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The Origin and Development of the Misal Organisation

Definition and Origin of the Misal

The term Misal has been defined differently by different historians. According to Cunningham1 and Prinsep,2Misal, an Arabic word, has been used to denote ‘alike or equal.’ To David Ochterlony, the Misal meant a tribe or race.3 Wilson understood it to be a voluntary association of the Sikhs.4 According to Ghulam Muhayy-ud-Din alias Bute Shah, Misal is a territory conquered by a brave Sardar with the help of his comrades and placed under his protection.5 Cunningham links Misal to the Arabic term, ‘musluhut’ (musallah) which means armed men and warlike people.6

Muhammad Latif writes,

“The various clans under their respective chiefs were leagued together and formed a confederacy, which they denominated Misal or ‘similitude’, thereby implying that the chief and followers of one clan were equal to those of another.”7

According to N.K. Sinha, the Misals were confederacies which the Sikhs formed when Timur Shah, the successor of Ahmad Shah Abdali, abandoned the policy of subordinating the Sikhs.8 W.H. McLeod considers the Misals as ‘semi-independent bands.’9

The term Misal came to be used during Guru Gobind Singh’s days by his contemporary poet, Senapat, who uses this term in the sense of a group, at a couple of places in his book.10 He uses it, for the first time, in reference to the battle of Bhangani when different morchas were allotted to different Misals (groups). The second reference relates to the people visiting the Guru at Nander in Misals (groups).

Rattan Singh Bhangu also makes use of this term in the sense of a group.11

All the above definitions seem to be incorrect. The meaning of the word Misal during the period under discussion was the same as it is today. Misal is and has been used to mean loose papers tagged or stitched together, forming a sort of file. When the Sikh Sardars assembled at Akal Takht they made a detailed report of the territories occupied by them to their chief leader—the president of the assembly, who prepared the separate Misals (files) of the individual Sardars. These records or Misals helped resolve territorial disputes whenever they arose between the two Sardars.12 In a general way, this interpretation of the term is borne out by Cunningham13 also. It was Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, who seems to have started for the first time, the maintenance of the Misals or files for the individual Sardars. Probably, he was, then, the only person with knowledge of Persian and Urdu, among the Sikh Sardars to do this job. Later, the term Misal acquired the meaning of the army of a Sardar or the territory under him.

The origin of the Misals may be traced to the practical needs of the Sikhs during the early days of their political rise. During Banda Singh’s time the Sikhs had a taste of freedom and, afterwards, they struggled incessantly for it against the Mughal authority in the Punjab. Under the able and selfless leadership of Kapur Singh, and, later of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, the Khalsa was organised into different groups commanded by the old veterans. It is not unreasonable to presume that these leaders had willing followers. The devotion of the Sikhs to the last Guru and their conviction in the future greatness of the Khalsa brought volunteers to the banners of the leaders of the various groups of the Khalsa. During the early phase the element of rough equality between the commander and the commanded is discernable and each member of the group could claim and express his equality with others in common deliberations.14 Thus, a spirit of mutual cooperation was developed in the Khalsa.15 These groups had a common treasury and & common kitchen. Though the association of the commander with Guru Gobind Singh or Banda Singh was an initial advantage, but the leader of the group was acceptable to its members because of his intrinsic qualities. No commander could afford to neglect the views and wishes of his comrades.16

Thus, this relationship between the commander and his followers, in all its comprehensive sense, gave strength to the organisation of the Sikhs and proved to be a great unifying and integrating force within the community. And soon this inner organisational strength manifested itself into a mighty force for the outsiders to reckon with, so much so that the combined strength of the jathas was enough to persuade Zakariya Khan to try to conciliate the Sikhs. His envoy came to the meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa, on the Baisakhi day in 1733, and made an offer to the Khalsa of the jagir of the parganas of Dipalpur, Kanganwal and Jhabal, which were worth a lakh of rupees in revenue. The Khalsa selected Kapur Singh for the honour. This offered a favourable opportunity to the Sikhs to consolidate their organisation.

The successes of the Khalsa against the government authorities in the Punjab turned the Sikhs into territorial powers. The Sikh commanders carved out small possessions to start with and the records of the Misals (files) of their territories were maintained at Akal Takht. These commanders were called ‘Sardars’ and their acquisitions as ‘Misals’. The Sardars had not acquired these territories exclusively by their personal prowess but with the active support of their associate leaders. The associate leaders, however small the strength of their contingents which had fought under the standard of the leading Sardar, had their shares according to the contribution they had made to the acquisition, and such land tenures were known: Misaldari, pattadari, jagirdari and tabedari which have been explained by Prinsep as given below:

The Sardar granted them a share from the land acquired. Having separated his share the Sardar divided the rest among the smaller associate Sardars. The associate Sardars gave from their shares to the junior leaders the portions of the land according to their contributions. These shares were further divided amongst the troopers.

The most important tenure was that of the Misaldari, according to which a grant of territory was made to a petty chief who had joined the Misal without any condition of dependence. If the Misaldar was dissatisfied with the Sardar he could transfer himself along with his lands to some other chief. And each of the shares given by the Sardars to the subordinate chiefs up to the individual horseman was called patti and the system named pattidari. The co-sharer could not dispose of his tenure to a stranger but in an emergency he was allowed to mortgage it. At the time of his death he could give away his patti to any of his male relations. Thus, the pattis became hereditary. The only condition of his tenure in relation to the Sardar of the Misal was the military aid when required.

The jagirdari tenure was given to the relations and the deserving companions of the chief and, in return for this grant, the grantees were required to render personal service whenever needed by the chief and they had to supply a certain number of equipped horses. The jagirs could be resumed by the donor for the jagirdars’ failure to render the necessary service.

The tenure of tabedari was granted in lieu of service to a follower who was completely subservient to the chief. The land could be taken back for an act of rebellion or disobedience on the part of the allottee.17

There were religious and charitable grants also given by way of endowments for the Gurdwaras, temples and other religious places.18 According to Ahmad Shah Batalia, nearly all the Sardars bestowed cash and revenue-free villages upon Akalis.19

Though twelve is the generally accepted number of the major confederacies but there were smaller ones also who allied themselves to one of them in need of war. In the words of Cunningham, “The confederacies did not all exist in their full strength at the same time, but one Misal gave birth to another, for the federative principle necessarily pervaded the union and an aspiring sub-chief could separate himself from his immediate party, to form, perhaps, a greater one of his own.”20

The founders of the Misals were originally free-lancers and veteran espousers of the cause of their oppressed countrymen. As their possessions and followers increased, they acquired the character of chieftainship. In this way they passed from deliverers to rulers of their territories. “The Misals were again distinguished by titles derived from the name, the village, the district or the progenitor of the first or most eminent chief or from some peculiarity of custom, or of leadership.21

The origin of the names of the twelve Misals can be traced as under:

  1. The Bhangi Misal took its name from its leader’s nickname Bhangi or an addict to bhang—an intoxicating preparation of hemp. The origin of the names of the twelve Misals can be traced as under:
  2. The Nishanwalias were the standard bearers, nishan means a standard of the Dal Khalsa.22
  3. The Shahids were headed by the descendants of honoured martyrs and Nihangs.
  4. The Ramgarhias took their name from the fortress of Ramgarh at Amritsar, earlier known as Ramrauni, held and enlarged by Jassa Singh, the carpenter.23
  5. The Ahluwalias derived their title from the village Ahlu to which Jassa Singh originally belonged.
  6. The Nakkais were named after the territory of Nakka they had risen from.
  7. The Kanaihyas24
  8. Faizullapurias or Singhpurias
  9. Sukarchakias
  10. Dallewalias took their names from the villages of their chiefs.
  11. The Karorsinghias took the name from Karora Singh, the third and the most important leader of the Misal. They were sometimes called Punjgarhias from the village of their first chief.
  12. The Phulkians went back to Phul, the common ancestor, of Ala Singh of Patiala house, of Gajpat Singh of Jind and of Hamir Singh of Nabha. Ala Singh was the son of Rama, the second son of Phul; Gajpat Singh was the grandson of Tiloka, son of Phul; Hamir Singh was the great grandson of Tiloka, son of Phul.

The Phulkians went back to Phul, the common ancestor, of Ala Singh of Patiala house, of Gajpat Singh of Jind and of Hamir Singh of Nabha. Ala Singh was the son of Rama, the second son of Phul; Gajpat Singh was the grandson of Tiloka, son of Phul; Hamir Singh was the great grandson of Tiloka, son of Phul.

Sometimes the chiefs were known by some cognomen which specially distinguished them. Some personal peculiarity was added to the Sardar’s name as in the following cases: Nidhan Singh Panjhatha, (the five-handed, from his great prowess in battle), Lehna Singh Chimini (from his short stature), Mohar Singh Lamba (the tall) and Sher Singh Kamla ‘‘(the deranged).25

With the exception of a few, the Misals, principally, belonged to the sturdy race of the Jats.26

Evolution of the Office of the Sikh Chief—His Powers and Duties

In the words of Lepel Griffin,

“All the Sikhs were theoretically equal and he who like Amar Singh Majithia could pierce a tree through with an arrow or like Hari Singh Nalwa could kill a tiger with a blow of his sword, might soon ride with the followers behind him and call himself a Sirdar.”27

When the various groups were leagued into twelve dals—though there was no formal grouping— smaller ones joined the big ones. The distinguished and selfless Sikhs, who were wedded to the resolute determination of the emancipation of this land of theirs from the Mughal or Afghans, became their leaders. With the increase of their powers, the Sardars began to possess territories. They also placed some areas in the Punjab under them on the rakhi terms. According to James Browne,

“These chiefs enjoyed distinct authority in their respective districts, uncontrolled by any superior power, and only assemble together on particular occasions. . . . They choose by majority of votes, a leader to command their joint forces during the expeditions; generally from among those chiefs, whose zamindaris are most considerable; his authority is, however, but ill-obeyed by so many other chiefs who though possessed of small territories yet as leaders of the fraternity of the Sikhs think themselves perfectly his equals, and barely allow him, during his temporary elevation, to the dignity of primus inter pares.”28

As referred to earlier, according to Bute Shah when, a person, accompanied by some comrades, takes possession of a particular territory be gives away some portions of that territory to his companions for their support. He himself becomes the Sardar (chief) of that Misal and the others become his Misaldars. The chiefs of the Misals, who bad territories under them, distributed some villages amongst their companions according to the number of their horses. The grantees were called the chiefs of the pattis and others became pattidars.29

According to Gian Singh, the minor Sardars joined some bigger Sardar and launched upon territorial acquisitions. They conquered territories according to their force. Those minor Sardars known as Misaldars were always the supporters and well-wishers of their subordinates who remained obedient to them.30

In the beginning, the chiefship of a Misal was not considered as the hereditary property of a particular Sardar. This belief led to giving preferences to suitability over hereditary claims and caste distinctions. In the early stages, this practice was not resented by the progeny of any Sardar. According to Ahmad Shah Batalia, the founder of the Ramgarhia Misal was Khushal Singh, a Jat, and his successor Anand Singh was also a Jat, but later the leadership of the Misal went into the hands of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia (carpenter by profession) and his brothers. As they were known for their bravery and intrepidity, nobody objected to this change of leadership in the Misal from Jats to the Ramgarhias. Similarly, the chiefship of the Bhangi Misal did not remain in the family of its founder Chhajja Singh, but went over to his companion, Bhoma Singh and, after Bhoma Singh one of his brave and wise companions, Hari Singh, was appointed as the chief. After the death of Gurbakhsh Singh— one of the Misaldars of Bhoma Singh, the former’s nephew, Gujjar Singh, was ignored in favour of Lehna Singh Kahlon who was an officer in the contingent of that Misaldar.31 And also the succession to the leadership of the Karorsinghia Misal was another instance of this practice in the early stage of the process of development of Misal system. The founder, Sham Singh, was succeeded by his nephew, Karam Singh, who left his authority to Karora Singh, a petty personal follower, who again bequeathed the command to Baghel Singh, his own menial servant32 All the Sikhs in the Misal considered it their privilege to elect a leader of the Misal. Thus, we find that in the Panthic interest, the Sikhs in the early stages did not attach any importance to the principle of hereditary succession. Only the personal qualities were the main criteria for the selection or election of a successor. That these elections were not always nominal is shown by the fact that many times the heir-apparent was set aside and some really very capable person was elected from among the descendants or relations of the deceased chief, and sometimes even from among the troops themselves. With the passage of time the chiefship became hereditary. In case, the Sardar had no son, the Sardari was conferred upon the nephew or sometimes the widow of the Sardar adopted a son and ruled as regent. As Jassa Singh Ahluwalia had no son, his nephew Bhag Singh became his successor. After Khushal Singh Mitu’s death his widow ruled her territory with the help of her kardars. After Sardar Baghel Singh’s death, in the absence of a legitimate heir, his widows, Ram Kaur and Rattan Kaur, ruled two different sectors of his state. Nawab Kapur Singh, who died issueless, was succeeded by his nephew, Khushal Singh. Thus, a democratic practice of electing a leader of the Misal came to be converted into a hereditary succession though the suitability was never ignored.

It is interesting to note that the overall charge of the Misal was in the hands of the Sardar (chief) and not the Misaldar. The Sardar, as we have seen above, had many Misaldars under him in his Misal. According to Browne33 and Ahmad Shah Batalia,34 the number of such Misaldars had grown to something like 400 to 500. But in the event of an impending danger they had to align themselves with some bigger chiefs. Within the Misal itself the chief was likely to possess larger territories than any of the other members of the Misal and, thus, the prominence which the chief enjoyed as a commander was consolidated through acquisition of larger resources. He would naturally expect his Misaldars to continue acknowledging his superior status. Thus, a defection from one Misal to another against the wishes of the chief would be discouraged by him. For instance, Nand Singh, an associate of Jhanda Singh Bhangi, bad occupied Pathankot and when he transferred it to his son-in-law, Tara Singh Kanaihya, Ganda Singh Bhangi tried to wrest it from the Kanaihya Sardar.35 It is, however, not clear whether or not the rights claimed by the chief over his Misaldars were justified by some sort of conditions settled between them.

