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Smadhi of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia

Guest post by S. Gurdev Singh Rooprai

Image result for jassa singh ramgarhia

It was the 11th of March in 1783, when 3 Misls of Sikhs, Karorsinghia Misl, Ahluwalia Misl, and the Ramgarhia Misl joined hands to conquer Delhi’s Red Fort. The campaign was led by Baba Baghel Singh of Karorsinghia Misl and after the victory, he started the construction of historical Gurudwaras on sites associated with Sikh Gurus in Delhi. While he was involved in that, S.Jassa Singh Ramgarhia also participated in that for some time, and while returning, he uprooted the Mughal Imperial throne, where Aurangzeb once sat and ordered the beheading of the 9th Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Teg Bahadur. This throne was taken to Amritsar, the seat of Ramgharias. It was installed in the Ramgharia Bunga in the periphery of the Golden Temple, and still rests there. Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was a great ruler, a skilled engineer and a great general. Punjab was divided into 12 Misls until Maharaja Ranjit Singh came and united all of them to form one country. These misls collaborated with each other from time to time, to protect the area from invaders like Abdali and even Mughals.

While reading about the glorious history of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, one question that popped into my mind was about the memorial (samadhi) of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. I have read nearly 20 books so far, written on his life by different authors. While most of them mention that after the demise of the Maharaja in 1803, his memorial cenotaph (Samadhi) was built by his son S. Jodh Singh (1757-1816), near the bank of river Beas in his capital of SriHargobindpur, which was washed away due to flood sometime later, leaving no trace behind. Only one research scholar, S. Kehar Singh Matharu (Canada), in his book “Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia” (2016) mentions this samadhi on page 178. Although, the information provided in the book was insufficient to disprove the false claims made by several other authors, it was important enough to inspire me to start my own research. I was able to contact Sh. Matharu and he was kind enough to guide me through his part of journey and set my course. It is pity, that instead of indulging in fresh research, all other authors relied on some old flawed narrative and continued to write that the samadhi was flooded in the river.

This also bothered me because we know that S. Jodh Singh, besides being a great warrior, was also a skilled engineer like his father. How can he make the mistake of erecting a memorial in the flood zone of a fierce river?

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SriHargobindpur is a historic city on the banks of river Beas, in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab (India). The land for this was purchased by 5th Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji in 1587 from Rohillas. It was named Gobindpur at that time. Later, after his martyrdom, the town was captured by the Chandu’s relative with the support of Mughals. Chandu is the same Mughal Noble, who was instrumental in bringing the 5th Guru to his martyrdom. It was liberated by the 6th Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Ji in 1629. The Guru then constructed a mosque for the Muslims and a Temple for the Hindus in the town. There is also a beautiful Gurudwara constructed later in the honor of the Guru. When the Guru liberated this town, the devoted sikh families started to settle here and the population of the town grew to 4000 and since then, it became famous with the name of SriHargobindpur.

After conquering Jalandhar Doab, Riarki, and nearby Hill kingdoms, S. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia started planning for a more stable empire and a full-fledged capital. Sri Hargobindpur was a perfect location from all aspects. It was at the optimum height from the river, had scenic beauty, and also safer than other towns, given its geographic situation. He then fortified the town, with 5 gates and made it the capital of his kingdom. As per a few records, by this time, the population of the town had reached nearly 20,000.

In February 2019, I made my maiden visit to this town and explored many historic landmarks. I also walked along the bank of river Beas. A few buildings inside the town exist but in dilapidated condition. Palace and Court of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia still stand, but a portion of Baradari and few rooms have caved in. Some structures are being restored now.

Along the bank of the river, there was no trace of the Samadhi. One major question that was bothering me that how can they construct the Samadhi of Maharaja outside the walls of the capital, against the medieval practice, and that too at the site, which was prone to frequent natural calamities. Perhaps, there is something that was not explored properly or is still hidden from researchers.

Tomb-JassaSinghRamgharia

The next day, I started exploring the streets of the fortified town. While roaming around, I stumbled upon an octagonal domed structure, some 300 yards eastwards of the Lahori Gate. It was inside a courtyard, locked from outside. I couldn’t see much from there, but the neighbors defined the building to me. I returned to Amritsar and started reading about samadhi architecture.

