Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 3
THE MOGAL AND THE PATHAN.
I shall not, for the present, satisfy the curiosity of the gentle reader by following Jagat Singha from Saileshwara's temple, or by narrating the personal history of the charming damsel discovered in it. Jagat Singha was a Rajput. In order to explain why he had come to Bengal, and been journeying alone over a lonesome, open track, I shall briefly describe the political condition of Bengal at this time. This Chapter will therefore be historical, and an impatient reader may pass over it; but nothing like patience.
After Bakhtiyar Khiliji had planted the standard of the crescent in Bengal, the Pathans held undisputed sway over the country for several centuries. In 932, the celebrated Sultan Babar defeated the reigning Emperor Ibrahim Lodi, and ascended the throne of Delhi. But Bengal did not then pass under the sceptre of the Tamerlane dynasty.
Until the accession of that luminary of the Mogal dynasty—Akbar, Bengal remained under the sway of independent Pathan Sovereigns. In an evil hour, the fool-hardy Daud Khan laid his hands on the person of the sleeping Lion. As the consequence of his rashness, he was defeated by Manaim Khan, one of Akbar's generals, and so lost his throne. In 982, Daud fled to Orissa with his followers, and Bengal passed into the hands of the Mogal Sovereigns. When the Pathans had established themselves in Orissa, it became an arduous task for the Mogals to dislodge them from their hold. In 986, of the Bengali era, Khan Jaha Khan, viceroy of the Emperor, worsted the Pathans a second time, and brought Orissa under his master's yoke. Afterwards, a disturbance broke out. The Jaigirdars and other land-holders took umbrage at the introduction into Bengal of Akbar's new system of settlement for the collection of the imperial dues, and drew the sword in order to maintain their established rights. Taking advantage of this crisis, the Pathans of Orissa again raised their head, and investing one of their member, named Katlu Khan with the insignia of royalty, again brought Orissa under their dominion; and with great demonstrations of power, opportunely took Midnapur and Vishunpur—two districts lying beyond the pale of Orissa.
Both the able viceroy, Khan Azim and afterwards, Shahabaz Khan failed to wrest the conquered province from the enemy. At length a Hindu warrior was placed in command for the accomplishment of this difficult task.
When bursting with new-born fanaticism and in all the pride of strength, the surges of the Musalman soldiery rushed from the Himalayan chains, Prithviraj and other Rajput heroes resisted the tide with matchless valour. But alas! India's downfall was in the counsel of the Eternal. Instead of combining their strength, the Rajput princes fell to quarreling with one another. By virtue of reiterated efforts, the Musalmans beat the Hindu powers one by one, and established the Empire of Delhi. But although they succeeded thus far, yet they could not at once render lifeless the Kshetriya-begotten Rajputs. Many Rajput Princes remained independent; and from this time down to the final disruption of the Moslem Empire, this warlike race repeatedly challenged the Javanas to the field and on many occasions put them to the rout. In course of time, however, many Rajput chiefs were compelled to pay tribute to the Emperor of Delhi; and in the decay of their prowess, to set aside their prestine dignity, in order to obtain the good graces of the Victor by alliances with the Imperial house and by other means. The Emperors, for their part, were anxious to lay under obligation their heroic antagonists, by extending to them their friendship and alliance. In course of time, the tributary Princes began to enter the imperial service. The high-minded Akbar was in every respect far wiser than his predecessors. It was his conviction that for the administration of this country, the children of the soil and not foreigners—are peculiarly fit, and further, that either in war or in civil administration, the Rajputs had no equals. Agreeably to this belief, he, as a rule, appointed the natives—more particularly the Rajputs, to important posts of Government.
At the time of our story, of those Rajputs who had gained eminent appointments, Maharaja Man Singha was one of the foremost. He was the brother-in-law of prince Selim himself, the son of Akbar. After Azim Khan and Shahabaz Khan had been foiled in their endeavours, Akbar sent this personage as Governor of Bengal and Behar.
In 997 Man Singha reached Patna and first suppressed the disturbances. Next year he marched towards Orissa. On arriving at Patna, he had appointed Syed Khan as his deputy in Bengal, himself intending to stay at Patna. Entrusted with this office, Syed Khan was residing at the city of Tanda, the then capital of Bengal. Now marching for Orissa, Man Singha summoned his subordinate, writing him to say that he must join him at Burdwan with his forces.
On reaching Burdwan, the Raja saw that Syed Khan had not come, but had simply sent a message. He reported that great delay was inevitable for him to levy troops;—nay, that the rains would set in by the time that he could set out with his army; so that if the Raja would encamp till the wet season was over, he would join him with his men. Seeing no alternative, the Raja closed with this proposal, and encamped on the banks of the Darukeshwara river, in the village of Jehanabad, waiting for Syed Khan.
While at Jehanabad, the Raja received intelligence that Katlu Khan emboldened by his inactivity, was plundering the country within a few miles of that village. Filled with apprehensions, the Raja thought it expedient to despatch an officer to ascertain the actual state of affairs—where the enemy lay, what his aim, what he was doing, &c. His favorite son, Jagat Singha, had accompanied him in this expedition. Learning that the Prince was eager to be entrusted with this bold task, the Raja had despatched him with a hundred horsemen, in the direction of the enemy. The Prince returned soon, after performing his work. It was when he was journeying back to the camp, that he has been introduced to the gentle reader.
- This opprobrious epithet is used by the Hindus in designating the Mahomedans. It is somewhat analogous to the 'barbarian' of the Romans.