DURING the time of my residence as the English Minister, at the Court of his Majesty Shah Alum, I took every opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the strength, resources, disposition, and constitution of the several states bordering on the provinces of Agra and Dehly, by seeking out, and cultivating a personal intimacy with the best informed men on those several subjects.—In the course of these researches, the first and most important object which presented itself, was the great irregular Aristocracy of the Sicks; a sect, which from a small beginning in the neighbourhood of Lahore, has established itself in the complete possession of all the country between the Attock and the Sutledge, and levies contributions to the very frontier of the Vizier’s dominions.

Having met with two Hindoos of considerable knowledge, who were natives of Lahore, where they had resided the greater part of their lives, and who had in their possession, accounts of the rise and progress of the Sicks, written in the Nuggary (or common Hindoo) character, I persuaded them to let me have a translation of one of them in the Persian language, abridging it as much as they could do, without injuring the essential purpose of information.—After all, I found it extremely defective in a regular continuation of dates, and there­fore not deserving the name of a history: however, the dates of the principal events are clearly determined; future opportunities and greater leisure than I possessed while at Dehly, may ascertain those which are at present unknown.—This Persian sketch of an history, I have translated into English, and now beg leave to offer it to my honourable masters, as I am persuaded, that the rapid progress of this sect, will hereafter render a knowledge of them, their strength, and government, very important to the administration of Bengal.—But as in the Persian manuscript very little is said of the manners and customs of the Sicks, I shall insert in this introduc­tion, all that I have been able to discover on those heads.

The people known by the name of Sicks, were origi­nally the common inhabitants of the provinces of Lahore and Multan, and mostly of the Jaut tribe; the doctrine on which their sect is founded, was introduced by Gooroo Nanuck, about two hundred and fifty years ago; and appears to bear that kind of relation to the Hindoo religion, which the Protestant does to the Romish, retaining all the essential principles, but being abridged of most of its ceremonies, as well as of the subordinate objects of veneration.—At first, the sect was merely speculative, quiet, inoffensive, and unarmed; they were first persecuted by the barbarous bigotry of Amungzebe; and persecution, as will ever be the case, gave strength to that which is meant to destroy; the Sicks from necessity confederated together, and finding that their peaceable deportment did not secure them from oppres­sion, they took up arms to defend themselves against a tyrannical government; and as will always happen where the common rights of humanity are violated, a hero arose, whose courage and ability directed the efforts of his injured followers, to a just, though severe revenge. —As the progress of these events is related in the history, I shall only say at present, that as the Mogul government declined, the Sicks in spite of repeated attempts to suppress them, continued to acquire strength. —They made the distinction of their sect, a political as much as a religious principle, rendering the admission into it easy to all, and the immediate temporal advan­tages of protection and independance, as great and as evident as possible; while they at the same time levied contributions upon all their neighbours, who refused to come into their fraternity.

As to their government, it is aristocratical, but very irregular and imperfect; for the body of the people is divided under a number of chiefs, who possess portions of country, either by former right as Zemindars, or by usurpation.—These chiefs enjoy distinct authority in their respective districts, uncontrolled by any superior power; and only assemble together on particular occasions for the purposes of depredation, or of defence; when in a tumultuous Diet, they choose by majoriy of votes, a leader to command their joint forces during the expedition; generally from among those chiefs, whose Zemindaries are most considerable; his authority, is however but ill obeyed by so many other chiefs, who though possessed of smaller territories, yet as leaders of the fraternity of Sicks, think themselves perfectly his equals, and barely allow him, during his temporary ele­vation, the dignity of Primus inter Pares.

About thirty years ago, one Jessa Sing Kelal, a chief of considerable weight and abilities, having been chosen commander of their grand army, when it expelled the Aumils of Ahmed Shah Durrany from the city, and Subah of Lahore, became so popular, that he ventured to strike rupees at the mint of Lahore in his own name, with an inscription in Persian to this effect, “Jessa Kelal conquered the country of Ahmed, and struck this coin by the grace of God:”—but after they had been current about fifteen years, the grand Diet of the Sick chiefs, (called Goormutta) determined to call in all those rupees, and to strike them in the names of Gooroo Nanuck, and Gooroo Gobind Sing, the first and the last of their Gooroos, or religious leaders; the latter of whom directed them to take up arms against the Mus­sulmans, and rendered general a kind of feast to be celebrated at the grand Diet, or Goormutta, at which feast they use large dishes called in Persian Daig, which I mention to explain the Persian inscription used on their coin from that time, which is as follows, “Gooroo Gobind Sing, received from Nanuck the Daig, the Sword, and rapid Victory.”

The city of Lahore is at present divided among the three most powerful chiefs, who share the revenue aris­ing from all imposts and duties, &c. within the city, including the mint; the names of the present possessors are, Gujer Sing, Subah Sing, and Laina Sing.

