The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Sep 26, 2008

Warlike Nairs

From Historical Sketches of the South of India, by Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Wilks (in the Annual Register of World Events, 1811)

The Nairs, or the military class of Malabar, are, perhaps, not exceeded by any nation on earth in a high spirit of independence and military honour; but, like all persons stimulated by that spirit without the direction of discipline, their efforts are uncertain, capricious, and desultory. tbett efforts are uncertain, capricious, and desultory. The military dress of the Nair is a pair of short drawers, and his peculiar weapon is an instrument with a thin but very broad blade, hooked towards the edge like a bill-hook, or gardener's- knife, and about the length of a Roman sword; which the weapon of the chiefs often exactly resembles. This hooked instrument, the inseparable companion of the Nair whenever he quits his dwelling on business, for pleasure, or for war, has no scabbard, and is usually grasped by the right hand, as ia ornamental appendage in peace, and for destruction in war. When the Nair employs his musquet, or his bow, the weapon which has been described is fixed in an instant by means of a catch in the waist-belt, with the flat part of the blade diagonally across his back; and is disengaged as quickly whenever he drops his musquet in the wood, or slings it across his shoulders for the purpose of rushing to close encounter with this terrible instrument.

The army of Hyder had not before engaged so brave or so formidable an enemy: their concealed fire from the woods could neither be returned with effect, nor could the troops of Hyder be prevailed on to enter the thickets, and act individually against them. In every movement through the forests, with which the country abounds, bands of Nairs rushed by surprise upon the columns of march; and, after making dreadful havoc, were in a moment again invisible. On one occasion they were so imprudent as to depart from their characteristic warfare, and openly defended the passage of one of those rivers with which the province is everywhere intersected to discharge the mountain torrents. Hyder, by passing a column of cavalry at a higher ford, and combining their charge on the flank of the Nairs with a heavy discharge of grape in front, made a dreadful carnage among them. As he advanced to the southward he secured his communications by a series of block bouses; and the Nairs, perceiving the object of these erections, impeded his progress by the defence or their own small posts. One of these, which my manuscripts name Tamelpelly, was surrounded by Hyder in the following manner: first, a line of regular infantry, and guns with an abbatis; second, a line of peons; third, of cavalry. This disposition was made for the purpose of striking terror, by not allowing a man to escape destruction. The Nairs defended themselves until they were tired of confinement, and then leaping over the abbatis and cutting through the three lines with astonishing rapidity, they gained the woods before the enemy had recovered from their surprise.


Maddy said...

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Fëanor said...

Thanks for the link to your blog - shall certainly visit.

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