Ancestors of Jassa Singh
During the course of making the Sikh history, there were some families who have made noticeable contributions towards the making of Sikh history especially during the 18th & 19th century. The family of Baba Hardas Singh, grand father of Jassa Singh, is one such family which was blessed by the Almighty. A visit to the Bunga Sardar Mangal Singh, CSI (now called Bunga Ramgarhia) Complex, the Central Sikh Museum, Gurudwara Shaheedan (also called Shahid Ganj) all in Amritsar; and the National Museum, New Delhi will provide a peep into family’s past and reveal the contributions made by Baba Hardas Singh and various members of his progeny / legacy.
Contributions during the era of Guru Gobind Singh ji and Banda Singh Bahadur
Baba Hardas Singh (Died – 1715), the Grandfather of Jassa Singh
Baba Hardas Singh was the grand father of Jassa Singh. By occupation, he was a soldier and scribe in the Durbar of Guru Gobind Singh ji and worked under his guidance. As per “Annals of the Ramgarhia Sardars”, he left his plough and joined Guru Gobind Singh ji, suggesting that by occupation he was a farmer / peasant. Actually he was initiated into the Khalsa panth by Guru Gobind Singh ji himself from whose hands he took Pahul (baptism) and after leaving his plough (as narrated in the “Annals of the Ramgarhia Sardars” by Sundar Singh), he became close to Guru Gobind Singh ji. He was the resident of village Sur Singh, a large village then part of Lahore district (but after partition of India, it became part of district Taran Taran, near Amritsar, India) and became a close confidant of Guru Gobind Singh ji. His place of residence can still seen in village Sur Singh near Amritsar and is being retained and maintained by the community trust. He was involved in the preparation of early recension of Guru Granth Sahib under the guidance of his master. One of his manuscript that was dated 1682 AD and completed at Damdama at Anandpur Sahib was kept in the Sikh Reference Library, Manuscript No. 511, with the description, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji de Likhari (scribe) Bhai Hardas vali birh. It was one of the earliest manuscripts and considered special as it also contained the saloks of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The names of of the nine Gurus were recorded in the colophon as well the manuscript bearing a Nishan of Guru Gobind Singh. It was, however, destroyed in Operation Blue Star in 1984. The World Sikh Heritage Museum has now collected three Granths by this great manuscript writer. (For details see serial 7, under the heading Main Features of Collection. Two pages of a Gutka as written by him are also shown below) Whilst the names of Bhai Mani Singh and Baba Deep Singh are well known in the preparation of Sikh scripture, Bhai Hardas also made significant contributions. He was a Hazuri Likhari meaning he was the official scribe of the Durbar of the Tenth Guru. Since he was one of the several Likharis who wrote the first recension of the Granth known as the Anandpuri birh, his name appears within this early manuscript.
“Bhai Hardas (Haridas) was the resident of Sur Singh, a large village then part of Lahore district (but later after the partition of India it became part of Taran Taran); he became a close confidant of Guru Gobind Singh ji. He prepared an early recension of Guru Granth Sahib. This manuscript was dated 1682 AD and completed at Damdama at Anandpur Sahib. This was one of the earliest manuscripts which also contained the Saloks of ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur. It was kept at the Reference Library, Manuscript No. 511, with the description, Sri Gobind Singh ji de Likhari Bhai Hardas vali birh” – By Gurinder Singh Mann as narrated in his blog dated 19 May 2012. Gurinder Singh Mann is a post graduate, MA, in South Asian Religions from De-Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Please see this video as well where Gurinder Singh Mann is delivering a presentation in USA. http://youtu.be/ZeGWTI8CNZ4
Interestingly Bhai Hardas Singh was also a season soldier and has been fighting all the battles with Guru Gobind Singh ji. After Guru Gobind Singh died he joined Banda Bahadur and fought all the battles with him. He was however martyred in the battle of Bajwara in Hoshiarpur in 1715, the year when Banda Bahadur was captured.
As per Sir Lepel H. Griffin, his last name was Najjar (refer page 173 of “The Punjab Chiefs written by Sir Lepel H. Griffin” of 1865 edition). Actually depending upon the local dialect of different regions, the word Najjar is also spelled in English as Nijher, Nizzar, Nijjar, Nadjar in some other parts of the world. This is common to many other words. Like village Sur Singh has been spelled as Sursang and Amritsar as Umritsar in the old literature including some old British records. Though difficult to trace roots of this last name, some believe that it is associated with the Middle East region of Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. And it is possible since some adventurous and enterprising people from that region had been invading / making forays into the areas of Punjab. At one time, these last names were considered to be part of Nomadic Jews tribe which after persecution fled to different parts of the world. However no conclusion can be made without more research but there are quite a few in Punjab, both in India, Pakistan and middle east including Iran. Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar is currently (2009) the Defense Minister of Iran. But truly speaking it is irrelevant to mention any thing concerning the use of last name as the Sikh faith was formed on the basis of rejecting cast system as was prevalent amongst Hindus. Today the Sikh faith is supposedly like any developed society devoid of any caste.
