History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Details of the Death of Suraj Mal
Contribution to the History of Northern India (Upto the Death of Mirza Najaf Khan, 1782)
By Kalika Ranjan Qanungo. Edited and annotated by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5.
Details of the Death of Suraj Mal
Documents and tradition by no means agree as to the manner of Suraj Mal's death. Father Wendel, writing within five years of this incident, says, "One day Suraj Mal getting news that a large body of the enemy was coming to pounce upon Nahar Singh (his son and destined successor), who was in that expedition, marched in haste with a few thousand horsemen, to succor him. Unfortunately, in passing through a ditch (mullah) which the river Hindan had left there, he was surprised on both sides by a party of Ruhela infantry who had been placed in ambush there. By a furious discharge of their muskets .... on the Jats still in disorder, they brought down Suraj Mal with all his retinue who lay there on the plain either slain or wounded" (French MS., 50). Suraj Mal died on Sunday 25th Dec. 1763 A.D.and the event was recorded in the waqa only two days after its occurrence, i.e., Tuesday. Besides those quoted in the text it contains the following details: "Sayyid Muhammad Khan Baloch cut off the head and a hand from the body of the Jat, and brought and kept them with himself for two days. After that these were taken to the presence of Nawab Najib-ud-daul. Then only could he believe that Suraj Mal was dead." [Ibid].
The Siyar narrates the event as follows: He was galloping up and down, to examine the field of battle, and to make his choice, after which he stopped a while to make his considerations. Whilst he was thus standing, there passed by him some of Afzal Khan's troops who having been beaten by Mansaram Jat -who Commanded Suraj Mal's vanguard, were flying by
[Page 204] troops one after another. The few people that were with Suraj Mal, represented the impropriety of his remaining so near the enemy with only a few friends about his person; and Kalimulla, with Mirza Saifulla respectfully insisted on his returning. He paid no attention to what they said and seemed intent only on considering the enemy's motions. They both renewed their instances and he gave no answer; but sending for another horse, he mounted and stood in the same place. Whilst he was mounting, it happened that Sayyid Muhammad Khan Baloch, better known under the name of Seydo, was just flying close by him with about 40 or 50 troopers; when one of these turning about recollected Suraj Mal's features, and advancing to Seydo, he cried out that "the Thakur Sahib (Suraj Mal) was standing there .... Seydo hearing these words turned about and fell upon Suraj Mal; and one of his men singling the Jat prince smote him with his sabre, and cut off one of his arms, which bye the bye was maimed and actually entangled. Whilst the arm was falling off, two other men rushed together upon him and dispatched him, as well as Mirza Saifulla and Raja Amar Singh and two or three more. The few remaining fled towards their own people. But one of Seydo's troopers taking up the severed arm, fixed it on the spear of a standard and carried it to Najib-ud-daula. The latter could not believe it to be Suraj Mal's and continued doubting it for two whole days together. But it was past doubt in the Jat army, which had retreated with still a formidable countenance. The second  day Najib-ud-daula, having received a visit from Yaqub Khan, showed him the arm. and the latter at once affirmed it to be Suraj Mal's not only from the maimed appearance but also from the sleeve which was on it, and which happened to be that very calico of Multan which Suraj Mal had put on in his presence. After this the death was ascertained and it became public" [p. 32]. The tradition as recorded by Col Tod (Rajasthan, 1223), and improved upon by Growse that Suraj Mal was ambushed by a party of Najib Khan's troops, while hunting defiantly in the royal preserve near Shahdara, is better suited to a heroic ballad of the Middle Ages, like Chevy Chase than true history ..
It is proper to examine critically the above statements for getting an approximation to truth. Nothing can be more contemporary than the entry in the Waqa, yet some of its details cannot bear common sense criticism. Sayyid Muhammad Baloch, who must have known the value of his trophy i.e., the head and hand of Suraj Mal, cannot be believed to have kept them uselessly with himself for two days. He did not cut off the head which could have at once settled all doubt; but only one hand, which was identified perhaps two days after by Yaqub Ali Khan.
Did Suraj Mal fall into an ambush as father Wendel says? It is quite likely that the surprise of the reconnoitering party under Suraj Mal by Najib Khan's retreating troopers was taken as an ambuscade. But the versions of the Father and the author of the Siyar do not tally with that of the Bayan and the Waqa-i-Shah Alam Sani. The Bayan says that Suraj Mal led six thousand troops to the attack; and according to the Waqa 1,000 men died on both sides and Suraj Mal met his death in a rash charge upon the enemies centre. This is much more credible than the version of the Siyar, and therefore cannot be justly rejected. The narrative in the text appears to be the nearest approach to truth.
Back to History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo