Sunday, June 29, 2014

A History of the Afghans of Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh) till the fall of Tipu Sultan

1. Khizr Khan Panni

An Afghan, of the tribe called Poory-Zai. He had already attained to some rank in the Moghul army, when the latter was joined from Shânoor by Bhûlool Khân, between whose family, and that of Khizr Khân, a great friendship had always subsisted. The young men having, in consequence, been educated together, had contracted a strict intimacy, which was now renewed, and closely culti­vated by both. Bhûlool Khân happening, at this conjuncture, to stand high in the favour of Aurungzebe, as well as in that of his chief counsellor, Khân Jehân Khân, employed his credit with them so effectually in behalf of his friend, that Khizr Khân, besides an augmentation of his immediate Munsub, soon obtained the government of Kurnool in Jâgeer, upon the condition of his maintaining, for the imperial service, a body of three thousand horse, and seven thousand foot. The limits of the Sircar of Kurnool(as it is on this occasion called) have probably fluctuated greatly, in the course of the various revolutions which that district has experienced. They must, at least, if the information before me be accurate, have been considerably more extensive, at the period just now referred to, than they are at this time, since the revenue, of which Khizr Khân became master, is rated at a sum exceeding thirty-four lacks of rupees.

The fortress of Kurnool had not yet submitted to the Moghul arms, but was still occupied on behalf of the reigning sovereign of Beejapoor: Khizr Khân, therefore, had to reduce it, before he could enter upon his new government. For this purpose, accompanied by Bhûlool Khân, he immediately proceeded against that place, the commander of which was soon convinced, by the joint force of bribes and threats, of the necessity of surrendering it. After this, he would not appear to have experienced any serious difficulty in establishing his authority throughout the rest of the district. When this object was completely effected, and not before, Bhûlool Khân, taking leave of his friend, returned to his own Jâgeer.

We hear nothing further of Khizr Khân, till several years after this time, when he is said to have distinguished himself greatly at the siege of Aurungabad, conducted by Allumgeer in person. It was at this juncture that, while proceeding one day to pay his respects to the Emperor, he happened to encounter, at a gateway leading to the Imperial residence, Shaikh Minhâj De Rany, an Omra formerly of the first rank at the court of Beejapoor (which, with several other nobles of that declining kingdom, he had some time before quitted in disgust), and no less celebrated for his bold and unguarded language on all occasions, than for his intrepidity in the field. Whether any rivalry or ill-will had previously subsisted between these two great men does not appear; but meeting now in the situation which has been mentioned, they engaged in a violent dispute regarding precedence, which soon terminated in the death of Khizr Khân, who fell by a wound, inflicted during the contest, by his adversary’s own hand. The latter, nevertheless, utterly fearless of the consequences of his sanguinary rashness, instantly repaired to the Imperial Presence; where, with a levity but ill suited, either to the place or to the occasion, he scoffingly related, “that having met, in “his passage through the portal of the palace, with a kicking ass, he had “presently removed the nuisance.” The Emperor, astonished at this address, was still considering what it could mean, when the Urz-baigy appearing, explained the allusion of the Shaikh, by a circumstantial report of what had happened. The murderer, in the meanwhile, remained perfectly unmolested: for such was the weight and credit which he enjoyed, at this time, at the imperial court, that Allumgeer judged it expedient to wink at his conduct on the present occasion. It was not thus, however, with

