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Sardar Jodh Singh

Jassa Singh Ramgarhia had two sons, Jodh Singh and Bir Singh. Jodh Singh succeeded to his father after his death. He contracted friendship with Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra with whose help he occupied parganas of Batala, Bhunga, Hoshiarpur and the surroundings areas.

Sardar Jodh Singh

When Maharaja Ranjit Singh demanded the Zamzama gun from Mai Sukhan, the widow of Gulab Singh Bhangi, in 1805, she gave a flat refusal to hand over the gun and prepared to fight against the Maharaja. Jodh Singh sent a secret reinforcement of three hundred soldiers to Sukhan. At the same time he advised her either to hand over the zamzama gun to Ranjit Singh or to destroy it. She did not accept either of the suggestions. The Maharaja, accompanied by his allies, Sada Kaur and Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, besieged Amritsar. When the opposing forces were at the point of severely clashing, Jodh Singh and Akali Phula Singh intervened and persuaded Sukhan to surrender. Thus, they were able to avert the bloodshed. Mai Sukhan and Gurdit Singh accepted the hospitality of Jodh Singh and stayed with him for some time.

In earlier stages, Jodh Singh was very friendly towards Sansar Chand Katoch but later their relations got strained due to the former's inability to help the latter against the Gurkhas.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh felt that unless Ramgarhias were befriended he could not occupy the whole of the Punjab. So, with this in view, Ranjit Singh wrote a letter to Jodh Singh, soliciting his friendship and cooperation. After the things were settled the Maharaja sent Bishan Singh Munshi, Mehar Singh Lamba and Fateh Singh Kalianwala to conduct Jodh Singh to Lahore. Jodh Singh told them that he would join Maharaja Ranjit Singh on the acceptance of two conditions. First, that Batala, Kalanaur, Bajwara, and Sangowal which previously belonged to them and, of late, were in the hands of their opponents, should be restored to them. Second, Gurdit Singh Bhangi, who was lying at his door, should be provided with a Cager for his subsistence. The Maharaja accepted both the conditions. Jodh Singh, accompanied by his close associates, came to Amritsar and met Ranjit Singh at Harmandir Sahib and he was duly honoured by the latter.

The demanded territories were restored to Jodh Singh and Panjore and five or six villages were given in jagir to Mai Sukhan and her son, Gurdit Singh. Jodh Singh was very much known for his magnanimity of heart and lavish generosity. Any defeated chief or impoverished person could go to him and enjoy his hospitality. He always sympathised with those on whom the fortunes frowned. In his Misal, he had introduced strict discipline and anybody found guilty of theft or any other crime was strictly dealt with. He would never sell justice but administer it with utmost honesty. He was very keen to give neat and clean administration to his people and there was nothing nearer his heart than the welfare of his subjects.

Sadar Jassa Singh with his two sons Jodh Singh & Bir Singh (This portrait was probably commissioned by Maharaja Jassa Singh himself during 1780's)

Jodh Singh participated in the battle of Kasur on the side of Ranjit Singh. After the occupation of Kasur the Maharaja gifted an elephant to the Ramgarhia chief. Later Jodh Singh always sided with Ranjit Singb in his expeditions against Multan and his other adversaries

Maharaja Ranjit Singh gave away in Sager the pargana of Ghuman to Jodh Singh. It gave an annual revenue of twenty five thousand rupees. Formerly, this area belonged to the Ramgarhias and at that time it was in the hands of Gulab Singh Bhangi.62

In 1811, Ranjit Singh gave to Jodh Singh eleven villages from the pargana of Sikhowala (Sikhorwala, according to Khushwaqat Rai, and Sheikhupura, according to Gian Singh) which was in the possession of the sons of Fateh Singh Kanaihya, which fetched an annual revenue of twelve thousand rupees, Of all the Sikh Sardars the Maharaja had the greatest regards for Jodh Singh Ramgarhia and addressed him as 'Baba Ji.' When he came to see Maharaja Ranjit Singh the latter would go out a few steps to receive him and seated him by his sided Jodh Singh, mostly, lived at Lahore or Amritsar and he always mobilised his forces according to the instructions of the Maharaja.f6 Because of his unstinted loyalty to the Maharaja the Ramgarhia chief retained his possessions intact till his death on August 23, 1815. He remained hostile to the Ahluwalias and Rani Sada Kaur.

