For a century, i.e. A. D. 1186—1290, right from the advent of the Ghoridas up to the death of the last sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Balban, the history of Punjab was all chaos. Throughout this period, Lahore alone remained the arena of strifes and the rest of the places were very little targets of attacks. Kapurthala Town did not figure till the rise of Jassa Singh of the Ahluwalia Misl in the mideighteenth century. However, Sultanpur, which was then a district, assumed importance from the military strategy view-point and that too in A. D. 1266 when Balban ascended to power.
Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din (A. D. 1266—1287):
Balban’s ascendancy to power resulted in the rise of a strong party against him. Imad-ud-Din Rayhan, a Hindu convert, was the ring leader of the dissidents. Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud issued orders of the dismissal of Balban from the rank of the Prime Minister, and instead appointed Imad-ud-Din Rayhan in his place. A fresh distribution of offices now took place. Sher Khan was replaced by Arslan Khan as the Governor of the provinces, which were in the charge of the former. While Sultan had camped at the Beas near Sultanpur during the expedition against the Mughals, Sher Khan had retired to Turkistan. Rauhan’s administration could not last long as he was an Indian Muslim. It resulted in the get together of Turkish nobles under the leadership of Balban who dismissed Rayhan’s ministry. In order to get rid of the most powerful governor Sher Khan, who had governed Punjab even beyond Satluj, he was got poisoned to death and in his meantime, the Mughals started plundering Punjab. Balban took firm measures by establishing big military cantonments at Lahore, Multan and Jalandhar Doab. Besides, big military cantonments were kept under the experienced military generals like Bughra Khan and Malik Baktar. These generals used to march to reinforce Nasir-ud-Din at Sultanpur with the result that they obtained several victories and the Mughlas had never dared approach the Beas any more. Balban died in A.D. 1286.
Thus, it is evident that during the rule of Sultan Quatab-ud-Din Aibak (A. D. 1206—1220), Sultan Altutmish (A. D. 1211—1236), Sultan Razia (A. D. 1236—1240), no place of the present Kapurthala appeared on the pages of Punjab history. And it was only during the rule of Balban that the district of Sultanpur became a little bit significant from the military point of view.
After the death of Balban, the Mughals took advantage of the internal intrigues and strifes of his successors, which resulted in the establishment of supremacy of the Mughals over whole of the Punjab province.
To take full advantage of the disputes between the nobles of Lahore such as Ibrahim Lodi, Daulat Khan Lodi and Alam Khan Lodi, Babar pushed on to Dipalpur and captured it in 1524. Here Daulat Khan Lodi came to pay him tribute. Babar was pleased to appoint him as the Governor of Jalandhar, Sultanpur and a few other districts. This was not what Daulat had bargained for. He, therefore, declined to accept the offer. The loss of prestige along with the governorship of Lahore came to him as a rude shock, which opened his eyes. Daulat Khan’s hostility was dangerous for Babar’s eastwards advance. Therefore, he abandoned the idea of conquering India at this stage. He garrisoned the Punjab with his own loyal troops. He deemed it fit to advance on Ismail Jilwani, the Afghan Chief of Thiara, who was close to the left bank of the Satluj. Babur was, in the meantime, informed by Dilawar Khan, son of Daulat Khan Lodi, that his father was, informed by Dilawar Khan, son of Daulat Khan Lodi, that his father was persuading him to attack the Afghan Chief of Thiara only to lead him to disaster. Babar abandoned the idea and threw Daulat Khan and his other son Ghazi Khan into prison, but later released and they left for Kabul. Babar honoured Dilawar Khan for the services rendered against his own father. The district of Sultanpur ,which Daulat Khan Lodi had spurned being dissatisfied with Babar’s reard was bestowed on his won who was also honoured with the high title of Khan-I-Khanan. Daulat Khan Lodi died at Sultanpur in 1525.
Sher Sah Suri (1540-1545)-Sher Shah Suri was shrewd enough to realised that the Mughal Emperor Humayun and his associates were in no position to fight. Concluding that the Mughal Princes were either disunited or were trying to ouwit him, Sher Shah in 1540, offered a straight and the only feasible proposal that he would sheath his sword should the Mughlas agree to recognize Indus as a boundary to separate two kingdoms in Punjab. Meanwhile, Sher Shah had advanced with his forces to the banks of the Beas near Sultanpur, Muzaffar Beg, one of the generals of Humayun, who had been left behind in his retreat, arrived at Lahore and informed Humayun about Sher Shah’s advance. On hearing this, Hamayun and his brothers instantly abandoned Lahore in October 1540, crossed the Ravi and hastened towards the Chenab.
Under the administration of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, Sultanpur was inhabited by Muslim tribes such as he Khaka, Bambas, Afghans and Gakhars, under the hegemony of the Kashmir ruler Ghazi Khan. It was only in 1584 that Akbar got full control over the territory of the Punjab Province including that of lying between the Ravi and the Satluj. In the same year, Akbar made Lahore the capital of India. He appointed Khwaja Shamas-ud-Din Khawafi as the Governor of Punjab in 1598 who died as Lahore in 1600. After his death, Zain Khan Koka was made governor, but was soon recalled on account of his being a bad character and in his place appointed Mirza Qulij Khan in 1601.
Aurangzeb, after his coronation ceremony in Delhi, started towards the Punjab in pursuit of his elder brother Dara Shikoh who had revolted against him. Aurangzeb took every step to expedite the pursuit and to leave Dara no time to recoup his power. Bahadur Khan, a general of Aurangzeb, hastened to the ferry of Talwan where he found that the opposite bank of the Satluj was strongly guarded by Daud Khan, the trusted general of Dara Shikoh. Bahadur Khan, then, guided by some friendly zamindars, had to rush to the ferry at Rupar to cross the Satluj. He defeated Ghairat Khan and Musahib Beg and with the help of boats crossed the Satluj on the night of 4August, 1658. Daud Khan, learning the news of the disaster of Rupar, retreated towards Sultanpur.
