Nawab Kapur Singh

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Nawab Kapur Singh[1][2][3] (1697–1753) is considered one of the pivotal figures in Sikh history, under whose leadership the Sikh community traversed one of the darkest periods of its history. He was the organizer of the Sikh Confederacy and the Dal Khalsa. Nawab Kapur Singh is regarded by Sikhs as a leader and general par excellence. The period, starting from the massacre in Delhi of Banda Singh and seven hundred other Sikhs, was followed by severe action against the Sikhs, including massacres of young men, women and children. However, every fresh adversity only stimulated their will to survive.

Early life[edit]

Nawab Kapur Singh was born into a Jat Sikh Virk family in 1697. His native village was Kaloke, now in Sheikhupura district, in Punjab (Pakistan). Kapur Singh was eleven years old at the time of Guru Gobind Singh's passing on and nineteen at the time of the massacre of Banda Bahadur and his followers in Delhi. Later, when he seized the village of Faizullapur, near Amritsar, he renamed it Singhpura and made it his headquarters. He is thus, also known as Kapur Singh Faizullapuria, and the small principality he founded, as Faizullapuria or Singhpuria.

Initiation into the Khalsa fold[edit]

Kapur Singh underwent amrit-initiation at a large gathering held at Amritsar on Baisakhi Day, 1721 from Panj Piarey led by Bhai Mani Singh. His father, Dalip Singh, and brother, Dan Singh, were also among those who were initiated into the Khalsa fold on that day. It was believed that some of the virk jatt Sikhs become part of the Ahluwalia Misl to whom he had given the command of Dal Khalsa, that Baron name (Sultan-ul-Quam) Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.

Campaign against Zakarya Khan[edit]

Kapur Singh soon gained a position of eminence among the Sikhs, who were then engaged in a desperate struggle against the Imperial Mughal government. Zakarya Khan, who had become the Mughal governor of Lahore in 1726, launched a policy of persecution against the Sikhs.

In those days, pursued by the bounty-hunters, as the governor of Lahore had put a price on a Sikh's head, the Sikhs roamed the jungles of Central Punjab in small groups. Kapur Singh headed one such band. To assert their high spirits despite being hounded by government forces and bounty-hunters, and with a view to paralysing the administration and obtaining food for their companions these groups would launch attacks on government treasuries and caravans moving from one place to another. Such was their success in this endeavour that the governor was soon obliged to make terms with them.

The title of Nawab[edit]

In 1733, the Mughal government decided, at the insistence of Zakarya Khan, to revoke all repressive measures issued against the Sikhs and made an offer of a grant to them. The title of Nawab was conferred upon their leader, with a jagir consisting of the three parganas of Dipalpur, Kanganval and Jhabal.

After a Sarbat Khalsa, the Sikhs accepted the offer. Kapur Singh was unanimously elected as the leader and chosen for the title. He was reluctant, but could not deny the unanimous will of the community. As a mark of respect, he placed the robe of honour ('Siropa') sent by the Mughals at the feet of the Panj Piare - amongst whom were Baba Deep Singh, Bhai Karam Singh and Bhai Buddh Singh (great-great-grandfather of Maharaja Ranjit Singh - before putting it on. The dress included a shawl, a turban, a jewelled plume, a pair of gold bangles, a necklace, a row of pearls, a brocade garme

Formation of the Dal Khalsa[edit]

Word was sent round to Sikhs passing their days in distant jungles and deserts that peace had been made with the government and that they could return to their homes. Nawab Kapur Singh undertook the task of consolidating the disintegrated fabric of the Sikh Jathas. They were merged into a single central fighting force (The Dal) divided into two sections - The Budha Dal, the army of the veterans, and the Taruna Dal, the army of the young, Sardar Hari Singh Dhillon was elected its leader. The former was entrusted with the task of looking after the holy places, preaching the word of the Gurus and inducting converts into the Khalsa Panth by holding baptismal ceremonies. The Taruna Dal was the more active division and its function was to fight in times of emergencies.

Nawab Kapur Singh's personality was the common link between these two wings. He was universally respected for his high character. His word was obeyed willingly and to receive baptism at his hands was counted an act of rare merit.

