Dhian Singh, Raja
Chamberlain to the Royal Household (1796-1843)
The second son of Waft Kishora Singh Dogra and the middle one of the three brothers from Jammu serving Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born on 22 August 1796. He was presented before Ranjit Singh at Rohtas in 1812 by his elder brother, Gulab Singh, and was given employment as a trooper on a monthly salary of sixty rupees. Dhian Singh by his impressive bearing, polished manner and adroitness, steadily rose in the Maharaja’s favour and, in 1818, replaced Jamadar Khushal Sinngh as deorhidar or chamberlain to the royal household. In this capacity, he had ready access to the Maharaja and became a man of influence at the court. He was at times assigned to military duties as well. He took part in the battle of Naushera in March 1823. As Ranjit Singh, following the death on 30 April 1837 of Hari Singh Nalva, hastened towards the northwest frontier, Dhian Singh marched with his force in advance.
Dhian Singh received from the Maharaja endless favours. He was granted a large number of jagirs in the hilly country of Jammu and created Raja in 1822. On 20 June 1827, he was given the title of Raja-i-Rajgan Raja Kalan Bahadur. He became the principal minister of the Maharaja and the most powerful person in the kingdom after him. The highest distinction came on 21 June 1839 when Maharaja Ranjit Singh proclaimed in the presence of the entire court and the army stationed in Lahore that he had granted full powers to Prince Kharak Singh, the heir apparent, over all his dominions and troops, and that the Prince had chosen Raja Kalail Bahadur to be his Wazir, principal minister or counsellor. The Maharaja also conferred upon Dhian Singh the title of Naib-us-Salatnat-i-‘Azamat, Khairkhwah-i-Samimi-iDaulat-i-Sirkar-i-Kubra, Wazir-i-‘Azam, Dastur-i-Mu’azzam, Mukhtar-i-Mulk.
On the morning of the funeral of the Maharaja, 28 June 1839, Dhian Singh expressed his intention to immolate himself on the late monarch’s pyre and had to be dissuaded by the queens and courtiers. Maharaja Kharak Singh himself begged him to continue to steer the State. Dhian Singh agreed that he would remain in the service of Kharak Singh for one year and proceed thereafter on a pilgrimage to sacred places. But he soon found himself at the centre of courtly intrigue. He set afloat the rumour that Kharak Singh and his favourite, Chet Singh, were soliciting British protection and were going to compromise the sovereignty of the Punjab. He summoned Prince Nau Nihal Singh from Peshawar, and won over the Sandhanvalia sardars to join him in a plot to kill Chet Singh. The scheme was carried out and Chet Singh was assassinated on 9 October 1839 by Dhian Singh in the presence of the Maharaja who was himself placed under restraint, Prince Nau Nihal Singh running the affairs of the State on his behalf.
Death, however, removed from the scene Nau Nihal Singh returning from his father’s cremation on 5 November 1840. Dhian Singh now chose to place Prince Sher Singh on the throne. He concealed the fact of Nau Nihal Singh’s death for three days, till Sher Singh had arrived at Lahore at his summons. But his plans were upset ‘by his rivals, the Sandhanvalias, who decided to support Kharak Singh’s widow, Chand Kaur, as a regent for Nau Nihal Singh’s child yet to be born.
On 2 December 1840, Chand Kaur was proclaimed Maharani. Sher Singh went back to his estate in Batala the following day, and Dhian Singh retired to Jammu a few days later. This was, however, only a tactical withdrawal by the astute Raja Kalan. Even while on his way to jammu, he wrote to army commanders at different levels and to other government officials to render obedience and assistance to Prince Sher Singh upon his return to Lahore. Sher Singh arrived at Lahore on 13 January 1841 and the bulk of the royal army then in Lahore went over to him. Raja Dhian Singh returned from Jammu on 17 January. Sher Singh was proclaimed Maharaja of the Punjab on 18 January with Dhian Singh as his Wazir.
On 15 September 1843 the Sandhanvalla Sardars, Ajit Singh and Lahina Singh, assassinated Maharaja Sher Singh and Kanvar Partap Singh, the heir apparent, on the outskirts of Lahore. As they were returning to the Fort with the heads of Sher Singh and Partap Singh hung on spikes, they were met on the way by Dhian Singh who was lured into the Fort. As he advanced his claim to be Wazir to the succeeding Maharaja, Ajit Singh fired a shot and killed him on the spot.