Of Foreigners & their Blades

Throughout history natives have given names to foreign communities. These names are often derogatory, or just corrupt form of the appearance of people or their place of origins. Perhaps, these name offer a stronger sense of identity to the native community.

Over time, in the age of political correctness and civility, many such words have fallen out of favour and have been replaced by technical terms, that nevertheless, often refer to the place of origin.

Peshwa_Baji_Rao_I_riding_horse

By Mughal School [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One such word that has somewhat survived and is still in used, is firangi. A word often used, generally to refer to a foreigner, and specifically used to refer to a person of Caucasian descent. I haven’t heard this pejorative used to refer to a foreigner who is not Caucasian. One of the popular theories of the etymological roots of the firangi is that it is a portmanteau of fika and rang — pale and colour — and therefore applies to Caucasians. Far from the truth.

Firangi derives from the Arabic word al-faranji. This word was used to refer to Franks (Germanic people who conquered Gaul in the 6th century and controlled much of western Europe for several centuries afterward), The Arabics derived the word from the Latin – Franci. The word came into being with the Crusaders, most of whom were Franks.

Around the 16th century, the word had gained a different distinction in India and lent meaning to weapons, rather than to refer to certain people. The Western Euopean sword-blade was finding favour with the Mughals and was called the firangi. However it was made popular by the Marathas, which they bought from the Portuguese. The Portuguese did not manufacture this blade however, they only imported and traded it. Therefore the use of the word firangi was still associated with Western Europe and not with the Portuguese. Interestingly,

The origin of the ethnic name [Frank] is uncertain; it traditionally is said to be from the old Germanic word *frankon “javelin, lance” (compare Old English franca “lance, javelin”), their preferred weapon, but the reverse may be the case. [Link]

Further, during the 16th century:

Syphilis was known in India as the Portuguese disease, or firanga or firangi roga, terms that identified it with the firangis (‘Franks’), or Europeans. According to historians, the disase was first recognised in India in 1498 after the arrival of Vasco-da-Gama, who had left Portugal in 1497.

It is perhaps due to the trade of the Marathas that the word has been strongly associated with the Portuguese, and it seems they referred to the commodity than the people. However, certain documents describe different names for various European traders in India:

Amongst the merchants the Portuguese (Firangi), the English (Ingraz), the Dutch (Valandaze), the French (Francese), the Danes (Dingmar) and hat wearing (Topikar) merchants carry on trade, and commerce.

References

  1. Dutta, Tarun Kumar, and Subhash Chandra Parija. Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers Medical Pub., 2013. 118. Print.
  2. Darpan, Mahesh. “पुर्तगाली-बंगाली एंथनी फिरंगी – Navbharat Times.” Navbharat Times. Navbharat Times, 5 May 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
  3. “Firangi (sword).” Wikipedia. 27 Nov. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. .
  4. Kadam, Umesh. “French-Maratha Relations: India in the 17th Century.” ResearchGate, 21 May 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
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A Dip in History | Sambar

IMG 1100  Version 2

So here’s how a simple mistake or a turn of circumstances caused a great dish to become. Of all the happy accidents in history, I think I’ll peg this one as my favourite. As much as Sambar – my favourite dish! Of course, as accidents go, this discovery happened on one of my favourite blogs, Varnam, where he wrote of The Origin of Sambar. I couldn’t find the content the post had linked to, so some fun research led me to this:

“The Marathas were ruling Tanjore. Sambhoji was a great cook (the male clan members to note) and very fond of his amti with a handful of the tart kokum thrown in. In a particular season the kokum that was imported from the Maratha homeland did not reach the bare larder of the king’s kitchen. Sambhoji was cooking and the minions were shivering in their dhothis to tell him that his favourite dish could not be made that day. A smart Vidushak, who had been elected sous chef for the day, decided to solve the problem. He whispered in the king’s ears that the locals used very little tamarind pulp to gain a better sourness to the curry and that Sambhoji should experiment with this variation. Voila, the dish with the tuvar dal, vegetables, spices and the tamarind pulp was cooked and served by the king to his coterie. The court declared the dish an outstanding preparation (they had no choice with the king as Chef) and thus was born Sambhoji’s amti that in time became sambhar.”

(Via The Story of Sambhar by Padmini Natarajan.)

Update:

The link above is not working, you can view a cached image of the article here. If for some reason, this link also disappears, here’s the PDF of the Original post: The Story of Sambhar by Padmini Natarajan, from 2002, by Dr. Padmini Natarajan. This article was also mentioned in The Hindu – A Tale of Two Sambhars.

Powada & Lavni

Side by side with Bhakti movement of the traditional narrative poets dedicated to ‘spiritual democracy’, the Shāhīrs or the composers of historical ballads (Powāḍās) and lyrics of love (Lāvņīs) inspired the people with national spirit, as well as romantic love, the natural instinct in human life. […] The Powāḍās or ballads are much older than the Lāvņīs.

“Apart from their (ballads) value as a national poetry,” says H. A. Acworth. “their phraseology is well worthy of study as an example of the flexibility, the force, the richness, and capacity of the vernacular language of the Marāthā ryot.”

If the Powāḍā is masculine in its robust vigour, the Lāvņī is feminine in its tone and tenor. […] Although some of the Lāvņīs are pornographic, a great majority of them are undoubtedly poetic. Honājī’s Ghanashyām Sundarā Shridharā (an invocation to Lord Krishna at dawn) is a case in point.

~ from “Language and Literature in the Eighteenth Century – Marathi”, by R.V. Herwadkar; in “The History and Culture of the Indian People – Volume Eight, The Maratha Supremacy”, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai.

About The Marathas

The Mahrattas, and probably all natives of India, are in a peculiar manner, roused from indolence and apathy when charged in any degree with responsibility, either in what regards their own conduct, or that of another person.

~ James Grant Duff, Esq. (Captain in the first or Grenadier, Regiment of BombayNative Infantry and Late Political Resident at Satara), A History of the Mahrattas, In Three Volumes, Volume 1, Chapter VII, Page 228

Update: Panhala

A minor update on the Panhala Fort page.

The Palkhed Campaign, 1728

About the Campaign

The Palkhed campaign of 1728, is notable for two reasons. First, this campaign has been chosen as brilliant in strategy (“A masterpiece of strategic mobility…“) by Field Marshal Montgomery in his book, A History of Warfare. Whether this was a completely thought-out strategy or circumstances helped formulate this strategy is definitely worth investigating. Secondly, a few historians would claim that the success of this campaign established the Maratha supremacy in the Deccan – and gave way for further adventures; another factor that is worth investigating.

What it did definitely achieve was the handover of the claim of the chauth and sardeshmukhi from Nizam-ul-Mulk to the Shahu

Background

The roots of this campaign were laid early during the reign of Farruksiyar (1713-1719), when the Sayyed brothers agreed to the collection of chauth and sardeshmukhi by the Marathas throughout the six provinces of the Deccan:

  1. Khandesh
  2. Berar
  3. Aurangabad
  4. Bidar
  5. Bijapur, and
  6. Hyderabad

The Nizam was not in favour of this, and after 1720, when the Nizam was again appointed the Vazir of the Mughal Empire, he suspended chauth and sardeshmukhi payments.  This was the primary factor for the Battle of Palkhed. Nizam-ul-Mulk used the grounds that it was unclear, between Shahu and Shambhaji, who the rightful claimant of the chauth and sardeshmukhi was. Also the timing was important because the Peshwa (Baji Rao) and the Maratha Armies were in Karnataka (the state, south of Maharashtra).

Other factors that fuelled the need for the campaign were:

  • Existence of hostility between the courts of Satara (Shahu) and Kolhapur (Shambhaji). This hostility was turned to advantage by Nizam-ul-Mulk, who formed an alliance with Shambhaji, against the Shahu (and Baji Rao)
  • Differences between the Peshwa (Baji Rao) and the Pratinidhi (Shripat Rao). The latter preferred to have good relations with Nizam-ul-Mulk, whereas Baji Rao pursued and advocated an expansionist policy.

