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General Zoravaar Singh - The Forgotten Sikh General Of Khalsa Raaj 1820-1840

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
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Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
This is based on a book written by Brigadier Gurbachan Singh Bal EX Indian Army who personally visited all those places Zorawar Singh fought in. Book is published by Panjabi Univeristy patiala.
Its a sad fact that unlike the olden day sikh academicians like Khan singh nabha, Gyani Ditt singh, Karma Singh Historian etc who did research and found facts and manuscripts at great financial risks personal risks etc..modern day sikh academicians sit idly by in their air conditioned offices regurgitating known facts from libraries and do little personal original research...Otherwise how do we explain the APPALLING LACK of knowledge/history books etc about such Great SIKH Generals like this. General Zorawar Singh is comparable to Hari Singh nalwa..although Nalwa was amore seasoned mature individual thoroughly steeped in GURMATT...Zorawar Singh is a bit careless, and self centred with a little bit too much self confidence that led to his defeat and martyrdom on the battlefield in Tibet.

Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
A copy of the news paper article in Punjabi has been pasted here.There
are many who are not readers or understand in Punjabi, thus, I will try
and share with the readers the contents of the above original mail by
Giani Jarnail Singh Ji.

Personally, I had read about this great Sikhs general many years ago;
and must say almost forgot it myself!He has been compared to General Sr
Hari Singh Nalwa.Some have compared him to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur.

There are many military traits that were very much similar among all
Sikh generals of that period.At personal levels the likes and language
of mentality, actions and expression may not have been the same, but
where commitment to Sikhi, Khalsa raj,and panthic commitment and their
military abilities were concerned , there was great parallelity between
them.That is the most important and crux of the matter in Sikh history
and as far as Sikh should be concerned.Every other individual has his
or her own weakness.

I will add to this as I find time to do so.Thus the article may not be
wholly presented at one go.Pls bear with me.

General Zorawar Singh --[translation]

The first time ever I came to know about General Zorawar Singh was from
a book written by Brigadier Gurbachan Singh Bal,and published by
Punjabi University Patiala.As I read the book, I became very
sensitively intrigued and also many questions arose in my mind about
the heroic deeds, little known among the Sikhs, of this General of the
Sikh nation.I became very mesmerised by his victorious abilities and
military genius and bare

At the same time, questions arose that here we have had an unparalled
general and so little was known about him and far few people knew about
his exploits for the Sikh nation.Let alone the Non Sikhs!

We feel strongly hurt, that very little was known about this General of
the Sikh nation; and in a way he has been cognac chentied and it is
time we brought him back into the main stream, and made a Sikh
house hold name just as hari Singh nalwa or Sham Singh Attariwala.
Unlike the writers of yester years, the air conditioned comfort
based scholars of today could not be bothered to carry a proper
research about this great entity and share it with the present
generations, lest he was forgotten!
The great writers of Sikhism from yester years put a great effort
into doing their research and travelling to the places of historical
interest and signifcance, more than often at their won expanses to
gather the historical facts and material aand eventually at cost of
personal time and finances share their knowledge with the Sikh panth.
These writers included, Giani Dit Singh, Kahn Singh Nabha;Karam Singh
Historian, among the many more who spared no stone or effort to
collect all facts relating to Sikh history and shared that knowledge
with the panth;unlike todays writers who do not see self inconvenience
as part of their effort to write the factual and proper history of
It was quite conincidental and a lucky break that Brigadier Gurbachan
Singh was able to follow and trace into the foot steps of General
Zorawar Singh and recognise the significance, efforts and historical
significance of General Zorawar Singh 's exploits!Being an army officer
,Gurbachan Singh ji was able to cover the difficult terrain and other
difficulties that arose in the course of his trekking the historical
pursuits of General Zorawar Singh.It was helpful that Brigadier
Gurbachan Singh Ji being an academic was widely read, and thus able to
distinguish between facts and unsound evidence of historical
investigations.It was also important that being a Sikh he was very much
committed to the Sikh historical causes and determined to establish the
true story of the Sikhs and General Zorawar Singh to the world at
large; and this he did without a flaw,and brought to light the heroic
deeds of a great Sikh general, who by now was almost forgotten had ever
existed, even among the Sikhs.
General Zorawar Singh was born in 1876, but by the time he was
about 18/19 years old; he had learnt all about the traditional weapons
of war and was very skilled in their use.He became a celeberity master
in warfare and had natural skills of warfare and leadership; and
without any question he was seen to be the leader by all around him.
However what brought him fame for the first time his exploits,during a
crises whie defending a fortress in Jammu.The fort was attacked, the
officer in charge wished to negotiate with the attackers and surrender
the fortress, but when Zorawar Singh came to know this intention of
his commanding officer, he took some officers into his confidence and
imprisonned the coward officer, and then took control of the fort
defences and
led his men in to battle against the enemy.He not only successfully
repulsed the attack; but killed many of the attacking enemy and routed
the remaining enemy soldiers, many of whom fled from the battle field.
He then got a report prepared and sent it off to his Sovereign,
Maharajah Ranjit Singh.He eexplained the reasons for his actions and
the arrest of the military commander.He then sent his report &
explained the victory and asked the Maharajah for forgiveness in having
to take such action
in the defence of the Khalsa Fort.He then went on to mitigate and
apologise for his behaviour and re-iterated to the Maharajah that
he[Zorawar Singh Ji]
will accept any punishment due, if the maharajah thinks his actions are
deemed to be
insubordination of the established protocol of the Khalsa