“Hardas Singh was initiated into the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh himself from whose hands he took pahul and fought some battles from the Guru’s side – A History of Sikh Misals, by Dr. Bhagat Singh Ph. D”, Patiala, Punjab
Bhagwan Singh (Died 1739), the father of Jassa Singh
Bhagwan Singh, the son of Hardas Singh, was of a still more adventurous disposition. By occupation, he too was a soldier and been preaching and Sikh faith. He took Pahul (baptism) from Banda Singh Bahadur when he was still young. He had also mastered, the Adi Granth, the Sikh scripture, preached the Sikh faith and was called Giani. He shifted to village Ichhogil which lay about twelve miles east of Lahore and continues to preach the Sikh faith in the neighboring villages. As per Dr. Bhagat Singh, the author of History of Sikh Misals, he was an intrepid soldier. Bhagwan had five sons, named. Jai Singh, Jassa Singh, Khushal Singh, Mali Singh and Tara Singh. After the death of Banda Singh Bahadur in 1715, the year when Bhagwan’s father, Hardas Singh died in the battle of Bajwara, Sikhs were left with no central leadership and Sikhs fell apart to fend for themselves. Likewise, Bhagwan Singh with his own followers was left to fend for himself for quite some time. As per Dr. Purnima Dhavan, there was a long-standing practice of peasants earning incomes as soldiers in the armies of local chiefs and Mughal officers and even making allies, an important supplement to the livelihood and to protect their limited resources. In addition, over a period of time Sikhs were being encouraged to join the local government / forces to fight, now, against the Afghans who were invading the region. Like wise Bhagwan Singh with 200 followers was absorbed by the Governor of Lahore. Owing to his ability, he rose to be a distinguished officer and was appointed a Risaldar by the Imperial Governor of Lahore. In 1739, in the battle fought between Nadir Shah and Zakaria Khan (Afghan ruler) at Wazirabad, Bhagwan Singh fought very bravely but lost his life. Jassa Singh and his two bothers Mali Singh and Tara Singh, when still very young, are said to have fought against Nadir Shah. To reward the bravery of Bhagwan Singh, the governor gave a village each to all of his five sons. The villages gifted were: Valla, Verka, Sultanwind, Tung and Chubhal. Of these villages Valla came to the share of Jassa Singh. On the death of Khan Bahadur, the Governor of Lahore in 1745, Jassa Singh, together with his followers, joined his Sikh brethren at Amritsar.
Bhagwan Singh was an intrepid soldier – A History of Sikh Misals, by Dr. Bhagat Singh Ph. D”, Patiala, Punjab
Jassa Singh (1723 – 1803)
Jassa Singh was the son of Bhagwan Singh who led a Sikh Misl and belonged to an eighteenth-century Sikh ruling clan which ruled various parts of the Punjab region. Maharaja Jassa Singh, as some people address him, was the head of Ramgarhia Misl and one of the most important Misl leaders in the region. Actually he was being called by this title before much Ranjit Singh came on the scene. This Misl was one of the most powerful of Sikh confederacies, and towards the close of eighteenth century consisted more than ten thousand fighting men of all castes and tribes like any other Misl including both Jatts and non-Jatts. Actually the Misl existed as an organized body for many years under Khushal Singh and Nand Singh Sanghania, but it was only when Jassa Singh Ichohill (as he was then known) succeeded the command in 1758 that it became powerful and renowned.
Initial years & his Rise
Amongst the five brothers (Jai Singh, Jassa Singh, Khushal Singh, Mali Singh and Tara Singh), there was no major difference in the ages. At this time the celebrated Adeena Beg, the Imperial Governor of the Jullundur Doab, exercised great influence in the Punjab. As there was constant quarreling between him and the Sikhs, Sardar Jassa Singh was sent to him as their ambassador by the Sikhs, who considered the Sardar one of the ablest men among themselves. From all accounts Sardar Jassa Singh was a tall handsome young man, possessing rare intellectual qualities. The Nawab was so pleased with him that he granted all the demands of the Sikhs, to plead for which Sardar Jassa Singh had been sent. Moreover, Adeena Beg took him and his brothers into his service and made him the Tahsildar over a large district. He remained for a long time in the service of the Nawab. Adeena Beg encouraged the Sikhs in their resistance against Ahmed Shah Abdali (an Afghan Ruler who even today is regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan), also known as Durani. He hoped to rise by the assistance of the Sikhs to the supreme power in the province. But for his premature death, he probably would have been successful. When Prince Timur, son of Ahmad Shah Abdali, marched against Adeena Beg, the latter retreated towards the hills to the north and Sardar Jassa Singh and his brothers left him and went to Amritsar where they joined the forces of Nand Singh Sanghania. The younger brother of Sardar Jassa Singh was at this time killed in action with the Afghans near Majitha, Amritsar. The forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali then gave a severe blow to the Sikhs in the Battle of Ghallughara (genocide), in which approximately 17,000 Sikhs fell, the three brothers, Jassa Singh, Mali Singh and Tara Singh, with Jai Singh Kanhaiya (leader of the Kanhaiya Misl) were reduced to the necessity of hiding in jungles and managed to subsist on whatever chance threw their way. They had however the temerity to visit Amritsar to bathe in the sacred pool, and pillaged the suburbs of the city. When attacked by the Shah’s troops they fired off their matchlocks and fled to the jungles. After the departure of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Jassa Singh with his brothers Mali Singh and Tara Singh, and Jai Singh Kanhaiya emerged from their jungle retreat and collected their followers ravaged the country far and wide, building forts and establishing military outposts. When Khawaja Obed, the Governor of Lahore, attacked the Sikh fort at Gujranwala, he was opposed by the united forces of the Ramgarhias and Kanhaiyas; and the guns, ammunition and treasure left by the Governor were equally divided by the leaders of the two Misls. Amritsar was at this time no more than a large hamlet and on the withdrawal of Afghans, Jassa Singh and Nand Singh Sanghania partially fortified it and surrounded a portion with a high mud wall, which they called Ram Rauni. Sikhs were now becoming powerful.
