PHULA SINGH AKALI (1761-1823), Sikh hero and an eminent religious figure of the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born in 1761 at the village of Shihari, now in ruins, about 5 km west of Miinak, in present day Sarigrur district of the Punjab. His father, Ishar Singh, an associate of the Nishanarivali misi, died in 1762 fighting Ahmad Shah Dmrani in Vadda Ghallughara, the Great Carnage, leaving his infant son to the care of Baba Narain (Naina) Singh who belonged to (he Shahid misl. Baba Narain Singh brought him up and instructed him in the Sikh texts as well as in the methods of warfare.

He also administered to him the initiatory vows of khande d~i pahnl. As lie grew up, Phula Singh joined the jathd of Baba Narain Singh a! Anandpur and took part in many an expedition. After the death of Baba Narain Singh, he was elected leader of {he jafhd. In the midst of soldierly occupation, Phula Singh sliowed concern about tlic manner in which the Sikh shrines were being administered, and denounced some of the prevalent usage. In 1SOO, Phula Singh, along with members of Insert/Art, moved toAmritsar. When in January 1802, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, attacked Amritsar to wrest control of the city from the BharigTs, Phula Singh mediated between the clashing groups and averted bloodshed.

He took charge of the holy shrines there and began levying cliarges on the sarddrs and officials of (lie Sikh court for their maintenance. As provost of the Takht Akal Buriga, lie once imposed punishment on Maharaja Ranjit Singh for infraction of the Sikh code. Phula Singh`s Akalis distrusted the foreigners, Afghans as well as Fcringhccs. In 1809, they were involved in an attack on the Muhainmadan escort of Charles Metcalfc, the British envoy to the court of.Ranjit Singh. The same year Licut F.S, White, a British officer, who was proceeding through the Sikh country willi 80 troopers to survey the cisSutlej region on the authority of the Phulkiari chiefs, was challenged by AkalT Phula Singh`s jathd at PattokT.

Timely intervention by the Nabha chief saved the life of Licut While. Maharaja Ranjit Singh appointed Phula Singh commander of the AkalT troops in his service. These troops, not fully subservient to the Maharaja`s authority, were the most daring of his soldiers. In February 1807, Akali Phula Singh and Yi`isjathd fought valiantly at Kasur and helped the Lahore forces subjugate the Pathan governor, Qutb udDin Khan. As a reward, the Maharaja gave Phula Singh`s force regular barracks at Amritsar which later developed into the headquarters of the Nihang sect and became known as Akalian di Chhauni or the Akali Cantonment. In 1816, when Ranjit Singh`s armies made their sixth attack upon Multan, Phula Singh led a storming party »of his Akali zealots.

The Akalis fought with reckless courage and took the Fort in the final assault they launched in 1818. Phula Singh and his band of Akalis also participated in the Peshawar (1818) and Kashmir (1819) campaigns. In January 1823, Amir Muhammad `Azim Khan marched from Kabul with a strong host bent upon occupying Peshawar and chastising the Sikhs. A Sikh army under Prince Kharak Singh rapidly moved northwards and converged on Naushehra, midway between Attock and Peshawar. In the fierce action fought at Naushehra, the Akali contingent, 1500 strong, made a desperate charge and was soon in the thick of the battle. Suddenly, Phula Singh`s horse was struck by a bullet and died.

Phula Singh was also hurt, but he shifted on to an elephant and pressed forward. The Afghan militia made him their main target and he fell under a heavy shower of bullets. Although Phula Singh and most of his men had been killed, the battle was won and the Afghans had to flee Naushehra. Akali Phula Singh had met with a hero`s death on 14 March 1823. He was cremated at Pirsibaq, 6 km east of Naushehra, with full military honours. A samddh was built on the site and the Maharaja attached to it a jdgir for its maintenance. Another monument in Akali Phula Singh`s honour stands at Amritsar in the form of Burj Baba Phula Singh.

References :

1. Suri, Sohan Lal, ` Umdat-ut-Twankh. Lahore, 1885
2. Latif, Syad Muhammad, History of the Punjab. Calcutta, 1891
3. Hasrat, Bikrama Jit, Life and Times of Ranjit Singh. Hoshiarpur, 1977
4. Prem Singh, Baba, Jivan Britdnt Bdbd Phula Singh Akdti. Amritsar, 1914