The "naked" warrior who aided the British in taking over India

Anupgiri Gossain

He has been portrayed as a menacing general who rides to battle on horseback and on foot with a private army of naked, dreadlocked warriors.   .

Anupgiri Gosain was one of India's most revered holy men and an ascetic, a man who dedicated his life to the Hindu god Shiva. He was also known as a Naga sadhu. The Kumbh Mela, the biggest religious gathering in the world, is frequently visited by this prominent sect of naked, ash-covered ascetics with matted hair.

According to William R. Pinch, author of Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires, Gosain was a "warrior ascetic.". Yes, the Nagas were known for being "fearsome and unruly.". According to Mr. Pinch, a historian at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the obvious difference is that the Nagas of the 18th century were "extremely well-armed and disciplined" and were said to be "excellent cavalry and infantry troops.".

Early in the nineteenth century, James Skinner, an East India Company officer, ordered a painting of a Naga soldier. It shows a man without shoes and only wearing a leather belt that holds his sabre and pouches containing gunpowder, ammunition, and flint. His thick, matted hair is intricately wound in a helmet-like pattern around his head. He displays a vermillion while holding a long-barrelled musket in his left hand. tilak. on his forehead was an emblematic symbol.

a Saiva ascetic with large earrings and wearing the ‘linga’ round his neck, accompanied by his disciple
a disciple and an ascetic who is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

"The Nagas had a good reputation as close-quarters hand-to-hand combatants and shock troops. They evolved under Anupgiri into a fully-fledged infantry and cavalry army that could contend with the best, according to Mr. Pinch. Anupgiri, along with his brother Umraogiri, commanded over 20,000 men in the late 1700s. By the late 18th century, there were significantly more ascetic soldiers with guns and rockets.

Anupgiri was a "fearsome Naga commander" who received the Mughal title Himmat Bahadur, which means "Great of Courage," according to author and historian William Dalrymple. The "dreadlocked Nagas of Anupgiri Gosain," who arrived with 6,000 of his naked warriors and 40 cannon, were added to the army of Mirza Najaf Khan, a Mughal commander, in The Anarchy, a history of the East India Company and how it came to wield dominion over India, according to Mr. Dalrymple.

Anupgiri's assistance is also mentioned, described as consisting of a force of "10,000 gosain [a general term for ascetics] on horse and foot, as well as five cannon, numerous bullock carts full of supplies, tents, and 12 lakh rupees [almost £16m in 2019] in cash].

Anupgiri, a mysterious individual, has been referred to as perhaps the most successful "military entrepreneur" (or mercenary) of the late 18th century. Since almost all of the private armies used by kings at the time were mercenaries, the term is appropriate. According to a native speaker, Anupgiri "was like a man who, in crossing a river, kept a foot in two boats, ready to leave the sinking one," writes Mr. Dalrymple.

A member of the Naga sect. Members of this sect used to cover their bodies with mud. They carried weapons and even a simple argument among them would end up with a war in which many died. A painting from a nineteenth century manuscript of Fuqua'-i Hind, a text describing the different Hindu religious sects
An illustration depicting a member of the Naga sect is found in a 19th-century manuscript about Indian religious sects.

Naturally, the charismatic warrior ascetic was everywhere. Anupgiri was widely known because he was the sort of person that everyone required. He was hated because he was the kind of person that no one liked to need. He was the insider that people went to when they needed troops, a local contact, a skilled negotiator, or a dirty job done covertly, according to Mr. Pinch.

Anupgiri engaged in combat on all fronts. He fought alongside the Afghans and the Mughal emperor in the 1761 battle of Panipat against the Marathas. He participated in the Battle of Buxar three years later with the Mughal forces battling the British. The rise of the Persian explorer Najaf Khan in Delhi was also significantly aided by Anupgiri.

Later, he abandoned the Marathas and allied with the British. At the end of his life in 1803, he helped the British defeat the Marathas and capture Delhi, which, in Mr. Pinch's opinion, propelled the East India Company into the position of the dominant power in southern Asia and the entire world.

According to Mr. Pinch, "the more one looks at the sequence of events that marked the Mughal and Maratha decline in the late 18th Century and the concurrent rise of British power, the more one sees the outline of Anupgiri Gosain in the background.".

Anupgiri, who was born in 1734 in the strategically significant northern Indian province of Bundelkhand, and his elder brother were given away to a warlord by Anupgiri's poor widowed mother following the death of their father. There are rumors about him playing with clay soldiers during his childhood, which may be apocryphal.

Oral traditions claim that in the 16th century, men like Anupgiri were permitted to arm themselves in order to defend against Muslim assaults. But as Mr. Pinch discovered, Anupgiri worked for Muslim employers like the Mughal emperor Shah Alam and even fought alongside the Afghan king Ahmed Shah Abdali against the Marathas in 1761 at Panipat. His Muslim companions are mentioned in poems honoring his life.

"Anupgiri's genius lay in his capacity to convert his dependence into dominance. He was not well-born, but he knew when and how to run and fight, Mr. Pinch said. He had the ability to persuade both allies and enemies that he had nothing to lose. They were "held or feared to be what they to be: humans who had conquered death" in a world where armed ascetics could operate with a broad license.

The Mughal emperor Shuja-ud-Daula is persuaded to flee the battlefield by Anupgiri, who is severely wounded in the thigh, in Mr. Dalrymple's dramatic account of the crucial Battle of Buxar, which established British control over Bengal and Bihar. He says, "This is not the time for a pointless death.". "We'll triumph easily and exact our retribution tomorrow. They withdraw to a riverside bridge made of boats, which Anupgiri orders to be destroyed behind him. The warrior ascetic is still alive and ready to battle tomorrow.

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