At any rate, it cannot be suggested that the chief of the Misal exercised strict control over his Misaldars. According to Ahmad Shah Batalia, their obligation was limited to their active cooperation with the chief only in such situations as called for armed offence or defence.36

Thus, we find that these Misaldars enjoyed the right of keeping independent forces and conquering territories. There is little doubt, however, that they aligned themselves with some Sardar in situations fraught with dangers to the Khalsa commonwealth. As the time passed these Misaldars also became strong enough to act independently of the Sardars. There was no objection of the Panth to a Misaldar or a minor chief’s becoming an independent ruler as it was not in supersession to his former Sardar’s position. The minor chief could enlarge his territories and establish an independent rule without, at all, disturbing the Misal to which he was formerly attached.

According to Char Bagh-i-Punjab, the political ambition (bu-i-riyast) is attributed to Sardar Charhat Singh at the very outset of his active career, when he was in the contingent of the Bhangis.37 This is true almost of every Sardar and even some of them designated as the Misaldars were equally ambitious for territorial acquisitions. For instance, Nahar Singh Chamiariwala, Bagh Singh Hallowalia, Dit Singh Gill and Jodh Singh Wazirabadia who have been mentioned as the Misaldars of the Bhangis,38 claimed independent sway (Har yaq baja-i-khud dam-i-hakumat me zad),39 and as explained above they were free to do so.

Thus, we find that most of the Misaldars had the opportunity of becoming independent of the control of the Sardar of the Misal. They exercised full authority over the territories under them.

Indeed, in a very real sense, the Misaldar was as autonomous as the Sardar. The principle of hereditary succession that came to be established in the Misals was adopted as much by the Misaldars as by the Sardars themselves.

For all practical purposes the qualitative difference between the Sardar and the Misaldar was first minimised and then obliterated and all of them became equally autonomous Sardars and the relationships earlier established by the Misal gradually vanished. By the last quarter of the eighteenth century there were strictly speaking no chiefs and no Misaldars but only so many Sardars of major or minor consequence.

Roughly speaking, it was about 1758, when the terms Misal and Misaldar began to be used by the Sikhs in their political context.

Whatever the extent of their territories, the Sikh chiefs exercised complete sovereign authority over their states like the kings in ancient India who ruled over very small states and their status as sovereign powers had never been questioned. About the size of an ancient state, Altekar writes,

“Most of the states in Vedic period were small; it is doubtful whether there was a state big enough to extend over a quarter of the Punjab. The dominion of a samrat was perhaps not much bigger than that of an ordinary king.”40

On the basis of contemporary evidence we may say that within his own domain each chief is lord paramount. He exerts an exclusive authority over his vassals even to the power of life and death and to increase the population of his districts he proffers ready and hospitable asylum to fugitives or refugees from all parts of India.41 Ganesh Das observed that the Sardar acted as an autonomous ruler and he worked strictly in accordance with the dictates of his own practical good sense. Each leader established his government wherever he could do that in the Punjab.42

McCrindle writes that states, where the principal executive authority was vested in two rulers as in ancient Sparta, were not unknown in ancient India. One such state existed at Patala in Sindh in Alexander’s days, where the sovereignty was vested in two different kings hailing from different houses.43 Under the Sikhs also, according to Ahmad Shah Batalia, sometimes many chiefs held common charge of the same pargana or territories. The chiefs divided the revenue of such territories according to the number of their horses kept in those possessions. The Kanaihyas and Ramgarhias continued ruling common territories for a long time.44 When disputes on common possessions could not be resolved the partners resorted to the division of the common territories.45

There were some other categories of possessions also. For example, two of them Bhangis and one Kanaihya, collectively captured Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, in 1765; partitioned the city amongst themselves46 and ruled their portions for nearly thirty four years till it was occupied by Ranjit Singh in 1799.

After collectively conquering Kasur, it was divided among themselves; by the three principal allies—the Bhangis, Ramgarhias and Kanaihyas. Out of four parts into which the town was split up, two parts were received by the Bhangis and one each by the Ramgarhias and Kanaihyas47 Similarly, Mehraj was jointly administered by all the Phulkian chiefs. Amritsar belonged to almost all the Sikh Sardars. In Amritsar, they had their own fortresses and katras or bazars, as katra Bhangian and katra Kanaihyas. The Sardars had also constructed bungahs (residential quarters) around the tank there.48 They managed their portions of the town efficiently. All the taxes and octroi charges collected in the town of Amritsar were made over to the management of the Golden Temple. According to Ahmad Shah Batalia, this system worked well in the beginning- It was only later on that there were some mutual rivalries, and disputes.49

Relations between the Ruler and His Subjects

The relations between the ruler and the ruled were cordial and intimate.50 Many of the chiefs had only a few square miles of land and a very small amount of revenue and a handful of soldiers to form their army. Riches and forces of the chief had almost nothing to do wish the ready and willing obedience of the subjects. The strength of the chief did not lie in his material prosperity but it had roots in the love and regard of the people for him. “Although he (the chief) is absolute, rules with such moderation and justice that he is beloved and revered by his people whose happiness he studies to promote.51 The chiefs regarded their subjects as members of their family. In order to identify themselves completely with their subjects, according to John Malcolm, the chiefs generally despised luxury of diet and lived on simple food. They were plainly dressed, divested of ornaments, and their general mode of living was simple.52

“Was it not a marvel to see the Sikh chiefs squatting on the ground in the midst of their subjects, plainly dressed, unattended by any escort, without any paraphernalia of government, talking, laughing and joking as if with comrades, using no diplomacy with them but having straight forward dealings, simple manners, upright mind and sincere language?”53

According to an English traveller who came to Lahore in 1808, the chief was keenly interested in giving justice to the people. All criminal cases, after preliminary inquiries by the kotwal are submitted to him for punishment. . . . The chief of every town looks to the needs of the needy traveller from his own funds, a part of which is set apart for this purpose.54

In order to advance their interests the chiefs, at times, resorted to convenient matrimonial alliances.55 For example, Sardar Charhat Singh married his daughter to Sahib Singh, son of Sardar Gujjar Singh Bhangi.56 The matrimonial bond cemented their relations and made them powerful. An alliance between the Kanaihyas and Sukarchakias which provided the ladder for the rise of Ranjit Singh, is another example. An alliance could also be effected by the ceremonial exchange of turbans at Akal Takht (or at any Gurdwara or a public meeting) to be followed by a public vow of mutual assistance.57 Such alliances between the Sardars were not necessarily directed against their enemies but they were mostly formed for mutual good-will and cooperation.

The Khalsa Ideals and their Observance by the Sikh Chiefs

The main springs of the ideals of the Sikh chiefs were the teachings of the Gurus. The Sikhs being dissociated from the ancient past by many centuries and being not conversant with the Vedic and other literature, they could not look back to the Hindu polity for guidance. The Mughal practices, they had found to be very irksome. For several generations they had not seen any settled life out of which new political thought and institutions could originate and grow. Therefore, they forged some new, though crude, methods which suited the Situations in which they had been placed in the eighteenth century; They brought into full play the great qualities of service to humanity, clemency, forgiveness, humility, justice, equality, liberalism, respect and regard for women, etc., that they had learnt from the teachings of the Gurus.

Before the eighteenth century the basic framework of the political ethics for the Sikhs had been evolved, and it served as the chief source of inspiration and guidance for the Sikh community in the subsequent period. It is, therefore, imperative that in order to form a correct estimate of the political philosophy of the Sikh rulers, we should look to their heritage coming down from the preceding period of the Gurus.

The Khalsa ideals served as beacon light for the Sikh chiefs. Whenever the people felt their leaders likely to stray away, out of ignorance, from their ideals, they showed them the right path. The Sikh chiefs dared not, therefore, defy the Sikh ideals.

The Panth or the Khalsa commonwealth was considered by all the Sikhs as a very sacred creation of the Gurus, reared into its final shape by Guru Gobind Singh. The last Guru was believed to have merged himself in the Panth. So great was the respect for this creation of the Guru that none could ever think of doing anything in violation to the tenets laid down for the members of the Panth.

In respect of their duties towards the Khalsa commonwealth, no Sikh, including the Sikh chiefs, enjoyed any exemption. None could pose to be above the Panth. No single-individual or a group of individuals could be considered as superior or equal to the entire body of the community. No Sardar could ever think like the Mughal ruler that he belonged to a different category and was one specially blessed and destined by God to rule over others and exercise and enjoy some special and superior rights and privileges vis-i-vis the whole of the Panth. He always kept before his mind that his position was not due to any of his personal qualities but was due to the grace of the Guru and the Khalsa. The Sikh chiefs, time and again, declared that they were the humble servants of the Panth, subservient to its will, working for the good and pleasure of the Khalsa commonwealth.

Rulers to Abide by the Khalsa Rahit

To take amrit (baptism of the double-edged sword) and become a member of the Khalsa was required of every Sikh. He who was not duly baptized could not be elected as their leader. They all had to adopt the rahit (code of conduct) or discipline of the Khalsa and abide by it. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia received amrit from Sardar Kapur Singh58 and Raja Amar Singh prided in having received it at the hands of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.59 The founder of the Kanaihya Misals, Amar Singh Sanghania (Kingra), considered it absolutely necessary to baptize a person into a ‘Singh’ before accepting him into his derah or camp. Similarly, Charhat Singh’s essential condition for recruitment to his. contingent was that the incumbent must be duly a baptized ‘Singh’. Those who were not already initiated into Sikhism with the baptism of the double-edged sword were baptized by him before joining his ranks.60 The Sardars of the Misals were generally known by the appellation of Singh Sahib.

The Gurus had enjoined upon the Sikhs to take their decisions through panchayats or councils, and all important decisions relating to common interests of the community must have the approval of those for whom they were meant. The Sikh chiefs were alive to the democratic ideals inculcated by the Gurus and they followed them to the best of their power. The gurmata was a strong expression of this ideal of democratising the Panthic decisions. The practice of electing a leader of the Misal in the earlier stages and electing the leader of the Dal Khalsa were in pursuance and fulfilment of the same ideal of republican and democratic spirit of the Khalsa.

The Sikh chiefs ruled in the name of the Guru and the Khalsa as is apparent from their coins. An important aspect of their victory over their enemies was that it was the triumph not of any individual leader or leaders but of the Khalsa or the Sikh commonwealth. No wonder, therefore, the Sardars founded their states and attributed their successes to the Gurus whom they believed to be the real founders and masters of their commonwealth.

Guru Nanak had expressly told his followers that, “it is the duty of the king to administer justice. Only he should (be able to) occupy the throne who is capable of holding that (exalted) office (and is fit to discharge his obligations to the people). Only they are the true Rajas who have recognised the truth.”61

The Sikh rulers had fully realised that ‘dominion can subsist in spite of mischief but cannot endure with the existence of injustice.’ However crude the methods of investigation and trial they might have adopted, the Sikh chiefs were known for their love of justice. Every Sikh ruler at the time of his investiture solemnly promised in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib to always keep before him, in the performance of his duties, the Sikh code of conduct, the law of the land and the customs of the society.

A high standard of war morality was placed before the Sikhs by the Gurus and the former punctiliously observed it. “They never harassed the old, infirm and women” says Qazi Nur Muhammad in his Jangnama.62 Polier wrote that “it is true they seldom kill in cold blood or make slaves.”63  And “during any intestine disputes their soldiery never molest the husbandman.”64

Under the influence of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, the Sikhs had disregarded the caste distinctions, differences of high and low, untouchability, etc. In the matter of origin, growth and development of the Misals the castes had no place. No Misal was named after any caste or sub-caste of any chief or Misaldar. Whether the leaders of the Misals originally belonged to the peasant, carpenter or any other profession, it was immaterial with the Sikhs. The leader should be a member of the Khalsa. The amrit or the Sikh baptism had elevated them all to the same level and made them members of the same casteless Khalsa fraternity.

The Gurus had enjoined upon their followers to serve humanity. Guru Nanak had said, “Service in the world alone shall find for one a seat in the court of the Lord.”65 Guru Angad Dev exhorted his followers that “if one serves with selflessness, then alone he gets honours.”66 The Guru personally set high example of sewa (service). Guru Angad served his Master (Guru Nanak) and the Sikhs with utmost devotion. Guru Amar Das, even in his old age, carried water from the river daily for the bath of his Master (Guru Angad). He served in the langar even after he had assumed Guruship. Guru Ram Das worked like a regular labourer at the time of digging the baoli at Goindwal. Guru Arjan personally attended to the lepers at Tarn Taran and his wife, Ganga ji, served in the langar for the major part of the day.

The examples of the Gurus were the guidelines for their followers. Kapur Singh was tipped by the sangat for the title of ‘Nawab’, offered by the governor of Lahore, when he was Fanning the Sikh congregation. Similarly, the Sikh Sardars and Misaldars always kept before them, the motto: ‘The service of humanity is the service of God.’ They were well known for sewa in the Gurdwaras and the other holy places.

The Sikh chiefs always maintained their free kitchens to supply food to the way-farers as well as to the poor and the needy and they paid special attention to this part of the service in the event of a famine.67 “The famine of 1783 occurred in Budh Singh’s time. He is said to have sold all his property and to have fed the people with grains from the proceeds.”68

It is interesting to know that the Sikh Sardars who were so well known in the art of war were no less adept in the art of peace. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Ala Singh, Lehna Singh Bhangi and Charhat Singh, were, no doubt, great soldiers, but, as history bears witness, they knew well how to bring about conditions of settled life and peace. In the words of the authors of the Gujrat Gazetteer, “the names of Sardar Gujjar Singh and Sahib Singh are often in the mouths of the people, who look back to their rule without the smallest bitterness. They seem, indeed, to have followed an enlightened liberal policy, sparing no effort to induce the people, harried by twenty years of constant spoliation to settle down once more to peaceful occuption.”69

We generally find the Sikh rulers equating and identifying themselves with their soldiers and declaring themselves as the humblest servants of their subjects. From the letters exchanged between the Sardars and collected by Dalpat Rai in 1794-95, we notice that almost invariably all the Sardars or the rulers, of the Sikh Misals, were addressed as ‘Singh Sahib’ ‘Bhai Sahib’ or ‘Khalsa jio’. For example, Bhai Fateh Singh, Bhai Amar Single Bhai Gulab Singh jio (ff. 44-45), Khalsa Jai Singh (f. 17), Bhai Ranjit Singh jio (f. 104), and Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Dal Singh jio (f. 13). These titles were applicable to every member of the Sikh gentry. The Sikh rulers liked to be addressed by these plain and simple titles, which as referred to above, maintained their identities with the Sikhs.70 Nawab Kapur Singh, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, the ‘Sultan-ul-quam’, and Baba Ala Singh, are not the solitary examples to be found amongst good Sikh rulers.

