SIKHS' RELATIONS WITH HILL STATES lying between the Gaṅgā and the Chenāb rivers from the time of the Gurūs to the reign of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh fluctuated from guarded friendship to open hostility. Gurū Nānak (1469-1539) and later his son, Bābā Srī Chand, had preached the Sikh tenets in the hill tract east of the Punjab proper. Under the order of Gurū Amar Dās (1479-1574), his nephew, Sāvan Mall, had gone to Harīpur (Guler) state, to preach as well as to send down the River Beās timber needed for the new habitation being raised at Goindvāl. Gurū Hargobind (1595-1644) came in contact with some of the chiefs of these Rājpūt states in the Gwālīor Fort where he, along with them, was held captive under the orders of Emperor Jahāṅgīr. He also helped Dharam Chand, a prince of Haṇḍūr (Nālāgaṛh) to regain his throne after his release from Gwālīor. He, through his son, Bābā Gurdittā (1613-38), founded the township of Kīratpur in Kahlūr (Bilāspur) state to which place he himself repaired in 1635. Kīratpur remained the seat of the Gurūs until Gurū Tegh Bahādur founded, in 1655, Chakk Nānakī, later renamed Anandpur. The rulers of Kahlūr treated the Gurūs with reverence until Rājā Bhīm Chand, who ruled from 1665 to 1692, became jealous of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's royal style and growing repute. The Gurū withdrew temporarily from Anandpur, and accepting, in 1685, the invitation of the friendly ruler of Sirmūr, took up residence in his territory. Rājā Bhīm Chand forced upon him a battle which was fought at Bhaṅgānī, 11 km northeast of his new abode, Pāonṭā, on 18 September 1688. The Rājā and his allies were repulsed. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh returned to Anandpur later in 1688. Bhīm Chand made his peace with him. Gurū Gobind Siṅgh in fact took sides with him in his battle against a Mughal commander fought at Nadauṇ on 20 March 1691. Bhīm Chand was succeeded in 1692 by his son, Ajmer Chand, who, intent on evicting Gurū Gobind Siṅgh from his territory, revived the old animosity. In alliance with some other hill monarchs and soliciting help from Emperor Auraṅgzīb, he attacked Anandpur successively in 1700, 1703 and 1705. The last assault took the form of a protracted siege, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh eventually evacuating the Fort. The hill chiefs and the imperial troops came in pursuit up to Chamkaur.
Gurū Gobind Siṅgh before his death at Nāndeḍ on the banks of the River Godāvārī in Mahārāshṭra in November 1708, deputed Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur (1670-1716) to chastise the faujdār of Sirhind and the hill chieftains for their part in the persecution of the Sikhs. Bandā Siṅgh during his whirlwind campaign sacked Sirhind and reduced the hill states. Following a period of sustained persecution, the Sikhs emerged as a political power. They reconquered Sirhind in January 1664 and struck coins at Lahore in the following year. Their raids into the Gaṅg Doāb and beyond beginning in 1764 brought the people to submission and they agreed to pay rākhī or protection money to them twice a year. The Rājā of the Himalayan state of Gaṛhwāl bought peace by paying to the Sikhs an annual tribute of 4,000 rupees. As George Forster, A Journey from Bengal to England, testifies, only two Sikh horsemen were enough to overawe a Gaṛhwāl officer into readily paying the tribute. Rājā of Sirmūr paid as tribute Rs 2,000 per annum to the Bhaṅgī Sardārs of Būṛīā regularly until 1809 when this state passed under British protection. The first Sikh chief to invade Kāṅgṛā hill states was Sardār Jassā Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā, who reduced Kāṅgṛā, Nūrpur and Chamba to tributary states, yielding together about 2,00,000 rupees annually. Kāṅgṛā, the strongest of the hill states, was ruled by Rājā Saṅsār Chand Kaṭoch from 1775 to 1823. In 1783, Jassā Siṅgh helped by the Kanhaiyā sardār, Jai Siṅgh, besieged Kāṅgṛā Fort which had been in Mughal possession since 1619. The Fort was ultimately occupied by the Kanhaiyās in 1783. In 1803-04, Saṅsār Chand twice invaded Sikh territories in the region of Hoshiārpur and Bijvāṛā but was pushed back by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1780-1839), who occupied the Kāṅgṛā Fort itself on 24 August 1809. All the hill states north of the River Sutlej accepted his suzerainty, and he appointed Desā Siṅgh Majīṭhīā as his nāzim or governor of the territory.
Jammū was the principal state lying between the Rivers Rāvī and Chenāb. Its most famous ruler was Raṇjīt Dev who ruled from 1750 to 1781. He became a tributary of Sardār Jhaṇḍā Siṅgh of the Bhaṅgī misl in 1770. During the time of his successor, Brij Rāj, Jammū was sacked twice by Mahāṅ Siṅgh Sukkarchakkīā, father of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. Brij Rāj was killed in battle in 1787, and his son, Sampūran Dev, made a complete submission to the Sikhs.
Harī Rām Gupta