Amar Singh Kingra commanded a band of Sikh youths numbering about a hundred. His deputy was Jai Singh, a Sandhu Jat of Kanha Kachha, 21 kms east of Lahore on the road to Firozpur. His father was Khushhal Singh who earned his living by selling grass andwood at Lahore. (Khärfaroshinamudahguzranmekard) Jai Singh was fed up with this kind of life. He heard about the daring deeds of Sikhs. He took pahul from Virk Jat Ruler Nawab Kapur Singh and joined the band of Amar Singh Kingra. On account of the name of his village, his handsome appearance like Krishna Kanhiya, and as he was quick on the trigger,he was called Kanha or Kanhiya, and was made the leader of the band. Jai Singh was noted for dash and daring. In January, 1754, he and Charat Singh Sukerchakia dressed in Muslim garbs entered Lahore One dark evening inside Shah Alami Gate, and plundered rich merchants and jewellers living near the palaces of Begams known as Pari mahal and Rang mahal. The same year Jai Singh’s brother Jhanda Singh was killed while fighting with Nidhan Singh Randhawa at Raval Kotli. Jai Singh took his widow Desan as a wife. In 1759 she gave birth to Gurbakhsh Singh. Gurbakhsh Singh was first married to the daughter of Sidhu Jat ruler Raja Hamir Singh of Nabha. He was again married at the age of nine to Sada Kaur, daughter of Dhaliwal Jat ruler Dasaundha Singh of Ankolwala. Khushwant Rai says that Sada Kaur was the daughter of Bhuma Singh Bhangi. His youngest brother was Ganda Singh who later on settled at Rukhanwala . From May to September, 1758, Adina Beg Khan was the viceroy of the Panjab. He was a great disciplinarian, and would not tolerate any disturbances created by the Sikhs. He despatched a force under Aziz in their pursuit. A number of Sikhs took shelter in their mud fort of Ram Rauni at Amritsar. Nand Singh Sanghania, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jai Singh Kanhiya were among them. Mir Azizlaid siege to the fort. Jai Singh Kanhiya riding on a swift and spirited mare delivered many assaults on the besiegers by penetrating in their midst. Though he was attacked on all sides, yet he would return inside the fort safely. Generally he worked in collaboration with Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. Jai Singh seized a part of Riyarki comprising the district of Gurdaspur and upper portions of Amritsar district. His first headquarter was located at Sohian, the village of his in-laws about 15 kms from Amritsar. Later on he shifted to Batala and then to Mukerian taken from Awans. His territory lay on both sides of rivers Beas and Ravi. He married his associate Haqiqat Singh’s son Jaimal Singh to Sahib Kaur, daughter of Maharaja Amar Singh of Patiala. He occasionally visited Patiala in order to solve some of its problems. QaziNur Muhammad wrote in 1765 that Jai Singh Kanhiya had extended his territory upto Parol lying in the southern parts of Jammu, and that he worked in collaboration with Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, and that both shared the territory of Batala between themselves. In 1774 Jai Singh built a Katra at Amritsar called Katra Kanhiyan. Jai Singh seized Gharota at the foothills. The hill chiefs of Nurpur, Datarpur and Siba became his tributaries.
