JASSĀ SIṄGH ĀHLŪVĀLĪĀ (1718-1783), founder of the misl or chiefship of the Āhlūvālīās, remnants of which lasted until recent years in the form of the princely state of Kapūrthalā, and commander of the Dal Khālsā who proclaimed in 1761 the sovereignty of the Sikhs, was born the son of Badar Siṅgh at the village of Āhlū, near Lahore, on Baisākh sudī Pūranmāshī 1775 Bk/3 May 1718. Since his father had died when he was barely five years of age, he was taken by his mother and her brother Bāgh Siṅgh to Delhi where he grew up under the care of Mātā Sundarī, widow of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. On the eve of his return to the Punjab in 1729, Mātā Sundarī bestowed upon him a sword, a mace, a shield, a bow and a quiver full of arrows, a dress and a silver staff predicting that he would rise to eminence. On his arrival in the Punjab, Jassā Siṅgh joined, at Kartārpur, the jathā or military band of (Nawāb) Kapūr Siṅgh who was deeply impressed by the young man's courage and ambition. When during his first invasion of the Punjab in January 1748, Ahmad Shāh Durrānī moved southwards from Lahore, the Sikh sardārs under Nawāb Kapūr Siṅgh and Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā caused him much harassment at Nūr dī Sarāi and Vairovāl. Jassā Siṅgh was one of the leading sardārs who two months later defeated a strong Mughal force commanded by Salābat Khān in an action at Amritsar.
On the Baisākhī of 1748, a general assembly of Sikhs was convened at Amritsar which resolved to consolidate the sixty-five roving Sikh jathās into one command called Dal Khālsā under Jassā Siṅgh. Its 11 subdivisions were called misls; the twelfth misl Phūlkīāṅ traced a separate origin. Persecution by the ruling Mughal authority meanwhile became more virulent. Under Mīr Mannū (Mu'īn ud-Dīn), sūbahdār of Lahore from 1748 to 1753, numerous punitive detachments roamed the country to hunt out the Sikhs. After the death on 7 October 1753 of Nawāb Kapūr Siṅgh, Jassā Siṅgh started seizing villages and towns in the Punjab thrown into confusion with the passing away of Mīr Mannū in November 1753 and established the system of rākhī, protection cess or tax received for the secuity provided. The Dal Khālsā, under Jassā Siṅgh, routed in April 1754 an Afghān force from Lahore which had laid siege to Amritsar. In 1757, Jassā Siṅgh struck at the rearguard of Taimūr Shāh whom his father, Ahmad Shāh, had appointed governor of Lahore and who was marching towards the city after sacking Kartārpur.
In response to the request of Ādīnā Beg, who, after his dismissal from the governorship of Lahore, was attacked by the Durrānīs from Lahore under Murād Khān and Buland Khān, Jassā Siṅgh came to his rescue and defeated the Durrānīs at Māhalpur, in the Jalandhar Doāb. In March 1758, the combined force of Ādīnā Beg, the Marāṭhās, and the Sikhs ransacked Sirhind and then marched upon Lahore. The Dal Khālsā, led by Jassā Siṅgh and other sardārs, took a decisive part in reinstalling, in April 1758, Ādīnā Beg in Lahore.
In October 1759, Ahmad Shāh Durrānī crossed the Indus and invaded northern India for the fifth time. For 15 months he was occupied subjugating the Marāṭhās and the Jāṭs of Bharatpur. On 17 January 1761, he finally defeated the Marāṭhās at Pānīpat. During this period the Dal Khālsā established its authority in the Mālvā and Mājhā regions, exacted rākhī and levied nazarānās on Mughal as well as on Afghān satraps. The Sikhs under the leadership of Jassā Siṅgh made a surprise attack on the Shāh's force near Amritsar in March 1761 and rescued 2,200 women captives whom the invader was carrying in his train as slaves. A combined force of Sukkarchakkīā, Kanhaiyā and Bhaṅgī sardārs worsted the troops of Khwājā Ubaid Khān, the Afghān governor of Lahore, near Gujrāṅwālā in September 1761, victorious Sikhs pursuing him to the walls of Lahore. The city was besieged and occupied by the Sikhs without any resistance. Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā was proclaimed King of Lahore with the title of Sultān ul-Qaum (King of the Nation). A coin was issued in the name of Gurū Nānak-Gurū Gobind Siṅgh commemorating the Sikh victory with the inscription taken from the seal of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur:
Deg o tegh o fateh o nusrat be diring
Yāft az Nānak Gurū Gobind Siṅgh
(Prosperity, power and unfailing victory received from Nānak and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh)
On hearing the news of the fall of Lahore, Ahmad Shāh Durrānī hastened towards the Punjab. This was in 1762 -- his sixth incursion into India. The Sikhs retired to the south of the Sutlej. The Shāh sent orders to all his faujdārs in the Punjab to join forces with Zain Khān, the governor of Sirhind. He set out from Lahore with a mammoth army estimated at 1,50,000 strong, and covering a distance of about 250 km in fewer than 36 hours reached Mālerkoṭlā on 5 Feburary. The Dal Khālsā, under the leadership of sardārs such as Jassā Siṅgh, Shiām Siṅgh and Chaṛhat Siṅgh lay encamped at Kup, 9 km from Mālerkoṭlā. In the battle which followed about 25,000 Sikhs (figure given in the Persian source Tahmās Nāmah) were killed, Jassā Singh Āhlūvālīā sustaining twenty-two wounds on his body. The battle of Kup is still remembered in Sikh history as Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā or the Major Holocaust. Returning to Lahore, Ahmad Shāh marched to Amritsar and had the Holy Harimandar blown up with gunpowder. Under the shadow of the carnage at Kup and the disaster at Amritsar, Jassā Siṅgh, with the remnants of the Dal Khālsā, was waiting for his opportunity. While the Shāh was still in Lahore, he fell upon Sirhind on 17 May 1762 and exacted nazāranā from Zain Khān, the faujdār. In April 1763, he marched into the Jalandhar Doāb and, after defeating the faujdār, Sa'ādat Khān, occupied Kāṭhgaṛh and Gaṛhshaṅkar. The Bhaṅgīs and the Sukkarchakkīās joined Jassā Siṅgh, and their combined force defeated the Afghān commander, Jahān Khān, near Siālkoṭ, in November 1763. The Dal Khālsā was again active and the Kanhaiyā, Rāmgaṛhīā, Bhaṅgī and Sukkarchakkīā forces assembled under the command of Jassā Siṅgh at Ropaṛ. They occupied Kurālī and Moriṇḍā, and attacked Sirhind on 14 January 1764. The Afghān faujdār, Zain Khān, was killed and the town laid waste.
On 17 April 1765, Sikhs reoccupied Lahore. The Dal Khālsā had during the preceding year carried their arms into the trans-Yamunā territories of Najīb ud-Daulah, the vakīl-i-mutliq (plenipotentiary) of Emperor Shāh Ālam of Delhi. When in 1765, the Durrānī came again, he was obliged to be conciliatory and he wrote to Jassā Siṅgh and other sardārs seeking an agreement with regard to the future political set-up in the Punjab, but the sardārs spurned his overtures. Jassā Siṅgh and the Dal Khālsā now had time to consolidate their conquests. The Indian empire of the Durrānīs lay in ruins. Najīb ud-Daulah, alarmed at the growing influence of the Sikhs, resigned, and Emperor Shāh Ālam opened correspondence with Jassā Siṅgh and other Sikh chiefs with a view to securing his trans-Yamunā territories against their raids. The new wazīr of the emperor, Abdul Ahad Khān, who had led an imperial force against Rājā Amar Siṅgh of Paṭiālā in 1779, was beaten back by Jassā Siṅgh. He returned the entire tribute collected from the Sikhs and paid Rs 7,00,000 as an indemnity to the Dal Khālsā.
As a leader of the Dal Khālsā, Jassā Siṅgh had organized the Sikhs militarily, overthrown Afghān power in northern India and won from the Mughal emperor the right for Sikhs to rule independently over territories they had wrested from the Afghāns. The sūbā of Sirhind came under the Phūlkīāṅ chiefs; Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, was given over to the Bhaṅgīs; the Jalandhar Doāb was parcelled out among several of the misls; and the foundations of the Āhlūvālīā principality laid firmly at Kapūrthalā. Besides his leadership in the military and political spheres, Jassā Siṅgh was widely revered for his deeply religious and pious character. It was considered especially meritorious to receive amrit, the Sikh rites, at his hands. Mahārājā Amar Siṅgh of Paṭiālā was among those who sought him to administer to them the vows of initiation.
Jassā Siṅgh died on 20 October 1783 at the age of 65 and a samādh or cenotaph in his honour stands in the precincts of Gurdwārā Bābā Aṭal, near the Golden Temple at Amritsar.