A landmark historical work, written at the cusp of modernity in the early nineteenth
century, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan was Lieutenant Colonel James Tod’s classic
tribute to this grand desert region on India. Tod, mesmerized by this region and its
inhabitants the Rajpoots, dedicated himself to examining every things about Rajasthan
through indigenous documentation architectural relics, inscriptions, and medieval poetry.
For twenty years, Tod delved deep into its long history, its legends and folklore, its
social customs and its art. He also conducted geographical research and made the first
accurate map of Rajasthan in 1815.
This pioneering book condenses the two thick volumes of Tod’s Annals and presents
them in an accessible and comprehensive manner. While Tod’s original style has been
preserved, some gaps and inaccuracies have been clarified by the author A treasury of
invaluable material for historians and general readers alike, the Annals cover the history
of six important regions of Rajasthan Mewar, Marwar, Jessulmer, Bikaner, Amber, and
Haravati-and give an engaging account of Rajpoot life from the twelfth century onwards. Many
of the surviving traditions of Rajpoots that have their roots in bloody battles, tribal
conquests, or petty rivalries, and the Rajpoots’ inherent chivalry, loyalty, devotion and
zeal have been perceptively discussed. This abridgement also illuminates how the history of
the subcontinent was successively written and perceived by the British.
About the Author
E. Jaiwant Paul is a man of varied interests, having authored seven other books,
including Ram of Jhansi, The Story of Tea, Baji Rao, The Unforgettable Maharajas, Har Dayal:
The Great Revolutionary (co-author Mrs Shubh Paul), and Arms and Armour: Traditional Weapons
of India. He is on the expert panel on weapons for several museums of Rajasthan.
A hardcore corporate, he initially worked for Hindustan Unilever and was later a
director of brooke Bond, India. Thereafter, he headed the National Mineral Water Company in
Muscat, Oman. A keen cricketer and tennis player, he now lives in Delhi and serves as a
director of a few companies.
In his classic historical work Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, first published in 1829,
James Tod has immortalized the history, legends, and social customs of the Rajpoots. It is a
massive work of original research and remains even today rich source material for detailed
studies, despite some factual inaccuracies. Tod has captured the essence of Rajasthan and
introduced into this work the delight of a romance and powerful human interest. It is
touched with emotion on every page. Despite this, however, the Annals could never gain
popularity because going through hundreds of pages of closely written and heavy matter
demands concentration and time. The author’s style although rich and vivid, is at times
confusing and meandering. I have seen the big book on may household shelves but it is never
read and perhaps only occasionally referred to. It is for this reason I have attempted to
present selections from this historical work in a concise and more readable form, so that it
does not remain obscure and forgotten. I have also tried to retell Tod’s story in his own
language and have used his spellings of names and places in order to retain some of the
Tod’s classic is based on a variety of sources. He began with obscure genealogies
contained in the Puranas, examined the Mahabharata and studied the historical poems of Chund
or Chand Bardai and other bards. As he says, ‘Bards may be regarded as the historians of
mankind.’ He then delved into the chronicles of Mewar, Marwar, Jessulmer, Kotah and Boondi.
He took into account the more recent compilations of the famous Raja Jey Singh of Amber. He
had a learned Jain scholar translate this mass of material into the more familiar Hindi
dialects, which Tod had mastered. For his further research he sat amidst the ruins of
ancient cities and picked the brains of knowledgeable people regarding their historical
tradition through their poems, tales and religion. Being a cautious man, he further
confirmed his facts. Tod studied architectural relics, monument and inscriptions he spent
ten years absorbing the soul-stirring history of Rajpoot chivalry – their sacrifices and
triumphs. He read of their final disasters brought about by the fact that they were divided
by feudality while their enemies, though perhaps less brave, were united nations. Toward the
end of his labours, Tod was probably more a Rajpoot than a Scotsman and the bleak northern
country in which he had spent his boyhood was nothing more than a dream. It has been said
that Tod’s involvement with Rajasthan was a love story, and the Annals the declaration of
On occasion Tod narrates events in the language of the poetic bards of Rajasthan.
These animated chronicles are dramatic and he feels they cannot always be reduced to the
severe style of history. But the bards’ flowery language is convoluted and tangled. Too many
events are crowded together and the chronological order of happenings is sometimes
confusing. In the present selection and abridgement much simplification and condensation was
necessary, but to retain the drama and romance, the original text of the bards is also
brought in when required.
