1839 A.D - 1849 A.D. The turbulent years
The period of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rule was the most peaceful time Punjabis had ever known. This period of 40 years was the Golden era of the Punjab when Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, no longer under foreign rule, reaffirmed their Punjabi roots. New schools were opened with new Khalsa schools at Amritsar and Lahore run by Sikh academicians being open to all Punjabis, whatever their creed or religion. The British were not allowed to open Christian schools although they were allowed to preach in the Punjab. Punjabi Muslims who for centuries had been plundered and murdered by their muslim brothers from Afghan and Persia were now helping to lead the Punjabi armies of the Sarkar Khalsa. Ranjit Singh's Sikh credo had created a secular kingdom with equality for all. Through his foresight he had brought peace and prosperity to the Punjab.
He had given power to 3 different factions to help administer the kingdom.
- The Dogra brothers Hindus, who never converted to Sikhism, led by Dhyan Singh Dogra they maintained their Hindu customs. Ranjit Singh did not enforce the Khalsa code of conduct on anyone, often his friends and peers did things to please him which included adding Singh to their names, keeping five symbols of Sikhs, etc. Dhyan Singh Dogra played a very strange role in Sikh history. He originally belonged to Jammu. He came to Lahore in search of a job, with his hard work and ability he rose to the top. Maharaja Ranjit Singh made him the prime minister of Sarkar Khalsa. Then he also got his brothers inducted in different departments in Sarkar Khalsa. Soon Dogras had all the administration of state, things like treasury, finance, etc.
- Noblemen of Lahore which were both Muslims and Hindus, leaders being Azizudin brothers. This group led departments like foreign affairs, medicine and science under Sarkar Khalsa. It was the diplomacy of Faqir Azizudeen that earned Ranjit Singh the Koh-i-noor diamond from an Afghani king.
- Sikh noblemen from all over the Punjab, leaders like Dhanna Singh Malwai, the Majhithia brothers, Sandhawalia brothers, Ahluwalias, Ramgarhias, Virks of Sheikhupura, Bajwas of Narowal, etc. This group was mostly involved in defense of the state, it was divided into foot soldiers, cavalry, support troops and Artillery. The Cavalry were all Sikhs, while foot soldiers included poorbia mercenaries hired from all over India. Artillery was in command of a capable Punjabi leader named Mian Ghaus Khan. Support troops were soldiers in charge of support lines, etc.
This efficient machinery worked well under Ranjit Singh and the Punjab was on its way to prosperity. The army was totally separated from state affairs, Ranjit Singh had designed and implemented an ingenious system for this purpose. The army democratically elected five member Panches, they decided on all the matters vis-à-vis state, etc. The British did not dare attack while Ranjit Singh ruled. Ranjit Singh was the first Indian ruler to build a modern diciplined army which could stand toe to toe with the modern British forces. In doing this he was well ahead of the rest of Asia, even beating the Japanese by more than 40 years. He hired several experienced European Officers to write training manuals, train and even command parts of his army. Foundries were set up and cannons cast (his european doctor was put in charge of gunpowder production). The British knew well that his was the only power that could compete with them for the rule of India.
Danger and Intrigue
Ranjit Singh's biggest oversight was, perhaps, his inability to have fully prepared any of his sons to take over his kingdom and to be fatally unaware of the treachery afoot in his court in his last few years. When Ranjit Singh died, Kharak Singh, his eldest son became Maharaja. Kharak Singh was 50 years old at this time. He totally lacked the skills and drive of his father. A heavy opium eater he neglected state affairs immersing himself in wine, women and the opium. At first Dhyan Singh remained the chief minister. Kharak's son, Naunihal Singh was, however, more like his grandfather. He had proven himself a valiant warrior and was a favorite with the army. Having fought in several battles he was then serving as the governor of the North West Frontier. Earlier Maharaja Ranjit Singh had arranged the marriage of Naunihal Singh with the daughter of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala.
The Dogra brothers, Dhyan, Suchet and Gulab Singh were in total control of the kingdom's administration at this time. Dhyan Singh's son Hira Singh, was a favorite of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who had treated him as if he were his own grandson. The Maharaja had given him the title "Farzand-e-Khas" ("special son"). It was rumored that Dhyan Singh wanted Hira Singh, his son to become the Maharaja of the Punjab and thus he started plotting the death of the rightful heirs to the throne. Kharak Singh, the new Maharaja did not trust the Dogras and started undermining their powers. He made Chet Singh Bajwa, who had been his childhood teacher, his mentor. Ranjit Singh had looked after all matters giving some liberty to the Dogra brothers, but nevertheless keeping a tight and watchfull eye on them. Ranjit Singh's inability to trust anyone blindly had played a major role in day to day administration of the state's affairs. Most of his courtiers had been too afraid to do anything wrong.
