Conquest of Sialkot

In 1808, Sardar Jeevan Singh Sialkotia clashed with the fauj of the Lahore Darbar. Amar Singh recounted Hari Singh’s role in the conquest of Sialkot. Besides the information culled from Sitarama’s poetic rendition of Hari Singh’s life, this nineteenth-century author/poet also incorporated the narrative of an 85-year-old Sikh soldier. His referral had served as a Subedar of a paltan for 28 years in the Sikh Army. He had seen Hari Singh Nalwa many a time. He had also heard of the Sardar’s exploits from those who personally knew him (Amar Singh 1903: 2-3). According to this Subedar’s version, Sardar Hari Singh led the Lahore forces in the Battle for Sialkot. Both sides were evenly matched. On the second day, the Sardar stormed the Qila along with Hukma Singh Chimni. He scaled the wall and planted the Sikh standard atop the fort (Amar Singh 1903: 14-15).

Kadaryar confirms Hari Singh Nalwa’s participation in the conquest of Sialkot:

Ballad speaks …
ਕਾਫ਼ — ਕੋਈ ਜਹਾਨ ਤੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੋਨਾ, ਹਰੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੇਹਾ ਵੱਡੀ ਓਟ ਵਾਲਾ।
ਪਹਿਲਾ ਹਥ ਸਰਕਾਰ ਨੂੰ ਦਸਿਆਸੂ, ਕਿਲਾ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ ਕੀਤਾ ਸਿਆਲਕੋਟ ਵਾਲਾ।
ਦੂਜਾ ਹਥ ਸਰਕਾਰ ਨੂੰ ਦਸਿਆ ਸੂ, ਕਿਲਾ ਮਾਰ ਮੋਇਆ ਜਮਰੌਦ ਵਾਲਾ।
ਕਾਦਰਯਾਰ ਜਹਾਨ ਤੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹਿਣਾ, ਲਸ਼ਕਰ ਮਿਲ ਗਿਆ ਜੇ ਮੁਲਕੁਲ ਮੌਤ ਵਾਲਾ।।੨੨।।

Kaaf — Koi jahaan te naahi hona, Hari Singh jeha vaddi oat wala,
Pehla hatth Sarkar nu dassya su, Qila fateh keeta Sialkot wala,
Dooja hatth Sarkar nu dassya su, Qila maar moya Jamrud wala,
Kadaryar jahaan te naahi rahena, lashkar milgeya je malkul maut wala.
(Qadir Bakhsh urf Kadaryar 19th cent.: 139)

Kaaf — There is no one in the world who matches Hari Singh’s monumental stature. His career commenced with the conquest of the fort of Sialkot, and he died defending the fort of Jamrud. No one, however, lives on in this world when death beckons, said Kadaryar.

Family records maintained with the Pandas in Haridwar, an invaluable source of authentic historical information, list the years in which Hari Singh made dharamarth grants to the purohits of this place. It was commonplace to bestow a grant on priests, mendicants, religious institutions to mark a significant event in an individual’s life. Hari Singh’s first grant on record in Haridwar was in 1808; this marked the victory in Kasur and possibly the birth of his first son. The second grant in 1809, perhaps celebrated his victory in Sialkot. The Sardar’s third and fourth grant, in 1826 and 1836 respectively, coincided with his miraculous escape from death in 1824 and the occupation of Peshawar in 1834.

Nalwa, V. 2009. Hari Singh Nalwa (1792-1837)― Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar.
ਡਾ. ਵਨੀਤ ਨਲਵਾ 2010 ਹਰੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਨਲਵਾ  (ਸੰਨ ੧੭੯੧-੧੮੩੭) — 'ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ਜੀ ਦਾ ਚੈਂਪੀਅਨ', ਅਨੁਵਾਦਕ ਤੇ ਸੰਪਾਦਕ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਤਾਪ ਸਿੰਘ, ਨਵੀਂ ਦਿੱਲੀ : ਹਰੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਨਲਵਾ ਫ਼ਾਊਂਡੇਸ਼ਨ ਟ੍ਰਸਟ।


Fact or Fiction?

In her book Hari Singh Nalwa ― Champion of the Khalsaji, Vanit Nalwa observes:

Feminine apparel for Pashtuns
In accordance with the teaching of their Guru, the Sikhs did not attack the defenceless or the weak. this included children, women, mendicants and the elderly. Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa advised the Pathans that one way they could escape the wrath of an infuriated Sikh was to dress as a woman. In the Punjab, the shalwar kameez is feminine apparel. The shalwar is a loose trouser with a stiff border at the ankle, while the kameez was a loose shirt falling to the knees. In India, this dress came to popularly be known as the 'Punjabi suit'. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, men still wear its variant--the ''Pathan suit'.

The following is the gist of an open letter written by Miangul Aurangzeb, the present Wali of Swat, to the Taliban when the Taliban were preaching and enforcing strict dress and conduct codes for the women in the areas that fell under their control.

"At the outset I want to record that you all must love me very much as you have decided not to take over my property in Swat unlike those you have taken over of other landed families. I am therefore emboldened to believe that I have the privilege of sharing some historical facts for you to know about and I urge you to absorb the same before you continue your campaign of moral policing, especially when it comes to the manner of dressing and code of conduct for women.

The Sikh army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, under the leadership of Hari Singh Nalwa came to the Frontier in the 1820's and swiftly conquered our ancestors. It is the only time in recorded history that our people were ruled over by foreigners. The locals were so utterly terrified of the Sikh army that they used to hide every time the Sikhs came into view. Those that decided to resist were met with ruthlessness. During this time, the word was spread around that the Sikhs did not harm elderly people, women and children and that the local men who did not wish to earn wrath of the Sikhs should wear the garb of Punjabi women, which was the Salwar-Kameez. At that time in our history both men and women alike, wore only a single-robe garment (similar to that worn by the Arabs) and the Sikhs would not harm any man either when wearing the Salwar-Kameez.

So you see, our men happily adopted the garb of Punjabi women since they were too terrified to stand up and they have adopted the garb as being theirs' ever since. I am very intrigued to see that you are following in the footsteps of your ancestors by wearing the adopted Punjabi women's garb as your own, but now go around preaching and coercing our women as to how they should be living their lives! I suggest that take a deep look inside yourselves, given this historical perspective."


Miangul Aurangzeb, Wali of Swat

Reproduced from 'Nishaan Nagaara', a magazine published by The Nagaara Trust, III/2009, p. 45.


Mistaken Identity!

Sher Ali, Amir Kingdom of Kabul, & associates

In the course of this research, the author chanced upon a photograph (left) supposedly showing Hari Singh Nalwa in the company of Ranjit Singh. The legend accompanying this photograph on display in a leading New Delhi gurdwara read, "A rare photograph of AD1808 while doing war between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and British Empire. Standing bodyguard: Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, Faqir Azurrudin (Aziz-ud-din) Sitting: Lord Jangi Laat, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Lord Ripin (Ripon, Viceroy)." That this was not a photograph of Hari Singh Nalwa was clear from chronology of events. Hari Singh Nalwa died in 1837 at the age of 46. The supposed Hari Singh Nalwa in the picture was a young man. Though the earliest camera adapted to making a permanent image was developed in the 1820s, photography was first used in India in 1840. Moreover, the dress of those featured in the photograph did not bear resemblance to the mode of the Sikhs. The photograph in question features Sher Ali, son of Dost Mohammed Khan, two of his advisors and four firangis. Amir Sher Ali Khan ruled for two spells, from 1863-66 and again from 1868-79. The two Afghans standing next to each other, on each side of and behind Sher Ali were mistaken for Hari Singh Nalwa and Fakir Aziz-ud-din.

Complicity of Gulab Singh

The year Hari Singh Nalwa was killed in the Battle of Jamrud, the author of Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, Giani Gian Singh, was aged fifteen. Ranjit Singh had appointed the young lad to read out the Holy Scriptures to him.

Some people believed that there was antagonism between the Jammu Dogras and Hari Singh. The revenue collection of Peshawar was in the hands of Gulab Singh Dogra. Yar Mohammed of Peshawar owed thirteen and a half lakh rupees to the Lahore Darbar. Gulab Singh colluded with the Khan. In the Battle of Jamrud, when Sardar Hari Singh was driving the enemy ahead of him, one of Gulab Singh's men in the Sikh Army shot the Sardar in the back, from behind. The Sardar stooped over the neck of his horse. At the time people merely suspected Gulab Singh, but when he forgave Yar Mohammed's dues--his complicity became more apparent. Bijay Singh Dogra revealed this information. The Sikhs were greatly pained. Following this, at Gulab Singh's specific request Ranjit Singh granted him Hari Singh's territory. On seeing the treatment meted out to a great Sardar who had conquered so many lands for the Lahore Darbar, many Sikh Sardars were disheartened. Following the death of Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, no further conquest was made in the direction of the North West Frontier.

(Giani Gian Singh 19th cent.: 390)

The Lahore Court chronicle confirmed Gulab Singh's appointment to collect the revenue of Peshawar in 1835 (Sohan Lal Suri 19th cent.: III (2), f. 253). There was, however, one inconsistency in the Giani's narrative. Yar Mohammed died in 1828. The author either incorrectly referred to him, or used his name to refer to the Peshawar Barakzais.

Source: Nalwa, V. 2009. Hari Singh Nalwa ― Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar.

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