Irregular Infantry Cavalry Regiment under Maharaja Runjeet Singh
CHARYARI SOWARS was the name given to an irregular cavalry regiment: in Sikh times. It owed its origin to four friends, or Char (four) Yar (friends), who were seen together all the time. Their names were: Bhup Singh Siddhu, Jit Singh, Ram Singh Saddozai and Hardas Singh Bania. They were all young men of the same age, very’ handsome, well built and always elegantly dressed.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh became very fond of the foursome and employed them as soldiers. He was so impressed by their bearing that he gave them fine horses to ride and created a regiment named Charyari Sowars after them. The force grew in strength under the patronage of the Maharaja. It was placed under the command of Raja Suchet Singh, who was himself always splendidly turned out and who was known as the dandy of the Punjab.
He was assigned a dera, i.e. lodgings, near the Shalamar Gardens at Lahore. The Khalsa Darbar Records as well as the ‘Umdit-utTwarikh includes it amongst the seventeen deras of the ghorcharas, of different sizes under the name of the Dera Naulakkha or the Dera Charyari. The dera consisted of a number of squadrons of varying strength. Each horseman wore a velvet coat, a shirt of mail and a steel helmet; the horses were bedecked with metal-capped peacock plumes. The recruitment was voluntary. The troops were seldom paid a salary, though provision was made for their food, uniform and equipment. The horses were their own, and they were under no feudal obligations.
The Charyari force was a fine body of horse, richly clad and mounted, strutting pompously on all ceremonial occasions during Ranjit Singh’s reign. After the death of the Maharaja it became involved in partisan feuds. It took the part of Rani Chand Kaur when, in January 1841, Sher Singh invested
the Lahore Fort. Later, Sher Singh won over the Charyari Sowars, who, with Raja Dhian Singh, joined his standard. But they deserted the Maharaja to support his mukhtiar or attorney, Javala Singh, who had revolted against his master.
The Charyari force sided with Raja Hira Singh in the fight with Atar Singh Sandhanvalia, who had taken shelter with Bhai Bir Singh of Naurangabad. On 18 December 1844, Raja Hira Singh discharged about five hundred men of the Charyari force. That was the end of this colourful and picturesque regiment.