Jambudveep's Blog

November 28, 2012

Map of Vijayanagar Empire,circa 1350 CE

This map is a small demo of what can be done with the blank template map that was traced out as part of the Historical Map of India project.

The political situation in South India and greater part of Maharashtra during 1350 CE has been shown on the map.It still needs a lot of work regaridng correction of boundaries,showing smaller principalities,correction of place names etc etc.But to visualise what the political topography of South India was in the middle of the 14th century this will be useful aid.

This is only one of a series of maps.It can be used to depict battles,movement of troops etc.

Comments and feedback welcome.

November 16, 2012

Historical Map of India project : Cities of Vijayanagar Empire

Updated map with most cities of the Vijayanagar empire + Bahmani sultanate.Would be useful for anyone mapping history of Vijayanagar.Project  was dormant ofr a long time.As you will see the map will need to be cleaned up further (which I will sooner rather than later).

January 8, 2011

An Explanatory note on the Famines in India

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 6:53 pm
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An Explanatory note on the Famines in India


Note: A pdf version of the article can be downloadedhere: An Explanatory note on the Famines in India.

From 1760 CE   till 1943 India was hit by terrible famines on a regular basis. More than 85 million Indians died in these famines which were in reality genocides   done by the British Raj.Contrast this to the fact that there have been no famine related deaths since independence!!

In the article below I will go over the causes and consequences of British made famines in India. I have used the words famine/genocide interchangeably as what happened in India was no different from genocide.

In the article I have tried to cover as many major points as I could, but it is inevitable that I will have missed quite a few. If brought to my attention I can add them sometime in the future.

1. What is a Famine?

Figure 1 Photograph of Famine Victims (taken from Wikipedia, year of Famine not known, possibly of the Terrible famine of 1899-1902)

A famine is defined as “A famine is a widespread scarcity of food that may apply to any faunal species. This phenomenon is usually accompanied and preceded by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.”[1]

It is better known in Indian languages as a अकाल (Hindi), દુકાળ (Gujarati) or as दुष्काल (Marathi).

Droughts are usually the root cause of famines. In turn droughts where there is a scarcity of life giving water for the crops, are usually the direct causes of crop failure in India. The failure of the crops in turn leads to a scarcity of food in the affected area.  Droughts are themselves usually caused by the failure of monsoons[2].

The failure of monsoons in turn is due to a periodic natural phenomenon known as ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation).ENSO occurs every five to seven years and causes extreme weather such as floods, droughts and other weather disturbances in many regions of the world[3]. Putting it simply, ENSO is like a natural seesaw which   causes the failure of monsoons over India while causing unnatural rainfall over the coast of South America.

So, is the process of famine in India as simple as sequential steps below?

ENSO causes monsoon failure  —> Drought —–> Crops fail—–>Famine——> Millions dead?

Are famines then a natural follow on from   the   droughts caused by ENSO?

Not at all, for the last two steps where there is a food scarcity leading to a famine and consequent deaths are completely avoidable. Even a severe drought can be stopped from developing into a killer famine by Government policies such as: banning export of food grains, rushing   adequate food supplies to the famine affected parts and ensuring equitable distribution, reducing the burden of taxation on people and in general making sure that there are enough reserves to tide through the crises. Famines always give advance notice as they are following on from droughts. With correct policy and timely government intervention   it can be ensured that there are no famine related deaths nor the immense human suffering that precedes a famine.

Post Independence though we have had quite severe droughts, some of them   even leading to famine (in Bihar in 1966-67), there have been no famine related deaths!!

Timely intervention   by the Government of India was the main reason why droughts did not lead to millions of Indians dead. It is to the great credit of the governments of Independent India that they did not let Indians perish due to starvation.

This is precisely why I have referred to   famines in British India as “British Made” (or Man  made) .Millions of lives could have been saved if the British had really been bothered about doing the right thing. Nowadays of course they hypocritically moan about the number of people “starving” in India and gleefully make crap movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” which make them feel good about themselves.

2. The Ideological Framework of Extermination

For any genocide or holocaust there is a certain ideology which drives the killing machine.eg the Islamic invaders committed horrifying massacres in India driven by the ideology of Islam, the Portuguese massacred Hindus in Goa motivated by their Christian faith and the Nazis had their fantasy about being a superior race leading to the murder of millions deemed inferior. Once the ideology provides the justification for mass murder, the methods used to achieve it are just the “tools”. e.g.  burning of Hindus at the stake for refusing to convert to Christianity would be a tool of genocide.

So accordingly the first question that we should be asking is: What was the ideology that was the driving force of the British Empire?

The straight answer to that is: Christianity. The British themselves were very clear about this; even a cursory glance at the documents of that period will make this clear. In addition there exists a multitude of books/papers which explore the synergy between missionaries spreading Christianity and the British colonization   efforts[4]. Hence from here on I will refer to the British rule in India as the Christian British Raj (CBR   for short).

The next question is: How was it possible for the Christian British oppressors to be completely devoid of any feeling towards the dead and dying Indians?

I f you consider people different to you as human beings, it is next to impossible not to be affected by their suffering. But once you start viewing them as “primitive savages” or “heathens”, similar to animals that need to be herded in a particular direction, normal feelings of humanity cease to exist.

How was this desensitisation brought about? From my limited reading it appears that two factors led to the life of the Hindu becoming worthless in his own land. I have arranged them below in order of priority; the most important factor is the first one.

1.1  The “Heathen Hindoo”

(*A Heathen is defined as an uncivilized or barbaric person[5].More commonly used in the sense of someone who does not believe in Christianity. This is a particularly insulting term used towards Hindus by Christian missionaries even today.)

The first step of dehumanising the vast Hindu population of India was to portray them as heathens or unbelievers who were immersed in the “darkness” of Hinduism. According to the missionaries it was the divine duty of the British rulers to “liberate” Hindus from Hinduism[6]. For this they had the active protection and support of the   Christian British Raj. In the doublespeak of Christianity the word “heathen” or “pagan” is equivalent to the “sub human” of the Nazis. i.e. someone whose life has little or no value unless he /she embraces Christianity.

The below  statement made by   a prominent missionary of the late 18th century and early 19th century, a person who had lived for many years in India, illustrates the general attitude towards Hinduism.

Claudius Buchanan, a chaplain attached to the East India Company, counted himself among those who had known the Hindus for a long time.  He had concluded, “Those, who have had the best opportunities of knowing them, and who have known them for the longest time, concur in declaring that neither truth, nor honesty, honour, gratitude, nor charity, is to be found pure in the breast of a Hindoo.  How can it be otherwise?  The Hindoo children have no moral instruction.  If the inhabitants of the British isles had no moral instruction, would they be moral?  The Hindoos have no moral books.  What branch of their mythology has not more of falsehood and vice in it, than of truth and virtue?  They have no moral gods.  The robber and the prostitute lift up their hands with the infant and the priest, before an horrible idol of clay painted red, deformed and disgusting as the vices which are practised before it.”[7]

Was this the ranting of a deranged mind or was this common place Christian missionary propaganda for the British masses? Vicious anti Hindu propaganda such as this was widely disseminated not only among the general public but   was fed to all British employees of the East India Company[8].In addition most of the British administrators/soldiers etc were indoctrinated at church run schools from a very early age[9].

It must be kept in mind that even till thirty-forty years back Britain was a very “Christian” country, where the church played a central role in people’s lives. Much of the negative portrayal of Hinduism in the West   today can be directly traced back to Christian missionary propaganda. Nothing has changed even in the present day as Christian missionaries continue to gather money overseas for conversion of Hindus in India.

Hence the  would be oppressors of India had already a very fixed image of Hindus and Hinduism in their minds. I would call this the primary level of ideology, where it was already decided that Hindus were “bad”.

1.2  Malthusian Mumbo Jumbo

Remember how  for a long time we were bombarded by media propaganda that “population growth is bad”?  Or that we are heading for a disaster as population grows beyond control?

All this screaming about the population explosion being dangerous was specifically directed towards India and China. Western countries   were only concerned about the “population explosion” as the ease with which they mercilessly exploit resources   would be under threat from India & China. The underlying   current   to these “concerns” is the racist fear of the “browns” (Indians), “yellow” (Chinese) and “black” (this referred to both Indians and Africans when racism could be publicly practised) would overrun “white” civilisation. Some   western authors have even made a career out of predicting millions of deaths in India and China due to famines etc!

All this propaganda about “population growth is bad” has died out a bit in recent years as a more realistic viewpoint has emerged .Turns out population growth is  not a “disaster” as was being screamed by the Western media and academics. India is especially poised to reap rich benefits from its population growth as a large segment of the population is of youth. China due to its short sighted “one child” only policy is going to face a rapidly ageing population in the coming years. Most of Europe and Japan are already heading for a demographic disaster as their population falls below replacement levels.

All this western fear of a population explosion derives from the theories proposed by   an academic nutcase by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Malthus taught History and Political Economy at the East India College at Hayleybury in Britian. And it is no surprise that Malthus was   member of the Christian clergy (a priest for short) and was inspired by “Christian principles”.

Hayleybury College can be considered to be the gutter where “well mannered” white Christian men laid out plans for the conquest and decimation of India. This college was where the future British murderers in India were trained.Some prominent  alumni of Hayleybury include  Sir John Lawrence (Viceroy of India from 1864-68),Sir Richard Temple (governot of Bombay presidency from 1877-1880).All the crazy economic and social engineering theories which led to the genocides in India were taught here. We can think of this as similar to a Nazi propaganda centre.

The basic theory as given by Malthus boils down to this[10]:

·         Population growth is bad as population would grow to an extent that the resources would no longer be enough to support it.

·         Two types of checks hold population within resource limits: positive checks, which raise the death rate; and preventative ones, which lower the birth rate.

·         The positive checks include hunger, disease and war; the preventative checks, abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage and celibacy.

The mass murderers who went under the title of “Viceroys of India” were all pass outs from the East India College and deeply influenced by the rubbish taught there. They actually saw the massive death tolls due to famines as a “positive check” on the population of Indians!

This is illustrated in a confidential note sent by to Lord Ripon by one of his subordinates (Ripon was viceroy of India from 1880-1884 CE),

“In the words of Couper: ‘If the famine mortality in 1879 be tested, it will be found that about 80 per cent of the deaths come from the labouring classes, and nearly the whole of the remaining 20 per cent from cultivators owning such minute plots of land as to be hardly removed from labourers.’ Although they died more rapidly than any other, ‘still they reproduce themselves with sufficient rapidity to overcrowd every employment that is opened to them.’”[11]

Malthusian theories still exert tremendous influence on Western governments and intellectuals, as is evident by the constant fears of population growth expressed by them. Added to the Malthusian theories of growth were the economic theories of free trade which emphasised   minimum government interference in trade and advocated maximising profits. I haven’t read much on them at this point in time, I will add more matter once I have read enough to form a reasonable opinion.

All these theories combined to form the Secondary Level of Ideology, which basically acted as the template to justify the genocides subsequently carried out in India.

3. Tools of Genocide

In the passages below I have tried to present as many of the direct causes of the massive deaths in the British   genocides of Indians as I could gather from my limited reading.

3.1 Feed the English, Starve the Indian

In all the famines which took place under the Christian British Raj, there never was a shortage of food in the country overall .In fact during the worst famines, surplus food grains were being exported from India. Nothing illustrates this point better than the graphs below which show that records amount of rice and wheat were being exported out of India, while millions of Indians were dying of starvation. This begs the question: If taking food from the mouth of a starving man while he dies of hunger is not deliberate murder, then what is?

Example 1: The Terrible Indian Famine of 1876-79

Figure 2  Food Exports during the years 1872-1879 (source: Famines in Bengal 1770-1943,K C Ghosh,from pages 28-29)

The terrible famine of 1876-79 was spread out across nearly the whole of southern, western and northern India (Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh).The most realistic estimate of deaths is nearly 10 million. Those who survived the starvation of the famine were finished off by outbreaks of cholera.

During the famine of 1876-79 CE   rice and wheat exports continued more or less as usual. Close to a million tonnes of rice were exported each year while millions of Indians were dying of starvation. As can be seen from   fig.1 in the peak famine year of 1877-78 a record three lakh tonnes of wheat were exported!!

The worst affected area by far   was South India, particularly the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra (what used to be Madras Presidency and Bombay Presidency).

