From the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries, the East India Company (EIC), the private joint-stock company that traditionally handled British interests in India progressively endeavoured to conquer the entire Subcontinent. Where necessary and desirable, it invaded, annexed and directly ruled regions (ex. Bengal), while in other cases it was content to allow areas to remain ‘Native States’, British protectorates governed by supposedly loyal indigenous rulers. The EIC armies had to vanquish a succession of very powerful, and often well-led, Indian empires and potentates, during a series of epic contests. Although there were many twists and turns, the EIC eventually accomplished its goal of conquered virtually all of India (something that had never been achieved by anyone before) upon vanquishing the once-mighty Sikh Empire during the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-9).
However, the EIC’s unprecedented triumph masked fatal weaknesses in its regime, popularly referred to as the ‘Company Raj’. While the EIC was originally set up at the beginning of the 17th century to manage trading bases in India, since the mid-18th century, it came to directly and comprehensively rule vast regions, overseeing military security, infrastructure, civil administration and social services for millions of people. Upon gaining control over the entire Subcontinent, the EIC found itself saddled with one of the most awesome bureaucratic burdens in world history, a weight which proved far too great for its abilities and resources. During the 1850s, the EIC’s finances were deeply in the red, with their military and civil service stretched to the breaking point. This led the Company to became ‘sloppy’, not adequately handling events, while unnecessarily alienating key stakeholders and communities.
Matters came to a head during the Indian Uprising of 1857 (which technically lasted from May 19, 1857 to November 1, 1858, although most hostilities concluded by the end of 1857), when large numbers company of sepoys (Native Indian troops in British service), with the support of some native rulers (notably the ailing Mughal Empire), rebelled against the Company Raj, due to a complex variety of grievances. Historians are generally agreed that the insurgency could have been avoided had the EIC regime not been so atrophied and disorganized. The Uprising was centred in Oudh (essentially modern Uttar Pradesh) and spread like wildfire. The EIC forces initially suffered surprising setbacks, and almost lost total control of the situation, only narrowly being saved by a mass influx of British forces from abroad. While the rebellion was eventually put down, it was a near-death experience for British rule in India, and fatal one for the Company Raj. On November 1, 1858, the 258-year-old East India Company was removed from power, and all its possessions and mandates in India were henceforth assumed by the British Crown, creating what was known as ‘The Crown Raj’, more frequently known simply as ‘The Raj’.
The present map focuses upon the region of Northern India that from the early to mid-19th century was classified by the British as the ‘Cis-Sutluj Division’ (‘Cis-Sutluj’ meaning “on this side of the Sutlej River”). A vast area of over 15,500 square miles, that took in parts of the modern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. A mixture of Native States and British-ruled territories, it was a demographically diverse region, with the eastern areas being home to a Hindu-majority population, the western areas containing a Sikh-majority, with both areas having large Muslim minority populations. Lying between the great cities of Delhi and Lahore, it occupied the traditional gateway between Peninsular India and Western Asia and was traversed by the route of the Grand Trunk Road (Northern Indian’s main artery, that ran from Calcutta to Lahore). As such, the Cis-Sutluj Division was ultra-strategic to British military and political interests. This played out on the ground during Uprising of 1857, as the Native rulers and people of the Cis-Sutluj Division generally remained loyal to the Company Raj, so creating a firewall, preventing the spread of the insurgency to the Muslim-majority Indus Valley, an event which would have been a catastrophe for the British. Moreover, military control of the region going forward would allow an army to strike up into the Indus and down the Ganges valley, granting a commanding position. As such, the region was rightly considered by the British as the keystone of Northern India.
The Present Map in Focus
This grand format, beautifully rendered, and impressively detailed work was the finest military-topographic record of the ‘Cis-Sutluj Division’ available upon the dawn of the Crown Raj. Created just as the British were reaffirming their control over Northern India, and preparing for the advent of crown rule, it embraces the entire keystone region, extending from just north of Delhi, in the southeast, up the Himalayas, in the northeast, and over the southern fringes of the Punjab (near Rajasthan), in the southwest, and up to the Sutlej River, in the west and northwest, which historically represented the frontier of Peninsular India, with the great city of Lahore laying just beyond.
The map is rendered in a very attractive, slightly crude, form of lithography, and features full resplendent hand colour, with pink representing the British ruled lands, and other hues being for the Native States, while all topographical features are shown, including rivers and the Himalayas and their foothills (expressed by hachures, with spot heights in metres); while the road system is detailed throughout, with the Grand Trunk Road that heads north-northwest from Delhi to Umballa, before changing course to run west-northwest towards Lahore. Rather unusually for a Survey of India map of the time, the larger towns and cities are represented pictographically, portraying the shape of the urbanized areas, sometimes showing individualized major buildings.
