Gulab Singh

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Gulab Singh
Raja of Jammu
Reign16 June 1822—16 March 1846[1]
PredecessorKishore Singh
Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir
Reign16 March 1846—20 February 1856[2]
SuccessorRanbir Singh
Wazir of the Sikh Empire
In office31 January 1846 – 9 March 1846
PredecessorLal Singh
Born(1792-10-21)21 October 1792
Died30 June 1857(1857-06-30) (aged 64)
WivesNihal Kour, Rani Rakwal
IssueSohan Singh
Udam Singh
Ranbir Singh
Gulab Singh
HouseDogra dynasty
FatherMian Kishore Singh

Maharaja Gulab Singh Jamwal (1792–1857) was the founder of Dogra dynasty and the first Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, the largest princely state under the British Raj, which was created after the defeat of the Sikh Empire in the First Anglo-Sikh War. During the war, Gulab Singh stayed aloof which helped the British victory,[3] and even became prime minister of the Sikh Empire for the final 38 days of conflict. The Treaty of Amritsar (1846) formalised the sale by the British to Gulab Singh for 7,500,000 Nanakshahee Rupees of all the lands in Kashmir that were ceded to them by the Sikhs by the Treaty of Lahore.[4]

Early life[edit]

The Hill Fort of Maharaja Gulab Singh, 1846 drawing

Gulab Singh was born on 17 October 1792 in a Hindu Dogra Rajput family. His father was Kishore Singh Jamwal. He joined the army of Ranjit Singh in 1809 and was sufficiently successful to earn a jagir worth 12,000 rupees and also 90 horses.[1]

In 1808, following the Battle of Jammu, the kingdom was annexed by Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh appointed a governor to administer the newly conquered area which was expanded in 1819 with the annexation of Kashmir by a Sikh force. In 1820, in appreciation of services rendered by his family and Gulab Singh in particular, Ranjit Singh bestowed the Jammu region as a hereditary fief upon Kishore Singh.[1] Apart from their sterling services, the family's intimate association with the region commended Kishore Singh's candidature to the Lahore court.[5]

In 1821, Gulab Singh captured conquered Rajouri from Aghar Khan and Kishtwar from Raja Tegh Mohammad Singh (alias Saifullah Khan).[5] That same year, Gulab Singh took part in the Sikh conquest of Dera Ghazi Khan. He also captured and executed his own clansman, Mian Dido Jamwal, who had been leading a rebellion against the Sikhs.[6]

A statue of Gulab Singh at Amar Mahal Palace, India

Raja of Jammu[edit]

The palace of Maharaja Gulab Singh, on the banks of Tawi River, Jammu, mid-19th century

Kishore Singh died in 1822 and Gulab Singh was confirmed as Raja of Jammu by his suzerain, Ranjit Singh.[1] Shortly afterward, Gulab Singh secured a formal declaration of renunciation from his kinsman, the deposed Raja Jit Singh.[7]

As Raja (Governor-General/Chief) of Jammu, Gulab Singh was one of the most powerful chiefs of the Sikh Empire. Under the Imperial and Feudal Army arrangement, he was entitled to keep a personal army of 3 Infantry Regiments, 15 Light Artillery Guns and 40 Garrison Guns.[8]

In 1824 Gulab Singh captured the fort of Samartah, near the holy Mansar Lake. In 1827 he accompanied the Sikh Commander-in-Chief Hari Singh Nalwa, who fought and defeated a horde of Afghan rebels led by Sayyid Ahmed at the Battle of Shaidu. Between 1831 and 1839 Ranjit Singh bestowed on Gulab Singh the jagir of the salt mines in northern Punjab,[1] and the nearby Punjabi towns like Bhera, Jhelum, Rohtas, and Gujrat.[citation needed]

1837 Poonch Revolt In 1837, after the death of Hari Singh Nalwa in the Battle of Jamrud, the Muslim tribes of Sudhan, Tanolis, Karrals, Dhunds, Sattis and Maldayal rose in revolt in Hazara and Poonch. The insurgency of Poonch was led by Shams Khan, a Chief of the Sudhan tribe[9][10] and former confidential follower of Raja Dhyan Singh.[10] Thus the betrayal of Shams Khan Sudhan against the regime was taken personally and Gulab Singh was given the task of crushing the rebellion. After defeating the insurgents in Hazara and Murree hills, Gulab Singh stayed at Kahuta for some time and promoted disunion among the insurgents. Then his forces were sent to crush the insurgents. Eventually, Shams Khan Sudhan and his nephew Raj Wali Khan were betrayed and their heads were cut off during their sleep while the lieutenants were captured, flayed alive and put to death with cruelty. The contemporary British commentators state that the local population suffered immensely.[11]

Intrigue at Lahore[edit]

On the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839, Lahore became a center of conspiracies and intrigue in which the three Jammu brothers were involved. They succeeded in placing the administration in the hands of Prince Nau Nihal Singh with Raja Dhian Singh as prime minister. However, in 1840, during the funeral procession of his father Maharaja Kharak Singh, Nau Nihal Singh together with Udham Singh, son of Gulab Singh, died under suspicious circumstances when an old brick gate collapsed on them.[12]

In January 1841 Sher Singh, son of Ranjit Singh tried to seize the throne of Lahore but was repulsed by the Jammu brothers. The defense of the fort was in the hands of Gulab Singh.[12]

After peace was made between the two sides, Gulab Singh and his men were allowed to leave with their weapons. On this occasion, he is said to have taken away a large amount of the Lahore treasure to Jammu.

