AKALI PHULA SINGH (1761-1823), a Sikh hero and an eminent religious figure of the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born in 1761 at the village of Shihari, now in ruins, about 5 km west of Miinak, in present day Sangrur district of the Punjab. His father, Ishar Singh, an associate of the Nishanarivali misi, died in 1762 fighting Ahmad Shah Dmrani in Vadda Ghallughara, the Great Carnage, leaving his infant son to the care of Baba Narain (Naina) Singh who belonged to (he Shahid misl. Baba Narain Singh brought him up and instructed him in the Sikh texts as well as in the methods of warfare.
Jathedari of Akal Takhat sahib, Amritsar
Akali Phula Singh joined an order of nihang at an early age. At the age of eighteen, Phula was transferred to the fort of Gobindgarh. There, he formed a band of nihang separate from the others serving at the fort. When Phula Singh returned to Amritsar later that year with his band of nihang, he had found the Maharaja to be the new ruler of the city. He and his band of nihang joined the Maharajah and in 1807 he was elevated to the position of the Jathedar of Amritsar.
When Maharaja Ranjit Singh wedded a Muslim woman, apparently to Muslim traditions in Amritsar; Phula Singh was again angered by the king’s actions. He then declared to the entire Sikh Empire that the Maharajah no longer believed in the ways of Khalsa. Ranjit Singh came to Harmandir Sahib and admitted that he had made a mistake and was ordered to 50 lashes by Phula Singh, a punishment which the king accepted. Phula Singh then asked the gathered Sikhi community if the Maharajah should be pardoned of his mistake, as he was forgiven, Ranjit Singh vowed never to wed again.
Respected by Maharaja Ranjit Singh
In 1802, Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent his army to take over Amritsar and annex it to his kingdom. On the advice of Akali Phoola Singh, the Maharaja agreed to give an estate to the Bhangi Misl, then ruling Amritsar. He also ordered the army not to loot the inhabitants of the city.
In 1807, Phoola Singh was, for the first time, involved in a major battle against the Nawab of Kasoor, who had the protection of a strong fort. The Sikhs fought bravely and were finally able to demolish a section of the wall. The Nawab was arrested. The Sikhs took pity on him and allotted him an estate near the Satluj river. The bravery of Akali Ji during the battle very much impressed the Maharaja.
In 1808, a British representative was sent to Amritsar for talks for developing better relations between the two governments. A Muslim platoon with the British emissary organized a procession to celebrate their festival chanting loud slogans. When passing near the Akal Takhat, they were advised not to create noise, because it disturbed the Sikh congregation. However, the leaders of the procession insulted the Sikhs instead of listening to their suggestion. On hearing this disturbing news, Akali Ji himself went to settle the matter with the British platoon. The soldiers apologized and behaved respectfully in the future. No more noisy processions were taken near the Gurdwara again
The Sikh Nation bereaved
Unfortunately, the Sikhs sustained a grievous wound: the death of Akali Phoola Singh. A Pathan, hiding behind a boulder, shot Akali Ji from close range as he was pressing the Pathans to retreat.
Thus, the Sikhs lost their great General, a true Sikh. He was a fearless and skilled commander. He maintained the Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier) tradition of the Khalsa. Akali Phoola Singh Ji remains a role model for all Sikhs.