(Boney Bindra/Umang Kochhar) History is very funny business, sometimes utterly important people are given the most trivial place and at others people with nothing under their name are given undeserving respect.
We, in our yesterday’s opinion learnt all about the person correlated to life of Sikh Emperor, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Mauran or Mauran Nachi, which makes it his personal life.
So, today we are going to talk about Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s military life and his most trusted army general, Sham Singh Attariwala.
Attariwala was a great fighter and is still counted among one of the greatest martial commanders Punjab ever got.
So, Who is This Mr. Attariwala You Are Talking About?
Sham Singh, is a Sikh historic protagonist, famed for his heroics in the post Ranji Singh, Anglo-Sikh battles and his epic martyrdom in the battlefield.
The Lahore Darbar of Sikh raj had two major cities for trade and economy, Lahore and Amritsar, these centers of the state has produced major heredities of its time.
The high up families from this region were, Attariwalas, Majithias, Sandhanwalias, Shukarchakias, Nalwas, etc.
Captivatingly, The Attariwalas were the first in line to convert to Sikhism in the early days of Sikh political ascendency and joined the Jatha or the band of Sardar Gurbakh Singh of Roranwala.
The Village of Attari
Attariwalas soon established his fortification over an area around Attari, a village they founded nearly 16 miles west from the city of Amritsar.
Attari served as an essential center between Amritsar and Lahore during Sikh Superhero Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s regime.
Last big name in Punjab’s politics to stand between Sikh Raj and East India Company after the fall of Lahore Darbar and the era of Ranjit Singh was this Sham Singh Attariwala.
Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride
Eminent general of Maharaja Singh’s fallen army was an indeed an ambitious and faultless warrior but was not a great war technician.
The above statement is backed with this argument, “Sham Singh even after getting betrayed by his own troops in two straight wars, determined to fight the third and the final war of his life at Sabaraon (Tarn Taran), you cannot trust the black sheep twice.”
The Quick-Sikh, just like the first two Anglo-Sikh battles, was again betrayed by his own men in the third, but this time instead of running to a hiding, he marched straight to the army of enemy with his 50 loyal Soldiers and was killed, the battle was soon over, just as the evening was marked.
Some of the historians describe him in the field of war as, “for the final war of his life, at Sabaraon (Tarn Taran), he entered the battleground dressed in all white, on his white horse with his handsome gray beard floating in air”.
A Murder Too Important Sham Singh Attariwala
Three years after Attariwala’s heartbreaking death, disheartened Sikh army surrendered in from of the British at Rawalpindi on 10th March of 1849 and on 30 March 1849, Punjab was annexed to the British-Raj.
The Fort of Galas?
The man who like a father kept Punjab as one home after Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s passing, has own house falling into the ruins.
Attari the village is now a small border town wrinkled between the two Goliath cities of Amritsar and Lahore.
Once assumed as the most beautiful fort, the fort of Attariwala is now nothing more than a big pile of mess.
No one will believe after seeing the current condition of the castle that this was the same building which hosted the fattest gala wedding ceremony of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s grandson.
The fort was originally built in the late 18th century on 50 acres of prime land.
Naunihal Singh, the grandson of Maharaja was married to the granddaughter of Sham Attariwala.
In his book ‘Remnants of the Sikh empire’ reputed Punjabi historian Bobby Singh Bansal affirms “on the day of marriage the proud Maharaja had taken Prince Nau Nihal on break of day to pay his curtsy at the Golden Temple.”
Once the religious ceremony was over entire royal escort of groom to approach Attari for the actual wedding Rituals.
“It is no exaggeration to state that when the front part of the royal escort group had arrived at Attari, the rare part of the escort group was still in Amritsar”, writes Bansal.
The fort which is holding so much of the history in every inch of it, is now seeing the ugly face of ‘Kalyuga’.
Almost the whole fort has been encroached by the localities who have wrecked the royalty of the historic building totally.
The previous politically critical garrison, which restricted who knows how many attackers has its strong walls dropped and people have constructed their own houses in the halls and rooms of the Forts.
Only a few glimpses of the old fort are left on the piece of land now.
The most disturbing part of the whole scenario was that when we asked the natives of Attari about the location and directions to the fort, even they weren’t able to locate it. They could only tell us about the memorial tomb of Sham Singh Attariwala and his family.
The Plot Thickens
Somehow we were succeeded in discovering the fort and what we found was not very pleasantry. No one was there to secure the castle, to take care of it, to keep the maintenance.
As we came to witness the castle we saw people living in the kitchens, store rooms and bathrooms of the castle, with the help of minimal construction.
Meanwhile, the Punjab and Indian Government which are making the replicas and E-copies of the relics in their new museums, sadly, are just letting the real monuments, buildings and structures slip through their hands that too with ease.
Just to check the list, the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs is maintaining a small Memorial Tomb at the entrance of the Attari village, no one dared/cared to look after the last remaining things of the most fierce and well treasured general of Sikh Army.