The State of Indore

Indore State or the possessions of the Holkars were located in Central India and encompassed an area of some 9500 square miles; it comprised of several blocks of territory without clearly defined boundaries, with the most isolated pargana, Nandwas, located in the midst of the Udaipur State territory to the north and Alampur bounded not only by Gwalior but by Datia on the east and the west.

The ancestors of the rulers of Indore, the Holkars, appear to have migrated southwards to the Deccan from the Mathura region and have initially settled first in Mewar and later in the Aurangabad district before taking up their residence at the village of Hol or Hal on the Nira River, some 40 miles from Poona. (The name is derived from Hol or Hal – the place name – and kar, an inhabitant of) The founder of the House of Indore was Maihar Rao Holkar (1694-1766), a Mahratta chief serving under Peshwa Baji Rao I, rising to be one of the Peshwa’s main generals in Malwa, with his headquarters in Maheshwar and Indore. By the time of his death in 1766, he was virtually the ruler of Malwa.
from 1767 to 1795, his son’s widow, Ahalya Bai ruled the state with great skill and Indore became a seat of peace and justice, an island surrounded by violence. She appointed Tukoji Holkar, a distant relative as commander of her forces and her successor; on his death, a fight for power ensued, between his two legitimate sons, Kashi Rao and Malhar Rao and his two illegitimate sons, Jaswant Rao and Vithoji. As things turned out, the brothers began a contention for the throne. Malhar threw himself on the protection of the Peshwa, while Kashi appealed for help from Scindia of Gwalior’s minister, Sarke Rao Ghatke. Sarje Rao was saw this as an opportunity to gain power over the Holkar territories and on the pretext of preventing a civil war between the brothers, a reconciliation was effected and sworn to but it did not prevent Scindia from surrounding Malher Rao’s camp and not only nearly destroyed his army but killed Malher. His infant son, Khande Rao fell into Scindia’s custody while Jaswant Rao escaped to Nagpur and Vithoji to Kolhapur.
Jaswant Rao, aware his position was weak, did not initially assert any claims on the house of Holkar. Instead, he gave himself out as the champion of Khande Rao Holkar, Malhar Rao’s infant son and called on supporters of the house to rally to his banner. His ruse, as it was just that, eventually succeeded thus far as he became, after a successful albeit ruthless campaign against all sides, as placing him as the chief of the House of Holkar.
In 1803, at the outbreak of the Second Maratha War, Jaswant Rao remained neutral but in 1804, following the defeat of Scindia, he attacked the British and besieged Delhi. This was but a short victory – in November 1804, his forces were defeated at Dig and Farrukhabad, and a year later he sued for peace with the British.
The Holkar rule however continued and after the Third Mahrata War in 1818, Indore became a princely state under the protectorate of British India, complete with a Resident, whose duty was to advise but not rule, over Indore. However, as we have seen in Gwalior, the influence of the resident varied greatly. Indore became the capital of the princely state and the headquarters of the British Central India Agency.

Maharaja Tukoji Rao Holar II, portrait from 1877

We will take up the story of Indore from the arrival of Sir Robert Hamilton in 1844 when Indore had no legal successor – the last ruler, Khande Rao, died at the age of 15 and left no issue. Hamilton was left with the arduous task of finding someone to take his place. Krishna Bai Holkar Sahiba (Masahiba) one of the widows of Jaswant Rao Holkar put forward three candidates but only one was deemed acceptable and the new ruler was ultimately chosen for being a “healthy and comely child” with a most fortunate horoscope. He was also only 12 years old.
Robert Hamilton announced the selection in open darbar without informing the government, and on the 27th of June 1844, Tukoji Rao Holkar II was installed on the throne. The Governor-General had a few things to say about this and probably boxed Hamilton’s ears but nevertheless, Hamilton’s decision stood. Due to the young age of the reigning chief, Masahiba and the regency council under Robert Hamilton continued to hold office until his coming of age. While they effectively ruled Indore, the young regent-in-waiting was given a sound and well-rounded education. By the age of 14, he practically had control over the State Treasury and at 15 was actively attending council meetings and helping with the administration. Finally, in 1852, after a successful tour of Northern India in which he was to gain a broader knowledge of the world outside his own state (the tour was incognito and did not entail any pomp and circumstance; it also lasted a full year), Tukoji Rao Holkar was granted full administrative powers at the age of 20. Tukoji Rao Holkar II proved himself a competent and modern ruler – a promoter of education, agriculture, and industry in the state. Among his other reforms, were the establishment of the first printing press in his state and the introduction of not only a postal service but a mint as well. He was also a fine horseman, and good marksman and an excellent swordsman. Robert Hamilton was rightly proud of his one-time ward. He remained the permanent Agent Governor-General for Central India from 1854 until his departure to England on sick leave in 1857.