The Diets of the Sicks are held at the holy Tank (bason of water) of Amrutsur, about twenty coss north by east from Lahore, which was appointed for that pur­pose by their Gooroo.—Here as I said before, the com­mander for the campaign is chosen, and their expeditions for the season planned.

The plunder collected during these expeditions, is divided among the chiefs according to the number of their followers, to whom each chief makes his own distribution.

In the districts not reduced to their absolute subjection, but into which they make occasional incursions, they levy a tribute which they call Raukey, and which is about one fifth, (as the Marhatta Chout is one fourth) of the annual rent; whenever a Zemindar has agreed to pay this tribute to any Sick chief, that chief not only himself, refrains from plundering him, but will protect him from all others; and this protection is by general consent held so far sacred, that even if the grand army passes through a Zemindary where the safe guards of the lowest Sick chief are stationed, it will not violate them.

Since the Sicks became powerful, and confederated for the purpose of conquest, they have called their con­federacy Khalsa Gee, or the State, and their grand army Dull Khalsa Gee, or the Army of the State.

As the extent of their possessions is clearly expressed in the accompanying map, as well as the names of their chiefs, and the number of their forces from the best authorities; I shall only observe, that the country is said to be in a state of high cultivation, which I believe, because they carry into it all the cattle fit for tillage, which come into their possession by plunder, collect a very moderate rent, and that mostly in kind, and during any intestine disputes, their soldiery never molest the hus­bandman.

Trade however, is in a low state, owing to the insecurity of merchants going backwards and forwards through the territories of so many independant chiefs.

Of their manufactures, the principal are very fine cloth, which they make at Lahore, as also the best arms in Hindostan.

Their cavalry is remarkably good, the men being very hardy and well armed with sabres and excellent matchlocks, which they use with great dexterity; the horses bred in their country, are of one of the best breeds in the empire, owing to the use formerly made there of Arabian and Persian stallions, and something in the temperature of the air and water of that country. Most of these soldiers have two or three horses each, by which means their incursions are made with great rapidity, their armies marching from fifty to one hun­dred and twenty miles a day:—their dress is dark blue, as ordered by Gooroo Gobind, and gives them, when collected in large bodies together, a very dismal appear­ance.

The chiefs are only distinguishable from their followers, by finer horses and arms.

I have conversed with several Sicks, who were sent to me by different chiefs on complimentary messages; and I perceived a manly boldness in their manner and con­versation, very unlike the other inhabitants of Hindostan, owing no doubt to the freedom of their government.

In their camps they use no tents, even the chiefs are sheltered by nothing more than small Numgheras (square canopies of coarse cotton cloth) supported on four slender poles—the common soldiers pitch a blanket on two sticks, and fasten the corners down to the ground with wooden pins, so that they encamp or decamp in a few minutes.

Among their customs, the following are remarkable:

They will not use tobacco, though its use is univer­sal to all the inhabitants of Hindostan, yet they drink spirits and smoke Bang (the leaves of hemp) to the greatest excess of intoxication.

In admitting a proselyte, they make him drink Sher­bet out of a large cup, with certain ceremonies, as will be seen hereafter, and which are designed to signify, that every distinction is abolished, except that of being a Sick, even a Mussulman may become a Sick on these conditions.—From the time that he is admitted into the fraternity, he wears a steel ring round one of his wrists, lets his hair and beard grow to full length, and calls on the name of the Gooroo in confirmation of all engage­ments.

These are all the circumstances respecting this Sect, which are not specifically mentioned in the history: to which I will add, that a sect which contained in its original principles so much internal vigour, as sustained it against the bloody persecution of a great government, determined and interested to suppress it, raised it up again with fresh strength on every opportunity which occurred; and at length enabled it so far to subdue all opposition, as to acquire an entire and undisturbed dominion over some of the finest provinces of the empire, from whence it makes incursions into others, holding out protection to all who join, and destruction to all who oppose it; a sect, which makes religion and politics unite in its aggrandizement, and renders the entrance into it so easy to all who desire to become members of it, cannot fail to extend itself very far, and in the end to be exceedingly formidable to all its neighbours.

Respecting the map which accompanies this history, it was laid down from a Persian map of Punjab which I procured at Agra; and was put into its present shape by Lieutenant James Nathaniel Rind, of the Bengal establishment, who commanded the escorte which accompanied me while resident at the Shah’s court, and whom I must here beg leave to mention as a very deserving officer.—The map, however, is designed principally as a political chart, to shew the extent of the dominions of the Sicks, and the places where the chiefs reside. on points of Geographical knowledge, I have too just an opinion of Major Rennell’s abilities, to attempt an improvement on any work of his; and I there­fore give this explanation of the design of the accom­panying map, that no other may be imputed to me.