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Today in Sikh History :11th February


11th February

1393 Birthday of Bhagat Ravidaas (1393- see description below) [NOTE: "A Study of Bhakata Ravidas", by Darshan Singh, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1981. concludes that Ravidas lived between 1393-1528]

RAVIDAS (1393-1528) – Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh Guru Granth Ratnavali, page 115.

"Griefless" is the name of my town,
Where abide not either pain or care.
No anguish there of tax on goods,
Neither fear, nor error, nor dread, nor decline.
Oh! how wondrous is my fatherland,
where there is always Peace, and Calm, 0 Friend!
And there is not a second nor a third there, by my only Lord.
Populous as ever, its repute is eternal, -
Yea, there abide only the Rich and the Content.
And there men go about as and where they wish.
They know the Mansion of their Lord, so no one preventeth (them).
Ravidas, a mere tanner, hath been emancipated in this land; and,
he who's his fellow citizen is also his friend.

Like Kabir, Ravidas was also a resident of Kanshi and came from a cobbler’s family. According to general belief, he was a follower of Swami Ramanand, but, there is no historical proof about it. In spite of his low caste, Ravidas rose to a position of great honor through a life of simplicity and piety. He never felt ashamed of his pedigree and faced fearlessly the pundits, who were proud of their high caste. He told them that spiritual greatness is achieved through a loving devotion to the Lord and the attainment of his grace. He boldly proclaims:

O people of the city, everyone knows
I am a cobbler by trade and tanner by caste.
One of the low-caste, and yet within my heart
I meditate upon God

Again, he says:

I am haunted day and night by the thought
Of my low birth, society and deeds
O God! the Lord of the Universe!
O Life of my life! Forget me not,
I am ever Thy Slave.

He was such a faithful bhakt that once he gave a farthing (damri) to some Sadhus, who were going to Hardwar, requesting them to offer it to Ganga Mai on his behalf. They say that when the Sadhus, after making their own offerings presented the damri sent by Ravidas to the holy Ganges, she stretched out her hands to receive it. That shows that Ravidas had realized the consummation of his spiritual life. He was greatly respected during his life-time, to the extent that even the veteran pundits of Kanshi bowed before him, Tradition has it that Queen Jhalan of Mewar became a follower of Ravidas. But despite close contacts with an affluent section of society, he chose to live austerely. They say that once some one offered him a paras (the philosopher’s stone that turns cheaper metal into gold) and assured him that he could get any amount of wealth by making use of it. Ravidas asked him to place it in a corner. When he came to Ravidas again after some months, he found the saint still lurking in poverty. He asked the bhakt why he had not utilized the pares. Ravidas remarked that for him, God’s Name alone was the paras, that was the "Kamdhen" and "Chintamani".

He who is the Ocean of Peace, the Tree which yields all Fruits,
the wish fulfilling Jewel, the Master of kamadhenu,
In whose hands are the four life-objects, the eighteen
extra-psychic powers and the nine treasures
That Lord thou tellest not with thy tongue.

Because of his undying devotion he attained a state of unison with his Maker. He recognized no difference between himself and the Supreme Being. He proudly said:

Between Thee and me, between me and Thee,
How can there be likeness or difference?
Likeness or difference as between gold
And a bracelet made of it as between water
And the waves. that move on its surface!
Were I not a sinner, O Eternal Lord!'
How couldst Thou have the title of Redeemer of Sinners?

This idea finds recurrent expression in his hymns as the following passage would reveal:

O Love, who is it that can do this but Thou?
Yea, the poor are embellished only through Thee,
O my Lord and Master, over whose
Head waves the canopy (of His Grace)
He, whose touch "defileth" others, on him too is
Thy Mercy, 0 God
Yea, Thou Makest the low great and mighty, and Fearest naught.

In Hindi literature, Ravidas is known as Raidas and his work is found under the title: Raidas Ji Ki Bani. Forty of his verses have been included in the Guru Granth Sahib under sixteen different ragas.

1713 Farukhsyar became ruler of Delhi. He immediately sent a mammoth army against the Sikhs. The Sikhs resisted for about six months until they ran short of food supplies. In October 1713, the Sikhs retreated to the hills. 1820 Kanwar Naunihal Singh, grand son of Sher-I-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born.

==>NAUNIHAL SINGH: was born in Lahore on Feb. 11, 1820, to mother Chand Kaur, daughter of Sardar Jaemal Singh of Kanaeya Misl, and father Khadak Singh, son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Naunihal was Maharaja’s favorite since early childhood. He received timely religious educated from Giani Sant Singh, weaponry education from Sardar Lehna Singh Majiniya, Sardar Hari Singh Nalua, and General Vaentura Bapaegae. He married Nanaki (daughter of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwalae) in March of 1837.

From early childhood, Naunihal was being personally groomed for succession by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He proved to be worthy of such attention and enlarged the Sikh raj boundaries by conquering several neighboring states. The conquest of Peshawer in 1834 was monumental in establishing a deep affection for the young Naunihal, among the Khalsa forces and the public at large.

When Maharaja Khadak Singh assumed power after Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death, Raja Dhyan Singh Dogra’s jealousy plotted the friction among Naunihal and his father. Slowly through false information, father was turned into an arch enemy.

As a result, Naunihal Singh put his father under house arrest and assumed the control of SikhRaj. On Nov. 5 1840, as Naunihal Singh was returning from the cremation of his father’s body, he was crushed by the unexpected fall of fort entrances roof. From the eye witness accounts of Col. Alexander Gardner, it is evident that Naunihal was deliberately murdered.

-Ref. Mahan Kosh (pp. 721-722)

1861 Maharani Jind Kaur caught up with her beloved son, Maharaja Dalip Singh, and him met in Calcutta (see description below on Jind Kaur and Dalip Singh. NOTE:- further details sought on this event).

==>Maharaja DALIP SINGH, the youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who was born in Lahore, on Feb. 1837, to mother Maharani Jind Kaur. His date of birth is disputed by some and alternately suggested as Sept. 4, 1838. Many foreign journalists have wrongly named him as Dhalip Singh and Duleep Singh. However, it should be noted that his correct name is Maharaja Dalip Singh. He assumed the Punjab throne as a child, after Maharaja Sher Singh, on Sept. 18, 1843. During his reign several wars were fought with the British. Unfortunately, he was surrounded by corrupt advisors as illustrated by the following quote.

"Among the Sikh barons who stood around the throne of the young Maharaja Dalip Singh, there was not one, who honestly labored for his country, or who have made the smallest sacrifice to save her." - The Punjab Chiefs by L.H. Griffin

The agreement of March 9, 1846, after the first Sikh war with the British, included the following conditions:

  1. There shall be peace and friendship among Maharaja Dalip Singh and the British government.
  2. Lahore darbar would have to relinquish control of the region between Satluj and Bias.
  3. War compensation of one and a half crore rupees to be paid by Lahore darbar. Since this amount was beyond the capabilities of Lahore Darbar at that time, Kashmir region was offered for 75 lakhs. However, Maharaja Gulab Singh stepped forward and paid this amount to buy back this region from the British.
  4. Maharaja Dalip Singh’s forces were restricted to 50 platoons and 12,000 horse-back soldiers.
  5. No foreigner from Britain, Europe, or America could be employed in Lahore Darbar without explicit permission of the British government.
  6. British government shall refrain from interference in the internal affairs of the Lahore Darbar.

However, towards the end of this year, another set of arrangements were made, under which a council was established to run the Punjab affairs. This council was headed by a British Resident. Further, British forces were brought in to maintain peace in the country. Lahore darbar was charged 22 lakh annually for the maintenance and upkeep of such forces.

However, this arrangement did not last for too long. As in April of 1848, a war erupted among the Sikhs and British. At the end of this war, Sikh kingdom was annexed and Maharaja Dalip Singh was sent out of Punjab to FatehGadh (Uttar Pradesh, dist. Karrukhsbad) under the care of Sir John Spencer Login.

Maharaja Dalip Singh was still a child at the time of the annexation of Punjab and there was no one to dispense any religious education to him. His companions (AudiyaPrasad, Purohit GulabRai, Fakir Jahurudeen) had absolutely no interest or sympathy with GurSikh Dharam. As a result, BhajanLal, a local resident brahmin who had converted to christianity, was given the responsibilities of Dalip Singh’s education. Under his influence, Maharaja Dalip Singh adopted christianity on March 8, 1853. A few days prior to adopting christianity, Dalip Singh had presented his hair as a gift to lady Login.