Rather than holding themselves aloof from such imperial structures, the Sikh chiefs of this area played a careful game of using shifting alliances with both the Khalsa Sikhs and the Mughal and Afghan administrations to fend off the claims of all these groups on their territories. Thus, the shifting identity of Phulkian Sikhs as rebels, Sikh Sardars, loyal Mughal zamindars (landlords), and Afghan allies was instrumental in deepening and consolidating their hold over local resources. - By Dr. Purnima Dhavan Ph. D, from USA in her book “When Sparrow Became Hawks: the making of Sikh warriors traditions” (page 18), published by Oxford University Press.
Nawab Adina Beg on his return from self-imposed exile from the hills found the Sikhs were becoming too powerful for his liking and security. He sent Mirza Baksh to reduce the new fort, Ram Rauni, in October 1748, which in reality was not difficult as the Sikhs were still in the process of organizing themselves. Ram Rauni was surrounded and the siege continued for four months up to January 1749. The Sikhs faced great hardship and provisions ran short and the Sikh forces were also reducing in number. Since Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was also present there, he defended the fortress against the repeated attacks of Mughal Army. Sardar Jassa Singh, however, remained surrounded from all sides by a force, which out numbered his troops by several times. Compelled by the circumstances, he broke through the enemy cordon and escaped. Adina Beg dismantled the Ram Rauni but fortunately he died shortly. After the death of Adina Beg, the Sikhs spread once again over the whole of Punjab. Jassa Singh took charge of his Misl in 1758; and he with the help of Kanhaya Misl seized Dinanagar, Batala, Kalanaur, Sri Hargobindpur, Qadian, Ghuman and many other towns of Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts. Since Jassa Singh was the sole leader in the territory, he added to his possession some territories in the neighbor-hood of Hoshiarpur. Parganas of Maniwal, Urmur Tanda, Sarih and Miani in the Jalandhar Doab. Prithvi Singh, the ruler of Nurpur and Raja Singh, the ruler of Chamba accepted his overlordship. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia occupied Datarpur and Hajipur in tehsil Dasua in the Hoshiarpur.
… in the event of fighting, with his small numbers against the heavy odds of the enemies he would display extraordinary bravery and intrepidity. He (Jassa Singh) would jump into the battle-field amidst booming guns, totally indifferent and insensitive to the grave hazards to his life – Khushwaqat Rai of Misl era (Tawarikh-i Sikhan, History of the Sikhs completed in 1811)
Comments – Ram Rauni Episode
Eminent historians such as Sir Lepel H Griffin (page 174 of Chiefs and Families of Note in the Punjab, 1865 edition and as corrected up to July 1, 1939, under the orders of the Punjab Government, p 428) and Dr Bhagat Singh (History of Sikh Misals) have reported the episode of Ram Rauni differently. While these eminent authors have their own sources to quote it differently, appears the incident of Ram Rauni has become complicated and therefore requires more deliberations. The very fact that Jassa Singh became popular by the name Ramgarhia, shows the pride attached to this episode. Jassa Singh was so attached to this episode that Ram Rauni was eventually converted into the Ramgarh Fort.
Mohammedans especially during the time of Aurangzeb had tried to systematically abused the religious feelings of the Sikhs, and the Golden Temple itself was destroyed many times by the Muslim rulers and invaders. The Sikhs rebuilt it and for its defence the Misl heads built four forts i.e. one on each side. The Bhangi Misl built two forts. One was built by Sardar Gujar Singh, on the site where now stands the newer fort of Gobindgarh. The other lay to the South of the temple and named the Bhangi fort. The third fort was built by Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and was named as Ahluwalia fort. As the Ram Rauni Fortress was completely demolished by the Mogul rulers, the remnants of fortress were rebuilt into a Pucca (concrete) Fort by Sardar Jassa Singh.
Jassa Singh after taking command of the Misl in 1758, named the fort, he had defended so bravely as Ramgarh, Ram (Amritsar at one time was known as Chak Guru Ram Das after the name of Guru Ram Das, the fourth Prophet of Sikhs) and Garh (Fort) and became famous by the designation of Ramgharia (it is neither a caste nor any sub-caste) suffixed to his name in appreciation of the work done by him. Instead of Jassa Singh Ichogill/ Ichogillia, he was now popular as Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. Ramgarh was the fourth fort and was also the headquarters of the Misl. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh visited the fort, he admired its fortifications so much that he copied its plan and built the new Gobindgarh fort, Gobind (name of Sikh God) and Garh (Fort), which still exists to the North of the city. After the death of Jodh Singh Ramgarhia (son of Jassa Singh), Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed the entire Ramgharia estate in 1816. Most of the forts / military posts including Ramgarh fort were demolished by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and reduced the Misl into a state of non existence like other Misls. Demolishing forts or other military posts were aimed at weakening or finishing the opponents militarily.
