ANCESTRY AND EARLY LIFE
In the famous district of Jullundur of which one finds mention in the old Aryan literature, there is a Tehsil by the name of Nawanshahr (New Town); in this Tehsil and in the Thana of Banga is situated a village of certain importance known as Khatkar Kalan (The Great Khatkar).
This place used to be a fortress once belonging to a feudal chief who had, besides this, a number of other fortresses, but these were smaller than this and for this reason these were called Garh Khurd (Small fort). The place of my birth was called Garh Kalan (Big fort).
A member of the family of my ancestors who lived in the district of Lahore in a village called Narli had, in days gone by during the Mughal period, left his village in his youth for the purpose of carrying the ashes of the family members cremated in Narli to the sacred water of Ganges at Haridwar. On his way one evening seeing it getting dark, he reached the big fortress mentioned above, and asked the gate-keeper if he could stop there for the night. Upon this the gate-keeper sent a ward through a young boy to the lord of the fortress who ordered that the young stranger be brought into his presence. The young man was received into the big saloon where the lord with his wife and his beautiful young daughter [was] sitting at ease. The stranger saluted the family very politely which was responded with no less civility. The very attractive, manly and handsome face of the young visitor with his bright eyes impressed the family so well that they all got up to give him a hearty welcome. He was invited to sit on a chair between the lord and the lady facing their daughter. A warm conversation about his journey and the cause of the same kept them busy till the dinner was ready. At the table they had become pretty familiar. However, something strange was happening while the host and the hostess were busy talking to their guest. The young daughter of the hosts was getting enamored of the guest, [their] eyes on meeting each other carried the deepest and the most intimate message from and to one another.
After dinner the family listened to some stories of adventure of their young guest with great interest. Had he not insisted on going to bed early so as to get up early in the morning and resume his journey, they would have liked him to go on narrating his stories till dawn. The lord accompanied him to the mansion especially kept for his son, guests and seeing him comfortably settled withdrew bidding him a good night.
On his return to his mistress (sic) he found his daughter talking to her mother about the charms she perceived in the young guest of the night, and expressed the desire of becoming wife of one like him. Without expressing it, the parents seemed to have the same idea. They admired the young man before their daughter and said words in appreciation of his manners, loveliness and bold and frank attitude. And they went to sleep as well. But the lord before going to bed ordered his servants to wake him up in the morning as soon as their guest woke up.
Next morning the young man got up at about four, and made himself busy with his toilet. The servant according to his master's order had gone to wake him up. The host and the guest seemed to be quick because at about half past four both had gone through their toilets and were dressed up, ready for the new day's work.
The host came to the young man's room, saluted him, patted on his back to show affection and asked him abruptly, "Are you married young man?" "Not yet", replied the young fellow, Then the lord of the fortress asked the young man if he would on his return journey give him the honour of being their guest for the second time. To this the young man agreed and saying good-bye the host and the guest separated.
The young man had understood, especially after his being questioned about his being married, what the invitation of his host meant. So he went on his journey musing about the idea, and making castles in the air just thinking about his future life, planning the building of a suitable house for himself and his beloved.
He had yet to walk for many a day, but there was something in him now which pushed him on to reach the sacred river, the Ganges, the soonest possible. He continued his journey enthusiastically and soon reached Haridwar. Here he took his ablutions, entrusted the sacred remains of his family members to mother Ganges, dipped his body ill the fresh stream and started his backward journey.
Free from all anxiety and full of hope and enthusiasm about his future life, he was marching by strides so much so that he reached the fortress a week earlier than the time he had calculated at the time of his departure.
In his absence preparations were made to receive him not as a stranger but as the would-be-husband of the fair daughter of the lord of the place. The only favor asked by the parents was that the couple should not move from there but they should stay with them not as guests but as masters of the place. Thus it was that' the big fortress given in dowry served as a residence for the newly married couple, From the day of the marriage onward the place began to be called Khat Garh Kalan (Dowry big fortress). The position got changed altogether and the former proprietors who had resolved to give their fortress as a dowry at the marriage of their only child to their son-in-law became the guests of their daughter and son-in-law.
It is from this couple that our family descends. By the march of time the walls of the fortress were demolished, and the foundations of big village and the deep ditches that surrounded the fortress were changed into four big tanks which survive till today, and served as a bathing place for the people, the ducks and other animals as well. When heavy rains come, two of these tanks, sometimes three of them, get united by the flood leaving one point which is the highest, uncovered by waters and where the ducks on such occasions prefer to lay their eggs.
The ancestors of the family used to hold a dewan (Darbar) where justice was administered and receptions held
That place is still called by the name of Dewan Khana (or the court room).
