Gulab Singh

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Gulab Singh
Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu and Kashmir.jpg
Raja of Jammu
Reign 16 June 1822—16 March 1846[1]
Predecessor Kishore Singh
Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir
Reign 16 March 1846—30 June 1857
Successor Ranbir Singh
Wazir of the Sikh Empire
In office 31 January 1846 – 9 March 1846
Predecessor Jawahar Singh Aulakh
Born (1792-10-17)17 October 1792
Died 30 June 1857(1857-06-30) (aged 64)
Wives Nihāl Kaur
Issue Ranbir Singh
House Dogra dynasty
Father Kishore Singh
Religion Hinduism[2]

Gulab Singh (1792–1857) was the founder of royal Dogra dynasty and first Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, the second largest princely state in British India, which was created after the defeat of the Sikh Empire in the First Anglo-Sikh War. 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.[3]

Early career[edit]

The Hill fort of Maharaja Gulab Singh, 1846 drawing.

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

In 1808, following another conflict, Jammu was annexed by Ranjit Singh. Raja Jit Singh, who was expelled, found refuge in British India, and later received in appendage the estate of Akhrota. 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 the family, and by 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.[citation needed]

In 1821, Gulab Singh captured conquered Rajouri from Aghar Khan and Kishtwar from Raja Tegh Muhammad Singh.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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 afterwards, Gulab Singh secured a formal declaration of renunciation from his kinsman, the deposed Raja Jit Singh.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 1831-39 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]

In 1837, after the death of Hari Singh Nalwa in the Battle of Jamrud, the Muslim tribes of Tanolis, Karrals, Dhunds, Satis and Sudhans rose in revolt in Hazara and Kashmir. Gulab Singh was given the task of crushing the rebellion. After defeating insurgents in Hazara and Murree hills, Gulab Singh made Kahuta his headquarter to deal with Kashmiri insurgents. A Sudhan, Shams Khan Sudhuzai had raised the standard of revolt and had captured hill forts from a Raja. Gulab Singh placed one Rupee over the head of man, woman or child connected to the insurgents, this way about 12,000 Sudhans, Satis and Dhunds perished in the hills. Some Muslim women were taken captives and sold into sexual slavery.[4]

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 when an old brick gate collapsed on them.[citation needed]

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

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. Subsequently, Gulab Singh conquered the fort of Mangla (near the present Mangla Dam on the Jhelum River).[citation needed]

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.[5] 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.

However the 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. After the Anglo-Sikh wars, under the Treaty of Lahore the defeated Lahore court was made to transfer Jammu to Gulab Singh.

Lacking the resources to occupy such a large region immediately after annexing portions of Punjab, the British recognized Gulab Singh as a Maharaja directly tributary to them on payment of 75 Lakh 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 baptised 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.

This arrangement was formalized in the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846. 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. Gilgit was lost to rebellion in 1852, but was recovered ten years later by his son.

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


  1. ^ a b c d e K. Jagjit Singh. "GULAB SINGH (1792-1857)". Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjabi University Patiala. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  2. ^ Mridu Rai, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects 2004.
  3. ^ Panikkar, Gulab Singh (1930, p. 112)
  4. ^ Hastings Donnan, Marriage Among Muslims: Preference and Choice in Northern Pakistan, (Brill, 1997), 41.[1]
  5. ^ J. S. Grewal (1998). The Sikhs of the Punjab. Cambridge University Press.


Further reading[edit]

  • How Sikhs Lost their Empire by Khushwant Singh
  • Gulabnama by Dewan Kirpa Ram, translated by Professor SS Charak
  • Memoirs of Alexander Gardner by Hugh Pearse
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
Ranbir Singh