Legend – Stories from the Life of Hari Singh Nalwa

Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated the Sikh Kingdom in the late 18th–early 19th century. This extended beyond the five doabs into the trans-Indus region bordered by the Sulaiman range and touching the foothills of the Hindukush mountains. Lahore was its capital. Hari Singh’s contribution was t significant in annexing regions in possession of the Afghans. A large part of what was once the Kingdom of the Sikhs now largely forms Pakistan.

"During the course of my search, I found many books written on Hari Singh Nalwa in Urdu, Gurmukhi, English and one even in Marathi." said Vanit. "There were so many interesting and fascinating aspects dealt with in these books that motivated me to seek a more detailed historical perspective."  

Extensive research in The National Archives of India, New Delhi, uncovered reports dispatched to the Governor General by the British Agent stationed at Ludhiana, spanning the entire period of the Sikh Kingdom. The latter was specifically deputed to keep an eye on Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s territory. Hari Singh features t prominently in these reports following his death. The British Gazetteers, compiled after the annexation of the Punjab, filled in further gaps.

Foreign visitors to the Sikh Kingdom for example, Baron von Hügel and Godfrey Vigne, met Hari Singh and provide first-hand narratives. Three of the four volumes of the Lahore court chronicle were translated from the original Persian into Gurmukhi and English in the second half of the 20th century.

Now, the seventh generation descendant of Hari Singh Nalwa is in the process of writing the definitive biography of one of Punjab's greatest military men. "I am compiling stories relating to Hari Singh Nalwa’s life. If you recall any story, I would love to hear from you. Please give me the source of the story, the age at which you first heard the tale, the place of origin of your ancestors, besides of course your name and date of birth. This information may provide some insight into the continuity of a tradition. It will be my pleasure to acknowledge those whose version of a story is included in the book scheduled to appear later this year."

Please email the author directly: harisingh.nalwa@gmail.com

Vanit Nalwa obtained a Ph.D. in neuropsychology from the University of Delhi in 1984. She was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to do a post-doc at the University of Oxford, UK, (1986) and a Fulbright Scholarship to train at the National Institutes of Mental Health at Bethesda, USA in (1990). Vanit later taught psychology at the University of Delhi, India (1983-1992), and Assumption University, Thailand (1992-1995), before establishing her own consultancy – EmPower. Today, Vanit conducts personal enrichment programmes for individuals and companies.

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One response to “Legend – Stories from the Life of Hari Singh Nalwa”

  1. I read this short story in a children’s magazine called ‘Gudiya’ in Hindi about forty five years back and this is so very much etched in my mind.
    Hari Singh Nalwa was the best know Commander of Sikh army and had terrified the Afghans who would simply tremble just by hearing his name. Even Afghan women would frighten their infants by saying that Nalwa would take them away if they did not go to sleep.
    On hearing his heroics, a young Afghan girl fell in love with him and wishing to marry him, left her home and went straight to Hari Singh Nalwa’s camp. Nalwa was surprised to see a lone young beautiful girl in his camp. He asked her what she wanted.
    She instead of directly asking him to marry him asked if she could have a son as brave and merciful as he was. On hearing her, he understood her intentions but being true to his high values and morality and not falling for her beauty and utter surrender, he held on his own and quickly said that she could take him as her son and offered her to be sent to her parents’ place and she was escorted back by his soldiers. Years later, when she was married and her son was growing up, she once told her that he too had to become as brave merciful and of high morality as his elder brother, ‘The Great Hari Singh Nalwa’.

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