Some places within the ‘Cis-Sutluj Division’ that are worth special mention include ‘Umballa’ (today Ambala, Haryana), in the upper right, which features the colossal British ‘Cantonment’ (army base and barracks), that was the size of a large city, complete with its own ‘Race Course’. In the far upper right, nestled in the Himalayan foothills, is ‘Simla’ (today Shimla, Himachal Pradesh), the hill station that was the de facto (the later, from 1863, the official) summer capital of British India, where the Viceroy and all his officials retreated to escape the fierce heat and humidity of Calcutta, here noting the locations of ‘Gov. House’ and the ‘Magnetic Observatory’. To the west of Umballa is ‘Puttealuh’ (today Patiala, Haryana), the capital of the region’s foremost native state, and in the upper right, are the important Punjabi cities of ‘Loodheeanh’ (Ludiana) and ‘Ferozpoor’ (Ferozepur).
This extremely rare map was pushed in Calcutta in May 1858 by the Survey of India and is of stellar scientific accuracy, being predicated upon the surveys executed by the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) of India the mega-project that ran from 1802 to 1870 that systematically and trigonometrically mapped all India to the large uniform scale of 1 inch to the mile. Arguably the most impressive mapping project in world history, by the early 1850s the entire Cis-Sutluj Division had been surveyed by the GTS.
Unlike many of the Survey of India-GTS publications, the present map was issued exclusively for restricted use by senior military officers and colonial officials and was not to be otherwise distributed or sold. The map features a great deal of militarily sensitive information, and as explained in the legend, lower left, identifies the symbols used to denote the locations of ‘Tuhseel’ [Tax Collection Offices] = Red Flag; ‘Thannah’ [Indian Army Base, or Outpost] = Yellow Flag; ‘Police Chowkey’ [Police Station] = Blue Flag, all being the nerve centres of Brtish power in the region. The map would have been an indispensable aid for planning of military movement and strategy by British commanders on the ground, as well as being consulted by political grandees in Calcutta.
On the verso linen, the present example of the map features the handstamp, ‘Government Property / Issued from the Surveyor General’s Office, Calcutta / For the Public Service’, meaning that it was issued only for official use, accompanied by manuscript annotations signed by various British Indian Army captains and dated “Umballa. 28th August 1865”.
The map provides a wealth of detail about the scientific surveys undertaken the GTS that led to its creation. A line along the bottom margin reveals that the map is predicated upon surveys overseen by the revenue surveyor Captain H.V. Stephen in 1847-1851, supplemented by a survey of part of the Kythul area by Major W. Brown and 1843-5 and a survey of part of the Ferozepur area by Major Shortrede in 1851. The map is signed in print by Andrew Scott Waugh, the Surveyor General of India, and Henry Edward Landor Thuillier, the Deputy Surveyor General, the latter of whom likely personally oversaw the creation of the work, as was his custom for such important maps.
The ‘Reference’ notes the symbols used to identify the surveying stations of the GTS, with the ‘Principal Stations of the Great Trig.l Survey’ = a Red Dot surmounted by a Cross, and the ‘Secondary Stations of the Great Trig.l Survey’ = a Red Dot surmounted by a Staff. The large and detailed table in the lower right corner of the map, the ‘Tabular Statements of Latitudes, Longitudes…’, lists the geodetic coordinates, plus, the elevations of numerous places as scientifically ascertained by the GTS. The table, ‘Area Statement’, shows the land areas of all the various Native States and British territories in the Cis-Sutluj Division, with the ‘British States’ accounting for 8476.37 square miles, and the ‘Native States’ amounting for 7132.32 square miles, with the total area of the Division being 15,608.69 square miles.
Notably, the map was drafted in preparation for being lithographed, at the Survey of India’s headquarters in Calcutta, by ‘Bulloram Nath and Mahomed Azeem’. Many of the best cartographic draftsmen and lithographers in India were indigenous Indians.
The present example of the map is noted as being of the ‘Second Edition’ of the map, in the upper right corner, and was supposedly revised from the first edition, which we gather was published in January 1858, per the imprint in the lower margin.
A Note on Rarity
The present map is extremely rare, which is not surprising as it would have been made in only a very small print run exclusively for high level military and official use, while the survival rate of large format 19th century Indian military maps is very low.
We can trace only 3 institutional examples of the map, in either of its editions, held by the British Library; Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin; and the National Archives of India. Moreover, we are not aware of any sales records for another example.
References: British Library: Cartographic Items Maps 52450.(41.); Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: Kart. E 7116; National Archives of India: F.4/27; OCLC: 1289328868; S.N. PRASAD, Catalogue of the Historical Maps of the Survey of India (New Delhi: National Archives of India, 1975), p. 4.