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The Nishanwalia Misal

Dasaundha Singh

Chaudhary Sahib Rai, a Jat of Gill sub-caste, was the resident of Surdev which was situated at a distance of 5 kos (15 kms) from Kot Isa Khan towards its south. His two sons, Dasaundha (Saundha) Singh and Sangat Singh, who lived on, cultivation of land, took baptism of the double-edged sword and joined the Dal Khalsa.1 A little later, they founded a village, named Singhanwala, near Zira (in the present district of Faridkot), and took up their residence there.2

In 1734, Dasaundha Singh was one of the leaders of the Taruna Dal. Since he was a strong and sturdy man, he was generally entrusted with the duty of carrying the flag in front of the Dal Khalsa when moving from one place to another. He was very much respected by the Sikh jathas. Dasaundha Singh, being the flag-bearer of the Dal Khalsa, or the Khalsa army, was given the name of Nishanwalia. Nishan means a standard or a banner and Nishanwalia means standard or flag bearer. The national flag of the Sikhs was of saffron colour. Dasaundha Singh was baptised by Diwan Darbara Singh. He wielded his sword like Rustam.3 He participated in the battle of Sirhind in January 1764. He took possession of the ilaqas of Singhanwala, Sanehwal, Sarai Lashkari Khan, Doraha, Amloh, Zira, Liddhar, Shahabad and Ambala and made the last named place his head- quarters. Dasaundha Singh died in 1767, of a gun-shot in the battle of the Brars at Droli which is situated at a distance of 5 kos from Singhanwala, in its west.4

Sangat Singh

Dasaundha Singh was succeeded by his brother, Sangat Singh. He was still more chivalrous and brave as compared to his brother. Accompanied by his men, he attacked Sirhind for the second time. He built a brick wall around the town of Ambala, his capital, to provide it protection against robbers. This town did not have sufficient water of good quality. Sangat Singh chose to leave Ambala for want of drinkable water and also the climate of this place did not suit him. He, therefore, shifted to Singhanwala. He handed over the possession of Ambala to his brother-in-law (wife’s brother), Dhian Singh, who appointed Gurbakhsh Singh and Lal Singh as the thanedars of Ambala and the adjoining possessions. Dhian Singh went to Singhanwala. Sangat Singh died soon after and Dhian Singh paid no attention to Ambala and the other possessions there. When he returned to Ambala he found Gurbakhsh Singh and Lal Singh to have become independent there. Jai Singh, resident of Kairon, and Kaur Singh of Dhand Kasel of the pargana of Tarn Taran, were Gurbakhsh Singh’s close associates. They had taken pahul at the hands of Diwan Darbara Singh.5 The number of troops under Sangat Singh was 12,000.6

Sangat Singh did not live a long life. He died in 1774, due to a natural death, while on a march in the hills, after ruling his territories for a few years.7

Mohar Singh

Sangat Singh left behind three sons, Mohar Singh, Kapur Singh and Anup Singh. They were very young and ignorant of statecraft. Mohar Singh, who was nominated to succeed his father, was hardly eight years of age and, thus, unfit to handle state affairs. He obtained Ambala and Zira. Kapur Singh settled at Singhanwala and Anup Singh got the possession of Sarai Lashkari Khan. Mohar Singh’s maternal uncle, Dhian Singh, became the administrator of his territories. The duty of flag-bearing was also entrusted to Dhian Singh. When Sirhind was attacked by the prominent Sardars of the Sikh Misals Mohar Singh got a good share of booty from there and he also placed under his control more places including Bejad Chak and Jatana.8

After some time when Mohar Singh visited his mother at Singhanwala his thanedars and subordinate officers revolted against him. After the lapse of sometime Mohar Singh and his brother Anup Singh came back from Singhanwala. Diplomatically enough, they went to Jai Singh’s house at Sarai Lashkari Khan, as his guests. Originally, Jai Singh had been appointed thanedar of Sarai Lashkari Khan by Mohar Singh’s father. At night, they took hold of Jai Singh and threw him out of the Sarai and confiscated whole of his movable and immovable property.9 Some of his adjoining territories were also annexed.

