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Shimla Hill States in The 19th Century (An Old & Rare Book)

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Item Code: UAT056
Publisher: B.R. Publishing Corporation
Author: V.Verma
Language: English
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788176466356
Pages: 355
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 600 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Over ages the Himalayas has been a centre of attraction, Rishis, royals, saints and sages have been drawn to it in the innate human quest for eternal freedom; freedom from the never-ending cycle of death and birth. In its western part lie the Cis-Satluj hills sparsely populated by the original inhabitants and the later emigrants, in over whelming majority tilling the pin-head sized plots in a chancy endeavour to eke a modest subsistence. Right at the beginning of the period of study, that is, nineteenth century, the hills witnessed political upheaval of some magnitude resulting in the thirty-odd ruling princes bartering their independence in exchange for a modicum of autocracy in addition to territorial integrity of their fiefdoms guaranteed by the paramount British power in India. After making a brief reference to this episode of local history, the author turns the focus of attention on to the people; their life style, the community life they had; agriculture, to what was their usual diet and how they dressed etc., etc. The right at peasant had in the soil and the heavy price he paid for it to the Raja or Raña, the malik-a alla, in numerous forms, such as land revenue, cesses, in goods and services and the cross of unpaid forced labour (begar) and beth that he carried on his weary shoulders in addition has received special treatment at his hands. In short, agrarian economy is the focal point around which he has attempted the portrait. The publishers more than the author wish the book a generous response. But as an old adage goes if wishes were the horses the beggars would ride. Dear reader, it is entirely in your hands to judge the work.

About the Author

V. Verma's writing spans the greatest period of change in modern history of Himachal Pradesh from the days of the Raj, with Emergence of Himachal Pradesh: A Survey of Constitutional Developments (1995); to the study of tribal life of the State's tribals, namely, Gaddis (Gaddis of Dhauladhar: A Transhument Tribe of the Himalayas) (1996); the Pangwals (Pangi: A Tribal Habitat in Mid-Himalayas) (1997); the Spitials (Spiti: A Buddhist Land in Western Himalaya) (1997) and the Ban Gujars (A Nomadic Tribe in Himachal Pradesh) (1999). Of the several works published the most recent has been Kanauras of Kinnaur: A Scheduled Tribe in Himachal Pradesh (2002). While holding office of Secretary, Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha (1982 88) and even thereafter he contributed profusely to various Indian and foreign journals chiefly on the mechanics of Indian Parliamentary System. Born in 1928 at Behrampur (Gurdaspur district of Punjab), his parents migrated to the then princely State of Suket where they settled permanently. Now-a-days he resides at Shimla very often visiting Sundernagar, his native place.


'No bird soars high if he soars on his own wings'. [William Blake]. I have often said and never tire of repeating it. It is my belief that no enterprise would reach the crowning point without the support and assistance from others. The perceptive reader would note that the book in his hands has drawn its substance from the narratives of numerous European travellers who explored the Cis-Satluj hills during the nineteenth century and left for the posterity, exhaustive record of their keen observations respecting the land and its people. Meriting special mention are the names of James Baillie Fraser [1815], Alexander Gerard [1817], William Moorcroft and Georg Trebeck [1820], William Llyod [1821-22], G.C. Mundy [1828], Edward C. Archer [1828], Victor Jacquemont [1821-22], George Thomas Powel [1846], Thomas Thomson [1847], Alexander Cunningham [1847]. Besides their accounts I have relied on contemporary official papers, on various Revenue Settlement Reports, the Gazetteers and the like documents which were readily available. I have benefitted from numerous scholarly works-books, articles and research papers-which appeared in print during the nineteenth century or years later. Among these, I make special reference to Dr. M.R. Rathore's doctoral thesis, which, I wonder why has he not cared to publish. I have no hesitation in admitting that I took full advantage of the material the author had collected, of course, painstakingly, as also of the sources he had tapped. For this assistance I shall remain indebted to him. I am grateful to MS Veena Thakur for the map and to MS Uma Chandel for copying artistically the oft-published reproduction of a sketch of begaris. There are many other friends who helped, supported or assisted me in one way or the other: I convey sincere thanks to all of them. I appreciate the good work done by Mr. K.D. Mehta in the production of the C.D. The Asiatic Society, Kolkata, an Institution of National Importance, assisted first by looking up for me and then furnishing me with zerox copies of a couple of research papers which had appeared in its journals way back in the middle of the 19th century. I am thankful to Shri Ramakanta Chakraborty, the Society's General Secretary. Also to the officials of the Archives, National and the State [Himachal Pradesh] for their supportive attitude. I am obliged to my wife, Neena, and other family members for the moral support I received from all of them in full measure. I dedicate humble product of my exertions to Mian Govardhan Singh, late lamented friend. As on past several occasions he had inspired me to take up this particular subject for study. To my personal knowledge he had guided, supported and encouraged like-wise dozens of others. Humble in deportment not in stock; he came from a very respectable mian family of Jubbal and had graduated from the Punjab University, Lahore. His interest in books had drawn him to libraries, which attraction eventually made him choose the science of library management as his life long career. Truly he was gem of a man; a thorough gentleman and a walking encyclopedia to boot. His friends would miss him for a very very long time. Finally I thank my publishers, Messers B.R. Publishing Corporation, Delhi and especially its proprietor, Shri Praveen Mittal for the very handsome manner in which they have undertaken the printing of the book, as well for affording every assistance in their power with a view to facilitate its early/publication.