Unfortunately for Holkar, after his benevolent and kindly treatment by Sir Robert Hamilton, he was given the rather unimaginative Henry Marion Durand instead.

Enter Henry Marion Durand

There are two camps when it comes to Henry Marion Durand – the defenders of Durand and the detractors of Durand. On one hand, his defenders state he did his best and was right to mistrust Holkar, the other party however accuse him of high-handedness in his treatment of Holkar and his mismanagement of the mutiny in Indore. Both sides have their merits, however, but where Indore is concerned, Durand’s conduct is questionable.

Sir Henry Marion Durand

The dalliance of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Percy, the fifth son of the 1st Early of Beverley, a cavalry officer who served in the Peninsular War and the Battle of Waterloo, with a French woman, Marion Durand, during his time as a prisoner of war in France, gave rise to 2 sons – Henry Marion (born in 1812) and Percy Mortimer Durand. Unfortunately, little is known of Marion Durand herself. Henry Percy provided for her – as she was settled in Paris, but she never came to England and even her son, Henry who bore her namesake, could barely remember her. By the time of Henry Percy’s death in 1825, the boys were orphans and left in the charge of Mr. Deans, a family friend.

In 1825, Henry Durand joined Addiscombe and by 1829, he was on his way to India, where upon his arrival in 1830, he served as a second lieutenant in the Bengal Engineers. His career is somewhat marked by protests and resignations. He served with distinction in the First Anglo-Afghan War but resigned his post in protest when the whole of Bala Hissar was returned to the Afghans and returned to India. However, this resulted in his furlough to England where became acquainted with Lord Ellenborough. Ellenborough offered Durand the position of ADC and upon his arrival in India, promoted him to his private secretary.
In 1843, Durand attained the rank of Captain and in the same year, he assisted Ellenborough in the Gwalior Campaign. Unfortunately, for Durand, Ellenborough was dismissed by the EICo in 1844 and Durand, now without his lucrative position as secretary, found himself appointed Commissioner of Tenasserim in Burma. Durand proved himself a hard administrator and quite incapable, by his very nature, of compromise. When he discovered that European and Burmese speculators were cutting down valuable teak forests in abuse of their licenses, Durand had them punished and the agents of the Calcutta firm were convicted by the Conservator of Forests of wanton destruction. Durand then substituted government management in lieu of the licensing system, which earned him censor in the press. The Conservator of Forests sued the paper’s editor for libel and charged a European with fraudulent timber transactions – both cases were tried by Durand. He found the parties guilty, sentencing the editor to not just a fine but to imprisonment. The prisoners sent a petition to the Deputy-Governor of Bengal, Sir Henry Maddock who requested the Calcutta judges to publish a report on the case. Their report proved unfavourable for Durand and he was dismissed from his post by Maddock and not by the Governor-General. In protest, Durand sailed for England in 1846 to lay his case before the Court of Directors. Before he left, Governor-General Lord Hardinge offered him a coveted position in Punjab, which Durand coldly declined. As it is, Durand’s case in front of the board failed but they chose to offer him a reinstatement in an equivalent position.
Earl of Dalhousie promptly ignored the EICo order and Durand found himself back in military service. After successfully serving in the Second Sikh War after which he received warm thanks from Sir Colin Campbell, Durand was promoted to Brevet Major and Dalhousie offered him a position in the Punjab instead of Burma. Again Durand refused, this time on the grounds it would belittle him to serve under men who he viewed as technically his subordinates. Instead, he received the position of Political Agent to the Gwalior court which he took.
Durand however, could not help himself.
When Sir Charles Napier arrived in India as Commander-in-Chief in 1849, he offered Durand command of the Sappers and Miners.
” I want to know, ” wrote Napier,” if this will suit your book…If it does, do let me hear from your directly. Nothing will gratify me more than that the first thing in my gift should go to one of Lord Ellenborough’s friends; and no job, for that I do for no man living, intentionally. If I did, I could never look Lord Ellenborough in the face. Your claims appear to me to be stronger than those of any man above you.”
Durand however, obstinate and convinced he had been denied his proper place back in Burma, refused. He did not reject the position of Political Agent to the Bhopal Court but he did so begrudgingly.
Instead of thanking Dalhousie with any enthusiasm, he simply expressed his willingness to serve the Governor-General wherever it might please him. Napier was swift to answer Durand.
