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Kaura Mall, Maharaja Bahadur

A Sahajdhari Sikh and trusted officer under the Mughals (D. 1752)

In the eighteenth-century Punjab, was the son of Valhi Ram, an Arora of the Chuggh clan, originally from a village near Shorkot in Jhang district, now in Pakistan. Little is known about the early life of Kaura Mall.

Mufti Ali ud-Din in his writing 'Ibrat Namah', refers to him as "Kaura Mall Arora Qanungo Multani." It appears that he, like his father and grandfather, was at first a revenue official, qanungo, in the Multan province. Later, he came to Lahore and rose to be a senior military general and courtier.

The earliest reference to Kaura Mall is by a contemporary, Shah Nawaz Khan (1699-1757), in his 'Ma'dsir ul-Umra', according to which Kaura Mall, under orders of Zakariya Khan, then governor of both Lahore and Multan, led an expedition in 1738 against Panah Bhatti, a powerful marauder chief who had the entire western Punjab, from the banks of Ravi up to Hasan Abdal in the northwest, at his mercy. Panah Bhatti was defeated, captured and executed. Zakariya Khan appointed Kaura Mall diwan of Multan.

Early in 1746, during the governorship of Yahiya Khan, when Lakhpat Rai, the diwan of Lahore, in order to avenge the death o£ his brother Jaspat Rai, killed in an encounter with the Sikhs, swore to exterminate the entire sect of Sikhs, and as a first step in this direction, ordered the arrest and execution of the Sikhs of Lahore, mostly domestic servants and small shopkeepers, Kaura Mall, along with the Hindu gentry of the town, pleaded with him to spare their lives, but in vain. The captured Sikhs were put to the sword on 10 March 1746. Lakhpat Rai followed this with fullscale military operations against Sikhs who had sought shelter in hills and forests, ending with what is known as Chhota Ghaullughara, or lesser or minor holocaust, on 1 May 1746 in which about 7,000 Sikhs were killed and 3,000 captured. The latter, too, were executed in Lahore. Kaura Mall left Lahore in disgust and went to Multan, where Shah Nawaz Kaman, younger brother of Yahiya Khan, was the governor. A civil war broke out between the two brothers in November 1746, in which Yahiya Khan was worsted.

Shah Nawaz Khan who, on 21 March 1747 became governor of Lahore as well, appointed Kaura Mall diwan of Lahore. But Shah Nawaz Khan was forced to flee to Delhi when on 11 January 1748 Lahore was occupied by Ahmad Shah Durrani, who appointed Jumla Khan, an Afghan noble of Kausur, as his governor, and Lakhpat Rai as his diwan. The Durrani was, however, defeated in the battle of Manupur near Sirhind on 11 March 1748, and forced to retire to his own country. Muin ul-Mulk,' nicknamed Mir Mannu by the Sikhs, who now became governor of the Punjab on behalf of the Mughal government at Delhi, not only reinstated Kaura Mall as diwan but also appointed him deputy governor of the subah or province of Multan. Lakhpat Rai was arrested and fined, 3,000,000 rupees of which he could pay only a part. Kaura Mall secured his person by paying the rest of the fine and handed him over to the Sikhs who consigned him to a dungeon where he died a miserable death after six months of indignities and torture.

Kaura Mall went to Multan and took charge of the province, but Mir Mannu soon summoned him to Lahore and sent him on an expedition against the Dogra chiefs of Jatnmu region. For his Multan expedition (September-October 1749) against Shah Nawaz Khan who had again taken independent charge of the province, Kaura Mall, enlisted the help of about 10,000 Sikhs under Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluivalia. Shah Nawaz Khan was killed in battle and Kaura Mall reoccupied Multan. Mir Mannu conferred the title of Maharaja Bahadur on him and appointed him governor of Multan, Thatta and Derajat. Kaura Mall, in fulfilment of the promise given to the Sikhs, constructed Gurdwara Bal Lila and a sarovar at Nankana Sahib and got desilted the Amritsar pool which had been filled up by Lakhpat Rai during the governorship of Yahiya Khan. He also built a fortress named Garh Maharaja at his ancestoral village, near Shorkot. The Sikhs now began to call him Mittha Mall, mittha in Punjabi meaning `sweet' over against kaura meaning `bitter'.

During his governorship of Multan, Kaura Mall established friendly relations with Daudpotra chiefs of the neighbouring state of Bahawalpur, quelled rebellions in Sahival and Dera Ghazi Khan and realized huge arrears of revenue due from the districts of Mirak, Shorkot, Kot Kamalia, and Chiniot.

In October 1751, in view of the impending third invasion of India by Ahmad Shah Durrani, Mir Mannu again summoned Kaura Mall to Lahore. Kaura Mall tried to buy peace but when the invader, by-passing Mir Mannu's advance positions across the Ravi, laid siege to Lahore, he prepared to fight, soliciting help from the Sikhs again. The final battle took place at Mahmud Bati, some distance from Lahore, on 6 March 1752. Kaura Mall fought valiantly, but was shot at and killed by one Bazid Khan of Kasar at the instance of his treacherous and jealous ally, Adina Beg, faujdar of Jalandhar Doab.

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