“Spare my people!” Nadir replied, “The Emperor of India must never ask in vain,” and he instantly commanded that the massacre should cease.
Continuing Nadir Shah Captures Delhi,
our selection from History of Persia by Sir John Malcolm published in 1815. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Nadir Shah Captures Delhi.
The approach of Nadir Shah to Delhi had filled the inhabitants of that city with dread; but the strict discipline which his troops observed on their first arrival restored confidence to all. This, however, was but of short duration. The monarch himself had occupied a palace in the city, and had sent some troops to different quarters of it to maintain tranquility and to protect the inhabitants from insult and injury. The conqueror entered the capital on March 8th, and on that and the two succeeding days all was quiet; but on the night of the 10th it was reported that Nadir was dead. This report, which was first circulated by some designing persons, instantly spread, and a thoughtless mob made a furious assault upon the Persians who were scattered about the town as safeguards. These, who were divided in small parties, and quite unsuspicious of attack, were almost all murdered; and we must cease to cherish any general sentiments of pity for the depraved nobles of Delhi, when assured by concurring authorities that most of those at whose palaces troops were stationed for their protection gave them up without effort to the fury of the populace, and even in some instances assisted in their destruction.
Nadir, when he first heard of this tumult, sent several persons to explain to the populace their delusion and their danger; but his messengers were slain. He remained with all the Persians he could assemble in the palace which he occupied till the day dawned, when he mounted his horse and rode forth to endeavor, by his presence, to quell the tumult. But his moderation only inflamed the insolence and fury of those whom, even Indian historians inform us, it was his desire to spare; and he at last gave his troops, who had arrived from their encampment near the city, orders for a general massacre. He was too well obeyed: the populace, the moment the Persians began to act, lost all their courage; and from sunrise till twelve o’clock Delhi presented a scene of shocking carnage, the horrors of which were increased by the flames that now spread to almost every quarter of that capital.
Nadir, after he had issued the fatal orders, went into the small mosque of Roshin-u-dowlah, which stands near the center of the city, and remained there in a deep and silent gloom that none dared to disturb. At last the unhappy Mahomet Shah, attended by two of his ministers, rushed into his presence, exclaiming, “Spare my people!” Nadir replied, “The Emperor of India must never ask in vain,” and he instantly commanded that the massacre should cease. The prompt obedience which was given to this command is remarked by all his historians as the strongest proof of the strict discipline which he had introduced into his army.
The number of persons slain on this occasion has been differently estimated, and from the nature of the scene it could not be correctly ascertained. An author who has been often referred to conjectures that about one hundred twenty thousand perished; while another European writer nearly doubles this amount. But an Indian historian of respectability reduces this exaggerated estimate to the moderate calculation of eight thousand persons: and there is every reason to conclude that his statement is nearer the truth than any of those which have been mentioned. Two nobles who were supposed to have caused the riot fled, with conscious guilt, to a small fortress near Delhi. They were pursued, taken, and put to death with those who were deemed their accomplices, who amounted to about four hundred persons.
A very few days after the occurrence of these events, a marriage was celebrated between the second son of Nadir and a princess of the imperial house of Timur; and the succession of festivities that attended these nuptials gave a color of joy to scenes which abounded with misery; but the majority of the inhabitants of Delhi appear to have been of a light and dissolute character. We are indeed told by an Indian author that numbers regretted the departure of the Persians. The drolls and players of the capital began, immediately after they went away, to amuse their countrymen with a ludicrous representation of their own disgrace; and the fierce looks and savage pride of their conquerors, which had been so late their dread, became in these imitations one of their chief sources of entertainment.
Nadir remained at Delhi fifty-eight days (1739). Before he quitted it, he had a long and secret conference with Mahomet Shah, in which it is supposed he gave him such counsel as he deemed best to enable him to preserve that power to which he was restored. To all the nobles of the court he spoke publicly, and warned them to preserve their allegiance to the Emperor, as they valued his favor or dreaded his resentment. To those who were absent he wrote in similar terms; he informed them that he was so united in friendship with Mahomet Shah that they might be esteemed as having one soul in two bodies; and, after desiring them to continue to walk in the path of duty to the imperial house of Timur, he concluded these circular-letters in the following words: “May God forbid! but if accounts of your rebelling against your Emperor should reach our ears we will blot you out of the pages of the book of creation.”
The conqueror had behaved with considerable moderation and kindness toward the chief omrahs of the court of Delhi; but he must have despised their luxurious and effeminate habits. We, indeed, learn his sentiments from a remarkable anecdote. When speaking one day to Kummer-u-din, who was then vizier, he demanded how many ladies he had? “Eight hundred fifty,” was the reply. “Let one hundred fifty of our female captives,” said Nadir, “be sent to the vizier, who will then be entitled to the high military rank of a mim-bashee, or commander of a thousand.”
The march of Nadir from India was literally encumbered with spoil. The amount of the plunder that he carried from that country has been estimated variously. The highest calculation makes it upward of seventy millions sterling; the lowest is considerably more than thirty. A great part of this was in precious stones, of which Nadir was immoderately fond.
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