Thursday, August 7, 2014





This portrait is on display in an Art Museum in UK.
Wiliam Carpenter was in Kashmir for three successive summers of 1853, 1854 and 1855 . Apart from meeting the last sikh Govrnor , Sheikh Imam Ud Din , He also met the then ruler Maharaja Ghulab Singh. When William Carpenter sought time for a Portrait to be painted by him , the Maharaja readily agreed .

Ghulab singh was a Surajvanshi Jamwal Rajput , a descendant in direct line from Raja Dhrou Dev Jamwal of jammu . When Maharaja Ranjit singh wanted to annex jammu to the Lahore empire , Ghulab singh led the Dogra Army that fought against the sikh forces defending Jammu Principality . He led the jammu forces so well that he won the admiration of Maharaja Ranjit Singh . Ghulab singh was offered the post of Commander in chief by Shah Shuja of Kabul but Maharaja Ranjit singh brought him to his own Kingdom . He fought many successful battles for the Sikh Army from 1815 to 1820 and became a favourite of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who gave jammu as a Jagir to him . He also conquered Rajouri , Reasi , Kishtwar , Bhaderwah and Dera Gazi Khan for Maharaja Ranjit singh . In 1822 ,Gulab Singh was confirmed as Raja of Jammu by his suzerain, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He was also granted the jagir of the salt mines in northern Punjab, and the nearby Punjabi towns like Bhera, Jhelum, Rohtas, and Gujrat. 

The death of Maharaja Ranjit singh in 1839 created a chaotic situation followed by many intrigues within the Lahore Darbar. In the Anglo Afghan war of 1841 , British army sought Ghulab Singh’s support that led to a new friendship between him and the British .The Lahore Darbar intrigues weakened the kingdom. The British tried to take full advantage of the divided Lahore DARBAR and attacked Sikhs in 1846 to annex Punjab . The British forces won this war but had to pay a huge price . After the defeat of sikhs in Puinjab , the British wanted to snatch Kashmir from them which they did not want to rule or govern themselves due to various reasons . The British wanted to divide and weaken Sikhs by depriving them of Kashmir . At this stage , Ghulab Singh intervened and negotiated a reasonable treaty for the defeated Sikh Kingdom . He pleaded for Duleep Singh ‘s ( Youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh ) sovereignty which angered Lal singh who managed to get himself installed as a Sovereign in place of Duleep Singh .Lal singh ( Prime Minister ) secretly entered into a Treaty with the British whereby he was required to pay an indemnity of 15,00,000 British pounds .This he could not pay by any means . The British now made an offer to Ghulab Singh to pay them Rupees 75 lakhs ( Nanakshahi ) and keep Kashmir and other hilly areas situated between River Indus and River Ravi (which formed a part of the Lahore empire )including Chamba but excluding Lahaul . Ghulab Singh agreed and the Deal came to be known as Treaty of Amritsar which was executed in 1846 . 
The treaty only transferred a legal title and no actual possession was handed over to Ghulab Singh. Ghulab singh had to dispatch Dewan Lakhpat Rai to take possession but the last sikh Governor did not surrender and offered a fierce resistance. Ghulab singh now sought the help of Col. Lawrence and finally Sheikh Imam Ud Din Surrendered . He was treated fairly by Ghulab Singh and permitted to stay in Kashmir as he clarified that he had acted according to the instructions of Lal singh from Lahore Darbar. The British installed a Resident in Kashmir and intervened in affairs of administration till the reign of Partap Singh .

It was not an easy task for Ghulab singh to overhaul the administration which had gone from bad to worst prior to his rule .The shawl industry was almost in shambles on account of exorbitant Taxation . Begaar ( forced labour ) was rampant . Illiteracy and poverty were everywhere . Epidemic Diseases , Robberies , Fires , floods ,Famines were common . The Revenue collectors including the village Doom fleeced the poor Zamindaar .Many poor villagers amongst Pandits and Muslims had moved out to Punjab , Kishtwar , Bhaderwah and other areas to save themselves from starvation .Many shawl weavers had also moved out of valley to Punjab and hilly kingdoms of Nurpur , Basholi , kangra and Chamba . 
Ghulab Singh belonged to the school of Napoleon , burning with desire to conquer . He had already conquered Ladakh in 1842 , annexed Chillas in 1850 and subdued Gilgit in 1852.He devoted more time in consolidation and building Jammu And Kashmir state . Some remarkable reforms were later introduced by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh .I quote a few …

(1) Administration was divided into three heads . Daftar e Nzamat , Daftar e Diwani and Daftar e jangi .
(2) Adalat sadar was created in Jammu and Srinagar and Ranbir Penal Code was implemented .
(3) 25 courts were set up in the state and a law department under a secretary was established .
(4) Dag e shawl which yielded a revenue of 12 lakhs to the state , was remitted altogether to help the Industry .
(5) Many Taxes like Tax on Trade , Import Duty, marriage Tax ,House Tax , Fruit Tax , Animal Tax , and Tax on Arts and Crafts were also remitted altogether .
(6) During the famine of 1877 , The maharaja issued an order that any person importing grains from Punjab to the extent of Rs20000/= would be rewarded Rs1000 as Khillat .The Government started Free langars in Srinagar and the state had to spend a sum of 33 lakhs .
(7) A bridge over river Chenab was constructed at Ramban and a cart road was started between jammu and Srinagar .
(8) Postal and Telegraph system was introduced in the state by inviting Mr Hogg the then post master General of Punjab to the state .
(9) Mulbery seedlings were imported from china to revive silk industry in the state .
(10) A paper Mill was started in the state .
(11) Maharaja donated 6.25 Lakhs to University of Lahore and students from the state were sent for Education to Lahore .
(12) A mint was started to print currency .
(13) During a Shia –Sunni clash in 1872, the Maharaja gave a cash relief of rupees 3 lakhs for the loss suffered by people .
(14) Complaint Boxes were placed at prominent places and the Maharaja personally read these complaints .

( Autar Mota )

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