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Sham Singh Atariwala - One Of The Heroes Of The Khalsa Raaj

Discussion in 'Sikh History' started by Gyani Jarnail Singh, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
    Mentor Writer SPNer Thinker

    Jul 4, 2004
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    ONE INSPIRING READ....from Tapoban Forum..for the benefit of our readers here..and discussions....
    Sham Singh Attari


    Sham Singh Attari, was born in 1790's in the house of well known Sikh farmers in the town of Attari (Few kms from the border of Indian and Pakistan punjab in India) . At his early he was educated in Gurmukhi and Persian. When Ranjit singh became maharaja of Punjab he got himself at his disposal. Ranjit singh knowing his qualities and fighting abilities made him a jathedar of 5000 horsemen. He participated actively in many campaigns, notably like the campaign of Multan, campaign of Kashmir, Campaign of the frontier province.

    For a brief period of 3 years He was made governor of Kashmir by Maharaja Ranjit singh. Later, Maharaja Ranjit singh recalled him to Lahore, since he was trusted aide of Maharaja Ranjit singh, Maharaja feared treacherous dogras. It is said that Sham Singh Attari and Maharaja Ranjit singh were good friends. Sham Singh Attari could be called truly, one of the unofficial ministers of Ranjit Singh's court. Later, he educated himself to read and write English. Lord William Bentick's meeting with Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Ropar, on the bank of the Sutlej, in the spring of 1831 October 15 was an occasion of a impressive ceremony and display. Both sides met on the either side of Satluj with their full forces. Sham Singh Attariwala was in the forefront everywhere. Kharak Singh was declared the heir apparent of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Kharak Singh's son Nau Nihal Singh was sixteen years old in 1837 when Sham Singh Attariwala proposed the marriage of his daughter to Nau Nihal Singh, grandson of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Maharaja agreed. Marriage was held at Amritsar in the month of April. It was a gala event. Almost all the rulers of India were invited as well as those of Kabul, Iran, etc. The two days of festive and and merriment is still remembered by the people of Amritsar and Lahore. In honor of Nau Nihal Singh's wedding, Ranjit Singh started an Order of Merit which was known as Kaukab-i-Iqbal-i-Punjab, star of the Prosperity of Punjab. But... all was not well.

    Maharaja Ranjit singh died in June 1839. The powerful Dogras from Jammu, Gulab Singh Dhian Singh and Suchet Singh- played a subtle role and put into motion a chain of proceedings which brought about the demolition of Sikh power. At the time of Sikh ruler's death. Dhian singh was prime minister of Punjab to Kharak Singh, son of Ranjit singh. Gulab Singh and Suchet singh also held offices under Dhian Singh dogra. They were not content with this. They had their eyes on the throne itself and the main object of their grand strategy was to crown Dhian Singh's son, Hira Singh, king of the Punjab. One night, Suchet singh led his men into Maharaja Kharak Singh's chamber and killed his trusted aide and tutor, Chet Singh Bajwa. Kharak singh was removed from the Fort and remained virtually prisoner in the hands of Dhian Singh. Sham Singh attariwala and other good officers were sent to far places like Kashmir, North West frontier provinces, just like Nau Nihal singh. Nau Nihal singh knew about the treacherous dogras. He did not came to Lahore until the day his father Kharak Singh, died due to slow poisoning by Dogra brothers. On the same day of his father's cremation, a huge concrete piece fell on Nau Nihal Singh and he also died. It is said that this conspiracy was hatched by Dogra brothers. English doctor of Lahore which operated on prince, later reported that prince was alive and well after injury but mysteriously next day his skull was found crushed. Dhian singh then openly suggested Maharani Chand Kaur to adopt his son and declare him Maharaja of Punjab, she refused and was put in house arrest. She was also killed by the maid servants. Gulab Singh carried away all the money and valuables belonging to Maharani. Then the next Maharaja other son of Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Sher singh was put to death by the Sandhawalia sardars, they were together with Dogra brothers.

