Rani Sada Kaur
When Kabul’s ruler, Badshah Jamaan, was convinced of continued his inability to rule Punjab, he sent a secret message suggesting Ranjit Singh to assume control of Lahore. The Lahore residents too were fed-up with continuously changing rulers with every sunrise. So when they learned of Shah Jamaan’s message, they too sent a message asking Ranjit Singh to take control of Lahore.
Ranjit Singh was in Ram Nagar when he received both messages, from Kabuls Badshah as well as the Lahore residents. He was being offered the throne of Lahore. Accepting this offer wasn’t as easy as it sounded wasn’t. Neither the Lahore residents had organized any militia for Ranjit Singh’s support and nor had Kabuls Badshah offered any military help. Ranjit Singh’s own force weren’t enough for the task. Besides, the Bhangs and Ramgahria Sardars were his sworn enemies. As such the acceptance of this tempting offer wasn’t easy. And Ranjit Singh couldn’t reach a decision.
Very few people are aware of the fact that Ranjit Singh’s control over Lahore wasn’t due to either his strength or intelligence but the result of an intelligent and brave woman’s resolve and wisdom. And that woman was Ranjit Singh’s mother-in-law, Rani Sada Kaur Walia of Batala.
Having received messages from Shah Jamaan and Lahore residents, Ranjit Singh immediately left Ram Nagar and reached Batala.
After greeting his mother-in-law with “Jo Bolahe So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal,” he respectfully touched her feet. Rani Sada Kaur instantaneously moved forward to hug him and lovingly fondled his head.
Immediately, both were engrossed in conversation. Ranjit Singh explaining the whole situation and asked, “Matta Ji! Tell me, what should be done now?”
“What have you thought?” Asked Sada Kaur in response.
“Just to proceed, attack and capture Lahore.” Ranjit Singh answered.
“How much force do you have with you?” Sada Kaur inquired once again.
“Oh, some 3500 soldiers.”
“And here we have some 2000. So, say 5000 in total.”
“Then, Biba, are you expecting to attack and successfully capture Lahore with this force?”
Sada Kaur’s question brought disappointment on Ranjit Singh’s face. He lowered his head and got lost in deep thoughts. Lahore was under the control of three Sikh Sardars. Amritsar was under control of his archenemy Ramgahria and Bhangi. If he was to announce his attack and leave Batala with a force of 5000, he wouldn’t even reach Lahore, leave aside capture it.
Observing Ranjit Singh in deep thoughts, Sada Kaur said, “Yes, there is a way to success.”
“What?” Ranjit Singh asked eagerly.
“No one should learn anything prior to your arrival in Lahore.” Sada Kaur explained.
“How is this possible?” Saying this, Ranjit Singh once again got lost in thoughts.
“Everything is possible, Biba!” Sada Kaur said laughingly. She had a strategy in her mind.
Forces were given orders to advance. But when the commanders inquired “Sardar, Where to?”
“To bathe at Amritsar.” Responded Sada Kaur.
The news spread all over like wildfire that Rani Sada Kaur, accompanied by her son-in-law, is going to bathe at Amritsar.
The whole party left Batala in the afternoon and reached Sri Darbar Sahib by the evening. Everyone bathed in the sacred pool, paid homage, and the camped just outside the city. Now Rani Sada summoned all the commanders for a meeting and explained her strategy. It was midnight by the time her meeting ended. Immediately, the horses were saddled and the party was on the move. By sunrise, Ranjit Singh accompanied by her mother-in-law and 5000 soldiers reached the Lahore gates and established a cantonment in Nawab Wajir Khan’s territory. He managed to sneak into Lahore without anyone’s knowledge. This was a result of Sada Kaur’s strategy.
Noticing Ranjit Singh, the Lahore rulers sent some forces to defend. But these forces did not engage in any battle. Why not? This was the magic of Sada Kaur’s strategy that had its intended impact. Sada Kaur successfully negotiated surrender and offered them employment upon taking control of Lahore.
The Lahore residents kept their word. They opened the gates of Lahore entrances. Ranjit Singh entered Lahore, without a single bullet ever gracing anyone or anything. Two Sardars ran away while the third raised rebellion from the fort.
Ranjit Singh’s forced immediately seized the Fort. But they had no canyons. So the soldiers started firing from their trenches. Firing at the fort was like firing at a mountain. What effect could bullets have on a mountain? Absolutely, none. Similarly, their bullets couldn’t have any affect on the fort. Mughal rulers had diligently built an extremely strong and defendable fort. So inside Lahore, Ranjit Singh faced yet another situation. Once again he had to seek Sada Kaur’s advice. “Matta Ji! What should we do now?” He asked. “Are you convinced that the fort can be captured with bullets?” Sada Kaur answered with a question. Ranjit Singh immediately recognized his mistake and responded in a very low voice, “No!” “Then why are you wasting ammunition?” Ranjit Singh lowered his head.
After some thought Sada Kaur said, “Kaka, give orders to stop firing.”
Ranjit Singh was convinced of his mother-in-laws wisdom. Without understanding or questioning what she wanted to do, he obediently gave the orders to stop firing. Brave Sada Kaur raised a white flag, came out of her trench, and moved towards the fort. She found Chaet Singh’s emissary waiting for her at the forts gate.
She said, “I want to see Chaet Singh.”
“Who are you?” Chaet Singh’s emissary questioned.
“I am Rani Sada Kaur from Batala. I want to meet with Chaet Singh for his own benefit.”
The emissary left and returned after a short duration. He announced, “Sardar is only prepared to talk inside the fort.”
“Doesn’t matter, I can come inside. To me, Chaet Singh is same as my son, Ranjit Singh.” Saying this Rani followed the emissary inside the fort. Chaet Singh was a distant relative too.
Entering the fort, Sada Kaur immediately accesses the situation. In her assessment, the situation inside the fort was rapidly deteriorating.
Upon meeting Chaet Singh, she said, “Biba! I have come for your sake. I don’t wish you any harm.”
Chaet Singh was already concerned and her words further scared him. He didn’t know what disaster was awaiting him.
“Ranjit Singh is entrenched with heavy canyons. With great difficult, I managed to convince him to stop firing. His fate is shining while his destiny is around the corner. All Sardars have accepted his conditions. You don’t have enough strength to face him. Consider, you may be killed.” Rani Sada Kaur explained.
“If I am to die, then why not die like a brave solider?” Chaet Singh responded.
“There is no need to die. After all you have children. If I desired death for you, why would I come this far? I have come to save you.” Sada Kaur answered.
She repeated once again “Biba! Leave the fort. This will not only save you and your family’s life but I will take personal responsibility for your continued sustainment.”
Sada Kaur’s words hit the right target. Chaet Singh agreed to leave the fort. After two hours, he accompanied Sada Kaur into Ranjit Singh’s tent and deposited the keys to the Lahore fort. As per her agreement, Rani Sada Kaur ensured that Chaet Singh got his Jagir in compensation. The fort was under Ranjit Singh’s control now while the Kesri flag fluttered over it. Without Sada Kaur’s brave and wise moves, the fort couldn’t have been captured so easily and that too in such a short time. Any delay could have been nothing less than disastrous, as the enemy forces were already on their way to get it released from his occupancy. Having captured the fort, Ranjit Singh now controlled Lahore. All gates to the city were ordered shut and the fort was reinforced with canyons and prepared to defend against any possible attack. In the meantime, news reached that Jodh Singh Ramgahria, Gulab Singh Bhangi, Sahib Singh Bhangi, Nijaam Deen Ksuriya and numerous other Sardars with heavy forces had camped in the fields of Baseen. They were awaiting additional reinforcements and planned to attack Lahore.
Ranjit Singh got extremely worried — not that he was scared of the battle but because of his own estranged forces. After the victory at Lahore, he had neither allowed his forces to loot the town nor had he paid their salaries for several months. The soldiers had openly declared that they wouldn’t fight any more battles without their salaries. On the other hand Ranjit Singh coffers were empty. His treasury was in Sialkot, which was inaccessible due to blockage by enemy forces. As a result fetching anything from the treasury was almost impossible and out of question. Then what could be done? He had no answers to resolve this situation. That morning, he had expressed his anxiety to Rani Sada Kaur. She has assured him that some arrangements will be made. However, it was a matter of funds, large sums in lakhs of Rupees. Where could Rani produce such a large sum? He was deeply disturbed with such thoughts.
His anxiety was worsening while he roomed the main hall. Once a while some thought would come to him but disappear as easily. His anxiety wasn’t lessening at all, instead continued to get worse.”Rani Ji is headed this way.” The watch-keeper announced. “Let her come.” Ranjit Singh said while his face lighted up expectedly. Rani Sada Kaur arrived. But she wasn’t alone. A 100-year- old Muslim gentleman accompanied her. Ranjit Singh started gazing them expectedly. His worries had worsened to such an extent that he couldn’t understand anything.
Nevertheless, when he learned from Sada Kaur that the accompanying old man knew the location of Meer Manus buried treasures, his worries transformed into happiness. Sada Kaur had spent the whole day trying to find the old man. Woman could be so wise and intelligent, no one had ever realized before. Ranjit Singh hadn’t thought of this even in his dreams. Yet it was crystal clear, right in front of him. With deep respect, he touched his mother-in-laws feet and expressed gratitude to VaahGuru.
