Sikh & Rajput Relations in History

Introduction

My passion in Sikh history takes me to academic journals which are full of references from other academicians and the written style is different from the usual prose. Occasionally I come across research journals which are based on primary sources. These are the ones which I like the most. Unfortunately they remain within the academic circles unless the author decides write a book on it. Today I am going to share one of those remarkable pieces of researches from original sources which add considerably to our existing knowledge base.

rajput-fresco

Dr Balwant Singh Dhillon of Guru Nanak Dev University has produced a research paper on Sikh relations with Rajputs during 18th century. This remarkable piece of work is based on contemporary Rajasthani sources written in Devanagari script previously unknown to Sikh historians. It clearly demonstrates the Sikhs as a major power in Northern India during eighteen century, well before the advent of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. I believe that this outstanding discovery should be shared outside the academic circles, with the general public.

Guru Period

Bhagat Dhanna and Bhagat Pipa both belonged to Rajasthan and their compositions are found in Guru Granth Sahib Ji.1 The Janamsakhi records Guru Nanak’s visit to Bikaner2 and Guru Ji is said to have visited other parts of Rajasthan. There are number of Rajasthani manuscripts dating back to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century in which the Shabads of Guru Nanak are found recorded in Devnagari script. One can conclude that suggests that Guru Ji’s Bani and its message were not altogether unknown to the people of Rajasthan. 3

When Guru Har Krishan Sahib came to Delhi in 1664 he stayed in bungalow of Mirza Raja Jai Singh (1605-67) of Amber (Jaipur) which is now the site of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. The Raja and his son Raja Ram Singh (d 1688) continued to be close to the Sikh Gurus. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-75) stayed in their palace in Raisina, a Delhi suburb. According to Persian sources Guru Ji during his journey towards the eastern provinces, was arrested near Delhi, but was soon released through the intervention of the Amber prince. Guru Ji later accompanied Raja Ram Singh, at the latter’s request, during the Assam expedition. Guru Gobind Singh visited Dadu Dwara, the seat of Saint Dadu, a Kabirpanthi and contemporary of Guru Arjan. When Mata Sundari Ji (d. 1747) moved from Delhi to Mathura, the then Raja of Amber, Sawai Jai Singh (1688 – 1743), provided her with suitable residence and maintenance.4


Banda S Bahadur’s proposal to Rajput Kings

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In May 1710 Banda Singh Bahadur had proposed a Sikh-Rajput alliance to Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur (Amber) and Raja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur in order to wage a joint struggle against the Mughal Empire. Such an alliance would had far reaching consequences and could had been a formidable challenge to the Mughals, however the Rajas did not accepted the offer as the previous grievances with the Mughals were now resolved and they were made governors of the Mughals states.

The Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah summoned them to join in the campaign against Sikhs however they marched leisurely and came to the Punjab ten months after Bahadur Shah’s campaign was over. Although they did not accept the alliance, the Rajas were clearly in no mood to wage a war against Sikhs unlike Rajput rulers of Mewar and Kishangarh who joined the royal campaign.

Sikhs in Rajput army

According to Rajasthani records, in 1739 Sardar Gurbakhsh Singh, come into contact with the Jaipur state. Next year he was entrusted to employ 500 Sikh horsemen and 500 riflemen on behalf of the Jaipur state. Another Sikh leader Sardar Mir Singh, a jamiatdar along with his armed band was in Jaipur and was honoured with a siropao costing Rs.48.75 at that time.4 Jaipur state in order to supplement its armed forces has no inhibition to enrol the armed Sikhs into its army

Skirmishes

There was a boundary the dispute between the Jaipur and Bharatpur state. In order to beat the Jaipur army, Raja Jawahar Singh, Jat ruler of Bharatpur engaged a corps of 20000-25000 Sikhs who had come at that time to his country perhaps to collect the Rakhi (protection) amount. A kharita (letter) written on February 21, 1768 by a Jaipur official informs that the Sikh army has crossed over Jamuna and the Jat detachment holding its thana. Another kharita written by Sampati Ram Bankawat informs that the fort of Kama and the area around it has come under the attack of joint army of the Sikhs and the Jats.

