Nawab Kapur Singh, the founder of this Misal, was the son of Chaudhari Dalip Singh Virk, Jat, of Faizullapur, situated near Amritsar. He was born in A.D. 1697 (Vikram Samvat 1754)  , two years before the foundation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh. Because of his inability to pay the government revenue all his domestic articles were sold away by the government officials to make good the amount due from him.  In utter penury he left his place. He collected some followers, equipped them with horses and weapons, and launched upon a career of chivalry, fighting against the Mughal government that was harassing the Sikhs. Kapur Singh was fired with the enthusiasm of a crusader. He had strong conviction in the ultimate success of the Khalsa. He was always full of optimism that was unsurpassed. He always entertained high aims and made plans to achieve them. Of the two men referred to in the following maxim he belonged to the second category. ‘Two men looked through prison bars, one saw the mud, the other stars.’ He attacked Faizullapur, killed its chief, Faizulla, and occupied the place and its surrounding areas. He changed the name of Faizullapur to Singhpur and the Misal which took its name from the village also began to be called Singhpuria Misl.  The revenue of the area was used by Kapur Singh for equipping his men with horses and weapons.

Kapur Singh is also said to have been with the companions of Banda Singh in his early life. Because of his intrepidity and bravery some of the Sikhs took him as their Sardar.  He was a tall and stoutly built man and always seemed full of life, dynamism and dash. He possessed sharp intellect, penetrating shrewdness and power of quick grasp. He had learnt the use of weapons as sword, spear, arrow and gun and had become an expert in horse-riding from his early days. In his free time he indulged in sham fights, in which once, by an accident, he got a stroke of a companion’s sword on his shoulder. He was so seriously wounded that it seemed that he would not survive the wound. But ultimately he recovered from the injury after a long time and resumed his activities. Kapur Singh took baptism of the double-edged sword from Bhai Mani Singh in 1721, at Amritsar. 8

Zakariya Khan succeeded his father, Samad Khan, to the governorship of the Punjab in 1726, and continued in that office till 1745. From 1726 to 1732, the young governor spared no pains in inflicting the heaviest punishments on the Sikhs. When Jat chief Tara Singh of village Van was killed in 1726, along with his 22 companions, by a contingent of 2200 horsemen, sent from Lahore by Zakariya Khan, the Sikhs all over the central Punjab got stirred up. They accepted the challenge of the new governor. They vowed to wreak their vengeance on the government. Kapur Singh, who was very much exercised over the tragedy, came to Amritsar, accompanied by many young men, and joined the jatha of Diwan Darbara Singh. In the following years he distinguished himself as a brave, sagacious and prudent man. He led the Sikhs on many occasions into dangerous situations and his success established him as an able organizer and a successful and competent leader. The Sikhs under Kapur Singh waylaid and looted the revenue money taken from the pargana headquarters to the provincial treasury at Lahore. The state machinery sometimes found itself helpless against the activities of the Sikhs and at times there were serious confrontations between the state contingents and the Sikhs resulting in heavy human losses. The persecution by the state and the revenge by the Sikhs continued for some years until the government found this method of dealing with them as ineffective. Then, the government tried to placate them. In 1733, Zakariya Khan, the governor of Punjab, gave a suggestion to the Delhi government for a grant and a tide for the Sikhs. The proposal was endorsed by the central government. Subeg Singh, a government contractor (according to some a Persian-knowing clerk in a government office at Lahore), was deputed by Zakariya Khan to negotiate with the Sikhs. He met the Sikhs assembled a Akal Takht and offered them the tide of ‘Nawab’ on behalf of the govern- ment, along with a jagir, comprising the parganas of Dipalpur, Kanganwal and Jhabal of which the total annual income was about a hundred thousand rupees. 9 The immediate reaction of the Khalsa was that of rejection but on further consideration they accepted it. The offer was made to Diwan Darbara Singh, a prominent leader, but he declined the offer saying, “What is the Nawabship to us who have been promised a kingdom by the Guru? The word of the Guru must be fulfilled. The Khalsa, meant to rule independently cannot accept a subordinate position.”  The offer was rejected by some other Sikhs also. Then, the Nawabship was decided to be conferred upon some one noted for service. Kapur Singh Faizullapuria, who was then waving a big fan over the assembly, was selected for the honour. He accepted it only after it had been sanctified by the touch of the feet of five members of the Khalsa in 1733.”

The khillat presented by the envoy comprised three pieces, a dastar or turban, a jama or gown and a patka or girdle. The envoy also handed over the letter granting the jagir and the title. Thus, Kapur Singh became a Nawab as well as a jagirdar on the condition that he would never be called upon to attend the court either at the capital or in camp.