The Jammu affair, 1774-84
About the middle of the eighteenth century Panjab became acockpit of struggle among the Mughals, the Durranis, the Marathas and the Sikhs. Jammu situated 35 kms north of Sialkot on the right bank of a small river called Tavi was at this time ruled over by Raja Ranjit Dev, who was a administrator, and absolutely impartial,treating Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, as well as Panjabis, Hindustanis, Jamwals and Kashmiris a like. Thousands of rich people, merchants, bankers, jewellers and Kashmiri shawl makers flocked to this town. Jammu became Dar-ul-Aman or an abode of peace. unfortunately for the royal family and the people a quarrel broke out between Ranjit Dev and his eldest son Brij Raj Dev in 1774. As the latter was of bad character, the Raja wanted to nominate his younger son as his successor. Brij Raj Dev broke out in open rebellion. He invited Jai Singh Kanhiya and Charat Singh Sukarchakia to support his cause against his father. The Raja was obliged to seek assistance from Jhanda Singh and Ganda Singh Bhangis to whom he was atributary. In the course of fighting which had lasted for 22 days, Charat Singh died by the bursting of his own gun. His wife and only son Mahan Singh came to the battlefield to attend the funeral. Jai Singh immedintely declared Mahan Singh head of the Sukarchakia Misl. Finding himself incapable to face the Bhangis, Jai Singh resorted to a cunning device. He paid Rs. 4,000 to a sweeper who was a personal attendant of Jhanda Singh. One late evening Jhanda Singh was going 10 consult some of his chiefs, when he was shot dead by the sweeper from behind. This broke the heart of his brother Ganda Singh. He raised his camp and returned to Amritsar. Ranjit Dev bribed Jai Singh with a sum of one lakh and a quarter rupees. Before leaving Jammu, Mahan Singh, though a lad of ten, adopted a subtletrick. He offered to Brij Raj Dev to form a bond of lasting brother-hood. At a formal ceremony they exchanged turbans as a symbol of abiding fraternal union. Jai Singh came to Gujranwala and managed the affairs of the Sukarchakia Misl. He also arranged the marriage of Mahan Singh with the daughter of Raja Gajpat Singh of Jind, Ganda Singh Bhangi won over Jai Singh’s rival Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and fought several battles with Jai Singh Kanhiya. In the battle of Dinanagar Ganda Singh lost his life. In October, 1778, Jai Singh with the help of Mahan Singh Sukarchakia and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia drove away Jassa Singh Ramgarhia to the desert region of Hansi and Hisar. Ranjit Dev died in April, 1781. Brij Raj Dev succeeded him. Jai Singh and Haqiqat Singh led an expedition to Jammu, and received asum of three lakhs as a tribute. The entire sum was kept by Jai Singh. He instigated Haqiqat Singh to lead another plundering raid to Jammuas it was a very rich city. It lay almost defence less, because the army and people were opposed to Brij Raj Dev. Haqiqat Singh thought that Mahan Singh might come to the help of his turban-exchanged-brother. He made an offer to Mahan Singh to attack Jammu jointly and divide the booty equally. Mahan Singh agreed. A plan was chalked out and the day of marching was fixed in January,1784. Mahan Singh reached Jammu by a different route four days before the fixed day. He plundered Jammu for three days and nights, killing thousands of men. The booty secured was with more than a crore. When Haqiqat Singh reached Jammu on the fixed day, he found the town inflames and in ruins. This treachery shocked him so much that he died of grief on his return to Fatahgarh, his headquarters Kangra, 1783 TheKangra valley is about 130 kms long and 60 kms broad. It lies in the lower ranges of the Himalayas. Its average elevation is nearly 1,000 metres. It is watered by river Beas. The valley was parcelled out among Rajput princes belonging to Katoch family.The Kangra town was known as Nagarkot. It is situated on the slopes of a hill on both sides of river Ban Ganga. the town contains the famous temple of Rajeshri Devi. The fort of Kangra enjoyed great prestige. It lies about 50 metres above the Ban Ganga, near its confluenc: with river Beas. The fortis surrounded on three sides by steep and high precipices. It