Source: Francois Bernier. Travels in the Mogul Empire, AD 1656-1668, trans. by Archibald Constable on the basis of Irving Brock's version, ed. by Vincent A. Smith. Delhi: Low Price Publications, 1994 [1934]. Slightly edited, and some spellings modernized for classroom use, by FWP.

Travels in the Mogul Empire -- the Conclusion (1671)

        [187] In regard to Jaswant Singh ["Jessomseingue"] and Jai Singh ["Jesseingue"], there is some obscurity which I shall endeavour to clear up. A revolt had taken place, headed by a Gentile [=Hindu] of Bijapur ["Visapour], who made himself master of several important fortresses and one or two seaports belonging to the King of that country. The name of this bold adventurer is Shivaji ["Seva-Gi"], or Lord Seva. He is vigilant, enterprising, and wholly regardless of personal safety. Shaista Khan ["Chah-hestkan"], when in the Deccan, found in him an enemy more formidable than the King of Bijapur at the head of his whole army and joined by those Rajas who usually unite with that prince for their common defence. Some idea may be formed of Shivaji's intrepidity by his attempt to seize Shaista Khan's person, together with all his treasures, in the midst of his troops, and surrounded by the walls of Aurangabad ["Aureng-Abad"]. Attended by a few soldiers he one night penetrated into Shaista Khan's apartment, and would have succeeded in his object had he remained undetected a short time longer. Shaista was severely wounded, and his son was killed in the act of [188] drawing his sword. Shivaji soon engaged in another daring expedition, vhich proved more successful. Placing himself at the head of two or three thousand men, the flower of his army, he silently vithdrew from his camp, and pretended during the march to be a Raja going to the Mogol's court. When within a short distance of Surat ["Sourate"], he met the Grand Provost of the country, on whom he imposed the belief that he intended to prosecute his journey without entering the town: but the plunder of that famous and wealthy port was the principal object of the expedition; he rushed into the place sword in hand, and remained nearly three days [in 1664], torturing the population to compel a discovery of their concealed riches. Burning what he could not take away, Shivaji returned without the least opposition, laden with gold and silver to the amount of several millions; with pearls, silken stuffs, fine cloths, and a variety of other costly merchandise. A secret understanding, it was suspected, existed bctween Jaswant Singh and Shivaji, and the former was supposed to have been accessory to the attempt on Shaista as well as the attack on Surat. The Raja was therefore recalled from the Deccan, but instead of going to Dehli, he returned to his own territories.

        I forgot to mention that during the pillage of Surat, Shivaji -- the Holy Shivaji! -- respected the habitation of the Reverend Father Ambrose, the Capuchin missionary. 'The Frankish Padrys are good men,' he said, 'and shall not be molested.' He spared also the house of a deceased dalal ["Delale"] or Gentile broker of the Dutch, because assured that he [189] had been very charitable while alive. The dwellings of the English and Dutch likewise escaped his visits, not in consequence of any reverential feeling on his part, but because those people had displayed a great deal of resolution, and defended themselves well. The English especially, assisted by the crews of their vessels, performed wonders, and saved not only their own houses but those of their neighbours. The pertinacity of a Jew, [190] a native of Constantinople, astonished everybody. Shivaji knew that he was in possession of most valuable rubies, which he intended to sell to Aureng-Zebe; but he persevered in stoutly denying the fact, although three times placed on his knees to receive the stroke of a sword flourished over his head. This conduct was worthy of a Jew, whose love of money generally exceeds his love of life.

