Jassa Singh Ramgarhia
|Managed by:||Navroop Singh Sehmi|
About Maharajah Jassa Singh Ramgarhia
One of the prominent military leaders of the Sikhs in the second half of the eighteenth century, was born in 1723 at Ichogill, a village 20 km east of Lahore. His grandfather, Hardas Singh (D. 1716) had received pahul, the vows of the Khalsa, at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh and had fought in the campaigns of Banda Singh Bahadur. His father, Bhagvan Singh was killed in a fight against Nadir Shah during his invasion of India in 1739. Young Jassa Singh then joined the jatha of Nand Singh Sahghania and learnt the art of warfare at an early age.
In 1745, he was deputed to settle terms with Adina Beg, the faujdar of the Jalandhar Doab, who was harassing the Sikhs under instructions from Nawab Zakariya Khan, the Mughal governor of Lahore. The wily faujdar, Adina Beg, prevailed upon Jassa Singh to accept office under hint, with a minor command of a regiment consisting of 100 Sikhs and 60 Hindus. The Sikhs were greatly annoyed at the conduct of their envoy, but Jassa Singh did not remain with Adina Beg for long. When in October 1748, the Sikhs gathered at Amritsar to celebrate the festival of Divali, Mir Mannu, the new provincial governor, marched upon the city to expel the Sikhs. The Sikhs disappeared into the neighbouring jungle, but 500 of them took shelter within their newly built fortress, Ram Rauni, and defied the Mughal force. The mud-fortress was besieged and skirmishes continued for four months in which two hundred Sikhs lost their lives. The survivors requested Jassa Singh to come to their rescue.
Jassa Singh left Adina Beg, and made an appeal to Kaura Mall, the Diwan of Lahore and a Sahajdhari Sikh, to save the Sikhs from destruction. At the Diwan's intercession, Mir Manna raised the siege, though the fortress of Ram Rauni was completely destroyed.
Mir Manna's death in November 1753 plunged the Punjab into anarchy. The Sikhs again emerged into the open and decided to rebuild the Ram Rauni fort. Jassa Singh was assigned to this task and he, with the help of his contingent, reconstructed the fortress and named it Ramgarh. Since then Jassa Singh, earlier known as Ichogillia after the name of his village, or thoka (carpenter, the caste he carne from) began to be called Ramgarhia in appreciation of the work done by him.
In April 1758, Adina Beg became governor of the Punjab. He sent a strong force under Mir 'Aziz Bakhshi to clear the forests in which Sikhs had taken shelter. A large number of them including Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Jai Singh Kanhaiya and Amar Singh Kingra, fled to Amritsar and took shelter in the fortress. Ramgarh was besieged. Jassa Single and Jai Singh made numerous sallies killing a large number of the besiegers, but were ultimately forced to evacuate.
After Adina Beg's death in September 1758, the roving bands of the Sikhs returned. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jai Singh Kanhaiya united and within a short time they seized large slices of territory in four out of the five Doabs; they occupied the fertile tract called Riarki to the north of Amritsar embracing the district of Gurdaspur.
Within a decade Jassa Singh became one of the leading fig-ures of the Dal Khalsa. In 1770, he led plundering expeditions into the hills. The local rajas sought safety in submission and Jassa Singh collected a tribute of 200,000 rupees from the Kangra states. He built a fort at Talvara on the left bank of the Beds and stationed his brother, Mali Singh, with 4,000 horse, in the fort. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia along with other Sikh sardars, fought many a pitched battle against the Afghan invader, Ahmad Shah Durrani.
As the Afghan threat receded, the Sikh sardars began fighting among themselves. The Ramgarhia-Kanhaiya cleavage over their adjoining territories in the districts of Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur widened. In the battle of Dinanagar in 1775, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia joined the Bhangi sardars against the forces of the Kanhaiyas and the Sukkarchakkias. Soon a rift appeared betweenJassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jassa Singh Ahluvalid when the latter wrested Zahura, a Ramgarhia territory, and conferred it upon Baghel Singh KarorSinghia. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jassa Singh Ahluvalia became sworn enemies of each other. Jai Singh Kanhaiya joined Jassa Singh Ahluvalia and the Ramgarhia Sardar had to flee the Punjab.
