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History of Sikh Misals

History of Sikh Misals

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Published by: toshaak on Oct 15, 2011
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03/15/2014

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PREFACE
 This work on the Sikh Misals mainly relates to the eighteenth century which is, undoubtedly,the most eventful period in the Sikh history. It has been done at the instance of Dr Ganda Singh,one of India’s top-ranking historians of his time and the most distinguished specialist of theeighteenth century Punjab history. For decades, there had been nothing nearer his heart than thedesire of writing a detailed account of the Sikh Misals. Due to his preoccupation with many contro- versial issues of the Sikh history he kept on postponing this work to a near future. But a day came when the weight of years and failing health refused to permit him to undertake this work. He askedme to do it and magnanimously placed at my disposal his unrivalled life-long collection of Persianmanuscripts and other rare books relating to the period. Thus, with the most invaluable sourcematerial at my working desk my job became easier.I have always felt incensed at the remarks that the eighteenth century was a dark period of Sikh history. The more I studied this period the more unconvinced I felt about these remarksHaving devoted some three decades exclusively to this period I came to the irrefutable conclusionthat it is impossible to find a more chivalrous and more glorious period in the history of the worldthan the eighteenth century Punjab. In the display of marvelous Sikh national character this periodis eminently conspicuous. In utter resourcelessness and confronted with the mighty Mughalgovernment and then the greatest military genius of the time in Asia, in the person of Ahmad ShahDurrani, the Sikhs weathered all storms for well-nigh half a century with utmost fighting capacity,overwhelming zeal and determination, unprecedented sacrifice and unshakable faith in their ultimate victory. With much larger numerical strength the enemies of the Sikhs could kill thousands afterthousands of them but could not dispirit them. They were always unbending and uncompromising over their demand of a sovereign status in the Punjab. The Sikh movement during this period remained under constant strain of a quadrangularcontest. The Mughals were making every effort to perpetuate their rule over the Punjab and the Afghans wanted to make it a province of Afghanistan. The Marathas were making an all-out bid tooccupy the Punjab and the Sikhs were waging a life and death struggle for their politicalemancipation. The Sikh leaders—Kapur Singh Faizullapuria, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Jassa SinghRamgarhia, Charhat Singh Sukarchakia, Tara Singh Ghaiba, Jai Singh Kanaihya, Ala Singh Phulkian,Baghel Singh Karorsinghia, Lehna Singh and Gujjar Singh Bhangis and others, whose achievementsof bravery gave them a splendid halo, organised themselves into armed units and fought against theiropponents to the finish. The Sikhs always grasped every opportunity that came their way, from itsforelocks and despite heavy odds their power continued growing. Ultimately, one of the mostbrilliant conquerors of his time, Ahmad Shah Durrani, met his Waterloo in the Punjab andsurrendered to the Sikhs the charge of their motherland and bowed out in abject humiliation afterrepeated attacks for two decades.By 1768, having overpowered all their enemies, the Sikhs obtained possession of the majorportion of the Punjab, extending in the east, from the bank of Jamuna, running from Buriya
 
to
 
Karnal, in the west, as far as the Indus, from Attock to the vicinity of Bhakkar, in the south, fromthe neighbourhood of Multan and Sind, to the foot of Shivalik hills and in the north, to theboundaries of Bihmbar, Jammu and Kangra, interspersed here and there with some petty independent chiefships.
 
In the words of Khushwaqat Rai, “The Sikhs secured possession and control over thiscountry of the Punjab and every one of them seized upon the places which he could. It seems
 
as if the agents of fate and destiny had distributed the land of the five rivers among them with their ownhands. It was effected indeed neither by the generosity of Ahmad Shah (Durrani) nor by thekindness of Muhammad Shah (Emperor). Glory be to God, before whom no bravery, no heroism,no unmanliness and no cowardice count. What valour and prowess is there which was not exhibitedby Ahmad Shah and his followers.” The founders of the Misals were originally free lancers and veteran espousers of the cause of their oppressed countrymen. As their possessions and followings increased they acquired thecharacter of chieftainship. In this way, they passed from the deliverers to the rulers of theirterritories. It has been elaborated in this study that the confederacies did not all exist in their fullstrength at the same time, but one Misal gave birth
 
