TEJ SIṄGH, RĀJĀ (1799-1862), son of Misr Niddhā, a Gaur Brāhmaṇ of Meerut district, was born in 1799. His original name was Tej Rām. He was a nephew of Jamādar Khushāl Siṅgh, a dignitary of the Sikh Kingdom. He took up service at the court in 1812. In 1816, he received the rites of Khālsā and was named Tej Siṅgh. He proved his worth as a soldier and made rapid progress in the army cadre, becoming a general in 1818. He served in all the three Kashmīr expeditions of 1813, 1814 and 1819, and took a leading part in reducing Mankerā, Leiāh and the Ḍerājāt. He was a divisional commander in the Peshāwar campaign of 1823 and fought in the battle of ṭerī. In 1831, he had under his command twenty-two battalions of the regular Sikh army. In 1839, he was sent to Peshāwar with other army generals to help Colonel Wade's contingent to force the Khaibār Pass for an invasion of Afghanistan.
Tej Siṅgh acquired great influence over Kaṅvar Nau Nihāl Siṅgh. He supported the cause of Rāṇī Chand Kaur, when, after the death of Nau Nihāl Siṅgh, she staked her claim to regency. He was among those who signed the agreement of 27 November 1840 proclaiming Chand Kaur as regent. On the eve of the Anglo-Sikh war of 1845-46, Tej Siṅgh was appointed commander-in-chief of the Sikh army. His conduct during this war and during the one following was however marked by duplicity. He established secret liaison with the British and desired their victory rather than that of the army he led. Two divisions under his command hovered around Fīrozpur when that strategic town could have been stormed and the small British garrison destroyed. At the fiercely fought battle of Ferozeshāh (21 December, 1845), he kept this army away from the battlefield. When the action was over, he appeared with his army on the morning of 22 December and drove straight into the shattered British cavalry lines. But suddenly his guns ceased to fire. He abandoned the field and took the road to Lahore. At Sabhrāoṅ (10 Feburary 1846), he advised the brave Sikh general, Shām Siṅgh Aṭārīvālā, to leave the battlefield. The latter continued the battle determined to fight to the end, but Tej Siṅgh and Commander Lāl Siṅgh fled hastily even as the contest hung in the balance.
As the battle went in favour of the British, Tej Siṅgh cut out the retreat of the Sikh army by sinking the bridge of boats and the tete de pont constructed in front of it. At the end of the war, he made an offer of Rs. 25,00,000 to Lord Hardinge to buy for himself an independent Kingdom like Gulāb Siṅgh had done. However, he retained his position of pre-eminence in the new set-up. He was nominated president of the council of Regency in December 1846, and was allowed to continue commander-in-chief of the Sikh army. He was created Rājā of Siālkoṭ in August 1847.
At the time of the annexation of the Punjab to Britain, he was guaranteed the enjoyment of all the privileges and rights which he possessed under the Sikh government. He was invested with the full powers of a magistrate in his estate and was nominated a member of the committee for the management of the Golden Temple. During the uprising of 1857, he raised Sikh cavalry regiments to aid the British. His scattered jāgīrs were consolidated and he received the new title Rājā of Baṭālā. He died on 4 December 1862 and was succeeded by his adopted son Harbaṅs Siṅgh (his brother whom he had adopted before the birth of his son, Narindar Siṅgh).
J. S. Khurānā