Monday, 12 December 2016

White Mogul James Kirkpatrick and his sad story, British India

White Mogul James Patrick. India Chai Bisket
Brit.Resident, Hyderabad, India.James Kirkpatrick.(1805)en.wikipedia. org
We have come across lots of stories about the British officers and their adventures in the dark jungles of India in the colonial period. If you dig the stack of books on the familiar stories, and go underneath them, there lie equally interesting and tantalizing stories about English gentlemen of later period who had a fancy for simple Indian life, culture and their languages with which they became conversant. They tried to shed the sheen of Britishness and their belief in supremacy over others, including Europeans and Americans.  Among them, some came to India just to make enough money in  short time and go back to England and live a lavish retired life, taking upon themselves the funny title of British Nabob.  Despite their being rich, they failed to maintain the grace of high society people and ultimately died in poverty.  Col. James Achilles Kirkpatrick  of the British India company was a colorful personality. Neither he possessed the antics of the  British elite. Nor did he carry the British aura about him and look down upon the simple natives.
"These White Mughals (also spelled Moguls) had responded to their travels in India by slowly shedding their Britishness like an unwanted skin, and adopting Indian dress, studying Indian philosophy, taking harems and adopting the ways of the Mughal governing class they slowly came to replace. Moreover, the White Mughals were far from an insignificant minority. The wills of the period show that in the 1780’s, over one third of the British men in India were leaving all their possessions to one or more Indian wives". 
                                         
                                             .......    Historian William Dalrymple

Lieutenant Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick (1764-15 October 1805) was  an interesting person, so to say, a maverick with firm determination to do things that he liked most. He lived for himself and not for the others.
Born in 1764 at Fort St. George, Madras (now Chennai), James  Kirkpatrick  came to India to take up a job with the EIC and it was his intention to conquer India and make a mark for himself. His resolute attitude in this regard carried a streak of imperialistic mind at so young an age. He arrived  as the British Resident in the court of the Nizam in Hyderabad in 1795.The  Muslim ruler was among the richest rulers in the world.

That the edit of God had a different way was true in the case of Kirkpatrick. Soon after landing in a fabulously rich Muslim kingdom, he had begun to develop a taste for Indian way of life, in particular, Muslim culture and customs. He did not lose time to give up his English culture  and became obsessed with  Muslim traditions. People around him, including his colleagues were aghast, because  his British persona was taken over by the Indian persona.

Being a colonel with the British Company's army, Kirkpatrick had started wearing  Mughal-style costumes at home, smoking  a hookah with his friends and chewing  betel nut or aracanut.  His  nautch (dancing girls) parties were popular and drew the attention of the people and the British officials. Kirkpatrick did not stop at it, he went  one step ahead and maintained a small harem (house of girls) in his zenanakhana for fun and relaxation, befitting his covetous post. By this time, he became  fluent in Hindustani and it helped him get in touch with the locals. He mainly moved with the rich and famous - the elite of the society at the parties.
Khair-un-Nissa wife of James. 1805 painting.en.wikipedia.org/
The Nizam of Hyderabad was very much impressed with Kirkpatrick whose love for Muslim culture was overwhelming and he bestowed on him such covetous titles such as  Mutamin ul Mulk ('Safeguard of the kingdom'), Hushmat Jung ('Valiant in battle') and  Nawab Fakhr-ud-Dowlah Bahadur ('Governor, pride of the state, and hero'), a rare honor for a British in those days. Without hesitation, he lawfully  became a Muslim and married a local Hyderabadi noblewoman called Khair-un-Nissa, the teenage grand daughter of Nawab  Mahmood Ali Khan, the prime minister of Hyderabad.

Until the end of autumn of 1801 his life was on a smooth course, when all of a sudden, questions were raised over Kirkpatrick's  interracial nature of the marriage and his shedding of Brutishness in favor of Muslim culture.

Kirkpatrick, unfortunately, fell on hard time now when  Lord Richard Wellesley became the Governor- General of India. Wellesley's relationship with the Nizam became  soured and the rich ruler  was reduced to the lower level. At Calcutta, Kirkpatrick had to face a barrage of questions about his conduct in the court of the Nizam and his liaisons with the Indians, belittling the British authority and culture. It was made into a big scandal. Later he was dismissed from the EIC's services on filmy grounds. Very much grief-stricken and upset, he died in Calcutta on October 15, 1805, leaving his wife Nissa and her son and a daughter. Soon they were taken to England under the care of their grandfather Colonel James Kirkpatrick. There their names were changed to William George Kirkpatrick and Katherine Aurora "Kitty"respectively after baptism at St. Mary’s Church, London. Their grand father died later.  George, now married had three children and died very young in 1828. Kitty married  captain James Winslowe Phillipps and  had seven children by him. She died in Torquay, Devon, in 1889.

Katherine Aurora Winsloe (Kirkpatrick),www.google.co.in
As for Nissa, she was taken care of by  Henry Russell, her husband's assistant till he married a half-Portuguese women and left Nissa on her own. After her return to Hyderabad, she died
on 22 September 1813 aged 27 in isolation.

Both Nissa and Kirkpatrick died with heavy heart and pangs of pain because of their races. Col. Kirkpatrick was really a hero and a trail blazer who tried to cross the divide between two different cultures and religions. This the pathetic story of  these poor two souls from two different continents, who became the victims of a society that thrived on race and color. James became the first British to have married an Indian woman during the colonial rule.


Koti Residency in Hyderabad, India. twitter.com
When he was a  Resident at Hyderabad from 1798 to 1805, he built the historic Koti Residency in Hyderabad, a major tourist attraction and his grave is at St John's church, Kolkata.

Ref:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/18SDBJqWwgc7VLDM7MhGK2S/a-love-story-that-broke-the-conventional-boundaries-of-empire

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Achilles_Kirkpatrick html