    English saw the opportunity and they attacked. Sham Singh attariwala, who was more of a soldier than a politician., got the troops together. But.. he was not assigned the general, rather a small number of horsemen was put under his command. Generals like Lal singh and Tej Singh led the Khalsa forces. They did not attacked British at Ludhiana but waited until their reinforcement arrived from Delhi. On December 13, 1845 Governor General Lord Hardinge issued a proclamation, announcing war on the Sikhs. Lal Singh, the prime minister of Sikhs was in treasonable communication with Captain Peter Nicholson, the Assistant Political agent. He advised Lal singh to not to attack Ferozepur, Sikhs could have won it easily. Sikhs came into contact with British on December 18 1845 at Mudki, a Battle took place. Lal Singh who headed the Sikh attack, deserted his army and precipitantly fled the field when Sikhs stood firm in their order fighting in a resolute and determined manner. The commander's action disturbed the ranks and Sikhs retired with the loss of 17 guns, British suffered heavy casualties of 872 dead. Among the dead was General Robert Sale, the defender of Jalalabad. Sham Singh Attariwala did not took part in this action he was deployed at another point. The second battle of Mudki was fought and it seemed that Sikhs had won it easily. Here is what the British commander in chief acknowledged "We were in critical and perilous stage" . But.. Lal singh and Tej Singh came again to the rescue of the English. They both deserted the Khalsa army, Sikh soldiery without their leaders was stood waiting for orders and lost the battle once ammunition was done. In this battle British lost 1000 men 1721 were wounded, Sikhs lost about 2000 men and about 73 pieces of guns.

    Sikh Sardars were alarmed. A Sikh Sardar named Ranjodh Singh Majithia crossed the Satluj in full force along with another Sardar named Ajit Singh Ladwa. They marched to Ludhiana and burned down the British cantonment. Sir Henry Smith who was sent to intercept them was defeated at Baddowal on January 11. Then the last battle of the Anglo Sikh wars was fought at Sobharaon. It was do or die for the Sikh Sardars like Ranjodh Singh, Ajit Singh and Sham Singh Attariwala. Sham Singh attariwala who was about 60 years of age vowed before Guru Granth Sahib to fight unto the last in battle rather than retire in defeat. But... Lal singh and Tej Singh had already given British their positions of guns, etc. Gulab Singh Dogra stopped sending rations from Lahore. Tej Singh fled on the very first day of the action. Sham Singh and Ranjodh Singh led the forces. Sham Singh Attariwala clad in white silks and riding a white steed, the Grey bearded hero went unto the field of action, pledged to victory or death. He rallied the ranks depleted by traitorous desertions. His courage inspired the Sikhs to make a determined bid to save the day, but the odds were against them. Sham Singh fell fighting in the foremost ranks. So did his dauntless comrades. Cunningham, who was present as an additional aid-de-camp to the governor-general, describes the last scenes of battle vividly in his book History of the Sikhs : "...although assailed on either side by squadrons of horse and battalions of foot, no Sikh offered to submit and no disciple of Guru Gobind Singh asked for quarter. They everywhere showed a front to the victors, and stalked slowly and sullenly away, while many rushed singly forth to meet assured death by contending with a multitude. The victors looked with stolid wonderment upon indomitable courage of the vanquished..."

    Excerpts taken from these books.
    Sikh History, By Khushwant Singh

    Re: Sikh Hero Sham Singh AtariwalaAuthor: Jarnail Singh Gyani "Arshi"
    Date: 08-29-05 02:43

    Here is an article from the Institute of Sikh Studies Abstracts of Sikh Studies..

    By S. Avtar Singh Gill

    Sobran - The Waterloo of India

    What an irony of fate that the Punjabis started with the basic handicap of being led by arch traitors like Misr Lal Singh, the Prime Minister, and Misr Tej Singh, the Commander-in-Chief of the kingdom once ruled by Maharaja Ranjit amrit. In the battles of Mudki and Ferozeshah, wrote Colonel Malleson, "The treason saved the English from a sure defeat." In the subsequent fiercely contested encounters between the British and the Khalsa at Baddowal and Aliwal in Ludhiana district, the initiative soon passed out of the Sikh hands to the enemy. Gulab Singh Dogra also arrived at Lahore like a vulture, and came to an understanding with the British that the Sikh army should be attacked by the British, and when beaten, it would be abandoned by its own Government, then run by the Misrs, and the passage of the Satluj would not only be unopposed, but the road to Lahore would be laid open to the victors. George Bruce also wrote in Six Battles for India at page 176 that the Khalsa was refused arms and ordered to stay where it was at Sobraon, more or less disowned by its Government. So, under such circumstances of discreet policy and shameless treason, the decisive battle of the campaign was fought at Sobraon, situated to the South of the Satluj, near Hari Ke Pattan.


    Sobraon was the last battle of the First Anglo-Sikh War. Misr Lal Singh had played a leading part in the battles of Mudki and Ferozeshah and it was now the turn of Misr Tej singh and Gulab Singh Dogra. On February 7, 1846, it began to rain cats and dogs and for the next two days the sun was not seen, the sky remained overcast and the downpour continued unabated. The Satluj, within forty eight hours, rose above seven inches making all the fords unfordable. One rickety pontoon-bridge, however, connected the army entrenched on the left bank with its base. On the evening of February 9, Hugh Gough marched out of Ferozepur and successfully surrounded the Khalsa at Sobraon. Misr Lal Singh was re-imposed on the Khalsa. He had sent, two days earlier, his confidant, Shamas-ud-din Khan to Major Lawrence with detailed information regarding the disposition of the Khalsa. William Edwards recorded in his work, Reminiscences of a Bengal Civilian (1866), page 99, that Broadfoot had stated that sketch of the Sikh enrichments was also sent. Darkness all over facilitated the British to seize the best opportunity. On the morning of February 10, a heavy mist spread from the river over the rain-sodden fields, enveloping both the armies. The sky having cleared, the British artillery took the initiative, but the Khalsa guns were also quick to reply. The plain reverberated with the crash of heavy guns on both sides. The guns, facing each other continued barking with equal vigour and for a time the roar of artillery was unbroken. It had been intended that the cannonade should be continued for four hours before the Infantry were called upon to make their advance, but so rapidly did the gunners work their pieces that the ammunition carried with them was exhausted long before that time had elapsed, and the elephants who should have brought up reserve had become unmanageable from terror due to the tremendous din. The round shot exploded tumbrils, or dashed heaps of sand into the air; the hollow shells cast their fatal contents fully before them, and the devious rockets sprang aloft with fury to fall hissing amid a flood of men; but all was in vain, the Sikhs stood unappalled, and returned "flash for flash, and fire for fire".

    Hand to hand encounters ensued with the Khalsa Infantry advancing in all directions. A large number of British soldiers were killed and Robert {censored} himself mortally wounded. Henry Hardinge, who was almost a cripple, having been severely bruised by a fall from his horse two weeks earlier, came to the field of Sobraon and commanded his men to rally. No sooner were the words uttered than Colonel Wood, his aide-de-camp, galloped to the centre of the line, and seizing the colours from the hands of the ensign, carried them to the front. The men who joined him stormed the Sikh breastworks and engaged in hand to hand fighting, so desperate on both sides that the trenches were soon filled with dead and dying. This was nothing short of a brutal bulldog fight.