Driven out of the Punjab, Jassa Singh became a soldier of fortune. He took possession of Hissar and raised a large body of irregular horse, his depredations extending to the gates of Delhi and its suburbs and into the Gangetic Doab. Jassa Singh and other Sikh chiefs conquered Delhi and entered the Red Fort. Jassa Singh Ahluvalia ascended the throne on 11 March 1783, but Jassd Singh Rdmgarhia challenged his right to do so at which the Ahluvalia chief vacated the royal seat. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia then invaded Meerut and levied an annual tribute of 10,000 rupees on the Nawab. Soon a body of 30,000 horse and foot under him and Karam Singh crossed into Saharanpur district, ravaging it freely.
After the death of Jassa Singh Ahluvalia in October 1783, there were further fissures in the Dal Khalsa. Jai Singh Kanhaiya and Mahan Singh Sukkarchakkia fell out. Mahan Singh won over to his side Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra and invited Jassa Singh Rdmgarhia to come back to the Punjab and make a bid to recover his lost possessions. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia returned to the Punjab and allied himself with the Sukkarchakkias in order to destroy his old foe, Jai Singh Kanhaiya. Together they marched upon the Kanhaiya citadel of Batala in 1787. Jai Singh was defeated and his son Gurbakhsh Singh killed. Jassa Singh recovered all his lost territories and set himself up at Batala, which he fortified by a thick wall.
At the height of his power, Jassd Singh's territory in the Bari Doab included Batala, Kaldnaur, Dinanagar, Sri Hargobindpur, Shahpur Kandi, Gurdaspur, Qadian, Ghuman, Matteval, and in the Jalandhar Doab, Urmur Tanda, Sarih, Miani, Garhdivala and Zahura. In the hills Kangra, Nurpur, Mandi and Chamba paid him a tribute of two lakh of rupees.
Jassa Singh died on 20 April 1803 at the age of 80.
- Jassa Singh was born in 1723 in the village of Ichogil, son of Giani Bhagwan Singh whose father S. Hardas Singh had been baptised by the 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Himself. He stayed on with Guru Gobind Singh till the Guru moved to the South, and when Banda Bahadur came to Punjab, joined him in his battles against the Mughals. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was 5 years old when Banda Singh Bahadur attained martyrdom at Delhi.
- He was among the crop of those Sikhs who fought against all odds for survival of their newly founded religion and stood up to the evil Zakaria Khan.
- In 1720's Zakaria Khan decided to make peace with the Sikhs and offered territory and the title of Nawab for their leader. Five Sikh leaders including Budh Singh, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and others named Kapur Singh Jathedar of the Dal Khalsa.
- Later this group of Sikh leaders created Misals and two factions of Sikhs called Budha Dal and Taruna Dal.
- Under the Dal Khalsa banner, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia established his Misl of Ramgarhia around Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Batala His misl contained more then 5000 cavalry always on move and helping Dal Khalsa whenever Afghanis or Mughals attacked.
- Sikhs at this time were in control of villages while Mughal administration was only effective in cities. Twenty years Earlier Banda Bahadur had abolished all taxes and the Zamindari system. Now Sikhs only levied "Dasvand", that is 10% of their income; this was used to support the Dal Khalsa and provide protection to the people against all oppressors.
- Mir Mannu became the new governor of Lahore and Multan on the 9th April 1748 A.D. He appointed Kaura Mal, who was kindly disposed towards the Sikhs as his new Diwan. Mir Mannu deployed army patrols to finish the Sikhs of his province. The Sikhs left his territory and moved to other states.
