JASSA SINGH AHLUVALTA (1718-1783), founder of the misi or chicf ship of the Ahluvalias, remnants of which lasted until recent years in the form of the princely state of Kapurthala, and commander of the Dal Khalsa, who proclaimed in 1761 the sovereignty of the Sikhs, was born the son of Badar Singh at the village ofAhlu, near Lahore, on Baisakh .wrfl PuranmashT 1775 Bk/3 May 1718. Since his father had died when he was barely five years of age, he was taken by his mother and her brother Bagh Singh to Delhi where he grew up under the care of Mata Sundari, widow of Guru Gobind Singh.

On the eve of his return to the Punjab in 1729, Mata Sundari bestowed upon him a sword, a mace, a shield, a bow and a quiver full of arrows, a dress and a silver staff predicting that he would rise to eminence. On his arrival in the Punjab, Jassa Singh joined, at Kartarpur, the jathd or military band of (Nawab) Kapur Singh, who was deeply impressed by the young man`s courage and ambition. When during his first invasion of the Punjab in January 1748, Ahmad Shah Durram moved southwards from Lahore, the Sikh sarddrs under Nawab Kapur Singh and Jassa Singh Ahluvalia caused him much harassment at Nur di Sarai and Vairoval.

Jassa Singh was one of the leading sarddrs who two months later defeated a strong Mughal force commanded by Salabal Khan in an action at Amritsar. On the Baisakhi of 1748, a general assembly of Sikhs was convened at Amritsar which resolved to consolidate the sixty-five roving Sikh jafhds into one command called Dal Khalsa under Jassa Singh. Its 11 subdivisions were called misis; the twelfth misi PhulkTari traced a separate origin. Persecution by the ruling Mughal authority meanwhile became more virulent. Under Mir Mannu (Mu`ln udDTn), subahddr of Lahore from 1748 to 1753, numerous punitive detachments roamed the country to hunt out the Sikhs.

After the death on 7 October 1753 of Nawab Kapur Singh, Jassa Singh started seizing villages and towns in .the Punjab thrown into confusion with the passing away of Mir Mannu in November 1753 and established the system of rdkht, protection cess or tax received for the secuity provided. The Dal Khalsa, under Jassa Singh, roulcd in April 1754 an Afghan force from Lahore which had laid siege to Amritsar. In 1757, Jassa Singh struck at the rearguard of Taimur Shah whom Iris father, Ahmad Shah, had appoint ed governor of Lahore and who was marching towards the city after sacking Kanarpur.

In response to the request of Adina Beg, who, after his dismissal from the governorship of Lahore, was attacked by the Durranis from Lahore under Murad Khan and Buland Khan, Jassa Singh came to his rescue and defeated the Durranis at Mahalpur, in the Jalandhar Doab. In March 1758, the combined force of Adina Beg, the Marathas, and the Sikhs ransacked Sirhind and then marched upon Lahore. The Dal Khalsa, led by Jassa Singh and other sarddrs, took a decisive part in reinstalling, in April 1758, AdTna Beg in Lahore. In October 1759, Ahmad Shah Durrani crossed the Indus and invaded northern India for the fifth time.

For 15 months he was occupied subjugating the Marathas and the Jats of Bharalpur. On 17 January 1761, he finally defeated the Marathas at Panipat. During this period the Dal Khalsa established its authority in the Malva and Majha regions, exacted rdkhi and levied nazardndson Mughal as well as on Afghan satraps. The Sikhs under the leadership of Jassa Singh made a surprise attack on the Shah`s force near Amritsar in March 1761 and rescued 2,200 women captives whom the invader was carrying in his train as slaves. A combined force of Sukkarchakkia, Kanhaiya and Bharigi sarddrs worsted the troops of Khwaja Ubaid Khan, the Afghan governor of Lahore, ncar Gujrariwala in September 1761, victorious Siklis pursuing him to the walls of Lahore.

The city was besieged and occupied by the Sikhs without any resistance. Jassa Singh Ahluvalia was proclaimed King of Lahore with the title of Sultan ulQaum (King of the Nation). A coin was issued in the name of Guru NanakGuru Gobind Singh commemorating the Sikh victory with the inscription taken from the seal of Banda Singh Bahadur: Deg o teg/I o fateh o nusrat be airing Ydft az Ndnak Guru Gobind Singh (Prosperity, power and unfailing victory received from Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh) On hearing the news of the fall of Lahore, Ahmad Shah Durrani hastened towards the Punjab. This was in 1762 his sixth incursion into India. The Sikhs retired to the south of the Sutlcj.