At the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Punjab was divided into six Doabs of which Jalandhar Doab was the most significant from the military administration point of view. This Doab consisted of many important towns such as Jalandhar, Sultanpur, Kartarpur, Kapurthala, Alawalpur, Sham Chursi, Tanda, Phagwara, Mukerian, Rahon. Hoshiarpur and Nurmahal.
Rise of the Sikhs:
The Sikh Gurus:
The district of Kapurthala –formerly a princely State—is closed associated with the first and the sixth Guru of the Sikhs, viz. Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Hargobind. Guru Nanak Dev (1469—1539), the founder of Sikhism, entirely transformed the social life of the people inhabiting this district. it is at Sultanpur Lodhi in the district that he spent more than 14 years of his life. His discourses here spread not only in the surrounding areas but all over the country. During this period, there were no conflicts between the Sikhs and the Mughals and hence whatever historical event took place during the time of the Guru was of peaceful nature and is considered very much significant from the spiritual point of view. It is at this place that the Guru worked as a storekeeper in the Modikhana for a number of years.
The institution of langar (community kitchen) was primarily started by Guru Nanak Dev at Sultanpur Lodhi. His wife Sulakhani assisted the Guru in the performance of his duties. It is with this institution that the Guru brought into his fold, men of all castes and creed. The guru preached that two principles, viz. ‘oneness of God’ and ‘universal brotherhood’ should govern the society. A number of gurudwaras stand at this place which are associated with the career of the Guru.
The sixth Guru, Hargobind (1595—1644), spent considerable time in the Kapurthala District. He was born at a time when the need to transform the peaceful Sikh community into a militant one was being felt on account of the atrocities committed by the Mughals. In the light of the prevailing political situation, Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru, advised his son Hargobind to follow a different policy, i.e. spiritual as well as militant to save Sikhism from the wrath of the Mughals. After the execution of his father Guru Arjun Dev, Hargobind was installed as the sixth Guru. Guru Hargobind declared his ‘New Policy’ in 1609 and wore two swords—one indicating his spiritual bent of mind and the other his temporal authority. The Guru’s military career extended over several years, during which he fought four battles, all of which he won.
The Guru continued strengthening his army and in 1614 made Kartarpur (district Jalandhar) his headquarters. Pinda Khan, a Pathan, joined the Guru’s army here. After the death of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1627, the tension, between the Sikhs and the Mughals increased, which resulted in four battles. The first battle was fought at Amritsar in 1628. The second was fought at Lahra in Malwa in 1631. After this battle, the Guru thought it battle expedient to retire from the field for some time. Accordingly he retreated to the deserts of Bathinda, spreading his doctrines there and making new converts. After about two years he paid a flying visit to Amritsar, which city, owing to his hostile relations with the Government , he had practically abandones, and retired to Kartarpur, near Jalandhar. Hostilities in the meantime broke out between the Guru and his foster-brother, Painda Khan. The latter was a good athlete and an excellent soldier. He had led the Guru’s troops in all the battles, and had naturally begun to feel that he had been the cause of the Guru’s repeated victories. A quarrel arose between the two over a trifling matter. Chandu’s son and Guru’s own cousin, the son of Prithi, had always been waiting for an opportunity to take revenge on him. They made common cause with Painda, flattered him for his strength, courage and generalship and altogether went to the Emperor offering to destroy the Guru this time if they were given sufficient troops. Accordingly in April 1634, the Guru was attacked at Kartarpur. A desperate battle was fought. The Guru killed the traitorous Painda with his own hand, and the Mughal army was repulsed with great slaughter, Chandu’s son also being among the slain.
After the death of Painda Khan, Guru Hargobind reached village Palahi near Phagwara in the Kapurthala District. He was being chased by a regiment which had in it prominent Mughal officers like Rayees Jamal of Basti Sheikhan, Fateh Khan, Jafat Khan of Alawalpur and a large number of Pathans from different areas. At Palahi, the attack on the Sikhs was sudden. The Guru and the Sikhs fought valiantly. Ahmed Khan and Fateh Khan were killed with the result that the other Mughal soldiers fled away. In this battle, Guru Hargobind’s younger son, Baba Tyag Mal fought so bravely that everybody admired his might. Out of appreciation, Guru Hargobind renamed his son as ‘Tegh Bahadur’.
It may be added here that Guru Hargobind also visited Dumeli, Kala Sanghia, Nadala, and Saiflabad in the district. Guru Arjun Dev while accompanying the marriage party of his son Hargobind stayed for a night at Sultanpur Lodhi where the ‘sehra bandi’ ceremony of the latter was performed. There is a small Gurudwara Sehra Sahib which is also known as the dharmshala of Guru Arjun Dev.
Advance under Banda Bahadur (1709—1716):
During this period, the Sikhs gained power under Banda Bahadur who was deputed by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, to avenge the death of his two younger sons at Sirhind. After his victorious expedition of Sirhind, Banda sent one party of the Sikhs across the Satluj to take Sultanpur Lodhi and other places in the Doaba of Bist Jalandhar in 1710 A. D. Shams Khan, the Faujdar, took the field at the head of four thousand horsemen, and thirty thousand match-lockmen and bowmen, partly old troops and partly newly-raised men sent in by the zamindars. Altogether more than one hundred thousand men were collected, and a start was made from Sultanpur Lodhi.
As soon as the Sikhs heard that Shams Khan was advancing they moved, plundering the country side and drew near to the town of Rahon in the then Sultanpur District. They occupied mounds and sent out foraging parties in all directions. The supporters of Shams Khan advanced unitedly till they were about the distance of a musket-shot from the Sikh entrenchment. The cannonade began at three hours after sub-rise and thousand of balls and stones from slings fell like hail on the Muslims but without causing much loss. After two volleys from the Sikhs, the Muslims rushed on them and killed them in large numbers. The Sikhs took refuge in the fort near Rahon on which they had built before the battle, and it is due to the reason that they had enough of munitions, they were able to hold the position for several days and nights during which parties issued forth to harass the Muslim posts. Both sides suffered heavily. After sometime the Sikhs evacuated their entrenchments during the night, but Shams Khan pursued for some miles and returned in triumph to Sultanpur Lodhi. After a day, about one thousand Sikhs came back, ejected Shams Khan’s officer, and Rewaj-i-am-occupied Rahon; but beyond this no hold was then obtained by the Sikhs upon the Jalandhar Doab.
Although the first news of the Sikhs outbreak under Banda was brought to Emperor Bahadur shah on May 30, 1710 who took stringent measures to punish the Sikhs, yet it was only on March 10, 1716 that Banda was captured, and slained on June 19 the same year.
When Yahia Khan (1745—1747) was appointed Deputy Viceroy of the Punjab on January 3, 1746 by Emperor Muhammad Shah, Jalandhar Doab was under Adina Beg Khan—a great politician and statesman of the time. He was shrewd in keeping the powerful chiefs of the country under him always in good humour. Chaudhri Johri Mal of Phagwara, the hill Rajas, Gur Barbhag Singh of Kartarpur, Raja Ghamand Chand Katoch, Rai Ibrahim of Kapurthala and Ranjit Dev were his great allies. Right from 1745 up to 1758, Adina Beg Khan experienced many victories with the support of the Sikhs, but he also suffered defeats especially during the invasions of Punjab by Ahmed shah Abdali (1747—1754). Adina Beg died in 1758.
Formation of the Kapurthala State :
The ruling Ahluwalia family of the erstwhile princely State of Kapurthala traces its origin to the ruling house of Jaisalmer (Rajasthan). The town of Kapurthala is said to have been founded in the early part of the eleventh century in the time of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni by Rana Kapur, an immigrant from Jaisalmer, through whom the Ahluwalia family claims a connection with the ruling Rajput house of Jaisalmer. Rana Kapur was a mythical personage, but the relationship was again reasserted, and the last chief, Raja Jagatjit Singh (b. 1872), contracted a marriage in 1886 with a Rajput lady (daughter of Mian Ranjit Singh Goleria) of Kangra (Himachal Pradesh). The original ancestor, Sadhu Singh, was an enterprising zamindar who nearly four hundred years ago, founded four villages, in the vicinity of Lahore (Pakistan), which continued to be held in proprietary right by his descendants till the partition of the country in 1947. From one of them, Ahlu, the family derives its territorial title of Ahluwalia.
Sardar Jassa Singh (d. 1783):-
Sardar Jassa Singh was the real founder of the family. He was a contemporary of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali and took advantage of the troubled times in which he lived to annex territory on a large scale, and make himself by his intelligence and bravery the leading Sikh of his day. He was constantly at fued with the local Mohammedan governors of Lahore, and was usually victorious, even when encountered in the open field. In 1748, he attacked and killed Salabat Khan, Governor of Amritsar, seizing a large portion of the district: and five years later he extended his conquests to the edge of the River Beas, defeating Adina Beg, Governor of the Jalandhar Doab, and seizing Paragana Fatehabad. He next captured Sirhind and Dipalpur, south of the Satluj, giving a half share of the latter town to the Sodhis of Kartarpur. Thence he marched to Firozpurand seized the paraganas of Dogaran and Makhu, which were held by the Ahluwalia chiefs until after the First Anglo-Sikh War, 1845-46. Hoshiarpur, Bhairog and Naraingarh fell to his sword in the same year; and Rai Ibrahim, the then Mohammedan Chief of Kapurthala, only saved himself from destruction by becoming his feudatory. He then marched to Jhang (Pakistan), and tried conclusions with the Sial Sardar Inayatulla, but there success deserted him, and he had to return unsuccessful. He failed also in an expedition to Gujrawala (Pakistan), against Charat Singh Sukarchakia, grandfather of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who beat him back upon Lahore with the loss of his guns and baggage.
Sardar Jassa Singh was undoubtedly the foremost Sikh leader north of the Satluj in the middle of the eighteenth century, and the equal of any chief south of that river. This position he maintained throughout his life, though his fortunes were constantly changing, and he was more than once on the verge of losing all he had acquired. Thus he was engaged on one occasion foraging south of the River Yamuna, when he was Rewaj-i-am-called to the Punjab by the return of Ahmad Shah Abdali from Kabul in 1762, for the special purpose of administering punishment to the rebellious Sikhs. A battle took place near Barnala (Sangrur District), south of the Satluj, in which the Afghan king was victorious. This battle is known as Bara Ghallu Ghara, meaning great destruction of life, massacre or ruin. The Sikhs were again badly beaten a few months later near Sirhind (Patiala District); and Jassa Singh and his brother chiefs found themselves obliged to seek refuge in the Kangra hills (Himachal Pradesh). They, however, shortly afterwards revenged themselves by the capture and plunder of the strongly fortified town of Kasur (Pakistan). Thence, under the leadership, as usual, of the brave Jassa Singh they proceeded once more in 1763 to the old battle-ground of Sirhind, a well gnawed bone of contention between the Sikhs and Mohammedans. Zain Khan, the governor, and almost all his men were slain, and the place thoroughly plundered by the victorious soldiers of the Khalsa. Jassa Singh returned to Amritsar when the work was over, and as a thanks-offering, made a large contribution towards the rebuilding of the Sikh Temple which Ahmad Shah had blown up, and constructed the Ahluwalia Bazar, which continued to be an architectural ornament to the sacred city until about the middle of the twentieth century. Jassa Singh was respected as much for his saintly and orthodox qualities as for his military abilities, which were remarkable. Raja Amar Singh of Patiala and other chiefs of renown were proud to accept the pahul or Sikh baptism from his hand; and no matter of religious importance came up for discussion concerning which his advice was not asked and generally followed. In short, he did more than any contemporary Sikh to consolidate the power of the Khalsa; and his death in 1783 was a calamity which might have seriously affected the future of the new faith had not the gap been speedily filled by a leader still more able, though not more brave and beloved, the redoubtable Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Jassa Singh made Kapurthala his capital.
