Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Rohilla Pathan of Bareilly

THE Mahomedans of India are divided into four general classes without distinction by creed; namely, Syud, Sheikh, Moghul, and Pathan. Of these the two first are the most numerous and most ancient, the Syuds claiming to be the descendants of Mahomed, through Fatima his daughter, and the Sheikhs constituting the remainder of those professing Mahomedanism, who formed the great bulk of the people. Pathans as well as Moghuls are Syuds and Sheikhs; but a clannish and exclusive spirit has, in the main, kept them separate. The Moghuls are the descendants of those immigrants into India who followed the Tartar and Toorky invasions and dynasties, and who always constituted large proportions of the Imperial armies; and the Pathans belong to the races of Afghans who, the original Mahomedan invaders of India, founded many dynasties of kings and emperors of Delhi, and gradually formed colonies in many portions of the country. Bareilly is the capital of the province of Rohilkund, and the term is derived from Rohilla, an appellation which attaches itself to all Afghans, most particularly to the inhabitants of the passes into Afghanistan, and their neighbours the tribes inhabiting the country to the north-west of the Punjab, who were doubtless the progenitors of those of Rohilkund. During the continuance of the several Afghan or Pathan dynasties of Delhi, the Rohillas or Pathans attained very considerable local influence, and settled themselves in the fertile provinces below the Himalaya range, and in particular near Bareilly, the provinces around which were eventually called Rohilkund. From this locality the Imperial armies were constantly recruited, while the ranks of the Afghan settlers were as constantly augmented by emigrants from the original tribes. It was a body of this Pathan cavalry which accompanied Allah-ood-deen to the Deccan in 1310, and established the Mahomedan power there; and when the first Bahmuny dynasty of the Deccan was founded by Hassan Gungoo, himself of Afghan descent, his victories over the Imperial troops sent to reduce him, were mainly attributable to the fidelity and bravery of the Afghan or Rohilla cavalry, which then constituted the main body of his army. From that period the Pathans settled in the Deccan, and in the kingdoms which eventually grew out of the Bahmuny dynasty, rose to considerable power. It was, however, in Rohilcund only, that they attained for a short time an independent government. On the breaking up of the Mogul empire of Delhi, consequent upon the incursions of the Mahrattas and its own inherent weakness, the Rohillas of Rohilcund, under their chieftain Hafiz Rehmat-oolla-khan, defied the power of the Nawab Wuzeer, of Oude, and assisted by the Mahrattas, attained a local power which he could not subdue. This led to a British force being employed for the purpose under a treaty between Mr. Warren Hastings and the Nawab of Oude, in 1773; and in 1774, the Rohilla chieftain was defeated and slain in action, and the independent power of the Rohillas or Pathans ceased.

Since then the Pathan power, in the north-west provinces, has never been revived; and although Ameer Khan, of Tonk, and a few other military chiefs of the old Mogul dynasty, succeeded in retaining their estates amidst the troubled peiiod which attended the final extinction of the empire of Delhi, neither there, nor in the south of India, have the Pathans attained any permanent power, though the native Mahomedan armies, especially the cavalry, have been mainly recruited from these tribes, and to the present time our own irregular cavalry, in all parts of India, is for the most part composed of them.

The Pathans are a warlike race, and make brave and hardy soldiers, but they are somewhat impatient of control, and it is difficult to render them fully amenable to discipline. They have rarely entered the infantry portion of the native army, and are best fitted for cavalry soldiers or irregular levies, such as the police. They have not mixed with the ordinary Mahomedan population of India, and have, by marrying exclusively into their own Affghan tribes, preserved a peculiar and eminently national character. Many of them are very fair, and have the grey or blue eye of the parent stock, with brown hair. Their women are described to be very handsome; but they are, if possible, more jealously guarded than any other of the Mahomedans.

The Pathans, besides being soldiers, are dealers in horses, as well as breeders of them to a great extent. They are also bankers and money-lenders, not objecting, on religious grounds, to taking usurious interest . They are often successful administrators of provinces under native Governments, but in such positions are not unfrequently violent and cruel. Among the tribes are found many dissenters from the orthodox faith: not a few of them are Shiahs, and others believers in the "Ghyr Mehdavee" doctrines, which recognise a further revelation by a prophet who is to appear hereafter.

Wherever Pathan dynasties have existed in India, their architectural remains are of a magnificent character. At Delhi and Agra, at Beejapoor, at Mandoo and Boorhanpoor, ruins of palaces, mosques, and mausoleums attest the magnificence of their founders; but it is by their noble fortifications, as well in their scientific strength of construction, as in the picturesque character of their architectural embellishments, that they are perhaps most prominently distinguished throughout India.
The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with ..., Volume 3 By Meadows Taylor, Great Britain. India Office

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