Date: 25 Mar 2007


Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa (1791-1837?), the great Sikh warrior was born at Gujranwala and was the Commander-in-chief of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

His father was a warrior in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army. Sir Henry Griffin called Nalwa the "Murat of the Khalsa". In 1816, Tits and Bits wrote an editorial piece in Britain, in which it was asserted that had Nalwa the resources and the artillery of the British, he would have conquered the East entirely. This most famous of the great Sikh generals can count the following conquests: Kasur (1807), Sialkot, Kashmir (1814), Multan (1818), Peshawar (1827).

He held Kashmir and Peshawar as its governor in 1834. Nalwa was the only person whose name was minted on the currency of Punjab; today the Hari Singh rupee can be found in museums in India.
Nalwa was dishonourably murdered in an ambush from behind. It is believed that two Dogras that were in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's cabinet (secretly in the pay of the British and the Afghans) were behind the attack. An undelivered letter to the Maharajah asking for assistance from Nalwa was later found in the possession of one of these Dogras. Bibi Harshan Kaur then made her much heralded walk of valour from Jamrud to Peshawar carrying news that Jamrud was under attack, but it was too late for Nalwa. He died when 60,000 troops attacked his fort. The sikhs told him that they were about to attack as they thought he had died however he was still alive. He then went on to the balcony and rested his Teer (arrow) in to his ear and died whilst the fight was on. Just seeing Hari Singh was enough to scare the forces away who trampled their own people.

Haripur in Hazara Division in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan is named after him.

Nalwa had a number of conversations with British, French and German royalty, in which they conversed as equals. Baron Charles Hughart remembers him fondly in his memoirs on travelling through the Peshawar region, in which he was given a portrait of Nalwa from the man himself. Hari Singh Nalwa spoke, wrote and read Persian as well as the Indian languages, and was familiar with world politics, including details about the European states.
If Nalwa had lived, many feel that the British would never have been able to hold or enter the Punjab. He beat the Afghans at Attock Fort and held Afghanistan, something which the British failed to do. As was often the case with his battles, he did so at the request of Hindus living in this region, for they prevailed upon him to free them from the religious tax imposed upon them by the Mughal rulers.

Nalwa was the consummate example of the Sikh-saint soldier, and India owes much to his strategic genius. His descendants still live privately in India and abroad today. Nalwa was the senior most member of Ranjit's court, and one of his grandsons struck out against British rule while a cadet in the Indian army, only to be brutally suppressed. The tremendous and legendary spirit embodied by Nalwa continued to be denied for some 200 years, while the British held India, the crowning glory of its Empire, ransom, and continued to bleed it of wealth and to kill off both talent and outspokenness in the great Indian family lineages.

Jespal Singh