Legendary General Zorawar Singh Kalhuria was born on 13 th of April 1786 at village Ansara, Nadoun in Himachal Pradesh. His Father Harjay Singh was Dewan of Bilaspur Darwar. Later as General of Jammu Raja Gulab Singh, he launched Ladakh campaign from Kistwar by marching into Ladakhi province of purig, the estate of Thi sultans, on 15th April 1834 with an army of 5000 Dogras and ended up having Gilgit-Baltistan and Western Tibet.
At the age of 16 , he got enrolled as a sepoy under Kiladar at Reasi. Being brave, intelligent and enterprising, Kiladar Reasi assigned him the duties of carrying messages to Gulab Singh. It was during one of these meetings with Raja Gulab Singh when he brought certain flaws and wastages in Raja’s supply department and gave an alternative plan. When implemented the new plan affected lot of savings. Hence Zorawar Singh was promoted as Inspector of ‘commissariat of supplies’ for all the Forts North of Jammu. After the occupation of Kishtwar in 1821, Raja Gulab Singh made him Hakim of Kishtwar. When Gulab Singh became ruler of Jammu in 1822, he elevated him to the status of Hakim of Reasi, Arnas and kussal with the tittle of Wazir.
To its East were the snow – clad mountains and valley of upper Himalays. Several principalities of this region were tributary to Tsepal the Gyalpo of Ladakh. In 1834 one of these, the Raja of Timbus, sought Raja Gulab Singh’s help against the Gyalpo. Finding the opportunity, Raja Gulab Singh ordered his able commander Gen Zorawar Singh to march into Ladakh. The Dogra General had been waiting for an opportunity to excel himself in warfare.
In the spring of 1835, he defeated the large army of Gen Kahlon and marched his victoruous troops to Leh. He stayed in Leh for 4 months after which restored Ladakh to Tespal. Hence he became a vassal of Dogra Raj of Jammu and had to pay war indemnity of Rs 20000 as an annual tribute.
After negotiating final treaty with Tespal, General Zorawar Singh returned to Lamayuru and came to know that chief of Sod had rebelled. He had attacked the Dogras at Suru Fort and killed entire garrsion of 55 soldiers. General Zorawar Singh marched to Suru with his troops and stayed for 15 days gaining intelligence about the rebel . He attacked the rebels taking them by surprise and captured a number of them. Rs 50 award was announced for every rebel soldier that locals will hand over. Thus 200 were caught by the local people and all were killed. It was later learnt that the revolt was engineered by Sardar Mian Singh, Sikh Governor of Kashmir.
Having consolidated his reign in the Northwest, Raja Gulab Singh revived an ancient Ladakhi claim over Western Tibet and in May 1841 General Zorawar Singh enter unknown lands of Tibet with five thousand men comprising of Dogras, Ladakhis and Baltis. He passed the Mansarovar Lake and converged at Gartok where he defeated the Tibetan force stationed there. Tibetan Commander fled to Taklakot. General Zorawar Singh stromed the Fort on 6 September 1841 and captured the strategic city of Taklakot. By October 1841 British trepidations had reached such a feverish pitch that they demanded Maharaja Sher Singh to order Dogras to evacuate Tibet by 10 Dec 1841. But before Jammu Raja could make contact with General Zorawar Singh, the military situation in Tibet under went a drastic Change. In November, Lahasa sent a composite army of ten thousand Chinese and Tibetans to drive Dogras from Tibet.
The adversaries finally met face to face on 10 December , iroincally the date set by British for Dogras withdrawal. The fierce battle began. On 12 December 1841, the Dogra General was fatally wounded . The Death of the Dogra Commander decided the outcome of battle. Living upto their bravery, Dogras executed the enemy General to avenge their General’s martyrdom and forced the adversary into a peace treaty. 12 December 1841 ended the saga military adventures of the Dogra warrior who is also refered to as Napoleon of the East.
Because of Gen Zorawar Singh Ladakh today is part of India. If Govt talk about, the PoJK and Aksai Chin region, only because of him.
Now come to the family and palace of Gen Zorawar Singh where they lived.
After martyrdom of Gen Zorawar Singh, his two Wives became “Sati” and third wife had one son named “Wazir Inder Singh”. He was the only son of General Zorawar Singh and lived in Gen Zorawar Singh Palace Vijaypur Reasi.
The 200 years old Place that he made for his family is very poor condition, and need urgent renovation.
Many Governments came to power but no one had vision to that Palace. I urge Government, as well also social organisation for urgent rennovation. If you Aksai Chin, PoJK as a Part of India, you have duty to preserve his history, monuments as well.
(The author is a 6th Generation descendent of General Zorawar Singh)