Patriots >Leaders of the Revolt > Singh ,Kunwar
Singh ,Kunwar (1778 - 1858 )
Kunwar Singh belonged to the Parmar branch of Rajputs. Originally belonging to he Ujjain area, they had migrated eastwards in the fourteenth century and settled at different places in Bihar-Dawa, Matila, Bhojpur and Jagdishpur (all in Shahbad district). They were locally known as Ujjainya Rajputs because of the place of their origin. Kunwar Singh belonged to the Jagdishpur branch of the family. He was the eldest son of Sahabzada Singh and was born probably in 1778. Spirited and adventurous by nature, Kunwar Singh was more inclined to strenuous, martial sports and to outdoor life than to education.

Kunwar Singh married the daughter of Raja Fatah Narain Singh of Deo, a wealthy zamindar of Gaya district. He had a son named Dalbhajan Singh, who predeceased him. He also had some concubines, including one Dharman Bibi, who accompanied him on his journeys outside Bihar during the Rising of 1857-58. Two mosques built by her at Arrah and Jagdishpur are still extant.

Kunwar Singh succeeded to the gaddi (ancestral estate) sometime in 1826. He owned a large, valuable landed estate comprising two pargranas and several talukas of the Shahabad district. The total annual income of the estate was about rupees six lakhs. But several factors, including family litigations, extravagant living, generosity beyond his means and, above all, the machinations of his own staff with unscrupulous creditors, combined to put the estate under ruinous debts which amounted to rupees twenty lakhs on the eve of the Rising of 1857.

On the recommendation of some European district officials, with many of whom Kunwar Singh was on friendly terms, the Government made some arrangements in 1854-55 to regulate and ease the financial burden of Kunwar Singh. An Agent was appointed to administer the estate and collect the revenue. After paying the Government’s rent and defraying the collection charges, he was to repay the debts by installments.

The arrangement proved helpful to Kunwar Singh, for just a month before the Rising he wrote to the Government that the arrangement might be continued for some time more so that all his debts might be repaid. But the Government sat over the matter, and this was, according to the Divisional Commissioner of Patna, one of the contributory causes of Kunwar Singh’s joining the Rising.

The great moment of Kunwar Singh’s life began with the revolt of the Indian Regiment stationed at Dinapur on 25 July 1857. Marching

on to Arrah, where they were joined by Kunwar Singh, they besieged the European district officials and some civilians in the ‘Arrah - and beat back a relieving force sent from Patna under Captain Dunbar. But the besieged garrison was relieved by Major Eyre on 23 August and Kunwar Singh withdrew to Jagdishpur. Subsequently, he marched out of Bihar and made earnest efforts to organize the anit-English forces at some places in the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Passing through Mirzapur and Rewa, he arrived at Banda in September with a view to joining Tantia Tope. He was joined by the Gwalior forces at Kalpi, and fought in the battle of Kanpur in December. Subsequently, he arrived in Lucknow, where the King of Oudh awarded him a robe of honour and a farman for the area comprising the Azamgarh district. During the next three months Kunwar Singh fought a number of engagements against the Government forces and occupied Azamgarh for some time. Pressed by the Government forces, he decided in April 1858 to return to his home district.

Fighting a careful rearguard action, he crossed the Ganges at Sheopur Ghat, ten miles below Ballia, and re-entered Jagdishpur on 22 April 1858. He was greviously injured during the retreat and lost his right hand. The next day a force under Captian Le Grand proceeded to attack the old, injured veteran, but it was repulsed. Three days later, Kunwar Singh died of injuries and exhaustion.

A man of generous disposition, Kunwar Singh gave numerous grants to individuals and for the maintenance of shrines, including a Muslim shrine in the Patna City. On the establishment of the Arrah Zilla School in 1846, he not only donated the land for the building but also gave a cash donation of rupees one hundred. He got a Shiva temple and a tank constructed at Jagdishpur. He was an admirer and a patron of men well versed in martial sports, such as riding, shooting, archery etc. He invited such experts to Jagdishpur and retained them for long periods to train his men in those arts.

Paying a tribute to Kunwar Singh, a contemporary English writer described him as a man “who at eighty years old…inflicted on us a defeat complete and tragical; who exacted from the unruly mutineers as obedience which they paid to none other; who led his force in person to Lucknow and took a leading part in the struggle which decided the destines of India,” and expressed relief over the fact that “ it was uncommonly lucky for us that Coer Singh was not forty years younger” (George O. Trevelyan -‘Competition Wallah’, 1866).

Author : K. K. Datta