Formal Alliance

Meanwhile Jaipur ruler Swai Madho Singh had died on March 5, 1768 and the throne passed on to his elder son, Prithvi Singh, a boy of five. A dispatch signed by all the Sikh leaders expressed grief and deep sorrow at the demise of Raja was sent to Jaipur. Another document informs that on March 13, 1768 the Sikh leaders namely Sardar Sham Singh and Sardar Bakhat Singh were present at the investiture ceremony of new ruler (Prithvi Singh) of Jaipur. A kharita written by Gangadhar on April 25, 1768 makes clear that Jaipur state had won over the Sikhs and had agreed to pay Rupees 2 Lakh as Rakhi.

Dr Dhillon states that a perusal of Jaipur records confirms that the Rajput-Sikh alliance formed in March 1768 remained in force for quite a long time. An entry in Siyah Hazoor and Tozi Sikhs as well is very note-worthy in this respect. It states that on March 3, 1788 Monday, Sardar Baghel Singh came and had a meeting with Shri Hazoor (Swai Partap Singh) who was camping in village Ladhuwas of pargana Riwari. They shook hands and thereafter sat very closely on the same carpet. For one hour they held discussions on important matters. After that the Maharaja sends him off and presented to him four bundles containing costly gifts. Interestingly, the gifts included a sarpech and a kalghi (plume) as well. The document in the form of a treaty signed on January 25, 1787 is as under:

(Mark of sword in saffron colour)

Ahadnama between Sarbat Khalsa Ji and Maharaja Swai Partap Singh

“That there exists acknowledged friendship between Sarbat Khalsa Ji and Maharaja Dhiraj, Partap Singh Bahadur. It has been agreed upon by both the parties that the friends and foes of one party will be treated as friends and foes of the other. Sarbat Khalsa Ji will act according to the wishes of the Maharaja and the Maharaja will act according to the Sarbat Khalsa Ji. That any newly conquered territory in the zila of Bagar will be divided between both the parties after deducting the expenses of army. And the rakhi in the new territories shall be of Sarbat Khalsa Ji. There is no discord whatsoever between Khalsa Ji and Maharaja. And if the enemies of the Maharaja create disturbances, Sarbat Khalsa Ji shall join him. The holy Guru is a witness to this agreement and might sword is in between. Written on 5th Rabi-ul-Sani, 28th regnal year of Shah Alam.”




The above treaty bears the seals of eight Sikh Sardars namely Baghel Singh, Dulcha Singh, Rai Singh, Raja Diwan Bahadur Singh, Nihal Singh, Gurdit Singh, Karam Singh Bahadur and Sada Singh. On July 31, 1788 the Sikh leaders had proposed similar treaty to Maharaja Bijay Singh of Jodhpur also.

Conclusion

It is fascinating that the Sikhs and Royal House of Jaipur had cordial relations over during 17th & 18th century. I hope someone will make us wiser of the relation beyond this period. Rajputs preferred a treaty with Sikhs as they had a history of close relations and Sikh tax system of ‘Rakhi’ (protection) was one-fifth compared to Marathas’ tax ‘Chauth’ which was one-fourth was definitely more lucrative. All treaties during this period including the ones with Marathas and Jats of Bhartpur were signed in the name Sarbat Khalsa Ji rather than in the name of individual Sikh chief. The treaty clearly demonstrates the power and influence of Sikhs over the region in the pre-Maharaja Ranjit Singh era.

References

1. Bhagat Pipa Ji Bani is on ang 695 & Bhagat Dhanna Ji ‘s 3 shabads are on ang 487, 488 & 695.
2. Dr Kirpal Singh: Janamsakhi Tradition – An Analytical Study published by Singh Brothers, Amritsar in 2004
3. Dr Balwant Singh Dhillon: The Sikh-Rajput Relations, During the Eighteenth Century
4. Dr Harbans Singh: Sikh Encyclopaedia

 

 

 

 




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