NAU NIHAL SINGH, KANVAR( 1821-1840), son of Maharaja Kharak Singh, was born on 23 February 1821. According to the official Lahore diarist, Sohan Lal Suri, great rejoicing took place at his birth and a Persian chronogramA bouquet of wisdom`s garden was coined recording the year of his birth. Nau Nihal Singh was the favourite grandson of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who bestowed much personal attention on his upbringing and training. In March 1837, he was married to the daughter of Sham Singh Atarivala.

The occasion was marked by a display of extraordinary splendour and lavishness. The Maharaja began entrusting Nau Nihal Singh with the command of military expeditions while he was still very young. He was barely 13 when he participated in the Peshawar campaign of 1834. He was then appointed to administer the country in the Attock region. The same year, the province of Peshawar was farmed out to him for an annual payment of Rs 12,00,000. In 1835, he suppressed a revolt in the Derajat and Torik.

In 1836, he accompanied his father, Karivar Kharak Singh, to the borders of Sindh to confront the Talpurian amirs. Nau Nihal Singh took part in the operations of the Khaibar when, in April 1839, he commanded a Sikh army which proceeded to Peshawar to assist Colonel Wade`s contingent on its march through the Punjab to Kabul across the Khaibar Pass. Nau Nihal Singh was at Peshawar when Ranjit Singh died on 27 June 1839.

He arrived at Lahore on 17 September and became involved in court politics. The faction led by the DograsDhian Singh, Gulab Singh and Suchet Singh gained influence over him. This faction resented the growing influence of Chet Singh. The Wazir incited the young prince to urge his father to dismiss his favourite which the Maharaja refused to do. A conspiracy was then hatched by Raja Dhian Singh to finish off Chet Singh.

On the morning of 9 October 1839, the Dogra trinity, accompanied by Karivar Nau Nihal Singh, forced their entry into the royal apartments. Dhian Singh plunged a dagger into the heart of Chet Singh in the presence of their royal master. Maharaja Kharak Singh was thereafter reduced to a mere shadow. He was virtually placed in confinement by the Dogras. Karivar Nau Nihal Singh took into his hands the reins of government. In March 1840, Maharaja Kharak Singh fell ill. Contemporary chroniclers indicate that he had been administered poison under Dhian Singh`s orders.

He died on 5 November 1840. The same day, as Karivar Nau Nihal Singh was returning after the funeral rites, the northern gate of the Hazuri Bagh was brought down upon his head. He had suffered only minor injuries, but he was quickly taken into the Fort in a pdlkl which had been kept ready in advance. Inside the Fort, the prince`s head was crushed with stones by Dhian Singh`s men. With his death which occurred on 8 November “glory departed from the Punjab, and brightness no longer reflected on the royal presence,” bemoans a contemporary Persian chronicler.

References :

1. Suri, Sohan Lal, Umdat – ut – Twarikh. Lahore, 1885-89.
2. Holi, Prem Singh, Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh. Lahore, n.d.
3. Fane, H.E., Five Years in India 1835-39. London, 1842
4. Honigberger, John Martin, Thirty – Five Years in the East. London, 1852
5. Osborne, W.G., The Court and Camp of Runjeet Sing. London,1840
6. M`Gregor, W.L., The History of the Sikhs. London, 1846
7. Harbans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1984