“You had no cause to give such an answer to the Governor-General…His desire has been to serve you….he might have left you to vegetate and taken no notice of you at all…Were I in Lord Dalhousie’s place, I tell you honestly I would have thrown you overboard on receiving your answer. …your answer is very little short of an insult…you and others think Hardinge ill-used you. Well, tell him so! If one man insults you, you have not the right to insist on an apology from another who has no concern with the quarrel, especially if he tries to make up to you for the ill-usage you have received.”
Durand acquiesced, at least for once, and he wrote to Dalhousie in kinder terms; he then swiftly moved to Bhopal.
In 1854, Durand had had about all he could stomach of India and the EICo – although his tenure in Bhopal was successful he was ready to go home and look for employment elsewhere.
In England, he did not meet with much success where work was concerned and though he decided to leave his family in Europe for some time so the children could acquire some practical education, Durand did not like the idea of returning to India either. “The thought of returning to India is more hateful to m than any language can express,” he wrote, “it is the indefinite separation from my wife and children, whilst no amount of success could wipe out the memory of the last nine years…The best years of my life have been passed in practical experience that common proverb has accidentally dropped a negative, and that in India, ‘honesty is not the best policy.’” Leaving his family in Lausanne, Switzerland, Durand returned to England once more in 1855.
Now, after 28 years of service to the EICo, Durand found himself unemployed in India. In Calcutta, he was considered a “dangerous man” and had no hope of securing a political position with such a reputation. After three months, he found work as an Inspecting Engineer for the Department of Public Works. In the meantime, Dalhousie had departed and Lord Canning arrived. Canning, impressed from the first by Durand’s ability, requested him to write memoranda on the occupation of Quetta and the war with Persia. Shortly before the mutiny, Durand warned Canning against further operations in Afghanistan and the danger it entailed of “denuding India of British troops.” Canning convinced Durand had more to offer than as an inspecting engineer, appointed him Acting Political Agent to Indore, much to the disappointment of Sir Robert Hamilton, who had given his life’s work to the young maharajah.
Hamilton had allowed the Maharaja some latitude, certainly, more than most political agents were willing to give. He had taught Holkar to speak his mind and to “ventilate grievances and to expound the supposed means of remedying them.” Such discourse was not tolerated by Durand and he felt it was the worst presumption on the part of an Indian noble to express a personal opinion in the presence of a political agent. Whereas Hamilton had treated Holkar with kindness, Durand never expressed any. While Scindia had the offices of Macpherson and the leadership of Dinkar Rao, Holkar suddenly had a stern and by all means, an unsympathetic political agent who viewed him with distrust. It was an unhappy combination. Durand was quicker to detect faults rather than appreciate virtues – he also had a strong dislike for Robert Hamilton and it is no surprise he dealt with Holkar harsher than he should have.

Unfortunately, Durand had applied his personality to the EICo as well – Dalhousie had disliked him and Robert Hamilton did his best to ensure Indore did not fall into his hands. He had received the appointment not by trickery or flattery but more directly because Canning, in some sense felt he owed him. Durand was a man of experience and a tried political officer, and Canning at least appreciated the man’s qualities. However, what he did essentially sent Durand on the wrong mission. Of the three assistants Durand had under him at Indore, two were Hamilton’s sons-in-law and the station’s clergyman happened to be Hamilton’s brother. If this situation was not awkward enough, Durand questioned Hamilton’s ability to maintain his Indore establishment which consisted of nothing less than a host of servants and 22 horses, an extravagance Durand could not afford. Hamilton had left strict orders nothing was to be changed in his absence, but it did not prevent Durand from casting some aspersions on Hamilton’s character. However, not everything was miser for Durand. His beloved wife, Annie, had decided her place was with her husband and, leaving the children in Switzerland, she hurried to meet her husband in India. Her children would never see her again.

None of this would matter. Three weeks after Durand’s arrival, a sepoy of the 37th NI was caught carrying letters of a treasonable nature intended for the Rewa Maharaja. On the 14th of May, the news of the Meerut outbreak reached Indore. The news reached Hamilton in England and after only six weeks into his leave, he was on his way back to India, arriving in Calcutta in August 1857.