Sardar Jassa Singh, aided by Sansar Chand, the hill chieftain took back by force the following important towns from the Ahluwalia Misl: Garh, Depalpur, Bhunga, and Hoshiarpur. He gave after a time, Hoshiarpur in Jagir to Nawab Bhamboo Khan; to Muhar Singh, Hazura Singh and Thakar Singh, who were dismissed by Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia, he gave five villages in Jagir. Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia and Sardarni Baghel Singh collected a force of twenty thousand men and marched against Sardar Jodh Singh, who, aided by Nidhan Singh, came forth to meet the enemy. A great battle was fought at Banola, in which, however, Sardar Fateh Singh was worsted.

The following story which Sir Lepel Griffin by mistake has attributed to Sardar Jodh Singh Wazirabadia is really about Sardar Jodh Singh Ramgarhia, because it is found in the family records which were put together by the late Sardar Mangal Singh Ramgarhia C.S.I. "The Maharaja, thinking Sardar Jodh Singh too powerful to attack, invited him to Lahore on a friendly visit. Suspecting Ranjit Singh's intention he brought a large force with him, which he was asked to send back, a request which he was too proud to refuse compliance. He attended the Darbar next day with only twenty-five followers whom he left outside. He was received by the Maharaja with the utmost cordiality, but suddenly Ranjit Singh made a sign to his people to seize the Sardar. He, drawing his sword, called on them to come on as he would not be taken alive and had never learned to turn his back on an enemy. His courage so impressed the Maharaja that he dismissed the chief with honour, rich presents and an addition to his estates. So far the story is creditable to Ranjit Singh as well as to the Sardar, but when shortly afterwards Jodh Singh died leaving only infant sons, the Maharaja seized all his possessions."

Sadar Jassa Singh training his son
Jodh Singh on the use of the rifle

When Holkar, at the head of a large Maratha force, came to the Punjab, he being invited by Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia plundered and destroyed nearly 50 villages of Sardar Jodh Singh who at once sent two messengers named Ral Singh and Lakha Singh to Major Lake who was pursuing Holkar. The British commander received them with due formality and gave them robes of honour. He also sent a rifle and a field glass to the Sardar. Both of these are still preserved as an heirloom in the family. After this Sardar Jodh Singh entered into friendship with the Afghans of Kassur. Many times did Ranjit Singh attack his territory, but the Sardar with the help of Afghans always defeated him.

A compact of eternal friendship between Ranjit Singh and the Ramgarhia family was drawn up before the Granth in the Holy Darbar Sahib at Amritsar. Ranjit Singh stamped the paper in his royal and illiterate way with his open palm dyed with saffron. The better to inveigle Sardar Jodh Singh he went over to the Ramgarh fort almost unattended. He professed his great admiration for the fortifications and ordered the foundation of a fort, afterwards called Gobindgarh (which still exists at Amritsar to the west of the city) to be laid down according to the same plan.

The simple hearted Sardar Jodh Singh was won over. He accompanied the Maharaja with all his forces in the last successful expedition against Kutb-ud-din Khan. Mr. Prinsep writes in his life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh:

"Ranjit Singh who was himself free-spoken and allowed great latitude in conversation to his courtiers received at this period a rebuke for the grasping disposition he displayed in his treatment of the old Sikh Sardars from Jodh Singh Ramgarhia, himself a reduced chief of the class. When taking his leave to join Muhkam Chand in the operations against the Faizulapurian Sardars, Ranjit Singh offered him presents as a mark of a favour. He begged, however, with characteristic frankness that such an honour might be dispensed with in his case, for he should deem himself fortunate in these times if allowed to keep his own turban on his head. Ranjit Singh took no offence at his freedom, but smiled and told him to be faithful and of good cheer."

