|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 Governments
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 Singhs
joining the Rising.
The great moment of Kunwar Singhs 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
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
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).