The Maharaja and durand

William Simpson, “India, Ancient and Modern: A Series of Illustrations” (1867)

On the 11th of May, Durand wrote to Canning:
“I have no reason to suppose that any of the contingents in Central India have as yet shown any disposition to sympathise with the disaffected movement. Rumours of an uncomfortable feeling existing among the Mhow native troops I have heard but nothing definite and nothing to which I attach any importance.”

Mhow was an important military station some fourteen miles southwest of Indore. The garrison consisted of one artillery company of 91 Europeans and 93 Indians, right wing of the 1st Bengal Light Cavalry with 13 Europeans and 282 Indians, and the 23rd NI with 16 Europeans and 1178 Indians. Colonel Platt of the 23rd NI commanded the station. He was an officer with more than 30 years with his regiment and was, at least by some of his men, well-liked.
At Indore, there were no European troops at all, only a regiment of the Malwa Contingent, 200 in all, to protect the treasury and other important buildings. The men for the contingent were mainly sepoys, recruited along the same lines as in the regular Bengal army – in all but name, little to differentiate the contingent from the Bengal Army.
However, like the Gwalior Contingent, the Malwa Contingent was “paid by one master, governed by another master and owed allegiance to no one.” Forty miles away from Indore at Sidarpore was stationed the Malwa Bhil Contingent. It consisted of recruits from the tribes of Western and Central India while at Sehore, 100 miles away, the Bhopal Contingent had its headquarters. Holkar too had his own army which, like in Gwalior, was regulated by the terms of the treaty and consisted of 642 artillerymen, 3820 of cavalry and 2145 infantry. He was bound to provide a contingent of horse to the government, which was a part of his army but could be called for service elsewhere.

The news from Meerut and Delhi more than unsettled Durand. He had anticipated, through most of his career that something of this nature could happen – however, while Sir Henry Lawrence believed in the good of men and trusted where trust was due, Durand unfortunately, chose to be suspicious. His first instinct was that of a soldier – Indore, being without European troops, needed reinforcements. In a first step, he ordered 270 men of the Bhil Malwa Contingent to Indore. He then sought an interview with the Maharaja on the 15th of May and applied for the assistance of his troops. The intention was to have them ready in case an uprising occurred before the Sehore troops could arrive. Holkar promised every assistance but he also stated he was unsure if his men would be able to cope with the regular troops, casting some doubt at the same time, on their loyalty. He also had very little ammunition and should an uprising occur, he would need three hours’ notice to move his men from their lines to the Residency. Durand listened attentively and ordered the requisite ammunition to be sent from Mhow.
On the 17th of May, Major Harris, commanding the cavalry informed Durand that not all was well in Mhow. A council had been formed, comprising (very much like at Agra) everyone who had an opinion to discuss the state of affairs. They had also waited until Colonel Platt was safely off on a hunting trip before presenting the views. The officers of the 23rd NI were doubtful of their men and requested troops from Indore. The order was countermanded but not before Holkar had made preparations to comply, which caused some confusion in Indore. It was one of those rash measures that Durand was wary of and for him, as long as Platt trusted his men, he counselled Mhow the officers had, in his opinion, two courses open to them – they could either have undiminished trust in their men or show “overt mistrust” and take the consequences. His words had little effect. The officers and Mhow were, for lack of a better word, afraid.
Hungerford, of the artillery, shotted his guns; the magazine was provisioned with all haste and if he did not have enough to do, Durand had to “check everywhere proposals for hurrying ladies and children off no one knew wither; for moving detachments here, there and everywhere…The alarm at Mhow among the officers and ladies was quite distressing.” He would continually try to persuade Harris, right up to the middle of June, “don’t be alarmed nor alarm others. If you listen to all the nonsensical rumours afloat here and everywhere, you will have enough to do…Duty often lies in a bold firm baring, and a little, very little daring.”
Colonel John Platt on the other hand, had a view which was more in line with that of Durand, but it would eventually turn out to be misplaced.
Platt arrived in India in 1820, as an ensign appointed in the 2/5th Native Regiment. He transferred to the 23rd NI in 1824 and had seen service with them at the siege and capture of Bhurtpoor. Following his furlough he joined the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Bengal Army and subsequently as commandant of the 2nd Regiment Oudh Light Infantry during which he advanced to the rank of major. In early 1850 he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 23rd NI. Platt, and Captain Fagan of the same regiment, were convinced of their men’s loyalty – and they had not done anything to warrant the fears of the other officers. In 1856 Platt had been offered to join a European corps but his men in a body entreated him not to leave them. For him, his regiment could do no wrong and his officers were fearful of nothing. Durand did not trust the 23rd but he trusted Platt’s abilities.

