• Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

The Red Taj Mahal and the Dutch Hessings of India


Mar 1, 2023

After we ask a mean European household on a visit to India what they’re hoping to see, their choice and plan, the reply we are likely to get is: ‘the gorgeous Taj Mahal, manifestation of a husband’s love for his spouse’. However wait a minute, have you ever ever come throughout a purple Taj Mahal, which is a manifestation of a spouse’s love for her husband? Properly actually there may be one in India, within the very metropolis the place the white Taj Mahal is positioned, Agra. However this Taj Mahal was made by a Dutch lady for her Dutch husband, the erstwhile governor of Agra beneath Maharaja Mahadji Scindia – Colonel John Hessing.

The writer having been related as a analysis guide with the descendant of Maharaja Mahadji Scindia, will convey to the readers the fascinating saga of a Dutchman, who went on to grow to be the Governor of the imperial metropolis of Mughals, Colonel John Hessing, his son George Hessing, and the conflict of Empires in pre-modern India. Get able to go on an Oriental Odyssey, to the land of Maharajas!

Shrimant Mahadji Scindia, a Maratha warrior who conquered Delhi and employed the Dutchman Hessing. (Scindia household of Gwalior/Creator Supplied)

Rise of Mahadji Scindia

Mahadji Scindia, was the best of the Maratha warriors after Chatrapati Shivaji , the founding father of Maratha Empire. First, slightly background details about the Marathas.

Marathas is a neighborhood that calls Maharashtra, a state a part of Deccan peninsula in India, its house. In Indian history , Marathas are standard for his or her strategic foresight and martial prowess. They made a serious contribution to defeating a number of overseas powers in India that had carved out their kingdoms and zones of affect, with the assistance of sure Indian ‘comprador’ subservient allies they befriended over time.

It was a Maratha warrior named Mahadji Scindia who made the Mughal emperor a so known as “puppet in his palms” and dominated India as a de facto emperor in 18th century. He established his personal ‘military-industrial advanced’ close to Agra, a metropolis that was as soon as the capital of the Mighty Mughal Empire, and one of many three highly effective “Gunpowder Empires” of the Muslim World, together with Ottomans and Safavids.

Agra, house to the gorgeous Taj Mahal, was an vital metropolis in Scindia’s Empire, and beneath the Scindias, two Dutch administered Agra within the identify of Maharaja Scindia. These had been the Hessings, considered one of whom even created a RED TAJ MAHAL!

Agra Scindia’s “Navy-Industrial Advanced”

Emrys Chew, of the Institute of Protection and Strategic Research Singapore, writes, “the Maratha ordnance [weapons] factories emphasised adaptation reasonably than innovation, however included comparatively refined indigenous know-how and concerned native producers.”

These steps taken by Scindia so alarmed the English East India Firm that it put a ban on British serving as gunners with the Marathas and sought to curtail the commerce in muskets. However the place there’s a will there may be method, and with the help of a number of multi-ethnic navy advisers together with Dutch, Scindia went on to create one of many best armies in India—together with the 27,000-strong brigade often called the ‘Deccan Invincibles’—equipped from Scindia’s arsenal at Agra.

By combining these new weapons with new battlefield ways, the Marathas got here near defeating the British on a number of events.

Throughout the Second Anglo-Maratha Warfare (1803-5), Arthur Wellesley’s success at Assaye in opposition to Scindia owed extra to a bayonet cost than any benefit in firepower conferred by Western arms, and the hero of Waterloo who defeated Napoleon later known as Assaye the hardest-fought battle of his total profession.

In response to Professor Priya Sathia of Stanford College:

“Maratha navy tradition derived from an elaborate navy economic system like that of Birmingham’s, during which expert metalsmiths may as simply craft temple ornaments as artillery. In Maratha cities, metalworkers and wheelwrights may make elements for bullock carts or artillery. As within the West Midlands, the entire regional economic system profited from protection contracts. Scindia had high-quality flintlocks made domestically. One mercenary described them as ‘very wonderful … far superior to the bizarre Europe arms’.

Maratha small arms had been higher suited to the local weather and native gunpowder; Maratha cannon mixed iron and brass exteriors in an ingenious method that made them lighter and extra sturdy than British variations. British navy observers admired the elevating screw utilized in bigger cannon, which permitted ‘a specific amount of interchangeability’.” (Priya Sathia, 2018)

Warrior Hessing, The Hollander

On the tomb of Colonel John Hessing “The Dutchman”, often called the Pink Taj Mahal within the Indian metropolis of Agra, there may be an epigraph that information particulars of his life:

“Within the yr 1784, he entered into the service of Madho Rao Sindhia (Mahadji Scindia) and was engaged within the a number of battles that led to the aggrandizement of that Chief and whereby he signalized himself so by his bravery as to realize the esteem and approbation of his employer, extra significantly on the battle of Bhondagaon close to Agra within the yr 1787, which passed off between this Chief and Nawab Ismael Beg, when he then turned a Captain, and was severely wounded. On the dying of Madho Rao Sindhia in 1793, he continued beneath his successor, Daulat Rao Sindhia (Maharaja Daulatrao Scindia), and in 1798, he attained to the rank of Colonel and instantly after to the command of the Fort and Metropolis of Agra, which he held to his dying.”