In a couple of months, I returned to the site with more information on the Samadhi architecture in this belt. This time, another learned person from the town accompanied me to this compound. Luckily, we found the gate open. As we entered, the samadhis built in Punjab (both India and Pakistan) started flashing before my eyes. This building was exactly the same.

Tomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-sideTomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-DoorTomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-Inside

Tomb-JassaSinghRamgharia-PanelFor several years, the family of Gauri Shankar is living in this compound. But they do not possess any legal documents for the ownership. Within this compound, in a corner, we have this octagonal building in a 15’ X 15’ block. The walls are 12’ high and have a dome on top of it. The building is made of Nanakshahi bricks and contains stone jalis on each side. Arches and decorative elements on the wall exhibit the excellent craftsmanship of the era. Each wall is about 3’ thick and the building has a single door on one side. Walls also have alcoves in them. To the right of the door, there is a tiny staircase leading to the upper level, which has an opening in the middle of about 3’ diameter. The stucco work on the exterior is almost gone and building up to 4’ from the ground is crying desperately for restoration.

In front of this octagonal building, at a distance of some 15’, there is a small well, which has been excluded from the compound with a low boundary wall. The well is also of small nanakshahi bricks and has an empty cavity, which at one point of time, contained a slab bearing the name of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. Some people informed me that a while ago, few men vandalized the slab and one major reference to the site were lost forever. Following is the drawing of the layout of this Samadhi.SMADHI LAYOUT

Samadh-JodhSinghThis building is neither a gurudwara nor a palace. It matches the Sikh Tombs built in Punjab, on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. For example, the memorials in Pothohar in Pakistan. The area of Fateh Jung village contains few cenotaphs/tombs, which has artwork on the inside. In the Maha Singh Bagh of Lahore, we have the Samadhi of Sardar Maha Singh father of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Near the Baradari of Lahore, we have the Samadhi of Maharaja Sher Singh. In village Mangat, district Mandi Bahauddin, Pakistan, we have the Sikh Samadhis. In India, we have Samadhi of Shahid Baba Mangal Singh in village Mughal, District TaranTaran, Punjab. Also, the tombs of the Sodhi family in the Guru-Harsahai area of Ferozpur. The samadhis of General Fateh Singh (from the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh)and his family in Amritsar. Samadhi of Bhai Desa Singh near Gurdwara Baba Atal Ji and Samadhi of S. Jodh Singh son of Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia inside the compound of Gurdwara of Baba Deep Singh Ji at Amritsar (in pic). All these are perfect examples of the Sikh Samadhi architecture. Even the memorials of Baba Atal Jee and Baba Deep Singh jee in Amritsar are octagonal and small. Later larger Gurudwaras were constructed around them.

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(left: Samadh of Bhai Desa Singh, Amritsar. Right: A dilapidated Samadh in Amritsar)

Samadhi-AmritsarSamadhi-Amritsar-Inside1Samadhi-Amritsar-Inside2

(Samadh of General Fateh Singh, Amritsar, and imagery inside it)

It is a matter of consideration that S. Jodh Singh Ramgarhia, being a skilled engineer, cannot choose a site in the flood plains of a river for the construction of his father’s memorial. History suggests that even S. Hari Singh Nalwa used to consult him while making forts and check posts at Jamrud, Pakistan.

Memorials of other family members of the Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia have already been traced to sites, where they died. Maharaja Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was the only person to die in SriHargobindpur in 1803 A.D. and therefore, his tomb has to be within the walls of the city. Since this is the only building that exists, matching the tomb architecture, it has to be the building, that the Ramgarhia community has been looking for.

I would urge the government machinery and private organizations, or individuals, who care for heritage, to step up and try to save this historic structure. Even a little more delay can result in permanent loss of this piece of heritage.

– Gurdev Singh Rooprai
gsrai2000@gmail.com

Lost Heritage: Sikh legacy in Pakistan

17th December 2015: I got a call from S. Gurpreet Singh Anand called me and invite me over tea. I was excited to meet him as he had just put me in touch with Janab Faqir Syed Saifuddin of Fakir Khana Museum of Lahore. Faqir sahib comes from the legendary family of Faqir Azizuddin, the trusted minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

So on 19th, I reached his office in West Delhi. As expected, I received a warm welcome by this warm gentleman. Later I learned that he is an avid traveller, who also holds the honour of being first Sikh on North Pole, and perhaps only Sikh to cover both North and South pole. As I made myself comfortable, he presented me with a book, which in few minutes became the most precious possession in my book collection. He gifted me Amardeep Singh’s “Lost Heritage: Sikh Legacy in Pakistan”.