Meanwhile, Durand, who had previously been an agent to the Bhopal court, believed that the Bhopal Contingent would be least likely to mutiny. As such, he sent for a strong detachment of cavalry and infantry, with 2 guns, to march to Indore. As Durand was unable in his political position to exercise any military duties, the command of both the Bhil Malwa Contingent and the Bhopal Contingent and the arrangements for the protection of the Residency fell to Colonel Stockley of the Bhil Corps. The requested troops arrived in Indore on the 20th of May.

The Nawab of Bhopal

Between 1819 and 1926 the princely state of Bhopal was ruled by four remarkable women. Despite claims for male claimants, the Begums stood their ground. It all started, however, by accident.
The first female ruler, Kudsia Begum was widowed by the thoughtless actions of an eight-year-old boy, her younger brother, who accidentally shot her husband, the Nawab of Bhopal on a hunting trip. It was not intentional- the boy was playing with the Nawab’s gun which he took from his belt and it went off. This effectively left Bhopal without a ruler – but with the consent of the nobles of the court and EICo, it was decided the late ruler’s nephew should ascend the throne and marry Kudsia Begum’s daughter in the bargain. Until the boy came of age, Kudsia Begum would rule as regent. Although Sikandar Begum would finally be married to Jahangir Muhammad Khan in 1835, Kudsia Begum continued to rule the state. The nawab in waiting died in 1844 and Kudsia Begum retired in favour of her daughter. Her political prowess and prudent handling of state affairs compelled the EICo to suspend their position in the Bhopal court and declare her sovereign in her own right. Her daughter, Shah Jahan Begum, born in 1838 was recognised as her heir and Sikandar Begum ruled as regent until her daughter came of age.
It must be noted here that the ruling women of Bhopal were not bound by tradition as many other Indian women of the time were. They refused to observe purdah or confinement to the women’s quarters, and they were highly educated, both academically and physically. They were excellent horsewomen, who participated in field sports and hunted. They were trained in martial arts and mastered not just sword fighting, but archery and lances. Sikandar Begum did not rule just from her court – besides commanding the army, she routinely inspected the courts, the treasury and the district offices, paying visits to villages in her jurisdiction to ensure that the reforms she was implementing were being carried out. The welfare of her people was paramount to her and the 21-year reign has been looked at as the golden age of Bhopal, which, when she handed it over to her daughter, was the most stable princely state in India. Although she was staunchly supportive of the British in 1857, she was also a fiercely independent ruler. Sikandar Begum was a woman who knew her own mind and could disregard the bad counsel of her court – disregarding the bevvy of relatives and ministers who surrounded her, who tried to persuade her to throw in her lot with the mutineers.

Sikandra Begum, ca 1870

In the early days of the rebellion, she banned the publication of seditious literature. Of these, 500 copies of a poster calling for rebellion were found in Bhopal- these were seized and the unfortunate sepoy who found inspiration from it was dismissed from the army after he refused his wages. His dismissal allowed him to take up another banner – he went to Delhi to fight for Bahadur Shah Zafar instead.
Her army was not particularly pleased with her decision to dismiss the man but for now, they still held their peace.
With a wide network of spies, which she expanded during the coming months, Sikandar Begum was able to keep a rather far eye on the doings of the states surrounding Bhopal. She also remained in contact with Henry Marion Durand. It would appear that Durand was able after all to get along with an Indian ruler – in the six years he had spent in Bhopal as Political Agent to her court, he had built up a trust of the fine Begum and when he would face his trouble in Indore, it was to her he would turn. Unfortunately, he was wrong about the Bhopal Contingent. Even the iron hand of Sikandah Begum could not stay the tide of mutiny in her army.
Colonel Travers reported to Durand the men of the 23 NI from Mhow were tampering with his men. It was also reported that agents of the Nana Sahib were acting incognito in Indore, Mhow and elsewhere, sowing the seeds of rebellion throughout the regiments, Holkar’s men and the general population. It was simply a matter of time before the storm clouds burst over everyone. Durand chose to carry on and wait.