Sardar Bhag Singh (1783-1801):
The Ahluwalia chiefship passed to Jassa Singh’s second cousin Bhag Singh, a man of very slight caliber. He did little to improve the fortunes of the family, and died at Kapurthala in 1801, after ruling for 18 years.
Sardar Fateh Singh (1801-1837):
Bhag Singh’s son Fateh Singh was in the beginning a fast friend of his ally and equal, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh; but he was rapidly outstripped in the race for power, and in the end found himself in the position of a feudatory of the Lahore government. He was at Amritsar with Ranjit Singh when in 1805 the Maratha Chief Jaswant Rao Holkar was driven north of the Satluj by Lord Lake’s pursuing army; and it was on his advice that the Maharaja was dissuaded from giving army; and it was on his advice that the Maharaja was dissuaded from giving offence to the British by lending countenance to the fugitive prince. He and the Maharaja jointly signed the first treaty, dated 01 January 1806, entered into by the British Government with the rulers of the trans-Satluj. There under, the English agreed never to enter the territories of “the said chieftains”, nor to form any plans for the seizure or sequestration of their possessions or property so long as they abstained from holding any friendly connection with their enemies and from committing any act of hostility against the British Government. In this treaty, both Ranjit Singh and Fateh Singh were styled Sardars. But they were never afterwards regarded as equals. Fateh Singh was of a weak, yielding nature, and shrank from asserting his own dignity. He thus fell by degree under the powerful spell of the Maharaja, who finally treated his as a mere vassal, commanding his service on every military adventure and insisting upon his constant attendance at Lahore. Matters at length became intolerable even to the admirable Fateh Singh, and in 1825 he fled across the Satluj and took refuge at Jagran, then under British protection, abandoning his estates in both the Doabs to the Maharaja. There was no real cause for this rash step on the part of the Sardar, whose fears were apparently worked upon by the sudden advance of some of Ranjit Singh’s regiments towards his border; and the Maharaja was probably surprised and annoyed when he found that his old friend had been driven into the arms of the English, whose settlements up against his Satluj boundary had for some years caused him genuine concern. But the Sardar had been so harried by Ranjit Singh’s imperious ways that he felt he must at all hazards sexure a guarantee of his possessions tyrans-Satluj, such as had been accorded by the British to the Phulkian chiefs further south. This was, however, impossible, without coming to open repture with the Maharaja and all that could be done was to take his cis-Satluj eswtates under British protection and bring about a friendly reconciliation between the chiefs, which resulted in the restoration to the fugitive in 1827 of all he had abandoned. The cis-Satluj territory was in any case secured to Fateh Singh under the general agreement of 1809.
Raja Nihal Singh (1837-1852):
Sardar Fateh Singh died in 1837, and was succeeded by his son Nihal Singh, in whose time occurred events of vital import to Kapurthala. The early part of his rule was disturbed by constant quarrels with his brother Amar Singh, who was encouraged by the Maharaja of Lahore and his minister Raja Dhian Singh to put himself forward as the rightful heir. Amar Singh was his brother’s bitter enemy till his accidental death by drowning in the River Ravi in 1841 Then came a time of sore trial to him in the outbreak of the First Anglo-Sikh War, 1845-46, on the Satluj. Sardar Nihal Singh wavered to the last, with-holding doing assistance from the British when it would have bee of the utmost value. His troops actually fought against the British under their commander Haider Alienation, both at Aliwal and Baddowal; but for this hostile act the Sardar was not personally responsible, inasmuch as the soldiers broke away from his control, and murdered the Wazir who attempted to restrain them. His conduct generally was however, condemned as weak and vacillating, for as a protected cis-Satluj feudatory he was bound to place all his resources at the disposal of the British Government, and in this he failed. At the end of the war, the Sardar was confirmed in possession of his territories in the Jalandhar Doab estimated at Rs. 5,77,763 subject to an annual nazrana of Rs. 1,38,000 fixed in commutation of military service; but his estates south of the Satluj, yielding a revenue of Rs. 5,65,000 were declared escheat to the British Government on account of his having failed to act up to his obligations under the treaty of 1809.
Out of the commutation of Rs. 1,38,000 fixed for military service in the Jalandhar Doab, a reduction of Rs 7,000 was subsequently made on account of the Nurmahal Jagir, which was included in the Kapurthala territory at the time of calculating nazrana due by the Raja, but was afterwards declared to be distinct there from. The Bari Doab estates, estimated to yield Rs 25,270 but subsequently assessed at Rs 16,742 were released to Sardar Nihal Singh on a life tenure, and subject to British jurisdiction.
The punishment inflicted after the First Anglo- Sikh War was not without its effect on Sardar Nihal Singh. In the Second Anglo- Sikh War, 1848-49, he did all in his power to win favour with the British, furnishing transport and supplies, and proving himself their loyal and active ally; and at the close of the war he was honored with a visit from the Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, who created im a Raja in acknowledgment of his services. He died in 1852.
Raja Randhir Singh (1853-1870):
Raja Randhir Singh, who succeeded his father in 1853, had the same gentle and generous nature. He aided the British during the Great Rebellion of 1857. On the first news of the outbreak of the revolt, the Raja with his younger brother, Kanwar Bikram Singh, marched into Jalandhar at the head of his men and helped the British to hold the Doab, almost denuded of troops, until the fall of Delhi. The political effect of this active loyalty on the part of the leading Sikh chief north of the Satluj was of the utmost value to the British, and the Raja’s assistance was promptly acknowledged by the bestowal upon him of the title of Raja-i-Rajgan in perpetuity, and by remission of a year’s tribute and a permanent reduction in the amount of his tribute payment by Rs.25,000. The Raja, however, requested that the hereditary jagir in the Bari Doab which had been resumed on the death of Raja Nihal Singh in 1852, though of less present value, might be restored to him in lieu of the remission of tribute. This request was subsequently complied with in 1860 and the jagir was released to the Raja in perpetuity, the civil and police jurisdiction remaining in the hands of British authorities. The tribute payable by the Raja accordingly stood at its former amount, Rs. 1,31,000.