The worst affected districts were as follows:

Name of District
Kadapa Kurnool
Madurai Chingleput
Coimbatore Tanjore
Bellary Chennai
North Arcot South Arcot
Nellore Krishna
Salem Trichinopoly

Lord Lytton (or the “Butcher”) who was the Viceroy of India did not give a damn about the dying farmers. In fact he went out of his way to block any kind of help to the dying millions. An ardent believer of Malthusian mumbo jumbo, he believed that it was only right that the “surplus” Indians were being killed off by famine! The emphasis was always on saving money and he deputed his minion Sir Richard Temple to make sure “unnecessary” expenditure was not done on relief works.

Our culture dictates that hungry people should be given food without any conditions, it is considered reprehensible to make starving people work for food. But the inhuman British ethic was not to give any food unless half dead Indians had done some work in their relief camps.

Figure 3 A photograph of Famine Victims of 1877 CE , their bodies are skeletonised and are very near to death (source Wikipedia)

Temple went one step further and instituted relief camps which were not very different to Nazi concentration camps. People already half dead from starvation had to walk hundreds of miles to reach these relief camps, which   were hell holes (see fig 3 above for an illustration of a typical famine sufferers condition). Additionally he instituted a food ration for starving people working in the camps, which   was less than that given to the inmates of Nazi concentration camps. The rations given to prisoners by the Nazis at Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944 had a calorific value of 1627 calories, while the “Temple” ration for famine victims was 1500 calories[12]!

Half dead Indians were expected to work nine hours in the scorching Indian sun with only 450 grams of rice per day[13]. And this 450 grams of rice was supposed to cover the hunger of any dependents or relations of the worker. Mass death was inevitable on this concentration camp diet.

Temple’s policy was specifically designed to discourage people from using the relief camps and thus lessen the financial burden on the British government.  The British policy of systematic mass murder was very similar to the Nazi policy of getting rid of “undesirables”.

Figure 4 The architect of the terrible genocide of 1876-78, “Butcher” Lytton (image source: Wikipedia)

The situation of the people was desperate. But there was no relief from any quarter. Even as people fell dead outside the grain depots, the CBR took the “sensible” measure of posting armed guards in order   to prevent starving Indians from taking over the export depots[14]. Profits before humanity, that’s the British way!

Horrible scenes such as this were enacted throughout the country: “Scores of corpses were tumbled into old wells, because the deaths were too numerous for the miserable relatives to perform the usual funeral rites. Mothers sold their children for a single scanty meal. Husbands flung their wives into ponds, to escape the torment of seeing them perish by the lingering agonies of hunger. Amid these scenes of death the Government of India kept its serenity and cheerfulness unimpaired.”[15]

Or this one describing a scene from Tamil Nadu: “The greater part of the bed of the river is dry, and I was shocked to see that it had been selected as a burying- place where fresh ashes showed that several bodies had been recently burnt. There are pools of water here and there in the bed, and these are in an abominably foul state, owing to bodies out of the graves having been dragged to the water to be eaten. There were ten or twelve pariah dogs prowling about as fat as sheep, and unusually bold, and there were also vultures sailing overhead or perched on the ground. I had been positively assured that bodies were as often thrown down and left as buried, and that dogs could any day be seen eating them, so I resolved to satisfy myself fully of that. Accordingly, after a couple of minutes’ search, I came upon two dogs worrying over the body of a girl about eight years old. They had newly attacked it, and had only torn one of the legs a little, but the corpse was so enormously bloated that it was only from the total length of the figure one could tell it was a child’s. The sight and smell of the locality were so revolting, and the dogs so dangerous, that I did not stay to look for a second body ; but I saw two skulls and a backbone which had been freshly picked.”[16]

The mass murdering Viceroy, Lord “Butcher” Lytton had given specific orders that the news of the famine should be suppressed. But he went ahead with organising a grand durbar in Calcutta in honour of Queen Victoria .While this sham “durbar” was going on nearly 100,000 Indians died in Madras presidency of starvation.

In places like Mysore terrible atrocities were perpetrated on starving women and children. To quote from Mike Davis book, “When desperate women and their hungry children …attempted to steal from gardens or glean grain from fields, they were “branded, tortured, had their noses cut off, and were sometimes killed.”[17]

Example 2: The Terrible Famines of 1896-97 and 1899-1902

Figure 5 Food exports during the years 1892-1902 (source: Famines in Bengal 1770-1943,K C Ghosh,from pages 28-29)

The same dismal story is repeated again in the terrible famines of 1896-1902.As can be seen from fig 3 above rice and wheat exports soared to record levels in the years where the famine was at its peak. The most conservative estimates of Indians who died in these two killer famines are 8.4 million while the more realistic estimate is about 19 million.

Famines and epidemics went hand in hand. One of the main killers during famines was the sky rocketing prices of food grains which made it impossible for a majority of affected Indians to buy food. This same cause was responsible for the millions of deaths occurring during the epidemics[18]. Again the root cause was of course British economic rape of India.

3.2 The Economic Rape of the Indian Farmer

Why were farmers not able to tide over the particularly bad famine years under the Christian British Raj? It was not as if droughts, crop failures etc had never happened in India prior to the tyranny of the Christian British. So why did a few years of particularly bad drought lead to Indian farmers dying in their millions? Below are some of the main economic reasons for their   inability to survive the famines.

3.2.1        Exploitative Land Tax and Brutal collection methods:

The case of Bengal is illuminating to know how the British bled Indians white, even when farmers had nothing to eat. The British attitude towards tax and revenue extraction remained virtually unchanged till they left India. Bengal was the first to feel the devastating effects of the Christian British rule after East India Company became virtual rulers of the province post Battle of Plassey in 1757 CE. A devastating famine in   1768 CE killed off nearly ten million people in Bengal and Bihar.

Figure 6 Gross Revenue Collected during the Bengal Famine of 1768 (source: R C Dutt, The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule. From the Rise of the British Power in 1757 to the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Vol. I, page 46)

But even while the dance of death was going on, record amounts of tax were recovered from the people by the most violent methods which included murder, rape etc.(see fig 4 above for a graphical representation of the revenues extracted by East India Company).

In Warren Hastings own words, “Notwithstanding the loss of at least one-third of the inhabitants of the province, and the consequent decrease of the cultivation, the nett collections of the year 1771 exceeded even those of I768. . . . It was naturally to be expected that the diminution of the revenue should have kept an equal pace with the other consequences of so great a calamity. That it did not was owing to its being violently kept up to its former standard.”[19]

And what was done to lessen the sufferings of the Indian people?

Absolutely nothing of course! The British   tyrants and the Indian traitors who collaborated with them forced farmers to   sell   seeds required for the next harvest and made immense profits by manipulating the prices of life saving grain[20]. Thus on one hand farmers were deprived of their sole source of future sustenance and on the other hand the sky rocketing prices of food made it impossible to buy life saving food grains!

3.2.2 The Quandary of Cash Crops

Farmers were forced to grow cash crops such as cotton, opium, indigo simply to keep paying off the extortionate demands of the British leeches. The Manchester Chamber of Commerce dictated and controlled the growth of cotton in fertile areas such as Berar (Vidarbha in Maharashtra).The entire social system of   Vidarbha was destroyed so that the British could put in place their own rapacious system known as   khatedari which was implemented in 1877 CE [21].The old landlord families were either destroyed or pauperised and the British government became the supreme owner of the farm lands.

Crops such as cotton grew readily in the fertile black soil of Deccan but had the side effect of destroying the fertility of the soil. In addition the British parasites even turned cow dung which had acted as a natural fertiliser, into a taxable revenue source[22].The   Manchester Chamber of Commerce pushed for the introduction of railways in Vidarbha so that it could have a vast   captive cotton growing plantation. The capitalists of Britain wanted a secure source of   raw cotton which they could turn to in case of any fluctuations in cotton supply from America. The poor farmers of Vidarbha were instantly exposed to the fluctuations in the world markets and had absolutely no share in the massive profits made by the British bloodsuckers. Thus when famine hit the impoverished farmers died in their lakhs.

Also increasing indebtness forced the farmers to sell their plots of land to sahukars (money lenders).This led to the concentration of fertile lands in the hands of a few thousand very rich non -resident landlords. The previously self sufficient farmer was forced to work as a labourer on his own land. Even those farmers who managed to hold on to their land, the acreage under their ownership was for most part between 5-6 acres, which was not sufficient to support the farmer and his family. Added to this was an influx of artisans, craftsmen etc   who had been thrown out of work due to the British murder of Indian industry. They had no option but to work as   labourers on bigger farms with virtually no resources to withstand a famine. The   grim story of Vidarbha was repeated in Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc.

3.2.3        The Tyranny of Taxation

The   amount of tax traditionally paid by the farmer   under the Maratha empire (or previously the Mughal regime) was between 16-17% of the   gross produce[23]. Again this was flexible depending on the conditions prevailing.ie if crops had failed the demand by the state would be reduced or in some cases suspended for the time being. What this used to do was to leave farmers with enough reserves to tide   them over though difficult times.eg under the Maratha Empire tax collection was flexible and kept in line with the circumstances of the day.

But under the Christian British Raj there was no such humanitarian response to the   life threatening crises faced by the Indian farmer. The tax itself came to about 33% of gross produce[24]. But this tax was not the end of things. On top of this basic tax were different taxes for roads, schools, post offices, dispensary, water tax etc. Taxes were levied on the most flimsy of excuses and the poor farmer had   no protection against the brutal force exercised by the British rulers. All these miscellaneous taxes added upto nearly   100% of the farmers real assets!![25]

The worst thing was that the British government would confiscate food stocks at the time of revenue collection. The ryots(farmers) had no option but to borrow money at rip off interest rates from money lenders to release their grain stocks[26].In fact the entire class of bloodsucking moneylenders came into existence because of the policies of the Christian British Raj.

The way taxes were raised was extremely arbitrary and without any basis in reality. The rise was based on the value of the land, so called “public works” done by the CBR (which included railways, roads, schools, dispensaries etc). The tax was raised irrespective of the fact whether the farmer was getting better prices for his produce or not. This inevitably led to the situation of the already beggared farmer paying over 100% of his earnings in tax. Also, the arbitrary rise in taxes could not be appealed in the courts in Bombay Presidency. Thus there was not even the illusion of justice.

Quite a few examples are given of   the unsustainable level of debt   burden carried by Indian  farmers in RC Dutts “Famine and Land Assessments”. To quote one of these,

Murar the Patel, a young man, farms sixty acres, but there has been no produce this year. The farm is mortgaged to the extent of about 3000 rupees. He estimates his last year’s produce at 375 rupees, of which he paid 104 rupees to Government. He had to buy four bullocks for 100 rupees, and pay 40 rupees for servants, and was therefore unable to pay anything to the money-lender. The other expenses of cultivation amounted to nearly 60 rupees. He kept the rest for himself, his wife, uncle, and two children. He has been served with notice of assessment. He had six bullocks, and has lost four”.[27]

The net effect of this crushing taxation was to strip away   any saving capability of the farmers in years when the harvests were good. The following observation by A K Connell illustrates this point well,

Against this calamity (drought) the cultivator, when unable to get a permanent water-supply from wells,* tanks, canals, or rivers, has provided   from, time immemorial by the storage  of grain in air-tight pits or earthen¬ ware jars. If war or taxation, levied in excess, or at times of distress, has depleted these stores, then the worst horrors of famine have swept over the land;”[28]

The farmers were permanently in deep debt to money lenders just to keep paying the extortionate tax demands. They had to sell even their reserve food stocks just to stay afloat. This left the   farmer with no   buffer   when famines hit   him. With every passing year the farmers sank deeper into desperate poverty and further into the clutches of money lenders. Every year lakhs of farmers were dispossessed of their small plots of land.

In fact   in the Bombay and Madras Presidencies   the land tax demands kept on increasing every thirty years by an extortionate amount. For e.g. when the remnants of the Maratha empire were finally conquered by the British in 1817 CE the revenue  from those parts was  80 Lakhs, within a year it went upto 115 lakhs and in a few more years it was 150 lakhs[29]. So   between 1817 and 1818   in a span of one year there was a jump of nearly 43% in the actual revenue collected!

How was this possible? Did the farmers of   Deccan feel so happy at being conquered by the British that they expressed their joy   by paying more tax? Or did the soil become super productive thanks to the British “genius”?

The reality was horrifying and dismal. Farmers were fleeced of every spare anna on their persons. Brutal collection methods were employed to force   farmers to part with their meagre savings. Unable to withstand the torture meted out by the British on non payment of taxes many farmers abandoned their lands and fled into the areas ruled by the Princely states[30].Millions of acres of previously fertile land went out of cultivation as farmers voted with their feet and abandoned their lands[31].

3.3   So….Where did the money go?

You   will be justified in asking the question  … “Where did all this revenue extracted by the British murderers go?”

The major part of the revenue was sent to Britain. Every year nearly   20-30 million pounds were drained from India[32].This did not include the enormous amount of   money paid as salaries to the white British who occupied nearly all the important positions in India. In 1892 itself the total value of the jobs reserved for white British was over 15 million pounds sterling while the value of jobs reserved for Indians was little over 3 million pounds[33]!

Additionally we need to add to the above amounts the huge amount of personal wealth accumulated by white traders, officers etc who remitted most of it back to Britain. For a better idea of the huge amounts of wealth drained out of India by the British parasites, I would recommend reading R C Dutts books.

Another big drain on India’s finances was the cost of   maintenance of   Britain’s armed forces and funding its wars overseas. To give an example: while butcher Lytton blocked any “excess” expenditure on saving the victims of the famine of 1876-78, he fully utilised Indian revenues to fund his disastrous afghan war adventure (this was the second Anglo-afghan war fought from 1878-1880 CE). The same thing happened during the genocide of 1898-1902; our money was used to fund the Boer war in South Africa and the Third Anglo-Afghan war. Strange as it may sound, we were actually paying the British to kill us and carry on their genocides elsewhere.

3.3.1 The Fraud of the “Famine Grant”

After the terrible holocaust of 1876-78, another money grabbing tax was dumped upon Indians. This was known as the “Annual Famine Grant”. Theoretically what it was supposed to do was to raise enough money to prevent another holocaust like that of 1876-78 recurring.

But the tax was hated by Indians as soon as it was levied in 1877 CE and for a very good reason. After   putting on a show that the funds were not being misused, the money collected in the name of the famine grant was quietly combined with the general revenue of the country[34]. This meant the British parasites could use the money as they wanted. By the time the next terrible holocaust of 1897-1902 hit, over 22 crore rupees had been collected under this fraudulent   tax, out of which only 17 crore rupees had been spent[35].

But how was this giant reservoir of Indian money used? Nearly 58% of the seventeen crore rupees (to the tune of 10 crore rupees) was spent on “protective railways” and in paying “interest upon Indian Midland and Bengal Nagpore railways”!

3.3.1.1  Hey wait a minute…. Weren’t Railways Good for India?

Wait a minute you say…Wasn’t spending money on developing railway infrastructure a good thing? After all   weren’t the British parasites spending the money on “creating” modern infrastructure in India? So, what’s the catch?

First of all, the money was being collected for a very specific purpose i.e. to make sure that a repeat of 1876-78 famine did not occur. Using it for anything else was simply a theft   of funds.

Secondly, the existence of railways did not help in any way saving people from famine. All they did was to make the transport of food grains towards the coastal ports easier, thus depriving inner provinces of much needed food grain .The advent of railways was directly linked to the rise in food prices[36].If food prices shot up in one area, the food price rise was transmitted to other areas as well. This only served to worsen the starvation problem as poor farmers already drowning in debt due to excessive taxation were simply unable to buy any food. By this stage the poor farmers had already sold their last stocks of grain to moneylenders thus leaving them defenceless in face of famine.

The railways were also carriers of epidemic diseases such as cholera, influenza etc. Indians died in their millions due to these epidemic, their immune systems destroyed by starvation. Plus the traditional water drainage and water conservation systems were destroyed by the haphazardly constructed railway embankments, tracks etc.

Could the government have interfered and made sure the food prices did not sky rocket out of the reach of the poor and could the railways have been used to rush life saving food grains? This should have been done but never was; the British policy was not to interfere with “free trade”. i.e. their profits should not be affected!

Instead each devastating holocaust was used as to reap more profits for the British vultures by using the excuse that “there was not enough railway to make sure starvation does not take place” and thus more railway tracks were laid at the Indian tax payers expense!!

By the time of the holocaust of 1898 almost   26,059 miles of railway track had been laid down in India Even at this stage R C Dutt describes the railways as being “overdone”.

Thirdly, most of the railway projects in India were specifically designed to make British speculators and capitalist vulture’s very rich. A minimum return profit of 5% was guaranteed by the British raj to British investors, irrespective of whether the railways made a profit or a loss[37]. Most of the railway lines made losses or served no practical purpose, but British investors still made a large profit as all losses were paid by the Indian tax payer. There are many examples of how speculators in London dictated what lines should be constructed and what profits they would extract from the Indian tax payer.

Fourthly, the forced expansion to railways in India was primarily for the benefit of British industry. Everything including coal, steel for tracks/bridges etc, railway engines, and rolling stock was imported from Britain[38]. In fact at one stage it was cheaper to buy British coal in Calcutta than Bengal coal[39]!

There was zero benefit to Indians from the “modern technology” dumped on our heads by the British leeches. For nothing was produced in India! Any attempt by Indians to set up manufacturing facilities in India was forcefully discouraged.

Freight on the railways was heavily subsidized, thus directly undercutting traditional transports such as boats which plied the major river systems. As any loss made by the railways was picked up by the Indian tax payer, the British Raj had no problems with the huge losses made by the railways. By 1884   the total loss made by the railways in India was staggering £37 million pounds sterling[40].

This was what an astute British observer had to say about railways being constructed in India (specifically with reference to districts of Raipur & Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, Sambhalpur in Orissa):

At present there is no doubt that the peasantry in these districts are most prosperous. They make their own clothes ,they grow their own food; they have good pasture for their cattle, cheap fuel, and forests to attract rain. A railway will destroy the home weaving, absorb the profits of the carriers, cut down the forests, inflate wages and then depress them, and finally raise the land-tax. In twenty years’ time there will most probably be a famine.”[41]

The railway line in question was the Bengal-Nagpur Railway which was completed by 1890.This was a remarkably prophetic prediction as within ten years (in the holocaust of 1898) these districts suffered lakhs of deaths due to starvation and economic impoverishment.

3.3.1.2 But wasn’t some of the Famine grant used for “Protective Irrigation”?

Along with the railways, irrigation works (i.e. canals, dams etc) are frequently trumpeted as an example of “good” that the British did in India. But the fact remains that they were only built in those areas where the British had a commercial interest in growing grains or cash crops.

Even where built, they had a devastating effect on the fertility of the soils and on the general health of the Indian people. Previously fertile soil was rendered saline and waterlogged, unfit for cultivation due to the seepage of water through the canals[42]. The construction of river embankments led to a blocking of the natural system of rich fertile alluvial soil being carried by river action to the low lying plains. This in turn rapidly made millions of acres of fertile land useless and considerably lowered the quality of drinking water. The natural drainage systems were further blocked by the “modern” system of canals and embankments leading to water logging and creation of mosquito breeding swamps[43]. Due to these, malaria, cholera etc spread on an epidemic scale in India; killing millions (the toll from the epidemics actually comes close to the famine toll).e.g. the Influenza epidemic of 1918-19 killed approximately 12-13 million Indians.[44]

Traditional Indian irrigation systems were neglected and allowed to fall into ruin. Here is a British officer’s description of the superb irrigation systems of pre-British India (the below refers to south India):

In no part of the world has so much been done by ancient native rulers for the development of resources of the country. The further south one goes ,and the further the old Hindu polity was removed from the disturbing influence of foreign conquest ,the more complete and elaborate was the system of agriculture and irrigation works connected with it….Every available source of supply was utilised ,and works in advance of supply have been executed, for tanks  have been very generally constructed, not only for general rainfall, but for exceptional rainfall…Irrigation from rivers and channels..was also carried on.[45]

The British had no economic benefit of maintain and extending this system, so they let it fall into ruin. If these systems worked fine, what was the point of constructing expensive canal works which led to disaster?

4. The Devastating Effect of the British made Holocausts

4.1 Stagnation of Population Growth & a Short Life Span

Due to the horrific death toll extracted by the successive holocausts of the 19th and 20th centuries population growth stagnated and in many areas of India even went into negative. (Unless otherwise specified, all the data has been taken from the census reports for the relevant years).

Decade Life Expectancy
1871-81 24.6
1881-91 25
1891-1901 23.8
1901-11 22.9
1911-21 20.1

Table 1 Average Life Expectancy of Indians from 1871-1921 (source:  Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659)

If you were an Indian living in the 1920’s the chances of your surviving beyond the age of twenty were extremely slim. The average life span of Indians went on steadily decreasing as the 1920’s approached. Table 1 above gives an idea of the average life expectancy of our people under the “beneficial” rule of the Christian British Raj.

Figure 7 Population in millions under British rule

 

Figure 8 Percentage increase in population from 1881-1941 under the Christian British Raj

From figures 6 & 7   above   it is clear that for most part of the British rule population growth was more or less stagnant. Over a period of 70 years the population grew by barely 100 million. The effect of devastating british made genocides can be seen in the census reports of 1881,1901,1921.What the graphs do not show is the terrible Bengal genocide of 1943 in which nearly seven million people died, as the last census under the Christian British Raj was done in 1941.

Now look at the same graphs below (fig 8 & 9) for population growth after independence in 1947.Keep in mind this does not include more than 33% of pre 1947 India. After 1947, Pakistan (Bangladesh and the present day rump remaining of West Pakistan), Burma etc were separated from India.

But even in the remaining Indian landmass the population has grown by over 500 million from 1961-2001!! From a simple glance at figures 6 and 8, it looks like some kind of a negative force has been taken off after 1947 and the population growth is back to normal.

The average percentage population growth after independence is around 23%!!

Figure 9  Population  growth in Azad Hind after 1947

 

Figure 10 Percentage increase in Population after 1947 in Azad Hind

 

4.2 Destruction of Traditional Indian Society

If we start talking about destruction of   traditional Indian village society, the logical question arises: “What was Indian society before the British conquest like?”

Going in detail is beyond the scope of this article, for a detailed description a reading of Sri Dharampal’s book “A Beautiful Tree” is highly recommended. For the time being as we are concerned with famine and traditional Indian society’s response to it, this short description by A K Connell will suffice,

The spirit of charity, deeply engrained in the native heart, has held the village society together, so that even the landless classes—with the exception perhaps of the very lowest outcasts—have been kept alive by their richer neighbours[46] .

This harmony and humanity of traditional Indian society was what kept droughts from developing into murderous holocausts. But this harmonious system broke down under the constant pressure and manipulation by the Christian British Raj. As we saw above, even in normal times simple survival had become a constant struggle for Indian farmers. Added to this the removal of traditional powers of the village chiefs   and into the hands of   inhuman British revenue/settlement officers destroyed the traditional village   accountability.

The horrors of the British made   holocausts destroyed traditional Indian society in more ways than one. As all hope of life ran out, village communities who had existed peacefully for centuries turned on each other for that last morsel of grain. Terrible violence followed as farmers fought for   the last stored supplies of grain[47].The Deccan region, covering Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka was worst affected in the holocausts of 1876 and 1898-1902.

Rural society in Maharashtra broke down under the relentless hammering of the British made holocausts. The   farmers in Maharashtra were traditionally militarised and had formed the backbone of the Maratha armies which brought down the Mughal Empire and kept the British parasites at bay for nearly a hundred years. But in the new circumstances groups which had traditionally lived and fought side by side, turned on each other[48].

Many villages were completely wiped off the map as almost all of their inhabitants died in the famines. Lakhs of Indians were forced by starvation to sign up as indentured labourers (a polite name for slaves) and shipped off to work in plantations in Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Guyana and Natal[49].

The condition of Indian women under the Christian British Raj was especially bad, but under famine it became even worse. Rape, sexual abuse and exploitation of Indian women were normal and accepted British practices. Under the racist justice system in India, white British and Anglo-Indians routinely got away with rape and murder.  Official British propaganda portrayed all Indian women (no exceptions) as “prostitutes” and carriers of sexually transmitted diseases (such as syphilis, gonorrhoea etc )[50].

In short the according to the British: Indian women had no honour and could be violated at will. In every military cantonment brothels (filled with Indian women) were constructed for the “exclusive” use of British soldiers[51].These were known as “sadr” bazaars. In times of famine, desperate starving Indian women were forced to work as prostitutes simply in order to survive and keep their children alive[52].Keeping in line with their hypocrisy, the British authorities simply designated them as professional prostitutes and subjected them to the degrading “medical examinations”. But white soldiers were exempt from being examined for sexually transmitted diseases as it would affect their morale!

In most   British orchestrated genocides such as the Bengal Famine of 1943, the death rate amongst male Indians was very high, leading to lakhs of women being left defenceless against being exploited by the British and their Indian collaborators. Mass prostitution resulted from the dire circumstances of the famine[53].

4.3 Harvesting the Dead

The main winners from these genocides apart from the British government, British people and speculators in London were   the Christian missionaries. I personally consider a Christian missionary to be the worst form of a human being. They thrive on the suffering, misery and distress of people. Their entire life revolves around converting non Christians by fraud, coercion or force. Their chief concern in life is “harvesting souls”, which is missionary speak for converting as many people as they can. Much like Islamic suicide bombers who are motivated by the promise of 72 virgin women in the next life, Christian missionaries are motivated by the premise of capturing the maximum number of souls before they depart this earth.

In India every famine/ disaster was a godsend for missionaries as they were able to convert lakhs of desperate people by holding out the promise of life saving grain. The interesting thing is that majority of   missionaries were white Europeans or Americans and had an ample supply of   food grains even when Indians were falling dead all around them.

In the later phase of British colonial rule, Indian converts to Christianity were increasingly used to ensure greater “penetration” of Hindu society. The spread of Christianity in India on a large scale closely coincides with the occurrence of famines/epidemics. Mahatma Gandhi called people who converted to Christianity under extreme circumstances as “rice Christians”.

Figure 11  Percentage Growth of Christians in India from 1871-1921 (all data sourced from Relevant census reports)

As can be seen from the graph there is a spurt in the number of Christians   in 1881 (right after the genocide of 1876-78), 1901 (during the genocide of 1898-1902), 1921 (after the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919).This shows as bogus the claims of missionaries that Hindus converted to Christianity to “escape” the caste system (or whatever vile reason they could come up with).

Here is an example of mass conversions during famine,

The high-water mark in the history of the Tinnevelly Church was reached in the year 1877. That year has been made ever memorable by the great famine which desolated the south. Ordinary missionary work was retarded in a heroic effort to save human life. Relief was rendered to Hindu and Christian alike ; hundreds were saved from starvation and death. In a few months 30,000 Shanans placed themselves under Christian instruction, not so much with a view to material gain as that they had felt the attractive power of love, ” The conviction prevailed “ so wrote Bishop Caldwell, “ that whilst Hinduism had left the famine-stricken to die, Christianity had stepped in like an angel from heaven with its sympathy to cheer them with its effectual succour.”[54]

Or this account of a Maharashtrian lady called Ramabai, who had converted to Christianity and zealously prayed for Hindu women to be widowed so she could convert them! The sickness of her mind can only be marvelled at!

The great famines of 1896-1897 and of 1900 gave Ramabai her opportunity. Before the earlier famine she asked that God would give her a great increase of conversions and prayed for a number of widows far in excess of anything her institution could hold. On the outbreak of famine she travelled to the Central Provinces. When the famine was over she had between five and six hundred women and children.”[55]

5.  In Conclusion: Famines as a Strategic British Weapon

Thanks to   Parag Tope ji, Brihaspati ji and Atri ji from Bharat Rakshak for pointing out the strategic aspect of the British genocides in India. I will very briefly go over the possible strategic reasons behind the British genocides in India. These are just brief outlines of selected areas, a determined patriot will need to do deeper research and connect the dots.

Maharashtra/Rajasthan: In heavily militarised societies such as in the Deccan and Rajasthan, even common people used to take up arms to fight invaders such as the Mughals, British etc. In fact the backbone of the Maratha armies were farmers from the Deccan. The pan Indian character of the Maratha Empire is illustrated by the fact that in the Anglo-Indian war of 1857, the main leaders (Tantia Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai, Nanasaheb Peshwa) were Maharashtrian, but the people of   Northern India threw their weight behind them in the war of liberation.

The destruction of this sturdy village society was essential to the British not only for easy economic exploitation but for total control over India. A heavily militarised society was bound to fight back against the injustices inflicted by the British. Once entire social classes were destroyed and people reduced to eating scraps for survival, the chances of a fully fledged pan Indian war were significantly reduced. The terrible famines of   1791-92, 1802-03, 1813-14, 1876-78, and 1898-1902 completely destroyed the social fabric of rural society in Maharashtra.

Uttar Pradesh: During the Anglo-Indian war of 1857, the British pursued a policy of   mass genocide by killing lakhs of villagers in Northern India. These villagers had been the main source of support and logistics to the freedom fighters. This genocide was directly responsible for the terrible famine of 1860 in Uttar Pradesh & Punjab. Over two million Indians died in this famine. The reason given for the famine of 1860 was that there was not enough land being cultivated due to a lack of   farmers who were either dead or had fled to safer areas during 1857.

Bengal Presidency: The two main famines which hit Bengal Presidency were in 1769-1772   and in 1942-44.Over 17 million people died in these two genocides. In 1769-1772 the famine was particularly advantageous for the British as they were facing ferocious resistance from armies of Sanyasis (immortalised in the great patriotic novel Anandamath by  Sri Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay).The death of nearly ten million people in the famine virtually destroyed the local support base of resistance to the British.

In 1942, the “brave” British armed forces were being thrashed black and blue by the Japanese. The Japanese had chased the British right till the gates of India. Leading the attack on the British were the patriots of the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) under the inspiring leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Once the INA   forces reached Bengal it was a certainty that the people of Bengal would join them. At that point it would be have been game over for the British in India.

To avert this, the British administration destroyed over 25,000 boats which were the lifeline of the people in Bengal. Plus food stocks were confisticated from  a large part of Bengal, thus condemning the people to death by starvation. Within months the Bengali people were fighting for survival and this destroyed the support base of the INA. The toll from the genocide of 1942-44 was horrific and over seven million Bengalis died in this genocide.

The above are just select examples of how the British pursued a genocidal scorched earth policy against our people whenever their rule was threatened.

Only by reading our history can we appreciate the magnitude of sacrifices made by Vasudev Balwant Phadke,Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, Masterda Surya Sen and countless others. And we also can begin to understand why many of our freedom fighters performed the supreme sacrifice with Vande Mataram on their lips. We need to get out of the one track mind set which seems to pervade our country and become more alive to the threats from within and without.

वन्दे मातरम्


[2] Strictly speaking this type of a drought is known as a “meteorological drought”. There are two more types of droughts namely “hydrological” and “agricultural”. For simplicity I have mentioned only the meteorological drought. Although all three can be considered linked to one another especially in India.

[4] Susan Visvanathan, The Homogeneity of Fundamentalism: Christianity, British Colonialism and India in the Nineteenth Century, Studies in History, 2000,16:221

[6] Claudius Buchanan, Memories of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India: Both as the means of Perpetuating the Christian Religion Among Our Countrymen; And as a Foundation for the Ultimate Civilization of the Natives, London, 1805, Part II, para 6.quoted in Sita Ram Goel, History if Hindu-Christian Encounters AD304 to 1996,Chapter 8.availiable at : http://voiceofdharma.org/books/hhce/index.htm

[7] Ibid.

[8]Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Recruitment and training of British civil servants in India, 1600–1860’.quoted by  Ian Copeland, CHRISTIANITY AS AN ARM OF EMPIRE: THE AMBIGUOUS CASE OF INDIA UNDER THE COMPANY, c. 1813 –1858,The Historical Journal, 49, 4 (2006), pp. 1025–1054

[9] Ibid, see 7 above.

[10] I have taken this from the Wikipedia article on Malthus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Malthus#1815:_The_Nature_of_Rent

[11] Malthusian Population Theory and Indian Famine Policy in the Nineteenth CenturyAuthor(s): S. Ambirajan. Source: Population Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Mar., 1976), pp. 5-14

[12] Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 39,table 1.3.

[13] Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 38

[14] Digby quoted by Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 45.

[15] Osborne quoted by Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 53

[16] Digby, William (1878), The Famine Campaign in Southern India: Madras and Bombay Presidencies and province of Mysore, 1876-1878, Volume 1,page105

[17] Klein & Elliott quoted by Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 46.

[18] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting

[19] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, pg.53,  quoting Hunter’s “Annals from Rural Bengal”.

[20] Ibid,page 44

[21] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 313

[22] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 327

[23] Ibid,page 19

[24] Ibid,page 23

[25] Ibid,page 26

[26] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 325

[27] Ibid,page 110

[28] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 9

[29] ibid,page 43.

[30] Ibid,page 43

[31] Ibid, page 37

[32] R C Dutt, Indian Famines and Their Causes, page  10

[33] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, preface xix

[34] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, pg.78

[35] R C Dutt,Famines and Land Assessments, pg.79

[36] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 34,table 4.1,quoting M.Mukherjee

[37] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 32

[38] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 33

[39] Economic History of India; From Pre-colonial Times to 1991,Dietmar Rothermund, page 33

[40] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 6

[41] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 6-7,footnote.

[42] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting R. B. Lal and K. S. Shah

[43] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting R. B. Lal and K. S. Shah

[44] Death in India, 1871-1921Author(s): Ira Klein, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Aug., 1973), pp. 639-659,quoting Census of India, 1921

[45] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 336,quoting Col.Anderson.

[46] Indian pauperism, free trade and railways: a paper read before the East India Association, 1884,Connell, A. K. Source: Bristol Selected Pamphlets, (1884),page 10

[47] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 49

[48] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 339,quoting Kaiwar

[49] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 112

[50] Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602,quoting:IOL, L/MIL/7/13810, Surgeon-General of Bengal to Director-General, Army Medical Department, London, June 9, 1884, Letter 9903-A.

[51] Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine: Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602

[52] Venereal Disease, Prostitution, and the Politics of Empire: The Case of British IndiaAuthor(s): Philippa Levine: Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Apr., 1994), pp. 579-602

[53] K CGhosh,Famine in Bengal 1770-1943,page 83

[54] S K Datta, The Desire of India ,Page 178-79

[55] S K Datta, The Desire of India Page 249

December 12, 2010

Appendix I: Breakup of the Famine death Total, with a list of Good books on the subject

Filed under: British Misrule — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 8:53 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

1. Breakup of the Total  Deaths:

Name of Famine Time Span of  the Famine Areas Affected by the Famine

Maximum Estimate of Deaths

Intermediate Estimate of Deaths

Minimum Estimate of Deaths

Most likely Estimate of Deaths

Bengal Famine of 1770 1769-1772 

 

Bengal (east and west),Bihar,parts of Orissa and Jharkhand 

 

10 million[i] 10 million
Madras Famine of 1782 & Chalisa Famine 

 

1782-1783,
1783-1784 

 

Madras Famine affected areas surrounding Chennai and parts of Karnataka. Chalisa affected Uttar Pradesh,parts of Rajasthan,Delhi and Kashmir 

 

11 million[ii] 11 million
Doji Bara (Skull Famine) 

 

1791-1792 

 

Tamil Nadu, 

Maharashtra,

Andhra Pradesh,

Gujarat,Rajasthan

 

11 million[iii] 

 

11 million 

 

Famine in Bombay Presidency 

 

1802-1803 

 

Maharashtra 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known[iv] 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known 

 

Famine in Rajputana 

 

1803-1804 

 

Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan 

 

Low mortality but number of deaths not known[v] 

 

Low mortality but number of deaths not known 

 

Famine in Madras Presidency 

 

1805-1807 

 

Tamil Nadu? 

 

High mortality but number of deaths[vi] not known 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known 

 

Famine in Rajputana 

 

1812-1813 

 

Rajasthan 

 

2 million[vii] 

 

1.5 million[viii] 

 

2 million
Famine in Bombay Presidency of 1813 

 

1813-1814 

 

Maharashtra, Gujarat(not sure?) 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known[ix] 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known 

 

 

Famine in Madras Presidency

 

 

1823

 

 

Tamil Nadu?

 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known[x]

 

 

 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known

 

Guntur Famine/Famine in Madras Presidency 

 

1833-1834 

 

Modern day Guntur and related districts of Andhra Pradesh which formed the Northern part of Madras Presidency during British Rule 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known 

 

2 lakhs (this estimate is only for Guntur,many deaths in Nellore, Masalipatnam & Chennai not accounted for)[xi] 

 

2 lakhs (this estimate is only for Guntur,many deaths in Nellore, 

Masalipatnam & Chennai not accounted for)

 

Agra Famine of 1837-38 

 

1837-1838 

 

Uttar Pradesh,parts of Rajasthan,Delhi, 

parts of Madhya Pradesh,parts of Haryana

 

1 million[xii] 

 

8 lakhs 

 

1 million
Famine in Madras Presidency 

 

1854 

 

Tamil Nadu? 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known[xiii] 

 

High mortality but number of deaths not known 

 

Famine in Northern India 

 

1860-1861 

 

Uttar Pradesh,Punjab 

 

2 million[xiv] 

 

2 million 

 

Orissa Famine of 1866 

 

1865-1868 

 

Orissa,Parts of coastline of 

Tamil Nadu,

Andhra Pradesh,

parts of Bihar and Bengal

 

1.8 million[xv] 

 

1.8 million 

 

Rajputana famine of 1869 

 

1868-1870 

 

Rajasthan? 2.7 million[xvi] 

 

1.2 million[xvii] 2.7 million
Bihar Famine of 1873-74 

 

1873-1874 Bengal, Bihar ,Uttar Pradesh 

 

no recorded deaths[xviii] 

 

no recorded deaths 

 

Great Indian Famine of 1876-78 

 

1876-1879 

 

Tamil Nadu, 

Maharashtra,

Andhra Pradesh,

Rajasthan,

Uttar Pradesh,

Karnataka,

Haryana,

Madhya Pradesh

 

10.3 million[xix] 

 

8.2 million[xx] 

 

6.1 million[xxi] 

 

10.3 million
Famine of 1880 

 

1880 

 

Maharashtra, 

Andhra Pradesh (old Hyderabad state),Madhya Pradesh,Chattisgarh,

Uttar Pradesh

 

Famine was severe but number of deaths not known[xxii] 

 

Famine was severe but number of deaths not known 

 

 

Famine of 1884-1885

 

 

1884-1885

 

 

Punjab,Bengal,Bihar

,Jharkhand, parts of Karnataka

 

 

7.5 lakhs[xxiii]

 

 

 

 

7.5 lakhs

 

Madras Famine of 1888-1889 

 

1888-1889 

 

Orissa,parts of Bihar 

 

1.5 million[xxiv] 

 

1.5 million 

 

Famine of 1892 

 

1891-1892 

 

Old Madras presidency (not sure if coastal Andhra which used to be part of Madras presidency and parts of Karnataka were affected),Maharashtra,Rajasthan,Bengal, 

Upper Burma

 

1.62 million[xxv] 

 

1.62 million 

 

Famine of 1896-1897 

&

Famine of 1899-1902

 

1896- 1897   & 

1899-    1902

 

Uttar Pradesh,Tamil Nadu(?Old Madras Presidency),Bengal, 

Madhya Pradesh,

Chattisgarh,

Maharashtra,
Punjab,Gujarat,

Rajasthan,parts of Orissa,Sindh,

Karnataka

 

19 million[xxvi] 

 

8.4 million[xxvii] 

 

6.1million[xxviii] 

 

19 million
Famine of 1907-1908 

 

1907-1908 Uttar Pradesh,Uttarakhand 

 

3.2 million[xxix] 

 

2.1 million[xxx] 

 

3.2 million 

 

Bengal Famine of 1943 

 

1942-1944 

 

Bengal 

 

7 million[xxxi] 

 

3.5 million[xxxii] 

 

1.5 million[xxxiii] 

 

7 million 

 

Total Deaths 85 million (approx.)

Essential Reading:

Before we go any further, I would like to recommend a few books which are essential reading for every Indian, irrespective of whether you like history or not.

1.      Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World, Mike Davis, Verso Books.

The book has excellent research drawing on a variety of sources, both Indian and foreign to show the true nature of British rule in India. Gives detail explanations of the deliberate policy of maximising revenue while millions of Indians perished in the famines. Also explodes some myths of “progress” due to the British such as railways, telegraph etc. Get your hands on one and read from beginning till the end.

2.      “Famines and Land Assessments in India”, Romesh Chunder Dutt. Available for free download from : http://www.archive.org/stream/faminesandlanda00duttgoog

R C Dutt was a brilliant Bengali economic historian who had served for as a civil servant in the British government in India. His books lay bare the British policy of funnelling wealth and food out of India at the expense of millions of Indian lives.

3.      The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule. From the Rise of the British Power in 1757 to the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. Vol. I, Romesh Chunder Dutt.

The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age. From the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 to the Commencement of the Twentieth Century, Vol. II, Romesh Chunder Dutt.

The above two books are specifically focused on the economic loot of India from the time of East India Company (1757 CE onwards) till 1901-1902 CE.A must read to get an idea of the resources and wealth looted from India by the British.

4. Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Forgotten Indian Famine of World War II, Madhusree Mukherjee, 2010.

The above books   is about the terrible Bengal Famine of 1943 and presents evidence of British deliberately starving nearly 7 million Bengalis to death.

I believe the book is available at a very reasonable rate in India. We need to buy such books to encourage Indian authors to research and write the true version of our history.


References for Figures Listed in Table 1:

[i] Dutt, Romesh Chunder (1908). The economic history of India under early British rule, Pg 52

[ii] Grove, Richard H. (2007), “The Great El Nino of 1789–93 and its Global Consequences: Reconstructing an Extreme Climate Event in World Environmental History”, The Medieval History Journal 10 (1&2): 75–98

[iii] ibid

[iv] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.3

[v] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.4

[vi] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 :  Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.4

[vii] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127

[viii] RC Dutt.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.4

[ix] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.5

[x] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.5

[xi] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.6

[xii] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.6-7

[xiii] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.7

[xiv] Fieldhouse, David (1996), “For Richer, for Poorer?”, in Marshall, P. J., The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 400, pp. 132

[xv] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.127.
Reference 2 :  Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.9

[xvi] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128.

[xvii] Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.9

[xviii] Reference 1: Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128.
Reference 2 : Dutt,RC.Famines and Land Assessments in India,Pg.9

[xix] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128

[xx] A Maharatna, The Demography of Famine. quoted by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxi] R Seavoy,Famine in Peasant Societies,New York 1986,quoted by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxii] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128

[xxiii] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.128

[xxiv] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.129

[xxv] Digby,William.Prosperous British India,Pg.129

[xxvi] The Lancet 16 may 1901, quoted in Mike Davis.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1

[xxvii] A Maharatna, The Demography of Famine. quoted by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxviii] Cambridge Economic History of India,Cambridge 1983;quoted by by Mike Davis,Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 7,table P1.

[xxix] Maharatna quoted by Mike Davis,.Late Victorian Holocausts,El Nino Famines and Making of the Third World,pg 174

[xxx] Ibid

[xxxi] Bengal Tiger and British Lion: An Account of the Bengal Famine of 1943,Richard Stevenson,Pg.139

[xxxii] Famines in Bengal:1770-1943,K C Ghosh,pg.111

[xxxiii] Famine Inquiry Commision Report,1943.Pg.110

June 26, 2010

Battle of Raichur

The pdf of the following article is available here: Battle of Raichur

Preface

The battle of Raichur was fought   in 1520 CE between the Vijayanagar Empire and the Bijapur sultanate. Given the miserable state of our education system, this will be unknown to a vast majority of my countrymen. I have tried to give a Hindu perspective to the narration, as the narratives for the battle are only from Portuguese (Christian) and Muslim sources. The Portuguese narration   based on an account by Fernao Nunes (a Portuguese horse trader) is the closest we can get to an eyewitness account. The Islamic narrative written by Ferishta (Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah) is unreliable, given his convenient habit of overlooking defeats sustained by the Islamic Ghazis.

You might ask: What about the Hindu narrative? Most likely these can be found in Kannada and Telugu records   and published works. At present I am hampered in not being able to access the works written in these languages. Once I can get access to the relevant works, rest assured I will update this narrative. This is essentially a work in progress, I will keep updating and correcting as more details come to my knowledge.

There could be other reasons for the lack of Hindu records. The foremost that comes to mind is the destruction of   records when the city of Vijayanagar was annihilated (there is no other word to describe the destruction wrought by the Islamic barbarians) by the confederation of Deccan sultanates in 1565 CE. Or the manuscript could be gathering dust in a family collection or lying unread in a library due to a lack of scholars to decipher it.

In the following passages I will endeavour to try and present details of the battle as given in Nunes account and do a critical analysis. I neither claim to be an expert nor a specialist; my   endeavours are only motivated by the ardent desire to see our history written by us and not by foreigners.

A note on the maps: Except for the Google Earth Map and the   shaded relief map of India (I have used as a background to show the extent of   Vijayanagar empire, taken from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India_relief_location_map.jpg,  many thanks to the person who took the trouble to create the shaded relief map) all the other maps have been drawn/traced by me using the US Army topographic map of Raichur. (Available for free download: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/).I have tried to be as accurate as possible when depicting locations on the map, however errors will exist.Images of the Portugese sailing ships have been taken from the Wikipedia pages of the same.

1. Raichur: Location &Significance

1.1 Where is Raichur?

Figure 1 Location of Raichur, Vijayanagar & Bijapur

Raichur city is   located in Raichur district in Karnataka (location coordinates: latitude 16.200000, longitude 77.370000Address:).The Google Maps snapshot above gives a good idea of the location of Raichur relative to Vijayanagar and Bijapur.

1.2 Background & History

Raichur district falls in a doab created by Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers. The land is extremely fertile and yields many types of crops including oilseeds, cotton, sesame, sorghum, pulses, chillies, groundnut etc. Since historic times Raichur has been famous for growing cotton. Even today Raichur is primarily known for its cotton and cotton processing mills.

Figure 2  Rough Map of Raichur and Surroundings

Its fertility made Raichur a strategic asset for any Kingdom. Having control over the Raichur doab meant   access to plentiful revenues.  The key to controlling the doab was to have possession of Raichur city and its formidable fort.

Historically Raichur belonged to the Hoysala kingdom of Karnataka. After the dissolution of the Hoysala kingdom in the fourteenth century Riachur’s possession was hotly contested by the Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga and the Vijayanagar Empire. Starting from 1490 CE onwards the Bahmani Sultanate split into five different sultanates i.e.  Adil Shahi (Bijapur),  Qutb Shahi (Golconda), Imad Shahi (Berar), Barid Shahi (Bidar) and Nizam Shahi (Ahmednagar). The most powerful of theses sultanates was Bijapur founded by Yusuf Adil Shah. Raichur changed hands many times in the course of two centuries till the battle of Raichur in 1520 CE and even beyond.  Please see fig 3 below to get an idea of the extent of Vijayanagar empire and the Deccan sultanates.

Figure 3 Extent of Vijayanagar Empire

2. What is the Importance of the Battle?

The significance of the Battle of Raichur in the history of India is due to the following factors:

2.1 Use of Modern Gunpowder Artillery

For the first time on the Indian mainland extensive use was made of European (Portuguese) and Ottoman Turkish artillery and firearms. This battle preceded the first battle of Panipat (between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi in 1526 CE) by six years. A general misconception has been created that gunpowder cannons were used for the first time by Babur. Gunpowder use was not unknown in South India. Both Vijayanagar and the Bahmani sultanate used explosive mines, cannons and firearms in their wars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (FIRISHTA).

But this was the first time that the most technologically up to date artillery was used by both the opponents. The way in which artillery was procured by Vijayanagar and the Bijapur sultanate was different albeit arising from the same set of circumstances: the arrival of the Portuguese in India.

Bijapur was able to access the latest innovations in artillery by employing expert Ottoman gunners   and manufacturers. How the Ottoman gunners came in Bijapur service is an interesting story.

2.1.1 Sources of European & Ottoman Artillery

The appearance of the Portuguese with their imperial ambitions led to the introduction of the latest innovations in artillery in India.

In the early 1500’s the Portuguese were actively trying to gain control over the spice trade from India and the lucrative horse trade of the Arabs. To gain control over the spice trade they had to neutralize the power of  Saamoothirippād (anglicised as Zamorin) who was the ruler of Calicut. The Saamoothirippād was a powerful Hindu sovereign and   maintained excellent relations with the Muslims states such Egypt who were his partners in the spice trade. The Portuguese unsuccessfully tried to assault Calicut but were beaten back. However their superior ocean going ships managed to wreak havoc on the sea trade. They also terrorised fishermen and   trade ships with senseless acts of brutality.

The Saamoothirippād realised early on that he could not take on the heavily armed Portuguese caravels (small highly manoeuvrable sailing ships, see fig.3) and carracks[i] (four masted ships, see fig.4) and. To decisively end the Portuguese menace, he asked for the aid of the Mamluk sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri of Egypt. Egypt was among the main trading partners of Calicut and in the scenario of the Portuguese gaining dominance over the spice trade they would suffer the most. Additionally Sultan Mahmud Begada (Abu’l Fath Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah I) of Gujarat also allied with the Mamluk forces against the Portuguese.

Figure 4  A typical Caravel

Figure 5 . A typical Carrack

Mamluks lacking the sea power appealed to the Ottoman sultan   of Turkey Bayezid II. The Ottomans at this point in history were the leaders in the application and development of gunpowder artillery. Their military might was threatening Europe itself.

Thus an alliance comprising   of the Saamoothirippād’s forces, Ottoman, Mamluk’s and the Sultanate of Gujarat’s forces prepared for a decisive face off with the Portuguese.

Subsequently two decisive   naval engagements took place, one near the port of Chaul[ii] (Maharashtra) in 1508 CE and the second one off the coast of Diu[iii] in 1509 CE. The Portuguese were defeated in the first battle but were victorious at Diu in 1509 CE. This led to the dispersal of the Ottoman and Mamluk forces.

Many of the Ottoman gunners and craftsman then landed at Goa and   took up service with the Sultan of Bijapur (Previously Goa was in the hands of the Bahmani Sultans, succeeded later on by the Bijapur sultans)[iv]. A gun foundry was established at Goa and   Ottoman gunners manned the Bijapur sultan’s artillery.

The most direct impact of the Portuguese victory was that they came to control the trade in horses on which the Deccan sultanates and Vijayanagar Empire relied. In fact after the capture of Goa in 1510 CE the Portuguese viceroy tried to play the Sultan of Bijapur and Krishna Deva Raya in a bidding war for the horses!!

In 1510 CE with the tacit approval of Vijayanagar the Portuguese captured   Goa (only the city known as Velha Goa or Old Goa) from Bijapur. On capturing Goa, the gun foundry established by the Bahmanis fell into their hands.

2.1.2 Artillery of   the Sixteenth Century

Before going further, it would be pertinent to briefly understand the nature of   artillery in the early sixteenth century. By artillery I am specifically referring to cannons.

When we think of artillery the picture that comes to our mind is of a large   calibre gun which can fire off   multiple rounds in quick succession. For   e.g. the Bofors FH-77B   155mm self propelled howitzer which the Indian Army uses, can fire upto 10 rounds a minute[v]!!

The artillery of the early sixteenth century was nothing like this. The rate of fire was at most   8-12   rounds in an hour[vi].Plus due to imperfections in manufacture; cannons were liable to explode and kill the gun crew.

A   large cannon was a logistical nightmare which could weigh hundreds (sometimes thousands) of kilos and require many animals to transport it to the battlefield. The cannons had to be mounted on carts and transported to the battlefield. (Nunes does speak of gun carriages being used in the Bijapur army. Whether these were modified carts or proper  gun carriages is not known). Depending on its size a cannon would need anywhere between three and ten men to operate it. The Indian cycle of seasons meant they had to be used during the dry season. In the rainy season it was impossible to move and fire the cannons.

Being extremely heavy and immobile, artillery was vulnerable to attack by fast moving cavalry and infantry. Typically artillery was protected by means of erecting wooden stockades and trenches or placing it behind carts   and chaining the carts together (this tactic was used by Babur at the battle of Panipat in 1526 CE)[vii].Infantry had to be stationed to protect the artillery position.

Artillery was thus closely clustered together and its primary role was to deliver a devastating barrage and break up tightly packed masses of infantry/cavalry. Once the enemy was in a state of disorder, fast moving cavalry would mow them down[viii].

But here was the catch: if the first barrage did not have the intended effect, long reloading times made it possible for enemy   cavalry to overrun the artillery position. The fleeing army usually used to leave the guns on the battlefield, as there would have been no time to retrieve them.

2.2 The Number of Men Involved

The total number of combatants involved exceeded one million. The table below gives   the numbers of soldiers etc for the Vijayanagar Empire and the Bijapur armies.

Combatant Infantry Cavalry Heavy cannons Smaller Calibre Cannons War Elephants Camp Followers Total Strength(includes only Infantry & Cavalry)
Bijapur 120,000 18,000 400 500 (?) 150 Unknown 138,000
Vijayanagar 581,000 60,600 Unknown Unknown 551 Unknown 641,600[1]

Table 1  A comparison of the Vijayanagar and Bijapur armies

From the above table it can be seen that the total number of fighting men on both sides came close to a million. The above figure does not include any camp followers. Adding camp followers the figure easily touches a million .Camp followers on the Vijayanagar side included 20,000 courtesans, 12,000 water carriers, merchants, washer men etc.

Each cannon would require a crew of at least ten men to operate it. Nunes mentions that several cannon were carried by the Vijayanagar forces into war, but does not elaborate on the exact number of cannon in the Vijayanagar camp.

The total number of cannon on the Bijapur side was nearly nine hundred. Nunes mentions the fact that the Bijapur army left all the artillery on the   battlefield after the battle and that there were nine hundred gun carriages abandoned by the fleeing army.

2.3 Weakening of Bijapur

Ismail Adil Shah barely escaped with his life and   his army was virtually annihilated in the course of the battle. Till he was alive he did not dare to make a move on Vijayanagar and the annual jihad was more or less abandoned. The extent to which he feared Krishnadeva Raya is illustrated by the fact that in 1523 CE Krishnadeva Raya marched upto Bijapur and occupied it, Ismail Adil Shah having fled in advance of the invading armies[ix].

2.4 Supremacy of Vijayanagar

This   battle cemented   Vijayanagar’s power for another forty five years till the catastrophe at Rakshaka- Tangadi (better known as Talikota) in 1565 CE. Even after   the destruction of Vijayanagar city in 1565 CE, the weakened empire protected Southern Hindus till the death of the Sriranga III in 1672 CE. Sriranga III was the last of   this glorious line of the defenders of Dharma.

But by the time the exhausted Sriranga breathed his last he had the satisfaction of seeing Deccan back under Hindu rule after a span of three hundred years under the lion of Sahyadri: Chattrapati Shivaji. It is only due to the protection of Vijayanagar that Hindu culture remained intact in South India, remaining relatively uncorrupted from the influence of Islam .The extent to which Islamic rule can subvert and corrupt   Hindu society is seen from those parts of North India which were under Islamic rulers for long periods of time.

3. The Main Protagonists

3.1 Tuluva Sri Krishnadeva Raya (ruled 1509-1529 CE)

Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana Krishnadeva Raya was one of the greatest   emperors in Indian history who ruled over an empire that covered all of south India (including Sri Lanka) and parts of Orissa( see map above). He saved Vijayanagar empire at a   critical    juncture   of   its history. Sri Krishnadeva Raya was the second ruler of the Tuluva line (also known as the third dynasty) of Vijayanagar kings who ruled from 1505-1542 CE. He was chosen by his half brother Vira Narasimha (ruled 1505-1509 CE) to succeed him to the throne of Vijayanagar. His   coronation day was on 10th August 1509 CE, which was Janmashtami.

Coronated   in his early twenties, he was an extraordinary figure by all accounts. Almost every account left about this great king extols his virtues on and off the battlefield. To quote   the Portuguese traveller Domingo Paes, Sri Krishnadeva Raya was “gallant and perfect in all things” (Sewell). Leading his armies from the front, Sri Krishnadeva Raya exhibited fearlessness in face of   mortal danger. Loved by his people, he was a man of great justice. A master strategist and a humane ruler, Vijayanagar reached the zenith of its prosperity under his stewardship. His rule is considered to be the golden age of Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit literature in the middle ages. Fluent in many languages, Krishnadeva Raya authored many scholarly works. He reorganised the army and turned it into an effective fighting force.

The empire at the time of his coronation was in crises. The Bahmani sultanate which was nearing dissolution was still a powerful enemy. The Bahmani sultanate conducted a yearly jihad starting from 1501 CE against Vijayanagar, in which by some accounts 100,000 Hindus were slaughtered every year. The aggression by the Gajapatis of Orissa and the revolt of the chief of Ummattur only added to the empires troubles. The arrival of   Portuguese on the scene further complicated matters.

The first task was to repel the Bahmani army which had entered Vijayanagar’s boundaries in 1509 CE with intent to wreak large scale destruction. In an engagement near Diwani the Muslim army was routed and the Bahmani Sultan narrowly escaped being killed. The founder of the Bijapur dynasty Yusuf Adil Khan was killed in battle at Kovilkonda. This had the salutary effect of putting a stop to the annual jihad against Vijayanagar. Krishnadeva Raya did not stop here; in further engagements he took Raichur, Gulbarga and captured Bidar from the Barid Shahi sultan.

By 1512 CE the rebellious chieftain of Ummattur Gangaraya was subdued and died while trying to flee Sivanasamudram. The problem of the aggressive Gajapatis of Orissa was solved in   a series of brilliant campaigns beginning in 1513 CE and culminating in the surrender by the Gajapati king Prataparudra in 1516 CE. However while the Orissa campaign   was ongoing, Ismail Adil Shah (the Sultan of Bijapur) recaptured Raichur.

3.2 Ismail Adil Shah (ruled from 1511-1534 CE)

Ismail Adil Shah (Sultan Abul Fatah Ismail Adil Khan) was the son of   Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah. Like quite a lot of Muslim tyrants he was born to a Hindu mother. His mother   was the sister of Mukund Rao, a Maratha chief   who had risen against Yusuf Adil Shah. Mukund Rao was killed and his family captured by Yusuf Adil Shah.

Ismail came to the throne in the blood soaked fashion typical of the Muslim sultanates. After Yusuf’s death in 1509 CE while fighting Krishnadeva Raya, Ismail was put on the throne of Bijapur. He was between 13 – 14 years old at this time. But the real power behind the throne was the regent Kamal Khan, a person who himself had imperial ambitions .Kamal Khan came very near to usurping the throne, but Ismail’s mother  had him assassinated in 1512 CE. Kamal Khans son Safder Khan attacked the young prince in his palace but was killed in the fight that followed.

Meanwhile the fledgling Bijapur sultanate was already under attack from the Sultans of Berar, Ahmednagar, Golconda and Bidar. The combined forces of the four sultanates prepared to lay siege to Bijapur.  The leader of this motley force was Amir Barid; the sultan of Bidar. The young Ismail faced his opponents with a force of 12,000 cavalry and in the battle that followed defeated them. With the rival sultans pacified he looked towards recapturing Raichur, which was now in the possession of Vijayanagar. The opportunity came in 1516 CE when the bulk of Vijayanagar forces were fighting in Orissa. The   recapture of Raichur sowed the seeds for the decisive battle of   Raichur in 1520 CE.

Ismail Adil shah was no different from the other Deccan sultans in the persecution of Hindus. Much like the Muslim nobility of the Deccan he looked towards Persia and Turkey for inspiration. It must be remembered that for most part the Deccan ruling elite were either foreigners or Hindu converts to Islam (frequent fights used to occur between these two rival parties). Gribble has described him as a prudent, patient and generous man. He also is said to have been skilled in poetry and music[x]. These traits of character were reserved only for fellow Muslims, not for Hindus who formed the vast majority of his subjects.

The condition of Bijapur was such that the nobility used to live in great luxury whereas the numberless Hindu peasants of the countryside were barely able to survive. The lot of the Hindus under the Deccan sultanates was miserable with their lives at the tender mercies of the genocidal sultans.

4 .Causes of the Conflict


4.1 Possession of Raichur

Raichur had historically been part of the Hoysala kingdom of which Vijayanagar was a natural successor. In the tectonic upheavals’ of Deccan in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries Raichur changed hands many times between the Vijayanagar and Bahmani Sultanates.

Krishnadeva Raya had recaptured Raichur in 1510 CE. But while he was on his Orissa campaign, Ismail Adil Shah saw his chance and recaptured Raichur.

4.2   Syed Maraikar

The most direct reason for the invasion of Raichur by Vijayanagar was the theft of 40,000 gold coins by a Muslim merchant called Syed Maraikar. Syed Maraikar had been entrusted by Krishnadeva Raya with buying horses from the Portuguese at Goa and was given forty thousand gold coins for this purpose.

But the faithless Maraikar promptly absconded to Bijapur with the money. An enraged Raya requested Ismail Adil Shah to hand over the merchant along with the gold. In spite of the peace treaty in force between Vijayanagar and Bijapur, Ismail on the counsel of his advisors refused to apprehend and hand over Syed Maraikar. His decision no doubt was based on the fact that Syed Maraikar was a Muslim. One cannot discount the possibility of the Sultan keeping some gold in return for giving Maraikar refuge.

Ismail also helped the merchant to escape to Dabhol (Goa). When the facts of the matter were brought to the Raya’s notice, he decided to launch a major campaign to win back Vijayanagar’s territory and teach Adil Shah a lesson.

5. The Battle of Raichur

The description given by Nunes is extremely graphic and as Sewell has pointed out it seems he was an eyewitness to the battle or knew someone who was present at the battle.

I have divided it into different stages to make for easier comprehension. I have quoted mostly ad verbatim from Nunes and have also attached my own analysis after the description of the battle.

5.1 Stage One: Departure from Vijayanagar & Arrival at Raichur


Figure 6  Stage One: Arrival of Vijayanagar army at Raichur

Sri Krishnadeva Raya seems to have left Vijayanagar sometime in early February 1520 CE [xi].The entire army was divided into different columns depending on the Nayaka (chief) who commanded them. The following table gives the order in which the different contingents marched, their break up and their Nayaka. The leading contingent is at the top and the last contingent to leave the city at the bottom.

Leader of Contingent Infantry Cavalry Elephants Notes
Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayaka(Kama Nayaka) 30,000 1000 6 Kama Nayaka was the Chief of guards (commander in chief)
Trimbicara(?) 50,000 2000 20 This is the Portuguese version of the Indian name .I have not been able to find the proper Indian name
Timappa Nayaka 60,000 3500 30
Adapa Nayaka 100,000 5000 50
Comdamara(?) 120,000 6000 60 This is the Portuguese version of the Indian name. I have not been able to find the proper Indian name
Ganda Raja 30,000 1000 10 Ganda Raja was the governor of Vijayanagar city
Three eunuchs (?) 40,000 1000 15 No names are given
Krishnadeva Raya’s page 15,000 200 No name is given
Kumara Virayya 8000 400 20 Kumara Virayya was Krishnadeva Raya’s father in law and the chief of Srirangapatanam
Sri Krishnadeva Raya 40,000 6000 300

Table 2   Breakup of the Vijayanagar contingents.

In addition to the above were contingents of various chiefs, but Nunes has not given any names. From the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Raichur, I got the names of the following chiefs who accompanied the main army: Rana Jagadeva, Rayachuri Rami Nayudu, Hande Mallaraya, Boya Ramappa, Saluva Nayudu, Tipparasu Ayyappa Nayudu, Kotikam Viswanatha Nayudu,Chevvappa Nayudu, Akkappa Nayudu, Krishnappa Nayudu, Velugoti Yachama Nayudu, Kannada Basavappa Nayudu, Saluva Mekaraja, Matla Ananta Raja, Bommireddy Nagareddy, Basava Reddy, Vithalappa Nayudu and Veerama Raja[xii].

Also accompanying the army were dancing girls, washer men, water carriers and merchants. Twelve thousand water carriers stood at the sides of the road to supply water to the thirsty soldiers and camp followers. Approximately fourteen kilometres ahead of the main army were fifty thousand scouts who kept a watch for the enemy ahead of the army.

Nunes has given a detailed description of the armour and clothing worn by the warriors. To quote Nunes, “All were equally well armed, each after his own fashion, the archers and musqueteers with their quilted tunics and the shieldmen with their swords and poignards (curved daggers) in their girdles; the shields are so large that there is no need for armour to protect the body, which is completely covered; the horses in full clothing, and the men with doublets, and weapons in their hands, and on their heads headpieces after the manner of their doublets, quilted with cotton. The war-elephants go with their howdahs from which four men fight on each side of them, and the elephants are completely clothed, and on their tusks they have knives fastened, much ground and sharpened, with which they do great harm. Several cannon were also taken” (Sewell).

The army arrived near Malliabad and set camp there for a few days.  Sri Krishnadeva Raya allowed his men to rest and set off for Raichur after the Brahmana’s confirmed it was auspicious to do so. Fig.5 above shows the arrival of the army at Raichur.

5.2 Stage Two: Commencement of the Siege of Raichur Fort


Figure 7 Siege of Raichur begins

As per Nunes, on arriving  at the outskirts of Raichur, Kama Nayaka was the first to set up camp near to the defensive ditches which encircled Raichur fort. The siege was begun from the eastern side of the fort as it was here that the fort was weakest. He was shortly followed by other Nayakas (chiefs) and the siege of Raichur began in earnest.

Raichur was a heavily defended fortress with three lines of fortifications and the main citadel stood on top of a hill inside the fortifications. The fort was well provided with water due to a perennial spring which ran inside and fed   many tanks and wells. The provisions inside the fort were enough to last five years. The garrison was composed of eight thousand men, four hundred cavalry, twenty elephants and thirty trebuchets (also known as manjaniq-imaghribi). The trebuchets of that age could hurl stones between 1000-2000 kgs in weight causing great destruction in enemy ranks. More importantly the battlements and towers of the fort had over two hundred heavy artillery (cannons) and a number of smaller cannon (presumably for anti personnel use).Additionally the walls were manned by musketeers, archers and soldiers armed with flintlocks. All of these combined to launch a devastating battery on to the besieging army. The main gate    of the city was sealed after letting in some reinforcements which had arrived from Bijapur.

As per the description given by Nunes, the firing of artillery from the fort took a heavy toll of the brave Vijayanagar soldiers   who were trying to assault the city. The soldiers were apparently paid between 10-50 fanams (silver coins) to remove the stones from the fort walls. Many perished in the process   due to the incessant   fire from the fort battlements, but the courageous men continued their work relentlessly.

The siege continued in this manner for three months till the arrival of Ismail Adil Shah’s army in May 1520 CE. Long sieges were normal for those times e.g. the Moguls with all their firepower and army were only able to capture the fortress of Jinji in Tamil Nadu after a long siege of seven years[xiii]!! This was in 1698 CE, more than a hundred and seventy years after the Battle of Raichur.

We will divert here for a brief description of the camp set up by the Vijayanagar army. The entire camp was more like a large city and was divided into different sectors to accommodate the different contingents. Along the streets were craftsmen and merchants who sold gold, jewels, clothes, weapons etc. The logistical train was so good that there was no shortage of fodder for  animals even in a barren terrain like Raichur. To quote Nunes, Indeed no one who did not understand the meaning of what he saw would ever dream that a war was going on, but would think that he was in a prosperous city” (Sewell).


5.3 Stage Three: Arrival of Adil Shah


Figure 8 Arrival of Adil Shah

As the siege was in progress, news came that Ismail Adil Shah had arrived with his forces and was encamped across the Krishna River (see fig 8 above). The besieging Vijayanagar army was at this time 15 miles from the river. The movement of the Bijapur army was carefully monitored by Vijayanagar’s scouts.

It seems Adil Shah   expected Krishnadeva Raya to attempt an attack as soon as he heard news of the arrival of Bijapur army. The Bijapur plan was to attack   when the Vijayanagar troops would be in the middle of the river crossing. But Krishnadeva Raya being a master strategist did not rise to the bait and on his part made no effort to make the first move.

This threw the Bijapur camp into confusion   and after lengthy debates it was decided to cross the river and give battle. As enumerated in table 1 the Bijapur army was numerically inferior to the Vijayanagar forces, but qualitatively equal and in some aspects even better e.g. the Bijapur cavalry. From Nunes narrative it seems Adil Shah set great store on his   artillery which numbered nearly nine hundred pieces, both big and small[xiv].

Crossing the river Adil Shah pitched his camp close to the river bank to have ready access to water supplies. Strengthening   his camp by digging large trenches around it, he arranged his cavalry and infantry in battle positions. Artillery which was supposed to deliver a decisive victory to Bijapur was positioned in the front line. As explained before with artillery of the age you could at most get   8-12 shots in an hour. This meant that the first artillery barrage had to be devastating enough to cause   the maximum damage in enemy ranks.

5.4 Stage Four: The Battle


Krishnadeva Raya divided his army into seven wings. Kumara Virayya who was his father in law as well as the Nayaka (chief) of Srirangapatanam was given the honour of commanding the vanguard of the army. Kumara Virayya with his sons (he had thirty sons as per Nunes) and his forces pitched camp about 4.8 km from Adil Shahs frontline.

On the advice of the Brahmana’s it was decided to launch the attack on  Saturday May 20th 1520 CE. The reason being it was an auspicious day. Krishnadeva Raya instructed the two divisions under Kumara Virayya to be   battle ready at the first crack of dawn on Saturday morning.

While the Vijayanagar forces were preparing for battle, a small force of Bijapuri cavalry and infantry sneaked out from Raichur fort. It comprised of two hundred horses, unknown infantry and some elephants. The Bijapuri noble who led this troop was a eunuch and decided to shadow the Vijayanagar forces from a safe distance, all the while keeping close to the river bank. His plan seems to have been to ambush the Vijayanagar army at a turning point in the battle, either on its flanks or from the rear.

With the first crack of daylight   entire atmosphere resounded with the   sounds of  martial music played by war drums, orders being shouted, excitement of animals and the trumpeting of elephants. Nunes describing this says, “It seemed as if the sky should fall to the earth (because of the noise)” and “if you asked anything you could not hear yourself speak and you had to ask by signs (Sewell).”

By the time the entire camp had moved forward it was already 8 or 9 am of Saturday morning. At this point Krishnadeva Raya   ordered his two forward divisions to commence the attack and destroy the enemy.

Figure 9 Kumara Virayya’s attack on the Bijapur frontline

The brave Kumara Virayya launched a vigorous attack on the Bijapur army forcing it into the defensive trenches it had dug in the fields (see fig 9 above).

Adil Shah expected the great Raya to attack with all his forces and not just send two divisions in front. Adil Shahs game plan was to sacrifice a large part of his army to the Vijayanagar attack. He was certain that a large body of his troops would be cut to pieces in the initial onslaught. It is interesting to note that Adil Shah himself stayed safely at the back of his army and took no part in the battle.

Adil Shahs confidence rested on his trump card: his considerable artillery .At a crucial point in the battle when the main body of   Vijayanagar troops including Krishnadeva Raya would be completely exposed, all the nine hundred large and small cannons would open simultaneous fire. This tremendous artillery barrage would could large scale destruction amongst the Vijayanagar troops and most probably quite a few of the leading chiefs would be killed. Krishnadeva Raya himself might be killed and Vijayanagar troops would flee the battlefield.

But Krishnadeva Raya did not play by Adil Shahs rules and kept five divisions in reserve. Meanwhile the Muslim defences were crumbling under the vigorous   attack by Kumara Virayya’s forces.

Figure 10 Bijapur’s devastating artillery barrage

Ismail Adil Shah saw that unless he brought his artillery into play now, he risked the complete rout of his army. Accordingly the entire Bijapur artillery opened simultaneous fire into the densely packed masses of Vijayanagar infantry, cavalry and elephants (see fig.10 above).

The artillery bombardment killed and wounded considerable numbers of Vijayanagar troops and as a consequence they began to retreat from the battlefield. Sensing victory, Bijapur cavalry and infantry pursued the retreating army, slaughtering everyone in their path.

At   this crucial moment in the battle, the great Raya rallied all his remaining divisions and moved to attack the enemy (see fig 11 below). The fleeing frontline stabilised on seeing the entire army move forward. As per Nunes, Krishnadeva Raya gave orders to his troops to cut down any of the frontline that were fleeing the battlefield. This does not seem consistent with the Raya’s nature.

The fleeing frontline now turned back on its pursuers.  Bijapur troops flush with the prospect of victory   and in hot pursuit were in a complete state of disarray. They were swept aside much like the rising tide sweeps away flotsam.

Figure 11 Vijayanagar’s Counter Attack

Nunes says, “The confusion was so great amongst the Moors (Muslims) and such havoc was wrought (in their ranks) that they did not even try to defend the camp they had made so strong and enclosed so well; but like lost men they leaped into the river to save themselves. Then after them came large numbers of the King’s troops and elephants, which latter worked amongst them mischief without end, for they seized men with their trunks and tore them into small pieces, whilst those who rode in the castles (howdahs) killed countless numbers” (Sewell).

The Bijapur artillery does not seem to have had the time to reload and fire a second barrage. Bijapur camp followers which included women fled towards the river .In the melee many   were drowned   and countless slaughtered by the Vijayanagar troops.

Salabat Khan who was the commander of the Bijapur forces tried in vain to stop his army from fleeing. He managed to collect a band of five hundred Portuguese mercenaries   and in a desperate battle   cut his way through the Vijayanagar army. This motley band almost reached near the Raya’s personal bodyguard before it was exterminated. Salabat Khan was badly wounded and taken prisoner. Nunes is profuse in praising the bravery of Salabat Khan and the Portuguese.

While all this was going on, the “brave” Adil Shah had already fled the battlefield escorted by his confidant Asad Khan. The wily Asad Khan seeing that defeat was certain, helped the Sultan escape on an elephant. In this he was accompanied by four hundred horsemen. Contrast the conduct of the great Raya who led his troops from the front and fought alongside them, with Adil Shah who did not participate in the battle at all!!

With the Bijapur army completely routed, Krishnadeva Raya occupied Adil Shahs tent and asked his Nayakas to desist from further slaughter of the defeated army. Even though  general opinion amongst the Nayakas was to pursue and completely exterminate the Bijapur army, Krishnadeva Raya remained firm and tasked his men with getting back to besiege Raichur.

Befitting a man of his stature, Krishnadeva Raya was extremely humane with the captured prisoners. He made sure the captured women were not molested and made arrangements to return them. This was in stark contrast to the behaviour of the Muslims, for whom it was common practice to dishonour captured Hindu women and distribute amongst themselves ( the last time this took place on an enormous scale was during the partition riots of 1946-47 and during the genocide of nearly 2 million Hindus in Bangladesh in 1971).

The war booty captured was considerable, including four hundred large cannons, many small ones, nine hundred gun carriages, four thousand Arabian horses, countless pack animals (oxen, mules etc) and camp equipment (tents, pavilions etc).

The casualties on the Vijayanagar side were approximately 16,000 dead. There is no number for the dead on the Bijapur side, but taking even the most conservative estimate of 30% of their army being destroyed, it amounts to nearly 42,000 dead. Of course the real toll would have been much greater as many drowned in the river in the course of their desperate flight.

Sri Krishnadeva Raya oversaw that those warriors of Vijayanagar who had attained Veeragati were cremated with honour. The great Raya also distributed alms in memory of the martyrs.

5.4 Stage Five: Raichur falls

After the battle, the Vijayanagar army got back to the siege of Raichur. As per Nunes at this point the entire complexion of the siege was changed by the arrival of Christovao de Figueiredo along with a troop of twenty musketeers. Christovao was a Portuguese captain who was in Vijayanagar to deliver horses. Seeing the defenders on the walls of Raichur fort firing with impunity upon the Vijayanagar soldiers, Christovao offered his services to Sri Krishnadeva Raya.

The Portuguese musketeers picked off the defenders on the battlements one by one, till it became near impossible for the defenders to use the wall without being shot. This allowed Vijayanagar soldiers to bring down portions of the fort wall without   fear of getting shot. The cannons mounted on the fort wall were in fixed positions and could not be manipulated to fire on the Vijayanagar sappers working at the foot of the fort walls.

The governor of the fort was killed by a musket shot when he tried to look over the battlements in order to observe the Portuguese musketeers. This led to a complete collapse of   moral within the fort and the city surrendered soon after.

According the Nunes, Christovao was richly rewarded by Sri Krishnadeva Raya for his efforts. Sri Krishnadeva Raya treated the people of Raichur with great kindness and did not allow any looting to take place. Those soldiers who resorted to looting were suitably punished.

6. Aftermath

Sri Krishnadeva Raya departed for Vijayanagar after ensuring that the damage to the fort was repaired and leaving behind a strong contingent to guard the fort.

The complete defeat of Bijapur sent shockwaves throughout India, as it was known to be a powerful sultanate. The people most concerned   were the other Deccan sultans i.e. Nizam Shah, Qutb Shah, Barid Shah and Imad Shah. Even though they had no love for Bijapur, they feared  Sri Krishnadeva Raya would attack them next. Accordingly they sent a message to Sri Krishnadeva Raya asking him to return Raichur or they would combine in battle against him. Sri Krishnadeva Raya wrote back saying they should not take the trouble of marching to Vijayanagar, for he himself would come to their kingdoms!!

Ismail Adil   Shah sent an ambassor to the Raya’s court to demand that everything he had lost be restored. The ambassador had to wait a month before he was allowed to see Sri Krishnadeva Raya. Adil Shah’s message was typically arrogant and put the blame for the conflict squarely on the Raya’s shoulders. The great Raya relied   that he would restore everything back to the Adil Shah if he came and kissed his feet!!

Predictably Adil Shah dilly dallied till Krishnadeva Raya marched onto Bijapur itself. But that goes beyond the scope of this article.

7. Analysis of Nunes Account

Nunes account of the siege raises   serious doubts that he deliberately downplayed the role of Vijayanagar artillery to give undue importance to his fellow Portuguese. The following points have come to my attention while reading the translation done by Robert Sewell:

Artillery:  On one hand Nunes is meticulous about the numbers he gives for the cannon/firearms in the service of Bijapur. On the other he says nothing about the number of cannon carried by the Vijayanagar forces, except a single statement that “there were many cannon”!! It is quite inconceivable   that he would not have known the numbers of artillery carried by Vijayanagar. Artillery in that century much as today was definitely quantifiable. Nunes has gone to the trouble of putting precise numbers to the innumerable infantry, cavalry and elephants in the Vijayanagar army. But fails to put his finger on the nature of Vijayanagar artillery, even though he was clearly alive to the importance of artillery on the field.

Artillery required an extensive support mechanism, with large cannon taking upto ten people to maintain it and the slow movement of the artillery carriages slowed down the main army as well. What was   the point of taking all the trouble to drag artillery to the battlefield and not use it? This is equivalent to India taking the trouble to develop the Arjun tank, deploy it on the borders and when war breaks out do nothing with it!!

Siege of Raichur:  The mention of   Vijayanagar soldiers being paid to chisel out stones from the fort walls is incomprehensible. By the 1500’s siege weapons had already matured and   Vijayanagar was definitely in possession of siege weapons such as trebuchets etc. These would have been complemented by teams of sappers to mine the fort walls. To assume that the richest empire in Asia (if not the world) did not have any siege machinery and had to rely on its soldiers chiselling out stones is unbelievable. And to further imply that a few Portuguese mercenaries were responsible for the fall of a formidable fortress is laughable to say the least!

Krishna Deva Raya was the most far sighted and visionary monarch of his time. It simply does not fit into his character that he would not use Vijayanagar’s artillery to launch a counter bombardment of Raichur fort. He would have been alive to the fact that the Bijapur sultans had built up a formidable artillery arsenal .To counter this he would have secured up to date artillery from the Portuguese, who were eager to sell arms and horses to the highest bidder. Ferishta himself talks of cannons being used in the Vijayanagar-Bahmani sultanate wars of the late 1400’s[Y1] .

The “Kiss my Foot” anecdote: The incident of Sri Krishnadeva Raya asking Ismail Adil Shah to come and kiss his feet is inconsistent with the character of such a magnanimous and large hearted ruler. If Krishnadeva Raya wanted to humiliate Adil Shah he would have followed up immediately after the battle and completely destroyed Adil Shah. It must be remembered that Nunes was a horse trader and not an ambassador at the court of Vijayanagar. As such   some parts of his narrative would be coloured by common gossip and rumours.

And supposing the great Raya did send this answer, I fail to see what is wrong with that. Muslim sultans are routinely excused of any excesses whether rape, mass murder or loot. Whereas a Hindu emperor who has won a brilliant victory is accused of arrogance when he asks his defeated adversary to come and submit to him. When Hindus assert themselves they are portrayed as arrogant, selfish and deserving of whatever bad happens to them!! Talk about intellectual perversion.

Directly related to the above is the opinion of historians like Robert Sewell,that the alliance of the Deccan sultanates which led to the defeat of Vijayanagar at Talikota in 1565 CE arose from the “arrogance” of the Hindus after Raichur.

This would be a complete misreading of the situation. The Deccan sultanates were offspring of the Bahmani Sultanate which was unremitting in its objective to carry out destruction of Vijayanagar. Even though the   Deccan sultans fought amongst themselves and struck alliances even with Vijayanagar at times, their overall objective never changed i.e. the despoliation and destruction of Vijayanagar at the first opportunity.

In fact the prime cause of the defeat at Rakshaka- Tangadi (Talikota) can be directly traced back to   the pursuit of a number of short sighted policies by Aliya Rama Raya (the then emperor of Vijayanagar and successor to Krishna Deva Raya) which included:

1. Hiring a large number of Muslims in the army and appointing them to strategic positions. This was the prime reason why the battle of   Rakshaka- Tangadi (Talikota) was lost in 1565 CE. The Muslim contingents of the Vijayanagar army switched sides at a crucial moment at Talikota and attacked their former employer[xv]. The confusion that followed enabled Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar to capture and behead Sri Rama Raya, which was followed by the Vijayanagar army fleeing the battlefield. Another tragic occasion in our history when we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!!

2. Instead of   completely destroying the sultanates one by one, Sri Rama Raya kept playing them off against one another. It was only a matter of time before they united against the kafir Hindus!!

8. In Conclusion

It is telling of the double standards employed by western historians that Ferishta’s account is rightly called into question, but Nunes is taken at face value!! Even for a person like me with a very superficial knowledge of Vijayanagar, entire parts of Nunes chronicle seem out of sync with contemporary reality.

This is what happens when foreigners whether whites or Muslims write our history. No wonder Hindus are cast as villains and ever ready to be conquered, when the reality is exactly the opposite.


[1] The total given by Robert   Sewell for Vijayanagar comes to 736,000 .I have come to the above by totalling the numbers given by Nunes in the translation by Robert Sewell. The higher number would be due to the other chiefs joining the main army on route to Raichur.


Citations:

FIRISHTA, M. K. (n.d.). Persian Literature in Translation–History of India,Volume 6. Retrieved June 11, 2010, from PHI Persian Literature in Translation: http://persian.packhum.org/persian/main

Sewell, R. (n.d.). A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): a contribution to the history of India. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from internet Archive: http://www.archive.org/details/aforgottenempire03310gut

References:

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrack

[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Chaul

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Diu_%281509%29

[iv] Pg.157,The Book of Duarte Barbosa, Volume 1,Mansel Longworth Dames, retrieved from http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/handle/1/2543

[v] http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-FORCES/Equipment/Artillery/354-155mm-Bofors-Fh-77b.html

[vi] Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and High Roads to Empire, Jos Gommans, Routledge, 2002. The author states the rate of fire of Mughal artillery to be 2-3 shots every   fifteen minutes. In the chaos of battle this would probably be lower.

[vii] Pg.157, Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and High Roads to Empire ,Jos Gommans,Routledge,2002

[viii] Pg.62, Firearms: A Global History to 1700, Kenneth Chase, Cambridge University Press, 2003. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in why the western world was able to gain technological superiority in firearms.

[ix] A History of South India, page 285, Prof KAN Shastri, Oxford University Press, Third Edition, 1966.

[x] Pg.167,History of the Deccan ,J.D.B Gribble,1896,available at http://www.archive.org/details/ahistorydeccan00pendgoog

[xi] The distance from Vijayanagar to Raichur is approximately 165 km. Such large armies would have been very slow to move e.g. the rate at which a fully equipped Mughal army could march was only 6-8 km a day. Provided it was dry season and the ground was firm.

[xii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Raichur

[xiii] Pg.50-109,History of Aurangzib, Jadunath Sarkar, retrieved from http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/handle/1/7549

[xiv] A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): a contribution to the history of India, Robert Sewell, retrieved from http://www.archive.org/details/aforgottenempire03310gut

[xv] A History of South India ,page 295,Prof KAN Shastri, Oxford University Press, Third Edition,1966


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