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The Forgotten Sikh Warrior-Hari Singh Nalwa

Updated on June 25, 2014

Once a discussion ensued in English and French papers about the best military general in the world around 1882. Some names from europeon continent were abundantly discussed by them were Napoleon, Lord Kitchner, Duke of Wellington, Marshal Handenberg or General Carbuiser. Halaku Khan,Changez Khan, Alaudin of Asia were also numberd in the list.But when the notice of S. Hari Singh Nalwa came, the British journalist bowed his head in adoration to the best and most successful general of the world because of his ability to overcome Afghanistan where the British rulers had unsuccessful in spite of boundless assets of manpower and cash accessible to them. If S. Hari Singh had so much assets, he could have conquered Europe and Mideast. He wasn't only a capable General but also a man of exceptionally high and respectable character, a specialist, a farsighted individual enriched with special nature of self tribute. He spent his whole life within the service of the Panth.

A Painting of the Sikh Lion Hari Singh Nalwa
A Painting of the Sikh Lion Hari Singh Nalwa | Source
"General Hari Singh Nalwa seated in full armour adopting a militant stance" by Sir John McQueen
"General Hari Singh Nalwa seated in full armour adopting a militant stance" by Sir John McQueen | Source
Sardar Hari Singh Nalua, Brave general of Sher-e-Panjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Sardar Hari Singh Nalua, Brave general of Sher-e-Panjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh | Source

Early Years- A Brief Understanding of S.Hari Singh Nalwa

Hari Singh Nalwa was born in 1791 in Gujranwala northwest of Lahore(Pakistan) ) within the house of S. Gurdial Singh and his mother name was Mata Dharm Kaur.He was only son of his parents.He was only seven years of age when his father died and the onus of his upbringing fell upon his mother Dharam Kaur.After the death of her husband she moved alongwith Hari Singh to her parental home under the care of her brothers. Where Special arrangements were made for his education, arms training and riding(so that he could survive in this bloody atmosphere).He learned equestrian and archery abilities in his adolescence days and got expert of these kinds of things. At the age of ten years,he was baptized and attached with the holy feet of Guru. In the eleventh year he indicated master horsemanship and could thunder like a lion and was honored with immence God talented strength .By the age of twelve he showed leadership qualities.By the age of thirteen he understood and could recite Gurbani (Sikh Scriptures) from memory.At fourteen he looked to transform into a master swordsmen and showed signs of undefeated champion.And in1805, S. Hari Singh Nalwa exhibited his skill of handling horses into the fair which was organised by Maharaja Ranjit Singh on the eve of Basant Panchmi (Seasonal festival of Punjab) everyyear.He drew the attention of king Maharaja Ranjit Singh because of his physical appearance,acts of valour and equestrian skills. The sovereign was so immpressed by the deeds of gallantry displayed by him that prince blessed him with a gold necklace and was taken into the royal service as a personal khidmatgar or an specialist.

S. Hari Singh’s Gift to India

Maharaja Ranjit Singh under the command of S Hari singh nalwa take posession of North West districts of Afganistan across river Indus From Attock to the Khyber Pass was one of the incredible works ever performed in the world.the meaning of completely taking Control of these regions was to put a complete stop at intruders who had assaulted India entering from Khyber pass in West, beginning with Greeks in 500 B.c.. So following 2300 Years of steady annihilation and mortification of Punjabi and Indian individuals.Ranjit Singh was able to totally shut down this historic route of invasion into India.. It had been used by Greeks, Turks, Arabs, Mughals, Mongols, Tatars, Afghanis, and so on
, it had been done by S. Hari Singh Nalwa with alongwith other Sikh Sardars the might of his sword, and that too after 836 years. Those Pathans who had been plundering and pillaging the glory of India for over eight centuries and there was none to face them right up to Bengal. People were scared of the name of a Pathans. But on the other hand S.Hari Singh had established his name among them so strongly that even today the women used to scare naughty kids by saying, Chup sha Bachai, Haria Raagla (quite child, Haria is coming).

Hari singh nalwa, Nick name -Baagh Maar     (Tiger-Killer)
Hari singh nalwa, Nick name -Baagh Maar (Tiger-Killer) | Source

Cognomen of ‘Nalwa’

The companionship of word "Nalwa" has been perceived with King "Nal" .The King of Nal discovers specify in extraordinary Indian epic Mahabharat(bc 3139)He was very brave different young man who rescued his father from the jaws of lion when chasing in the forest timberland of Shantiban in his adolescence days.And S.Hari Singh also became ‘Nalwa’ on reaching the age of fifteen when he killed the lion single- handed on horseback while on hunting with the king Maharaja Ranjit Singh.During the chasing a lion jumped upon him.Sardar Sahib held the lion by his jaws and smashed him down on the ground with force. After the lion could recover himself, S. Hari Singh unsheathed his sword and dismembered his neck from his bodyThe Maharaja saw the scene from very close quarter. He was amazed by his bravery and also offered prize to S. Hari Singh for his demonstration of boldness by designating him the Commander of Sher Dil Regiment, which had an in number oblige of 800 horsemen and infantry contenders. For his ability to homicide a lion with his hands, he came to be well known a Nalwa.
Baron Hugel, a European traveller, writes in his book, "Travels in Kashmir & the Punjab": - " I surprised him by knowledge whence he had gained the appellation of Nalwa, and of his having cloven the head of a tiger, who had already seized him as its prey. He told the Diwan to bring some drawings and gave me his portrait, in the act of killing the beast."

