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This work on the Sikh Misals mainly relates to the eighteenth century which is, undoubtedly, the most eventful period in the Sikh history. It has been done at the instance of Dr. Ganda Singh, one of India’s top-ranking historians of his time and the most distinguished specialist of the eighteenth century Punjab history. For decades, there had been nothing nearer his heart than the desire of writing a detailed account of the Sikh Misals. Due to his preoccupation with many controversial issues of the Sikh history he kept on postponing this work to a near future. But a day came when the weight of years and failing health refused to permit him to undertake this work. He asked me to do it and magnanimously placed at my disposal his unrivalled life-long collection of Persian manuscripts and other rare books relating to the period. Thus, with the most invaluable source material at my working desk my job became easier.

I have always felt incensed at the remarks that the eighteenth century was a dark period of Sikh history. The more I studied this period the more unconvinced I felt about these remarks Having devoted some three decades exclusively to this period I came to the irrefutable conclusion that it is impossible to find a more chivalrous and more glorious period in the history of the world than the eighteenth century Punjab. In the display of marvelous Sikh national character this period is eminently conspicuous. In utter resourcelessness and confronted with the mighty Mughal government and then the greatest military genius of the time in Asia, in the person of Ahmad Shah Durrani, the Sikhs weathered all storms for well-nigh half a century with utmost fighting capacity, overwhelming zeal and determination, unprecedented sacrifice and unshakable faith in their ultimate victory. With much larger numerical strength the enemies of the Sikhs could kill thousands after thousands of them but could not dispirit them. They were always unbending and uncompromising over their demand of a sovereign status in the Punjab.

The Sikh movement during this period remained under constant strain of a quadrangular contest. The Mughals were making every effort to perpetuate their rule over the Punjab and the Afghans wanted to make it a province of Afghanistan. The Marathas were making an all-out bid to occupy the Punjab and the Sikhs were waging a life and death struggle for their political emancipation. The Sikh leaders—Kapur Singh Faizullapuria, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Charhat Singh Sukarchakia, Tara Singh Ghaiba, Jai Singh Kanaihya, Ala Singh Phulkian, Baghel Singh Karorsinghia, Lehna Singh and Gujjar Singh Bhangis and others, whose achievements of bravery gave them a splendid halo, organised themselves into armed units and fought against their opponents to the finish. The Sikhs always grasped every opportunity that came their way, from its forelocks and despite heavy odds their power continued growing. Ultimately, one of the most brilliant conquerors of his time, Ahmad Shah Durrani, met his Waterloo in the Punjab and surrendered to the Sikhs the charge of their motherland and bowed out in abject humiliation after repeated attacks for two decades.

By 1768, having overpowered all their enemies, the Sikhs obtained possession of the major portion of the Punjab, extending in the east, from the bank of Jamuna, running from Buriya to Karnal, in the west, as far as the Indus, from Attock to the vicinity of Bhakkar, in the south, from the neighbourhood of Multan and Sind, to the foot of Shivalik hills and in the north, to the boundaries of Bihmbar, Jammu and Kangra, interspersed here and there with some petty independent chiefships.

In the words of Khushwaqat Rai,

“The Sikhs secured possession and control over this country of the Punjab and every one of them seized upon the places which he could. It seems as if the agents of fate and destiny had distributed the land of the five rivers among them with their own hands. It was effected indeed neither by the generosity of Ahmad Shah (Durrani) nor by the kindness of Muhammad Shah (Emperor). Glory be to God, before whom no bravery, no heroism, no unmanliness and no cowardice count. What valour and prowess is there which was not exhibited by Ahmad Shah and his followers.”

The founders of the Misals were originally free lancers and veteran espousers of the cause of their oppressed countrymen. As their possessions and followings increased they acquired the character of chieftainship. In this way, they passed from the deliverers to the rulers of their territories. It has been elaborated in this study that the confederacies did not all exist in their full strength at the same time, but one Misal gave birth to another, and an aspiring chief could separate himself from his immediate derah to form, perhaps, a greater one of his own. The Misals were distinguished by the titles derived from the name, the village, the district or the primogenitor of the first or the most eminent chief or from some other peculiarity.