- The Commander of Jalandhar, was a cunning and treacherous person called Adina Beg. The Sikhs sent Jassa Singh Ramgarhia as their envoy to Adina Beg in 1740 when he was only 17 years of age. It was a task needing considerable tact, responsibility and statesmanship. Jassa Singh performed his task so well that Adina Beg became highly impressed with his statesmanship and wisdom and offered him a major position in his army with a jagir to cover his expenses.
- Jassa Singh consulted the Dal Khalsa about the offer. The Dal Khalsa approved of Jassa Singh joining Adina Beg's service on the grounds that it would be ultimately beneficial to the Sikhs. They would be able to live in peace in Jallandhar Doab, particularly when Zakaria Khan was murdering them in thousands everyday in Bari Doab. The Sikhs could also strengthen their power and gain military and administrative experience.
- The Sikhs gathered at Amritsar on the occasion of Diwali in 1748 A.D. When Mir Mannu came to know of the gathering of Sikhs, he sent his general with an army to blockade Amritsar and sent words to Adina Beg to take his army to help his general in finishing the Sikhs.
- 11. Adina Beg attacked the fort of Ram Rauni. Five hundred Singhs took shelter in fort of Ram Rauni and the rest moved to forests. The combined forces of Lahore and Jalandhar surrounded the fort. Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and his squad deserted the royal army and joined the Singhs inside the fort with his squad. The Singhs inside the fort did not surrender even after two months of siege.
- Hearing the news of the second invasion of Abdali, Mir Mannu made peace with Sikhs and ceded an estate in Patti area to them. Thus Jassa Singh Ramgarhia won the battle of Ram Rauni.
- The result was that Jassa Singh not only managed to save the lives of three hundred Sikhs besieged in the fortress but also won Patti as well as twelve villages of Gur Chak from Mir Mannu.
- 14. Soon after 'Ram Rauni' was renamed 'Ram Garh', Jassa Singh was appointed its first commander (kiledar). From 1748 onwards Jassa Singh made the preservation and defence of 'Ram Garh' his main aim in life. Many a time it was razed to the ground by the Mughals and Pathans, thousands of lives were lost in its defence but every time Jassa Singh rebuilt it with greater devotion and constant perseverance. That is why Jassa Singh and his followers came to be known as 'Ramgarhia' and his 'misal' became famous with this name.
- But the Sikhs could not enjoy favours from Mir Mannu for long. After Abdali's third invasion, Mir Mannu was defeated, Kaura Mal killed and Punjab became a part of the Afghan Empire. Mir Mannu accepted the suzerainty of Abdali, took back the jagir assigned to 'Ramgarh' and started for the second time the campaign of exterminating the Sikhs by sending Adina Beg and Sadiq Beg with a large force. The Sikhs were hunted, caught, brought to Lahore and then murdered with the most cruel methods known to Mir Mannu and his assistants.
- Mannu's most obvious object of attack was 'Ramgarh', which was besieged. There were nine hundred Sikhs in it, under Jassa Singh's command. He defended it bravely but realising that the struggle would prove very costly in lives lost against Mughal hordes, decided to vacate the fortress. He and the remaining soldiers fought their way out to seek shelter in their old haunts, the hills and forests till the right opportunity presented itself to rebuild Ramgarh, which was razed to the ground by the Mughals soon after it was vacated.
- The opportunity presented itself on the death of Mir Mannu on 3rd November 1753, Jassa Singh marched straight to Amritsar and rebuilt Ramgarh with the help of fellow Ramgarhias, stronger than before, a standing proof of that indefatigable will and unbending spirit of Jassa Singh and his comrades.
- The Sikhs emerged stronger as a result of these trials and in a few years had defeated all Mughal forces between area of River Jamuna and River Indus. Jassa Singh's Ramgarhia Misl had played major part in this struggle.
- The Ramgarhia Misl as well as the other Misls were a huge contributing factor to the creation of the Khalsa Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh.