History of the Sikh Misls
Located in the North Western region of India and modern day east Pakistan, Punjab was once an independent sovereign Kingdom before its annexation by the British in 1849. In the 18th century Punjab came under the leadership of 12 Sikh confederacies also known as misls due to the deteriorating power of the Mughal control of India and the East India Company’s expanding territories. The martial race of the Sikhs split their leadership across 12 clans and each took various parts of Punjab.
If there was threat of invasion from neighbouring counties such as Afghanistan and Persia, the Misls would come together to eradicate the enemy. However, when Maharajah Ranjit Singh, chieftain to the Sukerchakkia Misl came to his throne, he united the misls under one banner through both force and friendship and established the Sikh Empire, also known as the Lahore Durbar.
Of the many confederacies, the Ahluwalia Misls rose to prominence due to its leader Jassa Singh Kahal, who was born in 1771. Due to his father’s early death, Jassa Singh was entrusted into the care of Mata Sundari, who was the widow of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Mata Sundari lavished much affection on Jassa Singh and supervised his religious and academic education. When he came under the recognition of Nawab Kapur Singh, he took the boy under his own wing. Jassa Singh became the ideal apprentice and grew up to become a formidable warrior, forming his own battalion of soldiers. He soon styled his name after his ancestral village of Ahlu, and became well known as Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, founding the Kapurthala state in 1977. His most famous accomplishment was in 1783, when he along with two other Sikh Misl Chieftains took the Red Fort of Delhi and hoisted the Sikh flag upon it.
Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was the first supreme military commander of the Sikh Misls, and founder of the Ahluwalia Misl. He lived a heroic life, and proved to be a born leader as he led and fought in many military campaigns against Nadir Shah, ruler of Persia in 1739 and Ahmed Shah Abdali who became leader of Afghanistan in 1747.
Under the Sikh empire, the role of military leaders and Maharajah’s flourished due to the military prowess of the Lahore Durbar. However Jassa Singh died in Amritsar in 1783, with his descendents becoming the royal family of the Kapurthala State. Raja Fateh Singh who became a prominent Sikh figure of the Ahluwalia Misl and saw Maharajah Ranjit Singh becomes the Raj of Lahore. The two struck a strong friendship and exchanged turbans, a custom similar to being blood brothers.
Much of Ranjit’s earlier territorial gains were due to the generalship and assistance of Fateh Singh and his forces. The Sikh Empire entered a military alliance with the British in 1802 and signed a treaty of Friendship with the East India Company. However as the British continued to push their borders against Ranjit’s Empire, Punjab was soon annexed and Maharajah Ranjit Singh lost his control over the Lahore Durbar.