    The brave Khalsa, with national zeal, fought fiercely for every inch of ground, but the traitor, Misr Tej Singh, instead of leading fresh men to sustain the failing strength of the troops on his right, took to flight on the First assault, like a tunda-kutta (a dog with his tail cut), an expression used with contempt for a traitor. He not only himself intended to desert, but had also tried to induce other Sardars to do likewise. He felt greatly nervous, lest the Attariwala Sardar's patriotism and bravery should upset their treacherous plans. He meekly counselled him to fly with him, but the noble Patriot and a devoted follower of Guru Gobind Singh refused with scorn to toe his treasonable line, and be tauntingly remarked, "If you are that brave, let's see you take an oath on the Granth. I know you will join me in the end." Inspired by lofty ideals of patriotism, the grey-bearded Sardar, who had seen no escape from domestic anarchy or from foreign subjection, had made known his resolution to die in the first conflict with the British, and so to offer himself as a sacrifice of propitiation to the spirit of Guru Gobind Singh and to the genius of his mystic commonwealth. "Never", replied the Attariwala Sardar, and swore that he would rather be killed than give way to the English. And he faithfully stood by his oath. Dressing himself in pure white, as one devoted to death, and like a hungry tiger, he went into the thick of the battle. On the other hand, the General commanding the Khalsa, Misr Tej Singh, hastily crossed the pontoon-bridge to safety, sinking a boat in the middle of the bridge of communication.


    The Attariwala Sardar had, before calling on all around him to fight for the Guru, who had promised everlasting bliss to the brave, dismissed his syce (employee) and told him to return to his village, Attari, with the message, "Tell them that Sham Singh will not be coming home". Having mounted his white sturdy horse, he was present everywhere urging the Sikhs — the true sons of the Khalsa — to fight bravely and do their duty .to die rather than turn their backs on the enemy. At last, he, scorning death, spurred forward against the 50th regiment, waving his sharp-sparkling sword and calling on his men to follow him. Some fifty of them, who obeyed the call, were driven back into the swirling river, and the brave Sardar fell a martyr from his horse pierced with as many as seven balls, on a heap of his slain countrymen. "Thus saw the battlefield of Sobraon the basest treachery of the opportunists on one hand, and the shining heroism of noble patriots on the other", wrote Dr Andrew Adams. His memory is held in the greatest esteem by his countrymen to this day. People were gratified to know that after the battle, the servants of the Sardar found his body "where the dead lay thickest". While the Sardar fell martyr, according to J.D. Cunningham:
    "Others might be seen standing on the ramparts amid showers of balls, waving defiance with their swords, or telling the gunners where the fair-haired English pressed thickest together. Along the stronger half of the battlements, and for the period of half an hour, the conflict raged sublime in all its terrors. The parapets were sprinkled with blood from end to end; the trenches were filled with the dead and the dying. Amid the deafening roar of cannon, and the multitudinous fire of musketry, the shouts of triumph or of scorn were yet heard, and the flashing of innumerable swords was yet visible; or from time to time exploding magazines of powder threw bursting shells and beams of wood and banks of earth high above the agitated sea of smoke and flame which enveloped the host of combatants, and for a moment arrested the attention amid all the din and tumult of the tremendous conflict. But, gradually each defensible position was captured, and the enemy was pressed towards the scarcely river; yet, although assailed on either side by squadrons of horse and battalions of foot, no Sikh offered to submit, and no disciple of (Guru) Gobind (Singh) asked for quarter. They, everywhere, showed a front to the victors, and stalked slowly and sullenly away, while many rushed singly forth to meet assured death by contending with a multitude. The victors looked with stolid wonderment upon the indomitable courage of the vanquished, and forebore to strike when the helpless and the dying frowned unavailing hatred. But the warlike rage or the calculating policy of the leaders had yet to be satisfied, and standing with the slain heaped on all sides around them, they urged troops of artillery almost into the waters of the Satluj to more thoroughly destroy the army which had so long scorned their power. No deity of heroic fable received the living within the oozy gulphs of the oppressed stream, and its current was choked with added numbers of the dead and crimsoned with the blood of a fugitive multitude". "A British defeat", wrote Hesketh Pearson in The Hero of Delhi, page 80, was again "turned into a victory by the convenient flight of Tej Singh who damaged the bridge of boats over the Satluj on his way and so helped to drown a large number of his countrymen." The vengeance by the British was complete. With Sham Singh Attariwala, fell the bravest of the Sikh Generals, Gulab Singh Gupta, Hira Singh Topee, Kishan Singh, Mubarak Ali and Shah Niwaz Qasuri. Most of the others leapt into the swirling waters and were drowned. Robert N. Cust recorded that the stream was choked with the dead and dying — the sandbanks were covered with bodies floating leisurely down. It was an awful scene, a fearful carnage. Thus, nearly ten thousand brave Punjabis' burning with love for national independence, were killed in this action at Sobraon. All their guns were either captured or lost in the river. British losses were no lesser than the Khalsa as 320 officers and soldiers, including General {censored} of Waterloo fame. Brigadier Generals McLaren and Taylor, Major Fisher of the Sirmur battalion and Captain Warren, were killed and 2083 men wounded. Not since the battle of Buxar in 1764, when the dead or Mir Kasim's Shuja u'd daulah's formed a mole over which the defeated survivors escaped, had there been such slaughter in India. Really, it was an awful scene, a fearful carnage.

