MAHĀRĀJ SIṄGH, BHĀĪ (d.1856), a saintly person turned revolutionary who led an anti-British movement in the Punjab after the first Anglo-Sikh war, was born Nihāl Siṅgh at the village of Rabboṅ, in Ludhiāṇā district. He had a religious bent of mind and came under the influence of Bhāī Bīr Siṅgh of Nauraṅgābād. After the latter's death in 1844, he succeeded him as head of the Nauraṅgābād, ḍerā and was held in high esteem by a vast following, including most of the Sikh chiefs and courtiers. Mahārāj Siṅgh's revolutionary career started with the Premā conspiracy case involving him in a plot to murder the British resident, Henry Lawrence, and other pro-British officers of the Lahore Darbār. Mahārāj Siṅgh, whose movements were restricted to Nauraṅgābād by the British, went underground. The government confiscated his property at Amritsar and announced a reward for his arrest. Bhāī Mahārāj Siṅgh intensified his activities against the British when he came to know that Dīwān Mūl Rāj had in April 1848 raised a standard of revolt against them at Multān. He left for Multān with 400 horsemen to join hands with Mūl Rāj. But soon differences arose between the two leaders, and Mahārāj Siṅgh left Multān for Hazārā in June 1848 to seek Chatar Siṅgh Aṭārīvālā's assistance in his plans to dislodge the British. In November 1848, he joined Rājā Sher Siṅgh's forces at Rāmnagar and was seen in the battlefield riding his black mare and exhorting the Sikh soldiers to lay down their lives for the sake of their country. Thereafter he took part in the battles of Chelīāṅvālā and Gujrāt, but, when Rājā Sher Siṅgh surrendered to the British at Rāwalpiṇḍī on 14 March 1849, he resolved to carry on the fight single-handed. He escaped to Jammū and made Dev Baṭālā his secret headquarters. In December 1849, he went to Hoshiārpur and visited the Sikh regiments to enlist their support. Bhāī Mahārāj Siṅgh, who carried on his head a price of 10,000 rupees was arrested on 28 December 1849 at Ādampur. “The Gurū is no ordinary man”, wrote Dr Vansittart, the Jalandhar deputy commissioner, who had arrested him. "He is to the natives what Jesus is to the most zealous of Christians. His miracles were seen by tens of thousands and are more implicitly believed than those worked by the ancient prophets”. “Vansittart was so greatly impressed by Bhāī Mahārāj Siṅgh's personality that he recommended special treatment to be accorded him, but the government did not wish to take any risks and deported him to Singapore where, after several years of solitary confinement, he died on 5 July 1856. He had gone blind before the end came.
M. L. Āhlūwālīā