Baba Baghel Singh (1730 – 1802) was born in village Jhabal, District Amritsar. From humble beginnings he arose to become a formidable force in the area between River Sutlej and River Yamuna.

Karora Singh, head of the Karorasinghia Misl, was issue less and had adopted his personal servant, Baghel Singh, as his successor. After the death of Karora Singh in the battle of Taraori against the Nawab of Kunjpur in 1761, Baghel Singh who belonged to the Dhaliwal family succeeded him as head of the Karorasinghia Misl. As well as being a good soldier, Baba Baghel Singh was a very good political negotiator and was able to win over many adversaries to his side. The Mughals, the Rohillas  the Marathas and British sought his friendship. He had two bases of operation one at Chaloundi near the Jamuna River and the other at Hariana in Hoshiarpur.

Baba Baghel Singh turned his attention towards the Cis-Yamuna territories. Soon the Sikhs were invading territories in Delhi and beyond, including Meerut, Awadh, collecting tribute from the Nawabs of each area. He is celebrated in Sikh history as the vanquisher of Mughal Delhi. On 8 March 1783, Baghel Singh and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia encamped at a place later named as Tis Hazari, after the 30,000 troops of the Buddha Dal that were present there. This location has become synonymous with the name of Baghel Singh. On the 11th of March 1783, the Khalsa forces composed of Buddha Dal chief, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Baba Baghel Singh entered the Red Fort(Lal Quila) in Delhi and occupied the Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience). The Mughal Ruler, Shah Alam II had no option but to surrender to the Khalsa armies. The forces of Jassa Singh Ramgharia were also present and took away the infamous ‘sil’ of platform of the Mughal rulers.

Baghel Singh remained in Delhi and built seven Gurudwaras to mark Sikh interests: Gurdwara Mata Sundri, Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Gurdwara Bala Sahib, Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, Gurdwara Sis Ganj, Gurdwara Moti Bagh, and Gurdwara Majnu Ka Tilla. The Khalsa as part of their negotiations received taxes from the Mughals. Equating to six annas in a rupee (37.5%) of all the octroi duties in the capital. Warren Hasting, Governor-General of India(1773 to 1785) recorded in a minute presented to his council:

‘While I was in Lucknow, they (Sikhs) carried their depredations to the very suburbs of Delhi, where two of their officers actually reside in a quarter called Subzi Mandi, which is chiefly occupied by shopkeepers, for the double purpose of levying their rauky (which is the name given to that contribution) and of protecting the inhabitants from the marauders of their own nations.’

However, the power base of the British was increasing and Baghel Singh would come into contact with the British army officials, including the Irish mercenary George Thomas (1756–1802).  The fact that Baghel Singh and the Khalsa forces had reached the territories to the east controlled by the Nawab of Oudh – a British protectorate state – shows the vision of Baghel Singh in conquering lands and obtaining tributaries

The Khalsa under Baghel Singh raised Rakhi from many territories across the Cis-Yamuna territories, and there was no chief who did not have to negotiate with the Khalsa Warrior. The Mughal Ruler Shah Alum was aware that Baghel Singh was powerful and there was no reason to interfere with his Rakhi. The Khalsa did not forge any relations with the Marathas either who wanted complete control around the Delhi area.

His allies in this area were the brothers Rai Singh Bhangi (Jagadhri) and Bhag Singh( Buriya) and other chiefs Gurdit Singh (Ladwa), Bhanga Singh (Thanesar) as well as Karam Singh (Shaheedi Misl).

From 1765–1803, the Khalsa continued to raise tributaries from locations and neighbourhoods around Delhi, this was all due to the power base created by Baghel Singh. He was not involved in any fractious rivalries like the other Misls, and he ensured that he contributed his share of wealth to the treasury at Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar. The Karorasinghia Misl was later headed by Jodh Singh of the state of Kalsia.

Baghel Singh’s death is recorded around 1801/1802, at Hariana, in the present day Hoshiarpur district of Hariana. A samadh enshrining the memory of one of the more picturesque Misl sardars still stands in the town, together with that of his wife. The Gurdwara Baba Baghel Singh stands next to the Smadh.

Sources :-

  • Sikh Encyclopaedia
  • The British and the Sikhs: Discovery, Warfare and Friendship (Helion & Company) by Gurinder Singh Mann
  • Additional inputs by Gurinder Singh Mann, Sikh Historian, UK.
error: Alert: Content is protected !!