Maharajah Ranjit Singh sent for investigation of the issue; after
it was ascertained that Zorawar Singh's report was honest and true,he
stripped the imprisoned commander of the command of the fort and
awarded it to Zorawar Singh.Zorawar Singh now elated by this
went on to be more determined to serve the Khalsa raj with
determination, and truly he distinguished himself in the end.

Gurcharan Singh Kulim
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Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
Second part -General Zorawar Singh-continued ...

This act of promotion by Maharajah Ranjit Singh Ji encouraged Zorawar, and he began enthusiastically to build upon his career and loyalty to the Sikh raj.He encouraged and carried out an active recruitment of youth into his force.He gave them the best training that was available and built up a very seasoned and hardy force under his command.A large supply of rations, ammunition and support services for his force were also aranaged and obtained. He then expanded out of the Jammu Fortress and brought in the surrounding areas under the rule of the Khalsa raj, and continued his service for the Khalsa raj.Between 1830 to 1841, when he became a shahid in war, Zorawar continously fought for the Khalsa raj and led the Sikh Army and brought more victories to his credit.

After five invasions and attacks upon the powerful Kingdom of Leh,he brought it to its knees and made it part of the Khalsa Raj,After annexing the region of Ladakh[Leh was the capital of Ladakh] he entered Tibet; where after initially facing some small drawbacks he finally secured large part of Tibet and made that part of the Sikh Kingdom too.

The very far end that Zorawar Singh ji reached with his army is a region called Pamir,where the borders of Afghanistan,India, ChIna and Russia meet.THis act created fear and unsettled the British India Authorities, as they felt should Zorawar reach an agreement with the Russians; the British rule in India would be compromised- as they will face a united front from Russia and the Sikh Raj.This may weaken the British and hasten their departure from India, as a United Russian -Sikh Force could easily chase them out.Thus, they hasten to meet with Maharajah Ranjit Singh, and planted some seeds of suspicion in his mind against Zorawar Singh.

As part of the diplomatic plot, they also sat up a British Force under the command of Cunningham and sent it into the direction of Zorawar Singh.The British Force was under strict instructions not to engage Zorawar Singh, but as show of power that the British too had invested interests in the region and would act should it be necessary.Cunningham also availed the opportunity of meeting with General Zorawar Singh, while the region.Zorawar asked the british about the geographical lay out of the mountainous terrain around, and the British gave him information that was incorrect and would become hazardous for him and his army in any event.Unfortunately, Zorawar Singh did not see through the cunningness and manipualtion of the British!
Taking the treacherous British advice, Zorawar took the route that led him and his men into snow storms,slippery mountainous and ice cold dangerous terrain, where he decided to camp and position himself.They did not have sufficent warm winter clothing,no food,no wood for burning fires nor any trees which they could cut down to keep warm nor were they able to construct their tents due to the traitorous wintery windy conditions.They were stuck up to two months in that spot.Thus, without a fight many of his soldiers were killed due to the extreme cold weather,many more got ill; some became so cold that they lost the use of their hands and legs and became a burden to the surviving troops.Even at this point Zorawar Singh did not realise he has been misled by the British deliberately; had he been a cunning and calculating individual, he would have been cautious of the bad british advice.

But Zorawar Singh was not a man so easily beaten and was very hard person to bow down so easily to defeat, no matter how bad the conditions became he did not loose his wit about him.He realised that he was cut off from the Lahore Darbar, and even if he managed to get the news to Lahore for help, it will take at least two months to get through.Or it may not even get through at all.There were always other dangers lurking as well to both his men and him.

to continue

Thank you Giani Ji, I never left,I used to browse thru from time to time. I was just too busy with work and our own expanding business.I was in Malaysia twice this year, each only about two weeks at a time, [once on the way to Korea].
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