        Aureng-Zebe prevailed with Jai Singh to take the command of the army in the Deccan, attended by Sultan Ma'sum ["Mazum"], who, however, was not invested with any authority. The Raja's first operation was vigorously to attack Shivaji's principal fortress; but he had recourse, at the same time, to his favourite art, negotiation, which he brought to a favourable issue, as the place surrendered by capitulation long before it was reduced to extremity. Shivaji having consented to make common cause with the Mogol [Emperor] against Bijapur, Aureng-Zebe proclaimed him a Raja, took him under his protection, and granted an omrah's [=noble's] pension to his son. Some time afterwards, the King, meditating a war against Persia, wrote to Shivaji in such kind and flattering terms, and extolled his generosity, talents and conduct so highly, as to induce him to meet the Mogol at Dehli [in 1666], Jai Singh having plighted his faith for the chieftain's security. Shaista Khan's wife, a relation of Aureng-Zebe's, happened to be then at court, and never ceased to urge the arrest of a man who had killed her son, wounded her husband, and sacked Surat. The result was that Shivaji, observing that his tents were watched by three or four omrahs, effected his escape in disguise under favour of night. This circumstance caused great uneasiness in the palace, and Jai Singh's eldest son, being strongly suspected of having assisted Shivaji in his flight, was forbidden to appear at court. Aureng-Zebe felt, or [191] seemed to feel, equally irritated against the father and the son, and Jai Singh, apprehending that he might avail himself of this pretext to seize his territories, abandoned his command in the Deccan and hastened to the defence of his dominions, but he died on his arrival at Burhanpur ["Brampour"]. The kindness shown by the Mogol to the Raja's son, when apprised of this melancholy event; his tender condolences, and the grant to him of the pension enjoyed by the father, confirm many persons in the opinion that Shivaji did not escape without the connivance of Aureng-Zebe himself. His presence at court must indeed have greatly embarrassed the King, since the hatred of the women was most fierce and rancorous against him: they considered him as a monster who had imbued his hands in the blood of friends and kinsmen.

        But here let us take a cursory review of the history of the Deccan, a kingdom that, during more than forty years, has constantly been the theatre of war, and owing to which the Mogol is so frequently embroiled with the King of Golconda, the King of Bijapur,. and several other less powerful sovereigns. The nature of the quarrels in that part of Hindoustan cannot be weIl uuderstood while we remain ignorant of the chief occurrences and have only an imperfect knowledge of the condition of the Princes by whom the country is governed.

        [192] Two centuries have scarcely elapsed since the great peninsula of India, stretching from the Gulf of Cambaye on the west to the Gulf of Bengale near Jagannath on the east, and extending southerly to Cape Comorin, was, with the exception perhaps of a few mountainous tracts, under the domination of one arbitrary despot. The indiscretion of Raja, or King, Ram-ras, the last Prince under whom it was united, caused the dismemberment of this vast monarchy, and this is the reason why it is now divided among many sovereigns professing different religions. Ram-ras had three Georgian slaves in his service, whom he distinguished by every mark of favour, and at length nominated to the Government of three considerable districts. One was appointed governor of nearly the whole of the territory in the Deccan which is now in the possession of the Mogol; Daulatabad ["Daulet-Abad"] was the capital of that government, which extended from Bidar ["Bider"], Paranda, and Surat as far as the Narbada. The territory now forming the kingdom of Bijapur was the portion of the second favourite; and the third obtained the country comprehended in the present kingdom of Golkonda. These three slaves became extremely rich and powerful, and as they professed the Mahometan faith and declared themselves of the Shia ["Chyas"] sect, which is that of the Persians, they received the countenance and support of a great number of Mogols in the service of Ram-ras. They could not, even if so disposed, have embraced the religion of the Gentiles [=Hindus], because the gentiles of India admit no stranger to the participation of their mysteries.

        A rebellion, in which the three Georgian slaves united, terminated in the murder of Ram-ras, after which they returned to their respective governments, and usurped the title of Shah, or King. Ram-ras's children, incapnble of contending with these men, remained quietly in the country known [193] commonly by the name of Karnatak ["Karnatick"], and called on our maps Bisnagar ["Bisnaguer"], where their posterity are Rajas to this day. The remainder of the Peninsula was split at the same time into all those smaller states still existing, governed by Rajas, Nayaks ["Naiques"], and other Kinglets. While the three Slaves and their successors preserved a good understanding with each other, they were able to defend their kingdoms, and to wage wars on a large scale against the Mogols; but when the seeds of jealousy were sown among them, and they chose to act as independent sovereigns who stood in no need of foreign assistance, they experienced the fatal effects of disunion. Thirty-five or forty years ago, the Mogol, availing himself of their differences, invaded the dominions of Nizam Shah ["Nejam-Chah"], or King Nejam, the fifth or sixth in succession from the first Slave, and made himself master of the whole country. Nizam died a prisoner in Daulatabad, his former capital.

