AFGHĀN-SIKH RELATIONS spanning the years 1748 to 1849 go back to the first invasion of India by Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, although he must have heard of the Sikhs when in 1739 he accompanied Nādir Shāh, the Iranian invader, as a young staff officer. Having occupied Lahore after a minor engagement fought on 11 January 1748 during his first invasion of India, Ahmad Shāh advanced towards Sirhind to meet a Mughal army which he was informed was advancing from Delhi to oppose him. On the way he had two slight skirmishes at Sarāi Nūr Dīn and at the Vairovāl ferry, both in present-day Amritsar district, with a Sikh jathā or fighting band under Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā. While lying in wait at Sirhind between 2 and 11 March 1748 for a Mughal force, Ālā Siṅgh, leader of the Mālvā Sikhs, cut off his supplies of food and fodder. Ahmad Shāh, defeated in the battle of Mānūpur fought on 11 March, retraced his steps homewards. Sikhs harassed the retreating invader between the Sutlej and the Chenāb, Chaṛhat Siṅgh Sukkarchakkīā following him even up to the Indus, relieving him of a number of weapons, horses and camels.

        Ahmad Shāh's subsequent invasions in a way helped the Sikhs to increase and consolidate their power. Anticipating a second invasion towards the close of 1748, the new Mughal governor of the Punjab, Mīr Mu'īn ul-Mulk (Mīr Mannū, in shortened form in Sikh chronicles), tried to conciliate Sikhs through his minister, Dīwān Kauṛā Mall, and granted them one-fourth of the revenue of the parganah of Paṭṭī, but the truce did not last long and during the second Durrānī invasion (December 1749-February 1750), the Sikhs made bold to enter and plunder Lahore itself. During Ahmad Shāh's next invasion (December 1751-March 1752), Kauṛā Mall again enlisted the help of several thousand Sikh warriors under the command of Saṅgat Siṅgh and Sukkhā Siṅgh of Māṛī Kambo. The latter was killed in a sudden skirmish with the invaders. As a result of this invasion the provinces of Lahore and Multān were annexed to the Afghān empire, although Mīr Mannū remained governor of these provinces on Ahmad Shāh Durrānī's behalf. This meant that Sikhs had now to contend with Afghāns as well as with Mughals. The disorder which overtook the Punjab following the death of Mīr Mannū in November 1753 opened the way for them to establish their sway over vast tracts in the form of rākhī (q. v.) system under which local populations sought their protection on payment of a portion of their land revenue. During his fourth invasion (November 1756-April 1757), the Afghān invader had reached as far as the Mughal capital, Delhi. The Sikhs preyed upon him during his onward march and, when his son Prince Taimūr was transporting the plundered wealth of Delhi to Lahore, Ālā Siṅgh in concert with other Sikh sardārs barred his path at Sanaur, near Paṭiala, and robbed him of his treasures, and again attacked and plundered him at Malerkoṭlā. Prince Taimūr gave vent to his chagrin by destroying Sikh shrines at Kartārpur, 15 km northwest of Jalandhar, and subjecting its residents to indiscriminate massacre and plunder. Ahmad Shāh, during his brief stay at Lahore, sent out troops who sacked Amritsar and desecrated the sacred pool, besides killing a large number of Sikhs. He left his son Taimūr and his general Jahān Khān in charge of the Punjab and himself retired to Afghanistan. The two deputies were expelled from Punjab by Sikhs in 1758 with the help of the Marāṭhās and of Ādīnā Beg Khān, who was rewarded with the governorship of the province.

        During Ahmad Shāh's fifth invasion (October 1759-May 1761), while the Marāṭhās retired from the Punjab without resistance, the Sikhs gave a battle to the invader in the neighbourhood of Lahore in which the Afghān lost as many as 2, 000 men, with their general Jahān Khān wounded. The Marāṭhā's dream of supremacy in north India was shattered in the third battle of Pānīpat (14 January 1761). The Sikhs on the other hand were emboldened to raid Lahore in November 1760. They stayed there for eleven days and the Afghān deputy appeased them with a present of Rs 30, 000 for sacramental kaṛāhprasād. They harassed the Afghān chief of Chahār Mahāl and sacked Jalandhar, Sirhind and Mālerkoṭlā. In November 1761, they captured Lahore and struck their own coin. Ahmad Shāh, on hearing of these developments, hurried to the relief of his deputies. Sikhs retreated as he marched upon them, but were overtaken near Kup and Rahīṛā villages, near Mālerkoṭlā, on the morning of 5 February 1762. About 25, 000 Sikhs were killed in the day-long battle known in Sikh annals as Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā or the great holocaust. On his return he blew up the holy Harimandar at Amritsar with gunpowder. The Sikhs retaliated with attacks on Sirhind in May 1762. They freely roamed around Lahore during July-August 1762 and celebrated Dīvālī at Amritsar in defiance of the Shāh who was still present in the Punjab.

