Of the leaders of the Ramgarhia Misl during the earliest period of its existence Sardar Jassa Singh was the most distinguished, although he can hardly be called its founder.
BIRTH & FAMILY
Har Dass, the grandfather of Sardar Jassa Singh, was a resident of Sur Singh, a large village in the Lahore district. He took Pahul (the Sikh baptism) from the hands of Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself and leaving the plough became one of his personal attendants. After the JotiJot of the Guru Ji, he joined the following of the Banda and took part in almost every religious battle under his flag against the Mughal Empire. In 1716 AD., he died in a skirmish. After him his son Sardar Bhagwan Singh became the head of the family, and with 200 followers entered the Imperial forces under the Governor of Lahore. Owing to his ability he rose to be a distinguished officer. He died fighting for his master in 1739 at Lahore, when Nadar Shah invaded India and the Governor resisted him ineffectually.
Bhagwan Singh had five sons, named Jai Singh, Jassa Singh, Khushal Singh, Mali Singh and Tara Singh.
Sardar Jassa Singh, the eldest, now became the head of the family. He was appointed a Risaldar by the Imperial Governor of Lahore, and the following villages were given to him in jagir Valla, Verka, Sultanwind, Tung and Chabba (all of these are now in the Amritsar district). On the death of Khan Bahadur, the Governor of Lahore, in 1746, Sardar Jassa Singh, together with his followers, joined his Sikh brethren at Amritsar.
The Dal Khalsa: the Buddha Dal and the Taruna Dal
In 1733, the Mughal government decided, at the insistence of Zakarya Khan, to stop the persecution of the Sikhs and made an offer of a grant to them. The title of Nawab was conferred upon their leader, with a jagir consisting of the three parganas of Dipalpur, Kanganval and Jhabal.
After some mutual discussion, (five revered Sikhs) – Baba Deep Singh, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Hari Singh Dhillon, Bhai Karam Singh and Bhai Buddh Singh decided to make Kapur Singh the Supreme Leader of the Sikhs. Kapur Singh was thus chosen for the title and became Nawab Kapur Singh.
Word was sent round to Sikhs living in distant jungles and deserts that peace had been made with the government and that they could now return to their homes. Nawab Kapur Singh undertook the task of consolidating the disintegrated fabric of the Sikh Jathas. They were merged into a single central fighting force (The Dal) divided into two sections – The Budha Dal, the army of the veterans, and the Taruna Dal, the army of the young. Hari Singh Dhillon was elected leader of the Taruna Dal. The former was entrusted with the task of looking after the holy places, preaching the word of the Gurus and inducting converts into the Khalsa Panth by holding baptismal ceremonies.
The Taruna Dal was the more active division and its function was to fight in times of emergencies and fighting the Afghan armies of Ahmed Shah Abdali. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia were then youngsters who led regiments under Hari Singh Dhillon in the Taruna Dal, reporting to Nawab Kapur Singh at Diwali and Vaisakhi.
The rise of the Misls
The Taruna Dal rapidly grew in strength and soon numbered more than 12,000. To ensure efficient control, Nawab Kapur Singh split it into five parts, each with a separate command. The first group was led by Baba Deep Singh, the second by Karam and Dharam Singh, the third by Kahan singh and Binod Singh of Goindwal, the fourth by Dasaundha Singh of Kot Budha and the fifth by Vir Singh Ranghreta and Jivan Singh Ranghreta. Each group had its own banner and drum, and formed the nucleus of a separate political state. The territories conquered by these groups were entered in their respective papers at the Akal Takht by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. From these misls (documents), the principalities carved out by them came to be known as Misls. Seven more groups were formed subsequently and, towards the close of the century, there were altogether twelve Sikh Misls ruling the Punjab.
The Ramgarhia Misl
In 1716 Ahmed Shah Durrani left Lahore, Adina Beg the Afghan Governor of Punjab was hunting for the heads of the sikhs, they dispersed and scattered in all directions. Jassa Singh and others in the band took refuge in the mud fort of Ram Rauni near Amritsar where they were surrounded and attacked during the ensuing period. In 1758 Adina Beg died and there was a power vacuum in Punjab and those who escaped from the fort of Ram Rauni assumed the name of Ramgarhias and Jassa Singh became its head.The Misal (Confederacy) was called Ramgarhia.
The main concentration of the Misl was in and around the Riarki area of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Batala (in Majha). The Ramgarhia constructed and fortified the mud fortress of Ram Rauni just outside Amritsar. It was named in honour of the founder of the city, the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das. His Misl contained more than 10000 cavalry who were always on the move, helping the Dal Khalsa whenever the Mughals or Afghans attacked. Whilst the Mughal administration controlled the cities, it was the Sikhs who were in control of the villages. Twenty years earlier, Banda Bahadur had wreaked havoc on the Mughal administration by abolishing all taxes and the Zamindari system. Now only a “dasvand” (10% of income) was levied on the Sikhs – as protection tax to pay for the armies.