VAḌBHĀG SIṄGH, SOḌHĪ (1716-61), a lineal descendant of Gurū Hargobind (1595-1644) through the latter's son, Bābā Gurdittā, and grandson, Dhīr Mall, was born the son of Sodhī Rām Siṅgh on 13 August 1716 at Kartārpur, in present-day Jalandhar district of the Punjab. Vaḍbhāg Siṅgh became chief of Kartārpur owned by the family as a freehold grant since 1598, after the death of his father in 1737. Ahmad Shāh Durrānī during his fourth invasion of India in 1756-57 annexed Punjab to his empire and appointed his young son, Taimūr, governor of Lahore, with his trusted general Jahān Khān as his deputy and de facto administrator. In April-May 1757, two Afghān troopers travelling from Sirhind to Lahore were murdered near Kartārpur. Jahān Khān had Soḍhī Vaḍbhāg Siṅgh, the chief of the area, arrested, and tortured him mercilessly. The latter's followers rescued him during the night and took him to a distant village, Maiṛī, in the hills that now form part of Ūnā district of Himāchal Pradesh. The Afghāns, chagrined it the escape of the prisoner, pillaged Kartārpur and the neighbouring country and, helped by Nasīr 'Alī Jalandhar, burnt down the Sikh temple along with the sacred relic, Thamm Sāhib, the Holy Prop, and desecrated the holy tank. When Sikhs, consolidated into the Dal Khālsā under the overall command of Sardār Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā, heard of the outrage, they conjointly with Adīnā Beg Khān, the ousted faujdār of Jalandhar Doāb, attacked Jalandhar in December 1757 to avenge the spoliation of Kartārpur. A 20,000 strong Afghān army sent by Jahān Khān from Lahore was routed near Mahilpur and its artillery and baggage train were captured. A few months later, the Sikhs, aided by a strong Marāṭhā army, drove the Afghāns out of the Punjab. Soḍhī Vaḍbhāg Siṅgh, however, did not return to Kartārpur and continued to reside in Maiṛī where he died on 31 December 1761 and where a shrine called Ḍerā Vaḍbhāg Siṅgh now stands in his honour, attracting visitors and pilgrims all the year round. The Ḍerā is in popular belief connected with exorcism of evil spirits. Many go there to be so treated.
Harī Rām Gupta