Nihal Singh Atarivala
Soldier And Courtier In The Time Of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (D. 1817)
Was born the son of Gauhar Singh Atarivala. The Atarivalas were Siddhu Jatts, settled at Tibba, a mound midway between Lahore and Amritsar, where Gauhar Singh built a house which because of its imposing facade came to be called an atari, in Punjabi a house with a high elevation. This was the origin of the name of the family and of the village that grew around the house. Gauhar Singh (d. 1763) joined in those days of high adventure the jatha, of Sardar Gurbakhsh Singh Roranvala and in 1737 took under his rakhi or protection a number of villages around Atari. Later he joined the Bhangi mislunder Gujjar Singh and acquired a military command and a jagir. His son, Nihal Singh served under Sahib Singh Bhangi and took part in the campaign against the Afghans. He won special distinction fighting in 1798 against Ahmad Khan Shahanchibashi, one of the generals of Zaman Shah Durrani. With the Bhatis, he confronted Ranjit Singh at Bhasin in 1800, but later took up service under him. From 1801 to 1817, he participated in most of the Maharaja’s military expeditions, including those of Kashmir and Multan. In 1803, he was assigned to a Air worth 50,000 rupees annually at Sukkho in Pothohar and in 1807 he was put in charge of Kasur after the defeat and expulsion of its Pathan ruler, Qutb ud-Din. He accompanied Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the first two of his campaigns across the Sutlej in 1806-07.
Nihal Singh was known for his loyalty and devotion to the person of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The family tradition recounts how he sacrificed his life for the sake of the Maharaja. When in 1817, Ranjit Singh fell seriouslly ill and the remedies applied by royal physicians had proved of little avail, Nihal Singh walked round his bed praying that his ailment be transferred to him. He retired to Atari where he languished and died soon afterwards. Ranjit Singh had meanwhile recovered from his illness.