Dr Bhagat Singh Ph. D (Patiala), writes – ….Jassa Singh remained in the fort of Ram Rauni or Ramgarh for quite sometime. He repaired it after its destruction …. took its name from the name of this fort. And he began to be called Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. It is amusing to note that the whole of the carpenter community began to call itself Ramgarhias which is a misnomer.
Territorial Acquisitions of Jassa Singh
Jassa Singh actively participated in the battles against Jahan Khan of Lahore and Zain Khan of Sirhind. He joined the Sikhs in their incursion of Bharatpur. Accompanied by his brother Mali Singh, he launched upon a career of conquests in the Shivalik hills and the Majha areas. He placed under his control the parganas of Batala, Kalanaur, Mastiwal, Dasuha, Talwara Lakhpur, Sanguwala, Sharif Chak, Miani, Begowal, etc. These territories fetched him an annual income of seven lakh rupees. Jassa Singh also subordinated Raja Ghumand Chand Katoch of Kangra and the Rajas of Haripur, Jaswan, Datarpur and many other petty hill chiefs that yielded him a revenue of two lakh rupees. Jassa Singh entrusted Batala and its surrounding areas to his brother Mali Singh and Kalanaur and its adjoining territories to his other brother, Tara Singh. He himself would not confine himself to one place. He kept on visiting regularly the various places under the Misal’s control. If on a certain day he was at Rahilla, next day he would be at Batala and on the third day he would go to Meghowal. Most of their relatives lived at Meghowal where they had pucca havelis. He constructed a fort at Talwara on the bank of river Beas so that he could keep the hill chiefs under awe. He also realised one-fourth of the produce from the zamindars of Phagwara. His influence increased considerably. He had under his command ten thousand horsemen. The Ramgarhias reduced Batala to submission in February-March 1763. All the zamindars of the taaluqa of Batala, including Saran Das of Jandiala, Dharam Das of Toli and Mirza Nur Muhammad of Qadian, accepted the overlordship of Jassa Singh and started paying revenue to him. He had also captured Urmar Tanda, Yahyapur and some territories in the neighbourhood of Hoshiarpur. The new additions, referred to above, brought him an additional income of about ten lakh rupees. In due course of time, his possessions included almost the whole of Shivalik territories between the Ravi and the Beas and the territories of the Jalandhar Doab in the plains. Now Ramgarh could not serve as his ideal headquarters, so he made Sri Hargobindpur, near Batala, on the river Beas, his capital. He built many forts at strategic places within his territories, and extended full protection to his subordinate principalities. For example, Chamba was protected against Ranjit Deo of Jammu. Jassa Singh established his reputation as one of the strongest chiefs of the Punjab. He had been actively participating in all the Sikh incursions and displaying deeds of gallantry in all the battle-fields wherever he fought. (as narrated by Dr. Bhagat Singh in his write on Misls)
Inter Misl Feud
One of the main causes of the inability of Sikh leaders to derive enduring benefit from their military power was their mutual jealousy. As they were becoming stronger, there was an urge to prove the ascendency of one over other Misls. Likewise there was a bitter feud between the two most powerful families, viz., the Ramgarhia and the Ahluwalia because the territories of the two Misls were contiguous. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718 -1783) was another powerful leader of the Ahluwalia Misl. He belonged to a village called Ahlu near Lahore and hence became popular by the name of Ahluwalia. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia gave separate Jagirs (recurring revenue for the family) to his bothers from his resources / possessions. However, it was imprudence on the part of his brothers, which brought great trouble to the family and the Misl. On one occasion, as Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was passing near Gurdaspur on his way to Achal (6 Km south of Batala), a place of pilgrimage, he was attacked by Jassa Singh Ramgarhia’s brothers, Khushal Singh, Mali Singh and Tara Singh. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia himself was taken as a prisoner. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, who would have been glad, had his brothers slain his rival, instead released Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with rich gifts when they brought him as a prisoner to him. On release, Ahluwalia Chieftain felt humiliated and was not to be appeased, more so, when he was looked upon as the head of the Khalsa Dal, and indeed its founder. Since he had been insulted by the Ramgharia brothers, he took the pledge to capture the entire Ramgarhia estate. He then mustered the support of other Misls; and with the help of Ganda Singh and Jhanda Singh Bhangi, Jai Singh Kanhaya and Hakikat Singh, the old friends of Jassa Singh; Charan Singh Sukarchakia; Nar Singh Chamiariwala and many others attacked Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and surrounded him from all sides. Jassa Singh Ramgharia having been outnumbered, felt betrayed as some of his old friends joined Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. Without their help, it was not possible for Jassa Singh Ahluwalia to uproot him. But then, there are no permanent friends, there are only permanent interests that bonds or destroy friendships. After a severe fighting lasting four years; Ramgharia’s opponents took possession of his entire estate. Khushal Singh was badly wounded at Bhagowal fighting with Jai Singh Kanhaya; Tara Singh lost Kalanaur and Jassa Singh fled across the Sutlej towards Sirsa.
Relations with Raja Amar Singh – Malwa Region
Sardar Jassa Singh remained in the region of Sirsa until 1783, the year when Jassa Singh Ahluwalia died. However, he was equally active in the Sirsa region and started reorganizing his forces. He overran the country with his horsemen and marched up to the walls of Delhi, Mathura and Agra. Passing through Panipat and Karnal, he attacked the Nawab of Meerut and after defeating him, the Nawab of Meerut paid him tribute in the form of Rs 10,000 per annum as tribute. He also received large presents from Rajas of Bharatpur and Dholpur. The Maharaja of Japur’s attitude was also cordial towards him, and received many presents from the Prince.