Mohar Singh solemnised his first marriage with Bhagan of Bilaspur. She lived at Singhanwala. Anup Singh married Darhai who was kept at Sarai Lashkari Khan.10

Mohar Singh became prominent among the cis-Satluj Sikh chiefs. On September 14, 1779, Mohar Singh waited upon Prince Abdul A had Khan at Thanesar when the latter was leading an expedition against Patiala. He made an offering to Abdul Ahad and was awarded a khillat. When another Mughal general, Shafi, led a campaign against the cis-Satluj Sikh chiefs in 1781, grains and food-stuffs were sent to him from Delhi through the banjaras. Mohar Singh plundered the same.

At Ambala, the two brothers—Gurbakhsh Singh and Lal Singh had recruited two hundred horsemen each and had placed the taaluqas around Ambala under their control.11 They also charged rakhi from an area under Raja Amar Singh of Patiala. Lal Singh populated a deserted village, named Loh Shibli, and started building a fortress there. Raja Amar Singh sent an army to prevent the fortress from being completed; But Lal Singh was able to fully fortify the fortress.

Raja Amar Singh of Patiala collected larger forces including his own army, the contingents of Gajpat Singh of Jind, of Bhais of Kaithal and of Rais of Ahmad Kot to the tune of 20,000 horsemen and marched against Lal Singh with a view to destroying his fort. On the other hand, Lal Singh, Gurbakhsh Singh, Raja Singh of Jandaliwala, Sudha Singh, Mohar Singh and Anup Singh collected 12,000 horsemen to face the Patiala forces.12 There was fierce fighting between the contending forces and both sides suffered big human loss during the two-day fighting. The forces of Patiala and their allies, were surrounded by the army of the Nishanwalias and put in a tight corner. During this time Jhandu Singh, an associate of Raja Amar Singh, made an attempt to have a forced entry into the fort of the Nishanwalias. But Lal Singh, who was a very brave and fearless man, blocked the entry of the Patiala forces into the fort. Jhandu Singh died fighting against the Nishanwalias. Jhandu Singh’s brother Dulcha Singh, in utter desperation, on the death of his brother, attacked the forces of the Nishanwalias. Lal Singh was killed in the course of fighting.13

With the death of some important leaders from both sides the fighting came to a stop and Raja Amar Singh and Sardar Gurbakhsh Singh concluded peace between them and they never fought again.14 On the assumption of power and possession of Ambala by Mohar Singh, Gurbakhsh Singh remained at Morinda for some time.

Mohar Singh is said to have a haughty and arrogant disposition. People were generally unhappy with him. They looked to Sayid Mir Munir for advice and help as he was known for his saintliness. Mohar Singh did not like the popularity of the Sayid and killed him with an arrow-shot in 1785. On this account, there was a wave of deep anger against Mohar Singh. The people invited Gurbakhsh Singh from Morinda with his force. In the engagement Mohar Singh was killed and his widow retired to Zira from where she was later driven out in 1806, by the Lahore contingent under Mohkam Chand. Gurbakhsh Singh stayed on at Ambala, as its ruler. He ruled his territory efficiently. Gurbakhsh Singh died of paralysis in 1786.

The taaluqas of Mohar Singh were divided into four parts. One part was given to Anup Singh’s widow, Darhai, second part to the brothers of Desu, third part to the brothers of Mohar Singh’s aunt (sister of Sangat Singh), and fourth part to a horseman, Ramdas Singh.

Both Mohar Singh and Anup Singh had died issueless. Bhagan remained in possession of Singhanwala and Darhai in control of Sarai Lashkari Khan.15

After some time, first Darhai and an year later Bhagan passed away. Then, the taaluqa of Sarai Lashkari Khan was occupied by the British.

Sangat Singh’s son, Kapur Singh, along with his (Kapur Singh’s) son, Fateh Singh, died in 1797, in a battle with Dayal Singh.16

Daya Kaur

Since Gurbakhsh Singh died issueless he was succeeded to his territory by his widow, Daya Kaur.17 She administered her possessions with the help of Diwan Sipahimal (Sahi Mal) Bhandari. There were no dacoities or murders during her period, The British government always treated her with due consideration and courtesy. When Ranjit Singh visited cis-Sutluj areas in 1807, during his second incursion, Daya Kaur, widow of Gurbakhsh Singh, gave presents to the Maharaja.18 When Ranjit Singh visited that area during his third cis-Satluj expedition in 1808, he drove out Daya Kaur from Ambala. Ranjit Singh distributed her territory between Raja Bhag Singh of Jind, his maternal uncle, and Bhag Singh’s ally Lal Singh of Kaithal. To ward off any popular rising in favour of Daya Kaur Ranjit Singh deputed one of his servants, named Ganda Singh Safi, to stay on at Ambala with a strong force of 5,000 men.

