Kunwar Singh

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Kunwar Singh
Kunvar singh.jpg
"Kooer Sing", an illustration of Kunwar Singh in The History of the Indian Empire, c. 1858[1]
Maharaja of Jagdishpur estate
PredecessorShabzada Singh
SuccessorBabu Amar Singh
Born1777
Jagdispur, Bihar
DiedApril 26, 1858(1858-04-26) (aged 80–81)
Jagdispur, Bihar
FatherRaja Shahabzada Singh
MotherRani Panchratan Kunwari Devi Singh

Babu Veer Kunwar Singh (1777– 26 April 1858; also known as Babu Kunwar Singh and Kuer Singh) was a leader during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He belonged to a Zamindar family of the Ujjainiya clan of the Parmar Rajputs of Jagdispur, currently a part of Bhojpur district, Bihar, India. At the age of 80, he led a select band of armed soldiers against the troops under the command of the British East India Company. He was the chief organiser of the fight against the British in Bihar. He is popularly known as Veer Kunwar Singh.[2]

Early life[edit]

Kunwar Singh was born in November 1777 to Maharaja Shahabzada Singh and Maharani Panchratan Devi, in Jagdispur of the Shahabad (now Bhojpur) District, in the state of Bihar. He belonged to the Ujjainiya Rajput clan.[3] A British judicial officer offered a description of Kunwar Singh and described him as "a tall man, about six feet in height".[4] He went on to describe him as having a broad face with an aquiline nose. In terms of his hobbies, British officials describe him as being a keen huntsman who also enjoyed horse-riding.[4]

After his father's death in 1826, Kunwar Singh became the taluqdar of Jagdispur. His brothers also inherited some villages however a dispute arose as to their exact allocation. This dispute was eventually settled and the brothers seemingly returned to having cordial relations.[4]

He married the daughter of Raja Fateh Naraiyan Singh, a wealthy zamindar of the Deo-Munga estate in Gaya district who belonged to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs.[5]

Role in the 1857 rebellion[edit]

A miniature portrait of Kunwar Singh, watercolour on ivory, c. 1857.[6]
Kunwar Singh and his attendants

Singh led the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in Bihar. He was nearly eighty and in failing health when he was called upon to take up arms. He was assisted by both his brother, Babu Amar Singh and his commander-in-chief, Hare Krishna Singh. Some argue that the latter was the real reason behind Kunwar Singh's initial military success.[7] He gave a good fight and harried British forces for nearly a year and remained invincible until the end. He was an expert in the art of guerilla warfare. His tactics left the British puzzled.[8]

Singh assumed command of the soldiers who had revolted at Danapur on 25 July. Two days later he occupied Arrah, the district headquarters. Major Vincent Eyre relieved the town on 3 August, defeated Singh's force and destroyed Jagdishpur. During the rebellion, his army had to cross the Ganges river. Douglas' army began to shoot at their boat. One of the bullets shattered Singh's left wrist. Singh felt that his hand had become useless and that there was the additional risk of infection due to the bullet-shot. He drew his sword and cut off his left hand near the elbow and offered it to the Ganges.[8][unreliable source?][9]

Singh left his ancestral village and reached Lucknow in December 1857 where he met with other rebel leaders. In March 1858 he occupied Azamgarh and managed to repel the initial British attempts to take the area.[10] However, he had to leave the place soon. Pursued by Brigadier Douglas, he retreated towards his home in Ara, Bihar. On 23 April, Singh had a victory near Jagdispur over the force led by Captain le Grand (le gard in Hindi). On 26 April 1858 he died in his village. The mantle of the old chief now fell on his brother Amar Singh II who, despite heavy odds, continued the struggle and for a considerable time, running a parallel government in the district of Shahabad. In October 1859, Amar Singh II joined the rebel leaders in the Nepal Terai.[9]

Death[edit]

In his last battle, fought on 23 April 1858, near Jagdispur, the troops under the control of the East India Company were completely routed. On 22 and 23 April, being injured he fought bravely against the British Army and with the help of his army drove away the British Army, brought down the Union Jack from Jagdishpur Fort and hoisted his flag. He returned to his palace on 23 April 1858 and soon died on 26 April 1858.[8][unreliable source?]