        Since that period, the Kings of Golkonda have been preserved from invasion, not in consequence of their great strength, but of the employment given to the Mogol by the two sister kingdoms, and of the necessity he was under to capture their strong places, such as Amber, Paranda, Bidar and others, before Golkonda could be prudently attacked. The safety of those Kings may also be ascribed to the wisdom of their policy. Possessing great wealth, they have always secretly supplied the monarch of Bijapur with money, to enable him to defend his country; so that whenever the latter is threatened, [194] the King of Golkonda invariably marches an army to the frontiers, to show the Mogol not only that preparations are made for internal defence, but that an ally is at hand to assist Bijapur, if driven to extremity. It appears likewise that the government of Golkonda employs large sums as bribes to the generals of the Mogol's army, who therefore constantly give it as their opinion that Bijapur ought to be attacked rather than Golkonda, on account of its greater proximity to Daulatabad. Indeed, after the convention concluded, as we have seen, between Aurang-Zebe and the present King of Golkonda, the former has no great inducement to march troops into that kingdom, which he probably considers as his own. It has been long tributary to the Mogol, to whom it presents annually a considerable quantity of hard cash, home-manufactured articles of exquisite workmanship, and elephants imported from Pegu, Siam, and Ceylon. There is now no fortress between Daulatabad and Golkonda capable of offering any resistance, and Aureng-Zebe feels confident, therefore, that a single campaign would suffice to conquer the country. In my own opinion, nothing has restrained him from attempting that couquest but the apprehension of having the Deccan overrun by the King of Bijapur, who knows that if he permits his neighbour to fall, his own destruction must be the necessary consequence.

        From what I have said, some idea may be formed of the present state of the King of Golkonda in relation to the Mogol. There can be no doubt that his power is held by a most uncertain tenure. Since the nefarious transaction in Golkonda, planned by Amir-Jumla ["Emir-Jemla"] and executed by Aureng-Zebe, the King has lost all mental energy, and has ceased to hold the reins of government. He never appears in public to give audience and administer justice according to the custom of the country; nor does he venture outside the walls of the fortress of Golkonda. Confusion and misrule are the natural and unavoidable [195] consequences of this state of things. The grandees, totally disregarding the commands of a Monarch for whom they no longer feel either affection or respect, exercise a disgusting tyranny; and the people, impatient to throw off the galling yoke, would gladly submit to the more equitable government of Aureng-Zebe.

        I shall advert to five or six facts that prove the low state of degradation to which this wretched King is reduced.

        First.-- When I was at Golkonda, in the year 1667, an ambassador extraordinary arrived from Aureng-Zebe, for the purpose of declaring war, unless the King supplied the Mogol with ten thousand cavalry to act against Bijapur. This force was not indeed granted; but, what pleased Aureng-Zebe still better, as much money was given as is considered sufficient for the maintenance of such a body of cavalry. The King paid extravagant honours to this ambassador and loaded him with valuable presents, both for himself and the Mogol his master.

        Second.-- Aureng-Zebe's ordinary ambassador at the court of Golkonda issues his commands, grants passports, menaces and ill-treats the people, and in short, speaks and acts with the uncontrolled authority of an absolute sovereign.

        Third.-- Amir-Jumla's son, Mahmet-Emir-Kan, although nothing more than one of Aureng-Zebe's Omrah, is so much respected in Golkonda, and chiefly in Masulipatam, that the taptapa, his agent or broker, virtually acts as master of the port. He buys and sells, admits and clears out cargoes, free of every impost and without any person's intervention. So boundless was the father's influence formerly in this country, that it has descended to the son as a matter of right or necessity.

        Fourth.-- Sometimes the Dutch presume to lay an embargo on all the Golkonda merchant-vessels in the port, nor will they suffer them to depart until the King comply with their demands. I have known them even protest [196] against the King because the Governor of Masulipatam prevented them from taking forcible possession of an English ship in the port, by arming the whole population, threatening to burn the Dutch factory, and to put all these insolent foreigners to the sword.

        Fifth.-- Another symptom of decay in this kingdom is the debased state of the current coin; which is extremely prejudicial to the commerce of the country.

        Sixth.-- A sixth instance I would adduce of the fallen power of the King of Golkonda is that the Portuguese, wretched, poor, and despised as they are become, scruple not to menace him with war, and with the capture and pillage of Masulipatam and other towns if he refuse to cede San Thome [=St. Thomas' Mount], a place which these same Portuguese, a few years ago, voluntarily resigned into his hands to avoid the disgrace of yielding it to the superior power of the Dutch.

