MUHKAM CHAND, DĪWĀN (1750-1814), a renowned Sikh army general of the early years of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh's reign, was born around AD 1750. Son of a small shopkeeper, Baisākhī Mall Khatrī, of Kuñjāh, a village in Gujrāt district, now in Pakistan, he trained as an accountant and served as a munshī under the chiefs of different misl sardārs, rising to the position of a dīwān or minister under the Bhaṅgīs and the Aṭārīvālās. In 1806, he took up service under Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh as military and financial adviser and remained until his death in 1814 the de facto commander-in-chief of his army. He had a major role in organizing the Sikh army on a regular basis and in the early territorial conquests of the young Mahārājā. His expedition into cis-Sutlej territory in 1806 brought Zīrā, Muktsar, Koṭ Kapūrā and Dharamkoṭ, totalling 102 villages, under the sway of the Sikhs. The same year in July he captured the estates of the two widows of Ilyās Khān of Rāikoṭ, comprising 311 villages and towns such as Ludhiāṇā, Jagrāoṅ, Baddovāl and Talvaṇḍī. In September 1807 he seized Naraiṇgaṛh and Moriṇḍā, and in March 1808 Badhṇī and Patto, in the present Mogā district. Soon thereafter he overran the Faizullāpurīā territory and added Jalandhar and Phillaur to the possessions of the Mahārājā. He was one of the principal advisers of the Mahārājā at the time of negotiations with the British envoy, Charles T. Metcalfe, which led to the signing of the Treaty of Amritsar (1809).
In 1810, Muhkam Chand took part in the battle of Multān; the following year he was campaigning in the Himalayan foothills, subduing the states of Bhimber, Rājaurī and Akhnūr. In 1812, he reduced Maṇḍī and Kulū. In the Kashmīr expedition, he was able to secure release from the custody of the Afghān governor of Shāh Shujā', the deposed king of Kābul, and bring him to Lahore. In 1813, when Fateh Khān, the Kābul wazīr besieged the fortress of Attock, Muhkam Chand inflicted a crushing defeat on the Afghāns at Haidrū.
Dīwān Muhkam Chand died at Phillaur on 29 October 1814, and was deeply mourned by the Mahārājā and his court. He was Ranjīt Siṅgh's most trusted general and he received from him land jāgirs in Moriṇḍā, Farīdkoṭ, Sāhnevāl, Ambālā, and the Jalandhar Doāb, worth over seven lakh of rupees annually. As well as being a good soldier, he was an able administrator and his management especially of the Jalandhar Doāb brought him much popular acclaim.
Harī Rām Gupta