Friday, 29 April 2016

America born Sir. David Ochterlony, East India company's military commander and his 13 wives


Sir David Ochterlony (1758–1825). artuk.org
Among the foreigners served for the East India company and later for the British crown, none of them  had attracted more of our attention and curiosity  than  David Ochterlony. He was an interesting personality and none of the British officers could surpass him  in handling matters on two different fronts  without making a glaring mistake. He was the military commander of the British East India company and had the unique credit of having a bevy of 13 beautiful wives (Bibis or Indian concubines) to the envy of  Indian Nawobs and rich Indian Maharajahs. In this strange tropical land,  to get rid of  his loneliness and boredom, being away from his native country, he found refuge in the lap of Indian women This America-born military commander  had lots of  fun  taking  all of his thirteen of his wives on a promenade around the walls of the Red Fort, each on the back of her own elephant. He never felt ashamed of practicing polygamy, while in the employ of the English company.
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timesofindia.indiatimes.com
The moot question that many people may ask is: How in the world did he have time to manage  his difficult military commitments on the security front  and the needs of 13 ladies on the romantic side? No doubt the  exploits and  romantic escapades of this debonair not only kindle our inquisitiveness but also make us wonder to what extent his Casanova like attitude had added color to the dull pages of the British India history which was replete with  exploitation of natives and their lands by the English company. Bibi Mubarak-ul-Nissa, a Brahmin dancing girl of Pune, (now in Maharastra) who had converted to Islam was the most  popular among his wives She bore him  two daughters and was known as "Generallee Begum".
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David Ochterlony, first and last Baronet of Pitforthy, first Baronet of Ochterlony GCB (12 February 1758 – 15 July 1825) was  born in Boston, Massachusetts.  Son of a Scottish gentleman, he attended the Dummer Charity School (now known as The Governor's Academy) in Byfield, MA. He went to India and joined the Bengal Army in 1777 as a  cadet (in the 24th Native Infantryunder the East India Company and  served under Lord Lake in the battles of Koil, Aligarh and Delhi He was appointed resident to the Mogul court at Delhi   in 1803. Prior to that during the  2nd Mysore War (1780-1784), he was wounded and taken as prisoner by the forces of Haidar Ali.
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David's deft  and strategic  handling, with minimum forces, in the Maratha war against the forces of Jaswant Rao Holkar  during the long siege at Delhi 1804, and the British Nepalese war (1814–15) shows his military genius and the victories won him laurels. He was created a baronet and appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1815. In the following year, he won yet another covetous award a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB), and so became the first East India Company officer to receive that honor. The most exciting military Romeo was buried at St John's Church Meerut city. He had a Makbara built in Mubarak Bagh, Delhi, gifted to him by the Mogul ruler Shah Alam. It still exists in Delhi.

David Ochterlony was no doubt the most amazing and amiable person, whose exploits add zest to the Indo-British history. This  self assured and confident 19th century EIC official still attracts the curiosity and interest of soldiers, administrators and others.

Tit-Bits:
Water colour by an anonymous Delhi artist of Sir David Ochterlony in Indian dress smoking a hookah ca. 1820s/en.wikipedia.org

01. According to  J.S. Gill, Director of the Central Reserve Police Force Academy, Gurgaon, an authority on Ochterlony, the CRPF Academy mess in Neemuch, once a the British residency  was built by Ochterlony in 1822 at a cost of Rs.50,000 released by the English company.  David lived there for three years. Commander  Ochterlony who was of Scottish descent  was known by the name of as Luni Akhtar (crazy star). One of his descendants  claims besides Polish, American and English blood, he also has some Indian blood and has no idea which of the 13 wives was his great, great grand mother.  

02. Ochterlony, as the first British resident in Delhi,  developed interest in Indian mannerisms and followed Indo-Mogul culture unlike other British officers.

03. He was fond of parading his  dozen-odd bibis, with him  on elephants near red fort (Kashmere Gate) in the evening.
  
04. Mubarack begum was a dominant personality and wielded lot of power and had her own foreign policy. Widely unpopular among the moguls and British, she was very close to the heart of Ochterlony. She offended the British by calling herself "Lady Ochterlony" and also  the Moguls by awarding herself the title "Qudsia Begum". The Mogul title was meant for only royals and not for common people. Mubarak Begum,  fought against the British during the great Indian rebellion (the "Sepoy Mutiny") of 1857, demonstrating the drastic breakdown in British-Indian relations caused by racism, segregation and oppression

05. Ochterlony died after contacting  cold and fever at his summer house in Shalimar Bagh. He was not on good terms with the  Governor-General, Lord Amherst, who countermanded his orders in the field. He resigned the  highest post in protest and and this incidence affected his health very much. He felt offended and discredited for his devoted work and this  hastened Ochterlony's death

06. After his death Mubarak inherited  Mubarak Bagh, an Anglo-Mughal garden tomb Ochterlony had built in the north of Old Delhi,The Mogul rulers never used the tomb because of Mubaraks's background as a dancing girl and her dominating personality and supposedly ill-mannerism

 07. There is a memorial erected to his memory in Calcutta in 1828 which is now known as the Shahid Minar (the Martyr's Memorial).

 08. David Ochterlony was born in Boston on 12 February 1758, the eldest son of Captain David Ochterlony of Scotland and his Boston-born wife Katherine Tyler, a niece of Sir William Pepperell. Because of circumstances Captain Ochterlony died insolvent in 1765. After his demise,  the family moved to England where Katherine married Sir Isaac Heard, Garter King-of-Arms.  Throughout David's life Issac was both a father figure and close confidant.

 09. Ochterlony had six "natural" children with two or more of his Indian wives, but he felt  that his children would not be fully accepted by either English or Mughal society. His children were to become  part of a new class in India known as "Anglo-Indians". Anglo-Indians lived in the English quarters of India;  but too white to live with Indians, and too "dark-blooded" to live in England.

 10. Sir David's only son Roderick Peregrine Ochterlony, born in 1785had both an English and Mughal education. In 1808, he married Sarah Nelly, the daughter of Lt. Col. John Nelly of the Bengal Engineers, at Allahabad, India. Roderick and Sarah had three children, including Charles Metcalfe Ochterlony, born in 1817, from whom the Ochterlony line of baronets descended.
Ref:
http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/ochterlony-and-his-bibis
/article2001540.ece

http://masshist.org/database/822

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ochterlony