Sikh Women’s Participation in State Affairs

In Indian history, we find only a few women actively participating in government affairs. In the early medieval Muslim period Razia was a solitary woman who conducted the affairs of government for a short time but she suffered early death mainly because of the weakness of her sex. During the Mughal period the inmates of the Emperor’s harem lived in seclusion excepting Nur Jahan. And in later times, Rani of Jhansi flashed into prominence for a while, during the uprising of 1857. But, strange enough, the short span of Sikh history is replete with the remarkable role of Sikh women of princely families. Guru Nanak had preached equality and respect for womenfolk and the Guru’s observations in favour of women went a long way in getting them an honourble status and share in the various fields of life.

The Sikh ranis (queens) as and when an occasion arose, actively participated in state affairs. They occasionally took charge of state administration and their contribution, to the Sikh polity as rulers, regents, administrators and advisers has been creditable indeed. “The Sikh ladies ruled with vigour and diplomacy,” says General Gordon.71

In the words of William Francklin,

“Instances indeed, have not unfrequently occurred, in which they (women) have actually taken up arms to defend their habitations, from the desultory attacks of the enemy, and throughout the contest, behaved themselves with an intrepidity of spirit, highly praiseworthy.”72

To quote Griffin, the Sikh women “have on occasions shown themselves the equals of men in wisdom and administrative ability.”73 Usually the dowager ranis were up to commendable works. A passing reference of the role of some of them towards the end of the eighteenth century and in the first half of the nineteenth century may not be out of place here. Rani Sada Kaur, widow of Sardar Gurbakhsh Singh Kanaihya and mother-in-law of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was well versed in the affairs of the state and commanded her soldiers in the battlefiled. She was a very shrewd lady with a thorough grasp or statecraft.74 Mai Desan, the widow of Charhat Singh Sukarchakia, was a great administrator, an experienced and a wise diplomat who conducted the civil and military affairs dexterously.75 Rattan Kaur, the widow of Tara Singh Ghaiba, was a brave and an able lady who kept the Lahore Durbar forces at bay for a sufficient time till the gate-keepers were bribed by the Lahore army.76 Mai Sukhan, the widow of Gulab Singh Bhangi, strongly defended the town of Amritsar against Ranjit Singh for some time.77 Dharam Kaur, wife of Dal Singh of Akalgarh, after her husband’s imprisonment by Ranjit Singh, mounted guns on the walls of her fort and fought against the Durbar forces. She was a brave and a wise lady who was able, for some time, to foil the designs of the Lahore ruler on her territory.78

After Sardar Baghel Singh’s death in 1802, his two widows, Ram Kaur and Rattan Kaur, looked after their territories very well. Ram Kaur, the elder Sardarni, maintained her control over the district of Hoshiarpur which provided her a revenue of two lakh rupees and Sardarni Rattan Kaur kept Chhalondi in her possession, fetching her an annual revenue of three lakh rupees. She administered her territory efficiently. Similarly, Rani Chand Kaur, widow of Maharaja Kharak Singh, and Rani Jindan, widow of Ranjit Singh, played important roles in the Lahore Durbar polity.

From the Patiala house also many names like that of Rani Fato, wife of Baba Ala Singh, Rani Ranjinder Kaur, Rani Aus Kaur and Rani Sahib Kaur may be mentioned. In the words of Lepel Griffin, “Rani Rajinder (Kaur) was one of the most remarkable women of her age. She possessed all the virtues which men pretend are their own—courage perseverance and sagacity—without mixture of weakness which men attribute to women.”79 Sahib Kaur was proclaimed as Prime Minister of Patiala at the age of 18. She managed the affairs, both in office and in the battle-field, wonderfully well. Later, when her husband, Jaimal Singh Kanaiyha, was imprisoned by his cousin, Fateh Singh, she hastened to Fatehgarh at the head of a strong force and got her husband released. In 1794, when the commander of the Maratha forces coming northwards sent a message to Sahib Kaur of Patiala house for submission, she preferred to settle the issue in the field of battle. Hurriedly she formed a league of the neighbouring chiefs, Bhag Singh of Jind, Bhanga Singh and Mehtab Singh of Thanesar, and rushed forth to check the advance of the Marathas. The two armies came to grips near Ambala. She infused new spirit in her disheartened soldiers, led a surprise night attack on the Marathas. In the words of John J. Pool, “With mingled feelings of fear and respect they (Martahas) turned their forces homeward and gave up the expedition. Thus, Patiala was saved by the skill and daring of Rani Sahib Kaur.”80 Rani Desa of Nabha and Daya Kaur of Ambala’s role, in shaping the destinies of their territories was no less noteworthy. Daya Kaur, wife of Gurbakhsh Singh, ruler of Ambala, succeeded to her husband after his death. In the words of Lepel Griffin, “She was an excellent ruler and her estate was one of the best managed in the protected territory.”81 These ladies were well known for their administrative acumen, grasp of political situations, and dexterity in handling arms and organising defence.

Non-communal Policy of the Sikh Chiefs

The Sikhs had, in the first half of the eighteenth century suffered a lot at the hands of the fanatical Mughal rulers of the Punjab but when they took over control of the Punjab they were not revengeful or intolerant to the Muslims as such. What they had disliked in the Mughal government, they would not do themselves. It was really noble of them to have so soon forgotten about the wounds inflicted on them in the recent past. It was in keeping with the traditions of their Gurus. In the words of Campbell, “They were not exclusive and unduly prejudiced in favour of their own people but employed capable Mohammadans and others almost as freely as Sikhs.”82 Ali-ud-Din Mufti writes that Lehna Singh Bhangi gave turbans and bestowed honours on qazis and muftis on the occasion of Id.83

As Lehna Singh had shown no discrimination to the non-Sikhs and all his subjects were given equal treatment, he had become very popular with his Muslim subjects. When Ahmad Shah appointed Dadan Khan as governor of Lahore and retired to his country, Lehna Singh came out of his retreat and came close to Lahore. The courtiers of Dadan Khan advised him to step down from his office and surrender it to Sardar Lehna Singh who was so well liked by the Muslims. This speaks volumes for the popularity of the Sardar and his’ government. They also advised the governor to see Lehna Singh and ask him for subsistence allowance which was graciously granted by him.84 According to Ahmad Shah Batalia, Jaimal Singh of Kanaihya Misal, who was a kind-hearted man, took special care to look after the Muslims.85 And again, according to the same author, when Sayid Ghulam Ghaus fled from Batala and sought asylum with Sardar Mahan Singh, the Sukarchakia Sardar helped in the restoration of the Batala theological seminary to him.86 The Sikh chiefs, ungrudgingly, appointed Muslims and other non-Sikhs to responsible positions. Lakhna Doggar, a Muslim, was the commander-in-chief of the army of Ala Singh. Qazi Nur Muhammad, a contemporary, writing about Ala Singh says, “The Muslims are also in his service and all Hindus are obedient to him.”87 Mohammad Salah Khokhar, of the pargana of Sanaur, was an ardent admirer of Ala Singh. Such instances can be multiplied. Similarly, they were equally liberal to all foreigners who came in contact with them.

William Francklin bears witness to the fact that “the Seiks allow foreigners of every description to join their standard and to sit in their company.”88

With the Sikh gospel to light their path the Sikhs were instinctively opposed to religious bigotry and communal hostility. It was never a part of the functions of the Sikh state to campaign for religious conversions or to give inducements or put economic pressure to obtain conversion to Sikhism.

According to Ahmad Shah Batalia, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was never prejudiced or fanatically disposed towards the Muslims, rather his treatment of them was praiseworthy.89 It was due to his liberal policy that the Afghans of Urmar, Yahyapur and Tanda (now in Hoshiarpur district) joined his forces. Gian Singh, the author of the Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, writes,

“Hundreds of people took their meals from Jassa Singh’s langar, irrespective of their community. He was totally free from sectarianism and he had in his employ a large number of Muslims who had full liberty to perform their religious rituals as they pleased.”90

And Ahmad Shah Batalia further tells us that Fateh Singh Ahluwalia appointed Qadar Bakhsh as his special officer and sent him to Maharaja Ranjit Singh as his ambassador. After Qadar Bakhsh, another person named Qazi Nur Muhammad was appointed his diwan and mukhtar91 and later Sher Ali Kakezai of Danawali was held in high esteem by Fateh Singh and was appointed as his diwan.92

Summing up, we may say that invariably all the Sikh rulers kept the welfare of their subjects and the dispensation of justice and service to the people uppermost in their minds; created a close identification with the people; rejected the theory of divine right of kings, adopted completely a non- communal policy in the conduct of state affairs; started langars (free kitchens), encouraged women in the participation of state business, ruled in the name of the Guru and took major decisions through the panchayats and gurmatas. They never disregarded the supreme authority that rested in the Khalsa commonwealth. The Khalsa ideals had basically changed the outlook of the Sikhs and had given to the Sikh chiefs a political ideology that remarkably differed from that of the Mughals. All this was an outcome of the high political idealism that the Sikhs had cherished right from the inception of their movement.

The Institution of Gurmata Its Definition

The word mata in Punjabi language literally means opinion or resolution. When a resolution concerning the Sikh Pant his placed before a congregation in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib and some decision is arrived at with common consent after dispassionate and unbiased deliberations and is confirmed by a formal prayer followed by the recital of a hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib, the mata is deemed to have been endorsed by the Guru himself and is, therefore, called gurmata. But the term gurmata has been erroneously interpreted by European and English writers, such as Browne, Polier, Forster and Malcolm. They have taken it to mean as the grand meetings or councils of the Khalsa.

Polier thought of the gurmata as, “the greatest council or gurmata of the nation, held annually either at Ambarsar, Lahore or some other place. Everything is decided by the plurality of votes taken indifferently from all who choose to be present at it. In this council or Diet all the public affairs are debated.”93

James Browne94 and George Forster95 used ‘Diet’ or grand Diet and ‘grand convention’ for the gurmata. J.D. Cunningham considers the gurmata as ‘the assembly of chiefs.96 C.H. Payne calls it ‘ national council.’97 But actually, as explained above, it was a resolution passed or a decision taken by an assembly of the Sikhs.

Its Origin and Evolution

Its origin can be traced in the sangat (congregation) that played an important part in the life of a Sikh in keeping him on the right path. The sangat was fully competent to punish or forgive his faults and lapses.98 Even ordinary breaches of the rules of conduct could be taken up for action in the local sangat s, and no person, however highly placed he might be, was ever considered above the jurisdiction of these conclaves. When a guilty person offered himself before an assembly for punishment, he stood with folded hands. The necessary action was proposed and he accepted the punishment without grumbling. These traditions gave the Sikhs a strong grounding and experience in democratic principles. According to the Dabistan, whenever a Sikh had a wish to be fulfilled he made a request to the assembly and then it was referred to the Guru or invoked to God. And whenever the Guru had a wish to be fulfilled he also placed it before the sangat, considering, it spiritually competent to get it granted through an efficacious prayer to that effect.”99

It may be remarked that spiritually the sangat helped the Sikhs in maturing their beliefs according to the instructions of the Guru. Socially, they provided opportunity to the people of all castes and creeds, high and low, rich and poor, to meet and sit together as equals. And, politically, they developed among the Sikhs strong democratic traditions later practised by the Sikhs earnestly during the eighteenth century.

The gurmata is said to have been started during the days of Guru Gobind Singh.100 Of his close indentification with the congregation or sangat. Guru Gobind Singh provided a unique example at the initiation ceremony in which he, the supreme head of a religious organisation, surrendered his authority to his disciples and adopted the unusual procedure of being baptised by the same disciples, who, a short while ago, had been baptised by him and he undertook to abide by the same discipline that had been enjoined upon the Sikhs to follow. Guru Gobind Singh, thus, brought Guruship on a level with his followers. It was a revolutionary and a democratic step that the Guru took.101

He told the Sikhs that the Guru was the Khalsa and the Khalsa was the Guru.102 This brings out in clear terms how earnestly the Guru wished his followers to lead a corporate life. The importance attached to Guruship did not, however, create a community, depending on autocratic leadership. The gurmata played a vital role in the Sikh struggle for independence.

The contemporary Punjabi writers, Sohan Kavi and Senapat, refer to the matas passed by the Sikhs in the sense of resolutions. Sohan Kavi writes that the Sikhs of Lahore informed Guru Hargobind through a letter and also conveyed verbally that the Mughals had started against him with forces. The Sikhs got ready with weapons and took a decision (mata kina) to fight.103 Senapat writes that the Sikhs of a place decided (mata dhara) to take the baptism of Guru Gobind Singh.104 But it became an instrument of power when the Sikhs started meeting at Amritsar or at other places to plan their future course of action. Ordinarily they tried to meet twice a year during the Baisakhi and Diwali105 festivals (i.e. in April and October) at Akal Takht— a place within the holy precincts of Darbar Sahib, and discussed their problems. But on other occasions also they would meet as and when some urgent matter of political importance had to be discussed or some imminent danger threatened the country or any larger expedition was to be undertaken. When Tara Singh of Van was killed in 1726, along with his companions, the Sikhs passed a gurmala106 to assert themselves to make the government machinery inactive and inoperative. As an effective step to weaken the government the Sikhs pounced upon some government treasures and arsenals and chastised the officials who spied upon them.

Rattan Singh Bhangu and Gian Singh have referred to various gurmatas. They seem to be making no distinction between mata and gurmata. For example, Rattan Singh writes that the Khalsa used to visit Amritsar from their hideouts to participate in the festival of Diwali. After taking a bath in the holy tank they all used to sit in the Akal Bungah to discuss their matters and to take decisions (mato sabh matayan).107

Generally, the assemblage at Akal Takht was in proportion to the magnitude of the danger facing the Sikhs. If they had local problems they decided them through local gurmatas, as a gurmata could be passed at any place in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib.