        Many intelligent persons, however, assured me, when I was in Golkonda, that the King is by no means devoid of understanding; that this appearance of weakness and indecision and of indifference to the affairs of government is assumed for the purpose of deceiving his enemies; that he has a son concealed from the public eye, of an ardent and aspiring spirit, whom he intends to place on the throne at a favourable juncture, and then to violate his treaty with Aureng-Zebe. Leaving it to time to decide upon the soundness of these opinions, we shall proceed to say a few words about Bijapur. That country, though it has to contend frequently with the Mogol, still preserves the name of an independent kingdom. The truth is, that the generals employed against Bijapur, like commanders employed in every other service, are delighted to be at the head of an army, ruling at a distance from the court with the authority of kings. They conduct every operation, therefore, with [197] languor, and avail themselves of any pretext for the prolongation of war, which is alike the source of their emolument and dignity. It is become a proverbial saying, that the Deccan is the bread and support of the soldiers of Hindustan. It should also be observed, that the kingdom of Bijapur abounds with almost impregnable fortresses in mountainous situations, and that the country on the side of the Great Mogol's territories is of a peculiarly difficult access, owing to the scarcity both of forage and of good wholesome water. The capital is extremely strong; situated in an arid and sterile soil, and pure and palatable water is found only within the gates.

        Bijapur, however, is verging toward dissolution. The Mogal has made himself master of Paranda, the key of the kingdom; of Bidar, a strong and handsome town, and of other important places. The death of the King without male issue must also operate unfavourably on the future concerns of this country. The throne is filled by a young man, educated, and adopted as her son, by the Queen, sister of the King of Golkonda, who, by the by, has been ill-requited for her kindness. She returned recently from Mecca, and experienced a cold and insulting reception; the young monarch pretending that her conduct on board the Dutch vessel which conveyed her to Mecca [Moka] was unbecoming both her sex and rank. It is even said that she was criminally connected with two or three of the crew, who abandoned the vessel at Malta for the purpose of accompanying the Queen to Mecca. Shivaji, the gentile leader lately spoken of, profiting by the distracted state of the kingdom, has seized upon many strongholds, situated for the most part in the moun-[198]tains. This man is exercising all the powers of an independent sovereign; laughs at the threats both of the Mogol and of the King at Bijapur; makes frequent incursions, and ravages the country on every side, from Surat to the gates of Goa. Yet it cannot be doubted that, notwithstanding the deep wounds which from time to time he inflicts upon Bijapur, the kingdom finds in this daring chieftain a seasonable and powerful coadjutor. He distracts the attention of Aureng-Zebe by his bold and never-ceasing enterprises, and affords so much employment to the Indian armies, that the Mogol cannot find the opportunity of achieving the conquest of Bijapur. How to put down Shivaji is become the object of chief importance. We have seen his success at Surat; he afterwards captured the Portuguese settlement of Bardes, an island contiguous to Goa.

        Seventhly.-- It was after I had left Dehli, on my return [to France], that I heard, at Golkonda, of the death of Shah-Jehan [on January 22, 1666], and that Aureng-Zebe seemed much affected by the event, and discovered all the marks of grief which a son can express for the loss of his father. He set out immediately for Agra, where Begum-Sahib received him with distinguished honour. She hung the mosque wiith tapestries of rich brocades, and in the same mnnner decorated the place where the Mogol intended to alight before he entered the fortress. On arrival at the women's apart-[199]ment in the seraglio, the princess presented him with a large golden basin, full of precious stones -- her own jewels, and those which belonged to Shah-Jehan. Moved by the magnificence of his reception, and the affectionate protestations of his sister, Aureng-Zebe forgave her former conduct and has since treated her with kindness and liberality.

        I have now brought this history to a close. My readers have no doubt condemned the means by which the reigning Mogol attained the summit of power. These means were indeed unjust and cruel; but it is not perhaps fair to judge him by the rigid rules which we apply to the character of European princes. In our quarter of the globe, the succession to the crown is settled in favour of the eldest by wise and fixed laws; but in Hindoustan the right of governing is usually disputed by all the sons of the deceased monarch, each of whom is reduced to the cruel alternative of sacrificing his brothers, that he himself may reign, or of suffering his own life to be forfeited for the security and stability of the dominion of another. Yet even those who may maintain that the circumstances of country, birth and education afford no palliation of the conduct pursued by Aureng-Zebe, must admit that this Prince is endowed with a versatile and rare genius, that he is a consummate statesman, and a great King.

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