Annals of Mewar by C.H. Payne, an abridged version of James Tod’s celebrated Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, presents the illustrious history of the Sisodia Rajputs who presided over the land of Mewar and the vaunted fortress of Chittor. Part history, part legend, this is an account of the saffron robed heroes who guarded Mewar’s frontiers, defending her against repeated invasions, and who valued honour above all else.
A tribute to the spirit of the martial Rajput clan, this book is a colourful narrative-complete with illustrations-about legendary rulers like Bappa Rawal, Rana Sanga, and the jewel of Rajputana, Maharana Pratap. Woven into the chronicles of the land are tales of sieges on the fortress of Chittor, of bards celebrating valiant charges by warriors fighting against overwhelming odds, and descriptions of the Jauhar ritual wherein Rajput women chosen death above surrender to the enemy.
Colonel James Tod (1782-1835) was an Englishman born in Islington and educated in Scotland who came to India in 1799 as an officer of the British East India Company.
In India, he joined the Bengal army where he quickly rose through the ranks, achieving the position of Captain by 1813. During this time, he conducted topographical surveys of various areas in India, eventually submitting a map of ‘Central India’ to Governor-General Hastings in 1815. This map would be crucial to the British in their wars against the Marathas. From 1814-15, he led punitive campaigns to subvert the Pindari bandits.
During this time, the princely states of Rajputana were embroiled in bitter fighting amongst themselves and the British were trying to assemble the divided clans into a united confederacy. Tod was appointed Political Agent, with the states of Mewar, Kota, Sirohi, Bundi, Marwar and Jaisalmer under his portfolio. His success in developing friendships with the Rajput and his administrative qualities greatly contributed to British strategic interests in the area, leading to a rise in his stature and importance.
However, Tod’s rapid advancements and considerable authority over Rajasthan brought him at odds with several high-ranking members within the Company along with some disgruntled Rajput princes, and he was accused of favouritism, corruption and insubordination. As a result he was divested of much of his portfolio, till, by 1822, it was restricted only to Mewar. Disgusted with his diminished authority and the attempts to malign his reputation, Tod resigned, citing ill-health as the reason.
He returned to England and busied himself with the compilation of his studies in India. In 1826, Tod married Julia Clutterbuck and produced three children. He also wrote Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, published in two volumes in 1829 and 1832 respectively.
He succumbed to an apoplectic fit on November 18,1835, the day of his wedding anniversary, aged fifty-three.
Wherever I go, whatever days I may number, nor time nor place can ever weaken, much less obliterate, the memory of the valley of Udaipur.” Such are the words with which Colonel James Tod closed his great work, the Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. Few men have ever known an eastern race as Tod knew the Rajput. He not only knew them through and through, their manners, their traditions, their character, and their ideals; but so great was his admiration for their many noble qualities, and so great was his admiration for their many noble qualities, and so completely did he identify himself with their interests, that by the time he left India he had almost become a Rajput himself. The history of Rajputana was, therefore, a subject very dear to Tod’s heart; and, possessing both imagination and descriptive power, he was able to infuse into his pages much of the charm of a romance, and, what is still more rarely to be found in historical works, a powerful human interest. His sympathy for the Rajput is apparent in very line he wrote; but if his enthusiasm leads him at times to overtimate their virtues, he never seeks to palliate their faults, to which, in the main, he attributes the ruin which overtook their race. Notwithstanding its author’s occasional inaccuracies, and the somewhat glaring defects of his style, the Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan still holds its place as the standard authority on the history, of the Rajputana states. Of subsequent writers of Indian history, it would be difficult to point to a single one who has not benefited directly or indirectly by Tod’s labours. But however great the value of the ‘Annals,’ viewed in the light of historical record, they owe their chief charm to the vivid pictures they present of the character, sentiments, and heroic exploits of one of the bravest races that control was established. Rajputana has passed through a century of progress since the ‘Annals’ were written. But it must be remembered that, in our eastern Dependency, habits of life have undergone a much greater change than national prejudices and national ideals; and hence it is that, for those who would understand the India of today. There is no surer guide than the past history of her people. Of the thousands of books that have been written about India, few reveal her secrets more faithfully than the Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan.
And yet this great Indian classic is practically unknown to the present generation, and is all but unprocurable. The first edition, contained in two quarto volume, and illustrated by Messrs Smith, edition ever published in England, and it has long been out of print. A second, in Madras in 1873; and a third of a similar nature, but less accurate, in Calcutta in 1984. The two latter are likewise out of print, and hard to come by; while their fifteen hundred closely printed pages present the story of Rajputana in a form little calculated to attract the general reader. The indifference of English publishers to the importance of Tod’s labours is a matter both for surprise and regret; though it must be doubted whether the Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, in the form in which he left it, could ever have become popular. Passages of interest are abundant throughout; but to make one’s way through the heavier matter in which they are embedded, demands both time and patience; nor is the task lightened by the author’s style, which, though rich and picturesque, is at times, so loose as to be almost incoherent. The actual annals comprise of a minute examination into the genealogies of the various Rajput tribes, an account of their ancient religious beliefs and systems of government, and a lengthy description of the author’s own journeyings and experiences. To the student of Indian antiquities these chapters are of undoubted value; but a knowledge of them is by no means essential to an appreciation of the historical narrative.
The present volume is an attempt to rescue from obscurity at least a portion of this once famous work, and to place it before the reader in what, it is hoped, may prove a convenient and attractive from. Mewar, or Udaipur, with which alone it deals, is, historically, the most important of all the Rajputana states; for the history of Mewar was, for centuries, the history of Rajputana, while, at one period, it was almost the history of India. I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to retell the story in Tod’s own language, omitting such details as seemed to me to confuse the action, or break the continuity of events, and occasionally introducing, from other portions of the original work, anecdotes and descriptions illustrative of the Rajputs of Mewar. The more obvious errors of compositions have been corrected, and the spelling of proper names has been revised according to the system adopted in the Imperial Gazetteer of India. The illustrations have, so far as I know, never reproduced before. The original drawings were by Colonel Tod’s ‘friend and kinsman,’ Major Waugh.
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