Hari Singh Nalwa and the Battle of Naushehra


Around 1881, a debate ensued in English and French papers as to who was the most successful military general in the world. Some names which were much talked about then were Napoleon, Marshal Handenberg, Lord Kitchner, General Carbuiser or Duke of Wellington. After mention of the generals from European sub continent, Halaku Khan, Changez Khan, Alaudin of Asia were also counted in. But when the mention of S. Hari Singh Nalwa came, the British writer GW Leitner bowed his head in reverence to the most successful army General of the world. For his ability to triumph over Afghanistan where the British rulers had failed despite unlimited resources of manpower and money available to them. If S. Hari Singh had so much resources, he could have conquered Europe and middle east. He was not only a capable General but an administrator of high caliber, a man of very high and noble character, a scholar, a farsighted person endowed with unique quality of self sacrifice. He spent his whole life in the service of the Panth. His love for the Panth is evident from his statement that he made when the time for choosing a worthy successor of Panth.Panth is evident from his statement that he Khalsa Raj came up. He said–

“I consider Khalsa Raj as something of trust of Panth Khalsa. Before its reigns are entrusted to any one, the subject demands greater deliberation.”

Battle of Naushehra.

Yaar Mohammad Khan had been appointed as Governor of Peshawar by the Khalsa Darbar. He was the brother of Azim Khan the ruler of Afghanistan.

Mohammad Azim Khan was much unhappy at the continued prosperity of Khalsa Raj. So he invaded Peshawar. Yaar Mohammad Khan escaped into the mountains. Azim Khan

occupied Peshawar and prepared himself to face the Khalsa army in the plains of Naushehra. These news reached Lahore Darbar as well. In order to settle the issue with Pathans once for all, the cantonment commanders were instructed to leave just sufficient army to look after the cantonment and mobilise the remainder to participate in the battle. On hearing the order, S. Hari Singh marched with his army to Attock. Prince Sher Singh also reached there and met S. Hari Singh.

They constructed a boat bridge over river Attock. When they learnt that the enemy had taken up defensive position in the field of Jahangira, they launched an attack the next morning. The Pathan army was four times more than the Khalsa army. Prince Sher Singh advanced deep into the hills in hot pursuit of the enemy. He was soon trapped by the Pathans. S. Hari Singh lost no time in breaking the encirclement. Mohammad Zaman Khan seized the opportunity in this chaos. He took some soldiers and cut loose the ropes of the boat bridge. The boats were washed away by the swift current of the river. As a result the route of re-inforcement of the Khalsa army was cut off.

When the Maharaja and Baba Phula Singh Akali reached river Attock at the head of their army, they were surprised to see the bridge washed away and damaged. Hearing the din of battle coming from across the river, in the surge of emotion of love for the nation, Akali Phoola Singh spurred his horse into the waters of river Attock.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh followed him suit. Before the Khalsa army could join the fray, the battle had already been won. But a bigger battle was yet to take place. Countless Pathans assembled in the battlefield of Naushehra under the flag of Jehad. They were approximately 45,000. Mohammad Azim Khan provided 15,000 men and 30 guns to his brother Dost Mohammad Khan and ordered him to join the Pathan forces at Naushehra. Pathans were now moving like swarm of locust.

So a supplication prayer was made after the singing of Asâ kî Vâr on the morning of 14th March 1823 and Lord’s permission was sought to attack the enemy. Right then an informer conveyed the news that Muhammad Azim Khan has reached the open grounds of Kheshgi with heavy artillery under his command. Hearing this Maharaja Sahib felt that the attack should be delayed for some times when the artillery of Khalsa army would also fetch up.

Baba Phula Singh Akali did not subscribe to the views. Maintaining the sanctity of the supplication made a little while earlier, he marched towards the battlefield with his Jatha and charged at the enemy. By then Khalsa artillery had also arrived. So the Maharaja ordered S. Hari Singh and General Ilaral to head for Kheshgi against Azim Khan. The artillery guns were also placed under their command. Khalsa army snatched away the guns of the Pathans and were used against them. Seeing the precarious position of his force now, Mohammad Azim Khan absconded from the battlefield and headed straight for Kabul. This field fell into the hands of the Khalsa but at the heavy cost of life of Baba Phula Singh Akali. Peshawar was invested. S. Hari Singh was asked to stay there for sometimes to set the administration in order.

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