Then there were martyrs who went unsung...
In his death, Maharaja Singh remained an unknown martyr.
No verses were composed in his honour nor any memorials
erected in his memory. Even historians failed to recognise his
contribution to the freedom struggle.
Maharaja Singh was perhaps the first
person in Punjab who tried to organise a mass movement against the
British after Lord Dalhousie annexed the kingdom following the
death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Maharaja Singh was a preacher turned revolutionary, whose
activities caused much concern to the British. As gauged from a
letter from the then Governor General Lord Dalhousie to Punjab
Governor Henry Lawrence in 1849. ''Maharaja Singh has started a
khalsa lehar (Sikh movement), and this should be crushed at all
costs or else the English cannot step into Punjab,'' read the letter.
Even when the English were desperately trying to gain a foothold
in Punjab by fighting many battles against Ranjit Singh's generals, the preacher-revolutionary started touring
villages exhorting people to rise against the British as
their freedom was in jeopardy.
His sermons caused panic among the British. An army officer
stationed at Jalandhar in a dispatch to his superior wrote, ''A
religious preacher has become an important political leader who is
getting a good deal of support in the villages.''
The British, on their part, kept his exploits against them a closely
guarded secret, fearing that any publicity might lead to a public
The preacher tag did not prevent Maharaja Singh from taking up an
armed struggle. He along with his supporters came out openly in
support of Mool Raj, the subedar of Multan, who rebelled against the
British in 1848.
The sant sipahi (saint-soldier) image
came to the fore again during a battle between the British and Maharaja
Sher Singh. He took up the sword after delivering a religious sermon
to the soldiers.
In the battle of Chelia between Chattar Singh Ittari and the
British, Maharaja Singh took upon himself the task of maintaining
the food and water supplies, besides nursing the wounded soldiers.
Soon, the British offered a reward of Rs 10,000 for his arrest.
On January 3, 1850, Maharaja Singh, after establishing contacts
with a number of Punjabi soldiers in the British army, asked them
to revolt against the colonial masters. But the plan leaked out
and he was arrested in Jalandhar and brutally tortured
during interrogation. He was sent to Fort William in Calcutta and
then shifted to a jail in Singapore, where he died in 1855.