Recognition as Maharaja[edit]

Maharaja Gulab Singh rides a well decorated white stallion across a green field. Circa 1840-45.
Memorial shrines for Gulab Singh and Ranbir Singh, Jammu, India, ca.1875-ca.1940

Meanwhile, in the continuing intrigues at Lahore, the Sandhawalia Sardars (related to Ranjit Singh) murdered Raja Dhian Singh and the Sikh Maharaja Sher Singh in 1842.[13] Subsequently, Gulab Singh’s youngest brother, Suchet Singh, and nephew, Hira Singh, were also murdered. As the administration collapsed the Khalsa soldiery clamored for the arrears of their pay. In 1844 the Lahore court commanded an invasion of Jammu to extract money from Gulab Singh, reputed to be the richest Raja north of the Sutlej River as he had taken most of the Lahore treasury.[14]

However, Gulab Singh agreed to negotiate on his behalf with the Lahore court. These negotiations imposed an indemnity of 27 lakh Nanakshahee rupees on the Raja.

Lacking the resources to occupy such a large region immediately after annexing portions of Punjab, the British recognised Gulab Singh as a Maharaja directly tributary to them on payment of 75 thousand Nanakshahee Rupees for the war-indemnity (this payment was justified on account of Gulab Singh legally being one of the chiefs of the Kingdom of Lahore and thus responsible for its treaty obligations). The angry courtiers of Lahore (particularly the baptized Sikh, Lal Singh) then incited the governor of Kashmir to rebel against Gulab Singh, but this rebellion was defeated, thanks in great part to the action of Herbert Edwardes, Assistant Resident at Lahore.

In the second Sikh War of 1849, he allowed his Sikh soldiers to desert and go to fight alongside their brethren in Punjab. The treaties of Chushul and Amritsar had defined the borders of the Kingdom of Jammu in the east, south, and west but the northern border was still undefined. In 1850 the fort of Chilas in the Dard country was conquered.

Maharaja Gulab Singh died on 30 June 1857 and was succeeded by his son, Ranbir Singh.


500 paise postal stamp of Maharaja Gulab Singh released by Government of India on October 21, 2009

Diwan Kirpa Ram, the "Maharajah's private secretary and the son of Dewan Jwala Sahai, the Maharajah's Prime Minister", of the Diwans of Eminabad family, wrote the first biography of Gulab Singh titled Gulabnama in the 19th century in Persian.[15][16]

K. M. Panikkar describes Gulabnama as an authoritative source;[15]

"This work, though written in the flowery style of the Persian panegyrists, is nonetheless a remarkable historical document, as the Dewan published in it many original documents which are not now available elsewhere. Its facts and chronology are beyond dispute. The Dewan was also fully conversant with the political conditions of the Punjab at the time, and his descriptions of events are vivid and informed by direct knowledge of men and things."


  1. ^ a b c d e K. Jagjit Singh. "GULAB SINGH (1792-1857)". Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjabi University Patiala. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  2. ^ Bakshi 1998, p. 222.
  3. ^ Fenech, E. Louis; Mcleod, H. W. (11 June 2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 130. ISBN 978-1-4422-3601-1.
  4. ^ Panikkar 1930, p. 112.
  5. ^ a b Chhabra, G. S. (2005). Advance Study in the History of Modern India (Volume-2: 1803-1920). ISBN 9788189093075.
  6. ^ Jeratha, Aśoka (8 August 1998). Dogra Legends of Art & Culture. Indus Publishing. ISBN 9788173870828 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Agnihotri, Kuldeep Chand (19 January 2021). Jammu Kashmir Ke Jannayak Maharaja Hari Singh. Prabhat Prakashan. ISBN 9789386231611 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ The History of Sikhs, J D Cunningham, Appendix
  9. ^ Sir Alexander Cunningham, Four Reports Made During The Years 1862-63-64-65, (The Government Central Press, 1871), Volume I, Page 13.[1]
  10. ^ a b Sir Lepel H. Griffin, The Panjab Chiefs., (T. C. McCarthy, Chronicle Press, 1865), Page 594.[2]
  11. ^ Hastings Donnan, Marriage Among Muslims: Preference and Choice in Northern Pakistan, (Brill, 1997), 41.[3]
  12. ^ a b Atwal, Priya (November 2020). Royals and Rebels: The Rise and Fall of the Sikh Empire. ISBN 978-0-19-754831-8.
  13. ^ J. S. Grewal (1998). The Sikhs of the Punjab. Cambridge University Press.
  14. ^ Grewal, J. S. (8 October 1998). The Sikhs of the Punjab. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521637640 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ a b Panikkar 1930, p. 2.
  16. ^ Mohammed, Jigar (June 2009). Gulabnama: A Persian Window to J&K History. Jammu: Epilogue–Jammu Kashmir (Vol 3, Issue 6). pp. 48–49.


Further reading[edit]

Gulab Singh
Born: 18 October 1792 Died: 30 June 1857
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Jit Singh
(as Raja of Jammu (tributary to the Sikh Empire))
Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir
Succeeded by