But during the rule of Kharak Singh, the established ways of Ranjit were subverted by the Dogras. The Dogras began to fear that Chet Singh was responsible for their removal from state affairs so Gulab and Suchet Singh plotted to remove Chet Singh Bajwa and subdue Kharak Singh. One night Chet Singh, foolishly, warned the Dogras of... what 24 hours would bring to them. That night the Dogras, thus forewarned, entered the room of Chet Singh and hacked him to pieces. During the attack Kharak Singh had asked that they not harm his friend. In control now the Dogras changed the servants of the Maharaja placing him under virtual house arrest in an haveli inside the fort. They had a slow acting poison (mercury) secretly added to the food of Maharaja Kharak Singh insuring him a slow and painfull death. His son Naunihal Singh who suspected the treachery of the Dogras did not return to Lahore until his father died. All this time Dhyan Singh Dogra was in the service of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's family.
Naunihal Singh came back to Lahore to fulfill his duty to cremate the body of his father. As he entered the fort his the funeral procession was already underway. After the last prayers were said he was able to light the pyre of sandalwood. Returning from the cremation, as the group aproached the fort (he and Udham Singh were well ahead now, as the Dogras, with the other Nobles behind them, had lagged behind. Suddenly, just as the new Maharaja and Udham Singh Dogra reached the archway of the old Hazuri Bagh gate; the gate crashed down upon them. Udham Singh Dogra died immediately but it is said that Naunihal Singh, not badly hurt, was even able to walk; nevertheless, Gulab Singh Dogra had him carried away on a palki which was, oddly, right at hand. Keeping everyone back, he had the forts' doors locked behind the party carrying the palki. Most of the Palki carriers met with sudden deaths after the accident. Two days later Dhyan Singh Dogra declared that Naunihal Singh had died due to complications of his injury. Even Naunihal Singh's mother, his wife and the other Sikh nobles had not been allowed to see him in the days after the injury. The European doctor who had seen the injured ear of the new Maharaja told the author Macauliffe that when he went to see Naunihal Singh his head was totally crushed, the bandages had been changed and the Maharaja was not breathing. Many authors have written of an intentional explosion ordered by the Dogras to bring down the archway. Others doubt the colapse was planned, citing the death of the Dogra Prince. The European artillery officer of Ranjit Singh recounted his being asked by Dhyan Singh Dogra to send a party of soldiers to that very bridge. Either way the event certainly helped in getting another of Ranjit Singh's heirs out of the way. With yet more deaths of the Royal Family to come Dhyan Singh Dogra now proclaimed another son of Ranjit Singh named Sher Singh as the Maharaja of the Punjab thus seemingly switching allegiance, from the Royal Family at Lahore, to Sher Singh in his power play for the Kingdom.
Maharaja Sher Singh
Sher Singh was very popular with army, he was a good person but not a shrewd politician. His chief minister Dhyan Singh Dogra had been a trusted friend of Ranjit Singh had held the same post under him. His aims here seemed to be at odds with his brothers Suchet and Gulab Singh. Meanwhile, ehe Sandhawalia Sardars Ajit Singh, Lehna Singh and Attar Singh began to fear Sher Singh and Dhyan Singh Dogra and left Lahore seeking safe haven with the British. In Sher Singh, the Punjab got a maharaja who was handsome dandy who knew more about wine and women than state affairs. It is widely believed that the Dogra brothers then began working behind the scenes for the return of the Sandhanwalia brothers. Two years later, the Sandhanwalia brothers sent a letter to Maharaja Sher Singh saying they wanted to return to their motherland. Sher Singh obliged and gave them permission to return to the Punjab. Sher Singh gave them good positions of rank in the army. It looked at first as if the Sandhawalia brothers were pleased. Dhyan Singh began to plot with the Sandhanwalias suggesting they were all in danger from Sher Singh. Sher Singh with his son, ten year old Prince Pertap Singh was invited to inspect new conscripts under command of the Sandhawalias, Ajit Singh Sandhawalia asked permission to show him how to fire a new carbine he had got from the British. The story is told that...Sher Singh agreed and as he reached for the gun, which was being handed to him barrel first, Ajit Singh Sandhawalia pulled the trigger, Sher Singh only had time to gasp "aah ki Daga!",(what treachery!). At the same time, Lehna Singh Sandhawalia killed Prince Pertap Singh. Dhyan Singh Dogra with 25 of his troops joined them and they all headed back to the fort. Ajit and Lehna Singh took Dhyan Singh aside, as if for a private talk and killed him. His body was cut into many pieces which were hung on pikes all over Lahore City.