During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and long before that our family people lived as and were considered to be feudal lords who supplied a fixed number of soldiers to the state in times of war. Sikh national flag was raised and upheld under the patronage of my ancestors and as a commemoration of that there was a spacious building sixty yards long where four times bi a year people collected in sufficient numbers and celebrated cerem6nies of the historical national flag. The place is known by the name of Jhandaji i.e. the respectable flag. The maintenance of this place or (Temple) Gurudwara depends on the donations offered by the people who come from most of the villages in the districts of Jullundhur and Hoshiarpur. So much respect was in the heart of the founder of our family in Khat Kalan for the sacred national flag that when once people from Narli came and begged him to shift back to the residence of his fore-lathers, he told them that first of all he did not want to leave the place because of the pledge he had given to his father in-law and mother-in-law but there was another and important reason for not abandoning the place. It was the flag which he respected more than his own life.
One of my forefathers seeing that the foreigners after the death of Ranjit Singh, Maharaja of the Punjab, had begun the mischievous game of usurping tile lights of the people and of enslaving the inhabitants of the only leally national independent country in the continent of India i.e., the Punjab, resolved to take up arms for repelling British intruders. He joined the forces that were fighting against the British, and took valiant part in the famous battles at Mudki2 , Aliwal3 and Sabraon.4 As a result of fighting against British the Jagirs held by our family got reduced. But when some Chiefs and Rajas went to help the Britishers in 1857 against their own compatriots who were fighting a war of independence sacrificing their lives for the liberation of their countrymen from the terrible yoke of the English imperialists, Sardar Fateh Singh , my dear grand father was also invited by the Majithia Sardar Surat Singh the father of late Sunder Singh He bluntly refused to take up such an abject task. He was told by S. Surat Singh that the lost Jagirs of family would be recovered or substituted by others if he accompanied him to fight against the troops that taken in the morning to the sugarcane fields where on my return from the fields I used to come sucking the sugarcane all along the way and hearing the details of the Sikh wars for the defence of their country and some details of the event occurring about a decade later, the Indian war of independence of 1857. I asked him how the foreigners could succeed against the Indian patriots in 1857. He told me regretfully that it was due to the help rendered by tile Punjabis that the foreigners could remain in India to suppress all the liberties and exploit in the worst possible way this land of our forefathers. These tales created a curiosity in my mind to have a chance of seeing the foreigners who bad remained as rulers in our country. I saw sometimes a Tehsildar or Sub-Inspector coming to our place. They were all Punjabis.With S. Fateh Singh I could not get a chance of seeing all Englishman or an English officer. But I succeeded in seeing English officer by going in the company of S. Surjan Singh who used to run after the foreigners, i saw my uncle salaaming first the officer who was younger than him and he did not know how to speak our language well. I rather laughed at his expressions. My uncle was making me signs of stopping my laughter, but I could not help. My uncle said that I was his nephew. This foreigner looked to be annoyed on seeing that I did not salute him. My uncle talked with him a little bit more. After that the officer rode his horse and said to my uncle, Ham Nawanshahr Janeko mallgta hal, Tumko lot sakta hai and there the fellow spurred his horse and away he went. I and my uncle returned home. He looked to be annoyed with me and said : "1 will never bring you with me to see a Saheb in future." I asked my uncle if Saheb was this foreigner's name or all foreigners were called Sahebs. He said, "All Englishmen are called S'ahebs. You are a foolish boy, why did you not salute him?" Upon which I said, "He was more foolish than I, all he
spoke was wrong. I although a child could teach him to speak. His parents must be idiots who did not leach him to speak correctly. Why should I salute such a foolish man?" I was told to shut up. So we did not speak for a few minutes, then the silence was broken by myself. I asked my uncle why this fellow was seen here and what was his job. Uncle said he was a Saheb which means a milord and master. asked him again, "Why don't you rule? Why should be come? You are older than him, more intelligent than be looks to be. He does not even know how to talk nor does be understood what people tell him." My uncle again told me that I was talking nonsense. By this time we had reached our Dewan Khana from where he sent me home with a message of sending for him a glass of Lussie.~ The impression I had was not very good. I heard several times after
that my uncle saying to the people that he was going to see a Saheb, but he did not lake me along with him. Another day by chance I was playing with my cousin near a well bythe side of the metalled road leading to Nawanshahar and Rahon when an Englishman accompanied by some Indians appeared there. He alighted from the horse, and looking back towards our village I saw my uncle just at a distance of a few steps. As I knew he did not like me to be near him when there was some Saheb, I concealed myself behind a tree and from there I watched my uncle salute the Saheb with a great bow which irritated me. I heard him talking to this new foreigner. My impression of a Saheb remained the same which I had formed by seeing one the first time because the second fellow looked as foolish as the former. This time the uncle accompanied him on his journey and I could not follow them. In the evening when my uncle returned, I told him that all the Sahebs were ignorant people. None of them knew to speak correctly. I heard this new fellow talking to him today, "Ham Jana" meaning thereby, "we go." That made me laugh. Uncle asked how could I bear his talk to him. I told him that I was hiding behind the tree near the well and heard this talk. My curiosity was thus satisfied and the conclusion I had drawn was l would not take the Saheb as servants nor give them any job as all of them were fools.
As a kid I was taken alongwith my elder brother to Anandpur for the performance of the ceremony of Sikh Baptism which is called Pohal or Amrit chhakna. It was the time of Holi festival which the Sikhs, after their masculine fashion, call Hola. I remember very well the sugar water given to us as a drink for making us Singhs and immortals, A part of it was sprinkled on the faces as a sign of sanctification. This ceremony teaches the person who undergoes ti not to fear death, and to fight against the oppressors, tyrants and the unjust people and to protect the weak, the poor, the old, the children and womenfolk from all sorts of molestation. From that day onward one has to be pure in body and heart. This is why the Sikhs are called Khalsa i.e. pure. After the ceremony is performed those having out-wardly an appearance of the Khalsa but having their hearts and sometime their bodies too full of impurities are a disgrace to the panth and to the sacred cause. [This was]
preached by the Guru. On the Hola festival a red colour substance known as Gulal was thrown on the faces and clothes of people joining the festival. It appeared quite lovely to see people with new clothes, faces and bodies besmeared with the red colour, going to Anandpur on a festival for the ceremony of Pohal Our family from the
time of the tenth Guru always took the male members there.
I had my primary education in my village. My father knew Persian thoroughly well and had studied Arabic grammar as well. He had studied, besides, the Unani system of medicine. He began to teach us the Persian language soon after we had learnt the Urdu alphabet and we could read Urdu, Persian and Arabic words because it contains all the letters of Arabic alphabet...Thus [at an] early age I and my elder brother had read Gulistan (the Garden of Roses)l~ which was written by the great and immortal Persian author, Sadi. I passed middle from Banga. When I was studying in middle my father, who was a sympathiser of Arya Samaj, took me to all annual gathering of Arya Samaj. There I heard a lecture on the benefits of wearing swadeshi cloth. He [the speaker] explained how the use of foreign cloth was proving a drain on the wealth of the nation. On my return, I called the village weaver, and the whole family took to swadeshi, From that day my feeling went on increasing that the alien rule was undesirable.
S. Dilbagh Singh, one of' my cousins, used to study in a Mission School where the teachers were British missionaries. I used to take it ill. I insisted on my uncle that we must start a school in Jullundur where we should have teachers of our country who should be patriots. The local Arya Samaj wanted to start a school there. Lala Sunder Dass, A prominent Arya Samajist, agreed to become Headmaster. So my uncle started a school in Jullundur. I passed my Matriculation Examinallon from that School. Sunder Dass was a great patriot. He used to preach patriotism in his speeches in school. Being a religious institution, they used to regard the Muslims as foreigners. He wrote a book called Pearl Necklace containing stories of Rajput bravery and heroism, particularly of Rang Pratap, also of Sikh Gurus. In my opinion these religious institutions have done a great harm to the country by creating division among communities of India. Sunder Dass used to preach swadeshi. As a result about 70 per cent of student, in that school took to swadeshi. It was about I893 or 1894. After finishing my education there I came to D.A.V. College. Lahore. Principal Hans Raju was very kind to me and he used to tell us about the history of other countries. I used to ask him questions about sacrifices people had made in their countries. I read Urdu translation of Garibaldi's and Mazzini's life stories and this had good effect on me. Mulk Raj Bhalla wrote stories and poems called Shahidon kl Kahanian. I read this book also and this had a powerful effect on my mind. I read stories of sacrifices of the Guru’s in Punjabi. I was much impressed by their spirit of sacrifice and service of man. After finishing my education in Lahore I went to Barreilly College to study law. I remember in Barreilly for a year or so but did nor take my studies seriously because by then political consciousness had awakened in me and taken a firm root . I had begun hating the alien rule through and through and wanted to see my country independent. I had also developed a revolutionary trend in me.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the ruler of Punjab from 1799 to I839.
On December 18, 1845 was fought the opening battle of the first Anglo-Sikh War at Mudki a small village about twenty miles from Ferozepur.
The battle of Aliwal was fought on the morning of Sunday, January 28.1846.
The final and the decisive engagement of the First Anglo-Sikh war was fought at Sabraon, a village on the left bank of the SAtluj, on February 10.1846.
Sardar Sural Singh Majithla was an Honorary Magistrate and a rich Jagirdar who had been granted a Jagir by the Government in recognition of his help in the great rebellion of 1857. He had close associations with some of the Sikh state particularly, Patiala and Faridkot.
B. 1872; Sikh leader and social reformer: Secretary of the Chief Khalsa Dewan and Khalsa College, Amritsar; president of the Sikh Educational Conference four times from 1908 to 1940; additional member of the Punjab Legislative Council from 1911 to l916 nominated member of the imperial Legislative Council
in 1916; member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council in 1919 as a representative of the Sikh community; member of the punjab Cabinet in 1937; d. 1941.
I wish to go Io Nawanshahr; you can go back.
Guru Gobind Singh, 1666-1708
The correct translation is "The Garden of Flowers".
B.1860; Principal, D.A.V. College, Lahore, 1888-1911 President National Social Conference 1919; d. 1938.
"Stolies of Martyrs".