Raja Nahar Singh (1823–1858) was a king of the princely state of Ballabhgarh in Faridabad District of Haryana, India. His forefathers were Jats from Tewatia gotra who had built a fort in Faridabad around 1739. He was involved in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The small kingdom of Ballabhgarh is only 20 miles from Delhi. The name of the Jat Raja Nahar Singh will always be highly regarded among those who martyred themselves in the 1857 war of independence.His fort is taken over by the government of Haryana under Haryana Tourism.Since before the fort was taken by government of India..it was confiscated by Britishers and no one after and before.
- 1 Early History of Ballabhgarh
- 2 The Parentage and formative years
- 3 As a Humanist
- 4 Communal Harmony in his reign
- 5 His Letters to the Emperor
- 6 Conclave prior to 1857
- 7 Assessment of Nahar Singh
- 8 Postal Stamp on Raja Nahar Singh
Early History of Ballabhgarh
The founders of the princely state of Ballabgarh had come from village Janauli, which is more than 2000 years old. The Tewatia Jat Sardar Gopal Singh left Janauli in 1705 (in Palwal) and got settled at Sihi, a village of Tewatia Jats in Ballabgarh at a distance of about 5 km from Ballabhgarh. The Mughal ruler Aurangzeb had died. Gopal Singh started establishing power in Delhi and Mathura areas. With the help of Gujjars of village ‘Lagon’ he attacked Rajput Chaudhary of that area and did a treaty with Mugal officer Murtija Khan of Faridabad and became Chaudhary of Faridabad pargana in 1710. He wanted to expand his army and collect huge wealth but died soon. His successor was Charan Das. Charan Das was also ambitious and when saw weakening of the Mughal rule, he stopped paying malgujari. The army of Mughals arrested Charan Das. Charan Das's son, Balram Singh, later rose to a powerful king. Princely state of Ballabgarh is after his name. He was brother in law of Maharaja Suraj Mal and mama of Jawahar Singh. Jats along the Royal Delhi-Agra route at that time were in revolt against the oppressive Mughal rule. Tewatias of this area had already established themselves as counter force in this area. Balram Singh often called Ballu by the local people who moved on a few Elephants, Horses and Camels loaded with Big drums (Nagaade) and Dhaunse (big band) followed by his local army. Went wherever Ballu with this band it was assumed that area was no longer of Mughals and Ballu had won that. It was a sort of Aswamedh Yagna that he performed. Here from started a saying "Dheeng Dheeng Ballu ka Raj". Immediately peace returned to those areas, which were won over by Ballu. Murtija Khan’s son Akvitmahmud killed Balram Singh on 29 November 1753. After Balram Singh, Maharaja Suraj Mal appointed Balram Singh’s sons Bisan Singh and Kisan Singh as Kiledars. They ruled Ballabhgarh till 1774, when Hira Singh became the ruler of Ballabhgarh.
The Parentage and formative years
Nahar Singh born to Raja Ram Singh and Rani Basant Kaur at Ballbhgarh on 6 April 1821 received his education at the feet of his preceptors Pandit Kulkarni and Maulvi Rahman Khan. Since he was barely a child of about 9 his father expired in 1830 so his uncle Nawal Singh took over the responsibility of running the state affairs till on attainment of adulthood, Nahar Singh was coroneted in 1839. Prior to it, Nahar Singh received tutorship in martial arts also and soon grew to be an adept horse rider and fine shooter. Even as a child, he had a great passion for hunting and shooting. As a boy he displayed rare skill in this art by shooting down the lion single handedly, which had earlier killed his comrade in the hunting expedition. As he grew up to manhood he found himself irresistibly drawn towards showing feats of shooting so much so that he was considered to be an expert shot and adept aims man by those who had seen him in action. Moreover, his feats of bravery and heroism were amply demonstrated in his participation in fiercely contested battles of Hindon and Badli-ki-Sarai in defence of Delhi against the onslaught of the British as recorded by contemporary British authors.
As a Humanist
Raja Nahar Singh was a humanist to the core and saved the lives of all those who sought shelter under his kingdom but he was also a patriot par excellence and did not extend any help to District Collector William Ford when he was running for collecting forces to curb the activities of the freedom fighters in and around his territories. Rather he ignored him. On the other hand, he became a pillar of strength to the freedom fighters. He not only took active interest in their work; but also helped the cause with liberal contributions. For those sepoys of the native infantry or cavalry, who revolted against the British, he opened the gates of services in Ballbhgarh forces with enhanced pay and promotional ranks. As a result of it, according to narrative of Munshi Jeevan Lal by 17 July 1857 the Raja “had taken into his service 200 troopers who had lately been in the employ of the English.” The number continued to swell in the subsequent period. Incidentally, one such sepoy who was granted rank of Naik, appeared as a witness to testify the fact before the Military Commission, which was established to try Raja Nahar Singh. As a matter of fact, to further fortify his armed strength, the Raja not only raised new levies but also collected as much as possible latest weaponry and other war material as was revealed from the recovery of large number of horses, bullocks, carts, English rifles and dresses from his fort after the British assaulted it.
