Sultan-ul-Qaum (King of the Nation) S.Jassa Singh Ahluwalia

He was a man of tall stature and and wonderful physique, was humble, but man of determination.

It is human nature that with the passage of time we forget our heroes. We are forgetting S. Banda Singh Bahadur, the first Sikh ruler. We have forgotten our warrior S. Baghel Singh who ruled over Delhi for nine months and got the historical Gurdwaras at Delhi built for us. Same is the case of our General Jassa Singh Ahluwalia who got back Lahore, the capital of Punjab, from foreign invaders after about 750 years in 1761 and was declared the King of the Nation.

His Birth and Early Childhood
NawabJSA (80K)Jassa Singh Ahluwalia son of S. Bidar Singh, a Kalal (distiller of wine), was born on 3rd May, 1718 A.D. in the village Ahlu, near Lahore and was therefore called Ahluwalia. His father, a true Sikh, died when he was hardly 5 years old. His religious minded mother taught him to recite Gurbani . She took him to Delhi to see Mata Sundri in the end of 1723. There, he was brought up under the care of Mata Sundri, widow of Guru Gobind Singh. Jassa Singh and his mother recited Gurbani and Mata Sundri who loved Jassa Singh as her son listened attentively. His maternal uncle Bagh Singh brought him and his mother back to the Punjab in 1729. At the time of his return to Punjab, Mata Sundri bestowed upon him a sword, a mace and a shield predicting that he would become an eminent leader. He often used words of the Delhi dialect. The singing of Asa Di Var by him was appreciated by all. He learnt Urdu and Persian at Delhi.

Joins Nawab Kapur Singh
Jassa Singh with his mother and uncle stayed for a night with Nawab Kapur Singh at Kartarpur on their way back from Delhi. He (Nawab Kapur Singh) was deeply impressed by religious bent of mind and courage of Jassa Singh . He administered him Pahul (Amrit), adopted him and appointed him to distribute grain for horses. He received training under the Nawab , the most respected and capable Sikh leader of those days. He learned horseback riding and swordsmanship from expert teachers. With the constant help and guidance of Nawab Kapur Singh and his own virtues, he became a very capable leader who commanded high respect from all the Sikhs and possessed a remarkable power of organization. He along with other Sikh chiefs fought bravely during the 1st Holocaust in 1746 and became famous. Under Nawab Kapur Singh, Jassa Singh harassed Ahmad Shah Abdali when he was returning after his first invasion in January,1748 and killed Salabat Khan in a pitched battle at Amritsar. The Sikhs celebrated the Bisakhi of 1748 at Amritsar after a long interval and built, Ram Rauni, a shelter, at Amritsar. In 1749, the Sikh forces under Jassa Singh helped Diwan Kaura Mal, a well wisher of the Sikhs, in the expedition of Multan and defeated Shah Niwaz Khan.

Made Supreme Commander of all the Sikh Forces
Nawab Kapur Singh who died in 1753 wanted to give the leadership of the Sikhs to somebody else. On the sacred day of Baisakhi of 1748, the Sikhs gathered at Amritsar and Nawab Kapur Singh stressed the need for solidarity of the Panth. The entire fighting force of the Sikhs was given the name of the Dal Khalsa. 65 Sikh groups were leagued in eleven main divisions (Misls), each with a distinguished title and a prominent leader. He made Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, the supreme commander of the Sikh forces on 10th April,1754. Now, he (Jassa Singh Ahluwalia) held the chief command of the 'Dal Khasa' the Sikh forces at the time of any battle or expedition.

Establishing Rakhi System and Reinstalling Adina Beg
Jassa Singh harassed Abdali when he was returning after the 4th invasion of India in 1757. He also established the system of Rakhi, protection tax, for the security provided by the Dal Khalsa. In 1757, he defeated Taimur Shah s/o Abdali, governor of Lahore, who was attacking Amritsar. Adina Beg Khan, the Faujdar of Jalundhar Doab, had fled away during the invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali . Jahan Khan, the Governor of Lahore, sent a strong force to capture Adina Beg who sought the help of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia . The whole Dal Khalsa fought for Adina Beg , defeated the Afghan force in1757and with the help of Marathas reinstalled Adina Beg in 1758. They arrested many Afghan soldiers who were deployed to cleanse the holy tank (Sarowar) desecrated by Jahan Khan in 1757 at Amritsar.