Rise of the Misls[edit]

Under its leader, Hari Singh, the Taruna Dal rapidly grew in strength and soon numbered more than 12,000. To ensure efficient control, Nawab Kapur Singh split it into five parts, each with a separate centre. The first batch was led by Baba Deep Singh Shaheed, the second by Karam Singh and Dharam Singh, the third by Kahan singh and Binod Singh of Goindwal, the fourth by Dasaundha Singh of Kot Budha and the fifth by Vir Singh Ranghreta and Jivan Singh Ranghreta. Each batch had its own banner and drum, and formed the nucleus of a separate political state. The territories conquered by these groups were entered in their respective papers at the Akal Takht by Sultan ul Quam Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. From these documents or misls, the principalities carved out by them came to known as Misls. Seven more groups were formed subsequently and, towards the close of century, there were altogether twelve Sikh Misls ruling the Punjab.

Singhpuria Misl[edit]

The founder of the rule-by-Misl system was Nawab Kapur Singh. Nawab Kapur Singh was a great warrior. He fought many battles. The last battle that he fought was the battle of Sirhind. After the fall of Sirhind in 1763, a considerable portion of present-day Rupnagar District came under the Singhpuria Misl. These areas included Manauli, Ghanuli, Bharatgarh, Kandhola, Chooni, Machli, Bhareli, Bunga and Bela.

By 1769, the Singpuria Misl had the following territories in its possession:- Some parts of the districts of Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur in Doaba, Kharparkheri and Singhpura in Bari-Doab and Abhar, Adampur, Chhat, Banoor, Manauli Ghanauli, Bharatgarh, Kandhola, Chooni, Machhli Bhareli, Banga, Bela, Attal Garh and some other places in the province of Sirhind.

Lakhpat Rai[edit]

The entente with the Mughals did not last long and, before the harvest of 1735, Zakarya Khan, sent a strong force and occupied the Jagir. The Sikhs were driven out of Amritsar into the Bari Doab and then across the Satluj into Malwa by Diwan Lakhpat Rai, Zakarya Khan's minister. They were welcomed by Sardar Ala Singh of the Phulkian Misl of Malwa. During his sojourn in Malwa, Nawab Kapur Singh conquered the territory of Sunam and made it over to Ala Singh. He also attacked Sirhind and defeated the Mughal governor.

Nawab Kapur Singh led the Sikhs back to Majha to celebrate Diwali at Amritsar. He was pursued by Lakhpat Rai's army near Amritsar and forced to turn away. The Taruna Dal promptly came to his help. The combined force fell upon Lakhpat Rai before he could reach Lahore and inflicted a severe defeat. His nephew, Duni Chand, and two important Faujdars, Jamal Khan and Tatar Khan, were killed in the battle.

Nadir Shah[edit]

In the summer of 1739, Nadir Shah, the Persian invader, was returning home after plundering Delhi and Punjab. The Dal lay in wait, not far from the route he had taken. When he reached Akhnur, on the Chenab (in the present-day Jammu region), they swooped down upon the rear guard, relieving the invaders of much of their booty. On the third night they made an even fiercer attack and rescued from their hands, thousands of girls who were escorted back to their families. For a long part of his return journey, the Sikhs pursued Nadir Shah in this manner.

Zakarya Khan's campaign continued[edit]

Zakarya Khan continued to carry out his policy of repression with redoubled zeal. A pitiless campaign for a manhunt was started. Sikhs heads sold for money and the Mughals offered a prize for each head brought to them. According to the historian, Ratan Singh Bhangu, "He who informed where a Sikh was received ten rupees, he who killed one received fifty."

To cut off the Sikhs from the main source of their inspiration, the Harimandir at Amritsar was taken possession of and guarded by Mughal troops to prevent them visiting it. Sikhs were then living in exile in the Shiwalik hills, the Lakhi Jungle and in the sandy desert of Rajputana. To assert their right to ablution in the holy tank in Amritsar, they would occasionally send riders, who, in disguise or openly cutting their way through armed guards, would reach the temple, take a dip in the tank and ride back with lightning speed. Zakarya Khan, sent a strong force under Samad Khab to seek out the Sikhs. The force was defeated and their leader, Samad Khan who had been the target of the Sikhs' wrath since he had on June 24, 1734 executed Bhai Mani Singh was killed.