One drawback of these bardic histories is that they are confined almost exclusively
to the martial exploits of their heroes. The authors tend to disregard civil matters and the
arts; love and war are their favourite themes. For the Rajpoot the ideal of the warrior-hero
is inculcated from childhood and death on the battlefield is the only worthwhile goal.
Another problem I have had with the Annals is that Tod has stressed the divisions
between Hindus and Muslims. There is enough material in the Annals to colour history and
personal relation. This was in line with the British policy of divide and rule.
Interestingly, Tod tried to establish ‘the common origin of the tribes of Rajasthan
and those of ancient Europe’. He claimed that the Scythic tribes were the common link
between the two. This was a variation of the Indo-Aryan hypothesis advanced by various
I have to the best of my ability, included short notes where necessary, which may
clarify or elaborate Tod’s narrative and question or authenticate the historicity of some of
the events stated. Several sources have been used for this purpose.
But what of the man James Tod himself? Who was he – of what parentage – what was his
early life and education? One is compelled to confess one’s ignorance. Once he joined the
East India Company we have more details. He was born in Scotland, about 1782. when he was
only eighteen years old, in 1800, he came to India with a commission in the Bengal European
regiment. Unlike many of his brother officers, Tod did not have the family influence to help
him get early promotions and so he volunteered for the Molucca Isles and was transferred to
the marine service. Afterwards, he ‘ran the gauntlet from Calcutta to Hardwar’, which was
hazardous as in the early 1800s the British controlled only portions of eastern and southern
India. This move set James Tod on a new and better career. In 1805 when he as nothing more
than a subaltern in the British force at Gwalior, he commanded an escort attached to the
embassy sent to Maharaja Sindia, who at that time was encamped at Mewar. Thus, the
still-independent states of Rajasthan became his ‘home of adoption’ and he spent the best
part of his life there. Tod, only twenty-four old, resolved to be more than a mere political
resident and became, successively, a geographer, historian and archaeologist. He started
with the geography of Rajasthan. So far in the maps of India, this part of the country was a
blank and Tod did a survey and produced a detailed and accurate map of Rajasthan, which he
presented to the Marquis of Hastings in 1815. This proved very useful to the British in
their subsequent operations. In between Tod also led an expedition against the Pindaris. He
then moved on to become a historian.
He remained engrossed with his research till 1817 when he was appointed political
agent of an extensive area comprising five major states of Rajasthan: Mewar, Marwar,
Jessulmer, Kotah and Boondi. This promotion, as well as the high regard Tod was held in by
the princes of Rajasthan, caused jealousy and suspicion at British headquarters, but he soon
refuted it by the excellence of his work. In 1818 Mewar signed a treaty with the British and
Colonel Tod as political agent quickly realized that Oodipoor (Udaipur) was in such a state
of anarchy that his role would need to be more than advisory and he set about reorganizing
the state economy. Within two years he had doubled the revenues of the state.
He did much for the people of these states and endeared himself to them. In a latter
to a friend he wrote, ‘Regarding Bhilwana, the work of my hands, in February 1818 there was
not a dog in it, in 1822 I left 3,000 houses of which 1,200 were bankers and merchants: an
entire street arcaded was built under my directions and with my means. Whatever I did was in
the Rana’s name. The affection of these people a thousand times repaid my cares. How health
and comfort were spurned in their behalf! I have lain on my pallet, with high fever, my
spleen so enlarged as to be felt in every part of my ribs; fifty leeches at work…all the
while half dead with inanition.’ A small town in Rajasthan, which I visited a few years ago,
is named after him: Todgarh.
Tod’s association with India was to end soon. After twenty-two years’ residence, his
health had broken down and he was released from his duties so he could return to Britain.
Even after this he decided to travel I the Aravulli Mountains and Aboo and went on to
Saurashtra visiting historical places. He finally returned to his homeland in 1823.
Once back he scrutinized the material he had so assiduously collected and researched
over long years. The result was the Annals and Antiquities Rajasthan, which was produced in
two volumes in 1829 and 1832. This book opened up new paths in the study of the history,
philosophy and religion of India and was of great significance for subsequent scholars.
Another book of value, Travels in Western India, was posthumously published in 1839.