is agrand edifice of stone. The hill on which the fort stands is nearly 5kms in circuit. In order to dominate the Kangra hills, the Mughal Government had appointed an officer who resided in the Kangra fort. He collected tributes from the Rajas and remitted it to Delhi. At this time the fortwas held by Saif Ali Khan. During Ahmad Shah Durrani’s invasions, Ghamand Chand Katoch’ bad risen to power. He was a tributary tothe Durrani, on whose behalf he controlled the Kangra hills as wellas the Jalandhar Doab. Ghamand Chand’s son Tegh Chand paidtribute to Jai Singh Kanhiya. In 1782 his grandson, Raja Sansar Chand Katoch became anxious to secure possession of the fort. He attacked Saif Ali Khan a number of times,but could not make any Impression on the qiladar. He invited Jai Singh Kanhiya to help him in getting possession of the fort. Jai Singh deputed his son Gurbakhsh Singh with Baghel Singh to Kangra. The three chiefs besieged the fort. George Forster was passing by Kangra on March 29 1783. He says that the siege of the Kangra Fort by Raja Sansar Chand was going on. Two hundred Sikhs were also among the bestegers. Two SikhJat horsemen met Forster on the road. Forster was in a caravan of iron merchants. The two Sikhs realized a sum of Rs. 100 from the iron merchants to give them a free passage. It was”accounted a large sum in these parts. “The other travellers also” were laid under contribution. “An”ass-driver” was deprived of his”pair of shoes.” Then they seized a Kashmiri who was in the caravan. The Kashmiri was a clever man. He loudly shouted and cried out falsely that he was a servant of George Forster. The two horsemen approached Forster. “Aware of the licentious manners of the disciples of Nanock, especially when employed in foreign service”, Forster, to show respect to them, had dismounted and began leading his horse on foot. One of them looked into his face and declared that he appeared a bar admi(ballaaudimee). They let off the Kashmiri unmolested. A little distance ahead he came upon another body of the Sikhs. “A Sicque, a smart fellow,mounted on an active mare, touched mein passi.g. The high-mettled animal, whether in contempt of me ormy horse, perhaps of both, attacked us fiercely from the rear, and inthe assault, which was violent, the Sicque fell to the ground. Theaction having commenced on the top of a hill, he rolled with great rapidity to the bottom of it, and in his way down, left behind him his matchlock, sword, and turban so complete a derangement,feared, would have irritated the whole Sicque body ; but on evincing the show of much sorrow for the disaster, and having assiduously assisted in investing the fallen horseman with his scattered appurtenances, I received general thanks.”?The direct road from Kangra to Jammu passed through Nadaunand Haripur. As both these places were dominated by the Sikhs,George Forster, in March, 1783, was obliged to follow another uncommon route for fear of the Sikhs who generally plundered all travellers. To revert to our story, Saif Ali Khan died when the siege was going on. His son jiwan Khan took charge of defences. Gurbakhsh Singh suggested to Sansar Chand to offer temptations of cash and jagir to the young man for surrendering the fort to the Raja. When negotiations were completed, Gurbakhsh Singh secretly hinted trea-chery on the part of the Raja, and offered a large sum of money onhis own behalf to qiladar. On receiving the heavy bribe Jiwan Khan admitted the Sikh troops inside the fort to the sheer chagrin of theRaja. Gurbakhsh Singh established his authority over all the Kangra hills up to Palampur.
The battle of Rändpura ,February, 1785.
The death of Haqiqat Singh was a great loss to Jai Singh. Besides Haqiqat Singh’s son Jaimal Singh whom he had recently married to Sahib Kaur, daughter of Maharaja Amar Singh, instigated Jai Singh to acquire from Mahan Singh his share in the loot of Jammu: Jai Singh demanded from Mahan Singh half of the booty for Jaimal Singh, a part of which he wished to offer to the Durbar Sahib. Mahan Singh replied it was the fruit of his own labour, and he would not part with it. Jai Singh and Jaimal Singh began to plunder Mahan Singh’s territory and laid waste the parganahs of Mansurpur and Mandala. Afterwards they attacked Nakais who were Mahan Singh’sallies, and seized Chunian, Dipalpur, and Raiwind from them. They also attacked Jandiala whose chief was attached to Mahan Singh. On the Diwali day in 1784 all the Sikh Jat sardars gathered at Amritsar. Mahan Singh with a tray of sweets called on Jai Singh Kanhiya in his Katra. He was sitting on a cot. On seeing Mahan Singh he stretched himself covering all over and loudly shouting :”Be off, youbhagatia” (a dancing boy). Mahan Singh who was the richest Jat sardar at the time took this insult to heart. He attacked the Kanhiya camp outside Amritsar. Jai Singh pursued him. A further engagement took place near Majitha, 20 kms from Amritsar. Jai Singh was forced to seek shelter inside the town, which was besieged. Jai Singh escaped into the Jalandhar Doab and collected a large army and stores of munitions. Mahan Singh could not face him single-handed. He retired to Gujranwala. Mahan Singh invited Raja Sansar Chand Katoch and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, both enemies of Jai Singh, to join him. The response was immediate. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia left To sham early in February,1785 and encamped at Jagraon. Ramgarhia’s enemy Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was dead. His successor Bhag Singh promised neutrality. Jai Singh sent a force to check Ramgarhia’s advance. An engagement took place between them on the right bank of the Satluj in which the Kanhiya force was repulsed. Jassa Singh advanced and crossed river Beas without any difficulty. Raja Sansar Chand lay encamped at Dinanagar, 82 kms north of Amritsar. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Mahan Singh joined their forces in the neighbourhood of Amritsar. Bagga Jat chief Amar Singh Bagga formerlya personal attendant of Jai Singh and a member of the Kanhiya misl deserted Jai Singh and united with Mahan Singh. They advanced towards Batala, 38 kms north o Amritsar. Jai Singh met the allies at Randpura village near Achal 13 kms away from Batala. It was a fiercely contested battle which lasted six hours. Jai Singh’s eldest and ablest son Gurbakhsh Singh was struck by an arrow shot by a soldier of Guru Sundar Das of Jandiala and instantly killed him. For a while the old man was paralysed with grief. The world became dark in his eyes. He threw away his sword, arrows and matchlock and shouted to his enemies that he should also be killed. Tara Singh and Jaimal Singh took him away from the field to a place of safety. Gurbakhsh Singh’s widow, Sada Kaur, who was present in the battlefield escaped in disguise barefoot to her fort of Sohian, 3 kms from Majitha and 15 kms from Amritsar.
The battle of Naushahra, February, 1785
Jai Singh suddenly realized his mistake and made up his mind to fight the enemy. He retired from the battlefield and collected his troops and munitions. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Sansar Chand Katoch got busy in recovering their territories which Jai Singh had seized. Mahan Singh alone remained in the field. A battle was fought between Jai Singh and Mahan Singh at Naushahra. Many men lost their lives on both sides. Jai Singh was repulsed. He fled away to Nurpur accompanied by Tara Singh and Jaimal Singh. Mahan Singh pursued them. They entered the fort and started fighting. Mahan Singh soon realized that he had come a long way off from his base. He raised the siege and turned homeward. Sansar Chand received him in his camp at Dinanagar, and sought his help in recovering Kangra fort. Jai Singh’s territory was divided among four partners. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia recovered his lost territory. Sansar Chand seized Hajipur, Mukerian and the whole country lying at the foot of the hills. Amar Singh Bagga fully established himself at Sujanpur, 7 kms north-west of Pathankot, at the foot of the hills in the corner of the Bari Doab below Nurpur. Mahan Singh seized Kanhiya territory worth three lakhs a years. Sansar Chand Raja Sansar Chand Katoch requested Mahan Singh to help him in getting back his fort of Kangra in return for a nazarana of two lakhs of rupees. Mahan Singh promised to send a force on his arrival at Gujranwala, Meanwhile Sansar Chand besieged Jai Singh’s fort of Atalgarh situated on the banks of river Beas, and held