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Jassa Singh Ahluwalia


Sep 16, 2004
The year was 1762. Punjab was fighting for its freedom. Ahmad Shah Abdali, the King of Afghanistan, Persia and parts of Central Asia and India, one of the greatest conqueror of his time, was ranged against Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Padshah of the Sikhs. Earlier in the year, Ahmad Shah had inflicted a crushing defeat on the Sikhs. About 25,000 Sikhs, including women and children, were slaughtered at Kup. Ahmad Shah had then blown up the Harmandir Sahib and filled the holy tank with the carcasses of dead cows. At Lahore, he had decided to deal a death blow to the Sikh army when he realised they had all gathered at Amritsar for Divali. Despite a full solar eclipse, Ahmad Shah was confident. He had 50,000 battle-hardened Afghans but the Sikhs fought with a primeval ferociousness.

In March 1761, Ahmad Shah Durrani was returning triumphant. He had destroyed Maratha power in Punjab at the Battle of Panipat and then looted Delhi. His prized booty included 2200 Hindu women being taken to Afghanistan to be sold. The Sikhs were at their bi-annual Baisakhi meeting at Amritsar in March when relatives of the captive women came and pleaded for succour. Jassa Singh left immediately with a volunteer force, rescued the women and had them escorted to their families. He came to be known as Bandhi Chhor (liberator). In 1764, Jassa Singh marched at the head of the combined Khalsa armies and conquered Sirhind province, one of the richest in the Empire. The cash spoils amounted to Rs. 900,000 and Jassa Singh gave the entire amount for the rebuilding of the Harmandar Sahib that had been destroyed by Ahmad Shah.

Jassa Singh was born on May 3, 1718, to Badar Singh, a minor landowner of the Kalal (brewer) caste in Ahlo village (near Lahore) from where he was to later get the name, Ahluwalia. He was only five years old when his father died. He soon moved to Delhi with his mother in the care of Mata Sundari, Guru Gobind Singh's widow, who had lost her four sons and would now treat him as her own. Apart from a thorough knowledge of the Sikh scriptures, he learnt Urdu and Persian, which was to make him the most literate member of the Khalsa. At the age of eleven, he left Delhi to be with his Uncle's Jatha fired by Guru Gobind Singh's mission, which he was to make his own. Mata Sundari gave him the Guru's sword, shield, bows and arrows, which suggested predestined greatness. She gave Kapur Singh, the then military head of the Khalsa, considerably impressed by the young Jassa on his visit to Delhi, the Guru's mace to be handed over to him when he had earned a name in the service of the Panth (community).

In the period upto 1748 and subsequently, the Mughals followed a policy of intense persecution interspersed with appeasement. The Sikhs barely managed to survive in the deserts and jungles. Indeed, they fought back and with spirit. A lot had to do with inspired leadership.

The Baisakhi in March in 1748, attracted large numbers of Sikhs. With a view to strengthen themselves to face the very tough Mughal Governor, Muin ul Mulk, and the likely Afghan invasions, far-reaching changes were made. Jassa Singh was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Dal Khalsa (Sikh army) which was now divided into 11 misls (Divisions) from the previous 65. These would act in unison and subject to Gurmatas(resolutions)which were binding on all. In 1753, before he died, Kapur Singh was to proclaim Jassa Singh the religious head of the Khalsa and it was at this moment that he presented him with the Guru's mace to reinforce his leadership of the community.

Jassa Singh's conquering career, which continued till the year of his death, took off after 1748. After a series of victories, Jassa Singh subsequently conquered Lahore in 1761. The prophecy that Jassa Singh would become king had come true. Coins were struck and although Jassa Singh had to vacate Lahore on Ahmad Shah's return, the Sikhs were to take it over again in 1765.

Punjab was now free after 800 years of domination. Jassa Singh did not stop here. Subsequently, he was to invade the environs of Delhi and the Ganga Doab in the 1770s. He extracted large sums from the Emperor in lieu of his army not looting Delhi. In 1783, a year of the worst possible famine in North India, Jassa Singh with Baghel Singh, a fellow chief, invaded the environs of Delhi with 60,000 cavalry. The loot from these areas, which included Ghaziabad, Khurja and Aligarh, was so large that it was sent back to Punjab with an escort of 20,000 cavalry. Jassa Singh then marched to Delhi, defeated Prince Mirza Shiko, took over the Red Fort, and to prove a point, sat on the throne of Hindustan.

