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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Battle of Multan-A Tribute to Sikh Arms

Jan 19, 2011 Madan Singh

The city of Multan was captured by the Sikh army in 1818.It was a significant victory, as it was the first time an Indian Army had moved westward.

Multan is a major town of Pakistan on the banks of the River Indus. A major trading centre, its strategic importance cannot be under rated. Maharajah Ranjeet Singh, who ruled from Lahore, decided to incorporate it in the Sikh Empire. Accordingly a force of 25,000 Sikh soldiers advanced on Multan.

Significance of Ranjeet Singh’s Western Campaigns

Ranjeet Singh had signed a treaty with the English, which limited his southern border to the river Sutlej. As such he advanced against the western areas bordering his state to increase his land holding. Thus, he mounted many campaigns against the Afghans in the west. The significance of these campaigns rests on the fact that this was the only occasion an India king ventured westwards. In all other cases the invaders came from the west and central Asia, but Ranjeet Singh broke this tide by moving in the reverse direction. He won notable victories and captured Peshawar and Multan, including Kashmir and Ladakh (under General Zorawar Singh)

The Sikh Army was led by Hari Singh Nalwa a legendary general of Ranjeet Singh and his second in command was Mokham Chand. The elder son of Ranjeet Singh, Kharak Singh also took part in this battle, but he was a nominal commander. The battle lasted from March till its surrender on 2 Jun 1818.They were opposed by a Moslem force under Muzzafar Khan Sadozi. He had about 13000 troops holed up inside Multan fort with him. The fort itself was to a degree impregnable and the Sikh Amy laid siege to the city.

The battle

Despite heavy bombardment and raids by the Sikhs, the fortress held on and messages were passed to Ranjeet Singh to dispatch heavy artillery. One advantage with the Sikhs was that the River Indus served as an excellent conduit for transporting troops and guns from Lahore. Thus the supply chain to Multan could be maintained and heavy guns were transported through the River. In fact the Sikhs had started preparing for the campaign from January, 1818 itself.

Ranjeet Singh responded to the request of his generals and heavy guns including the famous ZamZama cannon were transported by river craft to reinforce the Sikh soldiers besieging Multan. These opened up and a barrage on the fortress commenced. The result was disastrous for the defenders as a portion of the fort wall collapsed and a breach was created. The Sikh General Hari Singh now mounted an assault on the fort and the army could enter Multan through the breach.

The Result of the Battle

The battle was now ferocious as the Sikhs attacked the defenders. The Sikhs suffered nearly 1900 causalities. Muzzafar khan and his sons were killed and the remaining force surrendered and allowed the city to be incorporated as part of the Sikh empire. The city remained a part of the Sikh empire, though it had a majority Moslem population. However, after the demise of Ranjeet Singh the Sikh empire broke up and the British captured Multan. But this reduction of the Multan fortress will remain a magnificent tribute to the fighting qualities of the Sikh Army and the generalship of Hari Singh Nalwa.
Read on


A history of the Sikhs(1918). JD Cunningham, Oxford University Press

Hari Singh Nalwa

Read more at Suite101: Battle of Multan-A Tribute to Sikh Arms http://www.suite101.com/content/battle-of-multan-a-tribute-to-sikh-arms-a335231#ixzz1BcgUhHFP


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