Sardar Hari Singh 'Nalwa'
Hari was born in 1791 at Gujranwala (now Pakistan), the capital city of the Sukharchakias before Lahore came into Ranjit Singh's possession. Hari's family was of 'Khatri' origin belonging to the Uppal tribe. They had migrated from Majitha, north of Amritsar, to Gujranwala in the eighteenth century.
The first entry in the Nalwa family records maintained by the Pandas (Haridwar) was made in 1808 CE. It reads:“Kshattriya Uppal resident of Gujranwala, Hari Singh son of Gurdas Singhji and grandson of Bishen Singhji. Hari Singh’s son is Gurdit Singhji. Hari Singh came to the Ganga with…” (Nalwa, 2009: 284 ).
Hari Singh's grandfather was killed in 1762. His father accompanied Charrat Singh and Mahan Singh (Ranjit Singh's grandfather and father resp[ectively) and on all their expeditions, and received in jagir the village of Balloke near Shahdera (Griffin, 1865: 184). Hari lost his father at the age of seven.
ਦਸਵੇਂ ਬਰਸ ਵਿਚ ਪਾਹੁਲ ਲੀਤੀ ਖੰਡੇ ਵਾਲੀ, ਛਕਿਆ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਖ਼ੁਸ਼ ਹੋਂਵਦੀ ਲੁਕਾਈ ਸੀ।
ਯਾਰਵੇਂ ਬਰਸ ਸਵਾਰੀ ਖ਼ੂਬ ਕਰਨ ਲਗਾ, ਸ਼ੇਰ ਵਾਂਗੂੰ ਗੱਜੇ ਵਿਚ ਕੁਵੱਤ ਇਲਾਹੀ ਸੀ।
ਬਾਰਵੇਂ ਬਰਸ ਰੀਤ ਫੜੀ ਸਰਦਾਰਾਂ ਵਾਲੀ, ਤੇਰਵੇਂ ਬਰਸ ਬਾਣੀ ਸਭ ਚਿਤ ਆਈ ਸੀ।
ਚੌਦਵੇਂ ਬਰਸ ਚਿਤ ਕਰੇ ਖੰਡਾ ਫੇਰਣੇ ਨੂੰ, ਸੀਤਾਰਾਮਾ ਰੱਤੀ ਜੋ ਨਸੀਬਾਂ ਵਾਲੀ ਛਾਈ ਸੀ।੩।।
(Sitarama in Amar Singh, 1903)
Dasvein baras vich Pahul leeti Khande vaali, chhakya Amrit khush honvdi lukaayi si,
Yaarvein baras swari khoob karan lagga, sher vaangu gajjey vich quvvat ilaahi si,
Baarvein baras reet phari Sardaran wali, tervein baras Baani sabh chitt aayee si,
Chaudhvein baras chit kare khanda pherney nu, Sitarama ratti jo naseeban wali chhayee si.
In his tenth year, he was initiated into the fold of the Khalsa (Pahul) which was a source of joy for all.
In his eleventh year, he displayed expert horsemanship, could roar like a lion, and was blessed with immense God-gifted strength.
By the age of twelve, he displayed leadership qualities. By the age of thirteen, he could recite the Gurbani (Sikh Scriptures) from memory.
At fourteen, said Sitarama, he aspired to become an expert swordsman and destiny fully favoured him.
(Nalwa, 2009: 23)
On conclusion of Khande-da-Pahul, the ceremony of initiation, ten-year-old Hari came into the fold of the Khalsa of Guru Gobind Singh at which time his surname became 'Singh'. Amarnath writes that in 1804 Hari was given the title of 'Sardar', or Chief, and was placed to command 800 men comprising both sowars (cavalry) and piyade (infantry).
Hari Singh became 'Nalwa' after the Sardar "had killed a tiger single-handed on horseback, with the sacrifice, however, of his horse" (Prinsep, 1834: 125).
Ballad speaks …
ਪੰਦ੍ਰਵੇਂ ਬਰਸ ਖੂਬ ਪਹਿਣਕੇ ਹਥਿਆਰ ਯਾਰੋ, ਪੈਦਲ ਘੋਲ ਕਰ ਸ਼ੇਰ ਬਾਘ ਸੁਟ ਮਾਰਦਾ।
ਸੁੰਦਰ ਸਰੂਪ ਤੇਜ ਕੋਈ ਨ ਸੰਭਾਲ ਸਕੇ, ਮੁਖੜਾ ਦੀਦਾਰੀ ਜਿਵੇਂ ਲਾਲ ਦਮਕਾਰਦਾ।
ਬਾਲਪਣ ਦੀ ਸੋਭਾ ਗੁਣ ਸੁਣ ਸੂਰਮੇ ਦੇ, ਛੋਡ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਸ਼ਤਰੂਆਂ ਨੇ ਅੰਨ ਪਾਣੀ ਘਾਰ ਦਾ।
ਸੀਤਾਰਾਮਾ ਨਾਮ ਧਾਮ ਸੋਲਵੇਂ ਬਰਸ, ਹੋ ਗਿਆ ਮਸ਼ਹੂਰ ਹਰੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਦਾ।।੪।।
(Sitarama in Amar Singh 1903)
Pandrvein baras khoob pehen ke hathiyaar yaaro, paidal ghol kar sher bagh sutt maarda,
Sundar saroop tej koi naa sambhaal sakke, mukhra deedari jivein laal damkaarda,
Baalpan di shobha gunn sunn soorme de, chhod ditta shatruan ne ann-paani ghaarda,
Sitarama naam dhaam solvein baras, ho gya mash-hoor Hari Singh Sardar da.
By the age of fifteen, fully armed he wrestled a tiger to its death.
He was extremely good-looking and his aura sparkled.
So formidable was the reputation he had gained since childhood that the mere mention of his name was enough to make the enemy forsake food and water.
By the age of sixteen, says Sitarama, Sardar Hari Singh had gained a great reputation.
(Nalwa, 2009: 24)
Hari Singh went on to participate in many glorious victories of the Sikhs and became the Commander-in-Chief of the army along the North Western Frontier of the Sikh Kingdom. He was appointed once Governor of Kashmir and twice of Peshawar and at the time of his death, was one of the wealthiest jagirdars of the Kingdom.
Amarnath, 19th century, Zafarnama-i-Ranjit Singh (Persian), ed. Sita Ram Kohli, Lahore: University of Panjab, 1928, p. 31.
Griffin, L. 1865. The Panjab chiefs, historical and biographical notices, Lahore: T. C. McCartney-Chronicle Press. 1865.
Source: Nalwa, V. 2009. Hari Singh Nalwa ― Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar.