1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gwalior

GWALIOR, a native state of India, in the Central India agency, by far the largest of the numerous principalities comprised in that area. It is the dominion of the Sindhia family. The state consists of two well-defined parts which may roughly be called the northern and the southern. The former is a compact mass of territory, bounded N. and N.W. by the Chambal river, which separates it from the British districts of Agra and Etawah, and the native states of Dholpur, Karauli and Jaipur of Rajputana; E. by the British districts of Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur and Saugor; S. by the states of Bhopal, Tonk, Khilchipur and Rajgarh; and W. by those of Jhalawar, Tonk and Kotah of Rajputana. The southern, or Malwa, portion is made up of detached or semi-detached districts, between which are interposed parts of other states, which again are mixed up with each other in bewildering intricacy. The two portions together have a total area of 25,041 sq. m. Pop. (1901), 2,933,001, showing a decrease of 13% in the decade.

The state may be naturally divided into plain, plateau and hilly country. The plain country extends from the Chambal river in the extreme southwards for about 80 m., with a maximum width from east to west of about 120 m. This plain, though broken in its southern portion by low hills, has generally an elevation of only a few hundred feet above sea-level. In the summer season the climate is very hot, the shade temperature rising frequently to 112° F., but in the winter months (from November to February inclusive) it is usually temperate and for short periods extremely cold. The average rainfall is 30 in., but the period 1891–1901 was a decade of low rainfall, and distress was caused by famine. South of this tract there is a gradual ascent to the Central India plateau, and at Sipri the general level is 1500 ft. above the sea. On this plateau lies the remainder of the state, with the exception of the small district of Amjhera in the extreme south. The elevation of this region gives it a moderate climate during the summer as compared with the plain country, while the winter is warmer and more equable. The average rainfall is 28 in. The remaining portion of the state, classed as hilly, comprises only the small district of Amjhera. This is known as the Bhil country, and lies among the Vindhya mountains with a mean elevation of about 1800 ft. The rainfall averages 23 in. In the two years 1899 and 1900 the monsoon was very weak, the result being a severe famine which caused great mortality among the Bhil population. Of these three natural divisions the plateau possesses the most fertile soil, generally of the kind known as “black cotton,” but the low-lying plain has the densest population. The state is watered by numerous rivers. The Nerbudda, flowing west, forms the southern boundary. The greater part of the drainage is discharged into the Chambal, which forms the north-western and northern and eastern boundary. The Sind, with its tributaries the Kuwari, Asar and Sankh, flows through the northern division. The chief products are wheat, millets, pulses of various kinds, maize, rice, linseed and other oil-seeds; poppy, yielding the Malwa opium; sugar-cane, cotton, tobacco, indigo, garlic, turmeric and ginger. About 60% of the population are employed in agricultural and only 15% in industrial occupations, the great majority of the latter being home workers. There is a leather-factory at Morar; cotton-presses at Morena, Baghana and Ujjain; ginning factories at Agar, Nalkhera, Shajapur and Sonkach; and a cotton-mill at Ujjain. The cotton industry alone shows possibilities of considerable development, there being 55,000 persons engaged in it at the time of the census of 1901.

The population is composed of many elements, among which Brahmans and Rajputs are specially numerous. The prevailing religion is Hinduism, 84% of the people being Hindus and only 6% Mahommedans. The revenue of the state is about one million sterling; and large reserves have been accumulated, from which two millions were lent to the government of India in 1887, and later on another million for the construction of the Gwalior-Agra and Indore-Neemuch railways. The railways undertaken by the state are: (1) from Bina on the Indian Midland to Goona; (2) an extension of this line to Baran, opened in 1899; (3) from Bhopal to Ujjain; (4) two light railways, from Gwalior to Sipri and Gwalior to Bhind, which were opened by the viceroy in November 1899. On the same occasion the viceroy opened the Victoria College, founded to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee; and the Memorial Hospital, built in memory of the maharaja’s father. British currency has been introduced instead of Chandori rupees, which were much depreciated. The state maintains three regiments of Imperial Service cavalry, two battalions of infantry and a transport corps.

History.—The Sindhia family, the rulers of the Gwalior state, belong to the Mahratta nation and originally came from the neighbourhood of Poona. Their first appearance in Central India was early in the 18th century in the person of Ranoji (d. 1745), a scion of an impoverished branch of the family, who began his career as the peshwa’s slipper-carrier and rose by his military abilities to be commander of his bodyguard. In 1726, together with Malhar Rao Holkar, the founder of the house of Indore, he was authorized by the peshwa to collect tribute (chauth) in the Malwa districts. He established his headquarters at Ujjain, which thus became the first capital of Sindhia’s dominions.