Indore and Mhow wait

On the 1st of June, the news of the Nasirabad mutiny reached Indore. Durand, not as convinced as Platt was by his men, went the next day to Mhow to see things for himself and to make a personal request for European Battery to be sent to Indore. Oddly enough though, Durand was so pleased with what he saw at Mhow and found Platt’s arrangements so satisfactory, he now believed should the native regiments rise, Platt was more than capable of putting an end to any mischief. As such, he decided he didn’t send the battery to Indore after all. What he did not count on was the mutiny at Neemuch.
By the 6th of June, word spread to Indore that the Neemuch troops had mutinied. This was certainly disheartening – the leaders of the Neemuch mutineers belonged to the left wing of the 1st Cavalry, the ring wing of which was stationed at Mhow. Meanwhile, back at Mhow, the 23rd NI were professing their loyalty and volunteered their willingness to move against the mutineers, wherever Platt would lead them. Durand wrote to Platt expressing his gratification, and was himself pleased to accept their services; if the 1st Cavalry did likewise, he was ready to accept theirs as well. The cavalry remained aloof but respectful. Durand in the meantime was well aware that Holkar’s name was being used as an incentive to rise in rebellion at Indore, however, he chose for the time being to ignore any talk of disloyalty.
“Holkar is with us,” Durand professed as he wrote to Lord Ellenborough “…his fears and interests are on our side, and so far as any Darbar, especially a Mahratta Darbar, is trustworthy, Holkar’s seems so. I have seen nothing suspicious.”

In an article published by B.N. Luniya, “Complicity of Maharaja Holkar with the Mutineers (Luniya, B. N. (1955). COMPLICITY OF THE MAHARAJAH HOLKAR WITH THE MUTINEERS. Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 18, 238–242., Dr. Luniya casts some doubt on Holkar’s loyalty. Citing government records which he found in the record rooms of the ex-Holkar state, Luniya categorically sets out to prove Holkar was not loyal to the EICo. Some of this too is borne out by Colonel Malleson in his work on the Indian Mutiny. What one can infer however is the Holkar was most likely waiting to see which way the tide would turn. He also had little choice in the matter – with Durand unsupportive and then gone and lacking the support that Scindia received in Gwalior, Holkar’s hand was forced. If he sided with the mutineers the British would have his neck; if he showed the mutineers no support at all the outcome would not have been good for Holkar either.

Dr. Luniya argues that Holkar could have disarmed his own troops if he suspected them of disloyalty – this might have been possible if Holkar had a mighty contingent like that at Gwalior. He did not. His force, all things considered, was small. He was constrained by the treaty in place which limited his recruiting powers and disbanded or disarmed troops would have been more of a problem than keeping them under arms. While his guard stayed together, there was some hope Holkar could control them; if he disarmed them, he could have incited a mutiny by his own actions. No one at the time called for such a move from Holkar and to show such open distrust in his own guard would have been suicidal. We will return to Dr. Luniya at a later stage.

On the 6th of June, Durand ordered the 2 guns of the Bhopal Contingent to be moved up the west side of the Residency building and posted the Bhopal cavalry in the square of the Residency stables. The Residency at Indore did not comprise of just the 2-storied house Durand lived in. The park surrounding it housed the bungalows of the Political Assistants, the post office, the telegraph office, the treasury and a bazaar. It was bound on one side by the Mhow road that then crossed a bridge over the nearby Khan River. As the park was some 2 miles away from Indore town itself, Durand had some right to be worried. With Holkar unsure of his troops and a possible insurgence in Mhow in the making, he would have to make the best of the Residency, should it come to an uprising in Indore. Holkar supplied Durand with three guns – initially six-pounders but these were soon changed to 9-pounders, a company of infantry and two cavalry troops.

Khan River view at Indore

However, not all was well. On the 7th of June the cavalry of the United Malwa Contingent mutinied on the road at Muttragur on the way to Neemuch and murdered their commander, Captain Francis Walker Brodie (of the 21st NI), and 27 year old, Lieutenant Charles John Hunt, acting adjutant. The news reached Durand on the 9th – contrary to his orders, this force had been brought within reach of Neemuch, and this was the consequence. – two murdered officers and the defection of the cavalry to the side of the Neemuch Brigade. The news brought fresh worries for Holkar, who turned to Durand. Many men in his own cavalry troop had relatives among the Malwa Contingent Cavalry and he believed they were, in his estimation, “as one.” He no longer had any confidence in his men. With a troop of the Malwa Contingent Cavalry in Indore, Durand listened to Holkar, at least this once, and sent them off to Mehidpur. They were offered rewards if they would do good service to Major Timins, the contingent’s commandant. Timins might have had something to say to Durand later when the contingent mutinied later on in the year. Durand however also called the rest of Colonel Travers Bhopal Contingent Cavalry at Sehore to march to Indore – only 50 men – and on their arrival, Colonel Travers took over the defence of the Residency. Holkar’s Cavalry, known to be mutinous, was sent by the Maharaja for duty in the districts.