Rani Daya Kaur appealed to Ochterlony to force the chiefs of Jind and Kaithal to withdraw their troops from her territory. Ochterlony reached near Patiala on February 4, 1809, and demanded the evacuation of Ambala by occupying troops which the Lahore garrison commandant did. Rani Daya Kaur of Ambala thanked Ochterlony for the restoration of her possessions. With the Treaty of Amritsar in 1809, the British placed her under their protection.

After Daya Kaur’s death in 1823, her territory lapsed to the British government.19 Captain Mathews who passed through her territory in April 1808, was all praise for her administration. Lepel Griffin writes, “She was an excellent ruler and her estate was one of the best managed in the protected territory.”20

Santu Singh and Sodha Singh

Sangat Singh’s nephew, Santu Singh, leaving his village Surdev (Mansur), founded a village, named Dahaleke, adjoining Singhanwala. He became an active member of the Dal Khalsa. He occupied the taaluqa of Sahnewal and became its chief.21 He ruled that territory for some time. He died at Dahaleke. Santu Singh was succeeded by his brother, Sodha Singh. He populated his territory with special efforts. He ruled his possessions with justice and equity for a long time. In due course of time, he fell on bad days and incurred the displeasure of his people. In 1797, all the surveyors and mutsaddis of his territory gave in writing that each one of them would be responsible for giving hundred maunds of grains to the Sardar by way of the ruler’s share assessed by the method of kankut. Sodha Singh increased the government’s share from each of them from hundred maunds to one hundred and fifty maunds. Thus, the state share was raised by fifty percent in the case of both the cash and kind payments.22

One of these days, Sodha Singh happened to visit Shahabad. All the zamindars and the tenants of the area made a humble petition to withdraw the increase in the revenue. But the Sardar did not agree and ordered them to be forcibly removed.23 He, then, came to Ambala and at the time of his march from there on elephant, he was told by the mahabat, Nabi Khan, that the animal was feeling restive and displaying a violent temper. The mahabat requested the Sardar not to mount the elephant but he did not heed his request. On the way the elephant became violent and the rider— the Sardar, fell down and was trampled to death under the feet of the animal. The elephant was shot dead by the Sardar’s men. The Sardar’s dead body was taken to Sanehwal where it was cremated.24 He left behind a son, named Daya Singh, born to his first wife, called Sahib-i-Diwan. Even in the presence of his son, Sodha Singh’s second wife, named Lashmi, became the owner of his entire property. Daya Singh was given some villages and the fort of village Mundian which was situated at a distance of three kos from Sanehwal, on its west. There were incessant clashes between Daya Singh and Lashmi for a long time. Both sides continued disturbing peace in each other’s villages till the occupation of the fort of Ludhiana in 1806, by Ranjit Singh who got the possessions of both Daya Singh and Lashmi vacated from them. Lashmi, the widow of Sodha Singh, was dispossessed of her fort of Sanehwal.25 Ranjit Singh ordered half of the revenue of the following five villages to be given to them. Four of these villages that is, Pattiwara, Mongat, Sasrali and Machhian were situated in bet and the fifth village, Kashike Barania was near Sanehwal.26 The services of some of the horsemen of Diwan Mohkam Chand were placed at their disposal. They were under Mohkam Chand. Lashmi died in 1821, and a little later, Daya Singh also died. Sometime later, their possessions passed under the control of the British. Lashmi’s son, Chaman Singh, lived on an income from some villages.27

Another branch of the Nishanwalias descended from Jai Singh Gurm of village Karanke Dhirke near Attari in Amritsar district and Kaur Singh of village Dhand Kasel in the pargana of Tarn Taran. These two leaders were the followers of Sangat Singh Nishanwalia. They were very brave and courageous. Sangat Singh gave them two blue-coloured Standards (nishans). They occupied Sarai Doraha, Lidhran and Chahal along with their taaluqas. For some time they administered their territory jointly. Later, they divided their possessions and parted company.28 Sarai Doraha and its taaluqa came to the share of Kaur Singh and Lidhran and Chahal to that of Jai Singh. According to Lepel Griffin the Lidhran Sikhs were independent members of the Nishanwalia confederacy, and when Sardar Jai Singh seized Lidhran, with twenty-seven adjacent villages, he was still an independent chief. Jai Singh made an alliance with Nabha by marrying his daughter, Daya Kaur, to Raja Jaswani Singh of Nabha.29 Jai Singh had two sons, Charhat Singh and Kharak Singh.