Learning of the events Raja Gulab Singh and Hira Sing Dogra, led the Sarkar Khalsa forces in an attack on the Sandhanwalia's citadel; where the murderous brothers, with about 500 of their supporters, had taken shelter. The enraged Khalsa Army attacked and a day later over ran the fort killing both of the Sandhanwalia asassins on the spot. While all this was going on, the 3rd Dogra Brother Suchet Singh sneaked 22 cart loads of gold, silver, jewels and other valuables from the Khalsa treasury through the back door of the Lahore fort. Taken first to Batala the treasure ended up in Jammu. The treasure would eventually allow the Dogras to buy Kashmir form the British. Gulab Singh Dogra now openly supported making his son the next Maharaja of the Punjab. He even asked Maharani Chand Kaur, widow of Ranjit Singh to adopt his son Hira Singh. The Khalsa Army and other Sikh noblemen intervened and made the youngest son of Ranjit Singh, Dilip Singh, the new Maharaja of the Punjab. Born of Maharani Jindan, the new Maharaja was only 5 years old. Hira Singh Dogra was, instead, appointed as the new prime minister. A few days later, Maharani Chand Kaur was found murdered on her bed, her head crushed. It was suspected that Gulab Singh Dogra had her killed since she had refused to adopt Hira Singh.
The last Maharaja to sit on the Khalsa Throne
Peshaura Singh and Kashmira Singh, elder sons of Maharaja Ranjit Singh questioned the validity of 5 year old Dilip Singh Maharaja of Punjab, but without any effect. Hira Singh appointed Tej Singh Dogra and Lal Singh Dogra as general of Khalsa army. So now, the command of Khalsa army was passed from Sikh generals to Hindu generals, only one Sikh general named Ranjodh Singh Majithia remained at the highest command level. Able generals like Sham Singh Attari were not considered for top posts. It is believed that the Dogra Brothers were responsible for appointing such generals so as to keep negotiations open with the British if war came, which increasingly seemed inevitable. The British forward post was in Ferozepur with others at Jalandhar and Ambala being major cantonments. The British requested that Hira Singh allow the transport of some Afghani women to Afghanistan through the Punjab under Major Wolcroft. Hira Singh obliged and supplied additional Punjabi troops for an escort. Major Wolcroft was a paranoid major and on more than one occasion ordered his troops to fire at the Punjabi troops. Later a British Governor General apologized for his behavior.
Hira Singh Dogra and his advisor, a Brahmin named Jalla controlled the administration, Maharaja Dilip Singh was just a figure head of state. Hira Singh's uncle Suchet Singh Dogra did not like Jalla and asked for his removal. He came to Lahore along with his general Rai Kesari Singh and camped at the mausoleum of Mian Wadda, outside the city. Hira Singh Dogra was irked at the suggestion of his uncle for the removal of Pundit Jalla and he ordered the Punjabi Troops to storm their citadel at Mian Wadda. Suchet Singh and Rai Kesari Singh were killed. Hira Singh Dogra then broke down at the sight of his uncle's bullet ridden body and gave him a huge funeral.
Massacre at Batala
Now two camps began to emerge among the Sikhs of the Punjab, one being the Sarkar Khalsa at Lahore with another close to Batala under Bhai Bir Singh. Many Sikh Sardars like the Majhitias and Attariwalas, although loyal to the Sarkar Khalsa at Lahore, were in communication with Bhai Bir Singh as well. Attar Singh Sandhawalia who had earlier fled to Thanesar, slipped back into the Punjab and came to Bhai Bir Singh's camp. Bhai Bir Singh welcomed him and assured him that he would be made the Maharaja of the Punjab. Soon Prince Kashmira Singh and prince Peshaura Singh also joined Bhai Bir Singh and supported Attar Singh Sandhawalia in his bid for kingship. So, many Sikhs who were against the Dogras aligned themselves with Bhai Bir Singh, thus creating two camps; A Dogra command versus a Sikh command. More then 70% of the Punjab's army under Hira Singh Dogra was Khalsa (pure, having been annoited with Amrit (Amrit Sanchar). Hira Singh Dogra through promises of more salary and gifts of gold for each soldier managed to keep most of them loyal to him. Even more importantly their Maharaja, though only a child, was a Khalsa child of Ranjit Singh's lineage, Dilip Singh, to whom the army was fiercely loyal. Hira Singh reminded the army of the murders of Prince Sher Singh by the Sandhawalia brothers and of how Attar Singh had fled the Punjab after his brothers were killed by the army. Then in an apparent move to win over the Khalsa of Lahore, Bhai Bir Singh invited the army to his camp for a feast. More then 5,000 goats were sacrificed for the feast. Attar Singh Sandhawalia in a fit of rage over an argument fired on one of the Sikh officers named Attar Singh Kalkattia killing him on spot. A riot followed in which one by one Bhai Bir Singh's companions were murdered by the Army. Bhai Bir Singh died, as well as Attar Singh Sandhawalia and prince Kashmira Singh. The battalion under Major Croft, an European officer employed by the Sarkar Khalsa, was mainly responsible for the massacre. His battalion was aptly named "Gurumar". Hira Singh Dogra understood the grave mistake and apologized for the murders of the princes and Bhai Bir Singh to the Army as well as the whole nation. On April 9, 1844 a huge earthquake hit Amritsar and Lahore, and was believed to be a sign of bad luck by the general populace.
End of Dogra rule in the Khalsa Kingdom
The British forward post at Ferozepur was being strengthened; it looked like that whole of the Punjab was under preparations for war. The Ambala and Jalandhar cantonments were tripled in strength with reinforcements and new recruits from Bengal, Awadh and Bihar. Hira Singh Dogra knew that war was inevitable. Millions of Punjabis left central Punjab settling in other states which were protectorates of the British, Patiala, Faridkot, Nabha and Jind. Hira Singh Dogra moved Punjabi troops to Kasur which was directly opposite Ferozepur. Now both armies were directly oppose each other. In December of 1844, Henry Harding took over as Governor general of India. He was called Tunda Lat (One armed lord). He sent more forces to Ferozepur. The Punjabis fearing an attack put on a vigil for 24 hours a day. But no attack came and the stand off was averted. Then came the second round of intrigues between the Dogras and the Sikhs. Pundit Jalla, accused Maharani Jindan of illicit relations with one Misr Lal Singh (not general). This created a furor all over the kingdom as she was the mother of Maharaja Dilip singh. An enraged Maharani Jindan was summoned to the army panches as were Hira Singh Dogra and Pundit Jalla. A few days earlier, Hira Singh Dogra had dismissed 500 soldiers without pay and thus he feared the worst. Maharani Jindan with her son Dilip Singh and brother Jawahar Singh came to the cantonment, while Hira Singh Dogra and Pundit Jalla sent, in advance, horsemen to his uncle Gulab Singh at Jammu for help. Gulab Singh sent 1000 horsemen, and Hira Singh and Jalla came out of their palace and slowly and quietly crossed the river Ravi from Shahdra headed to Jammu with more crores from the treasury. The Khalsa army pursued and caught them about 14 miles from city. Mian Labh Singh, their general put up a good fight but all 1000 dogras were massacred. Pundit Jalla, Hira Singh Dogra and their accomplices faced the wrath of the Khalsa army, their heads were displayed on the streets of Lahore. The then Diwan Deena Nath, an aristocrat of Lahore took charge of the situation and appointed Lal Singh as Chief minister of the Punjab, Tej Singh as commander of Army and reaffirmed Dilip Singh as the Maharaja of the Punjab.
The Khalsa army was much larger and stronger than the British forces. The British were still mobilizing forces from Ambala and other places. Instead of attacking Ferozepur, when a victory would have been almost guaranteed, Lal Singh waited for four months until the British forces were three times the size of the Khalsa army. It is said that Lal Singh had already negotiated with the British suppling them with the positions of guns, number of soldiers, plans of attack and other vital statistics.
The intrigues of the Dogra brothers for their own selfish aims and the inability of any Sikh politicians to control them, was in large part, responsible for the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Sarkar Khalsa. After the Anglo-Sikh Wars, Gulab Singh Dogra with thanks from the British purchased Kashmir with the stolen treasure of Lahore. Kashmir remained in the Dogra control until 1947 when the then Raja decided to go with India. Kashmir was not divided by the British. Realizing Indian forces were weak in the kingdom Pathans were mobilized to attack and sieze Kashmir. Luckily, as soon as the Pathans pillaged a village or two they returned to their homes happy with their spoils, much to their commander's bewilderment.
A crack Sikh regiment of the new Indian army was rushed to the front saving the remainder of Kashmir. The current line of demarcation was agreed upon in the Simla Accords of 1972.