Zorawar Singh Kahluria
|Zorawar Singh Kahluria|
General Zorawar Singh
|Born||28 March 1785
Bilaspur, Sikh Empire
(now in Himachal Pradesh, India)
Zorawar Singh Kahluria (Punjabi: ਜ਼ੋਰਾਵਰ ਸਿੰਘ ਕਹ੍ਲੁਰਿਆ), was a general of the Sikh Empire. His family migrated to the Jammu region where, on coming of age, Zorawar took up service under Raja Jaswant Singh raj of Marmathi (modern Doda district). His descent is disputed as both Dogras and Sikhs claim him to be of their side. One of the greatest generals of Asia, Zorawar Singh is not known in the mainstream. However, over the past decade the people especially Sikhs and Dogras have from time to time laid claims on him.
Zorawar Singh initially conquered the hill region of Kishwar from its Nawab and the speed and ease of the conquest encourages further ambitions. In 1834 he led a campaign into the remote and previously thought inaccessible regions of Ladakh which today forms part of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India. After defeating the Botis in a bitter engagement his added Kargil to his conquests. The Ladakhis gathered together a large force with assistance from the Chinese imperial army and despite being cut off from his base and with limited supplies Zorawar Singh managed to inflict a decisive defeat on his enemies under the leadership of the Gyalpo.
To the north of Ladakh lies Baltistan (in modern Pakistan). General Zorawar Singh now turned his hardy mountain troops in this direction. The Nawab, Muhammad Shah had attempted to help the Ladakhis in the previous battles and in 1841 faced bitter retribution from Zorawar Singh and his troops. Despite facing the bitter cold and extreme hardship the he managed to invest and conquer the region in the same year. Under the rule of Qing Empire the plateau of Tibet was also home to the sacred lake of Mansoravar and Mount Kailash the abode of Lord Shiva. In 1841 Zorawar Singh divided his forces into three columns and headed into the vast unknown of the mighty Himalayas.
After a number of fierce engagements the Chinese troops fled before the ‘Shen Pa’ their name for the Hindu Dogra warriors and fighting both local resistance and the unsparing Himalayan weather Zorawar Singh and his soldiers reached their goal and to complete their pilgrimage. Author Dr Alex McKay further mentions in his book The History of Tibet,
‘The occupation Of Tibetan areas west of the Mayum pass was completed by the middle of September. General Zorawar Singh made proper arrangements for guarding advance posts towards the Mayum pass and other passes by posting his own contingents. He then returned to Tirathpuri where he intended to pass the winter. Thus General Zorawar Singh conquered about 720 km. Of the Tibetan territory (linear distance) in about three and a half months. The first thing Zorawar Singh did after the conquest Of Misra was to take a holy bath in the lake Manasarovar and offer a golden idol at the Kailash temple On The mobilisation of his troops into Tibet he had already announced his intention to perform a pilgrimage of the Hindu holy places of the’ Kailash-kshetra. He now proudly fulfilled that resolve. Thus, by fighting out his way to these holy places and earning the merit of the pilgrimage of Kailash, to which the heroes of the Mahabharata had also retired after attaining the glory and fame in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, General Zorawar Singh had earned both sanctity and renown. He had achieved the height of fame.’
General Zorawar Singh now standing over 500 miles from his home base and rapidly facing mounting numbers of enemies, he turned to return home. However by now the enemy had reinforced their strength in vast numbers and in the bitter winter of 1841-1842 suffering from a collapse of their supply lines, facing the relentless Himalayan winter and facing the Qing Empire forces on all sides they began to fight their way home. Wounded by bullet in his right shoulder the general continued to rally his troops until in the thick of the fighting a spear was thrust into his chest – Wounded he was dragged out from the struggle by his soldiers and a short-while after he died of injuries.
- Frederick Drew, The Jummoo & Kashmir territories
- Alexander Cunningham, Ladak
- A. H. Francke, Antiquities of Indian Tibet
- Fisher, Rose, and Huttenback, The Himalayan Battle-ground