BAGHEL SIṄGH (d. 1802), who succeeded in 1765 Karoṛā Siṅgh as leader of the Kāroṛsiṅghīā misl or chiefship, is celebrated in Sikh history as the vanquisher of Mughal Delhi. A Dhālīvāl Jaṭṭ, Baghel Siṅgh arose from the village of Jhabāl, in Amritsar district, to become a formidable force in the cis-Sutlej region. According to Syad Muhammad Latīf, he had under him 12, 000 fighting men. As well as being a soldier, he was an adept in political negotiation and was able to win over many an adversary to his side. The Mughals, the Ruhīlās, the Marāṭhās and the English sought his friendship. In the wake of the decay of Mughal authority in the Punjab owing to Ahmad Shāh Durrānī's successive invasions during the latter half of the eighteenth century, the Sikhs began extending their influence. Baghel Siṅgh took possession of portions of the Jalandhar Doāb and established himself at Hariāṇā, near Hoshiārpur. Soon after the Sikh conquest of Sirhind in January 1764, he extended his arms towards Karnāl, occupying a number of villages including Chhalaudī which he later made his headquarters.
In February 1764, Sikhs in a body of 40, 000 under the command of Baghel Siṅgh and other leading warriors crossed the Yamunā and captured Sahāranpur. They overran the territory of Najīb ud-Daulah, the Ruhīlā chief, realizing from him a tribute of eleven lakh of rupees. In April 1775, Baghel Siṅgh with two other sardārs, Rāi Siṅgh Bhāṅgī and Tārā Siṅgh Ghaibā, crossed the Yamunā to occupy that country, then ruled by Zābitā Khān, son and successor, of Najīb ud Daulah. Zābitā Khān in desperation offered Baghel Siṅgh large sums of money and proposed an alliance jointly to plunder the crown-lands. The combined forces of Sikhs and Ruhīlās looted villages around the present site of New Delhi. In March 1776, they defeated the imperial forces near Muzaffarnagar. The whole of the Yamunā Gangetic Doāb was now at their mercy. When in the autumn of 1779, a large Mughal army under the command of Prince Farkhandā Bakht and Wazīr Abdul Ahad Khān led an expedition against the cis-Sutlej Sikhs, Baghel Siṅgh along with Rāi Siṅgh of Būṛīā and Bhaṅgā Siṅgh of Thānesar joined hands with the imperial forces at Karnāl and encircled Paṭiālā. Rājā Amar Siṅgh visited Baghel Siṅgh in his camp at the village of Lahal and made peace with him and had his son, Sāhib Siṅgh, receive the rites of Khālsā initiation at his hands. Meanwhile, Amar Siṅgh had invited trans-Sutlej Sikhs for help. Baghel Siṅgh outwitted his imperial allies who sought safety in flight suffering heavy losses. When in April 1781, Mirzā Shafī, a close relative of the Mughal prime minister, captured the Sikh military post at Indrī, 10 km south of Lāḍvā, Baghel Siṅgh retaliated by attacking Khalīl Beg Khān of Shāhābād who surrendered with 300 horse, 800 foot and 2 pieces of cannon. When on 11 March 1783, Sikhs entered the Red Fort in Delhi and occupied the Dīwān-i- Ām, the Mughal emperor, Shāh Ālam II, made a settlement with them agreeing to allow Baghel Siṅgh to raise gurdwārās on Sikh historical sites in the city and realize six ānnās in a rupee (37. 5%) of all the octroi duties in the capital. Baghel Siṅgh stayed in Sabzī Maṇḍī, with 4000 troops, and took charge of the police station in Chāndnī Chowk. He located seven sites connected with the lives of the Gurūs and had shrines raised thereon within the space of eight months, from April to November 1783. Gurdwārā Sīs Gañj marked the spot in the main Mughal street of Chāndnī Chowk where Gurū Tegh Bahādur had been executed under the fiat of the emperor and Gurdwārā Rikābgañj, near modern-day Parliament House, where the body was cremated. Baṅglā Sāhib and Bālā Sāhib commemorated the Eighth Gurū, Gurū Har Krishan. Three other gurdwārās built were at Majnū kā Ṭillā, Motī Bāgh and Telīvāṛā.
Baghel Siṅgh died probably in 1802, at Hariāṇā, in present-day Hoshiārpur district. A samādh enshrining the memory of one of the more picturesque misl sardārs still stands in the town.
Harī Rām Gupta