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TRAVELS IN CASHMERE AND THE PUNJAB

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TRAVELS IN CASHMERE AND THE PUNJAB, "containing a particular account of the government and character of die Sikhs," is an English translation by T.B.Jervis of Baron Charles Hugel`s travelogue written originally in German. The German edition was published at Stuttgart, in four parts, at distant intervals, and the English version in 1845 by John Petheram of London. Baron Huge! visited die court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835. He seems to have possessed extensive knowledge of the narratives of early travellers, viz., Bemier (1667), Forster (1783), Moorcroft (1820), Jacquemont (1831) and Wolff (1832), as well as a reasonable familiarity with the local chronicles, in Persian, relating to these parts.

Hugel`s account begins with the geographical description of the Punjab and Kashmir, dwelling especially on the scenic beauty of the latter. The history of the Sikhs falls into three main parts the careers of the Ten Gurus, the establishment of Sikh misis or confederacies and the rise of the Sukkarchakkias under Ranjit Singh. He gives a dispassionately interesting account of the character and military style of the Maharaja, his court and the persons around him. The Maharaja has no throne. "My sword procures me all the distinction I desire ; I am quite indifferent to external pomp" (p. 288).

He also gives a description of the Maharaja`s person : "When he seats himself in a common English armchair, with his feet drawn under him, the position is one particularly unfavourable to him ; but as soon as he mounts his horse, and with his black shield at his back puts him on his mettle, his whole form seems animated by the spirit within, and assumes a certain grace of which nobody could believe it susceptible. In spite of the paralysis affecting one side, he manages his horse with the greatest ease" (pp. 38081). He outlines the Sikh ruler`s policy : "The sole aim of Ranjit Singh is the preservation and extension of his own unlimited power ; and although his ambitious mind considers all means perfectly allowable to this end, he has never wantonly imbrued his hands in blood.

Never perhaps was so large an empire founded by one man with so little criminality" (p. 382). Hugel refers to various salient features of the Maharaja`s character : his inquisitiveness (p. 289) ; his love of horses and elephants (pp. 30405), the celebrated horse Laili (p. 333), acquisition of the KohiNur (pp. 30304), the principal officers of his court (pp. 28688) and his aversion to retributive justice, especially his unwillingness to inflict penality of death and mutilation, and his ability to reconcile mildness with the just reward due to crime (p. 317). Hugel has reproduced Murray`s statistics of the revenue and army of the Sikh kingdom ; revenue 2,68,09,500 rupees ; army 80,000 men including the French legion of 8,000 trained in European discipline ; 101 elephants; 34,104 horses ; 376 ordnance ; and 370 small canons carried by camels (pp. 40304).

References :

1. Fauja Singh, ed., Historians and Historiography of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1978
2. Khurana, Gianeshwar, British Historiography on the Sikh Power in the Punjab. Delhi, 1985
3. Darshan Singh, Western Perspective on the Sikh Religion. Delhi, 1991

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