His sense of Patriotism
His sense of patriotism goaded him to raise the banner of revolt against the British and join the Indian forces led by Emperor Bahadur Shah. Once the plunge was undertaken there was no chance of looking back. He not only undertook to drive away the British from the paraganas of Fatehpur and Palwal but also displayed rare capacity of administrative skills in maintaining safety of national highway from Delhi to Hodal.
Communal Harmony in his reign
There was no communal divide or discrimination based on caste, creed or faith in the polity of Jat rulers so Raja Nahar Singh also threw open all civil and military jobs open to all his subjects. He recruited the fittest persons to run his administration persons from all walks of life on the basis of talent. As such Hakim Abdul Haq rose to be his prime minister and Mr. Munro became the keeper of royal seals and correspondence. Full faith was reposed in the capability of other persons in the civil and military services as well. To further strengthen the communal bond and foster harmony between his Hindu and Muslim subjects, Nahar Singh seems to follow the policy of ‘sulah-kul’ initiated by Akbar. His letter dated 27 May 1857 addressed to the Emperor makes it clear that in view of the absence of any Mosque for the performance of religious ceremonies of his Muslim subjects, he took steps to provide one. The letter reads: Although “I profess the Hindu religion, having observed the conduct and behaviour of those who say that God above is supreme, I have remained in subjection to the guidance of the leaders of the Mohammedan faith, in so much that, although from the first existence of the town, there had been no Mohammedan Mosque, either in the fort or outside in the market, I have caused a lofty one, for congregational prayers, built of stone, to be created within the Fort itself. I have, moreover, had an Eedgah, a place set apart exclusively for prayers at the festival of the Eed, built near my garden called the Dilkhusha, to encourage and conciliate the Mohammedans.” What a generous step to provide such a facility to the people belonging to the religion other than professed by the bountiful king himself! Would the politicians and religious leaders of India of today try to take a lesson or two from this example to foster national integration.
His Letters to the Emperor
His letters to the Emperor on the issue throw ample light on the administrative qualities of the Raja, who went through minutest details of the problem and took required steps at an appropriate time. He kept complete surveillance of the movements of the enemy activities and put his fast camel riders to report the matter to the Emperor immediately on any new development in the situation. This they did as is testified from the eye witness record of Munshi Jeevan Lal, who noted in his diary on 25 May 1857: “at the time of prayer, a camel rider arrived from the raja of Ballbhgarh to report that he had seen an English force advancing on the city.” This aspect of his character and activities endeared him to the Emperor who entrusted him to “join the duty to command Delhi regiment” and also undertake “to snap the enemy’s supply line from the south of Delhi.” He made the security arrangements so thorough that even John Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner of Punjab was astonished to admit and report to Lord Canning, the Governor General of India that ‘The East and the South (of Delhi) is protected by the strong forces of Raja Nahar Singh of Ballbhgarh, and it is unlikely we can break this wall of soldiers unless we receive reinforcements from China or England.”