Epitaph of Colonel John Hessing, at the site of the Red Taj Mahal. (Kevin Stadage/Author Provided)

Epitaph of Colonel John Hessing, on the web site of the Pink Taj Mahal. (Kevin Stadage/Creator Supplied)

Colonel John Hessing was a local of Holland (now the Netherlands) and was born in 1740. He got here to India in 1764, and entered the service of the native princes. After many adventures, no information of which seem to exist, he joined De Boigne, a French commander within the service of Maharaja Scindia, a Maratha warrior turned king, and obtained the command of one of many first two battalions the Normal raised.

He was current on the battles of Lalsot, Chaksana, Agra, and Patan. After the latter, he quarreled along with his commander and left him. Quickly after this he was specifically employed by Mahadji Scindia to boost a bodyguard for that chief, and accompanied him to Pune in 1792.

Progressively Hessing elevated his get together to a small brigade of 4 battalions. In 1800 ill-health obliged him to resign his command in favor of his son George, and, “coated with wounds acquired in struggle” the superb previous Dutchman retired to fill the put up of Commandant of the Fort of Agra. Right here “in his judicial capability” he so tempered justice with mercy, that he was universally beloved and esteemed, and on this honorable retreat handed the remaining years of his life, spending with liberality a well-earned fortune.

He had a number of alternatives of extending hospitality to British officers, who visited Agra for amusement or curiosity. Lord Metcalfe, then a younger civilian and Assistant Resident at Ali Jah Mahadji Scindia’s son, Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia’s camp, met John Hessing at Agra in March, 1801, and thus describes the incident:

“I breakfasted by invitation with the Dutch Commandant, Colonel J. Hessing. I discovered him along with his son, who commanded within the engagement at Ujjain, the place his battalions had been defeated; a Mr. Marshall, an Englishman, and two others, whose names I’ve not learnt. The breakfast consisted of kedgeree (rice and eggs), fish, sport, fowls, curry and rice, stews, oranges, pears, pomegranates, eggs, bread-and-butter, truffles of every kind, pancakes, and plenty of different dishes which lave escaped my recollection -amongst others I’ve forgotten to enumerate cheese. The Dutchman was as well mannered as a Dutchman might be, and really effectively which means, I’m sure. On the next day I breakfasted and dined with him once more.”

Dutch warrior John Hessing handed away on the twenty first of July, 1808, aged sixty-three years, of which thirty-seven had been spent as an adventurer in navy service in India. From some passages in Skinner’s “Memoirs” it seems the Colonel was father-in-law to Robert Sutherland, and it appears sure that his spouse was a sister of Madame Perron. Smith describes John Hessing as “an excellent, benevolent man and a courageous soldier.”

An exquisite mausoleum was erected to his reminiscence within the Catholic burial floor at Agra. It was designed in imitation of the Taj Mahal, and now it is called Pink Taj Mahal due to its coloration and price a lakh of rupees!

When Colonel John Hessing died at Agra, Perron, King Scindia’s French officer, immediately proceeded there and appointed Colonel George Hessing to the command of the fort, sending a French officer named Geslin to take over cost of his brigade, which had marched to Delhi. George Hessing the Dutchman had 4000 preventing males beneath him.

The Red Taj Mahal tomb of John Hessing. (Shriom Gautam/CC0)

The Pink Taj Mahal tomb of John Hessing. (Shriom Gautam/ CC0)

Pink Taj Mahal

The Pink Taj Mahal, tomb of Dutchman Colonel John Hessing, is located in Nehru Nagar, near MG Street of Agra. It occurs to be far smaller than the Taj Mahal made by Mughal emperor Shahjahan, and this tomb is housed inside a Roman Catholic cemetery known as Padretola, or Padresanto, one of many oldest Catholic cemeteries of Northern India. It’s talked about in historic sources that the cemetery dates again to the 1550s, from the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar, when Armenian Christians who shifted and settled in Agra started burying their useless ones.

The grief-sickened spouse of John Hessing, Woman Anne Hessing, commissioned his tomb, which was erected within the span of 1 yr in 1803, additionally usually known as Hessing’s tomb or ‘John Sahab Ka Rauza’ by the locals.

