The Bhais of Kaithal are an important family, whose past history is much interwoven with that of Patiala and the net-work of minor chief-ships which was spread out between the Jumna and the Sutlej when Lord Lake first established himself at Delhi. They are of the same original stock as the Phulkians, Rao Dhar, son of Rao Sidhu, was the immediate ancestor of the Kaithal Royal Family , as well as of the houses of Sadhwal, Jhumba and Arnauli. He settled at Bhatinda about the middle of the fourteenth century; and his son Manak Chand founded the existing village of Bhuler and acquired many others around Bhatinda. Chaudhari Manak’s grandson Bhagtu was a disciple of Guru Arjun and was called “Bhai”, a title still used by the family, which has had a semi-religious status. ever since the days of Bhagtu. The next man of note was Gurbakhsh Singh, who Hourished in the time of the Maharaja Ala Singh Of Patiala and was his fast friend. He was a fine soldier, with very little of the saintly Bhai about him. He and Ala Singh joined forces and went on many expeditions together, annesingrillages on all sides and sharing the. spoils. On the death of Gurbakhsh Singh in 1760, his possessions passed to his sis sons, of whom Budha Singh, the eldest, became a great warrior, seizing the districts of Thanesar and Pihowah, and building himself a strong fort at Kahod, which he made his head-quarters. His brother, Bhai Desa Singh, captured Kaithal from the Afghan owners, Bikh Bakhsh and Niamat Khan, and he stripped the Sayads of their Pundri lands The brothers were afterwards attacked by the celebrated Thanesar Kang Jat ruler Sardar Bhanga Singh, the fiercest and most feared of all the Cis-Sutlej Chiefs of his time. Bhanga Singh made a sudden descent upon Thanesar, in which were two forts, held respectively by Budha Singh and by a Rajput Chief named Natha Khan. The latter surrendered after a weak attempt at resistance; but the Bhais held out, and their stronghold was only won by a stratagem some vears later. The Sadhwal Sardars were finally driven out of the Thanesar district in the time of Desa Singh’s son Lal Singh. This latter Chief had been for some rears on bad terms with his father, who had placed him in confinement, being anxious that the estates should pass to the elder brother Bahal Singh. But Lal Singh managed to get free, and after killing Bahal Singh secured the whole patrimony for himself. Lal Singh proved the greatest of all the Sadhwal Chiefs, and was regarded as the most powerful of the Cis-Sutlej Sardars, after the Maharajah of Patiala, at the time of the British advance northwards in 1809. He is described as. having been a very able man, though utterly untrustworthy, and so violent and unscrupulous that the English authorities had the greatest difficulty in persuading him to preserve order in his territories. He acquired immense tracts of country by plundering his neighbours on all sides, and he succeeded in regaining possession of much coveted Thanesar after he had been kept out of possession for many years by his old enemy, Bhanga Singh. He waited upon General Ochterlony and, having offered. his assistance in the Gurkha War, was liberally treated, and was allowed to retain the ilakas of Chausatha and Gohana, under condition of furnishing 500 sowars, for whose support eight additional villages were set apart. He joined the British in the pursuit of Jaswant Rao Holkar up to the Sutlej border, and received a sanad acknowledging his services in connection with the treaty made on that occasion with Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In 1819 he was allowed to succeed to the share of the family estate held by a childless widow of his cousin Karam Singh, which under the rules was justly an escheat to the Government. He had been a firm ally all his life of Raja Bhag Singh of Jind, and on more than one occasion had come to his assistance in repelling the attacks of George Thomas, the celebrated Hansi adventurer. Bhai Lal Singh’s son, Udai Singh, was of very different calibre.
He was a weak-minded youth, without ambition and without the energy to keep what his father had acquired. During his chiefship the disorder and affrays on the Kaithal frontier became so serious, stopping all trade and disturbing the peace of the whole country, that a strong remonstrance was addressed to him and the neighbouring Sardars, who were in a measure jointly responsible for the good government of the district.
Things were in this state when Bhai Udai Singh died childless in 1843. The chiefship, with territory yielding one lakh of rupees, representing the acquisitions of Gurbakhsh Singh, the original founder of the family, was conferred upon Bhais Gulab Singh and Sangat Singh of Arnauli, collaterals of Udai Singh in the third generation. The remainder of the estate, including Kaithal, which had been acquired by Lal Singh and other members of the family following Bhai Gurbakhsh Singh, valued at four lakhs per annum, fell as an escheat to the British Government. This lapse was highly distasteful to the Phulkian Chiefs, who, as relatives of the deceased, were naturally desirous of retaining the possessions in the family. They were also fearful that the precedent might at some future day be used against themselves; for at that time their dominions had not been guaranteed to them by sanads in the event of failure of heirs. The Rajas of Patiala, Jind and Nabha accordingly sent special agents to Kaithal for the purpose of protesting before Mr. Greathed, specially deputed to carry out the Government orders, against the alleged act of spoliation. They were, however, ultimately recalled, and nothing was left to the Kaithal Council but to submit to the Paramount Power.
But knowing that they had with them the sympathies of the Sikh Jat Chiefs, and instigated probably by secret intrigue, the people of Kaithal broke out into insurrection while the matter of taking possession was still pending, and the town and fort had to be captured at the point of the bayonet.
Bhai Jasmir Singh, son of Gulab Singh, and Bhai Anokh Singh, son of Sangat Sigh, behaved loyally in the two Sikh Wars and again in the Mutiny of 1857. Bhai Anokh Singh in this latter crisis placed himself at the head of a body of horse and foot of his own raising, and helped to patrol the road between Ambala and Delhi. Jasmir Singh’s services were also valuable. They were rewarded with the remission of one year’s commutation charge, Rs. 3,577, on their estates; and the demand was reduced by one-half during the lifetime of the Bhais.
Bhai Jasmir Singh lived at Arnauli till his death in 1897, and Bhai Anokh Singh at Sadhowal till he died in 1894. Each exercised civil and criminal powers within the limits of their estates. The former was a Provincial and the latter a Divisional Darbari. Bhai Jasmir Singh was succeeded by his eldest son Shamsher Singh and Bhai Anokh Singh by his son Zabarjang Singh. Shamsher Singh after being educated at the Aitchison College, Lahore, managed his own estate. He was a Provincial Darbari and attended the Delhi Darbar in 1911. In 1917 he became an Honorary Magistrate, and was exempted from certain provisions of the Arms Act. He died in 1918. He was succeeded by his only son Bhai Shubhsher Singh who, after receiving his preliminary education at the Queen Mary’s College, Lahore, joined the Aitchison College. Ee won there the Viceroy’s Willingdon Challenge Cup for being the best cricketer in 1988. In 1982 he was married to the daughter of Sardar Bahadur Sardar Fateh Singh, Home Secretary, Faridkot State. He also is exempted from certain provisions of the Arms Act. In 1910 Bhai Shamsher Singh’s income from jagir and other property was about Rs. 50,000 and that of Zabarjang Singh about Rs. 42,000 a year. The latter was likewise, educated at the Aitchison Chiefs’ College, Lahore, where he made mark for himself as an athlete. During the Great War Bhai Zabarjang Singh volunteered his services, which could not be accepted owing to his ill-health. He also contributed recruits and gave away a jear’s produce of his squares situated in the Lyallpur and Sheikhupura districts. He died in 1918, and his son Fateh Jang Singh received the award of a badge and a Sword of Honour granted to his father posthumously. Bhai Fateh Jang Singh raised the handsome sum of Bs. 3,000 for Silver Jubilee Oelebrations of his Late Imperial Majesty. He was awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal.