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Remembering the legendary warrior
Col JP Singh12/10/2018 10:13:48 PM
In the nineteenth century, otherwise bereft of historical achievements in Indian History, Maharaja Gulab Singh and Gen Zorawar Singh stand out as great conquerors. A vast Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir in the Northwest of India was their monumental creation. For as long as there are wars, there will be discussions and debate to highlight accounts of the soldiers who fight, the officers who lead, the Generals who strategize and the conquerors who make history and leave their foot prints on the sands of time. Duggarland has many legendary accounts of emperors, conquerors, generals and the soldiers. One such legendary account worth commemorating is of Gen Zorawar Singh, the Conqueror. When a soldier wields a pen, it provides an insight into fundamental issues of warfare for the benefit of society who never get exposures to the challenges of the military profession. Hence Dogra General known as 'Napoleon of the East' world over, just can't go unwritten from a soldier columnist. Moreover General Zorawar Singh Memorial Educational & Charitable Trust, recently formed by the descendants of the Dogra warrior, will be celebrating General's Martyrdom on 12 December 2018 at Balidan Stambh as a public function in collaboration with the army & JKESL. The effort to commemorate successes of the Dogra warrior and moreover to share with the public must be cherished.
The 'Dogra General' is said to be a native of Bilaspur in Himachal whereas some sources suggest Kussal near Reasi as his native place. When young, he impressed Raja Gulab Singh with his innate ability and earned the title of Wazir by bringing about fiscal and judicial reforms in his kingdom. As Governor of Kishtwar, he sensed internal unrest in Ladakh which led him to cross Himalayas in April 1834. With his 5000 Dogra soldiers he marched into Ladakh through the Suru Valley. Initially he faced stiff resistance. After fighting pitched battles at Sanku, Lang Kartse, Sot and Pashkam Valley, the Dogras marched on to capital Leh. Ladakhi King Tsepal Namgyal accepted suzerainty of Raja Gulab Singh with annual tribute of Rs 20,000. Having reinstalled Tsepal on the throne, Dogra General returned to Kishtwar. Ladakhis, however revolted soon. Gen Zorawar Singh returned to launch a second invasion. This time he force marched through most difficult but a shorter route via Zanskar. He quelled the rebellion, deposed the King and appointed his Wazir Nagrub Stanzin as the ruler. Later he also revolted. Dogra General had to make yet three more incursions into Ladakh before it was finally annexed into Dogra Raj in 1840. With Ladakh firmly under control, the challenge lay to the Northwest. Gen Zorawar Singh undertook yet another most strategic Trans-Himalayan adventure. He attacked Skardu, Northwest of Kargil, the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan, a strong Balti Principality in the Indus Valley. Decision to invest it was influenced by various factors. The Silk Route starting from Leh to Central Asia and beyond passed through Gilgit-Baltistan. He defeated Balti ruler Ahmad Shah and installed his estranged son Muhammad Shah as the ruler. Dogras had to face high mountains, impassable frozen rivers, extremely cold climate and intermittent hunger & starvation while reaching Gilgit and fighting the Baltis. At last the Tarns-Himalayan Kingdom was under the control of Dogra Ruler in 1840. This was because of Gen Zorawar Singh.
Having consolidated Northwest, the ambitious Dogra thought of extending the Dogra empire into Western Tibet. He entered Tibet through Pangong Tso in May 1941. Having cleared enemy resistance enroute, he passed the Mansarovar Lake and converged on to Ghartok and defeated the Tibet force positioned there. Thereafter General stormed the Taklakot around which Mt. Kailash, Mansarovar and lake Raksh Tal are located. These places are considered very sacred by Hindus because of Lord Shiva's abode. By September 1841, he captured Taklakot despite tough fight given by the Tibetans. His ambition of annexing Western Tibet thus fulfilled he was to return to Jammu. (The force which won Taklakot was named Fateh Shivji, the legacy inherited by 4 JAK RIF). Ironically the Dogra warrior was not destined to reap the fruits of conquest of Holy Land. Lahasa launched a counter-attack to recapture Taklakot in December by which time severe winter had set in and heavy snow fall had closed the passes. In the fierce battle, on 12 December 1841, the Dogra warrior was hit on his right shoulder. Even though severely wounded, he kept fighting till martyred in the abode of Lord Shiva. There came the saga of conquests to an abrupt end but after having conquered the Great Himalayas considered unsurpassable. It was a unique and a rare feat of military conquest.
Tibetans constructed a memorial in Gen Zorawar Singh's honour in the shape of a Chorten (Samadhi) wherein remains of the warrior are lying in rest. Although it is mere stone erection, a few kms form Taklakot, at a secluded place, but shows that his martyrdom was not unceremonious even in the enemy land. This would be a unique case in the world history where an enemy Conqueror's Memorial lies built in a country. Premier Modi should take up with his Chinese counterpart for a befitting memorial in Taklakot for the ever lasting memory of all times greatest conqueror who created both history and geography. The monument should be easily accessible to the Dogras like Kartarpur Sahib to the Sikhs.
Those who have been to Leh would have seen Zorawar Fort with this inscription. 'Constructed in 1836 by Thanedar Manga on the orders of Wazir Zorawar Singh'. This fort is a national monument and is now managed by the Indian Army. A Museum has been housed in the Fort. It is dedicated to the brave Ladakhis and Dogra warriors who wrote history in the annals of High Altitude Warfare. This is what is the left over legacy of the great Dogra General. If his successes and achievements are not recounted they will be forgotten.
Although the great conqueror perished mid campaign, his initiative did not go unrewarded. In September 1842, a treaty was signed by representatives of Chinese & Lahasa govts on the one hand and Raja Gulab Singh on the other. The English version of the treaty is:- 'As on auspicious day of 16/17 September 1842, we, the officers of the Lahasa Govt, Kahlon of Sokan and Bakshi Shaji, commander of forces and two officers on behalf of Sri Khalsaji Sahib and Sri Maharaja Sahib Rajai-Rajgan Raja Sahib Bahadur Gulab Singh, the Muktar-ud-Daula Diwan Hari Chand and Vazir Ratnu, in a meeting called together for the promotion of peace, friendship, unity and by professions and vows of friendship, unity and sincerity of heart and taking oaths like those of Kunjak Sahib, have arranged and agreed that relations of peace, friendship and unity between Sri Khalsa ji and Sri maharaja Sahib Gulab Singhji and Emperor of China and Lama Guru of Lahasa will hence forward remain firmly established forever; and we declare in the presence of the Kunjak Sahib that on no account whatsoever will there be any deviation, difference of departure from this agreement'.
Because of Gen Zorawar Singh Ladakh region became part of Dogra empire and today is part of India. I think the nation doesn't know it because it not part of our history. Hence Sh Davinder Singh and his illustrious daughter Ms Diksha, who have undertaken to revisit gallantry of their ancestor -deserve compliments and public support to keep the light of Dogra star shining. It devolves upon Jammu leaders to emulate Tibet and Ladakh and have a befitting memorial built at Reasi.
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