At this time, there was also a quarrel between Raja Amar Singh and the Nawabs of Patodi and several other chiefs. The Raja called Jassa Singh Ramgarhia to his assistance. Jassa Singh immediately proceeded there, and defeated the enemies of Raja Amar Singh. He took many villages on the bank of Jamuna. The following chiefs, namely Sher Singh of Buria, Gurdit Singh Ladowal, Baghel Singh of Salodi and Gurbaksh Singh of Umballa (now Ambala), together, however, opposed him. A severe fighting continued but Jassa Singh defeated them and in turn received valuable peace-offerings from them. The Sikhs by then were looked upon as liberators and champions of the weak and were known to be ever ready to come to the rescue of their helpless, downtrodden countrymen. One day Jassa Singh was informed that the Mohammedan Governor of Hissar was mercilessly persecuting the Hindus under him. He attacked the honour of their women and forcibly carried away two Brahmin girls for converting them into Islam. Jassa Singh was deeply distressed at the news. He collected his men and marched against Hissar, which he plundered and restored the girls to their father thereby earning good name in the eyes of the locals. There was another story. A servant of the Sardar happened to drop his vessel down a well at Sirsa. When a diver was sent to fetch it, he discovered four boxes full of gold coins of the value of many lakhs from the bottom of the well. With this money, Jassa Singh was able to pay his troops, enrol additional followers and strengthen his group. This was a turning point for him. By now his popularity was continuously increasing and Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was considered such a noble Sikh that he was employed to administer Sikh baptism of Raja Amar Singh of Patiala.
Jassa Singh possessed winning manners. He was bounteousto the strangers as well as his officials who sought his protection even after committing crimes. Hehelped the needy even at heavy costs to him. He provided asylum to the strangers even for yearstogether – Khushwaqat Rai (Tawarikh-i Sikhan, History of the Sikhs completed in 1811)
Attack on the Red Fort, Delhi
Any one who controlled Delhi, ruled the region. All the Sikh forces on one occasion joined together and with united army of 60 – 70 thousand strong marched against Delhi. The Mogul empire was at its last gasp, and so no one opposed them. The Sikhs plundered the city, and burnt a great part of it. Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgahria as well as Ahluwalia and some other Sardars penetrated into the Red Fort. The followers of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia made him ascend the throne and proclaimed as the King. But Jassa Singh Ramgarhia challenged his right to do so at which the Ahluwalia chief vacated the royal seat. Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, along with other material brought the the royal stone (known as Sill or the Coronation stone) with him which is currently placed in the Ramgarhia Bunga in Amritsar.
Many of the datable primary sources relating to the Sikh community were created by those who were not Sikhs themselves, and frequently were hostile to this new community, with little interest in understanding its history or motivation…….. The majority of securely dated primary sources for the early decades of the Khalsa’s history , then, are Persian news reports (akhbarat), court histories, and memoirs, most frequently authored by Mughal officials and their associates. Since this was also a period in which Khalas Sikhs were perceived as rebels and trouble-makers by the Mughal state, such sources rarely offer an unbiased view of the Khalsa Sikhs…. – Dr Purnima Dhavan, Ph. D, Seattle, Washington, USA. (It is because of this anomaly, some events of historic importance either stand obliterated from historian perspective or misquoted / misconsrtued)
Reclaiming the lost Estate
A great famine destroyed Sirsa in 1783, and Sardar decided to return to the Punjab. Meanwhile the Misls leaders in Punjab were still busy fighting amongst themselves on the issue of ascendency over their rival groups. At Ludhiana he met messenger from Sardar Mahan Singh Sukarchakia and Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra, offering him to reinstate and return his old possessions if he agreed to join them against Jai Singh Kanhaya. It was now a perfect opportunity for Jassa Singh Ramgharia’s to turn the tables against Kanhayas and take revenge . Jassa Singh immediately consented; especially when Kanhayas despite being his old friends helped Jassa Singh Ahluwalia to defeat him. He then with the combined forces marched towards Batala. On hearing this, Gurbaksh Singh, son of Jai Singh Kanhaya, advanced against him with eight thousand men. In a fierce battle, Gurbaksh Singh Kanheya was defeated and killed; and the Kanhaya chief, Jai Singh Kanheya was shocked at the death of his son and was compelled to give up the Ramgarhia estate to Jassa Singh Ramgarhia; and the fort of Kangra which he had held for four years, to Sansar Chand. Jai Singh was so distressed and helpless at the loss of his son that he then decided to cement friendship with Mahan Singh Sukerchakia. To further improve his relations with Sukerchakias, he even married his grand daughter, Mehtab Kaur, daughter of Gurbaksh Singh who was killed in action against the combined forces of Ramgarhia to Mahan Singh Sukerchakia’s young son, Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh later rose to become the Maharaja of Punjab whereas Jai Singh could never recover to his former power, and died in 1789.
Inter Misl Feud Continues
However, to the advantage of Jassa Singh, the river Beas came down under heavy floods and disrupted Sada Kaur’s rear positions and swept away a large portion of the Kanhaya camp including infantry, cavalry and other provisions. Sada Kaur and Ranjit Singh with lot of difficulty managed to escape the heavy floods, and were forced to withdraw to Gujranwala. Since Jassa Singh was not affected by these floods, he managed to hold his grounds. This was his last major unfought battle.