Nawab Kapur Singh now made a plan to capture Zakarya Khan. With a force of 2000 men all of whom were in disguise, he entered Lahore and went on to the Shahi Mosque where, according to intelligence received, the Mughal governor was expected to attend the afternoon prayer. But Zakarya Khan did not visit the mosque. Kapur Singh was disappointed at the failure of the mission. Throwing off the disguise and shouting their war cry of Sat Sri Akal, the Sikhs marched out of Lahore and vanished into thejungle.

Chota Ghalughara[edit]

Meanwhile, Khan and his minister, Lakhpat Rai, again launched an all-out campaign and set forth with a large army. The Sikhs were brought to bay in a dense bush near Kahnuwan, in the Gurdaspur District. They put up determined fight, but were overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the enemy and scattered with heavy losses. They were chased into hills. More than 7000 died. "To complete revenge" says Syed Mohammad Latif, another historian of the Punjab, "Lakhpat Rai brought 1000 Sikhs in irons to Lahore, having compelled them to ride on donkeys, bare-backed, paraded them in the bazars. They were, then taken to the horse-market outside Delhi Gate, and there beheaded one after another without mercy." So indiscriminate and extensive was the killing that the campaign is known in Sikh history is known as the Chhota Ghalughara or the lesser holocaust. The Wadda Ghalughara or the greater holocaust was to come later.

Death[edit]

Nawab Kapur Singh requested the community to relieve him of his office, due to his old age, and at his suggestion, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was chosen as the supreme commander of the Dal Khalsa. Kapur Singh died in 1753 at Amritsar and was succeeded by his nephew (Dhan Singh's son), Khushal Singh.

Khushal Singh who succeeded him as the leader of the misl. Sardar Khushal Singh played a significant role in expanding the territories of the Singhpuria Misl on both the banks of the Satluj river. The most important of the possessions of Khushal Singh were Patti, Bhartgarh, Nurpur, Bahrampur and Jalandhar. Khushal Singh also occupied Ludhiana. He had to divide the district of Banur with Patiala. He died in 1795 leaving his misl stronger than ever it was and with territorial possessions far larger than those he had inherited.

Khushal Singh was succeeded by his son Budh Singh. When Abdali returned home after his ninth invasion of India, the Sikhs had occupied more territories in the Punjab. Sheikh Nizam-ud-din was the ruler of Jalandhar at that time. Sardar Budh Singh defeated Nizam-id-din on the battle-field and occupied Jalandhar. He also took possooession of Bulandgarh, Behrampur, Nurpur and Haibatpur-Patti. This victory brought him yearly revenue of three lakhs of rupees.

However, Budh Singh could not equal Khushal Singh's talents. The Singhpuria Misl began to decline and ultimately all its possessions on the west of Satluj were annexed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. On his possessions on the east of the Satluj, however, the British extended their protection to him.
Budh Singh died in 1816, leaving seven sons behind him. His eldest son, Amar Singh, retained possession of Bhartgarh and divided the rest of the territories among his six brother as under:-

  • Bhopal Singh was given the estate of Ghanauli.
  • Gopal Singh: Manauli.
  • Lal Singh: Bunga.
  • Gurdyal Singh: Attalgarh.
  • Hardyal Singh: Bela
  • Dyal Singh: Kandhola.

The descendants of these Sardars still live on their respective estates.

Legacy[edit]

The village of Kapurgarh in Nabha is named after Nawab Kapur Singh.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sikhs in scotland : web site and portal for the Sikh community in Scotland". Sikhsinscotland.org. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Great Sikh Warriors". Panthkhalsa.tripod.com. 2000-10-15. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • The heritage of the Sikhs by Harbans Singh
  • History of the Sikhs, Volume 1 by Khushwant Sungh
  • The Punjab Chiefs and families of note by W.L.Conrand
  • Revised pedigree tables revised edition by Sir Lepel Henry. Griffin. Till 1911

External links[edit]

Preceded by:
Baba Darbara Singh
Nawab Kapur Singh Followed by:
Jassa Singh Ahluwalia