Conclave prior to 1857
Raja Nahar Singh ascended the throne in 1839 and proved to be a just ruler.He was the ruler of petty state of Ballbhgarh in the vicinity of Delhi. His kingdom comprised 121 villages and towns spread over an area of about 305 km2 with population of 57000. He had organised a meeting in Mukteshwar (Uttar Pradesh), which was attended by Rao Krishan Gopal, Raja of Gwalior, Tantya Tope etc. The purpose of this meeting was to unite the people to oust the British by joining the first war of independence in 1857. In the year 1857 when the fires of the First War of Independence were flaring up in the country, he joined in the battle. With his small army he fought valiantly, following the guerrilla tactics popular in those days. But the small efforts of the King could not withstand the forces of the British. Following the traditional Jat hospitality as practiced by Maharaja Suraj Mal in the case of the Maratha refugees from Panipat in 1761 or shelter to Jaswant Rao Holkar against the British pursuers by Raja Ranjit Singh of Bharatpur in 1805, Raja Nahar Singh also provided shelter to several persons from Gurgaon and Delhi in their hour of crisis even though they professed Islam and Christianity. In the same way, the forces advancing to join the Delhi Regiments to oppose the British also enjoyed comfortable hospitality and assistance from him as illustrated by the Diary entry of 7 July by Munshi Jeevan Lal. It reads: Nahar Singh kept in readiness for the Nimuch force “700 maunds of attah (wheat floor), gram (a pulse for feeding horses) and other articles of food.” For this humanitarian act, the British charged him before the Military Commission of carrying out inimical activities and produced several shopkeepers with their books of accounts as witnesses, who rightly testified to the fact of his having extended fabulous hospitality to his fellow Indians. Raja Nahar Singh was shining light of the glowing galaxy that gathered around the Emperor to carry the message of freedom to all Hindu-Muslim inhabitants in all parts of the native kingdoms and remained actively associated with him in all his activities aimed at making India free in comity of the nations. His sense of total commitment to the cause of fighting the British and attachment to the emperor is reflected in one couplet contained in one of the letters he wrote to Bahadur Shah saying: “Dara Didda-I-Man Neest Bajuz Nuqsh-I-to Aina-I-Man Surat-I-Baigana no girad.” i.e. “My eyes had no vision except yours My mirror does not accept the reflection of a foreigner.” After the fall of Delhi, Brigadier General Showers, contrary to his solemn pledge to the Raja granting him security of his life, maneuvered to arrest him through unscrupulous methods, and in his absence assaulted Ballbhgarh fort, thoroughly pillaged and ruthlessly vandalized the palaces and the capital town. Contrary to this rash and unworthy conduct and irresponsible behaviour of the British Military Officer, Raja Nahar Singh was a person who throughout his life remained steadfast attached to humanist values and ideals of secularism and patriotism. During the course of his trial before the Military Court even the Public Prosecutor had admitted this humanist quality in his enemy in the words: “In the favour of the prisoner,” the Deputy Judge Advocate said that “I allude to the Raja’s most praise worthy conduct in saving the European’s life, and it is but justice to him to declare that though Mr. Munro and others were murdered in his territory, he himself stands quite clear of any complicity in those deeds; this in times like the present or, as I hope I may happily term the past is hardly negative virtue, and will I am sure not be so received by the court.” He saw the danger of the ever increasing British power, and his farsightedness convinced him to join hands with the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah against the British. The Emperor considered him his right arm. He handled the affairs of the tottering Mughal Empire. The Emperor entrusted him with the defence and affairs of Delhi. In the Court he was treated with great respect, and he had a special golden chair, which was placed right next to the Emperor.
His Strong will and courage
In the first war of Indian Independence, on 16 May 1857, when Delhi was liberated, the army of Nahar Singh was on guard on the western border of Delhi. He had established military guard posts from Delhi to Ballabhgarh, and also had his intelligence men on the ground. On seeing this preparedness the British commander John Lawrence was fearful of attacking from the east. The English called Ballabhgarh " Delhi's gate of Iron", and were fearful of it, and did not have the courage to face him. John Lawrence in a letter wrote to Canning " The East and the South is protected by the strong forces of Raja Nahar Singh of Ballabhgarh, and it is unlikely we can break this wall of soldiers unless we receive reinforcements from China or England." That is just what happened. When the English army attacked Delhi on September 14, 1857 they attacked from the West, and entered Delhi from Kashmiri Gate. On 24 September the British established their authority on Delhi. The Emperor Bahadur Shah escaped to the tomb of Humayun. Nahar Singh attempted to get the Emperor to Ballabhgarh, but Mirza Elahi Baksh, the father of his daughter- in- law, betrayed the emperor. Baksh was an agent of the British, and persuaded the Emperor not to go beyond the tomb. On 24 September the British captured the emperor and his family, but the Rajah showed his valor and surrounded the British force. Hudson the British officer killed the sons of the Emperor and threatened to kill the Emperor himself. The Rajah lifted the siege to save the Emperor's life. The courageous warrior Nahar Singh withdrew overnight to his stronghold the fort of Ballabhgarh, and took a grave toll of the British troops who would travel between Delhi and Agra. Thousands of British soldiers were captured and countless were buried in the fields of Ballabhgarh. The revenge for the sons of the Emperor was taken in Ballabhgarh. After the award of death sentence by the Military Commission, Hodson offered terms for saving his life if Raja Nahar Singh expressed regret for his doings against the English and begged pardon for his acts of omissions and commissions. But he did not understand the Jats, who live and die for justice, action and truth. Accordingly, from the scaffold at Chandni Chowk on 9 January 1857 the Raja rejected the offer with contempt it deserved. He showed no signs of regret or remorse for his having waged war against the British. Rather, the Raja displayed a rare type of poise and courage and uttered these prophetic words on the occasion: “The British are my enemies, I can never ask for forgiveness from them. It makes little difference if I am hanged today for my acts of patriotism because tomorrow one hundred thousand new Nahar Singhs will be borne in the country to carry forward the war against the alien rulers of India.” Salute to Martyr Raja Nahar Singh for his vision as in succeeding years following the footsteps left behind on the sands of time by Nahar Singh and his ilk, so many self-sacrificing sons and daughters come forward to carry on the mission of freedom of the country, who made the sustenance and continuance of the British empire impossible and forced them to go lock stock and barrel. Such men are the salt of the earth. They live and die so that after them others must live fuller and better lives than they would have otherwise done. Truly, it may be said of Nahar Singh, a hero’s life he lived and a martyr’s death he died. The day that beheld the hanging of the Raja in the Chandni Chowk of Delhi and his “burial at the dargah of Qazi Bakibulla”, where the bodies of the three Delhi princes were already laid to rest will long remain a memorable day in the history of that city. May the martyr rest in peace and May the memories of Nahar Singh thrive and keep on inspiring the generations of freedom lovers everywhere forever!
