Kashmiri Pandits at Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Darbar

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Kashmiri Pandits at MaharajaRanjit Singh's Darbar

When Mughuls occupied the country. Some Kashmiri Pandits left the country willingly in search of "meadows and pastures new" and some were forced to leave the country by the exigencies of times. They spread over the whole of the Indian sub-continent. With the break down of the Moghul Empire a number of kingships came into existence and the Pandits entered into services there. They went as far away as Bengal.

Pandit Kidar Nath, an ancester of Hon'ble Pandit Ajudhya Prashad Kunzru, became the Diwan of Mir Jaffar. In these very days Pandit Sada Sukh (grand father of Hon'ble Bishambar Nath) was in charge of Revenue administration in the Haidarabad State. So also in many other States. In the pandemonium which followed the breakdown of the Moghul rule in Kashmirt Pandit Kishen Das, an unknown Kashmiri Pandit, left his native place and reached Delhi. By dint of his high attainments in the Persian language - he succeeded in carving a place for himself at the Moghul Court. He became there the nucleus of a small group of Pandits and wherever they went they went in a boy. He had a son by name Pandit Ganga Ram who rose very high at the Sikh Durbar. With the establishment of the Sikh rule in the Punjab, the necessity of regulating the finances of the State was keenly felt by – Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Having been apprised of the attainments of Ganga Ram in this branch, the Sikh-Ruler invited him to Lahore. Till then there were very few Kashmiri Pandits residing at Lahore. Ganga Ram accepted the offer and moved in the year 1813 A.D. to Lahore with a number of 'Pandits, the chief amongst them being Raja Dina Nath, Daya Ram Hari Ram,' Gopi Nath, Ram Kisheni Ganga Bishen Gamkhat. Lachman Prashad etc. These and many 'others settled at Lahore and were prominently placed at the Sikh court. Pandit Ganga Ram having risen very high in the estimation of the Sikh ruler was appointed as the Finance Minister. After the death of Pandit Ganga Ram the mantle fell upon the shoulders of his friend and relative Raja Dina Nath, who had accompanied hirn to Lahore ' from Delhi, where one of his forefathers Rugh Nath had settled in the reign of Emperor Mohammad Shah. His father Pandit Bhaktmal also was employed at the Sikh court. But Raja Dina Nath rose to a higher place of eminence. He was put in charge of the Privy Seal by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. After the Maharaja, general disorder prevailed. The army became restive and then openly rebellious. Many prominent Sirdars were killed and many princes of the royal blood were made to taste the bitter cup of an ignominous death. But in all this disastrous fire of misrule, if there was one man who came out unscathed it was Raja Dina Nath alone. Not only that his power and influence increased daily. It is recorded about him that when the political firmament appeared peaceful and happy, his discerning eye perceived the onward march of silent and invisible clouds which rained fire and disaster, after some time. He made his plans to tide over the difficulty long before the difficulty had made its appearance. European historians describe him as Talleyrand of the Punjab, but in spite of the sting in the insinuation contained in the remark, he was very highly spoken of by the Europeans with whcm he came into contact. The amount of recognition which they gave to his great power and influence can be gathered from the fact that he was one of the signatories to the treaty which was concluded between the Sikhs and the British after the First Sikh War. Later on a council was constituted in December 1846 for the governance of the Punjab and Raja Dina Nath was made its President, with the active support of the British.

With Raja Dina Nath in saddle, hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits migrated to the Punjab from Kashmir. He became the rallying factor of all these fresh imigrants and invariably helped them to careers. In course of time Pandit colonies sprang up both at Lahore and Amritsar. In view of the fact that Raja Dina Nath and other Kashmiri Pandit notables had succeeded in winning the confidence of the British conquerers, the latter meted out to them great encouragement, and made them recipients of many posts of trust and honour which were till then kept closed to Indians.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh had modelled his army on European plan. There were many French Generals serving in his army, chief amongst whom being Ventura and Allard. Ventura was in charge of the Maharaja's Fauji-khas which was considered to be the flower of the Sikh army. He was assisted by a Kashmiri Pandit, the son of Pandit Ganga Ram by name Adjutant General Diwan Ajudhya Prashad. Ajudhya Prashad showed considerable skill in handling military matters. During Ventura's absence on leave, Ajudhya Prashad was placed in full command of the Fauji Khas and during this time he led successful military expeditions against the Raja of Mandi and other refractory hill chieftains. After his return from France, Ventura paid a glowing tribute to the military genius of the Pandit, and remarked that he had found the troops in a better spirit than when he had left them in charge of the Pandit. After Ventura's final exit, Pandit Ajudhya Prashad was placed in independent command of these troops.

There is no use in multiplying names of the persons who were prominent at the Sikh court. But even then there is one person whose mention would not be out of place here. We mean Col. Badri Nath. He migrated from Kashmir during the Afghan rule, and got enlisted as a sepoy in the Sikh army. He gradually rose to the rank of a Colonel. He was second in command to General Hari Singh Nalwa when the latter wrested Peshawar from the Barakzais. But the Sikh Empire was a short lived affair. Circumstances cropped up which ended the Sikh rule in the Punjab for all time.