Origin of Pindaris

By Barmazid

The origin of the Pindaris is shrouded in obscurity. They first come into notice as a class of unpaid auxiliaries attached to Maratha armies of the eighteenth century who lived by plunder and devastation of the enemy country. The name is Marathi and probably derives from two words, meaning “bundle of grass” and “who takes” [1]. They were adventurers and freebooters of every class and denomination — Afghans, Marathas, or Jats [2].

It is said that the earliest reference to Pindaris was made by Manucci who wrote, “Along with the armies [of Mughals in Deccan campaigns] there march privileged and recognised thieves, called Bederia (Bidari) ; these are the first to invade the enemy’s territory, where they plunder everything they find” [3]. William Irvine, the translator, raises the question whether this is really a reference to the Pindaris or simply to the Bidaris, a completely different group. The Pindaris were essentially a phenomena of the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Bhimsen’s memoir of Aurangzeb Deccan campaigns, Tarikh-i-Dilkusha, does not mention the Pindaris . Bhimsen was no stranger to the region that later became the main Pindari zone, since both he and his father had served in Malwa and Deccan for a long time [4].

The leaders of Pindaris who emerged between 1806 through the Maratha War of 1817-8119, were principally Karim Khan, Chito, and Wasil and Dost Muhammad. Karim Khan was perhaps the best known leader of the Pindaris. He was the son of a Rohilla, and rose to power in the service of the Nawab of Bhopal. Chito was a Jat who rose in the Raja of Berar’s service, and became a leader of the Pindaris [5].

A common misunderstanding regarding Amir Khan (d.1834) of Tonk, Rajasthan, was the assumption that he was a Pindari. This is not correct [6]. Edmonstone drew a distinction between the ‘organized troops of the Pathan leaders‘ and the Pindaris. The former consisted chiefly of infantry and artillery regularly formed and disciplined, to which was also added cavalry such as was “usually found in the ranks of native armies” [7]. Even Lord Hastings did not fully identify Amir Khan with the Pindaris.

Amir Khan of Tonk, circa 1790-1800. By Vana Bhatti

References:

1- https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pindaris

2. “A Brief History of the Indian Peoples”, by Sir William Wilson Hunter, p-202

3- Storia da Moger, Vol-2, p-459

4- Sindias and the Raj: Princely Gwalior C. 1800-1850”, By Amar Farooqui, p-40

5- https://asianstudies.github.io/area-studies/SouthAsia/Ideas/Pindaris/1971.html#R05

6-  https://www.dawn.com/news/883557.

7- [British Policy Towards the Pathans and the Pindaris in Central India, 1805-1818, p-226.

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"Khan Barmazid is a Peshawar-based history enthusiast. He runs blog http://www.barmazid.com where he has written reviews on diverse titles of Afghans & Pashtun history.

Published by Barmazid Khan

"Khan Barmazid is a Peshawar-based history enthusiast. He runs blog http://www.barmazid.com where he has written reviews on diverse titles of Afghans & Pashtun history.

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