Another version of Raja Nahar Singh's last days
The deceitful British showed a white flag and asked for peace talks. Four horse-mounted officers arrived at Ballabhgarh and invited the Raja Nahar Singh for talks, pleading that a settlement was being made with the Emperor, and that the presence of the Raja was necessary. They stated that the British wished to have friendship with the Raja.
The trusting Raja got ensnared in the trap. He trusted the British and left for Delhi with 500 horses and troopers. As soon as he entered Delhi, he was ambushed by an English force and captured. His escort soldiers were also butchered mercilessly. The next day the British carried out heavy attack on Ballabhgarh. The attack went on for three days on this fort, which the British called the " Iron Gate". The Raja had made this a secure fort filled with arms and ammunition. In the absence of the leader, a successful defence was not possible and ultimately the British had their day.. In Delhi Raja Nahar Singh refused offer of friendship with the British extended through Hudson. But Nahar Singh refused and coldly said, " I have never learnt to bow my head before an enemy". Hudson, once again said, "Nahar Singh, I can save you from the hangman's noose, bend a little". The Raja replied to Hudson " I have spoken, now listen again, The Goras (English) are my enemies, I can never ask them for forgiveness. If one Nahar Singh dies today, One hundred thousand Nahar Singh's will be borne in India tomorrow." The English boiled over at Nahar Singh's answer. They decided to hang him to death, and preparations were made in Chandni Chowk, near the fountain, in front of Nahar Singh's Delhi residence. He was sentenced to death on 9 January 1858.
Hanged to death
That day, 9 January, was Nahar Singh's 35th birthday and to celebrate it he came and stood near the hanging gibbet. Accompanying the Raja were three trusted companions - Kushal Singh, Gulab Singh and Bhura Singh. These four heroes from Ballabhgarh, guilty of the crime of patriotism and serving their country, stood side by side on the hangman's platform. The people of Delhi were watching this heart-breaking scene with grief and sadness. On Raja Nahar Singh's countenance there was no dullness, but a glow that troubled the enemy and cast a shadow on their faces. The time set for the hanging arrived, and Hudson lowered his head and asked the Raja for his last wish. The Raja replied firmly " I have nothing to ask of you. You may tell this to these fearful onlookers, that my message is that I am leaving a spark among you, never let it go out. The honour of our nation is now in your hands". Hudson advised the Rajah that he could not convey this message to the onlookers. In this manner the patriot hero Raja Nahar Singh sacrificed his life for his country and became immortal. His pure body was not returned to his family. Ultimately the royal priest of the family made a dummy of the King, and performed his last rites on the bank of the Ganges River.
Assessment of Nahar Singh
The role and importance of Raja Nahar Singh in the first war of Indian Independence has not been properly assessed. No other Indian place/square/road is named after Nahar Singh except in Haryana. Only one road was named near Wazirpur Depot in Delhi. At least one place in Delhi or at least the Ghanta Ghar or Fuhara where Nahar Singh was hanged should be named after Nahar Singh with his statue over there.
Postal Stamp on Raja Nahar Singh
Ruler of the small state of Ballabhgarh, Nahar Singh was a farsighted person and a votary of Hindu/Muslim unity. He played an important role in the uprising of 1857. Nahar Singh tried to bring together all the neighbouring rulers, especially Begum Samaroo of Gurgaon, Nawabs of Jhajjar, Farrukh Nagar and Rewari. He organised a secret' meeting in the fort of Mukteshwar at the time of Kartik mela which was attended, among others by Tatya Tope. Emperor Bahadur Shah 11 had appointed Raja Nahar Slngh as the Internal Administrator of Delhi. Raja Nahar Singh had tirelessly organised the neighbouring princes and chieftains during the uprising. The British forces had a tough time in controlling the second revolt in the region - Ballabgarh, Gurgaon, Jhajjar and Rewari. He was tried and hanged on 9th Jan 1858.