On April 19, 1858, Dalip Singh left for England and started residing at Elveden resident in Norfolk. Dalip Singh married a german lady, Bamba Muller (educated form Cairo missionary school) on June 7, 1864. This marriage resulted in three sons (Victor Dalip Singh, Frederick D.S., and Edward D.S.) and three daughters. Two of his sons were brought up as english gentlemen. The elder, Prince Victor, held a commission in the 1st Royal Dragoons and married a daughter of the Earl of Coventry. He died in 1918 at the age of 58. The younger brother, Prince Frederick was educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he took history Tripos and later took his M.A. He held a commission in the Suffolk Yeomanry and then transferred to the Norfolk Yeomanry. He resigned his commission in 1909 but rejoined the corps in 1914 and was two years on active service in France. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration. Prince Frederick was deeply interested in archaeology and became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and contributed articles to various periodicals on this subject. He died in August 1926, at the age of 58. One of Maharaja’s daughters married Dr. Sutherland, lived in Lahore, and was popularly known after her parents as Princess Bamba Sutherland.

Maharani Bamba died in 1890. Later, Maharaja Dalip Singh married an english lady, A.D. Etherill, who lived after Maharaja’s death. Maharaja’s later years were extremely difficult. He was barred from returning to Punjab, and his pension severed. He died pretty much as an orphan, in Oct. 22, 1893 in Grand Hotel of Paris.

-Ref. Mahan Kosh

The Anglo-Sikh wars resulted in ultimate liquidation of the Sikh power, and on 30th March, 1849, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s short lived kingdom was annexed by the British. Maharaja Dalip Singh was taken away to Fatehgarh in the U.P., and put under the tutelage of Sir John Login of the Bengal Army., with the result that after two years the young Maharaja expressed desire to renounce his faith and embrace Christianity. He was baptised, granted a pension, sent to England and given an estate in Suffolk. The married Bamba Muller, daughter of a European merchant and an Abyssinian mother.

Maharani Bamba spoke and understood only Arabic, and in the beginning the Maharaja had amusing difficulties when attempting to converse with his fiancee. She bore him Prince Victor Dalip Singh, (b. 1866, d. 1918), Prince Fredrick Dalip Singh (b. 1886, d. 1926), Princess Bamba Jindan (b. 1869, d. 1957), Princess Katherine, Prince Albert Edward Dalip Singh (b. 1879, d. 1893), and Princess Sophia Alexandria (b. 1874, d. 1948). The children of Maharaja Dalip Singh died issueless. Dalip Singh came to India twice and was reconverted to his paternal faith. In 1886 he made an attempt to leave England for good and settle down in Punjab, but his attempt failed and he was not allowed to proceed beyond Aden. He did not return to England and died in Paris in 1893.

Princess Bamba Dalip Singh, who later married an English gentleman Dr. Sutherland, continued to keep in her custody the collection of paintings and objects of arts, belonging to her father. She died in Lahore on March 10, 1957, without having any issue, and thus her death ended the line of the Sikh ruling dynasty. She bequeathed the collections to Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra of Lahore who sold it recently to the Government of Pakistan.

The collection consists of 18 oil paintings, 14 water colours, 22 ivory paintings, 17 photographs, 10 metallic objects and 7 miscellaneous articles.

Ref. :
-"The Princess Bamba Collection" an official publication of Department of Archeology, Pakistan.
-"Sikh Portraits by European Artists," by F.S. Aijazuddin, a comprehensive source of textual and visual information on the Princess Bamba Collection (Karachi: Oxford Univ. Press)

Maharaja Dalip Singh’s life is a tragedy in the true sense of the word. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but died very poor in a hotel in Paris.

Most people do not know that he wanted to reclaim his kingdom by launching a war against the British. Although he had become Chritain at one time, yet he re-entered Khalsa Panth by taking Khade di Pahul (amrit).

Maharaja wrote the following letter to Sardar Sant Singh who was his relative from his mother’s side. Here is the text of the letter:

Carlton Club, Pall Mall, S. W.

March 9th, 1886

My Dear Sirdar Ji,

Wah ! Gooroo ji dee Futteh.