Nawab Kapur Singh was placed in charge of the langar, general stores and stables of the horses. It was really a difficult job to feed thousands of men and horses but he acquitted himself of his duties wonderfully well. Darbara Singh looked after the order and discipline among the Sikhs. After Darbara Singh’s death in 1734, the whole burden and responsibility devolved upon, the shoulders of Kapur Singh. According to Rattan Singh Bhangu ‘after the: conferment of Nawabship on Kapur Singh, be began to be revered by the Sikhs as a spiritual leader.’  Kapur Singh began to be honoured by the Muslims also. The revenue of his jagir was collected by them and deposited with him.

The agreement with government gave a little breathing time to the Sikhs who again began to live in their homes. But it was a short-lived peace. Zakariya Khan suggested to Nawab Kapur Singh that the government was willing to enlist the young Sikhs in the imperial army. The proposal was rejected. The government expected of the Sikhs to beat their swords into plough shares and live as peaceful and law abiding citizens. The governor suggested that the government would remit full revenues if they settled as peaceful agriculturists. Kapur Singh did not give any assurance as they were not of such pliable stuff.  Shortly, thereafter, they again went out of government’s favour. The government confiscated the jagir in 1735, and the hostilities, between the two, were resumed and the Sikhs were declared outlawed. They secretly moved about in small groups. In 1734, Kapur Singh divided the disintegrated fabric of the Sikhs into two dais (groups).

The word dal is a Punjabi expression meaning a horde and suggests the notion of a group with a definite mission or objective before it. One group was named Budha Dal, the League of the Elders, which comprised men above the age of forty and the other was named Taruna Dal, the League of the Young, which consisted of the young Sikhs below forty. The Budha Dal was assigned the duty of looking after the Sikh holy places and the propagation of the Sikh faith. The Taruna Dal was to undertake the more difficult task of the defence of the community. Though Kapur Singh was in charge of the first section, but because of his respectful position amongst the Sikhs, he acted as a common link between the two dais, that were organised under the leadership of the seasoned Sikh soldiers of the days of Banda Singh.  Some of them had seen the days of Guru Gobind Singh. Later, Kapur Singh reorganised the Taruna Dal into five sections, each led by a separate jathedar (group leader). Gradually the number of the jathas (groups) rose. As ambitious and spirited youngmen formed their separate jathas they were welcomed by the leading Sardars who encouraged them to carry on a guerrilla warfare against the government. The dais served a very useful purpose of providing a number of leaders. 16

Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was introduced to Kapur Singh at an an early date. In the words of Muhammad Latif, “When Kapur Singh went to Bagh Singh’s house he was gready pleased at seeing the latter’s widowed sister playing on the rubab with her long loose hair dishevelled, singing ballads in adoration of the Guru, her beautiful little son, Jassa Singh, playing by her side. Kapur Singh blessed her for devotion to the faith, and asked her to give him the little boy, whose gestures gave promise of a brilliant future. The mother, according to the wishes of the Sikh chief, gave him charge of the boy, and from that moment Kapur Singh treated Jassa Singh as his own son.”  Under Kapur Singh’s guidance Jassa Singh rose to be the leader of the Sikh community.

With the conferment of a jagir on the Sikhs it was not believed that the peace between the government and Sikhs would last very long. The Sikhs could not remain satisfied, for all time to come, with a small jagir granted to them by Zakariya Khan. And at the same time the government could not be a passive spectator to the rapidly growing power and the number of the Sikhs. Under the orders of Zakariya Khan and under the pretext that the Sikhs had violated the promise of remaining peaceful, the government contingent occupied the jagir just before the harvest of 1735.

Under the command of Kapur Singh, the Budha Dal moved away to Malwa and encamped at Thikri village. There, Kapur Singh was received with a warm welcome by Ala Singh, who took baptism at his hands. 18 In memory of the performance of the ceremony of amrit at the Thikri village a well was dug there. “He (Kapur Singh) converted a large number of people, Jats, carpenters, weavers, jhiwars, chhafris and others to the persuasion of Gobind, and the religious respect in which he was held was so great, that initiation into the pahul of the Guru with his hands was considered a great distinction.”  Jai Singh Kanaihya  and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia also took pahul at the hands of Kapur Singh. The Sikhs used to pride themselves on having been baptised by such a revered and undisputed leader of the Sikh community as Kapur Singh was.

Kapur Singh led the community through very difficult times. The Sikhs faced heroically the oppressive rule of the Lahore government and their all-out campaign to destroy the Sikh community, root and branch, and they met bravely a chain of foreign invasions under Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali. Kapur Singh led the community from one success to another till the Sikhs became a force to be reckoned with.

