SHER SINGH NAMAH, also known as Halati`Punjab, by Muhammad Naqi Peshawari Ibn Khwaja Bakhsh Mulla, is an unpublished manuscript, in Persian, containing an account of events of the Punjab from the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839 to the accession to the throne in 1843 of Maharaja Duleep Singh. The date of its composition is not mentioned, but internal evidence suggests that the author took up this work at the request of Bakhshi Bhagat Ram, a Lahore Darbar official, and completed it in 1843. According to Mr. Charles Raikes, the Commissioner and Superintendent of Lahore, the manuscript was sent to the Imperial Exhibition held in Paris in 1855.

Copies of the manuscript are preserved in the British Library (No. Or 1780), India Office Library (No. 505) and the Punjab State Archives at Patiala (No. 327). The last mentioned manuscript comprises sixty-eight folios and is divided into four sections. The first section (ff. 7a121` ) gives a description of the situation within the kingdom of the Punjab after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the second (ff. 121`251) describes Kanvar Sher Singh`s march from Batata to stake his claim to the throne of Lahore and his clash with Bibi Chand Kaur and her adherents. The third section (ff. 26a40a) deals with the disturbed political state of the capital of Lahore and the assassination of Maharaja Sher Singh and the last section covers the assassination of Dhian Singh and the retribution which overtook the Maharaja`s killers.

Muhammad Naqi bemoans the tragic death of Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh who was mortally wounded by the fall of parapet of the northern gate of the Hazuri Bagh while returning from the funeral of his father, Kharak Singh : “Glory has departed from the Punjab; gloom engulfs the royal household” (fol. 121`). He comments upon the “usurpation” of the throne by Chand Kaur, Kharak Singh`s widow. The kingdom of the Punjab, he observes, “has fallen a prey to a cancerous malady. Chaos reigns supreme. Spring has departed ushering in bleak autumn” (fol. 13“). Chand Kaur, according to him, was “neither a soldier nor did she possess… the experience of governing the country.

” Describing the struggle for political power between Chand Kaur and Sher Singh, Naqi says that the Khalsa troops were attached to Sher Singh and obeyed his orders; that while at Batala he had been summoned by the army pahcha.ya.ts and State counsellors ” to bless them with his arrival” and occupy the throne (fol. 15`1). Sher Singh marched on Lahore in January 1841 and gained the allegiance of the army and the Darbar officials. On 14 January the Khalsa proclaimed him the new sovereign of the Punjab. As the situation calmed down, Maharaja Sher Singh became engrossed in his pursuits of pleasure. “He would ride an Arab horse and roam the jungles with his hounds and hawks hunting deer, partridge, quail and woodcock” (fol. 30“).

Sher Singh is charged with neglect of State business leaving the reins of administration in the hands of Wazir Dhian Singh who kept warning him against the machinations of the Sandhanvalia chiefs. But “he treated the Wazir`s advice and entreaties as husk” (fol. 36`1). “In the third year of his reign, the Maharaja began to neglect the care of the land and welfare of his subjects. The soldiery became more oppressive. The rich fled the land, the wicked defied the law, and evildoers took the place of good men. Even the lives of counsellors of State became unbearable. The government ceased to exist” (fol. 33`1). The Maharaja`s continued absence at Batala worsened the situation.

Dhian Singh left for Jammu, and Bhai Gurmukh Singh gained ascendancy at the Darbar. On return to the capital, Dhian Singh conspired to replace Sher Singh by minor Duleep Singh. On 15 September 1843, the Sandhanvalia chiefs murdered Sher Singh, his son Partap Singh and Wazir Dhian Singh (ff. 3840″). and proclaimed Duleep Singh as the new king of the Punjab, but “their crafty assurances appeared more or less as hunters` cries or soldiers` shouts” (fol. 60“). Nemesis soon overtook the Sandhanvalias. Hira Singh, son of Raja Dhian Singh, won over the troops and other principal sardars. The Fort was stormed on 16 September and Ajit Singh Sandhanvalia and Lahina Singh Sandhanvalia were slain. Hira Singh ordered their kith and kin put to the sword and their houses at Raja Sansi razed : “Ajit Singh`s house was destroyed, and it was declared that thenceforward his lands should no longer be ploughed with oxen, but with asses” (ff. 6364).

References :

1. Kirpal Singh, A Catalogue of Persian and Sanskrit Manuscripts. Amritsar, 1962