ZORĀWAR SIṄGH (1786-1841), military general who conquered Ladākh and Bāltistān in the Sikh times and carried the Khālsā flag as far as the interior of Tibet. About Zorāwar Siṅgh's place of birth authorities differ. Major G. Carmichael Smyth, A Reigning Family of Lahore, says that he was a native of Kussal, near Riasī, now in Jammū and Kashmīr state. Hutchison and Vogel have recorded that he was a native of Kahlūr (Bilāspur) state, now in Himāchal Pradesh. A modern writer Narsiṅg Dās Nargis, on the basis of information supplied to him by a great grandson of Zorāwar Siṅgh, states in his book Zorāwar Siṅgh that he was born in a Rājpūt family about AD 1786 in the village of Ansorā, in Kāṅgṛā district. It is stated that when 16, Zorāwar Siṅgh killed his cousin in a dispute over property and escaped to Haridvār, where he met Rāṇā Jasvant Siṅgh, who took him to Galihān, now known as Ḍoḍā, near Jammū, and trained him as a soldier. He joined service under Gulāb Siṅgh Ḍogrā,
Gulāb Siṅgh employed Zorāwar Siṅgh mostly for defending the forts to the north of Jammū. For some time he also worked as an inspector in commissariat of supplies where he did a commendable job by effecting a saving in the much-needed provisions about 1823. When Rājā Gulāb Siṅgh, the feudatory chief of Jammū under Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, was appointed governor of Kishtvār, he appointed Zorāwar Siṅgh to administer the new district with the title of wazīr. In Kishtvār, Zorāwar Siṅgh introduced fiscal and judicial reforms and had the old fort of Kishtvārī rulers renovated. From here he led several expeditions into Ladākh, the first one in the series in July 1834. From Kishtvār, the Ḍogrās entered the Surū valley. After fighting pitched battles at places such as Sāṅkū, Laṅgkartse, Kantse, Sot and Pashkam, the invaders pushed on to Leh, the capital of Ladākh. The Ladākhī king, Tse-pal Namgyal, was made to pay war indemnity. He also underlook to pay an annual tribute of Rs 20,000 and acknowledged the suzerainty of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. The Ladākh --is, however, soon rose in revolt against their new masters and Zorāwar Siṅgh launched a second attack. This time he followed the short but difficult Kishtvār-Zaṅskār route. He quelled the rebellion, deposed the old king and appointed his prime minister and brother-in-law, Nagorub Stanzin, as the new ruler of Ladākh. But Zorāwar Siṅgh had to make two more incursions before Ladākh was annexed to the Sikh kingdom in 1840. The same year, Zorāwar Siṅgh attacked Bāltistān, a Muhammadan principality in the Indus valley, to the northwest of Kārgil. He defeated the Bāltīs and deposed Ahmad Shāh, whose eldest son, Muhammad Shāh, was installed as the new king of Bāltistān Zorāwar Siṅgh next turned his attention towards western Tibet. The conquest of Tibet was an ambition he had harboured in his heart for some time and, as Sohan Lāl Sūrī, the court chronicler of the Sikh times, records, this was the suggestion he proffered to Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh when he in March 1836 waited on him at the village of Janḍiālā Sher Khān to pay nazarānā. He told the Mahārājā that he was ready to "kindle the fires of fighting" and "by the grace of ever triumphant glory of the Mahārājā, he would take possession of it." The Mahārājā, however, was not willing to allow him to undertake the adventure. Zorāwar Siṅgh had his chance in the time of Raṇjīt Siṅgh's successor, Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh. In April 1841, by which time the conquest of Ladākh had been completed, he marched into Tibet at the head of a large army and within six months had conquered territory to the north west of the Mayyum Pass. But then a strong Tibetan army descended down from Lhāsā and confronted the invaders at Tīrthapurī, near Lake Mānasarovar. Zorāwar Siṅgh could get no reinforcements from Leh or from any other place as heavy snows had blocked all the passes. He fought many a pitched action in the vicinity of Lake Mānasarovar and was killed in the last one of these on 12 December 1841. Although this great conqueror perished mid-campaign, his initiative did not go unrewarded. In September 1842 a treaty was signed by representatives of Chinese and Lhāsā governments on the one hand and of Khālsā Darbār and Gulāb Siṅgh on the other which extended the Sikh, and hence Indian, frontiers to their present international boundary. The whole of Ladākh thus became a part of the Indian territory. An English version of the treaty is as follows :
As on this auspicious day, the 2nd of Assūj, samvat 1899 (16th/17th September 1842) we, the officers of the Lhāsā (Government), Kalon of Sokan and Bakshī Shajpuh, commander of the forces, and two officers on behalf of the most resplendent Srī Khālsā Jī Sāhib, the asylum of the world, King Sher Siṅgh jī, and Srī Mahārājā Sāhib Rājā-i-Rājagān Rājā Sāhib Bahādur Rājā Gulāb Siṅgh, i.e.. the Muktār-ud-Daulā Dīwān Harī Chand and the asylum of vizīrs, Vizīr Ratnūṅ, in a meeting called together for the promotion of peace and unity, and by professions and vows of friendship, unity and sincerity of heart and by taking oaths like those of Kunjak Sāhib, have arranged and agreed that relations of peace, friendship and unity between Srī Khālsā jī and Srī Mahārājā Sāhib Bahādur Rājā Gulāb Siṅgh jī, and the Emperor of China and the Lāmā Gurū of Lhāsā will henceforward remain firmly established forever; and we declare in the presence of the Kunjak Sāhib that on no account whatsoever will there be any deviation, difference of departure (from this agreement). We shall neither at present nor in future have anything to do or interfere at all with the boundaries of Ladākh and its surroundings as fixed from ancient times and will allow the annual export of wool, shawls and tea by way of Ladākh according to the old established custom.
Should any of the opponents of Srī Sarkār Khālsā jī and Srī Rājā Sāhib Bahādur at any time enter our territories, we shall not pay any heed to his words or allow him to remain in our country.
We shall offer no hindrance to traders of Ladākh who visit our territories. We shall not even to the extent of a hair's breadth act in contravention of the terms that we have agreed to above regarding firm friendship, unity, the fixed boundaries of Ladākh and the keeping open of the route for wool, shawls and tea. We call Kunjak Sāhib, Kairi, Lassi, Zhon Mahan, and Khushal Chon as witnesses to this treaty.
C. L. Datta