PINDARIS, a word of uncertain origin, applied to the irregular horsemen who accompanied the Mahratta armies in India during the 18th century when the Mughal Empire was breaking up; loosely organized under self -chosen leaders, each band was usually attached to one or other of the great Mahratta chieftains. Their special characteristic was that they received no pay, but rather purchased the privilege of plundering on their own account. The majority of them seem to have been Mahommedans: when the regular forces of the Mahrattas had been broken up in the campaigns conducted by Sir Arthur Wellesley and Lord Lake in 1802-04, the Pindaris made their headquarters in Malwa, under the tacit protection of Sindhia and Holkar. They were accustomed to assemble every year at the beginning of November, and sally forth into British territory in search of plunder. In one such raid upon the Masulipatam coast they plundered 339 villages, killing or wounding 682 persons, torturing 3600 and carrying off property worth a quarter of a million. In 1808-09 they plundered Gujarat, and in 1812 Mirzapur. In 1814 they were reckoned at 25,000 to 30,000 horsemen, half of them well armed. At last the evil became intolerable, and in 1817 the marquess of Hastings obtained the consent of the East India Company to the organized campaign, known as the Pindari War. The Pindaris were surrounded on all sides by a great army, consisting of 1 20,000 men and 300 guns, which converged upon them from Bengal, the Deccan and Gujarat under the supreme command of Lord Hastings in person. Sindhia was overawed and forced to sign the treaty of Gwalior, consenting to aid in the extirpation of the Pindaris, whom he had hitherto protected. The Peshwa at Poona, the Bhonsla raja at Nagpur and the army of the infant Holkar each took up arms, but were separately defeated. The Pindaris themselves offered little opposition. Amir Khan, by far their most powerful leader, accepted the conditions offered to him; and his descendant is now Nawab of the state of Tonk in Rajputana. The rest surrendered or were hunted down, the fate of Chitu, one of the most notorious, being to perish in a tiger's den. These military operations were followed by the pacification of Central India under the administration of Sir John Malcolm.
See J. Grant Duff, History of the Mahrattas (1826); and Major Ross of Bladensburg, Marquess of Hastings (Rulers of India Series) (1893).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)