Sikh Khalsa Army

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Sikh Khalsa Army
ਸਿੱਖ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਫੌਜ
سیک ارتش خالصا-ارتش لاهور
Sikh Empire Battle Standard-1.jpg
Captured Sikh battle standard of First Anglo-Sikh War
Active 1799–1849
Country Sikh Empire flag.jpgSikh Empire
Size at its greatest height, during 1838-39, before the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab
120,000 men:
• 5,500 Fauj-i-Khas elites
• 60,000 Fauj-i-Ain regulars
• 50,000 Fauj-i-Be Qawaid irregulars (Consisting of Jagirdari levies, Akali Nihangs, Fauj-i-Kilajat and Ghorcharas
Headquarters Lahore, Attock , Kangra, Multan , Peshawar
Nickname(s) The turbaned devils
Patron The Maharajas of Punjab:
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Maharaja Kharak Singh
Maharaja Nau Nihal Singh
Maharaja Sher Singh
Maharaja Duleep Singh.
Motto(s) Deg Tegh Fateh (Cauldron,Sword,Victory or Prosperity in Peace and Victory in War)
War Cry Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal (Whoever utters it shall be fulfilled, God is Eternal)
March La Grenadière, La Carabinière, Pas Cadencé, Pas de Charge, La Charge, La Victoire est à nous, Dans les hussards (French Napoleonic Marches introduced by the employed French generals)
Anniversaries Vaisakhi, Diwali, Gurpurb
Official Salutation Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh (Khalsa is Guru's, Victory is Guru's)
Engagements

Gurkha-Sikh War:

Afghan-Sikh Wars:

Sino-Sikh War:

  • Battle of Ladakh
  • Battle of Chushul

First Anglo-Sikh War:

Second Anglo-Sikh War:

Battle honours Lahore, Amritsar, Gujrat, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Attock, Multan, Shopian, Nowshera', Peshawar, Ladakh.
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab
Hari Singh Nalwa
Misr Diwan Chand
Dewan Mokham Chand
Sham Singh Attariwala
Jean-Francois Allard
Jean-Baptiste Ventura

The Sikh Khalsa Army (Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖ ਖਾਲਸਾ ਫੌਜ, Persian:سیک ارتش خالصا-ارتش لاهور), also known as the Army of Lahore, Punjab Army, Khalsa or simply Sikh Army was the military force of the Sikh Empire. It was formed in 1799 with the capture of Lahore by Ranjit Singh. From then on the army was modernised on Franco-British principles. It was divided in three wings: the Fauj-i-Khas (elites), Fauj-i-Ain (regular force) and Fauj-i-Be Qawaid (irregulars). Due to the lifelong efforts of the Maharaja and his European officers, it gradually became a prominent fighting force of Asia. Ranjit Singh changed and improved the training and organisation of his army. He reorganized responsibility and set performance standards in logistical efficiency in troop deployment, manoeuvre, and marksmanship. He reformed the staffing to emphasize steady fire over cavalry and guerrilla warfare, improved the equipment and methods of war. The military system of Ranjit Singh combined the best of both old and new ideas. He strengthened the infantry and the artillery.[1] He paid the members of the standing army from treasury, instead of the Mughal method of paying an army with local feudal levies.[1]

Background[edit]

Before the reign of Ranjit Singh, the armies in Punjab consisted purely of cavalry. After Ranjit Singh became the Sardar of Sukerchakia Misl he gradually unified most of the Punjab through conquests and diplomacy. However the Afghans, the British and the Gurkhas remained a threat while his empire was in its infancy. Therefore, in 1805, he began recruiting regular forces and employing deserters from the East India Company as officers or soldiers. This latter tactic did not work particularly well because most of the deserters were constantly in touch with the British. The British where alarmed with the rapid conquests of Ranjit Singh and sent many diplomatic missions to help the Phulkian sardars from a possible conquest of their lands and check the growing power of the Sikh sovereign.

Ghorchara (Horse-mounted) Bodyguards of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab

A Muslim regiment under Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe was sent to Amritsar for talks with the Maharaja. The soldiers went into the temple without taking their shoes off, and some Nihang guards unsheathed their sabres and challenged them. The Muslim soldiers formed a line and fired musket volleys, resulting in the death of many Nihangs whilst wounding others. This impressed Ranjit Singh. Realising the power of the British Indian Army, he accepted The Treaty of Amritsar (1809) and started modernizing his army on European principles.

Modernisation and Formation of Regular Corps[edit]

Throughout 1805, Ranjit Singh recruited many East India Company deserters in his army. The early results were unimpressive. During the visit of Charles Metcalfe, he was shown a band of soldiers, most of them wearing traditional kurtas and colourful turbans, while others wore European infantry ornaments. They had either traditional matchlock or European muskets.