After Zakariya Khan’s death which took place on July 1, 1745, his two sons quarrelled for the viceroyalty of the Punjab. The Khalsa took advantage of the confusion and lawlessness prevailing at Lahore and met at Amritsar at the very next Diwali which fell on October 14, 1745, and passed a. gurmata and divided itself into 25 groups, each consisting of about 100 persons. Though gurmatas had been passed earlier too but according to Hari Ram Gupta, “this was probably the first gurmata regularly passed by the Sikhs after a long period of persecution. This great institution gave each individual a personal share in the important national deliberations and placed within the reach of every Sikh the attainment of rank and influence.” Thus, at this time, the Khalsa created the dals and brought into prominence the institution of gurmata. These two institutions, the Dal Khalsa and the gurmata, were of vital importance to the Khalsa’s future success as they set the pattern of the later development of the Panth by combining the benefits of centralised counsel with those of dividing itself for the purpose of better organisation. These groups were united not only by religious ties but also by mutual interests and, therefore, a system of general confederation, for self-protection as well as for operations, came into being. When all the contingents of the dals undertook an enterprise unitedly they assumed the name of ‘Dal Khalsa’ and on common consent one of the chiefs of the dals was appointed the supreme head of the Dal Khalsa or the national army and the other chiefs constituted a war cabinet. The entire body of the Sikhs known as the Sarbat Khalsa met twice a year at Amritsar during Baisakhi and Diwali festivals (April and October respectively) and passed gurmatas regarding matters of Panthic interest. The Sarbat Khalsa was dominated by the chiefs of the dals as they were the persons in a position to enforce or translate into action the gurmatas passed. The leader of the Dal Khalsa was looked upon as the head of the church and the state.

With the development of the Sikh liberation movement and its assuming larger proportions, it was felt that a closer union between different groups had become necessary. They assembled in large numbers at Amritsar on the day of Baisakhi on March 29, 1748, and discussed the situation facing the Panth. At the suggestion of Nawab Kapur Singh, a gurmata was passed choosing Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia for the supreme command of the Dal Khalsa108 which was reorganised. Rattan Singh Bhangu and Giani Gian Singh have referred to many gurmatas passed on various occasions. Some of these gurmatas are said to have been passed by the Dal Khalsa near Kasur, Sialkot, Sirhind, etc. A gurmata was passed at Akal Takht on November 7, 1760, on the occasion of Diwali to occupy Lahore.109 A gurmata was passed at Akal Takht on October 27, 1761, that the supporters of Ahmad Shah Abdali, including Aqil Das of Jandiala be chastised.110 According to Baron Hugel, the first open assembly of the Sikhs took place after the expulsion of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s viceroy, Khwaja Ubaid, in 1762. This assembly of the Sarbat Khalsa was held with great rejoicings. After every Sikh had bathed in the purifying holy water of the sacred tank, they met to pass a gurmata for the organisation of the Sikh confederacy.111

By a gurmata the Sikhs decided to get rid of Zain Khan of Sirhind as a result of which he was killed on January 14, 1764.112 Through another gurmata the Sikhs decided to sack Sirhind.113 In March 1765, on the Festival of Baisakhi the Khalsa assembled at Akal Takht and passed a gurmata to occupy Lahore.114 We also hear of many other meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa as in 1766, 1798, 1805, etc. The gurmatas relating to securing the release of Taru Singh, fighting pitched battles against Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah and Timur Shah, avenging the murder of Bhai Taru Singh, constructing a fort at Amirtsar, sending expeditions against their enemies, approving rakhi system, recognising territorial possessions of the Sardars under rakhi, emphasising the supremacy of the Sarbat Khalsa, etc., are available in contemporary and semi-contemporary records.

After 1765, when the Sikhs assumed sovereignty of different parts of the province, the meetings of these councils became less frequent but they continued to be held occasionally till 1805, when Ranjit Singh had been securely settled at Lahore and there were no problems left confronting the Sikh community.

Its Working and Nature

Whenever there was need for the passing of a gurmata, generally the assembly session of the Sarbat Khalsa was convened by the leaders of the community at Akal Takht. According to John Malcolm:

“When the chiefs meet upon this solemn occasion it is concluded that all private animosities cease and that every man sacrifices his personal feelings at the shrine of general good and actuated by the principles of pure patriotism, thinks of nothing but the interests of the religion and common- wealth to which he belongs.

“When the chiefs and principal leaders are seated the Adi Granth and Dasama Padshah ka Granth are placed before them. They all bend their heads before their scriptures and exclaim ‘Wah Guru Ji ka Khalsa Wah Guru ji ki Fateh. ‘A great quantity of cakes made of wheat, butter and sugar are placed before the volumes of their sacred writings and covered with cloth. These holy cakes, which are in commemoration of the injunctions of Nanak, to eat and give to others to eat, next receive the salutation of the assembly, who then rise, and the Akalis pray aloud, while the musicians play. The Akalis, when the prayers are finished, desire the council to be seated. They sit down and the cakes being uncovered are eaten by all classes of Sikhs. Then, distinctions of original tribes, which are on other occasions kept up are on, this occasion laid aside in token of their general and complete union in one cause. The Akalis then exclaim, ‘Sardars (chiefs), this is a gurmata, on which prayers are again said aloud. The chiefs after this sit closer and say to each other, the sacred Granth is between us, let us swear by our scripture to forget all internal disputes and to be united. This moment of religious fervour and ardent patriotism is taken to reconcile all animosities. They, then, proceed to consider the danger with which they are threaten-end, to settle the best plans for averting it and to choose the generals who are to lead their armies against the common enemy.”115

As the Sikh Sardars held Akal Takht in high esteem, the decisions taken there had a moral and religious binding on them. The Sardars could not, therefore, afford to go against the decisions taken at the Akal Takht and run the risk of losing their popularity with the community. “Though the Sardars, at times, quarrelled among themselves, all was peace and friendship when they met at the holy tank of Amritsar. There, each independent Sardar had his fort or dwelling house with a bazar attached for supply of his followers and retainers with food and other necessaries of life.”116 The chiefs of the Misals had got their hospices or bungahs erected round the Harmandir,117 where they stayed during their visit to Amritsar to attend the meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa.

At the time of their meeting, they assembled in the open space in front of the Akal Takht. Originally, a gurmata or resolution was passed by an assembly of all Sikhs giving to each member of the community a sense of participation. As the organisation of the Misal developed the leaders or chiefs of the Misals began to take decisions. Each Sardar had his companions sitting behind him and he participated in the deliberations on behalf of his men. If the followers had any point to make they did it through their Sardar or they could do it direct. In theory, the Sarbat Khalsa always remained a primary assembly, in actual practice, at times, it became representative but it still retained its democratic character. The chief faithfully represented the wishes of his followers as he was himself a chosen leader. Moreover, membership of the Misal being entirely voluntary the members were free to leave the Misal if the chief acted against their wishes. At the same time it was not Sardar’s assembly nor were the deliberations of the national problems the monopoly of the chiefs. But it was a gathering of the community. According to Fauja Singh, the basic ideas kept before them by the members of the assembly were those of equality, unanimity and responsibility. The idea of equality entitled every member of the community, including women, to attend and participate in the deliberations of the assemblies. This right of participation in the discussions had to be exercised personally and directly and not through elected or nominated representatives. The principle of unanimity was based on the belief that the Khalsa was an embodiment of the holy Guru and that all their assemblies were made sanctimonious by the Guru’s presence in them. Therefore, all collective deliberations were conducted in an objective manner. Different viewpoints could be expressed but as they were bound by a solemn pledge of being united in the presence of the Guru, the resolutions were carried unanimously. The choosing of a committee which was created to carry the gurmatas of the Sarbat Khalsa into effect and even otherwise to look after the affairs of the community was also conducted on the principle of unanimity. This popularly elected committee was answerable for its work to the parent body which had the power to change it whenever it was deemed necessary. The principle of responsibility involved in this practice was useful and necessary so far as it kept the leadership on guard.118 When the Sardars met under urgent circumstances in view of a grave situation, taking of decisions might have been confined to a few that happened to attend. In fact, anybody could attend the meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa and express his opinion in respect of every point.

As referred to above, the resolutions were not voted upon individually or passed by majority but were carried nem. con.119 The individual Sardars did not hinder the proceedings of the deliberations. A safeguard, inherent in the constitution of the Khalsa was helpful in avoiding deadlocks. No resolution could be put before a meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa unless, as a preliminary condition, a solemn assurance was given by the leaders present that they were positively one in the Guru. If they had any old scores still to settle they—as many as had differences—would retire for a time to make them up and when they had done so they would come forward and announce that they had made their peace and were fit to participate dispassionately in the gurmata. The presiding officer of the Sarbat Khalsa would then announce that the Khalsa was in the Guru and then put the gurmata before the assembly and announced the wordings of the resolutions after which the discussions started. Sometimes very lively discussions were held and the participants advanced opposing views but when more people were for a particular decision the persons with dissenting votes yielded and the decision was taken unanimously.

In theory and practice the Sarbat Khalsa was democratic as within the council the Sardars— whatever their territories, forces and positions as chiefs—were always considered equal members of the council. The common leadership of the federation was elective. The elected leader never acted despotically, rather he held full discussions over national problems with the other Sardars and mostly worked according to the will and direction of the other chiefs. From close scrutiny we discover that the main object of the Sarbat Khalsa and the gurmata was the preservation of the corporate existence of the Sikh people. The Sikhs at that time took it as a national institution. The only body to which the Misals owed allegiance was the Sarbat Khalsa or the Panth Khalsa ji as a whole which bad been consecrated by Guru Gobind Singh as the sovereign authority of the community. The only link that held them together was the defence of the Panth.120

The councils of the Sarbat Khalsa had a variety of problems for their deliberations. Thorough discussions were held before the gurmatas were passed. Through the gurmatas the Sarbat Khalsa elected the jathedar or the chief leader of the Dal Khalsa and chose agents who were entrusted with powers to negotiate with others on behalf of the Sikhs. Secondly, by the gurmata the Sikhs decided the foreign policy to be pursued by them. Thirdly, they drew up plans of military operations against the common enemies of the community. Fourthly, they took up the private feuds of the Sikh chiefs; sometimes cases of disputed succession were also brought before the Diet for its verdict as a judicial body. And fifthly, they took measures for the spread of the Sikh faith and the management of the Gurdwaras.

When the Dal Khalsa undertook an important expedition under the decisions of the Sarbat Khalsa in the form of the gurmata, the amount of the booty was reported to the assembly and decision was taken regarding its division among the Sardars in proportion to the number of their troops.121

This assembly of the chiefs, meeting unfrequently, could not be called the central government of the Sikh Misals. This assembly had no political jurisdiction or military sanction over the individual chiefs, nor was it necessary. Their attendance was not compulsory but the chiefs considered it obligatory to attend it, specially with a view to promoting the general interests of the community. Although there existed no means to enforce an obedience to the gurmata passed at Akal Takht yet there was never an occasion known to history when such a decision was flouted. The decisions taken in the presence of the Guru Granth had behind them the religious sanction, the force of which was greater than that of a military dictator. The Sikhs obeyed these decisions even at the cost of their lives. They believed that the gurmata or the decision of the council bad the spiritual sanction of the Guru.122 This simple constitution of the Sikh commonwealth was sufficient to preserve the Khalsa through troublous times. The gurmata was a system of the inherent strength of the unity of the Khalsa.

Sometimes when the Sikh chiefs were confronted with such problems as related to their individual states and there was no immediate possibility of taking the case to the Sarbat Khalsa meeting at Akal Takht the chief transacted business locally by inviting the concerned Sikhs or important persons of the Misal. Sometimes questions of foreign policy were also taken up and decided in such local meetings. Local gurmata also had the same meaning and force. According to the Haqiqat-i-bina-i-Sikhan,

“If a messenger from any other power went to them for negotiations, the Sardars did not have an independent power to have dialogue with him. At first a mattress was spread at a particular place. The Sardar sat there with his associates. One was asked to offer a prayer. He stood up, made an announcement about the coming of an envoy of a particular Amir to make peace with the Khalsa ji. It was for the Khalsa to announce their resolution. Those who had assembled would give their opinion.”

The above author writes further that all persons assembled there had full freedom to express their opinions regarding the matter under discussion. And “everyone is independent in his own position. Even if he had two horses and one village he would not bow down to anybody.”123 We see in the contemporary record the coming of Jowahir Singh, the son of Suraj Mal, the ruler of Bharatpur, to an assembly of the Sikhs. He made a request for avenging his father’s blood. The Sikh Sardars who attended the meeting said whatever they felt like saying.124

We find that in the meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa held for national concern and in the local gatherings of the Khalsa for local affairs, it was the whole assembly that decided the matters. No Sikh however insignificant he might have been, ever carried an impression of being ignored. He could participate in debates and push forward his point. In the words of Polier:

“Ail the chiefs, great or small, and even the poorest and most abject Siques, look on themselves as perfectly equal in all the public concerns and in the greatest council or Goormotta of the nation held annually either at Ambarsar, Lahore or some other place. In this council or Diet all the public affairs are debated, such as alliances, wars and the excursions intended to be made in the ensuing year.”125

There was no ban on freedom of speech. “A real democratic element was there in the constitution.”126 In external appearance it was an aristocracy but in spirit it was, undoubtedly, a democracy.

When the situation on all front eased, the Sikh chiefs became a little indifferent to attending the meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa at Amritsar. Now, their meetings were attended by a few chiefs. But the absentees never meant any opposition to such meetings or any resistance to decisions taken there. Being busy in their internal affairs, the Sardars sometimes, just could not attend. There was absolutely no such thing as intentionally breaking away of the Sardars from the Sarbat Khalsa with a calculated design to weaken this institution as John Malcolm and Prinsep believe.127 The real fact was that with the rise of Ranjit Singh as a sovereign ruler, the Punjab had come to be consolidated and the foreign invaders had ceased to endanger the country and the community. Therefore, the occasion for calling the grand Diet of the whole community had disappeared.

Some people wrongly believe that Ranjit Singh abolished the gurmata after 1805, when only a few Sardars responded to his call to attend the meeting to take a decision in respect of the situation created by Jaswant Rao Holkar’s entry into the Punjab followed by the English forces.

Explaining Ranjit Singh’s not calling the meeting of the Sardars at Akal Takht, Teja Singh writes that it was a long awaited fulfilment of the Sikh ideal; the secularization of service…he wanted to make Hindus and Muslims feel that they were as much the people of the land as his own co-religionists. He, therefore, abolished the rule of the Akal Takht so far as political affairs were concerned. . . the gurmata of Akal Takht had no place in such a secular scheme. It would have put a great strain on the loyalty of the Hindu and Muslim subjects if he had still tried to rule over them by the religious edicts issued from the Mecca of the Sikhs.128

Teja Singh’s contention that in a bid to secularize his rule Ranjit Singh dissolved the gurmata is not correct. The Maharaja’s regard for all people irrespective of their religious affiliations was not rooted in any conception of a secular state. Ranjit Singh had no idea of a secular state as we understand it today. His policy towards the non-Sikhs was inspired by his sense of paternalism and benevolence. He was the product of the revolution that had taken place in the Punjab in the eight- eenth century. He followed the Sikh traditions of liberalism. He always remembered that he was a member of the Khalsa fraternity. He worked for the glorification of the Sikh Panth and was sincere in his professions of his government being the Sarkar-i-Khalsa.

Teja Singh wrongly puts gurmata tradition vis-i-vis secular tradition. With the attainment of political power neither the need for the Sikh unity and Panthic organisation becomes less important nor the need of the gurmata or collective deliberations fades out. Rather, in the changed circumstances it was necessary to give a new shape to the relationship between the Panthic organisation and gurmata on one side and the government authority on the other. On the one side, the government should have the autonomy to function as a liberal and paternal authority and on the other the Panthic organisation should determine the directive principles of state policy through the procedure of gurmata. As we see today, the political party takes decisions as to how its government should function and the government implements the party’s policies. So through the gurmata polity Ranjit Singh could conduct the affairs of his-state according to the discussions of the Panthic organisation through the gurmata. But he failed to avail himself of the decisions of the Panth taken collectively. The government could implement these decisions in a liberal manner.

The eighteenth century Sardars had also observed non-sectarian and liberal traditions and showed full religious toleration.129 The Muslims and Hindus, however, had to establish their bonafides before getting into the government of the Sikh chiefs. The meeting of the Sikhs at a common, religious and respected place, never meant that they would exclude non-Sikhs from their services. Lehna Singh Bhangi was given preference over a Muslim as the ruler of Lahore by the Muslim population of the city.130 At no meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa we hear of a proposal being made or a resolution being passed to the detriment of the interests of the non-Sikhs under the Sikh chiefs. Rather, their non-communal attitude to the temporal problems was one of the main ideals of Sikhism.

As the situation created in 1805, by the presence of the Maratha army under Jaswant Rao Holkar pursued by the English under Lord Lake, was not very serious, the meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa was not very seriously taken by the Sikh Sardars. Nor was it very serious indeed for the whole Sikh nation. None of the two had come to the Punjab as an aggressive invader. Jaswant Rao Holkar was a helpless fugitive who had come here to seek shelter and help from the ruler of Lahore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Lake on the other hand, was only pursuing him into his place of refuge, to chase him out for surrender and wanted the Punjab’s neutrality in the matter. He had no intention, whatever, overt or covert, to invade the Punjab or any part of any Sikh territory. Thus, the situation did not warrant the urgent attendance of all the Sikh Sardars at Akal Takht. The meeting of the Khalsa convened by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to chalk out their future course of action, in respect of the Marathas and the English, therefore, attracted only a few directly affected Sardars and their gurmata was able to successfully solve the problem that faced them.131

Thereafter, there never arose during the reign of the Maharaja and some five years after his death, up to the end of November, 1845, the eve of the First Anglo-Sikh War, an occasion for a national convention to resolve upon a problem of national magnitude. Therefore, although the Baisakhi and Diwali festivals were, as usual, celebrated with the same old enthusiasm and meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa were also held at Akal Takht, there have been only one or two occasions during the Akali movement in the third decade of the twentieth century when questions affecting the whole of the nation called for a national gurmata. It is, therefore historically incorrect to say that Maharaja Ranjit Singh abolished the gurmata or that it came to be abandoned with the mutual wranglings of the Sikh Misaldars and Sardars or that it died of itself with the passage of time. The gurmata is a living thing and can be made use of whenever an occasion for it arises. In a limited sense, every resolution passed by any sangat anywhere at any time in the presence of the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, is a gurmata and is usually passed in the matters of local general interest and is binding on members of the sangat like a national gurmata. In fact, the gurmata is, purely, a Sikh religious resolution even if it were to solve political or social problems of the community. No individual Sikh, however highly placed, could abolish it.

The Nature of the Misal Organisation

It will be too much to expect any concrete form of government from the Sardars immediately after their assuming administrative control. They had passed through a life of great stress and strain for half a century. The form of government introduced by them has received different interpretations at different hands. In Cunningham’s view the Misal organisation was “a theocratic confederate feudalism.”132 According to the Chambers Dictionary, ‘theocracy is that constitution of a state in which God or god is regarded as the sole sovereign and the laws of the realm as divine commands rather than human ordinances,-the priesthood necessarily becoming the officers of invisible ruler.’ The state thus governed is a theocratic state. In the words of Cunningham, the organisation of the Misal was theocratic as “God was their helper and only judge, community of faith or object was their moving principle, and warlike array, the devotion the steel of Gobind, was their material instrument.”133 The same author continues that it was confederate because “year by year the Sarbat Khalsa or the whole Sikh people meet once at Amritsar. . . . It was perhaps hoped that the performance of religious duties and the awe inspired by so holy a place might cause selfishness to yield to a regard for the general welfare. . . . They sought wisdom and unanimity of counsel from their teacher and the book of his word”134 And he further says that it was feudalism because “the federate chiefs partitioned their joint conquests equally among themselves and divided their respective shares in the same manner among their own leaders of bands while these again sub-divided their portions among their own dependents agreeably to the general custom of subinfeudation.”135

At the same time, Cunningham says that this system existed “with all the confusion and uncertainty attendant upon a triple alliance of the kind in society half-barbarous” and further “this positive or understood rule was not always applicable to the actual conditions. . . In theory such men (the Sikhs) were neither the subjects nor the retainers of any feudal chiefs and they could transfer their services to whom they pleased or they could themselves become leaders and acquire new lands for their own use in the name of the Khalsa or the commonwealth.”136

Malcolm, an earlier writer, has opined that the government of the Sikhs was theocratic and “the chief preserves his power and authority by professing himself the servant of the Khalsa or government. . . and the national council. . . is supposed to deliberate and resolve under the immediate inspiration and impulse of an invisible being who, they believe, always watches over the interests of the commonweath.”137

A still earlier writer, Forster, gives us to understand that the Sikhs believe in theocracy at least in theory. When Forster asked of a Sikh the name of his Sardar the Sikh seemed convulsed and revolted at the idea of servitude. “He disdained an earthly superior and acknowledged no other master than his prophet.”138

In actual practice we find that the Sikh states or Misals were not governed according to any definite system of government. The chiefs formulated their codes for the coduct of the state business as it suited them. The infrequent meetings of the Sikh chiefs at Akal Takht probably never took up for consideration a proposal for a common and uniform code of government. The nature of their deliberations has been discussed earlier. The meetings were held to face an emergency and discuss general affairs of mutual interests. Forster has clearly pointed out that “the administration of ecclesiastical affairs was entrusted to a certain society of religious but they did not possess any influence in the temporal regulations of the state. These were the principal ordinances enacted by the first chiefs when the people were united and a common object governed their public conduct.”139

A.C. Banerjee, challenging the view expressed by Cunningham asserts that the organisation of the Misal’ was ‘democratic in composition and religious in its cohesive principles’. Banerjee holds that the organisation could not be theocratic because the Sikh priests did not hold sway over the policies of the Misals. Again he asserts that it could not be feudal because feudalism cannot exist apart from monarchy. And the subordinate Sikh chiefs too did not owe military or fiscal obligation to their chiefs. They could easily transfer their services from one chief to another.140

The respect or observance of certain Khalsa ideals by the Sikh chiefs has misled some historians into thinking that a Sikh state was a theocracy. But it may be noted that these ideals, as already discussed, are of cosmopolitan nature enjoining upon the Sikhs, religious toleration, liberalism, justice, upright moral conduct, service of humanity and democratic ideas. All these things were based on human experience and not on divine revelation.

N.K. Sinha has drawn up a sharp contrast between the Sikh feudalism and the feudalism of the medieval Europe and that of Rajputana. He observes that the feudalism of the Sikhs differed almost totally not only from the feudalism in Europe, in medieval times, but also from the feudalism that obtained in Rajputana, close to the homeland of the Sikhs. The Misals were the confederacies of equals and they kept in view the reciprocal benefits or the well-being of their Misals. At no stage of Sikh history do we find a haughty nobility as in Rajputana or in medieval Europe. In Rajputana, the chiefs were divided into very clear grades, and similarly there was graded society in medieval feudal Europe. In Rajputana, there was a patriarchal element, prominently visible, a large number of vassal chiefs claimed blood affinity to the ruler. But in the Sikh jagirdari system (feudalism) we find no such patriarchal element and also there were no feudal obligation of military service. The feudal system of Europe has been described by Gibbon as the offspring of chance and barbarism. The Punjab system was certainly not feudal in the European sense. The all-pervading sense of brotherhood and a religious outlook would not, at least in theory, allow distinctions of rank.141

The majority of the foreign travellers and historians have made a particular mention of a dominant element of democracy in the Sikh system of government during the Misal period.

According to Polier, it was an ‘aristocratic republic’142 and he further writes that “they (the Sikhs) formed themselves into a kind of republic and in the course of a few years possessed themselves of the full government of the provinces of Lahore and Multan.”143 And in the words of Gordon, “these Sardars did not exercise absolute supremacy over their Misals, the constitution of which was very democratic and the authority of the chiefs limited.”144 He further writes that “the chiefs and men, all sat down together to eat and drink on a footing of equality.”145 He calls the Misal organisation, “an oligarchy based on republican principles.”146 Forster, who saw a bit of the Sikhs and wrote in the early eighties of the eighteenth century, says,

“I find an embarrassment in applying a distinct term to the form of the Sikh government which, on the first view, bears an appearance of aristocracy but a closer examination discovers a large vein of popular power branching through many of its parts. No honorary or titular distinction is conferred on any member of the state. An equality of rank is maintained in their civil society which no class of men, however wealthy or powerful, is sufficient to break down. At the period when general councils of the nation were convened which consisted of the army at large, every member had the privilege of delivering his opinion and the majority, it is said, decided on the subject in debate.”147

The Sardar, no doubt, commanded a superior position as compared to his dependents but those followers, if dissatisfied with their leader, reserved to themselves the opinion of curtailing their services and transferring themselves to some other leader.148 This was a most democratic privilege that could be enjoyed by every follower of every Sikh chief.

Sir George Campbell149 has supplied very valuable information about the character of the Misal organisation and its government. He writes, “The Sikh system is very like that out of which the German system sprung. They formed Misals or military confederacies. Each Misal elected its own supreme chief and sub-chiefs. The combined Misals formed the Khalsa, or Sikh commonwealth. Just as in Germany the tendency was to an elective supreme chief who had very little power and whose place was not hereditary. But the chiefs of the Misals and minor chiefs gradually acquired hereditary footing like the dukes and barons of Europe.”150

Campbell has given the account of the republic of Mehraj for which he is all praise. He writes that near the centre of the Malwa country, there is “a place called Mehraj consisting of a mother town with good many daughter villages and inhabited by people of the dominant race of all that country, the Jats.” With the breaking up of the Mughal power the Phulkian family struck of independence. The same author says further, “If they had struck together and maintained their allegiance to the mother town, Mehraj might have become another Rome.” But what they had conquered in common was divided and they separated. The Phulkian Sardars continued expanding territorially in all directions but Mehraj was not touched by any of them. Campbell continues, “I do not think it was on account of respect for the place of their origin that these Jat Caesars did not enslave their mother state but rather because they were so jealous of one another that if anyone of them attempts to do so, the others all combined to prevent him. At any rate, Mehraj remained an independent republic till with the rest of the country it came under British protection. We recognise the Sikh states as they existed and Mehraj continued completely independent self-governing republic down to my time—the only real well-established republic that I know in India. It really was a very complete, fully equipped republic. I had political charge of it when I went up to the Satluj. . . . It was much more than a mere village or municipal government, it was diplomatically recognised as a state and had its own administration and state justice. I saw regular prisoners with great logs of wood upon their legs just as I did at Lahore. There was no chief or hereditary ruler. The state was governed by its punches or representative elders. There was nothing of any feudal system or any division into conquerors or conquered. Apart from a helot class which exists everywhere in India all the citizens were free and equal. It was purely indigenous state.”151

It is true that all states were not republics like Mehraj and not ruled by punches but by the Sardars or chiefs. But there is hardly any doubt that the democratic and republican principles were ingrained in the social and political ethics of the Sikhs. The Sardars took no decisions on their own and the persons invited for discussions and advice, expressed themselves frankly and sincerely and majority decisions were honoured. Despite all these observations it may be remarked that not much of democracy, as a system of government, could be traced in the internal organisation of the Misals. When entrenched in strong positions after a prolonged struggle for existence, they failed to carry forward their ideas of democracy. It is probable that they felt that direct democracy was unsuited to the circumstances in which they were required to act as rulers and in order, to establish themselves as such they took to the idea of personal government that was in general prevalence in the country. The comparative freedom from danger from Ahmad Shah Abdali’s side after 1765, might also have had the effect of taking the edge off their enthusiasm for democratic ideas.

The government of the Misal was, no doubt, a confederacy composed of the chiefs and his close associates working liberally and benevolently towards the people. And, the further confederal system that the Misals evolved to meet the dangerous situations was not out of a keenly felt necessity of such a system or in a sincere bid to stick to their old ideal of democracy. We do not find much of earnestness about democracy or confederation in the minds of the chiefs. But the idea of commonwealth was too strongly prevalent among the Sikhs to be disregarded and actually it was this that saved the Misals from completely falling apart.