 Baron Charles Hugel, Travels in Kashmir and the Punjab (1845; reprint Lahore: Qausain, 1976), Pocket Map. 87.
Baron Charles Hugel, Travels in Kashmir and the Punjab (1845; reprint Lahore: Qausain, 1976), Pocket Map. 87. | Source

Personality of S. Hari singh nalwa

Religious life
Sardar Hari Singh was a loyal Sikh and was deeply attached to his Satguru. He was an early riser and everlastingly committed to his nitnem (Sikh prayer) at the ambrosial hour.. He under took the construction service of the Sarovar of Gurudawara Panja Sahib and spent thousands of rupees to complete it. He had much respect to religious and righteous people. He was proud to be a Sikh.

Physical Fitness
Sardar Hari Singh was a tall,handsome, agile and physically fit person with impressive face that could spellbind any gazer. At when Mohammad Azim Khan the incredible warrior of Afghanistan confronted Sardar Ji in 1823 in the battlefield of Kheshgi, he felt mesmerised as soon as his eyes met Sardar Ji.The Barkazaee pioneer couldn't stay in the field for any more.

Soldierly Traits.
He was a unique marksman of his time. His deftness of handling horse was unparallel. It surprised many experts as well. He displayed remarkable horsemanship and sword fighting skill during the Darbar of 1831 at Ropar. It had put the Governor General, Commander in Chief British Forces and other military official in the utter bewilderment. His fatigue factor was very high. He could stay on the horse back for days together and could fight longer without any break.

Skillful Administrator

During the Governorship of Kashmir, Hazara and Peshawar, he showed remarkable skill in the organisation of administration of these provinces.These three areas were so notorious and indisciplined that all other Governors had failed.

Hari singh Nalwa in battlefield
Hari singh Nalwa in battlefield | Source
S Hari singh Nalwa alongwith King Ranjit Singh during invasion of Afganistan
S Hari singh Nalwa alongwith King Ranjit Singh during invasion of Afganistan | Source
The Sword of Hari Singh Nalwa - kept at the Sikh Regimental centre Ramgarh
The Sword of Hari Singh Nalwa - kept at the Sikh Regimental centre Ramgarh | Source
Multan city
Multan city | Source
Hari Singh during the invasion of Kasur
Hari Singh during the invasion of Kasur | Source

Are you familiar with Hari Singh Nalwa story

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.A few acheivements of Hari Singh ‘Nalwa’

Battle of Kasur

Hari singh nalua's significant military compaign was that of kasur, the so called 'mythological rival of lahore', in 1807 a.d. Hari singh nalwa along with others sardars marched on to kasur and crushed its afghani possessor kutab-ud-din khan.
The sher dil regiment of s. Hari singh captured 200 soldiers of kasur and presented them before the maharaja. Pleased at this feat, maharaja granted him a jagir worth about 30,000 a year

Invasion of Multan

Hari Singh Nalua's next vital military accomplishment was the conquest of Multan on 25th January 1810 .Multan had a great commercial and strategic importance having been the gateway of Afghanistan
After Multan, Sardar Hari Singh also subjugated the territories of Mitha Tiwana, Rajauri, Naushera, etc. from which strip tribute was realized for the kingdom of Lahore.

Procuring Koh-i-Noor Diamond and Invasion of Kashmir

Hari Singh forces routed Kashmiris forces when King turned towards Kashmir.Then the khalsa forces win the territory and procured Kohinoor Diamond(expensive precious stone of the world) for Maharaja Ranjit Singh who wore that Diamond on his right shoulder, it was his pride. Maharaja was also happy to the point that he permitted Hari Singh to strike a coin in his name in Kashmir. He was also appointed Governor of Kashmir.

Capture of Attock Fort

On 12th July 1813 The Khalsa army took posession of Attock Fort of Afganistan under the command of Hari Singh Nalua's by defeating Dost Mohammad Khan
In 1815, S. Hari Singh Nalwa, Diwan Ram Dayal and S. Dal Singh were sent to Rajouri and Bhimbar to suppress rebellions and to collect revenue from the Nawabs. Hari Singh was a undefeated champion and after the completing the both tasks he returned home successfully.
In appreciation of the services of S. Hari Singh,Maharaja granted the area of Gujranwala to him as a Jagir(Personal property). S. Hari Singh constructed a fort here and also laid out a beautiful garden.

Conquest of Peshwar
Since virtually peace in Punjab was only possible by sealing the border of Kabul, and Peshawar being geographically situated in its close proximity was an indispensable asset for Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Thus, ultimately the strip of Peshawar became the bone of contention between Maharaja and Afghanis.So Maharaja Ranjit Singh made as invasion of Peshawar Punjabi forces with Mian Ghausa and Diwan Mohkam Chand leading the charge With Sardar Nalua as general of Cavalry didn't had to face any fight whatsoever $6. Maharaja appointed Jahan Dad Khan, ex governor of Attock as new governor of Peshawar in November 1818.
Pathan’s Invasion of Jamraud Fort

Sir Lepel Griffin, gives a detailed and comprehensive account of Sardar Nalua's campaign of Jamrud He points out that Sardar was directed to build a fort at Jamrud situated at the entrance of Khber pass from the walls of which Maharaja might glance Jalalabad in Afghanistan.
The Dost Mohammad Khan, with 7,000 horse, 2000 matchlock men and 18 guns. His three sons with their forces and a force of 12,000 to 15,000 of Khaibiris joined the main force and started pounding the fort. Grifin further states that when Hari Singh Nalua along with about five of his companion went outside of the fort to inspect a breach in a wall, he was struck by two balls, one in the side and the other in stomach. Inspite of them understanding that he was mortally injured, the Nalua sardar managed to ride as far as his camp lest the troops be discouraged. Then laying on floor he gives his last order to his few trusted men, that was to not to disclose the secret of his death. Hari Singh further imparted instructions to his soldiers to cover his dead body after lifting it from the ground and placing it on a cot.
Thus the great Sardar Hari Singh Nalua, with the terror of whose name Afghan mothers used to quiten their fretful children attained his martyrdom.

Acclodes about S Hari singh Nalwa

“…… Champion of Khalsaji”
Lepel Griffin in the punjab chiefs,1865 (Bengal Civil Service Assistant Commisioner Lahore)
“… builder of sikh empire”
A S sandhu in general Hari singh Nalwa, 1791-1835,1935 (Sikh historian)
“The nobelest and the most gallant of the sikh generals of his time, the very embodiment of honour, chivalry and courage…”
K M Pannikar In The Founding Of A Kashmir State, 1930
(Historian, Author, Diplomat And Editor Hindustan Times In 1925)

“…if Sardar Hari Singh were to cross the Indus, his highness would soon be glad to make good his retreat to his original government in Tabriz.” (Mohan Lal Kashmiri in Travels in the Panjab, Afghanistan, and Turkistan, etc., 1846(In service of the East India Company))

Commemorative postage stamp honouring General Hari Singh Nalwa by India Post and release of biography in English titled 'Hari Singh Nalwa - Champion of the Khal


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    • profile image

      dalwinder singh 

      4 years ago

      I proud of hari Singh nalwA

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This gentleman certainly led an interesting and adventurous life. I'd never heard of him before.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Interesting, Jasdeep. I've heard of Genghiz Khan, Kublai Khan, Attila, Salah ad Din and a few other eastern warlords, but not this one.

      I know Sikhs were instrumental in the Indian armies at the time of the Raj and later, and there's been quite a number of Sikh Victoria Cross winners (VC's) since then in both World Wars.

      You've got a long history of dedication in the military 'arts'. One thing I should ask is: Where did the Sikhs originate - were they linked with the 'Golden Horde'?

    • Jasdeep-Singh profile imageAUTHOR

      Laddi Singh 

      5 years ago from (Punjab) India

      Jyoti: you are most welcome here and we are definitely proud of him because he was the one and only person of India who shut the doors permanently for invaders to attack India through the gateway of India (Punjab). Moreover the history reveals through this gateway many invaders whether they were Mohammed Bin Kasim, Mahmoud Gajnvi, Ibrahim Lodhi or Ahmed Shah Abdali etc attacked the

      India and severely annihilated its people for many centuries.But with the rise of this ever great General they came to know that all is over there now.

    • Jasdeep-Singh profile imageAUTHOR

      Laddi Singh 

      5 years ago from (Punjab) India

      Justthemessanger : Thanks for reading the Hub and we could know about his greatness from the fact that as yet only two persons had conquered the Afganistan one is Nalwa and second is the great Alexander. The most interesting is that Nalwa did it alone with only a handful of his soldiers. And he is a killer of lion this is not a myth or hearsay but is a historical fact because every historian who wrote a book on Hari Singh Nalwa have mention this fact in his or her writing.

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 

      5 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Jasdeep- I was not familiar with this military hero before reading your article.He seems extraordinary but the description of his killing the lion sounds mythical.

    • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

      Jyoti Kothari 

      5 years ago from Jaipur

      Hi Jasdeep, Thanks for introducing such a personality. India is proud of him.

      Rated up and awesome.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 

      6 years ago from New Delhi , India

      Jasdeep, Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa is one of the brightest stars on the horizon of Indian Nation. He is a great legend ! To conquer Afghanistan is his spectacular feat and it will be remembered till the humanity survives. You have done a great job by bringing to light the astonishing feats of such remarkable personality. Well done. Voted up and shared.


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