In 1858, the Punjab continuing quiet, Raja Randhir Singh was permitted by the British to lead a contingent of his soldiers to Oudh and take part in the subjugation of the revolted districts by the British. He with his brother remained in the field for ten months, and was engaged with the rebels in six general actions. For all these services to the British, the Raja was rewarded with a grant of istamrari tenure of the two confiscated estates of Baundi and Bithauli, in the Baraich and Bara Banki districts, yielding in 1904 a rental value of Rs. 4,35,000. To his brother Kanwar Bikram Singh, who had accompanied the Raja to Oudh, was given a portion of the Akauna estate in baraich, yielding Rs. 45,000 a year. This property was subsequently taken over by the Raja in 1869, under an arbitration order of Sir Henry Davies, then Chief Commissioner in Oudh; Kanwar Bikram Singh receiving instead lands in Bareily and Lakhimpur of the value of Rs. 5,50,000 which were paid for by the Kapurthala State. In 1881, the Governor-General decided that these estates should be held by Bikram Singh Estate Act (X of 1883). In 1904, the Raja’s Akauna property yielded a rental of Rs. 3,60,000 and was subject to a Government demand of Rs. 1,32,000.
Raja Randhir Singh was harassed for many years by a painful dispute with his younger brothers, Kanwar Bikram Singh and Suchet Singh, regarding the interpretation of a will made in their favour by Raja Nihal Singh. The matter was finally settled in 1869 by the Secretary of State for India, and these orders were carried out by giving to each of the younger brothers a life allowance of Rs. 60,000. It was at the same time laid down that a suitable provision should be made for their children on the death of the brothers.
The last and most highly prized privilege conferred upon Raja Randhir Singh for his services to the British during the Great Rebellion of 1857 was that of adoption, granted under a sanad of Lord Canning, dated 31 March 1862. In 1864, the Raja received the Insignia of the Grand Commandership in the Order of the Star of India (G.C.S.I.), in public Darbar, at the hands of Lord Lawrence. The Raja had left for England in 1870 but he had only proceeded as far as Aden when death overtook him. His remains were brought back to India, and cremated at Nasik, on the banks of the River Godavri, where a handsome monument marks the resting place of his ashes.
Raja Kharak Singh (1870-1877):
Randhir Singh’s son Kharak Singh reigned for seven years. Nothing worthy of record happened in his time. A few years before his death the Raja exhibited symptoms of mental weakness, and it was deemed advisable to place the management of the State in the hands of a Council composed of Mian Ghulam Jilani, Diwan Ramjas and Diwan Baij Nath, officials; but the experiment was not successful , and in April 1875 Mr (afterwards Sir) Lepal Griffi was appointed Superintendent of the State. He was succeeded in February 1876 by Mr (afterwards Sir) Charles Rivaz. Raja Kharak Singh died in 1877 leaving one son, Jagatjit Singh.
Maharaja Jagatjit Singh (1877-1949):
Jagatjit Singh, the last ruler, was born in 1872, and was installed on the gaddi and invested with the full powers of administration in November 1890. On the occasion of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 he was made a Knight Commander of the Star of India, and in 1902 was invested with powers of life and death over his subjects. During his minority, the State was administered by an officer of the Punjab Commission, assisted by a Council composed of the principal officials of the State. The Maharaja’s uncle Raja Sir Harnam Singh, K. C. I. E., held the appointment of Manager of the estates in Oudh for some years. The revenues increased year by year and a handsome surplus was accumulated during the minority of the Maharaja.
During the Afghan War, the Kapurthala State furnished the British Government a contingent of 700 men, cavalry, artillery and infantry, for service beyond the British border. The force was employed on the Bannu frontier, and served under command of Sardar Nabi Bakhsh, C.I.E.
Jagatjit Singh was created a G.C.S.I. and granted the title of Maharaja during the Coronation Darbar held at Delhi in 1911. In view of the services rendered by the State forces and the expenditure involved in their maintenance during the World War I, 1914—18, the annual nazrana of Rs 1,31,000 was remitted by the British Government in 1924.
The Kapurthala State ran in a narrow strip along the left bank of the River Beas to its junction with the River Satluj; there was also an outlying portion, Phagwara, on the railway between Jalandhar and Phillaur, besides the pargana of Bunga consisting of twenty-four villages situated west of Hoshiarpur. The State was also owner of a few villages in the Amritsar and Lahore (Pakistan) districts. To these were added the Raja’s property in the Uttar Pradesh. This consisted of the Bhogpur estate in the Bijnaur District, and four estates in Oudh, namely, Bundi and Akauna in the Baraich District, Bhituali in Bara Banki, and Dohrera in Kheri. The latter was purchased by Raja Kharak Singh in 1871, but Bundi, Bhituali and Akauna were presented to the State by the British Government in the time of Raja Randhir Singh, in recognition of his services during the Great Rebellion of 1857. The estates in Oudh extended over an area of more than 700 squre miles, (1,813sq. km.) Throughout which the Raja enjoyed taluqdari rights, with a population of about 3,00,000.
The State was in political relations with the Punjab Government through the Commissioner of the Jalandhar Division prior to the establishment of the Punjab States Agency in 1921, when it was placed in direct relations with the Government of India through the Agent to the Governor-General, Punjab States.
The Maharaja of Kapurthala stood fifth in order of precedence among the ruling chiefs of the Punjab.
II. Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal Movement, 1928--1948
Background of the Political Movement in Princely States:
The political movement in the princely states was the joint handiwork of the external and internal factors. The Kuka movement in early seventies of the nineteenth century, the Singh Sabha movement started in 1873, the Ghadar movement of 1913—15, the Gurudwara Reform Movement (1921—25), etc., directly or indirectly influenced the attitudes of the people in the East Punjab States. However, it was only in the twenties of the present century when the political scene had warmed up enough that people in the states also woke up. But this awakening was in a large measure due to the Gurudwara Reform Movement. The freedom movement in British India did not inspire the East Punjab states people’s movement, it only helped it. The shape, the character and the dimensions of the Praja Mandal Movement in the East Punjab were determined directly by the Akali movement 20.
To all intents and purposes, the economies of the princely states represented all that was backward and conservative in India as a whole. Practically, no effort was ever made to assess and evaluate the mineral resources or set up any industries. A vast majority of the population lived in villages. While in the British Punjab the situation was changing fast with the colonization of vast areas in the bar districts, provision of relief against rural indebtedness, popularization of better methods of cultivation and consolidation of holdings, in the princely states agriculture continued to suffer under the deadweight of a subsistence economy. But for the provision of certain irrigational facilities, which too came as a corollary of the development of the canal system in the British Punjab, the princes did nothing for ameliorating the lot of the peasant.
The rulers and their courtiers were concerned only with the revenues of the states and the chief criterion of efficiency of an administrator was the state of revenues under his control. The state existed for the pleasure of the prince. It was important for him because it supplied him with resources for a luxurious living. Maharaja Jagatjit Singh (1877—1949) of Kapurthala had a reputation for spending most of his time abroad and was rarely available in his own state. A glance at the budget of 1924-25 of the Kapurthala State is enough to show how it was the very antithesis of the concept of a ‘Welfare State’. Expenditure on the princely household took a big chunk of the total income of Rs. 39,20,306 its share being thirty three per cent of the total. Another twenty per cent was spent on general administration and armed forces. This left only 5 per cent for education and 2.5 per cent for medical facilities. All this happened in spite of the fact that its revenue resources were being augmented by the income from the Oudh Estates, which contributed nearly fifty per cent of the total income. 59.5 per cent of the annual budgetary income of the Kapurthala State came from land revenue and cesses; 10.2 per cent from excise and 7.5 per cent from stamps. It was only in the forties that the state’s income from excise duties and income-tax started making a significant contribution to the exchequer. In 1944-45 the former fetched Rs. 7,79,257 and the latter contributed Rs. 3,79,445 out of the total revenue of Rs. 35,40,563.
The budgetary policies in the princely states, heavily loaded in favour of the ruler, attached little importance to the welfare of the people. Expenditure on public welfare agencies like education and health was negligible while the princes and their courtiers rolled in luxury. It was, therefore, quite natural for any political movement to demand restrictions on the privy purses and to have more funds shifted to construction of roads, hospitals and schools in the countryside. Another important aspect of these policies was that they were not growth-oriented. Very little was being done to increase agricultural production or lighten the burden of rural indebtedness.
However, in the industrial field the Kapurthala State had made progress. One reason for Kapurthala’s better performance during princely rule was the sizable amount of capital its last ruler could channelise into industries out of the income from his Oudh Estates and the breadth of his outlook because of his wide travels abroad.
First Phase of the Praja Mandal Movement, 1928—1938:
The Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal was formed on 17 July 1928. It aimed at ending the autocratic rule in the states, defending the democratic rights and liberties of the common people and ameliorating their economic condition. To begin with, the Praja Mandal focused its attention on political issues such as liberty of movement and speech and misuse of State finances by the rulers. To reinforce their struggle, the organizers affiliated the Praja Mandal to the All India States’ People’s Conference which was brought into being about the same time and established close contacts with the Indian National Congress, the most powerful freedom-fighting force in the country.
The Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal was no where allowed to hold its conferences and meetings inside the states territory. Most of its activities were, therefore, conducted from outside the states territory. It was only at Lahore, Shimla or Ludhiana that it could hold its annual sessions. Even there, all sorts of difficulties were created and obstructions placed by the rulers or by the British authorities. A large majority of the Praja Mandal workers remained exiles and they could not openly spread their influence among the people. Inside the states, the only activity was the Akali sponsored religious diwans. Praja Mandal was an illegal organization upto 1946. Because of this, the movement could not strike deep ideological roots and remained nearer to the Akalis than to the Indian National Congress. The first regular session of the Praja Mandal was held at Lahore on 27 December 1929, and the second session was held at Ludhiana on 11-13 October 1930.
During the year 1930-31, the Praja Mandal leadership concentrated its activities on extending their work to the smaller states. Thus, an independent unit of the Praja Mandal was also established in the Kapurthala State. But here the movement made a very modest start and did not attract much attention. It was much later that the movement gathered momentum. Nevertheless, the character of the movement here was in no way different from that in the bigger states. The Akalis formed the hard-core of the Praja mandal workers everywhere and their main demands were concerned with redressal of peasant grievances.
In the Kapurthala State, the villages in the Bunga pocket, surrounded on all sides by the Hoshiarpur District, became a centre of Praja Mandal activity. The “Dhut Group” of political workers, as it was called by the Kapurthala administration after the name of their village, was actively associated with the Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal since its very inception. The group was led by Master Hari Singh who was a Headmaster of a school in the Hoshiarpur District. Here also, the main demands centered round the reduction of land revenue abolition of regressive and repressive taxes, end to corruption, more roads, schools and hospitals in the rural areas and responsible government.
Under the guidance of the radical wing of the Punjab Ryasti Praja Manda, the political scene warmed up further. In the Kapurthala State, too, the Praja Mandal Movement was very active. There was demand for responsible government and restoration of the confiscated property of a revolutionary Baba Harnam Singh. In 1938-39, there was a peasant agitation against malba tax, which was being charged at the rate of six per cent of the land revenue. People refused to pay the tax and lambardars expressed their inability to do anything in the matter. The situation became quite grave at village Narur which was described as the storm centre of the agitation. The State Government held the extremist political workers led by Master Hari Singh and Chanan Singh Dhut responsible for the trouble. The agitation won a partial victory when the Maharaja granted relief to the tune of rupees thirty thousand out of a total sum of rupees sixty five thousand.
