SHER SIṄGH NĀMĀH, also known as Hālāt-i-Punjab, by Muhammad Naqī Peshāwarī Ibn Khwājā Bakhsh Mullā, is an unpublished manuscript, in Persian, containing an account of events of the Punjab from the death of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh in 1839 to the accession to the throne in 1843 of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh. The date of its composition is not mentioned, but internal evidence suggests that the author took up this work at the request of Bakhshi Bhagat Rām, a Lahore Darbār official, and completed it in 1843. According to Mr. Charles Raikes, the Commissioner and Superintendent of Lahore, the manuscript was sent to the Imperial Exhibition held in Paris in 1855. Copies of the manuscript are preserved in the British Library (No. Or 1780), India Office Library (No. 505) and the Punjab State Archives at Paṭiālā (No. 327). The last mentioned manuscript comprises sixty eight folios and is divided into four sections. The first section (ff. 7a--12b ) gives a description of the situation within the kingdom of the Punjab after the death of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, and the second (ff.12b--25b) describes Kaṅvar Sher Siṅgh's march from Baṭālā to stake his claim to the throne of Lahore and his clash with Bībī Chand Kaur and her adherents. The third section (ff. 26a--40a) deals with the disturbed political state of the capital of Lahore and the assassination of Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh and the last section covers the assassination of Dhiān Siṅgh and the retribution which overtook the Mahārājā's killers. Muhammad Naqī bemoans the tragic death of Kaṅvar Nau Nihāl Siṅgh who was mortally wounded by the fall of parapet of the northern gate of the Hazūrī Bāgh while returning from the funeral of his father, Khaṛak Siṅgh: "Glory has departed from the Punjab; gloom engulfs the royal household" (fol.l2b). He comments upon the "usurpation" of the throne by Chand Kaur, Khaṛak Siṅgh's widow. The kingdom of the Punjab, he observes, "has fallen a prey to a cancerous malady. Chaos reigns supreme. Spring has departed ushering in bleak autumn" (fol. 13a). Chand Kaur, according to him, was "neither a soldier nor did she possess... the experience of governing the country". Describing the struggle for political power between Chand Kaur and Sher Siṅgh, Nāqī says that the Khālsā troops were attached to Sher Siṅgh and obeyed his orders; that while at Baṭālā he had been summoned by the army pañchāyats and State counsellors "to bless them with his arrival" and occupy the throne (fol. 15a). Sher Siṅgh marched on Lahore in January 1841 and gained the allegiance of the army and the Darbār officials. On 14 January the Khālsā proclaimed him the new sovereign of the Punjab. As the situation calmed down, Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh became engrossed in his pursuits of pleasure. "He would ride an Arab horse and roam the jungles with his hounds and hawks hunting deer, partridge, quail and woodcock" (fol. 30a), Sher Siṅgh is charged with neglect of State business leaving the reins of administration in the hands of Wazīr Dhiān Siṅgh who kept warning him against the machinations of the Sandhāṅvālīā chiefs. But "he treated the Wazīr's advice and entreaties as husk" (fol.36a)."In the third year of his reign, die Mahārājā began to neglect the care of the land and welfare of his subjects. The soldiery became more oppressive. The rich fled the land, the wicked defied the law, and evil-doers took the place of good men. Even the lives of counsellors of State became unbearable. The government ceased to exist" (fol.33a). The Mahārājā's continued absence at Baṭālā worsened the situation. Dhiān Siṅgh left for Jammū, and Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh gained ascendancy at the Darbār. On return to the capital, Dhiān Siṅgh conspired to replace Sher Siṅgh by minor Duleep Siṅgh. On 15 September 1843, the Sandhāṅvālīā chiefs murdered Sher Siṅgh, his son Partāp Siṅgh and Wazīr Dhian Siṅgh (ff. 38a-40b), and proclaimed Duleep Siṅgh as the new king of the Punjab, but "their crafty assurances appeared more or less as hunters' cries or soldiers' shouts" (fol. 60b). Nemesis soon overtook the Sandhāṅvālīās. Hīrā Siṅgh, son of Rājā Dhiān Siṅgh, won over the troops and the principal sardārs. The Fort was stormed on 16 September and Ajīt Siṅgh Sandhāṅvālīā and Lahiṇā Siṅgh Sandhāṅvālīā were slain. Hīrā Siṅgh ordered their kith and kin put to the sword and their houses at Rājā Sāṅsī razed "Ajīt Siṅgh's house was destroyed, and it was declared that thenceforward his lands should no longer be ploughed with oxen, but with asses" (ff. 63-64).
B. J. Hasrat