I am pleased to receive your letter, but I advise you not to come near me without the permission of Government as you might get into trouble with the authorities.

I intend to leave England with my family on the 31st of this month, but it is possible a little longer delay may occur.

I need not tell you how pleased I shall be (if the Government permits) for you to be present at my receiving Powhl [Amrit] which I trust my cousin Thakur Singh Sindhaanwalla will administer to me.

I am now longing to return to India although Government are afraid to let me reside in the North Western Provinces and desire me to live at Ootakamand, but I put my faith entirely in Sutgooroo who now that I turn to Him for forgivenss I know will forsake me.

Your sincere friend and welwisher

Duleep Singh Maharaja.

Note: Maharaja Dalip Singh stayed sometime in Aden. During his stay at Aden, the Maharaja Dalip Singh was baptised and re-entered the Sikh faith. He was baptised on May 26, 1886. There is a photograph of Maharaja with full beard (which is tied back) and beutiful uniform and turban. In this picture he looks very handsome and a true Maharaja. This picture must have taken when he was around 35-40. This picture is not the one that most of us have seen where the handsome Maharaja is standing with a sword in his right hand.

-Ref. "History of Freedom Movement in the Punjab – Maharaja Duleep Singh Correspondence, Vol III," published by Punjabi University Patiala.

==>Maharani JIND KAUR: was daughter of Sardar Manna Singh Auhlakh, a resident of village Chandh, district Sialkot, Tehsil Jafarwall. She was wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and mother of Maharaja Dalip Singh. Once the British government gained control of the Khalsa Raj’s affairs, she was initially kept under house arrest at Saekhupura and subsequently jailed at Chunar fort (U.P. district Mizapur). However, she escaped in a beggar’s attire and reached Nepal, where she lived with dignity. In 1861, Maharani Jind Kaur reached England to visit her son Maharaja Dalip Singh, where she died on Aug. 1, 1863 at the age of 46. Her body was brought back and cremated in Nasik Nagar, on the outskirts of Bombay.

On March 27, 1924, Maharaja Dalip Singh’s daughter, Bamba Dalip Singh, brought the ashes of Maharani Jind Kaur from Nasik Nagar and buried it next to Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s samadh. Sardar Harbans Singh Rais of Atari performed the last rights (antim Ardas) on this occasion. -Ref. Mahan Kosh (pp. 523)

Here are a few glimpses of her life from "Maharani Jind Kaur" by Dr. B.S. Nijjar that also sheds light on the sad, unfortuante affairs of Sikh state after the death of Sher-i-Punjab, and offers a rare glimpse of the treachery of some Dogras and Brahmins.

At one time the Dogras has become so influential that the Raja Hira Singh wanted to be the king by pushing aside Maharaja Dalip Singh. The Sikh army did not like him. They liked Maharaja Dalip Singh.

There was a general discontent among the Sikh army and they were not happy with the way Rani was behaving. She had became louder in her demands. She asked for more jagirs for her brothers and more yearly allownaces for herself. She spoke of the designs against every survivor of the royal family and of intending flight to the southern side of Satluj where the English would at least secure for her son, his father’s protected territory. This, of course, was a great miscalculation on her part.

Rani an Accomplished Administrator

However, Rani issued a proclamation praising the fidelity of the Khalsa troops. She had shown considerable energy and spirit in conducting the State business, with the courage and determination seldom shown by any woman in Sikh history. Lord Hardinge had un-willingly praised her for her regular life and devotion to the State affairs. She commanded the obedience of regimental committee as well as Sardars, who were also represented in the Supreme Council of Khalsa. However, she committed the impardonable sin of compromising with the Army. Several conferences with the military officers took place and at one of those, the Sardars said that the army would not let the Government go on.

Weakness of Rani

Harding wrote to Ellenborough about administration of Rani Jind Kaur, on October 23, 1845 A.D., "Rani now reviews the troops unveiled, and dressed as a dancing woman, which displeases the old but gratifies the yourng; but her irregularities are so monstrously indecent that the troops have held her horse and advised her to be more chaste or they would no longer style her the Mother of all the Sikhs."

