ADVENTURES OF AN OFFICER IN THE PUNJUB (2 vols.) by Major H. M. L. Lawrence, under the pseudonym of Bellasis, published in AD 1846 by Henry Colburn, London, and reprinted in 1970 by the Languages Department, Punjab, Paṭiālā. The book which is a rambling account, half fact half fiction, of the author's adventures, provides information about the rise of the Sikhs and about the person and government of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. This is "a dose of history, which the reader may read or not, as he pleases" (p. 236), mixed with scandal and bazaar gossip.
Colonel Bellasis, a soldier of fortune, enters the Punjab with a small suite, arrives at Lahore and meets the leading courtiers of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, including the Faqīr brothers, 'Azīz ud-Dīn and Nūr ud-Din. He was introduced to the court by the latter. The Mahārājā gave him appointment assūbahdār of Kāṅgṛā. In his book, the author describes some of the men around the Mahārājā. For instance, Dhiān Siṅgh:" a fine looking man, of a noble presence, polite and affable, of winning manners and modest speech" (p. 35). Khushāl Siṅgh: "a coarse, vulgar-looking man. . . was once sent to assist Kunwar Sher Singh the Maharaja's son, in the government of Kashmir, and to recover its ruined finances. . . recovered some rents, screwed a few lakhs and turned a season of dearth into one of most frightful famine. . . " (p. 38). Khaṛak Siṅgh: "the eldest [of the three princes] is an imbecile, and affects the religieux" (p. 53). Avitabile: "a wild bull in a net, " he "acts as a savage among savage men" (p. 43). The author draws numerous pen portraits of the Mahārājā as well : "Of mean appearance, one eyed, and small of stature. . . Wholly illiterate but gifted with great natural intelligence, and a wonderfully quick apprehension and retentive memory, he manages, better than those more learned, to transact the current business of the kingdom" (p. 29).
Referring to the revenue and the judicial administration of the Kingdom, the author observes that the whole country was farmed out, two-fifths of the produce being taken by the State. The revenue-farmer was also judge, magistrate and often customs master, within his area of jurisdiction. Adālat, court, was another rich source of revenue, fine being the punishment awarded in almost every case (p. 51). Customs brought a revenue of 24, 00, 000 rupees to the treasury, Amritsar alone yielding 9, 00, 000.
B. J. Hasrat