Previously, as the Sikhs refused to join infantry service, Pashtuns, Gurkhas and Purbias served in this sector of the army. However, with the passage of time and owing to Ranjit Singh's efforts, Sikhs too began to join the infantry in large numbers. In 1822 Ranjit Singh employed a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, General Jean-Baptiste Ventura to train the infantry in European style. In a few years, under his command, the infantry was modernized in French pattern. Similarly, in 1822, Ranjit Singh employed another French Napoleonic War veteran, General Jean-François Allard to modernize the Sikh cavalry. In 1827 Claude Auguste Court was hired to modernize the artillery, and in 1832 Colonel Alexander Gardner was employed to modernize the artillery.

Ranjit Singh wanted to westernise his army thoroughly. However, due to various reasons he couldn't discard the military system that he had inherited from his forefathers. The military system of the Sikh Empire under Ranjit Singh finally evolved as a compromise between the old and the new ideas. Thus, the military system of the Sikh Empire is termed as a Franco-British system in the Indian subcontinent.

Sikh Matchlock musket, known as "Toradar"

Fauj-i-Ain[edit]

Main article: Fauj-i-Ain

The regular army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was called the Fauj-i-Ain.

Infantry
Ranjit Singh was fully aware of the importance of infantry. The task of recruitment started after 1805 and continued throughout Ranjit Singh's reign. Earlier Sikhs refused to join it, but gradually Sikhs formed the bulk of the infantry. It was divided into battalions, companies and sections.

Cavalry
The cavalry was very strong. It was divided into risalas and had higher pay than the infantry.

Artillery
Special attention was paid to the artillery and it also gradually became very strong.

Fauj-i-Khas[edit]

Main article: Fauj-i-Khas

The Fauj-i-Khas was the elite wing of the army. It was strictly trained under French pattern and had a separate emblem and flag. It consisted of four infantry battalions, two cavalry regiments and one artillery troop. Its weapons and equipment (including clothing) was of the best kind. The Fauj-i-Khas was supplied with the best available ammunition and they were very loyal to Ranjit Singh, whom they usually escorted.

Fauj-i-Be Qawaid[edit]

The regular military force was backed up and supported by a further 52,000 well-trained and equipped professional-grade irregulars,known as Fauj-i-Be Qawaid. In addition, a large reservoir of feudal and militia forces was available. Military jagirs were given to the ex-rulers of Misls.They in turn had to give tax to the state or significant amount of soldiers, known as Jagirdar Fauj. It consisted mostly of Cavalry and Infantry. It was the weakest part of the army. Other part of the Irregulars consisited of the Akalis,also known as Nihangs. They were devout Sikhs,heavily armed with many traditional weapons and refused any kind of training.They only wore blue or yellow robes. Their leaders were Akali Phula Singh and Akali Sadhu Singh. They sustained heavy casualties in the Battle of Sobraon.

Sikh Khalsa Akali Nihangs
Misldar Sowars were part of the Ghorcharas.

Another part of the Irregular force were the Ghorcharas and the Fauj-i-Kilajat. Ghorcharas were the relatives of the nobles of the Sikh Empire.They also refused any type of training and taunted usually the Europeans.The Fauj-i-Kilajat was the army defending the forts and also acting as police. Each fort had 50 to 250 of these men and their officer was called Killedar or Thanedar.

1799-1805[edit]

1805-1822[edit]

1822-1839[edit]

1839-1849[edit]

Composition[edit]

Sikh soldiers receiving their pay at the Royal Durbar

Sikhs formed the bulk of the Sikh Empire's army. The Sikh Army was mainly Punjabi with a predominantly Sikh cadre,[2] but also had a significant multi-religious component made up from other parts of the Punjabi people. There were soldiers of different religious backgrounds (i.e. Muslims and Hindus) and there were soldiers of different tribal backgrounds: Pashtuns, Dogras, Khatris, Jats, Kashyap Rajputs, Ramgarhias, Nepalis and European mercenaries. A promotion to a higher military rank was based on military skill, not hereditary background, so the Sikh Khalsa Army was a classic meritocracy. Enlistment in the army was entirely voluntary, and only strong, physically fit men were recruited. The task of recruiting officers was in the hands of the Generals or the Maharaja himself. Every year, a lot of money was spent on presents and honours for the soldiers who had displayed gallantry. Titles like "Fateh-o Nusrat Nasib", "Zafar Jhang" and "Bright Star of Punjab" were given to many Generals. For showing disloyalty to the state and other such crimes, a soldier could be imprisoned or exiled. No man ever in the Sikh Empire was given the death penalty. Usually, the soldiers were granted two months of leave, either in the winter season or before it. When soldiers were required, leaves were cancelled and they were granted leave in the end of the campaign. The pay of the Sikh Khalsa Army was higher than the pay of the British East India Company and other Asian armies.