2. Daood Khan Panni
the son of Khizr Khân, who no sooner learned the fate of the latter, than, quitting the government of the Payen Ghaut Carnatic, which had been some time before confided to him by Allumgeer, he hastened to Kurnool; from whence, after collect­ing together a considerable body of troops, and leaving his brother, Ali Khân, in charge of his Jâgeer, he proceeded by rapid marches towards Aurungabad, with the avowed purpose of avenging his father’s death. The desperate step thus taken by the Patan excited no small uneasiness in the mind of the Emperor, who was justly apprehensive, lest it should produce a division, and perhaps a tumult, in the imperial army, in which both Shaikh Minhâj and his adversary had numerous friends and partisans. If he sent a force to oppose the progress of the latter, or to chastise his temerity, it would be to proclaim the contempt entertained for his authority; and if, on the other hand, he suffered the Patans, in the present disposition of their leader, to join the imperial camp, he anticipated the confusion and bloodshed which were too likely to ensue, from the impetuous spirit, and deep-rooted hatred of the contending chiefs, acting on the fierce and turbulent character of their respective adherents. From this dilemma he was, however, for the present, relieved, by Zoolfkâr Khân, the Khânsâmân (or house steward) of the Vizier, Asud Khân, who had been the intimate friend and sworn brother of Khizr Khân; by whose sons he had been, in consequence, always considered in the light of an uncle. Zoolfkâr Khân, availing himself of this title to the deference of the Patan (and which, by Mahommedans in general, is deemed to be little or nothing inferior to the claims derived from absolute consanguinity), proposed to write to his adoptive nephew, exhorting him to submit himself entirely to the justice of the Emperor, and dismissing the chief part of his followers, to repair, in perfect confidence, to his (Zoolfkâr’s) quarters; whence he promised to conduct him to an audience of his Majesty, and to procure for him all the satisfaction he could desire. Dâood Khân, yielding to the advice and entreaties of his friend, was immediately presented to the monarch; who, besides a most gracious reception, gave him some wholesome counsel for the regulation of his conduct, which he concluded, by assuring him that, in regard to his father’s death, the law should take its course. The following day was accordingly appointed for the public hearing of the cause. In the meanwhile, however, desirous, either for personal or political reasons, of skreening the culprit, if possible, from punishment, Allum­geer sent privately for Shaikh Minhâj; and telling him that as, agreeably to the law, he could not be convicted of the offence imputed to him, except upon his own admission, he (the Emperor) trusted that he would feel no hesitation, when con­fronted with his accuser, in asserting his innocence. To this the Shaikh is said to have apparently assented: but however that might be, he was, no doubt, very far from entertaining such an intention; since the next morning, when publicly interrogated on the occasion, instead of denying the crime laid to his charge, he loudly exclaimed, “that it was most true that he had slain the whoreson in “question, with the identical poignard which he then held in his hand, and that he “was, in like manner, prepared to kill any other whoreson, who should seek to “avenge his death.” So saying, he quitted the Durbâr, leaving the whole assembly in utter amazement at his temerity. Nor was it at any future period in the power of Dâood Khân to wreak his meditated vengeance upon the murderer of his father; who, after this time, was always surrounded by a body of three hundred well-armed and desperate Decanies, whose particular duty it was to watch the motions of the Patans, and whose vigilance and courage constantly frustrated every attempt of the latter upon his life.

It is not stated by our annalist, what means were taken by the Emperor, in this perplexing predicament, to reconcile Dâood Khân to the disappointment of those hopes of public satisfaction for the murder of his father, which he had been con­fidently taught to entertain. It appears, however, that the Patan continued with the imperial army till the death of Allumgeer; some time after which event he was slain in a sanguinary tumult, excited, as Meer Hûsain says, by the jealousy and hostility of a faction at court, who spared no means to effect his disgrace and removal from thence. By other accounts, however, it would appear that he fell in an attempt which he had made to cut off the Viceroy of the Decan. What is certain is, that many Omras of distinction, besides Dâood Khân, lost their lives upon this occasion. He dying without issue, was succeeded by his only brother,

3. Ali Khan Panni
who ruled between five and six years, during which period nothing is recorded of him. Upon his death, the government devolved upon his son,

4. Ibraheem Khan
who is stated to have filled the office of Soubahdâr of Adoni, during the life-time of his uncle, Dâood Khan; but whether on the part of the latter, or under an immediate nomination from the Viceroy of the Decan, is not mentioned. I incline to think, however, that he must have held it as a separate government, since there is no authority, that I know of, for believing that Adoni constituted at any period, a dependency of Kurnool. However this may be, Ibraheem Khân, soon after ascending the Musnud, set about rebuilding with masonry the citadel of Kurnool, the wall of which, before this time, appears to have consisted only of mud. He also made considerable additions and improvements to the town; and applying sedulously to the augmentation of his military force, and particularly to that part of it composed of Afghans of his own tribe, soon found himself at the head of a respectable army, with which he was enabled to subject to his authority, and to exact tribute from, many of the surrounding Polygars, who had, for some time past, paid a very reluctant obedience to their Mahommedan rulers.

After this, leaving his son, Alif Khân, in charge of his Jâgeer, he proceeded himself, by the advice of his principal counsellors, to Aurungabad, for the pur­pose of paying his court to Khân Jehân Khân, who was at that time Viceroy of the Decan. This he did so successfully, that in return for a Nuzr of five lacks of rupees, which he presented to the Viceroy, he obtained, instead of the usual patent of confirmation for his Jâgeer, a new grant, in which the former stipula­tions, whatever they might have been, were wholly omitted. Having accomplished this object, he returned to Kurnool, where he occupied himself in the affairs of his Jâgeer, till the appointment of the Nâbob, Asof Jah, to the government of the Decan, upon which occasion the Patan hastened to do homage to the new Viceroy; which he did while the latter was still encamped, after his recent victory over Aalum Ali Khân (the nephew of the Umeer ûl Omra, Syed Hûsain Ali Khân) in the vicinity of Burhanpoor. Here he met with a distinguished recep­tion from Asof Jah, who, according to my author, renewed the patent for his Jâgeer in the terms of that which had been granted him by Khân Jehân Khân. Being seized, about this time, with a severe indisposition, he left his son, Alif Khân, in attendance upon the Nâzim, and repaired to Kurnool, where he died, at the end of three or four years, after having ruled over the principality of Kurnool somewhat more than fourteen years. He was succeeded by his son,

5. Alif Khan Panni,
who contriving to ingratiate himself with Nâsir Jung, the second son of Asof Jah, is said to have had a principal share in seducing him from his duty and alle­giance to his father, at the time that the latter, being obliged to repair to Dehli, left him in the temporary charge of the government of the Decan. What fol­lowed, on this occasion, does not belong to the present narrative. It may suffice to say, that Nâsir Jung was, in the end, reconciled to his father, who contented himself with manifesting his displeasure against those who had been most instru­mental in exciting him to rebellion, by prohibiting their appearance in his presence. It is probable, however, that some of these, and particularly Alif Khân, were indebted for this impunity, less to the lenity of the Nizâm, than to considerations of policy, which might have suggested the inexpediency, if not the im­practicability, of punishing such powerful offenders in a more signal manner.

who contriving to ingratiate himself with Nâsir Jung, the second son of Asof Jah, is said to have had a principal share in seducing him from his duty and alle­giance to his father, at the time that the latter, being obliged to repair to Dehli, left him in the temporary charge of the government of the Decan. What fol­lowed, on this occasion, does not belong to the present narrative. It may suffice to say, that Nâsir Jung was, in the end, reconciled to his father, who contented himself with manifesting his displeasure against those who had been most instru­mental in exciting him to rebellion, by prohibiting their appearance in his presence. It is probable, however, that some of these, and particularly Alif Khân, were indebted for this impunity, less to the lenity of the Nizâm, than to considerations of policy, which might have suggested the inexpediency, if not the im­practicability, of punishing such powerful offenders in a more signal manner.

6. Behadur Khan,
known also by the title of Himmut Behâdûr, of whom Meer Hûsain reports, that he was distinguished for his extraordinary intrepidity, and for the prudence with which he carried on the internal affairs of his government, in the management of which he steadily followed the example, and conformed to the practice, of the wisest of his predecessors. But whatever his character, in these respects, might be, his conduct (as well as that of the other Patan chieftains of the Decan) towards Nâsir Jung, subsequently to the accession of the latter to the Musnud of Hyderabad, and soon after with regard to Mûzuffer Jung (a Nâzim of their own creation), exhibits nothing but a tissue of the blackest perfidy and ingratitude.

The particulars of the transactions, here alluded to, are already too well known to require to be recited in this place. It will be sufficient to state, that, according to Meer Hûsain, it was by the immediate hand of Behâdûr Khân that the unfortunate Nâzim perished; and that the detestable traitor did not long sur­vive the victim of his treason, being himself slain, about two months after, in a sanguinary tumult which took place at Raechooty, between the ever-turbulent Afghans and their late accomplices in the atrocious assassination of Nâsir Jung.

