The supremacy of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia did not last very long, as in 1775 he was overthrown by his rival Sandhu Jat ruler Jai Singh Kanhiya, whose overlordship was now accepted by most of the Kangra states. A year later Sansar Chand succeeded to the sovereignty of the hills. Being very ambitious he wished to take possession of the fort of Kangra, the ancient home of his ancestors.The importance of the Kangra fort was expressed in a popular saying :-” He who holds the fort holds the hills.”IThe fort of Kangra enjoyed a great reputation for its strength. It stood on the summit of a high hill, and occupied a narrow strip of land lying between the rivers Manjhi and Banganga. The walls of the fort on the side of the Banganga rose to a height of 300 feet. It was accessible only from the side of the town. The fort was separated from the town by a rock only a few hundred feet wide, across which a deep ditch was cut at the foot of the walls. It possessed seven gateways and twenty-three bastions.The fort was at this time held by Saif Ali Khan, the last Mughal faujdar of Kangra. This brave man, though completely isolated and commanding nothing more than the territory within the range of his guns, sturdily maintained his position against all the onslaughts which were delivered upon him for nearly forty years. Only once he was forced to give up his allegiance to the Delhi Emperors when in 1758 he was coerced by the strong arm of Adina Beg Khan, the viceroy of the Panjab. Sansar Chand made several attempts on the fort, but all were frustrated by Saif All Khan. The Raja invited assistance from Jai Singh Kanhiya promising to pay the expenses of the troops at the rate of Rs. 2,000 per day. Jai, Singh readily agreed, and sent his son Gurbakhsh Singh at the head of a strong contingent in the company of Baba Baghel Singh Dhaliwal The combined forces laid stege to the fort in 1782, and continued for nearly-a year. In spite of all the rigour of the siege Salf Ali Khan remained steadfast. But he was a dying man, and passed away in 1783. His dead body had to be conveyed to the burial ground outside the fort.The Mughal gunners in the fort had been won over by Sansar Chand, and they promised to let his men in for a suitable reward. Jiwan Khan, the son of late Saif Ali Khan, however, was bribed by Jai Singh’s men, and the young faujdar finding his position untenable decided to hand over the fort to them. At a secret hour when the Nawab’s men carried off the corpse of the Nawab to the imambara, the gunners sent a word to Sansar Chand to attack and capture the fort. This information leaked out to the Sikh auxiliaries, and as they were stationed nearest the gate to bear the brunt of musketry fire from the fort they seized the opportunity and entered the fort first without meeting any opposition from Jiwan Khan. They closed the doors upon Sansar Chand’s men, and took possession of the fort to the chagrin of the Raja of Kangra, sustaining this sick for a long time Saif Ali Khan was assisted by the Rant of Bilaspur acting as regent for her infant son. Her soldiers kept on devastating the Kangra territory. George Forster passed through the Kangra hills in March 1783, when the siege was going on.” Unable himself,” says Forster, ” to repel the enemy, the Mahometan solicited the aid of the Bellaspour Ranee, who, with the spirit of a heroine, afforded speedy and vigorous succour to her neighbour, whose cause she has already revenged by plundering and destroying almost every village of Kangra; the chief of which nöw vainly asserts, that the Ranee seeing his country destitute of defence, seized, under the colour of assisting her ally, the occasion of augmenting her own power.” Jai Singh retained possession of this fort for nearly four years, and in 1786 he was obliged to surrender it to Sansar Chand in exchange for the territories in the plains which had been captured by the Katoch chief.

References :-

  • History of the Sikhs vol 3 By Hari ram Gupta.
  • Elliot, vi, 526: Kangra Settlement Report, 9
  • Archological Survey Reports, v. 162-3; Maasir-ul-Umara, li, 184-90;
  • Elliot, vi, 526: J. P. H. S., viti, 235.
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