    Sham Singh Attariwala's servants, who came all the way from Attari, placed his body on a raft and swam with it across the river. Three days later, the party reached Attari — the village situated on the Grand Trunk Road in between Lahore and Amritsar. His smadh is seen outside the village of Attari. Indeed, Sardar Sham Singh proved himself a 'prince among patriots'.
    It is remarkable that in the neighbourhood of Sobraon, a bloody battle was fought by Alexander the Great more than two thousand years ago against our countrymen, influenced by an unconquerable lust for conquest of the famous country of the five rivers. Little did the British dream, in a country so remotely situated from India — separated by deep sea and thousand smiles of land, both hills and plains, that they would ever tread ground so famous in the history of the Macedonian conqueror, in the like manner and similarly motivated.


    General Thackwell, who had personally led his dragoons in the battle wrote in The Second Sikh War (1851): "It is due to the Sikhs to say that they fought bravely, for though defeated and broken, they never ran, but fought with their talwars to the last and I witnessed several acts of great bravery in some of their Sirdars and men". Henry Hardinge, Governor General of India, who, alongwith Hugh Gough was rewarded with peerage, had seen the action. Arthur Hardinge, son of the Governor General, wrote: "Few escaped;.no one, it may be said, surrendered. The Sikhs met their fate with the resignation which distinguished their race." Hugh Gough, the British Commander-inChief could not suppress his admiration of the bravery and resoluteness of Sikhs and paid rich tributes to the Punjabis : "Policy prevented me publicly recording my sentiments of the splendid gallantry of a fallen foe, and I declare, were it not from a conviction that my country's good required the sacrifice, I could have wept to have witnessed the fearful slaughter of so devoted a body." The hard, Shah Mohammad, immortalised the heroic stand of the men of Sham Singh Attariwala at Sobraon thus :
    'They squeezed the blood out of the Whites,
    As one squeezes juice out of a lemon;
    If only Ranjit Singh were there,
    He would have been proud to see,
    How the Khalsa wielded their swords.
    About the sad result of the compaign, he wrote;
    'Oh Shah Mohammad, without Ranjit Singh, such was our plight
    We won the battles, but lost the fight.'
    The traitors to the Khalsa were not only taken note of by the British or the Khalsa themselves, but were immortalised in doggerel verse punning on their names:
    'Lallu dee Lallee gaee, Teju da gia tej
    Ran vich pith dikhaike modha aie pher.
    'Lallu lost the blush of shame, Teju lost his lustre, by turning their Backs in the field, they turned the tide and battle yield'.

    The woman performing suttee by burning in fire
    finds not union with the benevolent Lord :
    By effect of her deeds and ordained fortune
    into fire she burns.
    The woman, that to keep a convention, by stubbornness
    of will burns herself,
    Finds not union with her beloved husband;
    In numerous births she whirls about.
    The woman that bears noble conduct, has restraint,
    to her husband is obedient —
    Never by Yama is tormented.
    Saith Nanak : The woman who regards the husband as her lord Is truly a blessed suttee, at the Divine Portal approved.

    — Guru Amar Das

    Please note the TRUE comments by the British..on the Khalsa Forces Bravery under great odds....Simialr TRUE comments have been made by the MUSLIM Historians...Even the ENEMY couldnt stand aside and NOT admire the Khalsa Spirit...

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