Durand wrote to Lord Elphinstone in Bombay and described the state of the troops around Indore.

“Anything more ticklish that the state of the troops in Mhow, Saugor and Jubbulpore can scarcely be conceived. Of course, there has been volunteering, &c., and ‘entire confidence’ on the part of the commanding officers. But that is all moonshine; everyone knows the real state of affairs.”

He was watching and hoping something could stop what he saw as an inevitable outcome. This hope lay in Major-General Woodburn, despatched from the Bombay Presidency towards Mhow. He had with him five troops of the 14th Dragoons, an artillery battery, one company and sappers and a company of a native regiment; more than enough men to overpower the force at Mhow. Unfortunately, Aurangabad lay on their track and the Woodburn was diverted to suppress the disturbances; it was a political move – “it was believed that on the suppression of those disturbances depended the fidelity of the British interests of the troops of the Nizam and that therefore, at any sacrifice they must be suppressed.” Suppress is what Woodburn did but then he simply did not march any further. While he stayed put on higher orders, Elphinstone scrambled to send another column to Central India.
So Durand was once again left with what little he had and it was proving to be faithless. Mutiny was closing in on him from all sides – The northern portion of the Trunk Road between Agra and Bombay was in the hands of the Jhansi mutineers who were soon supported by the Gwalior Contingent. The troops at Jabalpur, Lalitpur and Sagour were on the verge of rising, Bundelkhand was awash with anarchy, communication past his borders was becoming increasingly difficult; since the 14th of June the telegraph was cut off between Gwalior and Sirpi, all messages with Agra had stopped, and for a hundred miles further the line had been destroyed. It would seem if things continued to progress, the last telegraph to work would be within the last 150 miles above Indore.
On the 20th of June, Durand received a message from Captain Harrison, who commanded the troops at Goonah, that the officers from Sirpi had joined him, adding they were falling back on Indore. Durand ordered him to halt at Beowra (120 miles from Indore) to keep the telegraph lines open. As it was news was difficult to procure. Letters from Agra and the other northern provinces now had to run through Jaipur and it was not helped when Durand received strange notes from officers, sometimes only a scrap of paper, telling of “disaster and delay” and “cowardly massacres and of unavailing attempts to avenge them.” The messages were often written in French o Greek as many Indians could read English – but this attempt to disguise the message was written by officers who had not used classical languages past their school days – it puzzled Durand ( a native French speaker) to no end when he received a note written in Greek characters, turned out to be very indifferent French!

If that was not enough, the troops at Mhow were grumbling. The usually optimistic Colonel Platt too was hesitant regarding their mood. He refused to punish an emissary that had been caught tampering with the regiment – the man was sent to Indore instead to let Durand deal with him.

Meanwhile, Durand was determined not to give up Indore without a fight and he said so, most bluntly to Lord Canning’s private secretary:
“If the Mhow troops rise and attack us, they will, I hope, find a harder nut to crack than some of our chicken-hearted people here think. I have two or three men of the right metal – Colonel Stockley, Colonel Travers and Captain Ludlow of the Madras Engineer, and Captain Cobbe of the Madras Artillery. Or measures, whether of offensive or defensive character, are arranged, and if we can only get our contingent troops to act decently, which please God if they are not very severely tried, I trust we may, we should be able, I think to bring off the European artillery battery if it were contending against the 23rd Native Infantry and 1st Cavalry single-handed; or if suddenly attacked here, defend the treasury and residency with heavy damage to those who attacked.”

Camp at Mhow

Durand’s resolve was clearly expressed in a letter to Lord Ellenborough:

I am told the Mhow troops are afraid of rising, know that they have an officer in command of them of dauntless stuff, and European battery in no humour to spare; also they need look to no respect on my part to weak and washy proclamations which smell of fear. Shot and steel shall be my only converse with them if they come here; and if the men will only stand and fight behind the safe cover I have assigned to them, they may beat of five thousand good troops who should try it sans artillery. I hope, my Lord, to tell you that all kept as quiet in Malwa as it is now; but if not, and anything happens to myself, remember me as your affectionate, H.M.Durand.