The Shah sent orders to all his faujddrs in the Punjab to join forces with Zain Khan, the governor of Sirhind. He set out from Lahore with a mammoth army estimated at 1,50,000 strong, and covering a distance of about 250 km in fewer than 36 hours reached Malerkotia on 5 Feburary. The Dal Khalsa, under the leadership of sarddrs such as Jassa Singh, Shiam Singh and Charhat Singh lay encamped at Kup, 9 km from Malerkotia. In the battle which followed about 25,000 Sikhs (figure given in the Persian source Tahmds Ndmah) were killed, Jassa Singh Ahluvalia sustaining twenty-two wounds on his body. The battle of Kup is still remembered in Sikh history as Vadda Ghallughara or the Major Holocaust.

Returning to Lahore, Ahmad Shah marched to Amritsar and had the Holy Harimandar blown up with gunpowder. Under the shadow of the carnage at Kup and the disaster at Amritsar, Jassa Singh, with the remnants of the Dal Khalsa, was waiting for his opportunity. While the Shah was still in Lahore, he fell upon Sirhind on 17 May 1762 and exacted nazarand from Zain Khan, the faujddr. In April 1763, he marched into the Jalandhar Doab and, after defeating the faujddr, Sa`adat K_han, occupied Kathgarh and Garhsharikar. The Bharigis and the Sukkarchakklas joined Jassa Singh, and their combined force defeated the Afghan commander, Jalian Khan, near Sialkot, in November 1763.

The Dal Khalsa was again active and the Kanhaiya, RamgarhTa, Bharigi and Sukkarchakkia forces assembled under tlic command of Jassa Singh at Ropar. They occupied Kurali and Morinda, and attacked Sirhind on 14 January 1764. The Afghan faujddr, Zain Khan, was killed and the town laid waste. On 17 April 1765, Sikhs rcoccupied Lahore. The Dal Khalsa had during the preceding year carried their arms into the transYamuna territories of Najib udDaulah, the vakilimutliq (plenipotentiary) of Emperor Shah Alam of Delhi. When in 1765, the Durrani came again, he was obliged to be conciliatory and he wrote to Jassa Singh and other sarddrs seeking an agreement with regard to the future political setup in the Punjab, but the sarddrs spurned his overtures.

Jassa Singh and the Dal Khalsa now had time to consolidate their conquests. The Indian empire of the DurranTs lay in ruins. Najib udDaulah, alarmed at the growing influence of the Sikhs, resigned, and Emperor Shah Alam opened correspondenc with Jassa Singh and other Sikh chiefs with a view to securing his transYamuna territories against their raids. The new wazir of the emperor, Abdul Ahad Khan, who had led an imperial force against Raja Amar Singh of Patiala in 1779, was beaten back by Jassa Singh. He returned the entire tribute collected from the Sikhs and paid Rs 7,00,000 as an indemnity to the Dal Khalsa.

As a leader of the Dal Khalsa, Jassa Singh had organized the Sikhs militarily, overthrown Afghan power in northern India and won from the Mughal emperor the right for Sikhs to rule independently over territories they had wrested from the Afghans. The subd of Sirhind came under the Phulkiari chiefs; Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, was given over to the Bharigis; the Jalandhar Doab was parcelled out among several of the misis; and the foundations of the Ahluvalla principality laid firmly at Kapurthala.

Besides his leadership in the military and political spheres, Jassa Singh was widely revered for his deeply religious and pious character. It was considered especially meritorious to receive amrit, the Sikh rites, at his hands. Maharaja Amar Singh of Patiala was among those who sought him to administer to them the vows of initiation. Jassa Singh died on 20 October 1783 at the age of 65 and a samddh or cenotaph in his honour stands in the precincts of Gurdwara Baba Atal, near the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

References :

1. Rani Sukh Rao, Jassa Singh Binnd (MS.)
2. Ganda Singh, Saidtir jafisd Singh AhluvaRa. Patiala, 1969
3. Giipt;>, Haii Ram, Histoly of the Sikhs, vol. IV. Delhi, 1982
4. Seetal, Sohan Singh, The Sikh Misals and the Pan jab. Lndhiana, n.d.
5. Khnsliwant Sing`h, A History of the Sikhs, vol. I. Princeton, 1963
6. Lalif, Syad Muhammad, History of the Panjab. Delhi, 1961
7. Gopal Singh, A History of the Sikh People. Delhi, 1979