But the Sikhs suffered immensely during Zakariya Khan’s period. Zakariya Khan, knowing full well the veneration in which the Sikhs held their hair, ordered that their hair and beards be removed. This order drove the Sikhs, in thousands, into the forests and the hills. 22 Zakariya Khan sent out moving columns in all directions to hunt them out, 23 and the punitive parties combed the villages and forests and daily brought batches of Sikhs in chains who were publicly beheaded at Lahore at the nakhas (horse market), now called the Shahidganj. The whole machinery of the government, including muqadams, chaudharis and the non-official Zamindars, was set into motion to see that the Sikhs found no shelter within their areas. Under the inspiring guidance of Kapur Singh, “High moral values, service, discipline and sacrifice” were the ever guiding mottos of the Sikhs. To them their earthly belongings and bodies were not their own but belonged to the Guru who had merged his personality into the Khalsa. They believed that sacrifice made in the cause of the Panth would place them in the lap of their Guru. We do not find any instance in Sikh history where a captured Sikh gave up his religion to save his life.

Despite immense hardships the Sikh community took further strides in challenging the government authorities, under the stewardship of Kapur Singh.

Kapur Singh was a very brave and fearless man.  He would always fight against his enemies in the front ranks. He had a large number of wounds dotting his body. Some times he jumped into very dangerous situations showing utter disregard for his personal safety. Once, accompanied by a handful of men, he entered Lahore and sat on the seat of the kotwal of the town for some time, apparently to get a portion of the revenue of the city. Before a contingent, under the command of Izzat Khan, the acting deputy of Muin, stirred into action against Kapur Singh he managed to move out safely.

During Nadir Shah’s return march in 1739, he was taught a lesson by the Sikhs under the command of Kapur Singh. The invaders were relieved of their booty.

During one of his campaigns in the cis-Satluj areas NawabKapur Singh went up to Delhi. On his way he realised tribute from the Nawab of Jhajjar and Ismail Khan, rats of Dadri. Then, he chastised the Nawabs of Dojana and Pataudi. FaizTalab Khan of Pataudi paid heavy amount as na^arana to Kapur Singh and Shamsher Khan of Bahadurgarh also paid big tribute to him. Then came the turn of Faridabad, Balabgarh, Maraili and Gurgaon. He went up to the outskirts of Delhi and none had the courage to obstruct his progress.

To the east and west of river Satluj Kapur Singh’s possessions yielded an annual income of six lakh rupees. Many other Misls had wider areas under them with larger income accruing from them as compared to that of Kapur Singh, but Kapur Singh was, undoubtedly, the most distinguished of the Sikh Jat leaders before the days of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Raja Ala Singh of Patiala. All the Sardars of the Misals paid utmost regards to Nawab Kapur Singh and considered him as their leader. ; He commanded an army of 2500 horsemen. 30 Kapur Singh’s possessions included the parganas of Jalandhar, Haibatpur, Singhpur and Patti.

The period from 1726 to 1753, in the history of the Punjab, was the most difficult time for the Sikhs. With brief periods of respite, here and there, the Sikhs passed through a terrible agony, always under fear of most cruel death. Kapur Singh, as leader of the Sikh movement during this period, weathered the storm very bravely, not allowing the community to sag’ under the government oppression. After Ahmad Shah Durrani’s exit from the province, following his first invasion of India, the Sikhs met at Amritsar on the sacred day of Baisakhi, March 29, 1748, and discussed the situation facing the Panth. At the suggestion of Nawab Kapur Singh, a gurmata was passed that the Panth needed solidarity and union and the entire fighting body of the Sikhs was named the Dal Khalsajio and placed under the supreme command of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. The various groups were leagued together under twelve prominent chiefs. Each had a banner of his own. They, later on, established their principalities.

Nawab Kapur Singh died issueless, at Amritsar, in 1753, bequeathing the honours, which he enjoyed among the Khalsa, to the Ahluwalia Sardar.  His body was cremated near the monument raised in honour of Baba Atal.