Legacy[edit]

To honour his memory and his contribution to India's freedom movement, the Republic of India issued a commemorative stamp[11] on 23 April 1966. Named after him, Government of Bihar established Veer Kunwar Singh University, Arrah in 1992.[12]

In 2017, the Veer Kunwar Singh Setu was inaugurated also known as the Arrah–Chhapra Bridge was created and connects north and south Bihar together.[13] In 2018, to celebrate 160th anniversary of Kunwar Singh's martyrdom, the government of Bihar relocated a statue of Kunwar Singh to Hardinge Park. The park was also renamed as Veer Kunwar Singh Azadi park.[14]

He is mentioned in many Bhojpuri folk songs as a hero who fought against British oppression. One particular folk song states:[15]

Ab chod re firangiya! hamar deswa lutpat kaile tuhun, majwa udaile kailas, des par julum jor. Sahar gaon luti, phunki, dihiat firangiya, suni suni Kunwar ke bridaya me lagal agiya, Ab Chod re firangiya! Hamar deswa!

British now quit our country, for you loot us, enjoy the luxuries of our country and oppress our countrymen. You have looted and destroyed our cities and villages. Kunwar's heart burns to know all this. O British! Now quit our country!

In the 1970s, a private landlord militia known as the Kuer Sena (Kunwar's Army) was formed by Rajput youth in Bihar to combat Naxalite insurgents. It was named after Kunwar Singh.[16]

A play by Jagdish Chandra Mathur titled Vijay Ki Vela (Moment of Victory) is based on the later part of Kunwar Singh's life. He is also mentioned in the poem "Jhansi Ki Rani" by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Martin, Robert Montgomery; Roberts, Emma (1858). The Indian empire : its history, topography, government, finance, commerce, and staple products : with a full account of the mutiny of the native troops ... 1. London ; New York : London Print. and Pub. Co.
  2. ^ S. Purushottam Kumar (1983). "Kunwar Singh's Failure in 1857". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 44: 360–369. JSTOR 44139859.
  3. ^ Dirk H.A. Kolff (2002). Naukar, Rajput, and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market of Hindustan, 1450-1850. Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 9780521523059.
  4. ^ a b c E. Jaiwant Paul (1 August 2011). The Greased Cartridge: The Heroes and Villains of 1857-58. Roli Books Private Limited. pp. 90–91. ISBN 978-93-5194-010-4.
  5. ^ Kalikinkar Datta, Biography of Kunwar Singh and Amar Singh, K.P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1984, p.20
  6. ^ "Nana Sahib, Rani of Jhansi, Koer Singh and Baji Bai of Gwalior, 1857, National Army Museum, London". collection.nam.ac.uk. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  7. ^ P. Kumar (1982). "HARE KRISHNA SINGH-THE PRIME-MOVER OF 1857 IN BIHAR". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 43: 610–617. JSTOR 44141296.
  8. ^ a b c Sarala, Śrīkr̥shṇa (1999). Indian Revolutionaries: A Comprehensive Study, 1957-1961, Volume 1. Bihar: Prabhat Prakashan. p. 73. ISBN 978-81-87100-16-4.
  9. ^ a b History of Bhojpur Archived 14 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Bhojpur.bih.nic.in. Retrieved on 2011-10-12.
  10. ^ K. Datta (1957). Unrest Against British Rule In Bihar(1831-1859). Superintendent Secretariat Press. pp. 51–55.
  11. ^ Stamp at Indiapost. Indianpost.com (1966-04-23). Retrieved on 2011-10-12.
  12. ^ Veer Kunwar Singh University Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Vksu-ara.org (1992-10-22). Retrieved on 2011-10-12.
  13. ^ "Veer Kunwar Singh Setu". McElhanney. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  14. ^ PTI (22 April 2018). "Kunwar Singh statue relocated to Hardinge Park, CM to inaugurate tomorrow". IndiaToday. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  15. ^ Badri Narayan (1998). "Popular Culture and 1857: A Memory against Forgetting". Social Scientist. 26 (1/4): 86–94. doi:10.2307/3517583. JSTOR 3517583.
  16. ^ Ashwani Kumar (2008). Community Warriors: State, Peasants and Caste Armies in Bihar. Anthem Press. pp. 118–. ISBN 978-1-84331-709-8.