Rescuing 2200 women and young girls from Abdali in 1761
The Dal khalsa under the command of Jassa Singh began molesting and harassing Ahmad Shah Abdali when he crossed the Satluj while returning with a rich booty from Delhi in April, 1761. At the ferry of Goindwal on the Beas, the Sikhs freed 2,200 beautiful women and young Hindu girls abducted by Abdali and escorted them honorably to their homes.

Sikhs Spread all over the Punjab in the Summer of 1761
The Dal Khalsa, under the command of Ahluwalia Sardar, molested and harassed the retreating Abdali till he crossed the Indus. After defeating Mirza Khan ex-governor of Lahore, the Sikhs expelled Saadat Khan, the faujdar of the Jalandhar Doab. They defeated Zian Khan's deputy at Sarhind and devastated the accursed city of Sarhind. They also captured Malerkotla as its Nawab Bhikan Khan had opposed them at Sarhind. Jassa Singh with other Sikh Sardars helped S.Charat Singh, besieged at Gujranwala, by Khwaja Abed, Governor of Lahore, and the Khwaja took to flight.The Sikhs Capture Lahore and Coined money in November,1761. The Dal Khalsa, under the Ahluwalia Sardar, marched upon Lahore laid siege to the city. Khawja Abed Khan shut himself in the fort. The Sikhs entered the city, attacked the fort and killed Khwaja. They declared Jassa Singh Ahluwalia as Padshah who struck Sikh rupee which bore the following inscription Sikka zad dar jahan bafazal-e-Akal, Mulk Ahmad grift Jassa Kalal. "Coin struck in the world by the grace of God, in the country of Ahmad captured by Jassa Kalal."

Prof. Ganda Singh in his book Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Punjabi University, Patiala, writes on page 120 that these words which show arrogance and half name of a baptized Sikh cannot be on a coin struck by the Sikhs. He quotes Ganesh Dass author of Chahar Bagh(Page 130) who thought that these words were struck on the coin by fanatic Muslims to incite Abdali to attack India.

The capture of Lahore from foreigners after about 750 years was the highest point in the evolution of the Sikh power. But this greatest glory was followed within 3 months by the hardest blow in the shape of a bloody carnage of the Sikhs.

Vadda Ghalughara (Bloody Carnage), 5th February 1762
On hearing all this, Abdali hastened towards the Punjab for his sixth incursion on India. Sikhs tried to escape to the wasteland of Malwa. As desired by Abdali , they were checked from proceeding further by the forces from Sarhind and Malerkotla. Abdali unexpectedly attacked them with a heavy force of 1,50,000 at Kup near Malerkotla. The Sikhs were seized in panic. They commenced fighting and moving toward Barnala under the command of Ahluwalia Sardar. The sikhs showed invincible fortitude and heroic courage. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Charat Singh Sukarchakia drew their swords, cut their enemies and reached to help their besieged families and men. Ultimately, the Afghans were successful and the Sikhs were separated from their families and men of the baggage train who were mercilessly butchered. Due to intolerable heat and stiff resistance, Abdali decided not to follow the Sikhs. About 25, 000 Sikhs lost their lives with equally heavy loss of the enemy forces. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia sustained 22 wounds on his body.