Event

Baji Rao and the Maratha armies were called back from the south, from the Karnataka campaign. In May 1727, Baji Rao then asked Shahu to break of negotiations with the Nizam-ul-Mulk (Nizam-ul-Mulk had called for an arbitration over the payment of the chauth and sardeshmukhi) and started mobilizing an army. Baji Rao moved towards Aurangabad.

After a skirmish near Jalna (the Marathas by now had become famous for their strategy of not engaging with the enemy) with Iwaz Khan (the General of Nizam-ul-Mulk), as could have been predicted, Baji Rao moved away from the battlefield, towards Burhanpur (north of Maharashtra, see map below).

Nizam-ul-Mulk’s army pursued Baji Rao. Baji Rao then moved westwards to Gujarat from North Khandesh. However the Nizam-ul-Mulk gave up the pursuit and moved southward towards Pune.

It is worthwhile to note how the two armies functioned. The Nizam is known to have carried huge armies with him, including supplies to last for the duration of the campaign. His army included heavy artillery which slowed down the pace of the army, especially in the rough and uneven terrain of the region. In fact, the Nizam used to carry his jenana or women-folk with him during his campaigns. The Maratha armies however were very light and found supplies on the way by plundering and looting out-posts on the way.

As Nizam-ul-Mulk left the pursuit of Baji Rao and moved towards the headquarters of the Shahu stronghold, posts like Udapur, Avasari, Pabal, Khed, and Narayangarh surrendered to Nizam-ul-Mulk, who then occupied Pune and advanced towards Supa, Patas, and Baramati.

In Baramati, Nizam-ul-Mulk got news of Baji Rao moving towards Aurangabad. Nizam-ul-Mulk began moving northwards to intercept the Maratha Army. By this time he was confident of crushing Baji Rao and his army. It was not to happen so. The Raja of Kolhapur, Shambhaji (not to be confused with Sambhaji, son of Shivaji) refused to join him in this campaign against Baji Rao. Nizam-ul-Mulk was cornered in a waterless tract near Palkhed of 25 February 1728. Nizam-ul-Mulk’s army refused to fight. While he used his artillery to good effect to keep the Marathas away from his army, there was no way for him to escape. Through Iwaz Khan, the Nizam-ul-Mulk sent out word of his plight, and his army was allowed to move to the vicinity of the river.

Result

A peace treaty was signed on 6 March 1728 at Mungi-Paithan. The agreements were:

  • The Nizam recognise Shahu as the rightful leader of the Marathas and that the Nizam would not support Sambhaji (of Kolhapur) and give custody of Sambhaji to the Marathas.
  • Release all chauth and sardeshmukhi payments to the Marathas and honour the Sanad of 1719 (Granting the Shahu the revenues of the six provinces of the Deccan)
  • All Maratha sardars who were removed would be reappointed.

The Nizam agreed to all the clauses except the handover of  Sambhaji of Kolhapur.

Map

Animated Map

(Watch the video in HD for a clearer view of the map)

(c) Atul Sabnis. All rights Reserved.

References

Kate, P. V. (1987). History of Marathwada under the Nizams. Marathwada under the Nizams, 1724-1948 (pp. 11-14). Delhi, India: Mittal Publications.

Pitre, K. G. (2004). Peshwaicha Kaal. Marathyanche Yuddhtihas (Marathi) (pp. 53-55). Pune: Continental Prakashan. (Original work published 2000)

Gordon, S. (1998). The Marathas 1600-1818. New Delhi: Foundation Books.

 

 

Saranjam

Saranjam (सरंजाम), literally, material, furniture. Ideal English spelling would be saranjaam.

In the context of the Maratha period, a system of grants and land assignments.

Another definition from the “A Compendium of Molesworth’s Marathi and English Dictionary By James Thomas Molesworth, Baba Padmanji

“Villages and lands granted in inaam to persons from whom the maintaining of forts or troops for the public service is required, or upon whom a horse, a paalkhi, or other honorable yet expense-involving gift has been conferred.”