At the height of his power, Ramgaghia Misl’s territories in Bari Doab included Batala, Kalanaur, Dinanagar, Sri Hargobindpur, Shahpur Kandi, Gurdaspur, Ghuman, Mattewal and in the Jullunder Doab, Urmur Tanda, Sarih, Miani, Gardhivala and Ahhura. And in the hills of Kangra, Nurpur, Mandi.
Death and Succession
Jassa Singh died in 1803 of a fever and was succeeded by his eldest son, Jodh Singh as part of the dynastic rule. It is pertinent to note that he was a Sikh and did not associate with any caste especially when the Sikh faith was formed on the basis of a modern caste-less society / religion.
‘…Jassa Singh Ramgarhia who earned a good name in the region appeared to have shrewd grasp of realpolitik, relying equally on diplomatic persuasion and martial prowess to accomplish his goals….’ – Dr Purnima Dhavan, Ph. D, Associate Professor, University of Washington, Dept of History (South Asia),
Jodh Singh Succeeded Jassa Singh
Jassa Singh Ramgarhia had two sons, Jodh Singh and Bir Singh. Jodh Singh succeeded to his father after his death. At the time of Jassa Singh’s death in 1803, Ranjit Singh (1780 AD-1839 AD), was around 23 years in age. He began to lust after Ramgarhia territory, and feigned the greatest affection for Sardar Jodh Singh after the death of Jassa Singh. On one occasion he, thinking that Ramgarhia Misl under Sardar Jodh Singh was too powerful to let him annex his estate militarily, he invited him to Lahore on a friendly visit. Apprehending Ranjit Singh’s strange invitation, he went to Lahore with a large contingent of force. On the next day while going to attend Ranjit Singh’s darbar, he took 25 chosen followers, whom he posted outside. Maharaja received him with utmost cordiality, but suddenly Ranjit Singh signalled his men to surround Sardar Jodh Singh. But Jodh Singh who was well prepared, immediately took out his sword and challenged Ranjit Singh and his men because he would not be taken prisoner as long as he was alive. His courage brought Ranjit Singh plans to naught to capture him alive, and dismissed the Chief with honor and rich gifts. To further appease Jodh Singh, he later went over to Ramgarh Fort almost unattended, and ordered the construction of his new fort named as Gobindgarh (Gobind is name of 10th Sikh prophet thereby meaning the fort of God like Ramgarh Fort) to be built in the same design. Jodh Singh was won over and convinced by Ranjit Singh that he had no intention to annex his territory and established a bond of friendship with him. Later Jodh Singh told them that he would join Maharaja Ranjit Singh as an ally on the acceptance of two conditions. First, that Batala, Kalanaur, Bajwara, and Sangowal which previously belonged to them and, of late, were in the hands of their opponents, should be restored to them. Second, Gurdit Singh Bhangi, who was lying at his door, should be provided with a jagir for his subsistence. The Maharaja accepted both the conditions. Jodh Singh, accompanied by his close associates, came to Amritsar and met Ranjit Singh at Harmandir Sahib and he was duly honoured by the latter. The demanded territories were restored to Jodh Singh and Panjore and five or six villages were given in jagir to Mai Sukhan and her son, Gurdit Singh.
When Ranjit Singh by himself was unable to conquer Kasur near Lahore, he sought the help of Sardar Jodh Singh in preference to his customary confederates. Sardar Jodh Singh’s men brought Qutb-Din-Khan, the Nawab of Kasur, with bound hand and foot. After the occupation of Kasur the Maharaja gifted an elephant to the Ramgarhia chief. Later Jodh Singh sided with Ranjit Singh in his expeditions against Multan and against his other adversaries. Jodh Singh thus remained an ally like Kenheya Misl; and part of Ranjit Singh’s close coterie until his death in 1816.
Jodh Singh also contracted friendship with Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra with whose help he occupied parganas of Batala, Bhunga, Hoshiarpur and the surrounding areas. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh demanded the zamzama gun from Mai Sukhan, the widow of Gulab Singh Bhangi, in 1805, she gave a flat refusal to hand over the gun and prepared to fight against the Maharaja. Jodh Singh sent a secret reinforcement of three hundred soldiers to Sukhan. At the same time he advised her either to hand over the bone of contention—the zamzama gun, to Ranjit Singh or destroy the gun. She did not accept either of the suggestions. The Maharaja, accompanied by his allies, Sada Kaur and Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, besieged Amritsar. When the opposing forces were at the point of severely clashing, Jodh Singh and Akali Phula Singh intervened and persuaded Sukhan to surrender. Thus, they were able to avert the bloodshed.