by his slave girl Dassar. This brave woman repulsed all the assaults of Sansar Chand. After four months’ unsuccessful struggle Sansar Chand raised the siege. By this time Mahan Singh sent a strong contingent of 1,000 men under his two commanders, Daya Ram and Muhammad Sälah. Along with Sansar Chand’s men they besieged the fort of Kangra. The siege lasted six months. Mahan Singh’s men ran short of money. Sansar Chand declined to pay anything before the fall of the fort. The two allies began to fight. Muhammad Sälah was killed in the engagement. Daya Ram returned to Gujranwala. Sansar Chand alone continued the siege. He realized that he had bleak chances to gain the fort in an open fight. He resorted to diplomacy. He sent a message to Jai Singh that both of them should join to fight Mahan Singh. Jai Singh accepted the proposal. When Jai Singh came out of the fort, Sansar Chand’s men rushed in and after a short scuffle, the Raja seized the fort. Thus he paid the Kanhiya chief in the same coin. Jai Singh came to Atalgarh in sheer desperation. Matrimonial alliance, 1786 Meanwhile the far-sighted Sada Kaur foresaw the rising fortunes of the Sukerchakia Misl. She made up her mind to get her only child, Mahtab Kaur, betrothed to Mahan Singh’s only son, Ranjit Singh. She prevailed upon Jai Singh to approve of her proposal. Then she deputed Amar Singh Kingra to Mahan Singh to consider the overture. Sada Kaur learnt that Mahan Singh’s wife, Raj Kaur, had gone to Jawalamukhi on a pilgrimage to pray for the recovery of Ranjit Singh from smallpox. She immediately went there and persuaded the lady to accept her proposal. Mahtab Kaur was married in 1786 to Ranjit Singh who was only six years old. When the Sukarchakia and Kanhiya Miss were allied through matrimony, Mahan Singh forced Sansar Chand to surrender all the Kanhiya territories situated at the foot of the hills to Jai Singh.The Muslim leader of Batala, Ghulam Ghaus, was opposed to Jai Singh. He fled away to seek helpfrom Timur Shah Durrani. On hisway at Gujranwala he complained to Mahan Singh Sukarchakia against Jai Singh. Mahan Singh persuaded him not to proceed farther. He got Ghulam Ghaus restored to his position. Jai Singh’s death, 1793at the age of 81. This date is given By Khushwant Rai, his contemporary. Some other writers have given different dates. Muhammad Hasan puts it in 1779 and Griffin in 1789. Massyl, assigns 1793. Jai Singh’s ablest son, Gurbakhsh Singh, was dead. It was a rare combination that Gurbakhsh Singh’s wife was equally able, brave and clever. By his second wife Jai Singh had two sons, Nidhan Singh and Bhag Singh. Nidhan Singh lived at Hajipur and Bhag Singh at Sohian. His third wife, a Bhangi princess, seems to have had no issue. She got no share in the territory and property. The real control of the Kanhiya Misl passed into the hands of Sada Kaur who lived at Batala and Mukerian. The territories of the Misl were first divided into two parts, one half of which went to Sada Kaur. The two brothers furthersub-divided their states. In 1811 Ranjit Singh summoned Nidhan Singh to Lahore and imprisoned him. All his territory and property were seized forthwith. Ranjit Singh captured the whole state leaving ten villages to the family worth Rs. 6,000 a year. Jai Singh was a brave soldier and good administrator. It is unfortunate that he practised the politics of the sword in getting rid of his rivals.
- History of Sikhs -Vol. IV ,The Sikh Commonwealth or Rise and Fall of Sikh Misls By Hari ram gupta.
- Forster, Journey, I, 256-57.
- Bute Shah, Tarikh-i-Punjab, IV, MS., Dr Ganda Singh, Personal Collection, Patiala, p. 35; Ganesh Das Badehra. Char Bagh-i-Punjab, (1855), Amritsar, 1965, p. 129; Ali-ud-Din Mufti, Ibratnama, Vol. I, (1854), Lahore, 1961, p. 271; Kanaihya Lai, Tarikh-i-Punjab, Lahore 1877, p. 93; Lepel Griffin, The Punjab Chiefs, Lahore, 1865, p. 314; Gian Singh, Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, II, reprint Patiala, 1970, p. 242.
- Bute Shah, op. tit, IV, p. 35; cf, Gian Singh, op. tit, p. 370.
- Khushwaqat Rai, op. tit, p. 91; Lepel Griffin, op. tit, p. 316; Gian Singh, op. tit, p. 243. According to Bute Shah (pp. tit., IV, p. 35) and Ali-ud-Din Mufti (pp. tit, Vol. I, p. 271), Sohian was the village of Jhanda Singh’s father-in4aw.