The officers adamantly told the Rani that that army could govern very well for itself. The demand of the increase in pay was, however, not conceded nor was it definitely refused. But the troops were declaring loudly that Rani and her brother were unfit to reign and must be imprisoned or put to death and Peshaura Singh [son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, but not of Jind Kaur] be seated on the throne. The general joy expressed at the death of Hira Singh [son of raja Gulab Singh dogra] and Pandit Jalla, was thus giving place to appreciation of the order and justice prevailing under their rule. The Khalsa army now became openly independent of the Civil authority and almost acted as Kingmakers.

Jawahar Singh Comes to Power

After the overthrow of of Raja Hira Singh and his favourite Pandit Jalla, the ministerial office was not immediately filled and for some time all power of the Sikh Kingdom remained in the hands of the "Army Panchayat." In May, 1845, A.D., however, Jawahar Singh brother of Rani came to power as he was appointed to the exhalted office of Prime Minister for five months from May 1845 to September 1845 A.D. The Prime Minister immediately did his best to win over the army. He raised the salary of the soldiers by half a ruppes and thus consolidate his position. [An average soldier made about Rs/. 11 a month at that time.]

The Dogra Rajas could not tolerate the high position of Jawahar Singh and thus spared no effort to exploit the Khalsa soldiers against him. Raja Gulab Singh instigated Pishaura Singh, another son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to revolt as he was to be fully supported by the former. At the instigation of the Dogra Rajas, Prince Pishaura Singh revolted and occupied Attok, but was defeated by Jawahar Singh’s forces and murdered. It was a blunder on the part of Jawahar Singh as the Sikh army did not appreciate this hasty step of their Prime Minister and turned against him. Raja Lal Singh, the Commander-in-chief of the Khalsa Army, all the more, exploited this situation. A meeting of the Army Panchayat was called and the matter was put before them.

Ultimately Jawahar SIngh was summoned to appear before the Army Panchayat. Jawahar Singh was not unaware of the fury of the Army Panchayat. He rather fully anticipated his fate. Therefore, he took his nephew Maharaja Dalip Singh with him in the hope that the presence of the Maharaja might influence the Khalsa troops in his favour in securing a pardon.

But the fierce and infuriated soldiery sorrounded the elephant on all sides, and the boy Dalip Singh was rougly snathced from the arms of his uncle. Jawahar Singh bowed before the troops, and with folded hands, implored them to hear him for a moment. They, however, would not allow him to utter a word even. He was stabbed with a bayonet on the left, and as he bent over on the right, a man sent a bullet through his brain. Jawahar Singh fell from the ‘howdah’ a corpse, and his body was dragged from the elephant and mangled with swords of those who sorrounded it.

Bawa Rattan Singh and Bhai Chaittu, the councillors of Jawahar Singh, were killed without any ceremony, on the same spot. The cash, in gold and silver coins, which Jawahar Singh and the Rani had brought with them and their fort, was now plundered by the soldiers, and the Rani and her slave girls were compelled to retire to the tents which had some days previously been pitched for their reception. The whole thing was, thus, well premeditatd and planned. The boy Dalip Singh was separated from his mother for a while and kept with the soldiery, fearing that the Rani in her rage and excitement might destroy herself and her child. When these fears had subsided, the prince was again made over to his mother. The soldiers. however, kept a strict watch over Rani’s tents the whole night, to prevent any accident. She passed the night in fearful screams and shrieks, lamenting over the death of her beloved brother and cursing the Khalsa. As morning broke, she was permitted to to see the mangled body of her brother. Her lamentations and painful cries renewed with a violence which moved the bystanders to pity and melted even the iron hearts of those who had been instrumental in causing her brother’s murder.

Weeping bitterly, Jind Kaur threw herself and her child on the body of her brother. When partly by entreaties and partly by force, she was separatd from the corpse, she rolled upon the ground, tearing her hair and her clothes. This hearth rending spectacle touched the sympathies of the most valorous spectators. The scene was terminated at noon, when the Maharaja with great difficulty, was persuaded to return to the city. The corpse of the murdered prime minister was also carried to the city, where his funeral obseques were performed outside the Masti Gate, in the presence of several Sardars of the court.

From: "Maharani Jind Kaur" by Dr. B.S.

1956 Akali Dal held its annual session at Amritsar. More than a million GurSikhs participated.



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