The Central Zamindar League, Kapurthala
Zamindara agitation was started in the Kapurthala State as early as in 1931, but it assumed a vehement form against the Kapurthala State Administration under the leadership of Master Hari Singh Dhut in early 1935. This agitation was mainly based on the following concepts:-
(1) The unit of measurement of length in field survey, i.e. pace or karm, which was in vogue in the State, was less as compared to the adjoining British territory.
The effect of this decrease in the unit of measurement of land in the State as compared to the adjoining district of Jalandhar during field survey was that one acre was equivalent to 211 marlas while in the Kapurthala State one acre was equal to 239 marlas. Thus the difference of marlas (one kanal eight marlas) in one acre or in other words difference of nineteen marlas in one ghumaon while one kanal comprised twenty marlas and ghumaon consisted of eight kanals.
(2) The rates of land revenue assessment in the State were excessively higher as compared to those levied in the adjoining British territory; and that keeping in view these two facts 50 per cent reduction in the land revenue was demanded by the zamindars.
(3) The beggar cess, known as ‘Haw-ul-Khidmat’ very harsh and out-dated.
A conference of the Kapurthala State zamindars was convened at village Khaira, District Jalandhar, on 02 February, 1935, and another conference of the zamindars of Phagwara Ilaqa was held at village Musapur near Domeli, District Jalandhar, on 25 February, 1935. The zamindara struggle continued and the workers had to suffer a lot at the hands of the Kapurthala State officials. Meanshile, the revenue authorities began to make inquiries about the Zamindara League demands from the various quarters of the British territory as well as from the other Punjab States. On the other hand, the zamindars, who were eager to get their demands acceded to, accelerated the agitation.
The State Government had to accept the demands of the zamindars, but the leaders, who had been arrested, were not released. This was resented by the peasants. Master Hari Singh Jathedar, Amar Singh and Sadhu Singh, the heroes of the struggle, were confined to dark cells of the Central Jail, Kapurthala and given harsh treatment. Ultimately, the State Government acceded to the demands of the zamindars and released their leaders. Thus, the agitation ended.
Urban People join the Praja Mandal Movement
The Kisan workers of the Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal were everywhere actively carrying on their agitational work but now they were mostly working under Communist guidance. Along with the activities of the Kisan cadre of the Praja Mandal, work was also being undertaken in urban areas of the East Punjab States by groups of Hindu workers under inspiration from the Indian National Congress in general and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in particular. A direct result of the drawing in of the urban middle class people into political arena was the coming to the force-front of the demand for greater number of jobs for the State subjects. The question of jobs in later years became the central slogan of communal politics in the states but in the beginning it represented their local patriotism.
Another immediate effect of the urban people joining the Praja Mandal Movement was that the demand for civil liberties was strengthened. But the princes even now were not ready to change. The sixth session of the All India States’ People’s Conference was held at Ludhiana in February 1939 under the Presidentship of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru in an atmosphere of peasants’ struggles and agitations for the repeal of repressive laws. It was for the first time that the session was being held in the Punjab and it showed the significance that the All India States, People’s Conference and the Indian national Congress attached to the Movement in this part of the country. Pt. Nehru’s participation drew thousands of visitors, among whom many were from the states. The Punjab Ryasti Praja mandal, which was playing host to the Ludhiana session was now effectively under the control of the Communists. Master Hari Singh, M.L.A. (Punjab), who belonged to the Kapurthala State, was one of the leading lights of the organization. Baba Karam Singh Dhut, who had just been released from jail was Chairman of the Reception Committee/ The Conference was attended by delegates from nearly all the East Punjab States including Kapurthala and thousands of State’s people thronged to see and hear Jawahar Lal Nehru. The rulers already expected this and they tried their best to thwart the preparations of the conference and counter the intensive propaganda being carried on by peasant workers in the country-side. The issue of civil liberties in the states was naturally highlighted at the Ludhiana Session. In his presidential address, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru treated this as the focal point of all Praja Mandal activities. It was, according to him, the immediate objective of the Praja Mandal while their ultimate aim was responsible government.
The Ludhiana Conference met with a measure of success beyond expectations and achieved identity of purpose and action between the All India States’ People’s Conference and the Indian national Congress. The movement in the East Punjab States was expected to attain new successes in the years to follow. The Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal was now a purely political organization leading a movement for economic and political reforms and was firmly aligned with the All India States’ People’s Conference.
Developments during the World War II, 1939—1945:
The movement, however, received a setback with the starting of the World War II in September 1939. Most of the front ranking workers including Baba Karam Singh Dhut, President of the Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal, and Master Hari Singh were arrested.
Throughout the war years, the issue of constitutional and administrative reforms engaged the attention of the rulers of the East Punjab States. Two factors were working in favour of these reforms: the rising tide of the freedom movement both in the British India and in the princely states and the pressure of the Political Department of the Government of India. The princes did not like “interference from outside trying to force them to issue constitutional reforms, a matter which should be strictly left to them and their people”. But they were fully conscious of the fact that old things could not continue for long and they would have to introduce some reforms sooner or later. In the Kapurthala State, new constitutional reforms were under the consideration of the Maharaja. Pressure from the Political Department of the Government of India, which in turn was due to the insistence of the Congress on responsible government in states, was mounting. For the success of the Federation proposals contained in the Government of India Act, 1935, some sort of reforms in the states were necessary. The Congress had openly declared that there could be no marriage between democracy and autocracy. Proceedings of the various meetings of the Punjab States Council, a recognized body of the Punjab rulers on the lines of the Chamber of Princes, clearly brings out this point. The Punjab princes were straining their nerves to arrive at some formula which could meet the demands of the Political Department but at the same time enable them to safeguard their sovereign rights which they had so jealously been guarding. The maximum which the Punjab States Council could recommend was “local bodies of a representative character and a central organization for purposes of legislation and for advising the Government in regard to matters of administration.” There was no mention of a responsible government which had been dropped in favour of the vague objective of achieving “increasing association of their people’. The central organization for purposes of legislation was also to be only of an advisory nature. The Council also held protracted discussions on the question of administrative reforms. The need for reform was stressed by Mr Corfield, the Resident of Punjab States in his address to the Council. The Political Department wanted the judiciary police to be reformed first because it was essential “to satisfy public opinion and provide the answer to critics from outside at the most vulnerable point.” Throughout the war years, discussion continued but no final decision was taken. It was only at the end of the war that the states introduced some administrative and constitutional reforms but it was all done in such haste and in such a fast changing circumstances that it proved to be of little use.