Some historians wrongly suggest that Ranjit Singh’s was the first and probably the only royal house in the Punjab, the others being just the feudal chiefs. But the other Sikh rulers were in no way, less sovereign. Each Sikh chief was independent of others and had direct dealings with the neighbouring independent states. The contemporary historiographers had no hesitation in mentioning the proud epithets of Sultan-ul-qaum and Badshah for the chiefs of the Misals and calling their principalities as the royal houses.

The eighteenth century Sikh Sardars were as independent rulers [in; their territories as Ranjit Singh was in the nineteenth century, the only difference being in the dimensions of their states. Ranjit Singh’s administration differed from them in degree rather than kind. He was an offspring of the eighteenth century and was a ruler of the third generation in the Sukarchakia family. He was a born ruler, as the successor of Mahan Singh whose father, Charhat Singh, was the founder of a principality and a dynasty. The houses of the other Misals were similar to that of the Sukarchakia house. With the withdrawal of the Delhi government and Ahmad Shah Durrani from the stage of Punjab, a new political order came into being and the Sikhs became the masters of their land with full sovereign authority vested in their hands.

The contemporary and semi-contemporary Persian historiographers that wrote their accounts on the Sikh rise to power and their assuming sovereignty of the Punjab included Anand Ram Mukhlis (1748), Qazi Nur Muhammad (1765), Ghulam Husain (1781), Tahmas Khan Miskin (1782), Budh Singh Arora (1783), Kushwaqat Rai (1811), Bakht Mal (1814), Ahmad Shah Batalia (1724), James Skinner (1830), Diwan Amar Nath (1837), Sohan Lal Suri (1848-49), Bute Shah (1848), Ali-ud-Din Mufti (1754) and Ganesh Das Badehra (1855). We can easily name another two dozen earlier Persian authors who produced their works in the first half of the eighteenth century. These chroniclers give copious information about the activities of the Sikhs. But unfortunately these writers seem to have been obsessed with the prejudice that the Sikhs struggling for their emancipation were the rebels against the state and deserved to be suppressed with all possible means. Most of these writers, intentionally or unintentionally, failed to appreciate the spirit behind the Sikh struggle and the nature of the change they intended to bring about. Otherwise these works are very informative and valuable primary sources of this period. These writers had been either amidst the scenes they narrate or in their close proximity. It is often said that ‘those who create history seldom live to write it.’ This remark is clearly applicable to the leaders of the Sikh movement. The researcher in this field is handicapped to the extent that almost no contemporary records have been left by the Sikhs themselves whose version of the events would have been of utmost importance.

The English sources of information about this period as those of Col. Polier (1776), James Browne (1789), John Griffith (1794), George Forster (1798), William Francklin (1798), Col. Malcolm (1812), Henry Prinsep (1834), M’ Greggor (1846), Cunningham (1849), Lepel Griffin (1865), Muhammad Latif (1891) and George Campbell 1893, have also been occasionally used but not without caution as, at places, these writers have made awfully sweeping statements, sometimes far from truth. The English authors who wrote before the annexation of the Punjab could not have close contacts with the Sikhs and they depended on the second hand information. And those writing their books after 1849, purposely underrated the administrative institutions of the Sikhs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to establish the superiority of their administration.

I have used with advantage some Punjabi and Urdu books also as those of Rattan Singh Bhangu (1841), Kanaihya Lal (1877), Muhammad Hasan Khan (1878), and Gian Singh (1880).

Many things, hitherto confused and misstated by such writers as lacked the knowledge of Persian or were prejudiced against the Sikhs or were inadequately informed, have been clarified in this work. At a few places the readers may find repetition of certain events irksome. But it was unavoidable.

I have not allowed my personal bias, if any, to prejudice this work or influence the evaluation of the various factors that shaped the Sikh liberation movement in the Punjab. I have always kept before me Thomas H. Huxley’s remarks that, ‘the deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.’ I have always consciously avoided making a statement without evidence or corroboration.

This work, I believe, would meet an immense need of those scholars of the Punjab history who find themselves utterly incapacitated in respect of their access to the primary sources of information.

I offer my deep gratitude to Mr Parm Bakhshish Singh, Head of the Department of Punjab Historical Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala, for his keen interest in the speedy publication of this work. My heart-felt thanks are due to Dr Devinder Kumar Verma for assisting me in the preparation of the index of this book and to S. Tara Singh and S. Narinder Singh for helping me in reading the proofs assiduously.



27, Khalsa College Colony, Patiala