At 65, Jassa Singh died in 1783 on his way for the Divali meeting at Amritsar. His body was taken to Harmandir Sahib. As a rare gesture for his services to the community he was cremated in its precincts - at Burj Baba Atal Sahib where his Samadhi still exists today. At the time of his death, the combined armies of the Khalsa totalled 200,000 with 60,000-70,000 horses available at any given time. The Sikh rule extended from Lahore and Multan, Jammu and Kashmir to the hill states of Kangra, Chamba and others down to the environs of Delhi. The Ganga Doab had become a territory where the Sikhs plundered at will. The Mughals had been subdued and the Afghans had finally been repulsed. A bold strategist, Jassa Singh realised the futility of fighting pitched battles against better-trained Mughal and Afghan troops. He therefore encouraged hit-and-run guerrilla tactics till such time that he and the chiefs had more resources and had gathered a larger, better-trained army.
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Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
Randip singh ji,

Guru Fateh,

Could you elaborate on your above statement a bit more please. I did not quite get it. Who was Jassa Singh Ramgarhia?

Tejwant Singh
Tejwant Ji,
Jassa Singh Ramghariah was another great General of the Sikh misls...his Misl was the Ramghariah Misl.
Sardar Jassa Singh Raamgharia
Sardar Jassa Singh, son of Giani Bhagwan Singh, was born in 1723. His ancestors were great Gursikhs devoted to Gurbani and sewa. They lived in the village
of Ichogil, near Lahore. His grandfather took Amrit during the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh, and joined him in many battles. Later, he joined the forces of Banda Singh Bahadur.

Sardar Jassa Singh was the oldest of five brothers. Like his grandfather, he lived his life as a brave soldier of the Khalsa Panth. His father trained him in reading Gurbani. He memorized Nitnem hymns and took Amrit when he was still young.

Award of an Estate:
In 1733, Zakaria Khan, the Governor of Punjab, having failed to subdue the Sikhs, decided to befriend them. He needed their help to protect himself from the Afghan invader, Nadir Shah. He offered the Sikhs an estate and a royal robe. The Sikhs accepted it. Sardar Jassa Singh and his father joined the Sikhs to fight against Nadir Shah. The father died in battle. Zakaria Khan gave five villages to his sons in reward for his bravery. Village Vallah was awarded to Sardar Jassa Singh, where he gained the administrative experience required to become a leader, Jathedar, of the Sikhs. During this period of peace with the government, the Sikh Jathedars had become quite strong and built their fort, Ram Rauni, in AMRTISAR.
Honored as Ramgarhia
Zakaria died in 1745 and Mir Manu became the Governor. He was worried about the increasing power of the Sikhs. To finish the Sikhs, he let loose unspeakable terror against them. A mention of the sacrifices of these Sikhs is made in the Ardas. Mir Manu also ordered Adina Beg, Faujdar (Administrator) of the Jallandar region, to kill the Sikhs. Adina Beg was a very smart politician and wanted the Sikhs to remain strong to keep Manu involved with them. In order to develop good relations with the Sikhs, he sent secret messages to them. But, as the Sikhs were in hiding in different places, they could not get together for a collective Panthic decision. Thus, the Individual Jathedars responded differently as it suited their plans. Jassa Singh agreed to cooperate with the Faujdar and was made a Commander. This position helped him develop good relations with Dewan Kaura Mal at Lahore and assign important posts to the Sikhs in the Jallandar division.
This favorable situation for Jassa Singh did not last long. The Governor of Lahore ordered an army attack on Ram Rauni to kill the Sikhs staying in that fort. For this purpose, Adina Beg was required to send his army as well. Jassa Singh, being the commander of the Jallandar forces, had to join the army to kill the Sikhs in the fort. This was very painful for him. After about four months of siege, Sikhs ran short of food and supplies in the fort. They were on the verge of leaving the fort to fight their way out with the certain loss of many Sikh lives. Jassa Singh could not bear the thought of the impending fall of the fort and murder of the Sikhs. He contacted the Sikhs inside the fort and joined them. It was a great morale booster for the Sikhs and a big jolt to the army surrounding the fort. Furthermore, Jassa Singh used the good offices of Dewan Kaura Mal and had the siege lifted. Every Sikh in the Dal Khalsa appreciated his courage and liked him for his timely help. The fort was strengthened and named Ramgarh; Jassa Singh, having been designated the Jathedar of the fort, became popular as Ramgarhia.
Fighting the tyrannical government
Manu intensified his violence and oppression against the Sikhs. There were only 900 Sikhs when he surrounded the Ramgarh fort again. The Sikhs fought their way out bravely through thousands of army soldiers. The army demolished the fort. The hunt for and torture of the Sikhs continued until Manu died in 1753.
Manu’s death left Punjab without any effective Governor. It was again an opportune period for the Sikhs to organize themselves and gain strength. Jassa Singh rebuilt the fort and took possession of some areas around Amritsar. The Sikhs took upon themselves the task of protecting the people in the villages from the invaders. The money they obtained from the people was called Rakhi (protection charges).
The new Governor, Taimur, son of Ahmed Shah Abdali, despised the Sikhs. In 1757, he again forced the Sikhs to vacate the fort and move to their hiding places. The fort was demolished, Harimandar was blown up, and Amrit Sarovar was filled with debris. The Governor decided to replace Adina Beg. Beg asked the Sikhs for help and they both got a chance to weaken their common enemy. Adina Beg won the battle and became the Governor of Punjab. Sikhs rebuilt their fort Ramgarh and repaired the Harimandar. Beg was well acquainted with the strength of the Sikhs and he feared they would oust him if he allowed them to grow stronger, so he lead a strong army to demolish the fort. After fighting valiantly, the Sikhs decided to leave the fort. Beg died in 1758.
Wada Ghalughara

The greatest blow to the Sikhs was the Wada Ghalughara or GREAT MASSACRE, in February of 1762. The Sikhs were moving towards dry areas to safety, when Ahmed, the Afghan invader, attacked them with vengeance and without warning. The Sikh deaths are estimated between 40,000 and 50,000. Jassa Singh himself suffered about two dozen wounds in this battle.
This heavy blow, instead of demoralizing and incapacitating the Sikhs, committed them to greater service of the Panth. They gathered at Amritsar and defeated Ahmed on 17 October of that year. In the dark, he left the battlefield and escaped to Afghanistan. The Sikhs were again in a position to take control of many areas of the state. Each Misl, a section of the Sikhs, occupied a different region. There were eleven such Misls of the Sikhs (excluding the one which ruled Patiala, the region to the east of the Satlej River). Collectively, the called themselves the Sarbat Khalsa.
When, in 1764, Ahmed again came to crush the Sikhs, they left for their safe hideouts and let him move forward. On his return from Delhi, when he crossed the Satlej, Sikhs attacked him swiftly and ferociously. They took away his looted wealth and escaped. Ahmed received the same treatment when he invaded again in 1767. Even though he defeated the Marhattas and looted Delhi many times, he could not subdue the Sikhs, who continued to stand in his way.
Because of the vengeful behavior of Ahmed and the honorable character of the Sikhs, the Muslims of Lahore bluntly told Ahmed that they would not cooperate with him unless he offered the Governorship of Punjab to the Sikhs. But the Sikhs declined the offer of governorship, because they were already the de facto rulers of Punjab and people regarded them as their saviors.

Ramgarhia Misl Estate

Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia occupied the area to the north of Amritsar between the Ravi and the Beas rivers. He also added the Jallandar region and Kangra hill areas to his estate. He had his capital in Sri Hargobindpur, a town founded by the sixth Guru. The large size of Jassa Singh’s territory aroused the jealousy of the other Sikh Misls. They did not want him to become too powerful and the ruler of a big region.
Although Jai Singh and Jassa Singh were close friends, strong differences arose between them because of mutual jealousy. Bhangi Misl sardars also developed differences with Jai Singh. As a result, a big battle was fought between Jai Singh, Charaht Singh, and Sardar Ahluwalia on one side and Bhangis, Ramgarhias and their associates on the other side. The Bhangi side lost the battle.
Later, the Ahluwalia sardar, one day while hunting, happened to enter Ramgarhia territory where Jassa Singh’s brother arrested him. Jassa Singh apologized for the misbehavior of his brother, and honorably returned Ahluwalia with gifts. However, their old differences increased further. Other sardars also took a grim view of this Ramgarhia act.

