Monday, 20 January 2014

George:Not of the Jungle but King of Haryana

He is perhaps the only Irishman to have ruled a Kingdom and he did so only for a few years before the ambition of expanding his empire did him in.
He was also the most successful General in India during the later part of the 18th century and after he had served various Indian chiefs, he went on to found a kingdom in India which did not survive beyond a few years.
A mercenary, he started life on a ship and deserted it when the vessel docked at Madras. Over time, he rose to become one of the most successful generals of his times and he had a dedicated band of more than 2000 men who helped him in carving out a small kingdom in the north of India.
He always carried a six-pound cannon on him and he used it on his enemies and adversaries to devastating effect. He also had a bunch of  dedicated soldiers whose job it was to keep his muskets loaded and primed to fire. Since, bullets always kept raining continuously from his rifles and six pounder, his enemies rarely preferred to stand and fight.
He always was at the head of his army and personally led the battles. This gave him a fearsome reputation and he used this to good effect when he founded the Kingdom of  Hansi in Haryana more than two hundred years.
The Kingdom, which comprised what is part of Haryana today, rose and died with him. He was the first and only King of Irish descent and the only Christian to rule over the very areas where the once mighty Hindu Emperor Prithviraj Chavan had established his empire.
Hansi was also home to Prithiviraj Chavan and to a host of other kings such as Feroz Shah of the Tughlaq dynasty of Delhi and it was also the place where Guru Govind Singh and silk rebel Banda Bahadur had led rebellions against the Muslims. 
This man was none other than George Thomas, an Irish adventurer who rose from the ranks of a ordinary sailor working in a ships; cabin to become an independent king, making Hansi his capital.

Born in Roscrea, Tipperary in Ireland in 1756, George had a roller coaster life in India and he dies in 1802 in Barhampur.
George’s father was a poor Catholic tenant farmer near Roscrea and he died when George was still a child. George took up work as a labourer on the docks at Youghal.
He joined the British Navy and sailed to India. He deserted the ship when it docked in Madras in 1781. He then decided to go into the plains of India and make an independent living.
Though an illiterate, he led a group of Pindaris north to Delhi by 1787, where he took service under Begum Samru of Sardhana. He distinguished himself in April 1788 in the action of Gokulgarh.
Driven out of the Begum’s court by the French, particularly by a French officer, Levassoult, who soon supplanted our George to become the Begum’s favourite, he took up service under Appa Rao, a powerful Maratha chieftain. By then, admiring Indians had labelled George as Jaharai Jung or the Warlike George.  
His prowess as a man who loved fighting and as a man who personally led his men into even the most adversarial contests won him the loyalty of the men he commanded. If his enemies feared him, his men swore by him.   
He had a band of fiercely loyal personal bodyguard of  horsemen who were the ruffians he had met and interacted with during the Pindari days. He also employed a squad of musket loaders whose job it was to see that George never out of a weapon.
When Appa Rao died, George decided not to hire himself and set out to carve out his own Kingdom. He looked around Delhi and found Haryana to be the perfect place. Abandoned by the Mughals and frequently devastated by wars with the Afghans, the land which is part of Haryana now was like a ripe apple waiting to be plucked.
George then decided it was high time that the region got its King. In 1797, with 2,000 troops at his command, he went around Hansi and declared himself King.
He repaired the fort of Hansi, built a new Gate which stand even today and sent out his soldiers to police the roads. He promised growers and farmers protection provided they accepted him as King and paid tax. The grateful farmers, who had been reeling under lawlessness for decades, accepted.
George then invited masons, carpenters, builders, craftsmen and others to settle down in his Kingdom. He then went on to build a mint to issue coins in his own name. So George was the first and last white King of Hansi from 1798 and his reign lasted a little more than two years.
By 1800, George of Ireland had settled down to become King George of Hansi. His Kingdom was bound by Patiala in the north, Bhatti in the north west, Bikaner in the West, Jaipur in the south, Dadari in the south east and Rohtak and Panipat.
He soon became ambitious and decided to extend his Kingdom and his eye fell on the Sikh states that surrounded Hansi and the Rajput Kingdoms.
He first took on the Maharaja of Jaipur and met his huge army at Fathepur. Though vastly outnumbered, King George ploughed into the Rajput ranks and went on firing his six pounder. Legend has it that he held off a fierce Rajput attack of two hundred and more Rajputs with his favourite six pounder.
By George, our Irish King of Hansi won the battle. Today, historians who take a look at his graph, rate George much higher than the Englishman Robert Clive or his French rival Dupliex.
Wherever he took his men, he tasted victory. In January 1800, he invaded Patiala and plundered the city. He then attacked Sirsa and expelled the Bhatti kings. It was then that Man Singh, the King of Jind, sought the services of the French General, Pierre Cuillier-Perron (1753–1834), better known as Perron, to tackle George.
Perron was the commander of the Maratha forces in north India. He to had an axe to grind against King George. He formed a confederacy of Sikhs and Marathas and marched against George in 1801.
George, by then, appeared to have lost his appetite for a fight. He was defeated. His body and mind too deteriorated and it appears that more than a decade of tough wars had exhausted him.

Though captured, he was treated with respect and given safe conduct to return to his own people. However, he died near Murshidabad in Bengal, August, 22, 1802 aged 46.

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