Abdali Destroys Harimandir Sahib and the Sikhs Retaliate
Annoyed, Abdali destroyed Harmandir Sahib and polluted the sacred tank at Amritsar. In August 1762, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with the entire Dal Khalsa fell upon the villages in the Jalandhar Doab and destroyed them as they had turned against the Sikhs. In October 1762, at the festival of Diwali, 60,000 strong army of the Sikhs gathered at Amritsar and resolved to recover the honor and wreak vengeance. Ahmad Shah Abdali marched with a strong force from Lahore to Amritsar on 16th October to disperse the Sikhs. The Sikhs attacked the enemy vehemently without caring for their lives. The courage of the Afghans gradually gave way and they returned to Lahore under the cover of darkness at night. Ahmed Shah left Lahore for Afghanistan . The Sikhs obstructed his passage at the Ravi and attacked him from close quarters. They dug out, cleansed the Sacred Pool and repaired the holy building of Harimandir in 1763.

The Conquest of Sarhind Province and other areas in 1763-64
On the retirement of Abdali in the end of 1762, the Dal Khalsa created disturbance everywhere. The Dal Khalsa was divided into two halves. One part called the Budha Dal (the elder group) under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and the other part consisting of five Misals was known as the Taruna Dal (the younger group). Jassa Singh entered the Jalandhur Doab held by Saadat Yar khan who hid himself in the capital and seized his old possessions. He defeated Jahan Khan, commander-in-chief of Abdali at Wazirabad , near Sialkot. Jassa Singh marched to the Malwa and conquered Malerkotla, Kurali, Morinda and the adjoining area. Both the Dals made a united attack on Sarhind and besieged it. Zian Khan, the Governor of Sarhind who tried to escape was shot dead and Afghan troops fled in a state of panic. Ahluwalia Sardar achieved this grand success in January 1764, sacked the cursed city and built a Gurdwara named Fathegarh.

Territories under Ahluwalia Misl
After the conquest of the Sarhind province, the Sikh Sardars divided the territories among themselves. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, the founder of the Kapurthala state, got the territories of Jagraon,Bharog, Naraingarh and Fathegarh. Mirza Singh of Sultanwind,a village near Amritsar, was his servant. He built a locality' Katra Ahluwalia' which is still famous in Amritsar.

Pitched Battles against Abdali
Their constant success under the Ahluwalia Sardar during the past two years, gave the Sikhs unbounded enthusiasm and now they decided upon fighting pitched battles and not the guerrilla wars against Abdali. When Abdali was returning from Delhi after his seventh invasion in 1765, both the Dals joined and attacked him in a regular pitched battle when he was crossing the river Satluj near Machhiwara. The battle raged furiously and the Sikhs overpowered the right wing of the Afghan army. The battle was fought for seven days at different places. The Sikhs left Abdali to celebrate the Bisakhi festival. Qazi Nur Muhammad who witnessed this battle has spoken highly of the Sikhs in his book 'Jangnama'. On 16th April,1765, Jassa Singh and other Sikh Sardars conquered Lahore after defeating Abdali's Subedar, Kabli Mal. Now the Sikh coin, of Banda Singh Bahadar's time, was used with the addition of a few words on its back which showed its year of minting.

The Dal Khalsa's Raids into Upper Ganga Doab 1764-1768
The Dal Khalsa, under the command of Ahluwalia Sardar, carried their raids into the trans-Yamuna territories of Najib-ud-Daulah, Dictator of the Mughal empire during 1764 to 1768. They defeated him when he harassed Raja Jawahar Singh of Bharatpur in Feb.1764, occupied vast areas and imposed Rakhi system. This was the first time after Banda Bahadar that the Sikhs had gone across the Jamana . In 1765 Najib wrote to the Mughal emperor that the Sikhs were masters of Sarhind and practically supreme over Haryana and the upper Doab.

Helped Amar Singh, Ruler of Patiala and Defeated the Mughals
Abdual Ahad Khan led an imperial force from Delhi against Amar Singh, ruler of Patiala in 1779 and harassed him, but was beaten back by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. He had to return the tribute collected from the Sikhs and paid a large amount as an indemnity to the Dal Khalsa.