Lord Elphinstone’s promises and Woodburn’s troops were still the buoys Durand clung to. It was, in Durand’s estimation, “an ugly complication,” and he urged Elphinstone to send on the troops. In the meantime, he received an erroneous message that Delhi had been retaken by the British on the 12th of June (it hadn’t but this message flashed the length and breadth of India regardless) and it gave him a little hope; on the 28th Elphinstone telegraphed the Woodburn could not advance after all and asked what the effect of this news would be on his district. Durand replied he, “could not answer one hour for the safety of Central India if it should become known that the column was not marching on Mhow.” He further pressed Elphinstone to push Woodburn on with no more delay.
Lord Elphinstone belatedly replied the advance had not been countermanded, but unfortunately, the contents of the first message had leaked out through the signaller’s office and it was soon known in the bazaars at Indore, Mhow and beyond. It coincided with a message from an Indore banker to Durand stating he had some troubling news from Delhi but he would not send it by telegraph.
On the 1st of July, the first news Durand received a letter from the 20th of June from Agra. The report of the fall of Delhi was not just premature, it was false. He sat down at his writing desk to pen a telegraph to Lord Elphinstone, it was a quiet morning – there was no word from Mhow or from Holkar. Besides the news from Agra, it looked like at least today would pass by peaceably enough. Durand collected his thoughts and began to write.

Suddenly a messenger rushed into the room, and in a panic, reported the Durand there was a commotion in the nearby bazaar. Durand laid down his pen and went out onto the Residency steps. He could hear noise in the distance, rising rapidly – and suddenly three guns opened fire.

The mutiny had come to Indore but not from Mhow. It came from Holkar’s troops.

Durand, Holkar and the Residents of Indore

As for the young Maharaja, he had done what he could convince Durand in the past months that nothing was right in Indore.
In an interview with Durand and William Shakespear (an assistant of Durand’s), he appealed to Durand for advice. Certain trouble would soon come to Indore – not from without, but from within his own guard, he asked Durand to send all the treasury money to the palace for safeguarding to prevent any looting; Durand however, did not think the step was necessary and he left Holkar, none the wiser of what he should do. Holkar continued to try and help, even offering to take Shakespear’s wife and child under his protection. He had repeatedly warned Durand that the Bhopal Contingent was not to be trusted but Durand had disregarded him and requested Travers to hurry over to Indore to assist him. Travers himself did not believe in his own men but chose to bring them to Indore anyway. Unfortunately, Durand did not listen to Holkar nor did he pay much mind to what anything anyone else said either. The residents at Indore first implored and then badgered Durand to send away the women and children at least to a place of safety, as long as there was still time. However, up to this point, Durand actually believed Delhi had fallen and the news would be enough to stamp out any glimmer of mutiny in Indore. He continued to believe the mutiny, if it came, would come from Mhow and that Woodburn would arrive soon enough to put an end to it all.
No one realised it was too late to leave Indore. And Holkar, for all his good intentions was about to be taken over by circumstances that were not only out of his control but well out of Durand’s. Perhaps if Durand had trusted the young Maharaja instead of ignoring him, things might have turned out differently.

Miniature portrait-Maharajah Tukoji Rao Holkar II 


Bulletins and Other State Intelligence for the Year 1858, Part IV -T.L. Bevan (1860)
Central India During the Rebellion of 1857 and 1858 – Thomas Lowe (1860)
History of the Indian Mutiny 1857-58 Vol. I – Colonel G.B. Malleson (1878)
The Life of Major-General Sir Henry Marion Durand – H.M. Durand C.S.I. (1883)
The History of the Indian Mutiny Vol. I – Charles Ball (1892)
Kaye’s and Malleson’s History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-8 – edited by Colonel Malleson (1889)
A History of the Indian Mutiny Vol. III – G.W. Forrest (1902)
Indore State Gazeteer Vol II – Captain C.E. Luard (1908)
The Revolt in Central India 1857-59, Compiled in the Intelligence Branch – Major R.G. Burton (1908)
The Life of His Highness Maharaja Tukoji Rao Holkar II, Ruler of Indore – Muntazim Bahadur M.W. Burway (1925)
The Revolt in Central India – Malwa – Khushalilal Srivastava (1966)