Behâdûr Khân ruled over Kurnool between seven and eight years, and was succeeded, at his death, by his brother,

7. Munuwer Khan Panni
who happening to reside, at this period, at Nundiâl, the Polygar of Gudduck, encouraged thereto, and assisted by the French, took advantage of his absence from Kurnool, and the confusion which prevailed there, in consequence of the sudden and disastrous death of Behâdûr Khân, to surprize and seize upon that place. Mûnuwer Khân hereupon hastened to Kurpah, where he solicited the aid of its chief, Abdûl Nuby Khân, towards the recovery of his inheritance. Abdûl Nuby, who could not feel himself very secure on his own Musnud, so recently after the tragic events of Gingee and Raechooty, is nevertheless said to have afforded him some assistance in money. By this means Mûnuwer Khân was enabled to collect together about seven hundred foot soldiers and three hundred horse, with which small force he did not hesitate to advance against Kurnool. The attempt to recover his capital with such a handful of men appeared little short of desperate, and would, probably, have proved so, if the garrison left in it by the Polygar of Gudduck had prudently remained within the walls. Instead of this, however, they unwisely came out, and giving battle to the Patan, were defeated with great slaugh­ter. Hereupon the Polygar’s commander, being panic struck, immediately surrendered the place. According to Meer Hûsain, however, this extraordinary success of Mûnuwer Khân was not so much owing, either to the indiscretion of the enemy, or to the valor of his own followers, as to the powerful aid which he derived from the presence and prayers of a celebrated Peer, established in the neighbourhood of Kurnool, and called Shâh Mustân, whom he had had the good fortune to encounter on his march, and to propitiate in his favor. It was the appearance of this holy personage, at the head of the Patan’s little band, which, by striking unusual terror into the enemy, prin­cipally contributed to the victory obtained over the latter.

Mûnuwer Khân remained, from this time, in quiet possession of his country, until the period when Shahnuwâz Khân being raised to the office of chief minister to Sulâbut Jung (the brother and successor of Nâsir Jung) dispatched an army from Hyderabad, for the declared purpose of reducing Kurnool, and of punishing, in the person of the ruling chief, the treason and ingratitude of his predecessor. The Patan, however, not only had the address to avert the im­pending danger, but, by means of the proper application of bribes, and of suitable submissions, to obtain a confirmation of his Jâgeer, on condition of paying a certain annual tribute to the government of Hyderabad. The amount of this tribute is not stated: but it was, probably, the same which was, sometime after, exacted of him by a new adversary, still more formidable than the one whom he had lately appeased.