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Captures the Red Fort in March 1783
When the Sikhs under Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Baghel Singh occupied the Red Fort on March 11,1783, Shah Alam, the Mughal Emperor and his courtiers hid themselves. The Sikhs wanted Ahluwalia Sardar to sit on the throne, but Jassa Singh Ramgarhia opposed this action. Both sides drew out swords, but Jassa Singh Ahluwalia did not like the fratricidal conflict and immediately declined the highest honor thrust on him. (History of The Punjab, part 3 page 166 by Hari Ram Gupta).

His Qualities
He was a man of tall stature and and wonderful physique. His arms were long enough to touch his knees. He was handsome, serious, popular and a courageous leader. He was always smiling and busy in doing some volunteer service. He was humble, but man of determination.

He will always be remembered as a capable and brave leader of the Dal Khalsa who organized the Sikh forces and overthrew the Afghan as well as the Mughal power in Northern India. No doubt, it was due to his leadership and guidance that the Sikhs got nearer to the self-rule in the Punjab. Under his command, the Sikh forces conquered vast areas across the Yamna river and imposed Rakhi system in those territories. He refused Abdali's offer to rule Punjab as his subordinate. He never misused his high position. He commanded respect from all the Sikhs and occupied a prominent position among the Sikh leaders. But for his consistent resistance, Abdali would have made the Punjab a Muslim state under Afghanistan. While none of the Hindu chiefs of India rose to rescue 2200 abducted Hindu girls from Abdali, he rescued them with the force of his sword and thus saved the honor of India in 1761.

Besides being a brave commander and a wise political leader, he was deeply religious and a man of pious character. It was considered an honor to receive Amrit at his hands. Baba Ala Singh, Amar Singh, Sahib Singh, rulers of Patiala, and Sodhi Gulab Singh of Kartarpur were initiated to Sikhism by him. His common kitchen (Langar)was always open to everybody.

He was so selfless that he declined the throne of Delhi to avoid fratricidal war. He spent his share of the money he got after conquering Sarhind on cleaning the holy tank at Amritsar and repairing the damaged buildings. He did not want that different groups of Sikhs should fight among themselves. When the Sikh Sardars wanted to occupy Patiala because Ala Singh had yielded to Abdali during his seventh invasion, he (Jassa Singh) successfully pleaded not to do so, but to punish him with a heavy fine. He intervened and struck a compromise between Raja Amar Singh and his brother Himat Singh. He united Sodhis of Kartarpur (Dhirmalias) with the other Sikh chiefs.

Syad Muhammad Latif writes on page 316 of his book' History of the Punjab(reprint 1989) that Jassa Singh's policy was liberal and he was friendly to Mussalmans who also had office of trust under him. He treated his vanquished enemies kindly.

In fact, his life story is the story of Sikh struggle for independence in the 18th century. But for his leadership, history of India would have been different. He liberated the Punjab from foreigners.

Forster, Gorge was right when he wrote in his book' Journey from Bengal to Englad': In the defence and recovery of their country, the sicques displayed a courage of the most obstinate kind and maintained a perseverance----page 294. I also agree with his view: Were the Sique chiefs not more apprehensive of domestic increasing influences, than desirous of subduing a constitutional enemy, they would, it may be fairly inferred, speedily extinguish the Afghan government in India. Page 88.

During the last few years of his life, he occupied Kapurthala city and adjoining villages from Ibrahim who did not pay tribute. His relations with Jassa Singh Ramgarhia became tense when Ramgarhia's brothers arrested him. Consequently, Ramgarhia Sardar had to leave Punjab. He died on 20th October, 1783 at Amritsar where a Samadh in his honor stands at Gurdwara Baba Atal.

1.The Encycopadia of Sikhism, volume one, Punjabi University, Patiala
2. History of the Sikhs,volume2nd & 3rd, Delhi,2007by Dr. Hari Ram Gupta
3. Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia,(Punjabi) Punjabi University,Patiala by Prof. Ganda Singh
4.Sikh Mislan Te Sardar Gharane, (Punjabi) Ludhiana,1993 by Sohan Singh Sital. 5.History of the Punjab(1989) by Syad Muhammad Latif

 ~ Sawan Singh Gogia
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