Ranoji’s son and successor, Jayapa Sindhia, was killed at Nagaur in 1759, and was in his turn succeeded by his son Jankoji Sindhia. But the real founder of the state of Gwalior was Mahadji Sindhia, a natural son of Ranoji, who, after narrowly escaping with his life from the terrible slaughter of Panipat in 1761 (when Jankoji was killed), obtained with some difficulty from the peshwa a re-grant of his father’s possessions in Central India (1769). During the struggle which followed the death of Madhu Rao Peshwa in 1772 Mahadji seized every occasion for extending his power and possessions. In 1775, however, when Raghuba Peshwa threw himself on the protection of the British, the reverses which Mahadji encountered at their hands—Gwalior being taken by Major Popham in 1780—opened his eyes to their power. By the treaty of Salbai (1782) it was agreed that Mahadji should withdraw to Ujjain, and the British retire north of the Jumna. Mahadji, who undertook to open negotiations with the other belligerents, was recognized as an independent ruler, and a British resident was established at his court. Mahadji, aided by the British policy of neutrality, now set to work to establish his supremacy over Hindustan proper. Realizing the superiority of European methods of warfare, he availed himself of the services of a Savoyard soldier of fortune, Benoît de Boigne, whose genius for military organization and command in the field was mainly instrumental in establishing the Mahratta power. Mahadji’s disciplined troops made him invincible. In 1785 he re-established Shah Alam on the imperial throne at Delhi, and as his reward obtained for the peshwa the title of vakil-ul-mutlak or vicegerent of the empire, contenting himself with that of his deputy. In 1788 he took advantage of the cruelties practised by Ghulam Kadir on Shah Alam, to occupy Delhi, where he established himself as the protector of the aged emperor. Though nominally a deputy of the peshwa he was now ruler of a vast territory, including the greater part of Central India and Hindustan proper, while his lieutenants exacted tribute from the chiefs of Rajputana. There can be no doubt that he looked with apprehension on the growing power of the British; but he wisely avoided any serious collision with them.

Mahadji died in 1794, and was succeeded by his adopted son, Daulat Rao Sindhia, a grandson of his brother Tukoji. When, during the period of unrest that followed the deaths of the peshwa, Madhu Rao II., in 1795 and of Tukoji Holkar in 1797, the Mahratta leaders fought over the question of supremacy, the peshwa, Baji Rao II., the titular head of the Mahratta confederation, fled from his capital and placed himself under British protection by the treaty of Bassein (December 31, 1802). This interposition of the British government was resented by the confederacy, and it brought on the Mahratta War of 1803. In the campaign that followed a combined Mahratta army, in which Daulat Rao’s troops furnished the largest contingent, was defeated by General Arthur Wellesley at Assaye and Argaum in Central India; and Lord Lake routed Daulat Rao’s European-trained battalions in Northern India at Agra, Aligarh and Laswari. Daulat Rao was then compelled to sign the treaty of Sarji Anjangaon (December 30, 1803), which stripped him of his territories between the Jumna and Ganges, the district of Broach in Gujarat and other lands in the south. By the same treaty he was deprived of the forts of Gwalior and Gohad; but these were restored by Lord Cornwallis in 1805, when the Chambal river was made the northern boundary of the state. By a treaty signed at Burhanpur in 1803 Daulat Rao further agreed to maintain a subsidiary force, to be paid out of the revenues of the territories ceded under the treaty of Sarji Anjangaon. When, however, in 1816 he was called upon to assist in the suppression of the Pindaris, though by the treaty of Gwalior (1817) he promised his co-operation, his conduct was so equivocal that in 1818 he was forced to sign a fresh treaty by which he ceded Ajmere and other lands.

Daulat Rao died without issue in 1827, and his widow, Baiza Bai (d. 1862), adopted Mukut Rao, a boy of eleven belonging to a distant branch of the family, who succeeded as Jankoji Rao Sindhia. His rule was weak; the state was distracted by interminable palace intrigues and military mutinies, and affairs went from bad to worse when, in 1843, Jankoji Rao, who left no heir, was succeeded by another boy, adopted by his widow, Tara Bai, under the name of Jayaji Rao Sindhia. The growth of turbulence and misrule now induced Lord Ellenborough to interpose, and a British force under Sir Hugh Gough advanced upon Gwalior (December 1843). The Mahratta troops were defeated simultaneously at Maharajpur and Punniar (December 29), with the result that the Gwalior government signed a treaty ceding territory with revenue sufficient for the maintenance of a contingent force to be stationed at the capital, and limiting the future strength of the Gwalior army, while a council of regency was appointed during the minority to act under the resident’s advice. In 1857 the Gwalior contingent joined the mutineers; but the maharaja himself remained loyal to the British, and fled from his capital until the place was retaken and his authority restored by Sir Hugh Rose (Lord Strathnairn) on the 19th of June 1858. He was rewarded with the districts of Neemuch and Amjhera, but Gwalior fort was occupied by British troops and was only restored to his son in 1886 by Lord Dufferin. Jayaji Rao, who died in 1886, did much for the development of his state. He was created a G.C.S.I in 1861, and subsequently became a counsellor of the empress, a G.C.B. and C.I.E.

