Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, whose birth anniversary falls on May 3, was a fearless military
Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was a legend in his own lifetime, which inspired people of Punjab to fight against the tyranny and injustice of invaders and ruthless rulers. He was an embodiment of courage, bravery and self-sacrifice.
This great son of Punjab was born on May 3, 1718, in Ahlu village, Lahore district. His father, Badar Singh, died when he was only five. He, along with his mother, went to Delhi to live under the care of Mata Sundri, the widow of Guru Gobind Singh. Mata Sundri brought him up affectionately. He studied Persian, Arabic, Sikh scriptures and mathematics at Delhi. He lived there for about seven years. On his departure from Delhi, Mata Sundri blessed him and predicted that he would become a worthy leader of the Sikhs.
On his arrival in Punjab, Jassa Singh joined Nawab Kapoor Singh, who was the most powerful and supreme leader of the Sikhs. Jassa Singh’s personal valour, cool judgment and other qualities created a deep impression on the Sikhs. The different groups of the Sikh sangat—numbering about 65—met at Amritsar first in 1746, and then in 1748, and formed the Dal Khalsa consisting of 11 misls. Jassa Singh was declared the head of the Ahluwalia misl and supreme commander of the Dal Khalsa. Kapoor Singh, before his death in 1754, appointed him successor, and he was given the title of Nawab.
In January, 1746, a jatha of the Dal Khalsa led by Jassa Singh was moving in the Shivalik hills. Diwan Jaspat Rai of Lahore, along with his royal army, chased the jatha members and trapped them. During this battle Jaspat Rai was killed. Diwan Lakhpat Rai, the brother of Jaspat Rai, pledged to take revenge of his brother’s death. Lakhpat Rai, under the orders of Yahya Khan of Lahore, launched a big battle against the Sikhs. The royal forces started a general massacre of the Sikhs in Lahore, and afterwards in Khanuwan village. Thousands of Sikhs were killed. The Sikhs suffered heavy losses, and this tragedy is known as Chota Ghallughara (the small Holocaust).
In March, 1761, the king of Afghanistan, Persia and one of the supreme conquerors of his time, was returning to his country victorious after defeating the Maratha power at Panipat. He took along with him 2,200 Hindu women for selling them in Kabul. Nawab Jassa Singh, along with the Dal Khalsa, rescued these women and then escorted them to their families.
In 1761, Jassa Singh and his forces attacked and occupied Lahore. Elated at his success, the Khalsa honoured Jassa Singh with the title of Sultan-ul-Quam. Ahmad Shah Abdali made nine incursions into India from 1747 to 1769. He destroyed the Mughal Empire and gave a crushing defeat to the Maratha power. During all his invasions the Dal Khalsa always resisted his attacks and looted his booty. Abdali was upset with the Dal Khalsa. In February, 1762, he came to India to teach a lesson to the Sikhs. He overpowered the Sikh army near Kup village and carried out a full-scale massacre. About 25,000 to 30,000 Sikhs were killed. This battle was called Vadda Ghallughara (the great Holocaust). Jassa Singh Ahluwalia sustained 22 wounds on his chest.
In 1764, he, along with other Sikh sardars, marched to Sirhind. Zalim Khan, Governor of Sirhind, was killed. The Dal Khalsa plundered Sirhind. Jassa Singh got Rs 9 lakh cash as his share, and he gave this entire amount for the kar seva of Darbar Sahib. The kar seva was carried out under his supervision. Gurdwara of Fatehgarh Sahib was also built by him.
Jassa Singh never took
undue advantage of his high position, and was not greedy. In 1779, at
the fag-end of his life, his wrested Kapurthala from Rai Ibrahim and
became the founder of the state
After the execution of Baba Banda Singh Bahadar, the Sikhs were in great shock. An order was issued that Sikhs should be slaughtered. All types of atrocities and cruelties were committed on them. This period is called the period of struggle. The Sikhs had to run away to jungles, mountains and deserts for shelter. In these dark times, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia provided leadership to the Sikhs.
The Dal Khalsa, under the leadership of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, inflicted humiliating defeats on Nadir Shah, Mir Mannu, Adena Beg, Zakria Khan, Salabat Khan and Jahan Khan. The Sikh leader was a fearless military general, a shrewd politician and a patriot. He did more than any contemporary Sikh to consolidate the power of the Khalsa. He helped the Sikhs in the formation of independent Sikh states.
Jassa Singh Ahluwalia died in 1783, and his body was cremated in Amritsar near Baba Atal. In spite of his supreme sacrifices for over 40 years, he did not claim any privileged status for himself. He lived, fought and died for his beloved country.