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Hari Singh Nalwa (Punjabi: ਹਰੀ ਸਿੰਘ ਨਲਵਾ)(1791-1837) is honoured as one of the most celebrated Sikh warriors. He was born in Gujranwalamarker, Punjab. He served as the Commander-in-Chief of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's kingdom along the Indus frontier, which bordered the Kingdom of Kabul. He took the North West Frontier of the Sikh Kingdom across the river Indusmarker, annexing a large portion of the Afghan Kingdom. At the time of his death, the western boundary of the Sikh Kingdom touched the foothills of the Hindu Kushmarker mountains. After him, no further conquests were made in that direction.

Early life

Hari Singh was born into an Uppal Khatri family at Gujranwalamarker (now in Pakistanmarker). His parents were Gurdas Singh and Dharam Kaur. He became fatherless at a very young age, when his father died in 1798.

Military career

Sir Henry Griffin called Nalwa the "Murat of the Khalsa". A British newspaper had asserted in the early twentieth century that had Nalwa the resources and the artillery of the British, he would have conquered the East and extended the boundaries of the Sikh Kingdom to include Europe. This most famous of the great Sikh generals participated in the following conquests: Sialkotmarker, Kasurmarker (1807), Multanmarker (1818), Kashmirmarker (1819), Pakhli and Damtaurmarker (1821-2), Peshawarmarker (1834) and finally Jamrudmarker (1837) in the Khyber Hills. He served as the governor of both Kashmir and Peshawar. A coin minted in Kashmir came to be known as the 'Hari Singhee'). The coin is on display in museums.

Hari Singh earned the cognomen 'Nalwa' after he killed a tiger without the aid of firearms. In 1836, the German, Baron von Hügel, and an Englishman, Godfrey Vigne, visited Hari Singh at his residence in Gujranwala. Hügel writes that he surprised Hari Singh Nalwa:

Sardar Hari Singh was fatally wounded during the Battle of Jamrud, while the major part of the Sikh army was stationed in Amritsar for display before the British Commander-in-chief, Henry Fane, who had come to attend the wedding of Ranjit Singh's grandson. Had Nalwa not risen to face the challenge posed by the Afghans, the entire North West Frontier of the Sikh Kingdom would have been lost. Hari Singh Nalwa was victorious even in his death, and the Sikhs succeeded in with-holding the fort of Jamrud.

Hari Singh was struck by two balls, one in the side and the other in the stomach. He knew he was mortally wounded, but fearing to discourage his men, he turned his horse's head, and managed to ride as far as his tent. He swooned as he was taken from his horse, and half an hour later the bravest of the Sikh Generals - "the man with the terror of whose name Afghan mothers used to quiet their fretful children" was dead.


Haripur citymarker, tehsil and districtmarker, in Hazara, North-West Frontier Provincemarker, Pakistanmarker, are named after him. Had Nalwa had lived long, many feel that the British would never have been able to enter the Punjab. He defeated the Afghans, something the British failed to do, and annexed a segment of what was the Kingdom of Kabulmarker to the Sikh Kingdom.

Nalwa was the consummate example of the Sikh saint-soldier, and India owes much to his strategic genius. His descendants live in India and abroad. This runs counter to the story of Maharajah Ranjit Singh's line, which was forever destroyed by the British, who abducted his children and took them to England, where they were held hostage against the threat of India rising against British rule. Nalwa was the senior most member of Ranjit's court. His son, Jawahir Singh, led the famous charge at the Battle of Chillianwala, a battle in which the British suffered a retreat. Another son, Arjan Singh, also posed a tough challenge to the British as they struggled to annex the Punjab.


A very popular nineteenth century British newspaper, Tit-Bits, made a comparative analysis of great generals of the world and arrived at the following conclusion:

"Some people might think that Napoleon was a great General. Some might name Marshall Hendenburgh, Lord Kitchener, General Karobzey or Duke of Wellington etc. And some going further might say Halaku Khan, Genghis Khan, Changez Khan, Richard or Allaudin etc. But let me tell you that in the North of India a General of the name of Hari Singh Nalwa of the Sikhs prevailed. Had he lived longer and had the sources and artillery of the British, he would have conquered most of Asia and Europe…."

Hari Singh Nalwa's meeting with various British and a German travellers are recorded. Baron Charles von Hügel remembers him fondly in his memoirs. He met the Sardar at his residence in Gujranwala. On that occasion the German was gifted a portrait of Nalwa in the act of killing a tiger. Hari Singh Nalwa was fluent in the Persian language. He was also conversant with Punjabi, Gurmukhi script and Pushtu, the latter being the language of the Pashtuns. He was familiar with world politics, including details about the European states.

He rebuilt the Bala Hisar Fortmarker in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's name.

Accolades continued coming long after Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa's death. Pannikar perhaps sums him up best — “The noblest and the most gallant of the Sikh generals of his time, the very embodiment of honour, chivalry, and courage…”

See also


  1. Nalwa, V. (2009), Hari Singh Nalwa - Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar, p. 284, ISBN 8173047855.
  2. Hari Singh Nalwa Foundation Trust
  8. Caroe, Olaf. 1958. The Pathans 550BC-AD1957, London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., p.313
  9. Tehsils & Unions in the District of Haripur - Government of Pakistan
  10. Nalwa, V. (2009), Hari Singh Nalwa - Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar, p. 279-80, ISBN 8173047855
  11. Nalwa, V. (2009), Hari Singh Nalwa - Champion of the Khalsaji, New Delhi: Manohar, p. 278-9, ISBN 8173047855
  12. [1]
  14. K.M. Panikkar in The Founding of the Kashmir State, 1930 (Historian, Author, Diplomat and Editor, Hindustan Times, 1925)

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