In earlier stages, Jodh Singh was very friendly towards Sansar Chand Katoch but later their relations got strained due to the former’s inability to help the latter against the Gurkhas. Jodh Singh was very much known for his magnanimity of heart and lavish generosity. Any defeated chief or impoverished person could go to him and enjoy his hospitality. He always sympathised with those on whom the fortunes frowned. In his Misal, he had introduced strict discipline and anybody found guilty of theft or any other crime was strictly dealt with. He would never sell justice but administer it with utmost honesty. He was very keen to give neat and clean administration to his people and there was nothing nearer his heart than the welfare of his subjects.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh gave away in jagir the pargana of Ghuman to Jodh Singh. It gave an annual revenue of twenty five thousand rupees. Formerly, this area belonged to the Ramgarhias and at that time it was in the bands of Gulab Singh Bhangi. In 1811, Ranjit Singh gave to Jodh Singh eleven villages from the pargana of Sikhowala (Sikhowala, according to Khushwaqat Rai, and Sheikhupura, according to Gian Singh) which was in the possession of the sons of Fateh Singh Kanaihya, which fetched an annual revenue of twelve thousand rupees. Of all the Sikh Sardars the Maharaja had the greatest regards for Jodh Singh Ramgarhia and addressed him as ‘Baba Ji. When he came to see Maharaja Ranjit Singh the latter would go out a few steps to receive him and seated him by his side during the Durbar. He was always seated next to the Maharaja in the Royal Darbar of Sikh empire. Jodh Singh, mostly, lived at Lahore or Amritsar and he mobilized his forces on the request of the Maharaja. Because of his good relations with the Maharaja the Ramgarhia chief had no problem retaining his possessions intact till his death on August 23, 1815.
Jodh Singh was a deeply religious person. He completed the construction of Bunga and also built the first two stories of Baba Atal Sahib Gurdwara, the loftiest building in Amritsar, near the Golden Temple. Sardar Jodh Singh died in 1815 and his Samad is located at Gurudwara Shahidan (Shahid Ganj) in Amritsar.
Sardar Tara Singh
Tara Singh was a prominent Sikh leader and the younger brother of Jassa Singh Ramgahia. He took part in almost all battles with his brother and died in 1897 before Jassa Singh died in 1803. The Samad of Tara Singh is currently located at village Thikdiwal, few Km North of Qadian, Batala, District Gurdaspur. The area of the fort of Tara Singh at Thikdiwal has now been occupied by the local residents who have made their residential houses. At the time of cremation, his wife, Dya Kaur, took Sati as was vogue during those days. This place is famous by the name of Mata Sati. The building is being maintained by the locals of the village. Once a year langer is shared with the local community wherein lot of people get together there.
Legacy – Successors of Jodh Singh
Dynastic Conflict & the Collapse of the Misl – Ranjit Singh Era
Jodh Singh as stated above succeeded Jassa Singh in 1803. Having commanded the Misl for more than 12 years he too died in 1815 as a close ally of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.Ranjit Singh was actually a self-made and a capable ruler. As mentioned in the The Panjab Chiefs by Sir lepel H Griffin, his father killed his mother due to suspected adultery and similarly Ranjit Singh killed his mother on similar suspicion. Both ladies believed to have more than one lover; and it is doubtful if Mahan Singh was the son of Charrat Singh or Ranjit Singh was the son of Mahan Singh. There is also a mention that even Ranjit Singh’s first wife Mehtab Kaur was not the mother of Maharaja Sher Singh and Tara Singh, because in realty she never bore any children to the Maharaja. But despite such disturbing episodes in Ranjit Singh’s personal life, the scion of one of the least important of the twelve Sikh clans, he at seventeen begun his journey with force, flattery, and diplomacy to forge the warring Sikh tribes into a unified command. The Ramgarhia Misl under Sardar Jassa Singh and Jodh Singh remained one of the most powerful Misls and could not be annexed as long as they were alive by Ranjit Singh. However, on the death of Sardar Jodh Singh the family began to quarrel. Diwan Singh (Jodh Singh’s first cousin and the son of Tara Singh), Vir Singh (second son of Jassa Singh), the widow of Jodh Singh and Mehtab Singh, another cousin of Jodh Singh and son of Khushal Singh (the brother of Jassa Singh) were all claiming the estate. It was now a perfect occasion for Ranjit Singh, and in realty a perfect opportunity for any person eying to annex the Ramgarhia Misl. On learning this, Ranjit Singh called three cousins, Vir Singh, Diwan Singh and Mehtab Singh at Nandaun, promising to settle the dispute by arbitration. On their arrival the Maharaja received them with courtesy; and immediately left the reception tent signalling his men to capture them. They were immediately surrounded by his troops, and three cousins were taken prisoners. Ranjit Singh then marched towards Amritsar and after some severe fighting, captured the fort of Ramgarh. Again marching towards Northwest, he seized the entire Ramgarhia estate and in a short time reduced entire forts and fortifications of the Misl and were placed under Sardar Lehna Singh Majithia. On the intercession of Sardar Nihal Singh Ahluwalia and Chanda Singh Kanaihya the Ramgarhia Sardars were released from the jail and an annual jagir of 35,000 rupees was granted to them. The widows of Jodh Singh were given jagirs of four villages for their maintenance. Vir Singh was given Dharmkot Randhawa in jagir. These were service-free jagirs.70 Vir Singh had died six years earlier, in 1828, when two-third of his jagirs were resumed by the Maharaja. (The downfall of the family based Misls was not only confined to Ramgarhias; but prevailed in almost all Misls including Sukarchakia wherein it disappeared after the demise of their able leaders. While Maharaja Ranjit Singh was able to unify all Misls under his command, the Sikh empire few years after his death collapsed and was lost to the British during second Anglo Sikh War in 1849.)
Diwan Singh refused to accept his share. He fled to Patiala where he was well received. He also left that place and moved about for some time. Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent a word to Diwan Singh, through Desa Singh Majithia, assuring him the grant of a big jagir which he accepted. He was respect fully received by the Maharaja at Lahore and was given command of 700 men in the expedition then setting out for Kashmir. There, he remained in charge of Baramula, a difficult hill post, till his death in 1834.
In 1828, Maharaja Ranjit Singh fell sick. Diwan Singh on hearing this at once came to Lahore with a large contingent without the permission of Ranjit Singh. By chance Ranjit Singh recovered from serious sickness, and he learnt about Diwan Singh’s arrival with a contingent of troops, and understood the purpose of his coming but took no offense. He in turn pleased him with rich gifts, and Diwan Singh went back to Baramulla where he commanded the region for 14 years. His Samadh together with Dharmshala (Rest House) was situated on the banks of Jhelum for many years. The area is was also known as the cantonment of Diwan Singh. Till date a significant population of Sikhs is settled in Baramula.
‘Sardar-e-Bawakar’ Sardar Mangal Singh, CSI (1800 – 1879)
After Diwan Singh’s death his son Mangal Singh, who was born in 1800, succeeded to his father’s estate. During his younger days he served Ranjit Singh on his personal staff. The Maharaja gave him jagirs in Dharmkot, Kalowala, Tibrah and Kundilah worth 9,000 rupees of which 3,600 rupees were personal, and 5,400 rupees for service. The jagir was continued to his successors in perpetuity and “Sardar Sahib” Trilochan Singh (1901-1975) was its last recipient.
Battle of Jamraud, Afghanistan
After the death of his father in 1834, Mangal Singh was sent to Peshawar in a command of 400 foot and 110 swars. There, he did commendable service along with Hari Singh Nalwa and Tej Singh. On 30 Apr 1837, Nalwa lead his troops to relieve the besieged fort of Jamrud when Afghans laid siege to their lost territory. Hari Singh Nalwa was mortally injured and later succumbed to his injuries. As per some historians, there were more than 3000 casualties including 2000 Sikhs and 1000 Afghans killed in this battle. Sardar Mangal Singh was part of this historic battle, and after the death of Hari Singh, he continued to protect the Sikh empire in the region. He was placed in charge of hill forts in the tribal areas between Peshawar and Kabul to suppress insurrection with lot of hardship. Till date there is a significant numbers of Sikhs settled in this belt on account of the presence and the influence of the Sikhs in the region.
Ramgarhia Estate, Restored
Ranjit Singh was considered to be a great Sikh ruler and an administrator. If he had the strong urge to expand the Sikh empire, he was also known to reward his loyal and deserving Generals and troops. Since Mangal Singh along with Hari Singh Nalwa was able to have brought honor to Ranjit Singh’s regime in NWFP by successfully overpowering Afghan recalcitrant tribal Chiefs in the region, Ranjit Singh before he died in 1839 rewarded Sardar Mangal Singh for his services in the Afghan region; and returned a portion of his ancestors, the Ramgarhia Estate in Amritsar including the Bunga and Haveli which were annexed after the death of Sardar Jodh Singh (Mangal Singh’s uncle). The Bunga was thus known as Bunga Sardar Mangal Singh and remained with the family for almost 130 years. His descendants owned the lived until 1972 after which it was handed over to SGPC, Amritsar by “Sardar Sahib” Sardar Tarlochan Singh for maintaining it as a historical monument and possibly use it as Sikh museum. Because of the sole ownership and prolonged stay of his ancestors in the Bunga, the descendants of Sardar Mangal Singh until Sardar Sahib Tarlochan Singh were popularly known as “The Bungewala Family”.
Mangal Singh – After Ranjit Singh Death and the Onset of British Empire
Ranjit Singh died in 1839. However, Sardar Mangal Singh after his return from Afghanistan and during the reign of Maharaja Sher Singh, was also employed with Sardar Lehna Singh in Suket, Mandi and Kulu, and remained there till the end of the first Anglo-Sikh war, also called the Sutlej war of 1846 AD. Actually after Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the empire was severely weakened due to successive killings / murders of the his successors within the family due to which his heirs could not provide the leadership of their father’s caliber. The opportunity was used by the Britishers to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. It was probably the same strategy which Ranjit Singh applied on other Misls to annex. Dogras, erstwhile ally joined hands with the Brtishers. So when the Sikhs were fighting with Britishers, the Rajput Chief under Raja Balbir Singh was not slow to take advantage of the situation and gave the Sardar Mangal Singh with plenty of work to do. He, however, held his positions until 9 March 1846 when the Anglo-Sikh was finished, and he gave up his trust with honor.The Sikh Empire was finally dissolved after the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 and became British province of Punjab. That was the end of Sikh empire and the onset of British empire.
Manager of the affairs of Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar
During the British Empire, Sardar Mangal Singh was appointed Manager of the affairs of the Golden Temple in 1862 and remained in charge for 17 years until he died in 1879. On one occasion, when he was the Manager of Golden Temple, “His Highness” the Maharaja of Patiala visited the temple. When returning from the temple, the Maharaja, remembering the friendship that always existed between the Patiala nd Ramgarhia families, took off his diamond ring worth Rs 7000 and presented it to the Sardar. Mangal Singh considering the position of his family, did not hesitate to give him his own ring of almost same value to the Maharaja. Both were happy and they eventually kept their own rings with themselves. Mangal Singh was also the Honorary Magistrate of the city of Amritsar.