Tuesday, December 29, 2015

An account of a clash between Pashtuns and Rajputs

Numbers of the Parni ( Panni in English and Urdu) tribe (of Pashtuns) migrated at an early period into India, where, from time to time, they have made a considerable figure ; some during the time of Lodi sovereigns of Delhi, Sultan Bahlul, being the first Pashtun or Afghan who acquired sovereignty therein, and who, when surrounded by foes , and before he had firmly established, appealed to his countrymen for aid. This appeal, coupled with fact of their lands at home having become too contracted for them, and too barren in many instances to afford a subsistence, induced them, like portion of other Afghan tribes, to seek their fortunes in Hind. The Parnis were provided for , and located, in after years in in Dundhar in Marwar. As late as 1217 H (1802-3 A.D.), mention is made of a large colony of Parnis , settled in the hills of Jaipur, Amber, Jodhpur, and parts adjacents, which is called Dhundhar, dwelling in some hundred villages, some of which contained 1,000 to 5,000 inhabitants. These Parnis used to travel extensively with Dakhan (Deccan), where number of their Kinsmen dwelt, many of which merchants were rich men. Others gained subsistence by following other employments.

After the death of Sultan Islam Shah (Suri), when disorder and misfortune had fallen on the family of Sur, and Humayun Badshah, who had regained possession of the Punjab , was marching towards the capital to take possession of it once more, Haji Khan, who was one of the late Sultan Sher Shah's Amirs, and had married a sister of Khawas Khan (a famous general of Sher Shah), resolved to leave Hindustan. He was possessed of much wealth ; and he prepared to retire into Gujarat, which was independent, intending to remain there for a time and see how matters went. He set out by the way of Rantambhur, with his followers and wealth, the former numbering 10,000 horse and foot, and the Afghan families accompanied him. On entering the territory of Rana, Udi Singh of Chitur, who succeeded to the rule over that state in 948 H (1541 A.D), and that Rajput chief, placing confidence in the number of his forces, blocked the way in the neighborhood of Jodhpur. The historian gives the numbers as high as 90,000 horse, but this is doubtless, exaggerated, nevertheless , with a considerable army, greatly outnumbering Haji Khan's followers. The object was to get possession of Haji Khan's wealth, which was known to be very great.The latter sent his agent to Rana to know why the road was closed to travellers and their families and effects, compelled by misfortune to emigration and exile, and with no hostile intent, that, instead of intercepting them, it would have been more credible and becoming to have rendered them some assistance and furnished a guide. The reply of Rajput chief was a demand that Haji Khan should give up to him his favorite mistress, a Hindu, who, besides her incomparable beauty, was accomplished in dancing and singing, and ten lakhs of Rupees in specie , upon which might go wherever he chose. ( The Rajput chief , while the Afghans were in power, was careful to keep on good terms with them ; now he thought their power was completely broken , and that this was an opportunity for plundering the fugitives)

Haji Khan gave those along with him the option of leaving him and returning, a very few of whom availed themselves of the offer, in order , as they thought, to save their lives and property, but, really to be plundered and killed by the Hindus instead. The Afghans, with heart and soul, determined to fight and avenge this insult. Haji Khan, accordingly, left 500 of the trustiest men in charge of his own and the other Afghan families, with orders to put all the females to death if the affair turned against them. The remainder of his followers he formed into four divisions, and prepared to force a passage through the Hindu host.

At this period there was a considerable number of the Parni tribe settled in Marwar, in Rana Udi Singh's territory. They had been settled there for some time before, and on becoming aware of the Haji Khan's situation , resolved, for the honour of the Afghan name, to aid him ; and the day before battle took place 800 Parnis, some day 500 only, under their chief Mina Burhan, by name, joined him. In this desperate affair the Afghans were vastly outnumbered - ten to one the historian say - but the Rajputs were overthrown and put to flight. In this affair 950 Afghans were killed , including nearly 300 Parnis , and some 400 Rajputs (4,000 Rajput casualties are mentioned in Bernhard Dorn's History of Afghans) bit the dust, but the victors were so worn out with their exertions , and nearly all more or less wounded , that they were unable to pursue the fugitives. Next day, Haji Khan, having buried the slain, and cared for the wounded, dismissed the surviving members of the Parnis, resumed his march and reached Gujarat in safety, where he ended his days.

(excerpts from Notes on Afghanistan and Baluchistan, page-640-641, by H.G.Raverty)