Jai Singh was administering the taaluqa of Lidhran for which he was paid one fourth of the revenue of eight villages by Maharaja Amar Singh. Jai Singh had been receiving this share of the revenue from these villages before they passed under the control of the Maharaja of Patiala. Amar Singh later gave more villages to Jai Singh with whom he was very much pleased. Jai Singh died in 1773, and was succeeded by his son, Charhat Singh, who later accepted the protection of the British in 1809.

Kaur Singh of Doraha and his son, Fateh Singh, died fighting against Daya Singh and Lashmi at Tajpur. Kaur Singh’s wife (also named Lashmi) married away her daughter to Punjab Singh, son of Bhag Singh of Thanesar. Punjab Singh started living at Doraha. Two years later Punjab Singh’s elder brother, Mehtab Singh, came to Doraha and both the brothers hatched a cons- piracy against Lashmi and threw her out of Doraha and took charge of the place.30

Four years later, in 1805 (when Jaswant Rao Holkar came to the Punjab), Punjab Singh was deprived of his possessions by Charhat Singh of Lidhran and Karam Singh Nirmala. Two parts of Punjab Singh’s territory were occupied by Karam Singh and one by Charhat Singh. When Ranjit Singh crossed river Satluj for the third time in 1808, he got Doraha vacated from them and handed it over to Chain Singh who was one of the confidants of Patiala house.31

Notes and References

  1. Bute Shah, Tawarikh-i-Punjab, IV, MS., GS., collection, Patiala, p. 110; Bute Shah writes his name as Saundha Singh and according to Giani Gian Singh it was Dasaunda Singh (Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, reprint Patiala, 1970, p. 278.) Gian Singh and Hari Ram Gupta write that Dasaundha Singh’s father was the resident of Mansur in the Ferozpur district (Gian Singh, op. cit., p. 272; Hari Ram Gupta. History of the Sikhs, Vol. II, Lahore, 1944, p. 29).
  2. Bute Shah, op. cit., IV, p. 110; Gian Singh, op. cit., p. 272.
  3. Bute Shah, op. cit. p. 110.
  4. Ibid, According to Gian Singh, Dasaundha Singh died fighting against Zabita Khan at Meerut, (op. cit., p. 272), cf., Khazan Singh, History and Philosophy of the Sikh Religion, Part I, Lahore, 1914, p. 280.
  5. Gian Singh, op. cit., p. 272.
  6. Prinsep, Origin of Sikh Power and Political Life of Ranjeet Singh, Calcutta, 1834, p. 31; Muhammad Latif, History of the Panjab, Calcutta, 1891, p. 322; Gian Singh, op. cit., p. 272; cf., ‘Kanaihya Lal’, Tarikh-i-Punjab, Lahore, 1877, p. 105.
  7. Bute Shah, op. cit., p. 110.
  8. Bute Shah, op. cit., IV, p. 111.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., p. 238.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid., p. 239.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid., p. 111.
  16. Gian Singh, op. cit., p. 272.
  17. Khushwaqat Rai, Tawarikh-i-Sikhan, MS., GS., p. 130; Bute Shah, op. cit., p. 239.
  18. Sohan Lal Suri, Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, II, Lahore, 1885, p. 66; Bute Shall, op. cit., V, p. 41.
  19. Gian Singh, op. cit., p. 273; Khazon Singh, op. cit., p. 280; cf., Bute Shah, op. cit., p. 239.
  20. Lepel Griffin, The Rajas of the Punjab, 1873, p; 93, fn. 1.
  21. Bute Shah, op. cit., IV, p. 112.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid., p. 113.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid., V, pp. 36-37.
  26. Ibid., IV, p. 114.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid., pp. 114-15.
  29. Lepel Griffin, op. cit., p. 394.
  30. Bute Shah, op. cit., IV, p. 115.
  31. Ibid.