The enemy who now disturbed the repose which Mûnuwer Khân vainly flattered himself he had secured, by his recent pacification with the Soubah, was the cele­brated Hyder Ali Khân; who, some time after he had made the Patan Chief of Shânoor submit to his authority, advanced against Kurnool, with the professed determination of reducing the latter place also to subjection. Mûnuwer Khân prepared, as well as he could, to repel the invader, whom, however, he could not prevent from investing his capital. In these perilous circumstances, as on all other critical occasions that had arisen, since his memorable overthrow of the troops of the Polygar of Gudduck, and his subsequent establishment in his principality, he sought the council and assistance of Shâh Mustân and one of whose most steady and zealous disciples he had now become, if he had not been always so. The holy man, presuming, perhaps, on the remarkable effects attributed, by his superstitious admirers, to his former interposition in behalf of the Patan, boldly desired him to be of good cheer, and to rely on the speedy discomfiture of his enemy. However this might be, he mounted the following morning, bare-headed and bare-footed, on an elephant provided for the occasion, and taking with him a select body of Afghans, proceeded, with great rapidity, in the direc­tion of Hyder’s camp. Hereupon, some of the principal persons in the confidence of that chieftain, observing the movement of the Peer, and probably apprized of his purpose, were induced, either by superstitious considerations, or by motives still less excusable, to represent to their master the obloquy and danger to which he would expose himself, by persisting in the attack of a place, which was evidently under the protection of so venerable and powerful a saint as Shâh Mustân. They concluded with earnestly exhorting him, as he valued his own interest and safety, or the prosperity of his house, to desist from a purpose so pregnant with evil. Hyder, who was but little subject to the influence of superstition, offended, either at the freedom or the folly of this advice, sharply demanded of those from whom it proceeded, “whether his state was not under the protection of a saint, as well “as that of Kurnool?” To this reasonable interrogatory, the others, being, of course, obliged to reply in the affirmative, Hyder sneeringly observed, “that “such being the case, he would leave the two saints to settle their own quarrel as “they pleased, while, at any rate, he was determined to bend the neck of “Mûnuwer Khân to the yoke of obedience.” During this conversation, the Shâh continued to advance towards the Mysorean camp: but whether it was owing to his observing any movements in the latter, which indicated a resistance he had not reckoned upon, or to any intelligence conveyed to him from thence, or, finally, to a sudden conviction of the extravagance and hopelessness of his enterprize, he thought proper, while still at some distance from the enemy’s lines, to turn short round, and hasten back to Kurnool; where, on his arrival, he instantly advised Mûnuwer Khân “to give some money to his visitor, and to “send him away:” adding, “that as things were then circumstanced, he could “answer for the preservation of nothing beyond the walls of the fort.” Whether the prowess of the Shâh would have been adequate for the defence of these, was not put to the proof; for the Patan wisely dispatched a Vakeel to Hyder, with such proposals of accommodation as the latter judged it expedient to accept, although, according to Meer Hûsain, they amounted only to the payment of an annual tribute of a lack of rupees, and the immediate delivery of a large supply of provisions: to which, however, were added abundant assurances of future attachment and submission. Perhaps the chief motive of Hyder, in granting such easy terms to Mûnuwer Khân, arose from his impatience to proceed against Kurpah, which he appears to have done directly after his departure from Kurnool.

Mûnuwer Khân continued subject to the pecuniary contribution imposed upon him at this juncture till the partition treaty of Seringapatam, in 1792, which at once transferred this tribute to the Nizâm, and released the principality of Kurnool from all future dependence on the ruler of Mysore. During the war which preceded the treaty, Mûnuwer Khân had been required to repair to the standard of the Nizâm, with the military quota, which, as a feudatory of the Soubah of the Decan, he was bound to furish: and though he was himself, at this period, too old and infirm to undergo the fatigues of the field, he nevertheless sent his contingent, headed by his son, Alif Khân, along with Secunder Jah, when the latter joined the British forces under Lord Cornwallis.

On this occasion was exemplified the curious, but anomalous nature, of the tenure, by which many of the petty states and chieftains of the Decan hold their territories, being, at the same time, the feudatories of one, and the tributaries of another, superior lord. Thus, Mûnuwer Khân was at once subject to Tippoo Sultan and to Nizâm Ali Khân: yet the former’s claims upon the Patan were not considered as any way impairing those of the latter, who was still supposed to possess the right of summoning him to his standard, and of demanding his services, no matter against what power, whenever he thought proper. It is true, that this right being derived from a source which, in point of fact, no longer existed, rested chiefly on what might be called a mere political fiction: but, nevertheless, similar pretensions continue, in various cases, to be respected by prejudice and habit, and, in others, to be enforced by power.

Mûnuwer Khân died, according to my author, soon after the conclusion of the peace ofSeringapatam, that is to say, some time in the year 1792, having ruled over Kurnool during a period of forty-one lunar years. He was succeeded by his son,

8. Alif Khan
who, by the treaty concluded in 1800, between the British Government in India and the Nabob, Nizâm Ali Khân, was placed, in a certain degree, under the protection of the East-India Company, to whom the tribute, which he stood engaged to pay to the government of Hyderabad, was then transferred by the latter.

Meer Hûsain concludes his brief account of the Patan dynasties of the Decan by observing, that the reputation of their chiefs, for courage and manly enterprize, would appear to have begun to decline from the period of Dâood Khân’s death, and to have finally expired with Behâdûr Khân.

Source: Select letters of Tippoo Sultan to various public functionaries: including ...By Tīpū Sulṭān (Mysore, Nawab.)