Raja Gurdit Singh Of Retgarh was born at Retgarh in 1860, and later rose to the highest distinction of the Patiala State. He was educated at home, learning Persian and the Gurmukhi script. At a young age, he mastered the art of horse riding, and became an avid sportsman having a passion in the field of wrestling. Having gained experience in use of weapons ranging from sword to firearms he became a skilled hunter. Gurdit Singh then excelled in the sport of polo winning the prestigious Kadir Cup in 1895. He served as a trooper in the army, and soon was promoted to Captain working tirelessly through the ranks earning promotion to Colonel; commanding the bodyguard and later, as a general, the Patiala State Forces. He also held the civilian post of Chamberlain, a position that was held in high esteem. In 1889, during the investiture of Maharaja Rajinder Singh to the throne, Gurdit Singh was elevated to the post of Chief Secretary the following year. In this key post, he was responsible for the administration and communications between various departments and more importantly between the Maharaja and the Prime Minister for the next five years. In 1895, he was appointed the Prime Minister of the Patiala State, replacing Khalifa Mohammad Hassan. The Maharaja conferred upon him the title of ‘Aitmad-ud-Doula‘ meaning ‘wealth and pride of the nation’. In his new assignment, he approached the problems of people with sympathy, winning the approval and gratitude of his officers by his sincere discharge of public duties. He was a keen agriculturist, and brought the benefits of irrigation to the Patiala District by working and completing the Sirhind Canal Project. Interestingly, Maharaja Rajinder Singh and his brother Kanwar Ranbir Singh even graced his house warming and named the house and the adjoining property “Rajinder Garden” after his name. He also participated in the Tirah Campaign of 1897, fought on the frontier and received a medal from the Viceroy Lord Elgin. But in later years, differences arose between the Patiala State and the British Government for their endeavour to install a Political Agent in Patiala. Maharaja Rajinder Singh was dead against such a notion and fiercely rejected the proposal. The British authorities suspected the Prime Minister was behind the Maharaja’s refusal of installing a Political Agent in Patiala. Secondly, the Maharaja had married an Irish lady Florence Bryan, who later suddenly died from pregnancy complications, was cremated as per Sikh rites rather than being buried. This prompted another diplomatic breakdown between the British Government and the Maharaja with the British authorities suspecting that Prime Minister, Gurdit Singh was responsible for this move as well. When the Maharaja died in a riding accident in 1900, due to British pressure, Gurdit Singh had reluctantly resigned the post of Premiership and was compelled to retire to his ancestral place at Retgarh. Later, during the outbreak of First World War in 1914, Gurdit Singh offered to serve as a volunteer in the war along with his son, Bhupinder Singh. He also offered to recruit men from his district to serve in the war under Maharaja Bhupinder Singh Of Patiala and the Imperial Government as well as contributed 50,000 rupees and 5,000 mounds of food grains to the war effort. He further donated 30,000 rupees towards the War Loan Funds and his name figured prominently in the list of persons who had rendered invaluable services during the war. Gurdit Singh was also a member of the Administrative Committee appointed to look after the administration of the state in the Maharaja’s absence. Gurdit Singh was conferred with the title of ‘Raja’ by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh for his outstanding services to the Patiala State in 1927. He was soft spoken, generous, broadminded always ready to help the needy and was seen as a father figure by his people. He married three times, his first wife died early in the marriage leaving behind a daughter, he then married her sister as his second wife and was blessed with four sons and a daughter from this union. But on the death of his second wife, as his children were minors, he married for the third time having five sons from the marriage. His four sons from the first marriage were: Gurdial Singh, Hardayal Singh, Shiv Dayal Singh and Hazura Singh. His five sons from the second marriage were: Devinder Singh, Thakra Singh, Baghel Singh, Nanak Singh and Rupinder Singh. On his death in 1933, he was succeeded by Shiv Dayal Singh, his third son from his second marriage.

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