SHAHIDAN MISL owed its origin to Baba Dip Singh Shahid (1652-1757) belonging to the village of Pahuvind in Amritsar district. Baba Dip Singh had received the vows of the Khalsa at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh. He rejoined in 1706 Guru Gobind Singh, then at Talvandi Sabo, 28 km southeast of Bathinda and, after the latter’s departure for the South, stayed on there to look after the sacred shrine, Damdama Sahib. He had four copies of the Guru Granth Sahib made from the recension prepared earlier by Bhai Mani Singh under the supervision of Guru Gobind Singh during their stay at Damdama Sahib.
In 1733, when the Mughal governor of Lahore made peace with the Sikhs offering them nawabship and a jagir, Dip Singh, now reverently called Baba, i.e. the elder, joined Nawab Kapur Singh, who had been invested with the title of Nawab, and received command of one of the five jathas that constituted the newly formed Taruna Dal. These jathas were redesignated misls in 1748 and the jatha headed by Dip Singh came to be known as Shahid misl after he met with the death of a martyr (shahid, in Punjabi). The misls, the number increasing to twelve, soon established their hegemony over different regions in the Punjab.
The Shahid misl was mostly made up of Nihangs, a class of warriors which owed its origin to Baba Fateh Singh, son of Guru Gobind Singh. They wore blue, with heavy bangles of steel upon their wrists and quoia around their heads. The Shahids had their sphere of influence south of the River Sutlej. The Shahids under Dip Singh had their headquarters at Talvandi Sabo. They also held control of the Harimandar at Amritsar. In 1757 Jahan Khan, Ahmad Shah Durrani’s commander-in-chief and deputy to his son, Taimur Shah, the governor of the Punjab, invested the town, razed the Sikh fortress of Ram Rauni and desecrated the shrine filling up the sacred pool. The Shahids led by Gurbakhsh Singh had defended the holy premises valiantly, but failed to stem the onslaught. As the news reached Dip Singh at Talvandi Sabo, he set out with his jatha towards the Holy City. Many Sikhs joined him on the way so that when he arrived at Tarn Taran he had at his command a force of 5,000 men. Jahan Khan’s troops lay in wait for them near Cohjvar village 8 km ahead. They barred their way and a fierce action took place. Dip Singh was mortally wounded near Ramsar, yet such was the firmness of his resolve to reach the holy precincts that he carried on the battle until he fell dead in the close vicinity of the Harimandar. This was on 11 November 1757.
After Dip Singh’s death, the leadership of the misl passed on to Karam Singh, a Sandhu Jatt belonging to the village of Marahka in Sheikhupura district, now in Pakistan. In January 1764, at the conquest of the Sirhind province by the Sikhs, he seized a number of villages in the parganah of Kesari and Shahzadpur in Ambala district yielding about a lakh of rupees annually. Kararn Singh made Shahzadpur his headquarters though he lived for most of the time at Talvandi Sabo (Damdama Sahib). In 1773, he overran a large tract of land belonging to Zabita Khan Ruhlla in the upper Gangetic Doab. He captured a number of villages in Saharanpur district. After Karam Singh’s death in 1784, his elder son, Gulab Singh, succeeded to the headship of the misl. On Gulab Singh’s death in 1844, his son Shiv Kirpal Singh succeeded to the family estate, the misl having become extinct in 1809 after the cis Sutlej Sikh states had accepted British protection.