Based on the old man’s instruction, a corner of the fort was dug up where Meer Manus hidden treasure, worth crores of Rupees, was discovered. This solved Ranjit Singh immediate problem. Soldiers were not only paid all their salaries in arrears but also given two months advance. Now every soldier was eager to fight for his master. It was nothing but a simple matter of money. Digging yet another place based on the old mans instructions, yielded a huge stock of arms and ammunition. After honoring the old man with numerous gifts and bidding him farewell, Ranjit Singh turned his attention to defensive preparations against the pending enemy attack.
Sada Kaur accompanied Ranjit Singh in the battle of Baseen. It was her wise moves, once again, that resulted in a large number of enemy forces joining Ranjit Singh. Now Ranjit Singh reentered Lahore with resounding echoes of battle victory.
Now he was in full control of Lahore and faced no immediate threat. Sada Kaur, having positioned her son- in-law on the Lahore throne as the new Maharaja, prepared for her return to Batala. Ranjit Singh accompanied her until Amritsar. He considered her a Goddess. Why not? After all she was the maker of his fate. Without her wisdom, he could never have occupied the Lahore throne. In reality, she was the true founder of the Sikh rule.
Daughter of Dasaundha Singh Gill, was married to Gurbakhsh Singh, son of jai Singh, leader of the Kanhaiya clan. As the menace of Ahmad Shah Durrani’s incursions receded, conflicts broke out among the Sikh misl chiefs. Mahan Singh Sukkarchakkia, helped by Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Sarisar Chand Katoch, attacked Jai Singh in 1785.
A fierce battle took place at Achal, about 6 km south of Batala, which was the seat of the Kanhaiyas. Jai Singh was defeated and his son, Gurbakhsh Singh, husband of Sada Kaur, was killed. The bereaved, yet farsighted, widowed Sada Kaur, persuaded her father-in-law, Jai Singh, to offer the hand of her only daughter, Mahitab Kaur, to Ranjit Singh, the five-year old son of Mahan Singh Sukkarchakkia. The marriage came off in 1796. Sada Kaur accompanied her daughter to Gujranwala after the nuptials. She became one of the members of the triune regency for young Ranjit Singh who had succeeded to the leadership of the Sukkarchakkias upon the death of his father in 1792. The other two members were Mai Raj Kaur (popularly known as Mai Malvain), mother of Ranjit Singh, and Diwan Lakhpat Rai, his minister. Mai Malvain and Lakhpat Rai were removed from the scene by death, the latter having been killed in an expedition against the warlike Chatthas. Sada Kaur was now the only one of the triumvirate left to guide and counsel Ranjit Singh. Being by now head of the Kanhaiya misl, she provided him with material help as well. She helped him to occupy Lahore defeating the Bharrgi chiefs, Mohar Singh, Sahib Singh and Chet Singh, from whose misrule the citizens had sought the Sukkarchakkia Sardar to rescue them. Lahore fell to the joint command of Ranjit Singh and Sada Kaur on 7 July 1799. Supported by his mother-in-law, Ranjit Singh made further acquisitions and assumed the title of Maharaja on 11 April 1801.
In the campaigns of Amritsar, Chiniot, Kasur and Kangra as well as in his expeditions against the turbulent Pathans of Hazara and Attock, Sada Kaur led the armies side by side with Ranjit Singh. But both were strong personalities and mutual clashes began to occur. The marriage of Sada Kaur’s daughter to Ranjit Singh did not prove a happy one. Mahitab Kaur’s first son, Ishar Singh, died in infancy. On his return from the Sutlej campaign in 1807, Ranjit Singh was presented by Sada Kaur with twin sons, Sher Singh and Tara Singh, born to her daughter, Mahitab Kaur. But Ranjit Singh had already married a second time and the son born to this union was acknowledged as the heir apparent. This soured the relations between the mother-in-law and the son-in-law. Sada Kaur now opened secret negotiations with Sir Charles Metcalfe and Sir David Ochterlony to secure herself the status of an independent Maharani. She further offended the Maharaja by not attending the heir apparent’s marriage in 1812. She did not allow even her grandsons, Sher Singh and Tara Sirigh, to join the ceremonies. Ranjit Singh started making inroads into the Kanhaiya territory lying on the other side of the River Beas.
The breaking point finally came when on Sher Singh’s attaining majority, Ranjit Singh insisted that Sada Kaur hand over the administration of her estates to him. Sada Kaur refused and threatened to seek the protection of the British in the Sutlej territory and hand over to them the town of Vadhni, located to the south of Sutlej which Ranjit Singh had conquered and transferred to her in 1808. The Maharaja cajoled Sada Kaur into visiting Lahore, where she was kept under strict surveillance. Once she managed to escape in a covered litter, but was detected and brought back. Her territory was, in the meantime, sequestered and the wealth of the Kanhaiyas lying at Atalgarh (Mukeriari) was confiscated. Batala was granted as a jagir to Sher Singh while the rest of Sada Kaur’s estates were placed under the governorship of Sardar Desa Singh Majithia.
Sada Kaur died in confinement in December 1832.