LostHeritage-Cover

I love books and have collected all kinds of, that I could get access to. But this case was different. When I held this book in my hands, I had a very strange vibe, something unexplainable. It was a mix of excitement and nostalgia. As I removed the layer of shrink wrap, my fingers were trembling. This has never happened before. As a practice, I turned the book and read back cover. Then checked index. S. Gurpreet Singh Anand jee was watching me and waiting for me to react. But all my reactions had travelled back in time and here I was sitting like a wax statue, staring at the precious contents of this book with stone eyes.

This book is about what Sikhs have left in Pakistan and how partition has separated Sikhs on both sides of border. Book starts with introduction of a Sikh doctor serving in Pakistan and later author introduces his audience with more Sikhs in active service in Pakistan. Book is a systematic journey through Gurudwaras, Forts, Havelis, Schools and other buildings related to the Sikh Raj. The chapters on Faqir Khana Museum and Princess Bamba Collection will force readers to time travel into the bygone era of Sarkar Khalsaji, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. As Faqir Syed Saifuddin Sahab show rare artefacts from Sikh Raj, the book takes a different turn.

LostHeritage-AuthorAuthor has travelled across West Punjab, North-West Frontier and Pak Administered Kashmir to gather information. It has 60 chapters with 507 photographs and lots of rare information. Author, S. Amardeep Singh, born in India and studied at Dehradoon and Manipal Institute of Technology, now lives in Singapore. He is an amazing photographer and his exhibitions and work is appreciated across globe.

From Havelis to Gurudwaras, Amardeep did not leave a stone unturned. But the most interesting part is that he mentioned about revered Muslim Sufi Saints. Many modern day self proclaimed religious preachers would love to draw a line between Sikhs and Muslims. Whereas, there was a very high level of religious harmony back then. When connecting with god, religion is perhaps the last thing that would matter. Our Gurus and Sufi saints understood this well. May be that’s why, there are so many Muslim contributors to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee and Sain Mian Meer Sahib of Lahore laid the foundation of Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Amardeep visited many Forts and gave a detailed description. While talking about Forts and Havelis, he did not restrict himself to the Sikh religion, but to the fact, that the property was built, modified or at least used by the Sikh Rulers/Nobles. There are many structures which were built before Sikhs took over and All that SIkhs left is now being used by modern occupants. Some are government offices, some schools, some residences and some are simply lying abandoned in a a dilapidated state.

While the content of this book is very precious, what forced me to take a bow and salute the Author was his photography skills. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pictures. They were simply perfect. Books has some shots, which made me wonder, how did he manage to get this shot. The frame, the composition, lighting, everything seems perfect.

Now I am confused. What should I call this book? “A travel guide”, “A Coffee Table Book”, “A Photo-Journal”, “A Heritage Guide”……. Perhaps, this unique masterpiece is a combination of all.

I must thank Mr. Amardeep Singh jee for his brilliant talent and effort in putting up this masterpiece for rest of the world.

If you wish to buy this book, www.lostheritagebook.com should help. Book is already available on Amazon US and will be soon available on Indian e-Comm portals as well. Till then, one can order it from this website.

I clicked few pages for you…

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Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch

Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch

That night of 1736, a family with royal blood in their veins, ran into the forest to save the remaining members from brutal invasion of Nader Shah. Some of them survived and continued living in the Balochistan province, which now falls in Pakistan. Some say, this family was from the Safvid Dynasty of Persia. God had a different plan for two siblings from this family. Khadija Sultan Begum Sahiba, the daughter of family, born at Isfahan (Persia) in 1732 later became the third wife of Izzat-ud-Daula, Nawab Mohd. Muhsin Khan Bahadur, the eldest son of Mirza Ja’afar Khan Beg, nawab of Oudh. Nawab Muhsin was deputed as special ambassador to the Shah of Persia. Khadija Sultan Begum Sahiba’s elder brother, Mirza Najaf was a young adventurer. He could not save his family from Nader Shah, but the warrior in him never allowed him to rest. He joined the court of Oudh (Awadh) and with time, rose to power, as the Deputy Wazir of Oudh. He became popular with the name of Mirza Najaf Khan Korai Baloch, but at the time of death, his full name with title was:

