VĀR SHĀH MUHAMMAD, also known as Jaṅgnāmā Shāh Muhammad or Hind Pañjāb dā Jaṅg, is a long poem in Punjabi in the traditional baint metre dealing with the events following the death of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, notably the Sikhs' war with the English in 1845-46. The author is a Muslim, Shāh Muhammad (1782-1862), who lived at Vaḍālā Vīram, near Amritsar. He identifies himself with the Sikh clan and ascendancy and recalls with pride the glorious days of Raṇjīt Siṅgh's empire. With equal personal concern and anguish, he relates the tragic events which overtake it after the passing away of the Mahārājā.
Shāh Muhammad's poem comprises 105 baints, each baint having four verses. The first forty-five baints describe the murderous intrigues which follow the death of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh in 1839. Dhiān Siṅgh Ḍogrā, the prime minister, enticed Kaṅvar Nāu Nihāl Siṅgh, son of Khaṛak Siṅgh, who had succeeded Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh as the ruler of the Punjab. He set aside Mahārājā Khaṛak Siṅgh and got rid of his favourite Chet Siṅgh who was murdered in his presence in his bedchamber. This was the beginning of the bloody story of intrigue and murder which engulfed prince as well as courtier. Mahārājā Khaṛak Siṅgh, his son Kaṅvar Nau Nihāl Siṅgh, Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh, and his son Kaṅvar Partāp Siṅgh fell victims to intrigue. Dhiān Siṅgh himself was killed by the Sandhāṅvālīā who had murdered the reigning Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh and his son Partāp Siṅgh within minutes of each other.
Shāh Muhammad has related this tale of political nightmare with a historical precision and brevity of expression unusual in a popular poet. Then follows a description of the engagement between the English and the Sikhs during the first Anglo-Sikh war. In several of his baints, Shāh Muhammad lyrically evokes the memory of bygone days when the Sikh warriors had subdued Khaibar, Kāṅgṛā, Jammū and numerous other places. He describes with admiration the deeds of heroism and sacrifice of sardārs such as Shām Siṅgh Aṭārīvālā and Raṇjodh Siṅgh. The historical framework the poet has laid out for the events that took place has not so far been superseded.
Harjīt Siṅgh Gill