MacMurdo, First British Resident to the Kutch region, West India

Kutch, Gujara. Ichch
The political history of Kutch under the British has close link with Captain James MacMurdo, who happened to be the first political resident of British East India Company to Kutch State.  A British Resident is also an advisor to the Princely state and monitor activities in the state and send periodic reports to the headquarters - to the Office of the Residency nearest to him. His diplomatic functions are seen as a form of indirect rule of the state by the Resident.  Normally posted in the capital of the princely state, he also conducts consular as well as   liaison duties.  The Kutch district covers an area of 45674 sq. km, comprising 10 talukas and 939 villages. It was at his initiative the region of  Kutch came under British suzerainty and, in this regard, he played a key role. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of neither MacMurdo's image or portrait nor his bungalow at Anjar, Kutch.
Bhuj and other areas., Gujarat
Born on 30 November 1785 in Dumfriesshire in Scotland lieutenant MacMurdo joined  the military service of East India company  in 1801. Later he led the  Resident's Guard at Baroda State. It is believed he also served under   Lieutenant- General Oliver Nicolls, Commander-in-Chief of Bombay. The East India Company had their eyes  glued on the Kutch region as it had vast coastal area, natural resources, etc.,  and asked MacMurdo to go to Kutch incognito and spy on the political situation there.  

In order to remain anonymous and to gather information secretly, MacMurdo got into the Kutch area in the guise of a Hindu monk under the name of of Ramanandi. He resided at Madhavrai's Temple in Anjar which   became his center of activities. Obviously, his  presence attracted  lots of people and his fluency in the local language as well as familiarity with the local customs had an added advantage. People who knew him well called him  Bhuriya Bava.

In the 1800s, people in this region were very much concerned about the menace of bandits from Vagad region. Similarly, at sea, piracy was equally disturbing and the owners of mercantile ships wanted this problem resolved soon. It was quite  natural, the ruler who was preoccupied with so many administrative problems  felt compelled to root out the problems of  sea piracy in the  Arabian Sea and bandits from Vagad region entering into North Gujarat. In 1816, MacMurdo contacted the ruler    Rao Bharmalji II for, EIC  and after negotiations,  agreed to the suzeranity of the British.  Maharajadhiraj Mirza Maharao Bharmalji II (reign: 6 November 1814 − 25 March 1819) was the Rao of Kutch belonging to Jadeja Rajput dynasty.  He became the head  of Princely State of Kutch one month after the death of his father Rayadhan II. 

Driven by greed to control over Kutch, in collusion with some of rebel Jadeja chiefs, the British troops led by Colonel East attacked Bhuj on 25 March 1819, and disposed Rao Bharmalji and his son Deshalji II, a minor was made the ruler of Kutch State. This paved the way for MacMurdo  to assume the role of  the British Resident at Bhuj  in 1819. During Deshalji's minority, the affairs of the State were managed by  the Council of Regency, consisting of  of Jadeja chiefs under MacMurdo.

During his stay at Anjar,  MacMurdo had a bungalow built which later  came to be known as  MacMurdo's Bungalow. It is famous for beautiful paintings  from various episodes of  the  Ramayana. He developed keen interest in the paintings of the Ramayana, etc ., and invited the local artists to do the paintings on the walls of his bungalow. The themes included, the battle between Rama and Ravana, the burning of Lanka, Sita in Ashokavana, etc. Also included are the paintings of Sri Krishna - the lifting of Govardhana hills, his pranks with Gopis, etc. A surprising fact is the paintings were not done by the Hindu artists, but by the Muslim artists from the local Muslim Community. They did a good  job with dedication and accuracy. No doubt, it is now a State Protected Monument. In 1819,  the Kutch region  suffered major damages and MacMurdo sent detailed reports  on the impact of earthquakes in this area to the Bombay Residency. He wrote several books and reports regarding Sindh and Kutch regions.

MacMurdo died on 28 April 1820 at Varnu near Rann of Kutch and was buried close to the temple of Venudada located in the village. The apparent cause of his death was  due to Cholera. That time  the first Asiatic cholera pandemic was on, affecting many countries. His tomb reads as follows: 

"In memorium
Captain James MacMurdo,
first Political
Resident in Cutch
Died of Cholera at Warnu
On 28 April,1820."

Ref: MacMurdo