His Excellency, Bakshi ul-Mamlikat, Vakil-i-Mutlaq,
Amir ul-Umara, Rustam-i-Hind, Zulfiqar ud-Daula,
Nawab Mirza Najaf Khan Bahadur,
Ghalib Jang

 

The Mughal General

The Mughal FlagNajaf Khan is known as the most powerful Mughal General, during the dying days of dynasty. He strengthened the Mughal army by introducing better battle formation and weapons. He is also known for the introduction of ‘Firelock’ musket into the Mughal Army. He fought under the Mughal flag in the famous Battle of Buxar in 1764. During this battle, he was part of the Oudh Army. Later, in 1772, he was moved to Delhi to serve as the highest commander of the Mughal Army. He served this rank only for a decade, which was enough for him to streamline the soldiers and train them with better techniques.

His army had around 90,000 highly trained soldiers and 250 canons. Soldiers were paid timely premium salaries to ensure the best out of them. In times, when Mughal court was not very strong, Mirza Najaf Khan managed to keep the loyalty and moral of soldiers high. It was his vision and expertise, that made Mughal army one of the strongest in country. Even Frenchmen and other European soldiers found their way into his army.

Najafgarh

Najafgarh-GateMirza Najaf Khan realized that after British (who were more like allies than enemies now), the biggest threat is from Rohillas and Sikhs. He marched several kilometers away from the capital of Shahjahanabad to establish a military outpost, which would guard Delhi against such attacks. He built a strong fort, known as Najafgarh. Today, only one gate of this fort survives. Some say that the Stable and Mosque also survived, but are now being used as some government buildings within the Najafgarh town.

Today, Najafgarh is the most populous constituency in Delhi. Some prominent personalities, other than Najaf Khan, that belong to Najafgarh are:

  • Chaudhry Brahm Prakash Yadav, first chief minister of Delhi
  • Sushma Yadav, first female general secretary of Delhi Pradesh Congress committee and first secretary of All India Mahila Congress
  • Virender Sehwag, cricketer
  • Rajbir Yadav, Alderman of South Delhi MCD
  • Jitender Yadav, Mr. India
  • Many other noted athletes and army officers

Najafgarh is also known for the battle of Battle of Najafgarh, fought during the siege of Delhi in 1857. After the death of Najaf Khan, the (fort of) Najafgarh became a stronghold of Zabita Khan, the Rohilla Afghan chief.

Death and Aftermath

Mirza Najaf Khan Baloch died on April 26, 1782 in Delhi. He left behind an adopted son named Najaf Quli Khan (Not8 to be confused with the Quli Khan buried in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, behind Qutub Minar). It is said that his son had converted from Hinduism. He was nowhere close to the strength and talent of Najaf Khan Baloch and could not succeed him.

NajafKhanTombNajafKhanTomb-Gate

Grave of Najaf Khan Baloch

His Tomb is probably the last Charbagh of Delhi. It is an unfinished structure, with only the crypt connected to four corridors. The platform on top contains a rough cenotaph. A proper building must have been in plans but during the dying days of empire, there was no one to finish the project. This brave soldier rests in a corner opposite the Safdarjung Airport.

BabaBaghelSingh

In less than 12 months of his demise, Delhi was attacked by Baba Baghel Singh Dhaliwal. The Red Fort was captured and emperor had to run away. He entered Delhi through a hole in wall near Kashmere Gate, where his 30 thousand soldiers had camped (We still call that place tees-hazari). “Hole” in punjabi is known as “Mori”. Some claim that Mori Gate is named because of that hole made by Sikhs. He was supported by soldiers from the armies of Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgharia and Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. As they captured the Red Fort, Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia reached Delhi and Baba Baghel Singh decided to install him as the Emperor of Delhi. This was protested by S. Jassa Singh Ramgharia and S. Ahluwalia voluntarily stepped down before coronation. The Mughal Emperor then sent Lady Sombre (Begum Samru) to Delhi to strike a deal between Sikhs and Mughals. A treaty was signed and Delhi was released by Sikhs. In some future article, I shall detail out the treaty, and how Sikhs Shrines of Delhi were given to Sikhs as a barter.

In next 5 years, the Mughal Army seized to exist. Mirza Najaf Khan Korai Baloch was the Last Brave commander of Mughal Army.

– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai

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