Maharaja Gulab Singh His Contribution to the History of India

Prof. Suresh Chander
Gulab Singh was one of the most remarkable men of his times, he contributed to the history of India and was not just a chapter in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
Maharaja Gulab Singh emerged as a statesman, great general, administrator, skillful negotiator, diplomat and above all with a vision of future events. Unfortunately, history, especially Jammu, has failed to recognize his genius.
First Sikh War
The Sikh generals thought of defeating the East India Company. On 17th November 1845, it was decided to invade British territory. By 13th December 1845 Sikh army crossed Sutlej. They won four battles, however, they were finally beaten at Subraon on 10th February 1846.
While events were in progress, Raja Gulab Singh kept aloof in Jammu as his counsel was not sought about invasion of British territory. On the defeat of the Sikh army, he came down to Lahore to play the leading role in the negotiations as chief representative of the Sikh Government.
British Demands:
1. Jalandhar doab, country between Sataluj and Beas. This was agreed to.
2. 15,00,000 sterling as war indemnity.
The Sikh government, unable to pay the indemnity, agreed to cede the hilly and mountainous country between the Beas and the Indus as the equivalent of one million, and balance in cash at a later date.
The treaty was concluded on 9 March 1846. A supplementary treaty was signed on 11th March 1846 providing the rights of chiefs and others within the dispossessed territories. It was further agreed that Raja Gulab Singh, in restoring friendly relations between the two powers, should be recognized as independent sovereign of such territories in the hills as might be made over to him.
Treaty of Lahore March 9, 1846
Article 12. In consideration of the services rendered by Rajah Golab Sing of Jummoo, to the Lahore State, towards procuring the restoration of the relations of amity between the Lahore and British Governments, the Maharajah hereby agrees to recognize the Independent sovereignty of Rajah Golab Sing in such territories and districts in the hills as may be made over to the said Rajah Golab Sing, by separate Agreement between himself and the British Government, with the dependencies thereof, which may have been in the Rajah’s possession since the time of the late Maharajah Khurruck Sing, and the British Government, in consideration of the good conduct of Rajah Golab Sing, also agrees to recognize his independence in such territories, and to admit him to the privileges of a separate Treaty with the British Government.
Article 13. In the event of any dispute or difference arising between the Lahore State and Rajah Golab Sing, the same shall be referred to the arbitration of the British Government, and by its decision the Maharajah engages to abide.
In accordance with Article 12 of the Lahore treaty, the Treaty of Amritsar was signed between Gulab Singh and the British Government. Thus the Treaty of Amritsar was not an independent treaty but was an offshoot of the Lahore Treaty. Article 13 further substantiates this fact – as mechanism of any disputes between Gulab Singh and Lahore Darbar were spelled in the said article.
Article 13 is very interesting. Gulab Singh is first referred to as Rajah Golab Singh as theTreaty of Amritsar was not signed so far. Later, the Maharaja is used in anticipation of the signing of the treaty as per Article 12.
On 11 March 1846, two days after the signature of the Treaty, a supplement, comprising eight Articles of Agreement, was signed by the same parties.. It provided that a British force would remain in Lahore until no longer than the end of the year “for the purpose of protecting the person of the Maharaja and the inhabitants of the City of Lahore, during the reorganization of the Sikh Army”. This supplementary agreement was at the request of the Lahore Durbar.
Article 3. The Maharaja cedes to the Hon’ble Company, in perpetual sovereignty, all his forts, territories and rights in the Doab or country, hill and plain, situated between the Rivers Beas and Sutlej.
Article 4. The British Government having demanded from the Lahore State, as indemnification for the expenses of the war, in addition to the cession of territory described in Article 3, payment of one and half crore of Rupees, and the Lahore Government being unable to pay the whole of this sum at this time, or to give security satisfactory to the British Government for its eventual payment, the Maharajah cedes to the Honourable Company, in perpetual sovereignty, as equivalent for one crore of Rupees, all his forts, territories, rights and interests in the hill countries, which are situated between the Rivers Beas and Indus, including the Provinces of Cashmere and Hazarah (emphasis added).
Treaty of Amritsar – Raja Gulab Singh becomes Maharaja Gulab Singh
March 16, 1846
The treaty between the British Government on the one part and Maharajah Gulab Singh of Jammu.
Article 1 The British Government transfers and makes over for ever in independent possession to Maharajah Gulab Singh and the heirs male of his body all the hilly or mountainous country with its dependencies situated to the eastward of the River Indus and the westward of the River Ravi including Chamba and excluding Lahol, being part of the territories ceded to the British Government by the Lahore State according to the provisions of Article 4 of the Treaty of Lahore, dated 9 March 1846.
Article 3 In consideration of the transfer made to him and his heirs by the provisions of the foregoing article Maharajah Gulab Singh will pay to the British Government the sum of seventy-five lakhs of rupees (Nanukshahee), fifty lakhs to be paid on or before the 1st October of the current year, A.D., 1846.
