Battle of Lalsot

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Battle of Lalsot
Part of Imperial Maratha Conquests
Date 1787
Location Lalsot
Result Stalemate[1]
Belligerents
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Maratha Empire Rajputs of Jaipur and Jodhpur
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Mahadji Shinde Pratap Singh of Jaipur
Muhammad Baig
Strength
30,000 35,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown


The Battle of Lalsot was fought on between the Rajputs of Jaipur and Jodhpur and the Maratha Empire.

Background[edit]

Within three years of Mirza Najaf Khan's death (on 6 April 1782), his two successors in the high office of Regent of the Empire were assassinated and finally, at the helpless Mughal Emperor's personal entreaty, Mahadji Scindhia agreed to become Imperial Regent and Commander-in-Chief (Wakil-i-mutlaq and Amir-ul-umara Mir Bakhshi) on 4 December 1784. Henceforth, the legitimate authority of the Paramount Power came to be exercised by a Maratha chief possessed of marvelous sagacity, boundless ambition and from 1790 onwards irresistible armed strength. Thus, began the helpless hopeless agony of Rajasthan which ended only with the imposition of British paramountcy and Imperial peace 30 years later.[2]

After Aligarh capitulated to Marathas on 20 November, Mahadji began his march to Jaipur, taking the Emperor with himself. After much talks, it was agreed by both sides that the Kacchwa kingdom should pay 63 lakhs (60 lakhs as peshkash and three lakhs as darbar charges), and out of this amount 11 lakhs were to be paid immediately (cash seven lakhs, jewels three lakhs, elephants and horses one lakh). Ten lakhs were to be paid in six months' time, and 20 lakhs were to be provided by the cession of land; and the remaining 22 lakhs were covered by assignments on the revenue of the fiefs of the feudal barons).[3]

After the Rajputs paid 11 lakhs, Marathas left Rayaji Patil with a strong force, as well as Najaf Quli and Macheri Rajah, in that kingdom for collecting the second installment of ten lakhs and the assignment for 22 lakhs on the baronial estates, and also for holding the ceded districts. Then he started on his journey on 4 June.[4]

The Final Rupture[edit]

Sawai Pratap Singh had sent his ex-diwan Daulat Ram Haldia to Lucknow (May, 1786) to inrigue for the hiring of an English brigade against the Marathas. This agent spent eight months there and the English after much deliberation shows signs of affirmation. Haldia returned to Jaipur and was reinstalled as the prime minister, dislodging Khushhali Ram Bohra who stood for friendly relations with Marathas.[5]

With the return of Haldia to power, the Jaipur Government took up a vigorous policy of resistance. A close defensive alliance was formed with the neighboring Raj of Jodhpur, and the Kachhawa vassals everywhere were ordered to refuse payment of the assignments of revenue made on their estates in favour of Mahadji by last year's treaty. The Raja shut himself up in his capital and prepared to stand a siege.[6]

Mahadji took prompt action. Leaving Deeg on 16 March and marching daily without a halt, he reached Daosa on the 24th. A settlement was rendered impossible by the suffering of the Jaipur attitude as allies began to gather for the defence of the State. The Jaipur Raja offered to pay four lakhs of Rupees immediately and demanded the surrender of Khushhali Ram Bohra but Mahadji refused to surrender Bohra. Thanks to Daulat Ram's vigorous action, the Jaipur Raja had time to assemble his feudal levies, numbering about 20,000. His ally of Jodhpur sent to him 5000 Rathore horses and 5000 mercenary Naga musketeers under his general Bhim Singh. ALso, the Jaipur diwan was meeting with success in seducing the old Najak Khani troops, both Mughalia horse and Hindustani trained sepoys, now under Sindhia's banner as Najaf Khan's successor. The allied Rajputs put on a bold face, and issuing from the capital (1 May) encamped some miles south of it in order to bar any further Maratha advance. Their Raja himself joined this camp the next day.[7]

Desertion in Mahadji's army[edit]

Marathas stationed themselves between the main Jaipur army (at Sanganer) and the southern districts of that kingdom. Mahadji marched through the latter region raiding villages, levying contributions and seizing forts like Jhalai, Naval, etc., till he reached the Banas river near Sarsop, close to the Bundi frontier. Meanwhile, Mahadji's north Indian troops started deserting him every day (though in small numbers first) over lack of payment. On 6 May, two eminent captains Zulfiqar Ali Khan and Mansur, secretly went over to the Rajputs with their contingents. The climax came on the 25th of that month when the greatest Mughal general Muhammad Beg Hamadani joined the Jaipur Raja, to the intense terror and despair of the Maratha army. He was promised Rs. 3000 a day and given a royal welcome by his new master who made him the leader of the defence, as his unquestionable ability and fame deserved.[8]

Muhammad Beg's defection enforced a total change of plan on Mahadji. He could not trust a single Hindustani soldier after this. He sent urgent orders to Khande Rao Hari and Ambaji Ingle to hasten to his aid from their respective stations in Bundelkhand and Karnal. He also asked the Emperor to issue from Delhi and join his camp. Then he fell back from Sarsop to Piplai, 15 miles south-east of Lalsot, arriving there on 4 June.[9]

As soon as the invading army began its retreat, the Rajputs advanced from Sanganer, and on the 10th of that month their Raja occupied Madhogarh, 17 miles north-west of Lalsot. Two days later, they pushed a strong detachment on to Daosa, thus blocking Mahadji's northern path of retreat, via Balahari and Dig, to Agra, and menacing the kingdom of his ally the Rao Raja of Alwar, which was thus laid utterly bare of defence. But for a fortnight after Muhammad Beg's defection, the Rajputs took no vigorous offensive and merely wasted their opportunity and slender money resources in idle talk, while a quarrel broke out with their Rathore allies about the promised war expenses. Mahadji, therefore, determined to put a bold face on it. Giving up all ideas of retreat, he counter marched towards the Rajput's position, arriving on the 15th at a Bhaia-a-Bagh, a few miles south of the Lalsot pass. On the same day, the Rajput force at Daosa pushed a detachment southwards to occupy Ramgarh, which is only six miles north-west of that pass.[10]

But though Mahadji had boldly turned at bay, he was really not in a position to risk an action. There was an increasing desertion from his Hindustani contingent daily owing to his failure to pay their salary at a time when wheat was selling at famine prices in his camp (six seers to the rupee). His own faithful Deccani troops cherished a rooted distrust of their north Indian comrades and ever stood on the guard against any treacherous attack from that side of the camp. Mahadji was, therefore, forced to put off an action and bide his time till he would be joined by the trusty Khande Rao Hari (with 10,000 veterans and two disciplined battalions of De Boigne's sepoys and their excellent artillery) and Ambaji Ingle (with his 15,000 men and possibly a force of hired Sikhs).[11]

Prelude[edit]

At last, on 23 June when the junction of Khande Rao's contingent was expected on the morrow, Mahadji assumed the offensive. The strictest precaution and order were enforced by this grey veteran fighter. His plan was that his main camp should remain behind, a few miles south of Lalsot, with the baggage guard. Next Mahadji himself, surrounded by 7000 men and ten large guns, should proceed four or five miles ahead of it, with light kit, and encamp. Then Rana Khan Bhai with the main body of his army should advance three or four miles further from his master, while vanguard, led by Rayaji Patil and Shivaji Vithal Bapu, should take post two miles in from of Rana Khan and scout for the enemy's approach. In every advance thhat was made, Rana Khan took up Rayaji's position of the previous night, and Mahadji similarly occupied Rana Khan's deserted camping ground. This course was methodically followed throughout the ensuing campaign.[12]

In the course of the next day, Rana Khan occupied the Lalsot pass, which the Rajputs had evacuated a few days before. On the 26th, Khande Rao rode into Mahadji's camp with 3000 Deccani horse, De Boigne's two battalions 1300 strong, 2000 Naga monks, and some 300 foot of Rajdhar Gujar (the Raja of Samthar). Next morning their muster was taken in Mahadji's presence and the new arrivals sent forward to join Rana Khan. On the 30th of the month, the Khan advanced about three miles beyond the pass, encamping below the Jowana hill north-west of its mouth, probably at the modern village of Didwana.[13]

The Theatre of War[edit]

The Tunga village was now the base of the main Rajput army that had come out for the fight, their Raja being encamped two miles behind at Madhogarh. The battle of 28 July was fought in the plain between Tunga and Bidakha, some two miles from the village of Lalsot after which it is wrongly named. The advancing Marathas had their back to the Morel river, which they guarded by their recent conquest of Bidakha fort, and their moving camp lay behind that river to the south-east near Ramgarh. Further to the south-east the long line was held by the troops guarding Mahadji Scindhia and the light field camp, and last of all by the stationary base-camp two or three miles south of Lalsot village.[14]

Preliminary Skirmishes[edit]

The forward movement of Mahadji's army began on 23 June, but the decisive encounter did not take place till more than a month later. To this delay both sides contributed. Mahadji was waiting till he would be joined by the unaacountably slow Ambaji Ingle, and he was also expecting to see the Rajput coalition dissolve quickly. The Jaipur Raja, on his part, repressed the ardour of his supporters for a fight, as he was waiting for the junction of helpers from Bikaner, Bundi, Khechiwara and other Rajput centres and particularly for a large body of hired Sindhi musketeers who ere fondly believed to prove more of a match for Mahadji's French-led sepoy battalions than the Rajput levies, who were mostly armed with the sword and spear. Nor was he without hopes of starving the invader out by raiding the paths of his grain supply.[15]

On 10 July, Rana Khan moved three miles nearer to the enemy towards the Morel river. Skirmishes started taking almost daily bu these were barren of any result. There was no activity in the Maratha camp for four days from 15th of that month when Mahadji's little daughter was taken ill. She dies in the night of the 16th and Mahadji was stricken down by grief.[16]

After the mourning ended, Mahadji called his general with a plan to attack the Rajputs. But they objected, saying that their soldeirs would not fight unless their arrears were paid. Thereafter life in the Maratha camp became unbearable owing to the total stoppage of food supply and the threatened mutiny of all sections of the army against non-payment of salaries. His captains assembled in a Council of war and Mahadji agreed to stake his all on one field fight and ordered five lakhs of rupees to be paid to his soldeirs (25 July) in order to hearten them for the coming battle.[17]

The Battle of Tunga[edit]

An exceptionally severe skirmish on 27 July prepared the ground for the decisive battle of the 28th. On that eventful day, Mahadji Scindhia rode forth to Rana Khan's camp, some two miles ahead of his own halting place. First were spread a loose screen of scouts for bringing news of the enemy's dispositions and movements. Then came the artillery, and behind it the infantry battalions which were to receive the first shock of the enemy's onset. In the third line were the Maratha horse, held in reserve for supporting any hard-pressed point in the front lines. The last reserve, especially in guns and munitions was kept two miles behind the battlefront. Maratha army was stretched west to east; the first line was formed by Khande Rao Hari with De Boigne's two battalions, the Afghan mercenaries under Murtuza Khan Barech, Ghasi Khan and other captains, and the Naga force of Motigir Gosain (left wing). Then came the discontented and passive Hindustani sepoys of the old Najaf Khani service (centre); and last, the two brigades of six battalions each under the fatihful Lesteneau and Le Vassoult, together with the Rajput levies of the Macheri Rao Raja (right wing).[18]

The Jaipurians began their advance about the same time that they saw the Maratha army moving towards them across the Morel. They too threw up earth works before their line of guns. On their side the brunt of the battle fell on the Rathor cavalry under Bhim Singh (the bakhshi of Jodhpur) who had vowed in Sawai Pratap Singh's presence not to return alive without victory, and the Mughalia deserters under Muhammad Beg Hamadani, these two generals respectively leading the right and left wings of their army. Their centre was formed by the Kacchawas, who kept themselves back exactly like Mahadji's Hindustanis facing them.[19]

After the usual light skirmishes between the rival patrols, the battle started about nine in the morning with a mutual cannonade which did more injury to the Marathas, because their guns dragged from a more distant base and across a wide stony river-bed, were lighter pieces than those of the Rajputs whose camp was close behind. As the Jaipur guns were larger, their balls reached Mahadji's army, and many men and horses were killed, while Mahadji's shots did not touch the Rajputs. The Jaipur balls were found to weigh from five to fourteen seers. On hearing of this, Mahadji ordered four large guns to be taken to Rana Khan.[20]

A little before eleven o'clock the distant cannonade ceased as it by mutual consent. Then a tumultuous shout was heard on the Rajput right, and through the smoke screen burst 4000 Rathor horsemen at the gallop. These desperadoes after taking a last lingering pull at their pipes of opium, charged the Maratha left. The Maratha batteries ploughed through their dense ranks, opening bloody lanes at each discharge. But heedless of their fallen comrades, the survivors swept up to the Maratha guns, sabred the gunners and still advancing fell upon the supporting infantry. Their terrific impact broke the first line of the left wing; hundreds of Nagas and Afghans were slain, and even De Bigne's sepoys after firing a few volleys were forced back in confusion. The cool Savoyard led his disordered ranks obliquely to the rear, formed the survivors again, and reopened small arm fire, but the Rajputs persisted on.[21]

Rana Khan promptly sent up reinforcements of Deccani horse under Shivaji Vitthal (Bapu), Rayaji Patil and Khande Hari (Appa) who rallied the fugitives and renewed the combat. The bloodiest and most obstinate struggle of the day raged here. The situation at one time became so critical that the sons of Murtuza Khan Barech dismounted and fought on foot, which is the last expedient of Indian warriors when driven to bay. More guns at last came up from the rear and the Rathors retreated. The Rajputs had to pay a heavy price, suffering 1000 casualties including high officers like Shivaram Bhandari and Bhim Singh's brother-in-law, besides a score of lower officers. On the other hand, Marathas suffered 300 casualties, including Ghazi Khan (brother of Murtuza Khan), Shambhuji Patil and one jamadar slain, and Malhar Rao Pawar, Chimanji Khande Rao (Bapu's diwan)), the nephew of Bapu himself and one jamadar wounded). But the greatest loss to the Rajput cause was the death of Muhammad Beg Hamadani which broke the spine of their offensive power. In the death of Hamadani (the most famous Muslim warrior then living in North India), the Marathas exacted their revenge.[22]

The Rathors during the rest of the day made three or four advances as if to fall upon the Maratha guns again, but found no opportunity of carrying out their design. The Mughalias, deprived of their chief, did not stir again. After repulsing the first two enemy attacks, Marathas stood on the defensive, the army wary of their treacherous Hindustani comrades joining the Rajputs at any given point of time. But thanks to the successful defence by Rayaji Patil and others, the traitors got no chance of doing so. But there was no further advance on the Maratha side, because it began to rain in the afternoon, making that sandy plain difficult for artillery movement. Also, of concern, were the ravine sin front (convenient for ambushes), the oncoming darkness and the lack of water in that tract.[23]

Thus, each side fell back to its camp and resorted to random firing till an hour after sunset in order to guard against any surprise in the darkness. And the battle of Tunga, miscalled that of Lalsot, 'though sanguinary, had no decisive result', as De Boigne remarked.[24]

Conclusion[edit]

The battle of Tunga has been universally acclaimed by the Rajputs as a victory. Tactically, it had no right to the claim: the Rajputs delivered successive charges on the Maratha forces in the field and failed to dislodge them; all their attacks were repulsed, and at the end of the clay, each side returned to its camp in the rear, as was then the usual practice. The day after the battle, the Maratha army reappeared on the same field and advanced, within gunshot distance of the Jaipur camp, but none on the opposite side ventured too stir out. That is not the conduct of a victorious army. Their Raja even begged for a two days' truce for burying and burning his dead. Nor could the Rajputs boast of having taken a single Maratha gun, and their own casualty list was much heavier than that of the Marathas.[25]

And yet it was not a victory for Marathas either. Mahadji had failed to crush the enemy in the field, or to rout them out of their camp. He had not captured any enemy gun. Therefore, his offensive must be adjudged a failure. Considered in its startegy, the Lalsot campaign as a whole was a failure for Mahadji. The failure was due to his lack of a single clear objective steadily pursued and his blunder in concentrating every available soldier for the field fight, which left his line of communication with the Kerauli fatally unprotected and made it impossible for him to spare an adequate escort for the vitally necessary grain convoys. He was indeed starved out of Rajputana.[26]

After the failure of the Lalsot campaign, the Marathas evacuated Jaipur territory, and they repeated their visitation there only in May, 1790, in the Battle of Patan, after which the remnant Rajput resistance was crushed by Marathas once and for all.

References[edit]

  1. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 284
  2. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 270
  3. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 271
  4. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 272
  5. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 273
  6. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 273
  7. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 274
  8. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 275
  9. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 275
  10. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 276
  11. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 276
  12. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 277
  13. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 277
  14. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 277
  15. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 278
  16. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 279
  17. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 279
  18. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 280
  19. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 281
  20. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 282
  21. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 282
  22. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 282
  23. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 283
  24. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 283
  25. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 284
  26. ^ A History of Jaipur: C. 1503-1938, Jadunath Sarkar, p 284