Tod’s health problems, however, continued and a complaint in the chest forced him to
live in Italy for a year. He returned to England in 1835 intending to retire to a property
he had purchased, but died at the early ago of fifty-three, on the sixteenth anniversary of
As a postscript, a recent comment made to me by I.K. Gujral, the former prime
minister of India, should be mentioned. He said that in the 1920s, stories from the Annals
of Rajasthan were a source of inspiration and helped kindle the national spirit in the
struggle against colonialism. I am sure Tod would have been happy to hear this!
The origin of the Rajpoots is a subject of much debate among historians. In his rather
dramatic description Tod says that Rajpoots are of Scythic origin and the cradle of the race
has been variously described as ‘amidst the hills of the Caucasus’ and the steppes of
Central Asia. The period when they migrated into India cannot be stated with exactitude.
James Tod differentiates them from other Hindus and characterizes the Rajpoot thus: He
delights in blood: his offering to the god of battle are blood and wine. He Says buffaloes,
hunts and eats the boar and deer; he worships his horse, his sword, and the sun, and attends
more to the martial song of the bard than to the litany of the Brahmin. The worship of the
sword, or the Kharga shapna, is performed during the festival of Dussehra. The most powerful
oath of the Rajpoot is by his sovereign’s throne or by his arms: ‘By my sword and shield.’
The worship of the sword (asi) my divide with that of the horse (Aswa) the honour of giving
a name to the continent of Asia. The Rajpoot also deems the advice of a woman important in
exigencies and appends to her name the epithet Devi (godlike). He has a passion for games of
chance and is often attached to sensual pleasures and when aroused is reckless. Love of
liquor is deep-rooted, it is called amrit, the ambrosial in which sparkles the ruby seed of
the pomegranate and the glory of the race of the fearless.
The Rajpoots are divided into three groups. The Sooryavansa or the race of the sun
is a descendant of Rama. The Induvansa or Chandravansa, the lunar group, is descended from
Crishna. The progenitor of the Agniculas is fire, and they were created at the summit of
Aboo by the Brahmins to fight their battles.
These three groups are further subdivided into chatees rajculas, thirty-six royal
clans. To mention a few, Gehlotes of Mewar, commonly called Sesodias are Sooryavansi, as are
the Rahtores. The Bhattis of Jessulmer and the Tuars are of the Iunar race. The Cuchwahas of
Amber are descended from Cush. The Chohans, or the four-handed warriors, are the most
valiant not only of the Agniculas, but the whole Rajpoot race.
The Rajpoot does not have a high regard for Brahmins and merely shows them outward
civility. In funeral ceremonies, the Rajpoot warrior is carried to his final abode fully
armed, shield on his back and sword in hand. Mausoleums in his memory are built by the son.
According to their martial mythology, the soldier who falls in battle is exempted from the
pains of another birth. Female immolation, or sati, is a well-known rite and magnificent
cenotaphs are raised on the spot. No Rajpoot can marry in his own clan or amongst the
enemies of his sovereign.
Armorial emblems of the Rajpoots go back to ancient times. En Europe they only
became popular during the Crusades, when they were copied from the Saracens. The banner of
Mewar exhibits a golden sun on a crimson field Amber displays the panchranga, or
five-coloured flag, the lion rampant on an argent field represents the now extinct state of
Chanderi. The peakcock was always a favoured emblem among Rajpoots and the feathers often
adorn a helmet.
Back of the Book
‘The combined armies of Khorasan and Room advanced like waves of the ocean, caparisons and
chains clanked on the backs of elephants, while instruments of war resounded through the
host. Elephants moved like walking mountain; the sky was black with clouds of dust and
bright helms (helmets) reflected the rays of the sun. Four kos (thirteen kilometres)
separated the hostile armies. Raja Guj and his chieftains performed their oblations and
keeping the joginis (unclean spirits of Rajpoot martial mythology who feet on the slain) in
the rear, advanced to the combat. Each host rushed on like famished tigers; the earth
trembled; the heavens were overcast; nor was aught visible in the gloom but the radiant
‘War bells resounded; horses neighed; masses of men advanced on each other like the
dark rolling clouds of bhadoon. Hissing sped the feathered arrow; the lion roar of the
warriors was re-echoed; the edge of the sword deluged the ground with blood; on both sides
blows resounded on the crackling bones. Here was Guj Race, there the Khans and Ameers, as if
Time had encountered his fellow. Mighty warriors strew the earth; heroes fell in the cause
of their lords.’
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