Article 8 Maharajah Gulab Singh engages to respect in regard to the territory transferred to him, the provisions of Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the separate Engagement between the British Government and the Lahore Durbar, dated 11 March 1846.
Article 10 Maharajah Gulab Singh acknowledges the supremacy of the British Government and will in token of such supremacy present annually to the British Government one horse, twelve shawl goats of approved breed (six male and six female) and three pairs of Cashmere shawls.
The Treaty of Amritsar does not stand by itself. It is to be read along with the Treaty of Lahore (Article 12). There was no sale in the Treaty of Amritsar as the Treaty of Amritsar is the follow up of the Treaty of Lahore.
(The sale argument became the chief weapon of Sheikh Abdullah against the Dogra Raj.)
Article 8 of the above treaty further substantiates that the Treaty of Amritsar was not an independent treaty.
The territories transferred to Maharaja Gulab Singh were:
i. All of the outer hills between the Ravi and the Indus.
ii. The Valley of Kashmir. (Provinces of Cashmere and Hazarah. See Article 4 of supplement treaty of 11 March 1946)
iii. Ladakh
iv. Girgit
v. Baltistan
vi. Indus Valley down to Chilas
Making over these territories government imposed upon Raja Gulab Singh the obligations already been accepted as regards to the rights of dispossessed Hill Chiefs.
In fulfilment of these obligations an agreement was made between Raja Gulab Singh and the Chiefs, under the guarantee of the British Government, by which cash allowances, amounting to Rs. 62,300 per annum for dispossessed Hill Chiefs between Ravi and Jhelum. They were also given the option of remaining in or leaving Jammu.
Interestingly, under this agreement, Gulab Singh ceded lands to him near Pathankot valued at rupees 42,800.
It is said that Maharaja Gulab Singh when he surveyed his new purchase, the valley of Kashmir, he grumbled and remarked that one third of the country was mountain, one-third water and the remainder alienated to privileged persons. Speaking up the whole of his dominions, he might without exaggeration have described them as nothing but mountains.
Kashmir did not come into Maharaja’s hands without fighting. Imam-ud-din, the Sikh Governor, headed by restless Bambas from the Jhelum Valley routed Gulab Singh’s troops on the outskirts (perhaps Dalgate) of Srinagar killing Wazir Lakhpat. Owing to the mediation of Sir Henry Lawrence, Imam-ud-din handed Kashmir, without disturbance, to the new ruler. It was not easy in other northern regions too. From 1852 to 1860, Indus formed the boundary of the state.
Soon afterwards the treaty was modified with regard to the boundary of the Ravi. The river divided the Chamba State into two portions. The Raja of Chamba objected to being subject to Jammu. Under the new arrangement, Chamba surrendered claim to Bhadrawah in lieu of territory to the west of Ravi. Chandgraon and Lakhanpur were also exchanged.
There was also change on the Indus. At the time of transfer, the Hazara Chiefs were in revolt against the Sikhs and refused to be under Gulab Singh. Gulab Singh approached the Sikh Darbar to be relieved of Hazara in exchange of territories near Jammu. Thus Hazara again came under Sikh rule and Gulab Singh got Munawwar and Garhi in exchange.
Poonch was not recognized as an independent jagir in the treaty. Much to the chargin of Jawahir Singh, younger brother of Hira Singh, it became subject to Jammu . It remained a point of friction between Jammu and Poonch. Later Jawahir Singh abdicated in favour of his brother Raja Moti Singh. Raja Jawahir Singh settled somewhere near Ambala on an annual pension of rupees one lakh in 1859.
The journey of Gulab Singh as a chief of a jagir to Raja of Jammu hills and ultimately Maharaja of Jammu-Kashmir was not an easy one. He lost his two brothers, two sons and several others on the way.
He would hardly have imagined that his state would become a major trouble spot of the world a hundred years later.
It goes to the credit of Gulab Singh, the only ruler in India’s long history who could be said to have extended the geographic boundaries of India.
His conquest and annexation of Ladak, is an achievement which writes his name for ever in the history of India. No previous Indian ruler, not even Samudra Gupta or Akbar, had even dreamed of invading Tibet; and through Zorawar, the Maharajah’s forces routed the Tibetan.
Gulab Singh established a state as diverse as the rest of India – many languages, diverse cultures, many shades of geography, history of regions going back to pre Harappan, Harappa, Gandhar, Mahabharat, Budha, Alexander – Porus, Ashoka times to name only a few.
Gulab Singh assembled a bouquet of different hues and fragrances for the inhabitants of the state which is unique in more ways than one. It is imperative that the people of the state should be left alone to keep this bouquet in tact. History can’t be reversed, but nothing prevents them from being inheritors of the bouquet assembled by Gulab Singh.
The state of Jammu Kashmir is his living monument.
Note: Name spellings in the treaties have not been changed.
(The author is former Head of Computer Engineering Department in G B Pant University of Agriculture & Technology)