best manner; giving them maize, bread, and whatever they can get : sometimes even cheering them with opium and balls of flour, stimulated by ginger. They sleep with their bridles in their hands; and are, at all times, prepared for plunder, for battle, or for flight: but fighting only for the first, they never engage but when they are superior in numbers. Flight with them is no disgrace; and he, who flies the fastest, prides himself the most ; and his joy at escape is signified by the manner in which he caresses his horse. Such being the case, his greatest solicitude in the choice of a horse is swiftness ; because, when surprised, he can spring upon his saddle, and be out of sight in an instant. If he loses him, however, the disgrace is indelible. His arms consist of a sword, a spear, and a lance ; for his use of fire-arms is but partial. To a life of depredation the Pindarrees attach neither crime nor disgrace ; personal interest and grandeur being the only laws they esteem ; and to secure either, cruelty, stratagem, and every species of oppression, are esteemed honourable. When one of their chiefs, taken prisoner in the last of their battles with the British forces, first beheld Calcutta, the only sentiment he expressed to Sir John Malcolm,

relative to that fine city, was, that it was a glorious place to pillage!

The Deccan and the Rajpoot states were dreadfully infested by these barbarians; who obtained such an ascendancy over the governments of Scindia and Holkar, that they threatened to establish such a system of annual devastation throughout Hindoostan, as no empire was ever subject to before. Fortunately, however, they were totally incapable of encountering a regular force, to which they attached great power; and of which they consequently lived in great dread. Their fear of that species of force was, indeed, so great, that Major Lushington a put a party of 3000 of them to flight with only 350 men !

In 1809 they generally invaded a country or province in parties, varying from one to four thousand each. Their arrival and depredations were frequently the only heralds of their approach. They carried nothing but their arms. They had no tents or baggage of any sort ; their saddle-cloths were their beds ; they never halted but to refresh themselves, or to indulge their lust and avarice; and their subsistence arose out of the plunder of the day. Their movements being exceedingly rapid and uncertain, it was a subject of no little difficulty to waylay them; they could only, therefore, be caught by surprise. They retired with the same rapidity as they approached ; and what they consumed was frequently of more value, than what they took away; for nothing escaped them; and what they did not want they burned, broke, or destroyed. Ruin and desolation marked their footsteps; they indulged their propensities, in respect to women, to a most frightful extent; and when they had gratified their brutal passions, they not unfrequently murdered their innocent and helpless victims, as rewards for their shrieks and cries. To crown the whole, when they had plundered a village, and polluted its inhabitants, they set fire to the buildings : thus leaving the unfortunate survivors alike destitute of house, of food, and of purity • The chief season for their depredations was that, in which the crops were ripe; and thus the husbandmen were robbed of the fruits of their labour, at the time in which they expected to reap them. Every road was comparatively easy to them; as they marched without guns or baggage ; and as they carried terror and destruction wherever they marched, so great was the horror they inspired, that one of the villages of the Deccan , hearing of their approach, unanimously resolved to sacrifice their families, rather than submit to the ravishment of their wives and children. The Pindarrees approached; a battle ensued; and the villagers being overpowered by numbers, they set fire to their dwellings, and perished with their neighbours and families in one general conflagration.

a Official Papers, Dec. 27, 1816.

In one excursion of twelve days 6, 5,000 of these marauders plundered and polluted part of three British provinces. In this assault they robbed 6,203 houses; and burnt 269 to the ground : 182 persons also were murdered ; 505 wounded; and 3,603 subjected to the torture. The property lost and destroyed was valued at 255,956 star pagodas. These bands became, at length, so numerous, that their force consisted of no less than 30,000 meno; part of whom were in the secret, if not open, service of Scindia; and part in that of Holkar.

They were to be heard of in all quarters. The Marquis of Hastings, Governor-General of India, saw ample necessity, therefore, of suppressing, if not entirely destroying, these

a Ainavale. Vide Dalzell's Dispatch to the Secretary at Madras, March 18, 1816. Letter from Ongole, March 20, 1816.

b Answer to a Report drawn up by the Madras Government, April 22, 1818. Compare these accounts with the description which the Baron de Tott gives of the devastation caused by an army of Tartars. Mem. i. 272. ,

© Debates, H. of Commons, March 1, 1819. Major Fitzclarence (now Earl of Munster) compares their ravages to those of an army of locusts.-Journal, p. 3.

marauders, who were as dastardly as they were cruel. By a series of masterly movements, the Pindarree bands were surrounded, and so entirely intersected by a simultaneous movement, at all points, that they were prevented all possibility of escape. The chiefs were, therefore, taken prisoners; and in one campaign the Pindarree force was annihilated. In this campaign of only three months, the entire peninsula of Hindoostan was reduced to the authority of the British empire: —a dominion more extensive than Aurengzebe possessed, even in the zenith of his power : for it comprises an extent of country, reaching from the Himalah mountains to the Indus; and from the river Sutlese to the Cape Comorin ; — an area containing seventy millions a of subjects; all of whom are kept in subjection by thirty thousand British soldiers. If India, therefore, has gained little by the prowess of British arms, it has at least gained this; that a predatory force has been obliterated, of whom it was justly said in the British parliament b, that there was no violence, they did not perpetrate; and no degree of human suffering, they did not inflict. Rapine, rape, murder, and every species of atrocity and torture, were the constant results of every enterprise; and the constant attendants of every success.

CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS.

The Moors, in some parts of Africa, have such an abhorrence of a Christian, that they esteem it no more sin to kill one, than any of their animals. In the Tonga Islandsc, it is regarded as a slight offence to kill an inferior, to steal, or to commit a rape: provided it is not upon the person of a married woman, or a superior.

^ The Marquis of Hastings stated at a public meeting one hundred millions (Jan. 27, 1826). Debates, H. of Lords, March 2; H. of Commons, March 1, 1819.

" Mariner's Account of the Tonga Islands, v. ii.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »