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The Rohillas have long ceased to be an independent power, their country having been, in 1774, annexed to the territories of the Vizier (now the kingdom) of Oude, by which it was bounded on the east, as it was by those of the Mogul emperor on the west. In 1801, Rohilcund came, with other provinces ceded by the Vizier to the East-India Company, under the dominion of Great Britain.
The foundation of the Rohilla state, in the country now known as Rohilcund (formerly called Kuthair), took place between the years 1720 and 1730, and had its origin in two enterprising chiefs of the Rohilla tribes of Afghanistan, with a few followers, entering Hindustan in search of military employment, and engaging in the service of one of the chiefs of the predatory bands of northern Hindustan. This chief assigned to them certain lands for the maintenance of themselves and followers, which, in a few years, after many adventurous but varying incidents, they contrived to exchange, by the only law which they acknowledged--the sword, for the dominions of their former employer; who fell in one of the battles that he fought against those enterprising Afghans.
From this inconsiderable beginning, the Rohillas became one of the most powerful and warlike states, as they were unquestionably one of the bravest tribes of India. They did not, however, attain this pre-eminence without numerous desperate and sanguinary conflicts with the neighbouring powers, attended with alternate victory and defeat; but, in every instance wherein the latter occurred, either retrieving or rendering ineffectual the evil fortune of the day, by unextinguished bravery and uncompromising resolution. They were at length subdued, nominally by the Vizier of Oude, but in reality by British valour, in the battle of Bagga Nulla. Whatever laurels the handful of our gallant soldiers (who bore almost the whole brunt of the action) may have reaped on that occasion, the local government of the time appears to have gained little credit for the political share which it had in the transaction.
The religion of the Rohillas is Mahomedan ; and their government, during their existence as an independent state, might be considered to have been, like that of their original country Afghanistan, feudal. Braver men than the Rohillas could not be found, and no power in India could have subdued them except the English. Bred amidst the din of war they believed the only honourable profession in life to be that of arms, and the noblest right of possession to be that of the sword. Entertaining these opinions, it may be readily imagined that, in having given them full credit for their military virtues, little can be said of any other.
In the Asiatic Journal of October 1824, is an extract of a letter which relates some anecdotes illustrative of the Rohilla war in 1774, that terminated in the battle of Bagga Nulla, which I have just mentioned. They appear to have been related by a gentleman who was an eye-witness, fifty years before, of the events described.
In the battle in question “the Rohillas were commanded by Hafiz Ramut Khan, a gallant leader, and they bravely stood a cannonade of several hours, before our infantry line moved forward and drove them from their position and encampment, which we took possession of. The enemy was dispersed in every direction, and lost many men in the pursuit, which the Vizier's irregulars continued for many miles, destroying vast numbers of their brave enemies. I well remember the tragic scene of the Vizier's visit to Colonel Campion, our commander in the battle, who was reposing himself, after the fatigues of the day, in a tent in the Rohilla camp. It was reported that Hafiz Ramut was killed in the action, and that the Vizier was about to present his head to the Colonel. Curiosity brought most of the English officers to the tent, and shortly the Vizier dismounted from his elephant, and one of his followers produced the head of poor Hafiz. It was wrapped in a dirty cloth : the countenance was placid : the beard, though Hafiz was an old man, was black. Some doubts as to its being the head of the chief were removed by the lamentations and assurances of a wounded Rohilla, who was lying near the tent. There was not an Englishman who did not lament the fate of poor Hafiz. Not so his implacable and ostentatious enemy, who could not conceal his joy at the spectacle exhibiting.”
After the battle of Bagga Nulla, one of the Rohilla chiefs, Fysoolah Khan, escaped with the remnants of his nation to the mountains and jungles, where he entrenched himself, and held out till he negociated for a small independent territory. “ After which (says the writer) curiosity carried many of us to view the spot where these wretched people had suffered so much. It was said that two-thirds of them had died of famine and disease; and truly, the number of graves, and the limbs and offal of dead cattle and horses which were strewed about, were ample proof of the assertion. It was a sight most sickening and distressing.” The English lost many officers by the pestiferous air of the place.
“ Rohilcund, when our army entered it in 1774, was a garden : in a few years after it was rendered a desert by the Vizier's government." Since it has been ceded to the English it has become more flourishing.
THE ROSHENIAH SECT.
This sect flourished about two centuries ago in Afghanistan; and their doctrines, although they have been proscribed, are still cherished to a considerable extent in that state. Its founder was Banyezid Ansauri, “ who assumed the title of Rosheniah or illuminati ; though his enemies changed his title to Piri Tawreek (apostle of darkness). Besides the notoriety he has acquired as the founder of a sect, he derives some reputation from another source, being the first author who employed in his works the Afghan or Pushtoo language, in which he displayed such elegance of style, as to extort the praise of those writers who condemned most severely his heretical tenets.
“ Banyezid was born on the borders of Kandahar, among the Vurmud tribe. His father, named Abdallah, was of the class of Ulema, a learned and religious man. In early life, it appears that Banyezid became acquainted with a Malhed, or member of the heretical sect, named Moullah Soliman, from whom he is supposed to have imbibed his principles. On his return from a journey to Hindustan, he began to affect the manners of a solitary recluse, retiring to a cell in the mountains. To such visitors as approached him, he addressed himself, saying, “enter into this recess, fix your mind in profound meditation, and within it you will see God.' He was expelled from this station by the Moslems, and even compelled, by his own father, to renounce his new creed; but he soon after fled to another part of the empire, and employed all his wit, diligence, and ingenuity, which was great, in practising upon the simplicity of the ignorant tribes, to whom he represented himself as a Pir, or religious guide; and pretended he was expressly referred to in the Koran as the teacher who should point out to them the path to God. Persuasion and eloquence were at first the only means used by Banyezid to win men to his belief. But as his sect increased in number and power, comprehending at one period nearly the whole of the Afghans, it assumed a political as well as religious aspect : the founder no sooner finding himself at the head of a formidable party, than he asserted his right to convince by the sword those who were deaf to his arguments. The times were favourable to the innovation, during the dark, turbulent, and sanguinary period which preceded the accession of Akbar to the throne of India. The sect maintained its ground for the greater part of a century, and flourished, in spite of the most vigorous exertions to suppress it, from the beginning of the reign of Akbar to that of Shahjehan. The genius of Banyezid, great as it was, could not withstand the armies successively brought against him : he died of fatigue and vexation. After his death the sect rallied under his sons, who were at length crushed, and two black rocks in the Indus are shewn as the transformed bodies of two of them, and are called after their names Jelallea and Kemanliea, which being situated near the whirlpools occasioned by the junction of another river, aptly represent, according to the orthodox writers, the fate of heretics, whose souls are dashed to pieces and engulphed, through belief in the doctrines of these wretches, as the vessels are destroyed by the rocks into which they have been changed.
“ Dr. Leyden has extracted the following principles as those which Banyezid had been charged, by Akhum Derwezeh, with maintaining heretically. They display a clear affinity to the Ismailiyah heresy; and moreover
shew that he adopted from the Hindus their grand doctrine of Metempsychosis :
“1. God is all in all; and all existing objects are only forms of deity.
“ 2. The great manifestations of divinity are Pirs, or religious teachers, who are forms of divinity, or rather the deity himself. In the spirit of this opinion, Banyezid said to his followers, “I am your Pir and your God.'
“ 3. The sole test of right and wrong is obedience to the Pir, who is the representative of the divinity, or rather deity itself; and therefore right and wrong are not attributes of a Pir; and the greatest of all sins is disobedience to the deity himself.
“ 4. Those who will not receive the precepts of a Pir are in the situation of brutes, that it is in some cases meritorious to kill, and in all cases lawful; or in that of dead men, whose property naturally devolves on the living, and may therefore be legally taken, at pleasure, by all true believers.
“ 5. Human souls transmigrate into other bodies, and reappear in other forms; and the resurrection, the day of judgment, paradise and hell, are only metaphors to express those mundane changes.
“6. The Koran and Hadis are not to be interpreted literally, or according to the apparent sense, but according to the mystic, secret, or interior meaning. The ordinances of the law have, therefore, a mystical meaning, and are ordained only as the means of acquiring religious perfection.
“7. This mystic sense of the law is only attainable by religious exercises, and the instructions of a Pir: it is the source of religious perfection; which perfection being attained, the exterior ordinances of the law cease to be binding, and are virtually annulled.”*
THE DHAMIANS, or the VAISHTENAIVA SECT.
According to Captain Franklin, the Dhamians are a sect of Mahomedan Hindus (about 1,500 in number), principally inhabiting Bundelcund, but partially spread over other parts of India. The sect was founded by an
* Abstracted from an article in vol. xiv. Asiatic Journal.