Historic Nihangs

Historic Nihangs

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

After the martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji in 1716 AD, a group of Amritdhari Singhs were working hard for the cause of the Khalsa Panth. This group was a religious body, but at the same time being warriors, they also served as a militia fighting force.

As a religious body, they made arrangements to prepare copies of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji for the Sikh people and Gurdwaras and organised means for the exegesis of Sikh religious scripture and traditions.

The members of this group were called ‘Shaheeds’, because they have dedicated their lives in the service of Guru and the ‘Panth Khalsa’. They also were known as ‘Nihangs’.

When the ‘Taruna Dal’ was divided in five ‘Jathas’ or groups in 1735 AD, one of these groups consisted only of only ‘Shaheeds’ or ‘Nihangs’. In his ‘Pracheen Panth Prakash’, Ratan Singh Bhangu says that five flags were given to these five groups. First flag was given to ‘Shaheeds’ or ‘Nihangs’: –

Pratham Shaheedan Aau Nihangan Pharhaayo.
(The first flag was given to ‘Shaheeds’ or ‘Nihangs’).

Bhai Deep Singh and Bhai Karam Singh were the leaders of this ‘Jatha’ (group) of Nihangs. Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was a member of this group.

Later, this group was called ‘Shaheed Misl’ or ‘Nihang Misl’, when the ‘Dal Khalsa’ was divided in 11 ‘Misls’. Thus, Nihang group was one of five groups of the ‘Taruna Dal’.

As a part of the ‘Taruna Dal’ and later as part of the ‘Dal Khalsa’, Nihangs took part in many expeditions.

Baba Deep Singh Ji

Baba Deep Singh Ji was among the founders of a ‘Jatha’ (group) of Nihangs in the Taruna Dal. He used to live in the city of ‘Sabo Kee Talwandi’, presently in district Bathinda, Punjab.

During his fourth invasion in 1756-1757 AD, Ahmad Shah Abdali sent out a detachment against the Sikhs at Sri Amritsar Sahib Ji forbidding Sikhs from visiting this hallowed site.

When Baba Deep Singh, a leader of the Nihangs, heard this in the city of ‘Sabo Kee Talwandi’, he collected a group of Sikh warriors and advanced towards Sri Amritsar Sahib. As he passed from village to village, more common folk people joined him.

When Jahan Khan, the commander-in-chief of Ahamad Shah Abdali, heard in Lahore that a group of Sikhs were advancing towards Sri Amritsar Sahib, he accompanied by his troops also went to Sri Amritsar Sahib to battle with the Sikhs. Severe fighting broke out between the two sides and Sikhs suffered huge losses.

Baba Deep Singh Ji, along with other Sikhs, were martyred in this battle in 1757 AD.

Bhai Sudh Singh Ji

After the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh Ji, Bhai Sudh Singh Ji was appointed the next ‘Jathedar’ or head of the Nihang group, which was residing at ‘Saabo Kee Talwandi’.

We do not have sufficient information about Bhai Sudh Singh Ji to establish a fuller account of Bha Sahib other than that he was martyred in a battle in Samvat 1819 Bikrami (1762 AD) near village ‘Dakoha’ in ‘Jallandhar’ region.

Bhai Karam Singh

Bhai Karam Singh Ji succeeded Bhai Sudh Singh Ji.

In 1763/64 AD, Sikh groups occupied the province of ‘Sarhind’ and the surrounding territories. Bhai Karam Singh seized a numbers of villages in the ‘Paragnahs’ of Kesari, Majri and Shahzadpur in present ‘Ambala’ District of Haryana State. He received income of rupees one lakh annually from this territory.

Bhai Karam Singh used to live in ‘Kesari’, but after death of his brother Dharam Singh, he moved to Shahzadpur.

In 1768 AD, a Brahman complained that his daughter had been seized forcibly by Hasan Khan, the Nawab of Jalalabad Lohari. A group of Sikhs marched on Jalalabad under Bhai Karam Singh. The Nawab was burnt alive and the Brahman’s daughter was returned to her husband.

In 1779/80, Karam Singh along with a few other Sikh chiefs met Prince Abdul Ahad at Karnal. The Prince presented him with a ‘Khillat’, a ‘sarpech’ and a sword.

Bhai Karam Singh died in 1794 AD.

Gulab Singh

Gulab Singh was the eldest son of Karam Singh. After death of his father, Gulab Singh succeeded him.

On January 4, 1804 AD, Nihang Gulab Singh met Colonel Ochterlony of the East Indian Company at city of Karnal. Gulab Singh appealed to place him under their protection.

Ochterlony issued a recommendatory letter in favour of Gulab Singh, in which he wrote, “Sardar Gulab Singh of Kesari served the Company coming here and sought asylum. Whosoever follows me to command the Company’s forces, he must take Gulab Singh as a faithful follower of the British and watch his interests”. (See, ‘Twareekh Guru Khalsa’ by Giani Gian Singh).

Shiv Karpal Singh

Shiv Karpal Singh succeeded his father Gulab Singh in Samvat 1901 Bikrami (1844 AD).

Shiv Karpal Singh sided with the British in the Indian mutiny in 1857 AD assisting the Imperial Forces against the Indians.

Nihang Misl under Shiv Karpal Singh also helped the British forces against the Sikh army (of the Lahore Government) in the battle of ‘Satluj’ in Samvat 1936 Bikrami.

Jeevan Singh

Shiv Karpal Singh died in 1871 AD and left his son Jeevan Singh as his successor.

Jeevan Singh was married to Bachittar Kaur, who was daughter of Maharaja Mahendra Singh of Patiala. He received a large dowry from King of Patiala. 125 horses, 3 elephants, 41 camels were given as gifts on the day of engagement. On the day of marriage, he recieved, 50 horses, 81 camels, 5 elephants and a large sum of ornate jewelry.

Even after his marriage, he continued to receive great financial help from King of Patiala. On the other hand, Jeevan Singh’s personal annual income was only 48 thousand rupees.

He received the title of ‘Star of India’ from British Governor of Punjab on January 10, 1890 AD.

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References

  • Pracheen Panth Prakash written by Ratan Singh Bhangu
  • Twareekh Guru Khalsa written by Giani Gian Singh
  • A History Of The Sikh Misals written by Bhagat Singh, M.A., Ph.D.