Apparently the Misal organisation was, in a way, a double confederation; a confederation of Misal’s constituent parts and a confederation of various Misals. But within the Misal the Sardar functioned, in a large measure, as an independent ruler. As the ties with the Khalsa commonwealth were very strong, a suitable adjustment was necessary between the rival ideas of allegiance to the commonwealth and the Sardar’s independence in the internal affairs of the state. According to Fauja Singh, the problem was solved by a constitutional arrangement based on confederation in which, in a broad way, while the local units were allowed to carry on their normal functions of administration, the vital questions of national importance were reserved to be discussed at the meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa. Under this arrangement, however, the balance of power heavily weighed in favour of local independence, for the central authority, as it stood, could not function effectively as its sessions were held very infrequently. In between the sessions of the national Diet there were sometimes long intervals during which the centrifugal tendencies got the opportunity of strengthening themselves, thus weakening the earlier ideal of democracy inherent in the constituents of the commonwealth.152

Others have interpreted the organisation of the Misals still differently, some calling it aristocracy and some others military republic. The real thing is that it would not be very correct to assign any definite constitution to the organisation. The political terminology known to us may perhaps fail in explaining the peculiar system of the Sikhs as it existed. At best, we may agree partially with Ibbetson that the Misal organisation was “a curious mixture of theocracy, democracy and absolutism.”153 It was theocratic (in a very limited sense) as the Sikh soldiers and Sardars fought for the Guru and when they assembled at Amritsar before the Guru Granth Sahib they did what the religious assemblies decided, It was democratic because every soldier and member of the Misal enjoyed social and political equality. But ‘absolutism’ did not mean as we understand it from its modern concept. They could not afford to exercise unrestricted and completely independent authority or rule arbitrarily.

Government of the Misal

Some people have deprecated the government of the Misal as harsh and oppressive but on the basis of the writings of contemporary writers and travellers there is no denying the fact that the system of their government had certainly the elements of goodness, justice, and humanitarianism in it. Not insensible to the advantages of a good government, the Sikh chiefs always kept before them the well-being of their subjects. “All their rights and constitutional liabilities were regulated as nicely as in any European confederacy.”154

Writing on February 17, 1794, John Griffiths says about the Sikhs that “they have the character of biing rather mild and benignant than otherwise in their interior government.”155 The government of the Sikh chiefs has been spoken of well by all persons who came into touch with them and had a closer peep into their conduct of public affairs. The Sikh rule did not escape the observation of Polier who wrote, “In their intestine divisions from what is seen everywhere else, that the husbandman and labourer, in their own districts, are properly safe and unmolested, let what will happen round about them.”156 In 1788, James Renell recorded that, “we know but little concerning the state of their government and politics but the former is represented as being mild,” and he further records that “they have extended their territories on the south-east, that is, into the provinces of Delhi; very rapidly of late years; and perhaps the zamindars of that country may have found it convenient to place themselves under the protection of the Sikhs, in order to avoid the more oppressive government of their former masters.”157

William Francklin, who had a firsthand knowledge of the Sikhs, wrote, “The Sikhs, in the interior part of their country, preserve good order and a regular government and the cultivation of their lands is attended with much assiduity.”158

About the closing years of the eighteenth century, George Thomas, who came into frequent direct contract with the Sikhs, wrote, “In the Seikh territories, though the government be arbitrary there exists much less cause for oppression than in many of the neighbouring states; and hence likewise the cultivator of the soil being liable to frequent change of master, by the numerous revolutions that are perpetually occurring, may be considered as one of the causes of fluctuation of the national force.”159 And Malcolm who travelled in the Sikh country in 1803, writes, “In no country, perhaps, is the rayat or cultivator treated with more indulgence.”160 Many more such contemporary or near contemporary sources may be quoted to testify the fact that the government of the Sikh chiefs was mild and unoppressive and that they kept before them the well-being of the people. They never forgot that they were from amongst the people and their states were because of the people and that they could not ignore their interests.

Village Government

According to Campbell, in most of the states of the Punjab the position of the village communities was recognised; they retained their village self-government and only paid the customary revenue to the state. Some villages, at times, paid the revenue not without a murmur. Campbell further says, “The villages were, almost all, walled and fortified. I remember one strong village in Kaithal which for generations had made it a point of honour never to admit a government officer within their walls; they paid the revenue over the wall and that was enough. In the same village the different pattis (sub-divisions of a village) were barricaded against one another. They all combined against an outside foe but could not trust one another. The pattis or wards were, not unfrequently, as in this case, of different castes and even different religions; but they had a tolerable modus vivendi and remained one of the different tribes and gentes which combined on the seven hills of Rome.”161

As seen and recorded by Campbell, the constitution of the democratic villages of northern India and their government was run by representative punches.162 And he further write that ‘punch men pramesher’ or in the punches there is God, which is the equivalent or ‘Vox populi vox dei’ or perhaps should be put a little differently, ‘the voice of the representative assembly is the voice of God’. . . . “The best system for that country was a paternal despotism above with local self-government below.163 T. Fortescue writes,

“No instances occur of a proprietor being driven from the village by oppression or violence of one or any number of other sharers; on the contrary it is observable that they tender each other the most friendly and essential aides when in distress. They will supply cattle, till the lands themselves, contribute money when a sharer has been really unfortunate and they assist him in the disposal of his produce, in providing seed, bullocks and implements, should they be satisfied with him. This feeling is extended to the widow and necessitous family of a deceased sharer and its effects scarcely surpassed.”164

According to Campbell, “Each village had a complete self-government. There were also people generally known as representatives of pergunahs or large tracts who used to treat with the government on certain matters. On the whole their system of local government was really, I believe, exceedingly good. . . . There was often an opposition party who accused the village punch of various malversations, overcharges for public entertainments and bribes, and such like matters just as if they had been situated in London of today, but at any rate I do not think these were worse than in civilised countries, rather I believe that they were not merely so bad.”165 Campbell was a great admirer of ‘indigenous municipalities’ as he calls them. He disapproved the British plans to replace them by big institutions on a large scale. He says, “Certainly my experience of the village institutions on the Satluj, where perhaps they are at their best, made me appreciate them very much indeed and I think that they were not only good for India but for some other countries as well. In fact, I can deliberately say that far from imposing any ideas on these people it was from them that I learnt ideas of local self-government which I retain to this day and which I have brought with me to my native country.”166

And thus, according to Campbell, “those village constitutions that then existed, certainly worked admirably well.”167

The Sikh Coins

According to Hari Ram Gupta, the Sikhs after the conquest of Lahore in November 1761, seizing the royal mint, struck the first rupee which bore this inscription:

Sika zad dar jahan ba fazle Akal Mulk-i-Ahmad grift Jassa Kalal.

(Jassa Kalal, having seized the country of Ahmad, struck coin in the world by the grace of God).

But it does not seem to be correct.168 In the trans-Satluj territory two types of coins were used by the Sikh chiefs. The coin struck in 1765, after the Sikh conquest of Lahore, bore the old inscription of Banda Singh’s days, expressing devotion to the Sikh Gurus. According to Irvine, Banda Singh assumed royal authority, issued coins, introduced an official seal and a new calendar dating from the capture of Sirhind.169 His coins bore the names of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh:

Sikka zad bar har du alam tegh-i-Nanak wahib ast

Fateh Gobind Singh Shah-i-Shahan fazal-i-sacha Sahib ast.

(Struck coins in the two worlds, by the grace of the true Lord; the sword of Nanak is the granter of all boons and the victory is of Guru Gobind Singh, the king of kings).

On the reverse of the coin is:

Zarb ba aman ud-dahar maswrat shahr Zint-ul-takht-i-mubarak bakht.

(Coined at the city of peace, illustrating the beauty of civic life and the ornament of the blessed throne).170

Banda Singh also introduced an official seal for state documents and letters patent.  The inscription on the seal was:

Deg-o-tegh-o-fateh-o-nusrat bedirang Yaft az Nanak Guru Gobind Singh.171

(The kettle and the sword (symbols of service and power), victory and ready patronage have been obtained from the Gurus, Nanak and Gobind Singh).

According to the Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla, Banda Singh had got inscribed on the mohur: Azamat-i-Nanak Guru ham zahar-o-batan ast

Padshah-i-din-o-duniya aap sacha sahib ast.

(Inwardly and outwardly the greatness of Guru Nanak was established. The true Guru was the king of this world and world hereafter).172

The two different inscriptions on the coins and seals as introduced by Banda Singh continued to be followed by all the Sikh rulers. From the examination of the Sikh coins we find slight change in the text of the inscriptions of some coins. This unintentional change crept in the inscriptions at the time of setting the words on the dies by their manufacturers. The Sikh Sardars minted the coins almost every year and the interruption was caused only during foreign invasions or internal strife.

The minting of coins was not confined to any particular place. Every Sardar set up his own mint in the territory under his control.173 The Sikh chiefs believed that the raj had been given to them by the Gurus. Therefore, they struck their coins in the names of the givers of the raj. Themselves, they were just the humble servants of the Gurus.

Even the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh would not issue a coin in his own name. He maintained the same old inscription of the Khalsa and named his coins after Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh (i.e. belonging to Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh). Thus, the Sikh chiefs in the trans-Satluj territory continued to cherish the belief and practised accordingly that the victory over their enemies was a triumph not of any individual leader but of the Lord Eternal or of the Sikh commonwealth, and the coins were struck in the names of the Gurus, the founders of the Khalsa commonwealth.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh started minting coins in 1801. The new rupee (of silver) was of 11 mashas and 2 raffs and was called Nanakshahi rupee. The overse of the coin shows the legend attributed to the grace of the Gurus and on the reverse is embossed the year and place of its minting. It also bears a peepal leaf and arrow—peepal tree signifying the eternal tree of life and arrow symbolising power and strength. Full or a portion of earlier inscriptions are found on these coins as:

Shah Nanak wahab ast

Fateh-i-Gobind Singh Shah-i-Shahan Fazal-i-Sacha Sahib ast

Sikka zad bar seem-o-zar.

(Lord Nanak is the granter of all boons, victory is of Gobind Singh, the king of kings. By the grace of the true Lord the coin is struck in silver and gold).

On the reverse is:

Zarb dar-ul-Sultnat Lahore Samat 1857 (leaf symbol)

(Struck at the seat of government, Lahore, in the auspicious samat 1857).

The Amritsar and Lahore rupees issued afterwards kept their usual inscription. The coins were struck at Multan, Srinagar and Peshawar as well, with the same inscription. The reverse had generally the popular symbol of peepal leaf, the name of the mint and the date of minting. One of the coins available has on its reverse images of Guru Nanak and his Muslim companion, Mardana. We have the mohurs (gold coins) of samat 1861 (A.D. 1804) with no indication of the mint town. A mohur weighed 169 grains.

The copper coins of Ranjit Singh are remarkable for their heavy weight and bold execution. There was no uniformity in weight of copper coins which were generally of different weights. These coins bear dates, symbols and legends similar to those on the silver and gold coins. On the reverse of the copper coins is the leaf symbol and the inscriptions as zarb Sri Amritsar ji and the samat, Khalsa ji zarb Sri Amritsarji, zarb-i-Lahore, zarb-i-Dera (Derajat) and zarb-i- Kashmir.

Dr Madanjit Kaur, who worked extensively on the coins of Maharaja Ranjit Singh has summed up her observations as under: the most striking feature of the coins of Ranjit Singh is that they show a close association with religion and famous local legends. These coins have on them ‘peepal leaf and ‘crossed swords’. Most of the coins bear the date and place of minting. It seems that the mints at Lahore, Amritsar and other places in the Maharaja’s kingdom did not always have trained workers, and, therefore, some of the coins have irregular shapes and only half of the words can be read; the blocks made, appear to be bigger than the coins. The coins, in use, were made from three metals: gold, silver and copper. Generally there was lack of uniformity in the weight of coins. Lack of standardisation of currency must have created problems.174

The coins used and manufactured by the Phulkian houses in the cis-Satluj areas were of different types as compared to those of the trans-Satluj Sardars.

In March 1767, Ahmad Shah Abdali was pleased to grant on the recommendation of Shah Vali Khan, the government of Sirhind to Raja-i-Rajgan Amar Singh of Patiala who struck coins in the name of Ahmad Shah with the following inscription:

Hukam shud az qadar be chonba-Ahmad Padshah Sikka zan bar seem-o-zar az mahi ta ba mah.

God, the inscrutable, commanded Ahmad, the king, to stamp silver and gold currency from the pisces to the moon.

This was the first coin struck in the name of Ahmad Shah at Qandhar immediately after his coronation.

At the same time Amar Singh added ‘Bamezai’ the name of his patron Shah Vali Khan’s tribe to his own name in the coin.175 Ahmad Shah Abdali conferred the title on Amar Singh when the former was almost being pushed out of the Punjab by the Sikhs. Under such circumstances the conferring of a title was just a mockery. And the Phulkian house, amusingly enough, prolonged this derision till recent times. According to Ganda Singh, these coins were, in fact, never meant for general circulation and were only struck on the Dussehra day or on the accession of a new ruler right up to the reign of the last Maharaja of Patiala, Shri Yadvindra Singh.176 Since the days of Ala Singh they exercised full sovereign power within their state.

In the cis-Satluj country, there were four important mints, that is, at Patiala, Nabha, Jind and Kaithal and all these mints struck similar coins with the exception of a distinctive mark or sign of the chief issuing them. According to Griffin, “Maharaja Amar Singh’s rupee is distinguished by representation of a kalghi (small aigrette plume); Maharaja Sahib Singh by that of a saif (or double- edged sword).”177 But R. C. Temple did not agree with Griffin’s statement. He says, “At Patiala I found that the officials knew very little but that the bankers know a great deal and traditionally knew to whom to assign the various rupees at once. Their statements were that Ala Singh, Amar Singh, and Sahib Singh all used the kalghi, Karam Singh, the saif.”178

Raja Gajpat Singh of Jind borrowed the ‘Durrani die’ from Patiala and used it without making any change in the same, except that Jind was inscribed in place of the word, Patiala. Though in actual practice he owed allegiance to Shah Alam II of Delhi but he used the coins of Ahmad Shah Durrani. The coins used by the Bhais of Kaithal were also of similar type. Different chiefs of Kaithal put different minor marks on their coins. The rulers of Nabha made an attempt “to vary stereotyped form of the coinage of these Punjab chiefs but it will be observed that originality has not gone beyond imitating the legend of the overshadowing state of Lahore.”179

The Sikh rulers or chiefs of the trans-Satluj territories, however, never excused the Phulkian chiefs for accepting the overlordship of Ahmad Shah Abdali and issuing coins in his name who had done so much harm to the Sikhs and their holy places.

The Process of Criminal and Civil Justice

In the words of Malcolm, “The administration of justice in the countries under the Sikhs, is in a very rude and imperfect state, for though their scriptures inculcate general maxims of justice…and having no fixed code, they appear to have adopted that irregular practice, which is most congenial to the temper of the people, and best suited to the unsteady and changing character of their rules of government.”180 Malcolm further writes that a Sikh priest who had been several years in Calcutta, spoke of the great superiority of the system of Sikh justice over the bothersome system of the English government which was, he said, “tedious, vexatious and expensive and advantageous only to the clever rogues.”181 Ordinary cases of the village were settled by the panchayat which was “always chosen from men of the best reputation”, and thus village court enjoyed a higher character for justice. The decisions of the panchayats were taken voluntarily. The social pressure was sufficient enough to make even the most refractory member of a community bear the severest punishment most calmly. In case of disobedience to the panchayat’s decision, the culprit was declared an outcast and all the members of the village community refused to associate with him for fear of the same punishment. The village functionaries rendered him no assistance so much so that the menials too refused all service.182

The panchayats worked very efficiently, and misconduct, dishonesty and corruption on their part must have been very rare. Charles Elliot, Agent to the Governor-General, wrote in 1824, “I cannot call to recollection a single instance, during ten years’ experience in these states of a panchayat being convicted of bribery.”183

According to Campbell, “Apart from the representative punches there were generally found in a large tract of the country two or three venerable and respected men who had come to be the fashion as it were, as referees in cases of dispute, valuations, etc., and who received fees or presents for their trouble. . . . I am bound to admit that their complete honesty was sometimes in some degree impeached.”184 The cases were disposed of speedily. The crimes and trespasses were expiated by money and the fine realised was not so much according to the gravity of the offence as the means of the offender.185

Justice was an important source of income, and efforts were made to realise money both from the plaintiff and the defendant. In a case of theft, for instance, a plaintiff was required to pay a sum of money equal to one fourth value of the stolen goods, if recovered, as shukrana or present of thanks-giving. The person, found guilty, was required to pay a heavy jurmana or fine. If he was unable to pay the fine, he was thrown into the taikhana (dungeon).

The Sikh chiefs or the officers dealing with serious cases, mixed with people and tried to get the true facts about the case. “Though vested with uncontrolled power his (chief’s) administration of justice is mild and equitable. . . . All offences whether murder or the slightest misdemeanour are under the cognizance of the kotewal who submits a detail of all cases, that come before him to the chief by whom alone punishments are awarded agreeable to his will. This system of judicial administration seems to have a happy effect.”186

After the necessary investigation the cases were summarily decided and the decisions were not disputed and the offenders submitted to the punishment awarded. In case an offender persisted in his criminal ways he was punished with the loss of his hand, ear, eye, nose, etc., though this was rarely resorted to.

There was no capital punishment even for the murder.187 In such a case the murderer’s family was made to conclude a matrimonial relationship with the family of the murdered one by giving away in marriage a female to the aggrieved family or a heavy amount of money was paid or, if available, 125 bighas of land had to be surrendered.188 This was called khunbaha or the price of blood. Generally the murderer was handed over to the family members of the murdered person to retaliate upon him in any way they liked to be decapitated, etc. This was called gaha or self-redress or retributive justice.

In towns, courts were held by adalatis who were often Muslim qazis and Hindu Kayasths rather than the Sikhs. Under a big Sikh chief eminent jagirdars were also entrusted with the civil, criminal and fiscal powers.189

At Patiala, “Maharaja Karam Singh began the work of reform by appointing an adalati (judicial officer) but no line of demarcation was drawn between his powers and those of thanedars. Orders in criminal cases were still given verbally but in civil cases files were maintained and judgements written.”190

It is said that in certain states bribes were occasionally resorted to by the adalatis (judges). In Kaithal and Patiala it was the fashion for the adalatis to pass as many years in imprisonment as on the bench, probably, as a means of eliciting for the sircar (government) a portion of the bribes supposed to have been received by them.

The cases of succession were decided according to the traditional rules. The Muslims, both in the Majha as well as Malwa were allowed to follow their own laws of succession.191

According to Campbell, “when people thought that their particular grievances had not been sufficiently redressed they sometimes appeared in the middle of the day with flaming torches to indicate that there was darkness and loudly called for redress. Another fashion of the aggrieved parties was to appear in court with straws in their mouths, to indicate that they were reduced to the condition of mere cattle.”192

Fiscal System

Besides being a war against the Mughal government the Sikh movement under Banda Singh also signified a powerful protest against the beneficiaries of the structure of authority. Banda Singh was largely responsible for the liquidation of zamindari system in the Punjab. On his suggestion the tillers of the soil ejected the land-lords and the peasants themselves became the masters of land. Large estates were broken into smaller holdings in the hands of the Sikh or Hindu or Muslim peasants. These agrarian changes, to a great extent, ameliorated the lot of the poor peasantry. The Sikh uprising had largely assumed the character of a peasant movement that exposed and further accentuated the basic conflict between the peasantry and the Mughal ruling class. He ousted the Mughal officers from the various parganas of Sirhind division and put his own men in their places.193 Hindu qanungos and amils that bad been replaced by Muslims under Aurangzeb were dismissed and the jobs of the displaced Hindus were restored to them.194

The agrarian revolution effected by Banda Singh continued in practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In the early stages the revenues of the Sikh Sardars were of two kinds, that is, from the country occupied by them and the rakhi or protection money received from the territory taken under protection and not occupied by the Sikh chiefs. According to Cunningham the rakhi money ranged between one fifth and one half of the rental or government share of the produce,195 As regards the other kind of revenue, “it is stated to be general rule,” says Malcolm, “that the chief to whom the territories belong, should receive one half of the produce and the farmer the other, but the chief never levies the whole of his share.”196

At first the taxes on trade were heavy but the Sikh chiefs soon lightened the weight of taxes. Every major and minor chief exercised, by prescription, the privilege of taking to trade, yet the duties though levied at every ten to twenty miles were light.

According to James Browne, “They (the Sikh chiefs) collected a very moderate rent and that mostly in kind and during any intestine disputes, their soldiery never molest husbandmen.”197

The mode of collection differed greatly with the various chiefs. The kardars calculated the yield of grains with the help of the appraisers. The produce per bigha was assessed and the number of bighas and the quantity of grains were entered against each man. A deduction of one tenth was made for the village servants and the remainder was divided between the farmer and the government in the fixed proportion. The grains were commuted into cash at the market price. The village moneylender was called upon to advance the whole or a large portion of the amount to the kardar Afterwards the kardar helped him in collecting the grain.198

The general rate, on the whole, at which a Sikh chief received his share of the produce was one third of grains and one fourth of straw.199 Sometimes revenues from refractory cultivators were collected through the influential men of the locality called inamdars. In fact, this was not their function. The inamdars were granted a part of the state revenue of certain villages or parts of a village in recognition of their services. This privilege had been extended only to a few people. The grant was generally given for the life-time of the inamdar. The revenue system adopted by the Sikhs had been “wonderfully successful in promoting the extension of cultivation in a tract which prior to the period of Sikh rule was. particularly an uncultivated waste, inhabited only by pastoral and nomad tribes,”200

Polier writes that,

“The Sikhs’ own immediate possessions are exceedingly well cultivated, populous and rich; the revenues, in general, taken in kind throughout and not in money, which is very favourable to the tiller. In short, few countries can vie with theirs, particularly in this part of India.”201

According to the military Memoirs of George Thomas, “Notwithstanding the state of warfare in which the chiefs of Punjab are constantly involved, the country is in a state of high cultivation; and though the population be great, grain is cheaper than in any other part of India. This advantage, in a great measure, is derived from the numerous rivers, by which it is watered.”202