Sikh Khalsa Army rank Monthly Pay
Sepoy or Topchi Rupees 7-8 1/2
Sowar (Cavalry) Rupees 20-25
Naik Rupees 10-12
Havildar Rupees 12-16
Jamadar Rupees 15-20
Subedar Rupees 20-35
Mahzor Rupees 25-50
Adjudan Rupees 30-55
Risaldar(Cavalry) Rupees 35-50
Kumedan Rupees 60-125
Kalnal Rupees 250-325
Jarnail Rupees 375-450

Emblems and Banners[edit]

Fauj-i-Khas infantry standard

The Nishan Sahib Sikh flag flew with or without the Khanda throughout the empire. The Nihangs had the Blue Flag, while different regiments of the army from different religions were allowed to have banners of their own. Even though Sikhs and Muslims did not believe in Hinduism, many flags had depictions of Hindu warrior deities and goddesses, as well as depictions of the sun. These flags were used not for their religious meaning, but for their symbolic meaning. The stories of the Hindu goddesses and deities represented victory, as they were shown as undefeated warriors fighting evil. The stories of Hindu goddesses were also mentioned in the Dasam Granth, written by Guru Gobind Singh, to encourage Sikhs for battle and the Sikh Akali Nihang warriors loudly chanted many hymns from it before the start of battles. The sun represented the divine light which was blessing the soldiers against the forces of darkness. There is also the fact that as huge numbers of Dogras, Gurkhas and other Hindus were in the army, these flags could be from them. The regular regiments of different Sikh sardars had mostly blue-coloured flags and banners. The infantry regiments had flags with depictions of plants and cavalry regiments had depictions of horses on their flags. The Fauj-i-Khas had its own French tricoloure flag with the French imperial eagle on it. Most of Sikh flags had the inscription of the motto of the Khalsa: "Deg Tegh Fateh", in Persian Nastaʿlīq script.

Disbandment[edit]

After the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Empire witnessed the murders of Ranjit Singh's sons, one after another, organised by the Dogras. Then the Dogras urged the army to make the Lahore Durbar declare war on the British. They did so, and they Dogra-led Sikh Army was betrayed by its commanders who revealed battle plans to the British, even though the Sikhs heroically resisted the British. This led to the defeat of the Khalsa and the British signed the Treaty of Lahore, which was mostly against Sikh sovereignty. Besides demanding a lot of money, the British imprisoned Jind Kaur, the Sikh regent and maltreated her.The Sikh Army was reduced to 20,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry. The disbanded soldiers were also furious with the British administration. This led to the Second Anglo-Sikh War, in which the Sikhs won many battles, but finally lost the Battle of Gujrat. On 10 March 1848 Sikh leaders Chattar Singh Attariwalla and Sher Singh Attariwalla were forced to surrender near Rawalpindi. On 14 March 1849, the Sikh Army also surrendered to the British. Many soldiers, while laying their weapons down, started crying and saying "Today Ranjit Singh has died". However, many Sikh Army soldiers were allowed into the British Indian Army, where they served with distinction in numerous battles and wars under the British crown.

Ranks of the Sikh Khalsa Army[edit]

Ranjit Singh encircled himself with an array of generals and soldiers. They were men from different clans, castes and regions. Some of the ranks come from english, like adjudan (adjutant), kalnal (colonel), jarnail (general)

Sikh Khalsa Army rank Modern U.S./U.K./NATO equivalent
Kumedan or Jarnail Major General
Sardar Brigadier General
Adjudan-kumedan Staff Colonel
Kalnal Colonel
Kalnal-i-Sahni Senior lieutenant colonel
Jamadar Kalnal Lieutenant Colonel
Majhzr-i-Sahni Senior Major
Mahzor Major
Kaptan Staff Captain
Subedar Captain
Jamadar First Lieutenant
Jamadar-i-Sahni Second Lieutenant
Non-commissioned officers
Adjudan Safis Chief Warrant Officer
Adjudan-Seph Warrant Officer
Adjudan or Sarjan Sergeant-Major
Sarjan Mahzor First sergeant
Havildar Sergeant
Muttasadi or Phuriya Company clerk/supply Sergeant
Naik or Brigadier (Cavalry, Horse Artillery and Gendarmerie) Corporal
Sepoy or Sowar (Cavalry) or Topchi(Artillery) Private or UK equivalent

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Teja Singh; Sita Ram Kohli (1986). Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Atlantic Publishers. pp. 65–68. 
  2. ^ http://britishbattles.com/first-sikh-war/moodkee.htm
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Lord of the Five Rivers, By Jean-Marie Lafont. (Oxford University Press. Date:2002, ISBN 0-19-566111-7).
  • History of Panjab, Dr L. M. Joshi, Dr Fauja Singh.