His son, the maharaja, Madhava Rao Sindhia, G.C.S.I., was born in 1877. During his minority the state was administered for eight years by a council of regency. He was entrusted with ruling powers in 1894, and in all respects continued the reforming policy of the council, while paying personal attention to every department, being a keen soldier, an energetic administrator, and fully alive to the responsibilities attaching to his position. He was created an honorary aide-de-camp to the king-emperor and an honorary colonel in the British army. He went to China as orderly officer to General Gaselee in 1901, and provided the expedition with a hospital ship at his own expense, while his Imperial Service Transport Corps proved a useful auxiliary to the British army in the Chitral and Tirah expeditions.

The City of Gwalior is 76 m. by rail S. of Agra, and had a population in 1901 of 119,433. This total includes the new town of Lashkar or “the Camp” which is the modern capital of the state and old Gwalior. The old town has a threefold interest: first as a very ancient seat of Jain worship; secondly for its example of palace architecture of the best Hindu period (1486–1516); and thirdly as an historic fortress. There are several remarkable Hindu temples within the fort. One, known as the Sas Bahu, is beautifully adorned with bas-reliefs. It was finished in A.D. 1093, and, though much dilapidated, still forms a most picturesque fragment. An older Jain temple has been used as a mosque. Another temple in the fortress of Gwalior is called the Teli-Mandir, or “Oilman’s Temple.” This building was originally dedicated to Vishnu, but afterwards converted to the worship of Siva. The most striking part of the Jain remains at Gwalior is a series of caves or rock-cut sculptures, excavated in the rock on all sides, and numbering nearly a hundred, great and small. Most of them are mere niches to contain statues, though some are cells that may have been originally intended for residences. One curious fact regarding them is that, according to inscriptions, they were all excavated within the short period of about thirty-three years, between 1441 and 1474. Some of the figures are of colossal size; one, for instance, is 57 ft. high, which is taller than any other in northern India.

The palace built by Man Singh (1486–1516) forms the most interesting example of early Hindu work of its class in India. Another palace of even greater extent was added to this in 1516; both Jehangír and Shah Jahan added palaces to these two—the whole making a group of edifices unequalled for picturesqueness and interest by anything of their class in Central India. Among the apartments in the palace was the celebrated chamber, named the Baradari, supported on 12 columns, and 45 ft. square, with a stone roof, forming one of the most beautiful palace-halls in the world. It was, besides, singularly interesting from the expedients to which the Hindu architect was forced to resort to imitate the vaults of the Moslems. Of the buildings, however, which so excited the admiration of the emperor Baber, probably little now remains. The fort of Gwalior, within which the above buildings are situated, stands on an isolated rock. The face is perpendicular and where the rock is naturally less precipitous it has been scarped. Its greatest length from north-east to south-west is a mile and a half, and the greatest breadth 900 yds. The rock attains its maximum height of 342 ft. at the northern end. A rampart, accessible by a steep road, and farther up by huge steps cut out of the rock, surrounds the fort. The citadel stands at the north-eastern corner of the enclosure, and presents a very picturesque appearance. The old town of Gwalior, which is of considerable size, but irregularly built, and extremely dirty, lies at the eastern base of the rock. It contains the tomb of Mahommed Ghaus, erected during the early part of Akbar’s reign. The fort of Gwalior was traditionally built by one Surya Sen, the raja of the neighbouring country. In 1196 Gwalior was captured by Mahommed Ghori; it then passed into the hands of several chiefs until in 1559 Akbar gained possession of it, and made it a state prison for captives of rank. On the dismemberment of the Delhi empire, Gwalior was seized by the Jat rana of Gohad. Subsequently it was garrisoned by Sindhia, from whom it was wrested in 1780 by the forces of the East India Company, and to whom it was finally restored by the British in 1886. The modern town contains the palace of the chief, a college, a high school, a girls’ school, a service school to train officials, a law school, hospitals for men and for women, a museum, paper-mills, and a printing-press issuing a state gazette.

See also Gwalior Residency.