This section considers Important events within Anglo-Sikh history such as early European accounts of Sikhs, the role ofSikhs in the armed forces and pre British Raj accounts.


Letter from Major Polier 1776

Extract from a letter from Major Polier at Delhi to Colonel Ironside at Belgram, May 22, 1776

I have also appended, An Extract from a letter of Major Polier written from Delhi on May 22, 1776, to Colonel Ironside at Belgram, and a note on the Character of the Seiks (from the observations of Colonel Polier and Mr. George Forster) culled from 'The Asiatic Annual Register' for the year 1800 (London, 1801, pp. 32-35) and 1802 (London, 1803, pp. 9-12), respectively.

The letter to Colonel Ironside was written by Polier some eleven years before he read his paper, and the views and impressions expressed therein do not seem to have undergone much change. The writer of the Character of the Sieks seems to have studied the observations of both Colonel Polier and George Forster. Forster was a civil servant on the Madras establishment of the East India Company. He was a man of adventure and he left Calcutta on May 23, 1782, on his long and arduous overland journey to England and passed through the north-eastern hilly tracts of the Punjab in February, March and April, 1783. He was a keen observer of men and things and he has recorded his impressions and the information collected during the journey in a series of letters published in 1798 under the title of A Journey from Bengal to England. Although, in his own words, Forster was under 'great obligations to Colonel Polier ...for having furnished me with large historical tracts of the Siques', he had 'no tendency to discolour or misreprestent truth', as it appeared to him. 'Guided by no views of interest nor impressed by any frow of power, I was enabled', he says, 'to examine the objects that came before me through a dispassionate medium'. And he has succeeded in it to a very great extent. He has devoted his Letter XI, pp. 253-95, to the- history and religion of the Sikhs, in addition to occasional references to them in other letters, vide i, 128-30, 198-99,227-28 and ii, 83,88.

Dr Ganda Singh

The Sieks
Extract from a letter from Major Poller at Delhi to Colonel Ironside at Belgram, May 22, 1776

The king's dominions are bounded on the north, NW. and WNW, by the Siques: to the NE. and within the Doab Zabita Chan possesses a large tract of country which heretofore belonged to the king, but is now, by the late treaty, finally made over to him.

As for the Seikhs, that formidable aristocratic republick, I may safely say, it is only so to a weak defenceless state, such as this is. It is properly the snake with many heads. Each zemindar who from the Attock1 to Hansey Issar,2and to the gates of Delhi lets his beard grow, cries Wah gorow3, eats pork,4 wears an iron bracelet, drinks 'bang', abominates the smoking of tobacco and can command from ten followers on horseback to upwards, sets up immediately for a Seik Sirdar, and as far as is in his power aggrandize himself at the expense of his weaker neighbours; if Hindu or Mussulman so much the better; if not, even amongst his own fraternity will he seek to extend his influence and power; only with this difference, in their intestine divisions, from what is seen everywhere else, that the husbandman and labourer, in their own districts, are perfectly safe and unmolested, let what will happen round about them. as people used to do, not long ago, at the mention of Mahrattas. But what is more to be admired is that those Seik Sirdars, whose territories border on the King's were but very lately of the Jauts and of their caste and tribe, under which domination had they remained, no one would have thought of them; but now that they have put on their iron bracelet, fifty of them are enough to keep at bay a whole battalion of the King's forces, such as they are. This shows the force of prejudice and the value of military reputation. Such are the immediate neighbours of the King.

Five hundred of Nujhaf Khan's horse dare not encounter fifty Seik horsemen; and yet the last are as despicable a set of creatures as any that can be imagined! On the whole, was it not Sombre's party, and Letafet's forces, Nujhaf Khan would not be able to stand his ground half an hour; and yet this is The Mighty Chief!

Attock or Atak is the local name of the river Indus (Sindh) in the north-western frontier province of Pakistan. There is also a town with a fort of the same name on the eastern bank of the river at a point where the Grand Trunk Road crosses it.
Hansi, Hissar.
Wah-Gorow, or Wahiguru. a name of God, meaning the Wonderful Lord.
Eating of pork or any other kind of meat is not particularly encouraged amongst the Sikhs, much less considered an essential part of the Sikh diet. The use of bhang prevalent amongst the majority of Nihang Sikhs is positively looked down upon as undesirable.
Ahmad Shah Abdali or Durrani.
Light cavalry.

Source:Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, Dr Ganda Singh

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