Thought-about to be one of many best European tombs in India, the mausoleum is essentially constructed in late-Mughal model with a slight architectural mix of European parts, which makes the tomb distinctive.

On the entrance is a Persian verse.

Red Taj Mahal stands on a stone platform. (Vishal Sharma/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Pink Taj Mahal stands on a stone platform. (Vishal Sharma/ CC BY-SA 4.0 )

In-built purple sandstone, this sq. tomb stands on a sq. plinth with stairs and jaalis (display screen work) adorning it, and with accesses to the tahkhana (underground chamber or a crypt) the place the precise grave is discovered.

Each nook of the platform has an hooked up chabutra (platform) that are octagonal in form with carved panels. The platform has carved panels working throughout it.

The central grave chamber is surrounded by the Islamic hasht-behesht (eight heavens) association of eight chambers. The tomb has arched openings on 4 sides with double alcoves on two sides. Topped with a big dome with an inverted lotus and finial or spire, the 4 corners of the tomb have hooked up 4 turrets/minarets with chhatris (cupolas) with pinnacles on the highest. The grave lies within the central corridor with engraved inscriptions in English.

Colonel George William Hessing, miniature portrait. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Colonel George William Hessing, miniature portrait. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Jorus Sahib, the Half-caste Dutchman

Colonel George Hessing was a half-caste Dutchman, being a son of Colonel John Hessing by a “Native lady.” However although Grant Duff describes the mom in these phrases, there may be little doubt that she was a sister of Main Derridon and Madame Perron, for Skinner mentions that George Hessing was the Normal’s nephew.

Hessing was recognized amongst the Indians as Jorus Sahib, a corruption of his Christian identify, which can not bear comparability with the sonorous Jowru utilized to Thomas. The primary point out of George Hessing is in 1798, when, at the side of Fidele Filose a Neapolitan Italian in service of Maharaja Scindia, he expertly effected the seize of Ghatkay Rao.

In 1800, on the retirement of his father, he succeeded to the command of a brigade of 4 battalions, which he shortly elevated to eight. The subsequent yr he accompanied Maharaja Scindia to Malwa, and on reaching the Narmada, was despatched ahead to guard Ujjain in opposition to a threatened assault by Holkar, one other Maratha chief.

Though it was within the wet season, and the nation flooded with water, Hessing made an astonishingly fast march, and arrived on the capital in June, however finally he was defeated by the forces of Holkar.

Simply earlier to the battle of Ujjain he had dispatched 4 of his battalions to his father at Agra, the place he now made his method. He was quickly known as upon to march with these to help within the struggle in opposition to George Thomas, and it was by means of his strains that Jowruj Jung, the Indian identify of George Thomas, reduce his method when he escaped to Hansi. After this Hessing returned to Agra.

Smith states that his 4 battalions had been taken over by Perron in 1808, and made the inspiration of the Fifth Brigade, Hessing being promoted to the command of the Second, in succession to Robert Sutherland; however he didn’t maintain the appointment lengthy, for his father died in July, and he was transferred to the commandantship of Agra. He was right here when Normal Lake captured the fort. After his give up he retired to Chinsura for a while, and finally eliminated to Calcutta, the place he died on the sixth of January, 1826, aged forty-four years.

Scindia’s Multi-Nationwide Military

Mercenaries of a number of nationalities in India had been a part of Maharaja Scindia’s military, such because the Armenians Aratoon and Jacob, Hanoverian Pohlmann; Hessings, the Hollanders; Filoses the Neapolitans; and, of Britons and Anglo-Indians, the Skinners, Gardner, Shepherd, Sutherland, Davies, Dodd, Vickers, Bellasis and the brothers Smith.

This military of Maharaja Scindia was educated on European strains and was a strong struggle machine in early trendy India, the second greatest military of an Indian Maharaja being that of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, who additionally employed folks of a number of nationalities.

The palace of King Scindia nonetheless standing in Gwalior, India has a multinational assortment of artifacts and antiquities.

When in India now my Dutch readers will know the place to go, to Gwalior and Agra, as it’s the latter the place the Pink Taj Mahal tomb of Dutchman Colonel John Hessing nonetheless stands.

Prime picture: The tomb of Colonel John Hessing in Agra, a duplicate of the Taj Mahal in purple sandstone.  Supply: DeepanjanGhosh/ CC BY-SA 4.0

By Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami


Chaurasia, R.S., 2004. Historical past of the Marathas. Atlantic.

Govind Ranade, Mahadev, 1966. Rise of Maratha Energy. Ministry of Info and Broadcasting

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Sarkar, Jadunath , 1954. Sindhia because the Regent of Delhi 1787 & 1789-91 Translated from Persian. Director of Archives, Authorities of Bombay

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Surendra Nath Sen. 1958. Navy System of the Marathas. Orient Longmans, Calcutta

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