Kapur Singh was a tall, well-built and highly impressive man. He was a fine shot and adept in the latest contemporary art of fighting. He was sweet-tongued and possessed a winning and affable disposition.  People felt enamoured when listened him speaking. In the battle-field he was like a brave lion.  After Banda Singh’s death he was the most outstanding leader that the Sikh community had. Through his indomitable capacity for organisation he was able to weld together the weakened and scattered Sikhs into a strong force. He put the disorderly rabbles of the Sikhs into jathas and channelised their energies in the proper direction. In the words if Muhammad Latif, “The dal of the Khalsa or the army of the theocracy of Singhs whose foundation was laid in the times of Furrukhseer, reached the height of their power under the leader-hip of Kapur Singh who really organised this dal or multitude of soldiers. He was, undoubtedly, the most distinguished of the Sikh leaders who paved the way for greatness of the nation as an independent ruling power. His followers, who numbered thousands, gave him the tide of Nawab, as a compliment to his genius, this being almost the only instance of a Sikh assuming a Mohamedan tide.”  He created a strong bond of unity among the various jalhas and gave them a sense of oneness. He did not allow the jathedari or leadership of a group to become hereditary. He was always for the fittest man to lead and for others to follow. Kapur Singh took special interest in looking after the langar where meals were available throughout the day and night, and also administering baptism of the double-edged sword to the people and bringing them into the fold of Sikhism. He gave pahul to thousands of people belonging to different communities and high and low social groups.  Kapur Singh extended all possible help to Bhai Mani Singh to expound Sikhism and preach it among the people. His personal character was above reproach. In the midst of his life-long pre-occupation with war and fighting, he maintained an irreproachable ethical standard. In the words of Ahmad Shah Batalia, ‘Kapur Singh was very generous and magnanimous and an embodiment of humility and humanity.’ One day he was bathing at a well in Faizullapur. A mirasi said that if he was a philanthropist he should bestow on him so much wealth that he was not able to carry it. Kapur Singh granted him that well along with its adjoining land. His slogan was: in Guru-ghar, there was deg for friends and teg for enemies.

As pointed out by Hari Ram Gupta, Kapur Singh had five firsts to his credit. Firstly, he was the only Sikh to have the title of Nawab. Secondly, he was the initiator of dividing the Sikhs into age groups, the Budha Dal and the Tamna Dal. This division lasted for a long time after him. Thirdly, he was the founder of the Dal Khalsa in 1748. Fourthly, he was the first Sikh chief to control Lahore, the provincial capital, though only for a few days. Fifthly, he was the first Sardar to seize territory to the west of river Satluj after Banda Bahadur.

References :-

  • Khushwaqat Rai, Tawarikh-i-Sikhan, M. S., Dr Ganda Singh, Private Collection Patiala, p. 69; Ahmad Shah Batalia, appendix to Sohan Lai Suri’s Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, Lahore, 1885, p. 17; Bute Shah, Tarikh-i-Punjab, IV, (M.S. Dr Ganda Singh, Private Collection, Patiala, p. 1; Ali-ud-Din Mufti, Ibratnama, I, (1854), Lahore, 1961, p, 207; Kanaihya Lai, Tarikh-i-Punjab, Lahore, 1877, p. 106; Rattan Singh Bhangu, PrachinPanth Prakash, (1841,), Amritsar, 1939, 202-03.
    Prem Singh writes in his book NawabKapur Singh (p. 12), that Kapur Singh was the resident of village Kaloke in the pargana of Sheikhupura. He asserts that his information is based on the evidence of Baba Asa Singh who belonged to Kapur Singh’s Virk family.
  • Prem Singh, NawabKapur Singh, p. 17.
  • Bute Shah, op. tit., IV, p. 1.
  • Ibid.
  • Muhammad Latif, History of the Punjab, Calcutta, 1891, p. 322.
  • Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix, op. tit., p. 17; W. L; M’Gregor, The History of the Sikhs (1846), Allahabad reprint, 1979, p. 128.
  • Prem Singh, op. tit., pp. 19-20.
  • Gian Singh, Panth Prakash, (5 th edition), p. 907.
  • Teja Singh and Ganda Singh. A Short History of the Sikhs, Bombay, 1950, p. 121; cf, Gian Singh, Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, II, Patiala reprint, 1970, p. 268.
  • Rattan Singh Bhangu, op. tit., p. 199.
  • Ibid., pp. 199-200.
  • Rattan Singh Bhangu, op. tit., p. 32; Bute Shah, op. tit., IV, p. 4.
  • Ibid., p. 200.
  • Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, op. tit, pp. 121-22.
  • Ahmad Shah Batalia, Appendix to Daftarl of Umdat-ut-Tawarikh, p. 16.
  • Bhagat Singh, Sikh Polity in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Delhi, 1978. p. 62.
  • Muhammad Latif, op. tit., p. 314.
  • Rattan Singh Bhangu, op. tit., pp. 205-06; Gian Singh, op. tit., II, p. 268; Teja Singh and Ganda Singh, op. tit., p. 123.
  • Muhammad Latif, op. tit., pp. 322-23; cf, Gian Singh, op. tit., p. 268; cf, Kanaihya Lai, op. tit., p. 106.
  • History of the sikhs by Hari ram Gupta.
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