Simla (as spelt earlier], the outpost of the British Indian Empire in the extreme north-west of the Country, was practically an oasis surrounded by twenty odd principalities, some of them fairly large and others comparatively petty, occupying approximately an area of 5000 square miles of the Cis-Satluj hills. Slivers of territory were ruled by the native Chiefs, who bore the honorific title of Raja or Rana, mostly of Rajput descent, with history of little more than of 'an antiquarian interest'. In earlier times, though, the number of large and small States between the rivers Satluj and Yamuna, more or less independent in proportion as they were powerful, was considerable. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, an interesting political development of far-reaching consequences, shattered otherwise inviolate isolation of the hills. Driven from the Kangra valley by the superior power of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Amar Singh Thapa, commander of the Gurkha Army, established himself at Arki, the capital of small State of Baghal. Strategically entrenched in the heart of the hills, he launched an armed aggression against the local rulers and before long brought the entire tract from Sirmur in the east to Bushahr in the extreme north under his sway. For little more than a decade, the Gurkhas remained the undisputed lords ravaging the land as any foreign invaderwere wont to do. The student of Indian history knows that every circumstance favoured the growth of British rule in the Country. India had become a veritable museum of internal decay and disorder and it lay at the feet of any foreign invader who could combine in himself the qualities of tact, energy and foresight. Like-gifted the British, judging the moment opportune, declared war against Nepal on November 1, 1814 and within a short period of fifteen months or so compelled Amar Singh to sign a convention by which he agreed to withdraw the Gurkha Army from the Cis-Satluj hills and to surrender all the possessions and forts situated between Satluj and Yamuna. J Rather than annex the territories to their own possessions, and be saddled with cumbersome responsibility of administrating the inaccessible and mountainous country, the British astutely decided to retain only a foothold in strategic areas. The major factor, which the British were quick to notice and which paid them handsome dividends in the years to come, was the docile nature of the local inhabitants, who they found were 'simple-minded, orderly people, truthful in character and submissive to authority' scarcely requiring 'to be ruled'. The interlude impacted not only the polity of the hills but also left an indelible mark on the entire spectrum of the community life. The British policy of preserving the States guaranteed through sanads ironically produced most harmful effect upon the local administrations. The greatest objection as could validly be raised was that it snapped the natural link between a ruler and his subjects. The old system of kingship carefully balanced the rights and privileges of a ruler with his duties and responsibilities. By assuming the responsibility to keep him secure on his 'gaddi', the British government disturbed the delicate equation and deprived the people of means of controlling the unjust acts of their ruler. Under the old scheme an autocrat could justify his despotic rule only if he retained power by the dint of his personality capacity and competence to govern. The British protection removed what was perhaps the, greatest incentive to an able, and good administration, that is, deterance of the wrath of his own subjects if he failed to provide a just and humane administration.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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