        After the departure of the Durrānī in December 1762, Sikhs sacked the Afghān principality of Kasūr in May 1763, overran Jalandhar Doāb during June, defeated in November near Wazīrābād an expeditionary force sent by Ahmad Shāh and invested Mālerkoṭlā, killing its Afghān chief, Bhīkhan Khān (December 1763). They followed these successes with the reduction of Moriṇḍā and Sirhind in January 1764. Zain Khān, the faujdār or governor of Sirhind, was killed, and the territories of Sirhind sarkār or district were appropriated by various Sikh misls or chiefships. The Dal Khālsā Jīo, as the, confederated force was called, then fell upon the territories of Najīb ud-Daulah, a powerful Ruhīlā Afghān chief and Ahmad Shāh Durrānī's regent in India. Ransacking Sahāranpur on 20 February 1764, they pushed on seizing Shāmlī, Kāndhlā, Muzaffarnagar, Morādābād, Najībābād and several other towns. Najīb ud-Daulah, unable to meet the Sikhs in battle, paid them Rs 11, 00, 000, inducing them to return to Punjab by the end of February 1764. While the Buḍḍhā Dal, a division of the Dal Khālsā under Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā, was thus engaged in the Gangetic Doāb, its younger counterpart, the Taruṇā Dal, was active in the central and western Punjab. Lahore was attacked in February 1764 and its governor, Kābulī Mall, saved it from plunder only by paying a large sum to the Sikhs, by accepting a nominee of Harī Siṅgh of the Bhaṅgīmisl as a resident at his court and allowing an agent of Sobhā Siṅgh of the Kanhaīyā misl to receive customs duty on all goods coming from the side of Multān. During April-June 1764, the Bhaṅgī and Nakaī sardārs captured the Lammā country lying between Lahore and Multān, and Chaṛhat Siṅgh Sukkarchakkīā took Rohtās in the north. Ahmad Shāh Durrānī came out again, in December 1764, but harassed by Sikhs, he was forced to return homewards without reaching Delhi. On his way back, realizing the futility of appointing his own governors in the Punjab, he recognized Ālā Siṅgh of Paṭiālā as the ruling chief in Sirhind territory and bestowed upon him the title of Rājā, with tabl-o-'alum (drum and banner). He, however, sent back Kābulī Mall to resume governorship of Lahore, but before the latter could reach the city, the Sikhs had occupied it (17 April 1765). Ahmad Shāh made yet another (his last) bid to regain Punjab and Delhi during the winter of 1766-67, but failed. He died at Qandahār on 23 October 1772.

        Ahmad Shāh's son and successor, Taimūr Shāh (1746-93), attempted five successive incursions, but could not reach Lahore. His successor, Shāh Zamān, also made several attempts to regain a foothold in India and did enter Lahore twice (January 1797; December 1798) but was forced to evacuate it within a few weeks on each occasion.