to another, and an aspiring chief could separatehimself from his immediate
derah 
to form, perhaps, a greater one of his own. The Misals weredistinguished by the titles derived from the name, the village, the district or the primogenitor of thefirst or the most eminent chief or from some other peculiarity.Some historians wrongly suggest that Ranjit Singh’s was the first and probably the only royalhouse in the Punjab, the others being just the feudal chiefs. But the other Sikh rulers were in no way, less sovereign. Each Sikh chief was independent of others and had direct dealings with theneighbouring independent states. The contemporary historiographers had no hesitation inmentioning the proud epithets of 
Sultan-ul-qaum 
and
Badshah 
for the chiefs of the Misals and calling their principalities as the royal houses. The eighteenth century Sikh Sardars were as independent rulers [in; their territories as RanjitSingh was in the nineteenth century, the only difference being in the dimensions of their states.Ranjit Singh’s administration differed from them in degree rather than kind. He was an offspring of the eighteenth century and was a ruler of the third generation in the Sukarchakia family. He was aborn ruler, as the successor of Mahan Singh whose father, Charhat Singh, was the founder of aprincipality and a dynasty. The houses of the other Misals were similar to that of the Sukarchakiahouse. With the withdrawal of the Delhi government and Ahmad Shah Durrani from the stage of Punjab, a new political order came into being and the Sikhs became the masters of their land withfull sovereign authority vested in their hands. The contemporary and semi-contemporary Persian historiographers that wrote theiraccounts on the Sikh rise to power and their assuming sovereignty of the Punjab included AnandRam Mukhlis (1748), Qazi Nur Muhammad (1765), Ghulam Husain (1781), Tahmas Khan Miskin(1782), Budh Singh Arora (1783), Kushwaqat Rai (1811), Bakht Mal (1814), Ahmad Shah Batalia(1724), James Skinner (1830), Diwan Amar Nath (1837), Sohan Lal Suri (1848-49), Bute Shah (1848), Ali-ud-Din Mufti (1754) and Ganesh Das Badehra (1855). We can easily name another two dozenearlier Persian authors who produced their works in the first half of the eighteenth century. Thesechroniclers give copious information about the activities of the Sikhs. But unfortunately these writers seem to have been obsessed with the prejudice that the Sikhs struggling for theiremancipation were the rebels against the state and deserved to be suppressed with all possiblemeans. Most of these writers, intentionally or unintentionally, failed to appreciate the spirit behindthe Sikh struggle and the nature of the change they intended to bring about. Otherwise these worksare very informative and valuable primary sources of this period. These writers had been eitheramidst the scenes they narrate or in their close proximity. It is often said that ‘those who create
 
history seldom live to write it.’ This remark is clearly applicable to the leaders of the Sikhmovement. The researcher in this field is handicapped to the extent that almost no contemporary records have been left by the Sikhs themselves whose version of the events would have been of utmost importance. The English sources of information about this period as those of Col. Polier (1776), JamesBrowne (1789), John Griffith (1794), George Forster (1798), William Francklin (1798), Col. Malcolm(1812), Henry Prinsep (1834), M’ Greggor (1846), Cunningham (1849), Lepel Griffin (1865),Muhammad Latif (1891) and George Campbell 1893, have also been occasionally used but not without caution as, at places, these writers have made awfully sweeping statements, sometimes farfrom truth. The English authors who wrote before the annexation of the Punjab could not haveclose contacts with the Sikhs and they depended on the second hand information. And those writing their books after 1849, purposely underrated the administrative institutions of the Sikhs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to establish the superiority of 
 
their administration.I have used with advantage some Punjabi and Urdu books also as those of Rattan SinghBhangu (1841), Kanaihya Lal (1877), Muhammad Hasan Khan (1878), and Gian Singh (1880).Many things, hitherto confused and misstated by such writers as lacked the knowledge of Persian or were prejudiced against the Sikhs or were inadequately informed, have been clarified inthis work. At a few places the readers may find repetition of certain events irksome. But it wasunavoidable.I have not allowed my personal bias, if any, to prejudice this work or influence theevaluation of the various factors that shaped the Sikh liberation movement in the Punjab. I havealways kept before me Thomas H. Huxley’s remarks that, ‘the deepest sin against the human mind isto believe things without evidence.’ I have always consciously avoided making a statement withoutevidence or corroboration. This work, I believe, would meet an immense need of those scholars of the Punjab history  who find themselves utterly incapacitated in respect of their access to the primary sources of information.I offer my deep gratitude
 
to Mr Parm Bakhshish Singh, Head of the Department of PunjabHistorical Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala, for his keen interest in the speedy publication of this work. My heart-felt thanks are due to Dr
 
Devinder Kumar Verma for assisting me in thepreparation of the index of this book and to S. Tara Singh and S. Narinder Singh for helping me inreading the proofs assiduously.27, Khalsa College Colony, BHAGAT SINGHPatiala

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