Notes and References

  1. Cunningham, A History of the Sikhs (1849), Delhi, 1955, p. 96.
  2. Prinsep, Origin of the Sikh power in the Punjab and political Life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Calcutta, 1834, p. 29.
  3. Sir David Ochterlony to the Government of India, December 30, 1809, quoted by J.D. Cunningham, A History of the Sikhs, (ed. 1955), fn, 1, p. 97.
  4. Wilson, ‘Civil and Religious Institutions of the Sikhs’ reproduced in the Sikh Religion (A Symposium), Calcutta, 1958, p. 61.
  5. Bute Shah, Tawarikh-i-Punjab, Daftar IV (1848), MS., GS., pp. 95-96.
  6. Cunningham, op. cit., fn. 1. p. 96.
  7. Muhammad Latif, History of the Panjab, Calcutta, 1891, p. 291.
  8. N. K. Sinha, Rise of the Sikh power, Calcutta, (ed. 1936), pp. 96-97.
  9. W. H. McLeod, The Evolution of the Sikh Community, Delhi, 1975, p. 17.
  10. Senapat, Gursobha (edited by Ganda Singh, Patiala 1967), pp. 9, 124.
  11. Rattan Singh Bhangu, Prachin Panth Parkash (1841), Amritsar, 1962, p. 364.
  12. Kohli, S.R., Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Punjabi), Delhi, 1953, p. 22.
  13. “Misal, moreover, means, in India, a file of papers or indeed anything serried or placed in ranks,” (Cunningham op. cit., footnote 1, p. 96).
  14. Khushwant Singh, The Sikhs, London, 1953. pp. 52-55.
  15. Rattan Singh Bhangu, op. cit., pp. 325-26.
  16. Ibid., p. 122.
  17. Prinsep, op. cit., pp. 33-36; cf., Jalandhar District Settlement Report (1892), pp. 29-30.
  18. cf., Prinsep, op. cit., p. 36; H. M. Lawrence’s Settlement Report of Thanesar District (1843), p. 12.
  19. Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix to Sohan Lal’s Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, Daftar I, Lahore, 1885, p. 14.
  20. Cunningham, op. cit., p. 96.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Lepel Griffin and C. F. Massy, Chiefs and Families of Note in the Punjab, Lahore, 1909, p. 478.
  23. Cunningham, op. cit., p. 96.
  24. The name of the Misal was not always associated with its founder. The name of the Kanaihya Misal, for instance, embodies a tribute to the eminence of Jai Singh among the associates of Amar Singh Sanghania, the original founder of the derah. At no stage did all the members of this association belong to Jai Singh’s village Kanha Kachha. (Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix to Sohan Lal Suri’s Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, 1, p. 21.)
  25. Lepel Griffin, Ranjit Singh, Oxford, 1905, p. 87.
  26. Campbell, Memoirs of My Indian Career, Vol. I, London, 1893, p. 45.
  27. Lepel Griffin, Rajas of the Punjab (1870), reprint, Patiala, 1970, p. 16; Ranjit Singh (2nd edition), pp. 83-84.
  28. Browne, ‘History of the Origin and progress of the Sicks’ reprinted in Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (ed. Ganda Singh, Calcutta, 1962), p. 15.
  29. Bute Shah, op. cit., Daftar IV, MS., GS., pp. 95-96.
  30. Gian Singh, Shamsher Khalsa, part II (Urdu), 3rd edition, 1913, p. 122.
  31. Ahmad Shah Batalia, op. cit., pp. 15, 18.
  32. Cunningham, op. cit., p. 97; Bute Shah, op. cit., pp. 216-18.
  33. Browne, op. cit., p. 61.
  34. Ahmad Shah Batalia, op. cit., p. 16.
  35. Ibid., cf., Bute Shah, op. cit., IV, pp. 14, 40; Ali-ud-Din Mufti, Ibratnama, I (1854), Lahore, 1961, p. 250; Lepel Griffin, Punjab Chiefs, pp. 388-89.
  36. Ahmad Shah Batalia, op. cit., p. 14.
  37. Ganesh Das Badehra, Char Bagh-i-Punjab (1855), Amritsar, 1965, p. 135.
  38. Ibid., p. 144.
  39. Ibid., p. 129.
  40. Altekar, State and Government in Ancient India, Delhi, 1958, pp. 47-48.
  41. William Francklin, Memoirs of George Thomas, Calcutta, 1803, p. 76. M’Gregor, The History of the Sikhs, Vol. I, London, 1846, pp. 118-19.
  42. Ganesh Das, op. cit., p. 133.
  43. McCrindle, Alexanders Invasion, p. 296.
  44. Ahmad Shah Batalia, op. cit., p. 14.
  45. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 49.
  46. Ahmad Shah Batalia, op. cit, p. 14.
  47. Ibid., p. 22.
  48. Ibid., p. 14.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 47.
  51. ‘An Officer of the Bengal Army, A Tour to Lahore in 1808’, published in The Asiatic Annual Register, Vol. XI (1809), reprinted in the Panjab Past and present, Punjabi University, Patiala, Vol. I, part, I, p. 111.
  52. Malcolm, op. cit., pp. 141-42; cf., Gian Singh, Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, reprint, Patiala, 1970, p. 562.
  53. Gupta, H. R., History of the Sikhs, Vol. III, Lahore, 1944, p. 131.
  54. A Tour to Lahore in 1808, by an Officer of the Bengal Army, reprinted in the Panjab Past and Present, Vol. I, part I, pp. 111-15.
  55. Bute Shah, op. cit., Daftar V, MS., GS., pp. 15-16.
  56. Bute Shah, op. cit., V, p. 7; Sohan Lal Suri, op. cit., 11, p. 9; Ganesh Das Badehra, op. cit., p. 131; Ali-ud-Din Mufti, op. cit,. Vol. I, p. 378.
  57. Ram Sukh Rau, Jassa Singh Binod, MS., AP., p. 772; Sohan Lal Suri, op. cit., II, p. 51; Amar Nath, Zafarnama-i-Ranjit Singh (1837), (ed. S. R. Kohli), 1928, p. 20.
  58. Rattan Singh Bhangu, op. cit., p. 204; Ahmad Shah Batalia, op. cit., p 27; Ramjas, Tawarikh-i-Riast Kapurthala, Vol. I. 1897, p. 104.
  59. Ramjas, op. cit., p. 150; Gian Singh, op. cit., p. 733.
  60. Sohan Lal Suri, op. cit. II, p. 5; Bute Shah, op. cit., V, pp. 2-3.
  61. Shalok Mahalla I, Var Maru, pauri, 9.
  62. Qazi Nur Muhammad, Jangnama (1765), MS., GS., p. 158.
  63. Polier, ‘An Account of the Sikhs’ reproduced in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (ed. Ganda Singh), 1962, p. 61.
  64. Browne, Introduction, op. cit., p. 17.
  65. Sri Rag Mahalla I, Adi Granth, p. 26.
  66. Asa di Var; pauri 22, Slok Mahalia II, Sri Adi Granth. p. 474.
  67. Ludhiana District Gazetteer (1888-1890), p. 72.
  68. Montgomery District Gazetteer, (1883-84) p. 34.
  69. Gujrat District Gazetteer (1892-93), pp. 21-22.
  70. Dalpat Rai (ed.), Amir-ul-Imla or Muntakhab-ul-Haqaiq, MS., Dr Ganda Singh personal Collection, Patiala.
  71. Gordon, The Sikhs, London, 1904, p. 84.
  72. Francklin, ‘The Sikhs and their Country’, reprinted in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (ed. Ganda Singh), p. 105.
  73. Griffin, Ranjit Singh, pp. 62-63.
  74. Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix, op. cit., p. 25.
  75. Sita Ram Kohli, Ranjit Singh, pp. 33-34.
  76. Gian Singh, Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, Patiala reprint, 1970, p. 253,.
  77. Ibid., p. 231.
  78. Ibid., p. 294.
  79. Lepel Griffin, op. cit., p. 67.
  80. J. Pool, Womens Influence in the East. London, 1892, pp. 234-37.
  81. Lepel Griffin, op. cit., p. 93.
  82. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 180.
  83. Ali-ud-Din Mufti, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 240.
  84. Ibid., p. 241.
  85. Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix, op. cit., I, p. 23.
  86. Ibid., pp. 23-24.
  87. Qazi Nur Muhammad, Jangnama, (ed. Ganda Singh), Amritsar, 1939, p. 46.
  88. Francklin, Memoirs of George Thomas, Calcutta, 1803, p. 75.
  89. Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix, op. cit., p. 27.
  90. Gian Singh, Raj Khalsa (3rd edition, Urdu), p. 202.
  91. Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix, op. cit., p. 28.
  92. Ibid., p. 29.
  93. Polier, Ganda Singh (ed.) ‘The Siques’ published in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, Calcutta, 1962, p. 61.
  94. James Browne, ‘History of the Origin and progress of the Sikhs’ in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, p. 16.
  95. Forster, A Journey from Bengal to England, London. 1798, p. 330.
  96. Cunningham, op. cit., p. 112.
  97. C. H. Payne, A Short History of the Sikhs, London, n.d., p. 63.
  98. Senapat, Gursobha (ed. Ganda Singh), Patiala, 1967, p. 39.
  99. Maubid Ardistani (Mohsin Fani) Dabistan-i-Mazahib, (1644), Cawnpur, 1904, p. 239; Senapat, op. cit., Chapter V, Chhand 61.
  100. Malcolm, Sketch of the Sikhs, London, 1812, p. 123; Gordon, op., cit., p. 53.
  101. Bhagat Singh, Sikh polity in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 39-40.
  102. Ganesh Das Badehra, op. cit., p. 115; Sohan Lal Suri, op. cit., p. 405; Ghulam Mahyy-ud-Din, Tawarikh-i-Punjab, MS., GS., p. 408; Ali-ud-Din Mufti op., cit., Vol. I, p. 173.
  103. Inder Singh (ed.), Gurbilas Padshahi Chhevin (ed. 1968), p. 273.
  104. Ganda Singh (ed.), Sri Gursobha, Patiala, 1967, p. 46.
  105. Bute Shah, op. cit., Dafter III, personal collection of Dr Ganda Singh, Patiala p. 97; Thornton, History of the Punjab, London, 1846, Vol. I, p. 131; Baron Hugel, Travels in Kashmir and the Punjab. London, 1845, p. 237; Prinsep, Origin of the Sikh power in the Punjab and political Life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Calcutta, 1834, p. 26. The meetings of the Sikhs at Chak Guru (Amritsar) on the occasion of Baisakhi has been referred to by Sujan Rai Bhandari in his book titled Khulasat-ut- Tawarikh (1696), Delhi, 1918, p. 66. So Baisakhi day seems to have been a famous festival of the Sikhs for a long time.
  106. Gian Singh, Panth Prakash, Amritsar, 1880, p. 529.
  107. Rattan Singh Bhangu, op. cit., pp. 221-22.
  108. Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, Bombay, 1950, p. 136.
  109. Ibid., p. 165.
  110. Ibid, p, 167.
  111. Baron Hugel, op. cit., p. 392.
  112. Rattan Singh, op. cit; p. 391.
  113. Ibid. p. 393.
  114. Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, op cit; p. 183.
  115. Malcolm, op cit., pp. 120-123; Thornton, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 131-32, also pp. 228-29.
  116. M’Gregor, The History of the Sikhs, Vol. I, London, 1846, p. 118; see also Ganesh Das Badehra, op. cit., p. 128; Ahmad Shah Batalia Zikr-i-Guruan wa Ibtida-i-Singhan wa Mazhab-i-Eshan, printed as an appendix to Sohan Lal Sun’s Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, Lahore, 1885, p. 14.
  117. Ganesh Das, op. cit., p. 128; Ahmad Shah Batalia, op. cit., p, 14.
  118. Fauja Singh, ‘Political Ideas of the Sikhs during the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries’, Ideas in History (ed. Bisheshwar prasad), Delhi, 1968, pp. 198-99.
  119. Teja Singh, Sikhism, Its Ideals and Institutions, Bombay, 1937, p. 43.
  120. Faqir Waheed-ud-Din, The Real Ranjit Singh, Karachi, 1965, p. 54.
  121. Polier, ‘An Account of the Sikhs’, reprinted in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (ed. Ganda Singh), Calcutta, 1962, p. 61; Sinha N. K., Rise of the Sikh power, Calcutta. 1960, (3rd ed.) p. 108.
  122. Malcolm, op. cit; p. 115.
  123. Haqiqat-i-bina-o-uruj-i-firqa-i-Sikhan, MS, PUP., p. 2.
  124. Sayyid Nur-ud-Din Hussani, Tarikh-i-Najib-ud-Daulah, p. 83, quoted by Sinha, Rise of the Sikh Power, p. 109.
  125. Polier, ‘An Account of the Sikhs’, reprinted in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, (ed. Ganda Singh), p. 61.
  126. Sinha, op. cit., (3rd ed. 1960), p. 110.
  127. Malcolm, op. cit., p. 107; Prinsep, op. cit., p. 182.
  128. Teja Singh, Sikhism, Its Ideals and Institutions, Bombay, 1937, pp. 44-45.
  129. Ali-ud-Din Mufti, op. cit., p. 240.
  130. Ibid., pp. 240-41.
  131. Bhagat Singh, Sikh polity in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. New Delhi, 1978, pp. 118-19.
  132. Cunningham, op. cit., p. 94.
  133. Ibid.
  134. Ibid.
  135. Ibid, p. 95.
  136. Ibid.
  137. Malcolm. op. cit., pp. 114-15.
  138. Forster, A Journey from Bengal to England, Vol. I, London, 1798, p. 330.
  139. Ibid., p. 331.
  140. A.C. Banerjee, Anglo-Sikh Relations, p. xvii.
  141. N. K. Sinha, op. cit. pp. 110-11.
  142. It is from a letter written by Major Polier from Delhi to colonel Ironside at Belgram, May 22, 1776, reprinted in Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (ed. Ganda Singh) p. 65.
  143. Polier, ‘An account of the Sikhs’, reprinted in Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (ed. Ganda Singh) p. 58.
  144. Gordon, op. cit., p. 72.
  145. Ibid., p. 98.
  146. Ibid., p. 77.
  147. Forster, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 328-29.
  148. Forster, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 331; M’Gregor, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 118-19; Prinsep, Punjab Series, Vol. II, pp. 28-29.
  149. George Campbell was a civilian officer who had been looking after the administration of the Sikh states after they came into the hands of the British or under their protection during the first half of the nineteenth century. He saw the prevalent system of the Sikh governments and had written about them in his Memoirs.
  150. Campbell, Memoirs of My Indian Career, Vol. I, London, 1893, p. 47.
  151. Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 42-43.
  152. Fauja Singh, political Ideas of the Sikhs in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries’ published in the Ideas in History, edited by Bisheshwar Parsad, Delhi, 1968, pp. 200-01.
  153. Ibbetson and Maclagan, Glossary of Tribes and Castes of the Punjab, Vol. I, Lahore, 1919. p. 704.
  154. Campbell, op. cit; Vol. I, pp. 47-48.
  155. John Griffiths, A Memorandum on the Punjab and Qandhar. It was written in the form of a letter to Mr. Alexander Adams from Surat on 17th of February, 1794.
  156. Polier, An Account of the Sikhs, reprinted in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs (ed. Ganda Singh), p. 65.
  157. James Renell, Memoirs of a Map of Hindustan or the Mughal Empire, London, 1793, pp. cxxi-ii.
  158. Francklin, The History of the Reign of Shah Aulum, London 1778, p. 77.
  159. Francklin, Military Memoirs of George Thomas, Calcutta, 1803, p. 114.
  160. Malcolm, op. cit; p. 57.
  161. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 52-53.
  162. 162. Ibid., p. 58.
  163. Ibid.
  164. J. Fortescue, Punjab Government Records, Delhi Residency and Agency, 1809-57, Vol. I, p. 122.
  165. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 81.
  166. 166. Ibid., p. 82.
  167. 167. Ibid., p. 189.
  168. In reality the local Muslims and Mullahs felt very perturbed on Jassa Singh’s occupation of Lahore and the establishment of his Badshahat there. With a view to instigating the Durrani invader they struck a few coins and sent the same to Ahmad Shah (Ganesh Das Badehra’s Char Bagh-i-Punjab, pp. 130-131). Lepel Griffin holds Ganesh Das Badehra’s version as correct (Rajas of the Punjab, p. 505). C.L. Rodgers also agrees with Ganesh Das (Asiatic Society Journal) (1881- L(1), 71-93). Teja Singh and Ganda Singh also accept the observation of Ganesh Das to be correct (A Short History of the Sikhs, Vol. I, p. 167 fn. 1).
  169. Irvine W., Later Mughals, Vol. I, London, 1922, p. 110.
  170. Ijad, Farrukh Siyar Nama: Hadiqat-ul-Aqalim, p. 148, quoted by Ganda Singh in, Banda Singh Bahadur, Sirhind, 1976, p. 9.
  171. Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, op. cit., p. 87.
  172. Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla, Newsletter, January 9, 1711. The Persian manuscript is preserved in the private collection of Ganda Singh, Patiala (now at Punjabi University, Patiala). Its English rendering by Dr Bhagat Singh is published in The Panjab past and present, Vol. XVIII, II, October 1984, pp. 1-206, PUP, p. 52; cf., op. cit., p. 30.
  173. Ganesh Das Badehra, op. cit., p. 132.
  174. Madanjit Kaur, ‘A study of the Sikh Numismatics with special reference to the coins of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’, Fauja Singh and A.C. Arora (edited) Maharaja Ranjit Singh: Politics, Society and Economy, Patiala, 1984, pp. 336-37.
  175. Ganda Singh, Ahmad Shah Durrani, Bombay, 1959, p. 367.
  176. 176. Ibid., p. 372.
  177. Griffin, Rajas of the Punjab, Lahore, 1873, p. 286, fn. 2.
  178. R. C. Temple, The Indian Antiquary, XVIII (1889), p. 325.
  179. Ibid, p. 331.
  180. Malcolm, op. cit., p. 127.
  181. Ibid.
  182. Gupta, H. R, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 318.
  183. Charles Elliot, Report on Lapsed and Reserved Sikh and Hill States.
  184. Campbell, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 83.
  185. Muhammad Latif, op. cit., p. 294; Prinsep, op. cit; p. 154.
  186. ‘A Tour to Lahore in 1808’, reprinted in the Punjab Past and Present, Vol. I, Patiala, p. 111.
  187. Malcolm, op. cit., p. 128; Ganesh Das Badehra, op. cit., p. 116; Latif. op. cit., Delhi reprint. 1964. p. 293.
  188. Latif, op. cit., p. 294.
  189. Gupta, H. R., op. cit., Vol. HI, p. 146.
  190. Punjab States Gazetteers, Vol. XVII A, Phulkian States, Patiala, Jind and Nabha (1904), p. 141.
  191. Narang G. C., Transformation of Sikhism, (4th edition), p. 173.
  192. Carnpbell, op. cit , Vol. I, p. 84.
  193. Khafi Khan, Muntakhab-ul-Lubab, Vol. II (1722), Calcutta. 1874, pp. 652, 654; Ganda Singh, Banda Singh Bahadur, Amritsar, 1935, pp. 72, 85-87.
  194. Karam Singh, Banda Bahadur, Amritsar, 1907, pp. 77-78; Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, op. cit., p. 107.
  195. Cunningham, op. cit., footnote I, p. 95.
  196. Malcolm, op. cit., pp. 125-26.
  197. James Browne, India Tracts, I, ix.
  198. Jhelum District Gazetteer (1904), p. 136.
  199. Ludhiana District Gazetteer (1888-89), p. 178.
  200. Gujranwala District Gazetteer (1893-94), p. 71.
  201. Polier, op. cit., p. 62.
  202. Francklin (extract from Memoirs of George Thomas), reprinted in the Early European Accounts of the Sikhs, (ed. Ganda Singh), Calcutta, 1962, p. 101