Mutual Misl wars
Due to mutual jealousies, fights continued among the Sikh Sardars. In 1776, the Bhangis changed sides and joined Jai Singh to defeat Jassa Singh. His capital at Hargobindpur was taken over and he was followed from village to village, and finally forced to vacate all his territory. He had to cross the river Satlej and go to Amar Singh, the ruler of Patiala.
Amar Singh welcomed the Ramgarhia sardar in order to make use of his bravery, fighting skill, and ruling experience. He gave him the areas of Hansi and Hissar which Jassa Singh handed over to his son. He himself joined Amar Singh to take control of the villages on the west and north of Delhi, now forming parts of Haryana and Western U.P. The Sikhs disciplined and brought to justice all the Nawabs who were harassing their non-Muslim population. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia entered Delhi in 1783. Shah Alam II, the emperor, did not dare face the Sikhs, rather he extended them a warm welcome. Ramgarhia left Delhi after receiving gifts from him.
Because of the differences arising out of the issue of dividing the Jammu state revenues, long time friends and neighbors Mahan Singh, Jathedar of Sukerchakia Misl and Jai Singh, Jathedar of the Kanahya Misl, became enemies. This resulted in a war which changed the course of Sikh history.
Mahan Singh requested Jassa Singh to help him. In the battle, Jai Singh lost his son Gurbakhsh Singh while fighting with Ramgarhias. His widowed daughter-in-law, Sada Kaur, though very young, was a great statesperson. She saw the end of the Khalsa power through such mutual battles. She could foresee that to rule Punjab, Sikh Misls must give up their mutual jealousies and unite to form one big power. She was able to convince Mahan Singh to adopt the path of friendship. For this she offered the hand of her daughter, then only a child, to his son, Ranjeet Singh (later the Maharaja of the Punjab), who was then just a boy. The balance of power shifted in favor of this united Misl. Some other sardars also joined them. This made Ranjeet Singh the leader of the most powerful union of the Misls.
When the Afghan invader, Shah Zaman, came in 1788, the Sikhs, however, were still divided. Ramgarhia and Bhangi Misls were not willing to help Ranjeet Singh to fight the invader, so the Afghans took over Lahore and looted it. As soon as the Afghans went back, Ranjeet Singh occupied Lahore in 1799 but the Ramgarhias and Bhangis did not accept him as the leader of all the Sikhs. They got the support of their friends and marched to Lahore to challenge Ranjeet Singh. The forces, who were 12 miles outside the city, were finalizing their plans to attack, when the Bhangi leader died. This discouraged Jassa Singh and he returned to his territory.
Jassa Singh was eighty years old when he died in 1803. His son, Jodh Singh, developed good relations with Ranjeet Singh and they never fought again.
The critical decision of Jassa Singh to join the Khalsa and save the Ram Rauni fort changed the course of not only his own life but that of Sikh history as well. He was honored as Ramgarhia. His name will always remain alive as the founder of the Great Ramgarhia Misl, who played a major role in the battles of the Khalsa Panth.

Its sad that the "Ramgariah" Caste is played up a bit too much...till today the Ramgariahs want Gurdwaras based on their caste..as in UK and Africa. Up to 1708 and even in Banda Singhs time..caste was not prominently mentioned if at all...BUT after this Misl period..caste became important.

Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
Gyani ji,

Guru Fateh.

Thanks for the information about Jassa Singh Raamgarhia. I had never heard of him before. It is a shame that caste system is still very much ingrained in the Sikhi Psyche.

It would be wonderful if we could mean it and put it into practice when we chant every morning the verse from Japji," Bhariei matt papa kei sung, oh dhopei navein kei rung".

In other words when we soil our matt- our inside with these kinds of silly divisions, then the only way out of this and unite ourselves as true Sikhs is the total immersion in Gurbani and its understanding and then putting it into practice. Once we take a dive in this Amrit Sarovar then only we can be dyed in His colour.

Tejwant Singh

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