Battle of Shopian

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Battle of Shopian[nb 1]
Part of Afghan-Sikh Wars
Date 3 July 1819[nb 2]
Location Battle at Shopian
33°43′N 74°50′E / 33.72°N 74.83°E / 33.72; 74.83
Result Decisive Sikh victory
Belligerents
Nishan Sahib.svg Sikh Empire Flag of the Abdali Afghan Tribes.jpeg Durrani Empire
Commanders and leaders
Ranjit Singh
Dewan Mokham Chand
Kharak Singh
Hari Singh Nalwa
Jabbar Khan
Agar Khan
Strength
8000 soldiers[nb 3] unknown

The Battle of Shopian took place on 3 July 1819 between an expeditionary force from the Sikh Empire and Jabbar Khan, the governor of the Durrani Empire province of Kashmir. It was the decisive battle in the 1819 Kashmir expedition

Background[edit]

The defeat of the Sikh forces during the 1814 Invasion of Kashmir by the Durrani Empire and its local allies reduced Sikh influence on the hill states around Kashmir. From 1814 to 1819, the Sikh Empire was forced to send successive punitive expeditions against the hill states of Bhimber, Rajauri, Poonch, Nurpur, and others. By subduing rebellions in these states the Sikh Empire was attempting to keep control of the routes through the Pir Panjal range and into Kashmir. However the Durrani Empire kept de facto control of the areas because the Pir Panjal Range blocked supplies and fresh troops to the Sikh armies.

By 1819, Azim Khan had taken a force of troops to Kabul. Birbal Dhar, Azim Khan's revenue minister, traveled to Lahore, the capital of the Sikh Empire, and asked Maharaja Ranjit Singh to annex Kashmir from the Durrani Empire.[2] He informed Ranjit Singh that Azim Khan was no longer leading the Durrani forces in Kashmir, and supplied information on invasion routes into Kashmir.

1819 Kashmir expedition[edit]

1819 Kashmir expedition
Part of Afghan-Sikh Wars
Type Military Expedition
Location Kashmir
Objective Annex Kashmir to Sikh Empire
Executed by Sikh Army
Outcome Decisive Sikh Victory

The Sikh expeditionary force established two armories for the expedition at Gujrat and Wazirabad.[3] On 20 April, Ranjit Singh ordered 30,000 men from Lahore to the hill states at the foot of the Pir Panjal range.[3] The expedition was split into three columns: Dewan Mokham Chand commanded the advance force, Kharak Singh commanded the rear guard, and Ranjit Singh commanded a reserve of 10,000 troops[3] protecting the supply train.[4] The expeditionary force marched to Bhimber and resupplied, capturing the fort of a local Hakim without resistance.[3] On 1 May, both columns of the Sikh Army reached Rajouri and its ruler, Agar Khan rebelled and forced a battle. Hari Singh Nalwa took command of a force and routed his army, which offered an unconditional surrender after losing most of its men and war supplies.[3] Agar Khan was caught attempting to escape and sent to Bhimber, where Ranjit Singh was holding his Durbar (court). His brother, Rahimullah Khan, was appointed the raja of Rajauri in return for assistance in navigating the Behram Pass.

Once the Sikh forces reached the Behram Pass, the Durrani-appointed faujdar charged with guarding it fled to Srinagar. Mir Mohammad Khan, the kotwal of Poonch, and Mohammad Ali, the kotwal of Shopian, attempted a defense at the Dhaki Deo and Maja passes but were defeated and surrendered to Dewan Mokham Chand on 23 June 1819.[1] Kharak Singh now advanced to Surdee Thana.[1][nb 4] while Dewan Mokham Chand split his force into three divisions and ordered them to cross the Pir Panjal Range through different passes.

Battle[edit]

The army regrouped at Surai Ali[nb 5] on the road to Shopian. On 3 July 1819, the Sikh army attempted to march through Shopian to Srinagar but was stopped by a Durrani army headed by Jabbar Khan. The Durrani force had heavily entrenched itself in preparation for the Sikh artillery attack and brought heavy artillery,[7] which the Sikhs were unprepared for because they had brought only light guns.[8]

Once his artillery was in range, Dewan Mokham Chand opened the battle with an artillery barrage and multiple infantry and cavalry charges. The Durrani army was able to hold back the Sikh attempts to storm their lines until the Sikhs began moving their guns forward. However, when Dewan Mokham Chand was overseeing the movement of guns on the Sikh left flank, Jabbar Khan saw an opening and led the Durrani right flank which stormed Dewan Mokham Chand's artillery battery, captured two guns, and threw the Sikh left flank in "disarray".[9] However the Durrani force attacking the Sikh left flank was exposed from their left and Akali Phoola Singh, the commander of the Sikh right flank, rallied his troops and led his command in a charge across the battlefield to the artillery battery. After a close quarters fight which resulted in both sides resorting to using swords and daggers, sections of the Durrani force began to retreat and Jabbar Khan was wounded while escaping the battlefield.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

Although both sides sustained heavy losses, Jabbar Khan and his army retreated from the battlefield and fled in disorder from Kashmir over the Indus river.[10] When the Sikh army entered the city of Srinagar after the battle, Prince Kharak Singh guaranteed the personal safety of every citizen and ensured the city was not plundered. The peaceful capture of Srinagar was important as Srinagar, besides having a large Shawl-making industry, was also the center of trade between Panjab, Tibet, Iskardo, and Ladakh.[11]

After taking Srinagar, the Sikh army faced no major opposition in conquering Kashmir. However, when Ranjit Singh installed Moti Ram, the son of Dewan Mokham Chand, as the new governor of Kashmir, he also sent a "large body of troops" with him to ensure tribute from strongholds within Kashmir that might attempt to resist Sikh rule.[10] The conquest of Kashmir marked an "extensive addition" to the Sikh Empire and "significantly" increased the empire's revenue.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The battle is also referred to as the Battle of Supin, Supine, Shupiyan, Supiya, and Soopyn.
  2. ^ The date of the battle is disputed. It has also been given as 5 July 1819.[1]
  3. ^ The entire expedition had 30,000 troops, however most were not present on the battlefield. Kharak Singh's 8,000 troops were stationed in the area around Surdee Thana and Ranjit Singh's 10,000 troops were stationed at Bhimber and along the route to Surdee Thana. An unknown number of troops were also garrisoned throughout the forts captured in the Pir Panjal Range on the route from Surdee Thana to Shopian
  4. ^ Surdee Thana is possibly modern-day Thannamang. Travel guides from later eras note a route through the Pir Panjal Range from Rajauri to a town named "Thanna" and from "Thanna" to Shopian[5][6]
  5. ^ Also referred to as Serai Illahi[7] and Serai Ali[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Prinsep 1846, p. 52
  2. ^ Nalwa 2009, p. 45
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Johar 2000
  4. ^ Prinsep 1846, p. 51
  5. ^ Drew 1875, p. 156
  6. ^ Murray 1883, p. 203
  7. ^ a b Sikh Missionary College, pp. 17–18
  8. ^ Chopra 1928, p. 25
  9. ^ Sikh Missionary College, p. 19
  10. ^ a b Prinsep 1846, p. 53
  11. ^ a b Chopra 1928, p. 26

Bibliography[edit]