Another significant development of the war period was the emergence of the Akali Dal as an independent political force in the East Punjab States. After the outbreak of the World War II in 1939 and resignation of Congress Ministeries, Akali politics in the Punjab took a new turn. For the first time since its birth, the Akali Party was adopting a policy of co-operation towards the British Government in its war efforts whereas the Congress and the All India States’ People’s Conference were openly advocating a defiant line. It was in this atmosphere that Master Tara Singh, President of the Akali Dal, launched his offensive in the East Punjab States. Unlike the thirties when he had championed the cause of the States people through condemnation of despotic rule and supported their demand for responsible government, his emphasis now was on Sikh rights and the independent entity of the Panth. There was appreciation for the Patiala and Faridkot rulers who had retained their Sikh appearance and condemnation for Kalsia, Jind and Kapurthala rulers who had become apostates.
Most of the Praja Mandal leaders bekng behind bars, the East Punjab States did not witness any resistance in 1942-43. Here there were no disturbances in the wake of the Quit India Resolution passed by the Bombay Session of the Indian National Congress in August 1942. The Praja Mandal Movement remained a leaderless movement functioning in a vacuum.
Post-War Phase, 1946-47:
After the end of the World War II (1939—45) efforts to find a solution to India’s political problem started again. The communal question held the key to any final solution of the problem and the ‘States Problem’ faded into insignificance unlike in the presumption-war period when princes had thought that they could effectively block the implementation of the Federation proposals. The changes were in no small measure due to a shift in the British attitude. The British Government was in no mood to allow the princes to impede progress. Through public meetings, the Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal was voicing its demand for responsible government. For the first time, the people in the States were witnessing open criticism of the autocratic rule of the princes. The Akalis wanted a special treatment for the Sikhs in the Kapurthala State although there they were numerically in a very weak position. This emphasis on the special position of the Sikhs was simply a projection of the Akali demand in the British Punjab.
On the termination of the British rule and the achievement of independence by the country on 15 August 1947, the Kapurthala State opted to form part of India.
Formation of the Patiala and the East Punjab States Union, 1948:
The achievement of independence by the country in August 1947 brought about little change in the attitude of the princes, at least in the East Punjab. The much awaited reforms were to wait for about a year more. The Praja Mandal and the Akalis continued with their demands and remained quarrelling over the details of future setup. After the emigration of the Muslims to Pakistan and immigration of a large number of refugees from the West Punjab and the Bahawalpore State to the East Punjab States, the complexion of politics here also underwent some change. Urban areas acquired greater political consciousness because of the refugees from the urban areas of Pakistan. The newcomers, therefore, generated new tensions and created new problems. After the independence of the country in 1947, the Akalis joined the Congress in the Punjab and got a representation in the ministry. This had its own impact on the politics in the States. Instead of fighting one another as rivals, the Akalis and the Praja Mandal now forged a united front and started demanding a responsible government. The Akalis issued an ultimatum to the East Punjab States to introduce responsible government or face a morcha. The Praja Mandal had already been threatening a struggle. So reforms could no longer be postponed.
The Kapurthala State remained comparatively quite but there too the new post-war spirit of awakening was quite evident. The Praja Mandal was demanding constitutional reforms. This movement in the State was in hands of the Communists and Public meetings were a matter of almost daily occurrence.
With the spread of political consciousness to the towns, students started participating actively in the Praja Mandal activities. The Students Congress Wing of the Indian Congress started paying active attention to the East Punjab States.
There was, thus, great upsurge among the people, although political rivalries among various groups and parties were also growing. Now it was not the old simple battle between the rulers and the Punjab Ryasti Praja Mandal. Instead it was a battle for supremacy also. The question of who will lead the ministry it was a battle for supremacy also. The question of ‘who will lead the ministry?’ had assumed relevance. As months passed, this aspect became the most pivotal question. Events were moving fast and the issue of constitutional reforms could no longer be shelved. In the Kapurthala State, the ruler promised to introduce them at the earliest.
It was no longer possible for States to continue to their old ways. The Praja Mandal was on the war path. Administrations were crisis-ridden and the Central Government at Delhi was none too sympathetic. In such a situation, the movement for merger of the East Punjab states gained ground. The Praja Mandal stand was quite clear on this issue. In the Kapurthala State, where there were three distinct pockets of Kapurthala , Phagwara and Bunga, the movement for merger was quite strong. People living in the small pockets, which were surrounded on all sides by Punjab territory, felt it more convenient if they had access to mandis (market towns) and educational and administrative centers in the Punjab than their State headquarters, which were far away. The traders were also anxious to move out of the oppressive atmosphere of the States and breathe in the free air of the Punjab where the political, economic and administrative conditions were better and far more satisfactory. The east Punjab States, viz. Patiala. Nabha, Jind, Kalsia, Faridkot, Kapurthala and Malerkotla were thus united on 20 August 1948 to form the new State of Patiala and the East Punjab States Union, later known as PEPSU. Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala was appointed Up-Rajpramukh of PEPSU. He died in June 1949 and was succeeded by his son Paramjit Singh. The latter died in July 1955 and was succeeded by his son Sukhjit Singh.
On the merger of the Punjab and PEPSU on 1 November 1956, Kapurthala became one of the districts of the Punjab.