It was with his assistance as well as that of Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia that the Maharaja could take Kangra and subdue Raja Sansar Chand. He also helped the Maharaja in Multan expedition. The Maharaja being pleased gave him many villages in jagir which were taken from Sardar Golab Singh Kharara, the revenue of which amounted to 25 thousand Rs. Per annum. In 1811 AD, he gave him in jagir 11 villages in Sheikhupura, and also one elephant, the revenue of these villages amounted to Rs. 12,000 per annum. He was much respected by the Maharaja who used to call him Baba-Ji and give him a seat next to him, whenever he used to go in the Darbar. The Sardar died in 1816. Like his father he was also brave and generous. Whoever sought his protection received it. He gave shelter to Sardar Gulab Singh Bhangi and also to Bibi Lashmi of Phagwara who were defeated by Ranjit Singh. It was he who built the great Ramgarhia Bunga, with its two lofty towers. He helped much in the building of the Golden Temple. He brought the pieces of perforated marble that serve as parapets on both side of the causeway that leads to the Temple situated in the centre of the tank, from the four minarets of the maqbara (tomb) of Jahangir situated near Shahdara on the bank of Ravi, close to Lahore the lower storeys of these minarets mosaic work and finely tessellated and chequered pieces of marble from Muhammaden monuments situated as far as Delhi and Agra. He also built the first two storeys of Baba Atal (the loftiest building in the city of Amritsar, the towers of his own Bunga being second in height). Thus he had the honour to build the finest and the loftiest edifices of Amritsar which constitute the integral part of the beauty of the city as a whole. The family still possesses a Khanda and a Katar of this brave man as an heirloom.

Maharaja Jassa Singh teaching his sons
the art of sword fighting

The death of Sardar Jodh Singh was the signal for the breaking out of dissension in the family. Sardar Diwan Singh, Bir Singh, Mehtab Singh and widow of Sardar Jodh Singh all set up claims for the estate. The Maharaja, hearing of this, summoned them to Nadaun where he then was, promising to settle the dispute by arbitration. On their arrival they were received with courtesy by the Maharaja, but soon took occasion to leave the reception tent, which was straight away surrounded with troops and the three Ramgarhias were made prisoners. Then Ranjit Singh marched on towards Amritsar and after some severe fighting took the fort of Ramgarh. Again marching northward he seized the whole of the vast Ramgarhia jagirs and in a short time reduced all their forts. Thus was fulfilled the saffron bond!

There was a proverb in the country that it would take a year to conquer the Ramgarhia family, if it lost one fort per day, because the family had 360 forts. But when fate was adverse, a few hours sufficed to change the state of the family. Sardar Wir Singh and Mahtab Singh were soon released and were placed under Sardar Lehna Singh of Majitha, a jagir of 45,000 was settled on the family. Sardar Diwan Singh for some time refused to accept his share of Rs. 12,000 and remained a prisoner, but at length pretended to acquiesce. On regaining his freedom, however, he fled to Patiala where he was well received by Maharaja Karam Singh and remained there for 10 months. Here many old retainers of the Ramgarhia clan came and assembled round him. When their number swelled to a thousand, the Rajas of Patiala, Nabha, and Jind suspected the Sardar to be a secret agent sent by the Maharaja to seize their territories, so they asked him to keep only four or five hundred men and dismiss the others. The Sardar not agreeing to the proposal took friendly leave of them and wandered about for some time.

Afterwards, at the intercession of some Sardars, the Maharaja gave him jagir worth Rs. 97,000 per annum and sent him in command of 1,000 men to Baramoola cantonment in Kashmir, a difficult hill post on the road to Srinagar, which was on the frontier of the Maharaja's territory. Moreover, he was allowed, as a perquisite, to get shawls worth Rs. 7,000 annually from the Governor of Kashmir. In 1828 the Maharaja fell sick. The Sardar hearing of his illness at once came to Lahore with all his forces he had under him without any permission and even the information of the Maharaja. By chance the Maharaja recovered very soon. He understood very well the purpose of the Sardar's coming and took no offence of it, but pleased him with many rich gifts. The Sardar went back to Baramoola where he died in 1834 after remaining there for 14 years. His Sumadh together with a large Dharmsala is situated there on the banks of the River Jhelum. The house where the Sardar used to live was situated at a distance of few miles from Srinager, all signs of it have disappeared but the place is marked by some lofty popular trees and is still called cantonment of Sardar Diwan Singh Ramgarhia. Sardar Bir Singh had died 6 years before, i.e.,in 1828 when 2/3 of his jagirs were resumed.

Jodh Singh's Successors

After Jodh Singh's death, the members of his family began to quarrel for the division of the Misal's possessions. Diwan Singh (son of Tara Singh), cousion brother of Jodh Singh, Vir Singh (brother of Jodh Singh) and widow of Jodh Singh were all claimants to the principality. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, hearing of their dispute, called the three claimants: Vir Singh, Diwan Singh and Mehtab Singh (son of Khushal Singh and cousin brother of Jodh Singh) to him at Nadaun, with a view to settling their dispute by arbitration. The Maharaja received them with courtesy but they misbehaved towards one another so rudely that Ranjit Singh was obliged to keep them in detention Then, the Maharaja marched on Amritsar and after some fighting took the fort of Ramgarh. He seized all the Ramgarhia lagers and, in a short time, reduced all their forts, upwards of a hundred and fifty in number. They contained abundant provisions in them. Almost all of them were pulled down.

On the intercession of Sardar Chanda Singh Kanaihya the Rantgarhia Sardars were released from the jail and an annual jagir of 35,003 rupees was granted to them. Diwan Singh refused to accept his share. He fled to Patiala where he was well received. He also left that place and moved about for some time. Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent a word to Diwan Singh, through Desa Singh Majithia, assuring him the grant of a big jagir. He was respect fully received by the Maharaja at Lahore and was given command of 700 men in the expedition then setting out for Kashmir. There, he remained in charge of Baramula, a difficult hill post, till his death in 1834.69 Tlle widows of Jodh Singh were given Cagers of four villages for their maintenance. Vir Singh was given Dharmkot Randhawa in Cager. These were servicefree jagirs.70 Vir Singh had died six years earlier, in 1828, when two-third of his jagirs were resumed by the Maharaja.

After Diwan Singh's death his son Mangal Singh, who was born in 1800, suceeded to his father's estate. During his younger days he served Ranjit Singh on his personal staff. The Maharaja gave him jagirs in Dharmkot, Kalowala, Tibrah and Kundilah worth 9,000 rupees of which 3,600 rupees were personal, and 5,400 rupees for services.

After his father's death Mangal Singh was sent to Peshawar in a command of 400 foot and 110 swars. There, he did commendable service under Hari Singh Nalwa and Tej Singh and fought in the famous battle of Jamrud in April 1837, where the brave Hari Singh Nalwa laid down his life.

In 1839, Mangal Singh was recalled and sent to the hill territories between the Beas and the Satluj under orders of Lehna Singh Majithia and during the absence of that chief at Peshawar he was placed in charge of the hill forts, and was active in the suppression of the insurrection of 1840. During the reign of Maharaja Sher Singh he was employed under Lehna Singh in Suket, Mandi and Kulu and he remained there till the close of the Satluj Anglo-Sikh war in 1846. During the second Sikh war, Mangal Singh remained loyal to the British and served them in guarding the roads and maintaining order in the Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts. Later, he worked as a manager of the affairs of Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar.

Mangal Singh was a man of education and liberal ideas. It was mostly owing to his influence that the cause of female education was systematically taken up in Amritsar. Mangal Singh's two sons, Gurdit Singh and Mitt Singh, served the British government in the police and civil departments respectively.

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