        Raṇjīt Siṅgh, the chief of the Sukkarchakkīā misl of the Dal Khālsā was destined finally to clear Punjab of the Afghāns. He became master of Lahore on 7 July 1799. The provinces of Kashmīr and Multān were still ruled by Afghān satraps and Peshāwar across the Indus was directly under Kābul which, however, was weakened by internal dissensions. Shāh Zamān was deposed and blinded in 1800 and the throne was seized by his brother, Mahmūd Shāh, with the help of a Bārakzaī chief, Fateh Khān who emerged as the king maker. In 1803, Fateh Khān discarded Mahmūd in favour of Shujā' ul-Mulk, better known as Shāh Shujā', another brother of Shāh Zamān, but in 1809 Mahmūd was reinstated and Shāh Shujā' shifted to Peshāwar. The latter met Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh at Khushāb in 1810 in the hope of obtaining Sikh help. He tried to recover his kingdom with the help of 'Atā Muhammad Khān, governor of Kashmīr, who had not accepted the authority of Wazīr Fateh Khān and had been ruling the province independently since 1809. The attempt failed and ended in Shāh Shujā' taken captive in Kashmīr and his family including the ill-fated Shāh Zamān seeking refuge in Lahore. Wafā Begam, the senior wife of Shāh Shujā', approached Raṇjīt Siṅgh through his trusted courtiers, Dīwān Mohkam Chand and Faqir 'Azīz ud-Dīn, to have her husband rescued from Kashmīr. Wazīr Fateh Khān also solicited the Mahārājā's aid in the reduction of Kashmīr promising him one-third of the spoils. The joint expedition launched in 1812 was not a complete success. Fateh Khān refused to part with the promised share of the booty, but the Sikh general Mohkam Chand succeeded in bringing Shāh Shujā' to Lahore and Raṇjīt Siṅgh acquired the coveted diamond, Koh-i-Nūr. Kashmīr too was conquered and annexed to the Sikh kingdom in 1819.

        Multān which had been retaken from the Sikhs by Taimūr Shāh in 1780 had been placed under his nephew Nawāb Muzaffar Khān. Repeated expeditions sent by Raṇjīt Siṅgh against him (in 1802, 1805, 1807, 1810, 1812 and 1815) had proved abortive. Multān ultimately fell to the Sikhs in June 1818. On 19 November of that year, Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh entered Peshāwar, the eastern citadel of the rulers of Kābul. With the conquest of Ḍerā Ghāzī Khān in 1820 and Ḍerā Ismā'īl Khān in 1821, the frontiers of the Sikh kingdom had been pushed far to the west of the River Indus. The Pāṭhans (Afghāns) of this frontier region, however, had not fully accepted Sikh authority. In 1826, they under the leadership of Sayyid Ahmad, a Wahābī fanatic, rose in jihād or holy war against the Sikhs. The campaign, a prolonged one, came to an end with the death of the Sayyid in May 1831. In 1835, Dost Muhammad Khān, the youngest and the most energetic of the Bārakzaī brothers, who had supplanted the Durrānī dynasty and become Amīr (lord, chief or king) of Kābul in 1825, advanced up to Khaibār Pass threatening to recover Peshāwar. In 1836 Harī Siṅgh Nalvā, the Sikh general who along with Prince Nāu Nihāl Siṅgh was guarding that frontier, built a chain of forts including one at Jamrūd at the eastern end of the Khaibār Pass to defend it. Dost Muhammad erected a fort at 'Alī Masjid at the other end. In the beginning of 1837, as Prince Nan Nihāl Siṅgh returned to Lahore to get married and the Mahārājā and his court got busy with preparations for the wedding, Dost Muhammad Khān sent a 25, 000-strong force, including a large number of local irregulars and equipped with 18 heavy guns, to invest Jamrūd. The Sikh garrison there had only 600 men and a few light artillery pieces. The Afghāns besieged the fort and cut off its water supply while a detachment was sent to the neighbouring Sikh fort of Shabqadar to prevent any help from that direction. Mahā Siṅgh, the garrison commander of Jamrūd, kept the invaders at bay for four days and managed meanwhile to send a desperate appeal for help to Harī Siṅgh Nalvā at Peshāwar. Nalvā rose from his sickbed and rushed to Jamrūd. In the final battle fought on 30 April 1837, the Afghāns were driven away, but Harī Siṅgh Nalvā was mortally wounded. In 1838, the Sikh monarch became a party to the Tripartite Treaty as a result of which Shāh Shujā' was reinstalled on the throne of Kābul in August 1839 with British help. Dost Muhammad Khān was exiled to Calcutta in November 1839, but was restored to his former position after the murder of Shāh Shujā' in April 1842. He thereafter maintained cordial relations with the Lahore Darbār. The second Anglo-Sikh war reawakened Dost Muhammad's ambition to seize Peshāwar and the trans-Indus territories, although overtly he sympathized with the Sikhs and even hired out an irregular Afghān contingent of 1500 horse to Chatar Siṅgh, leader of Sikh resistance against the British.


  1. Shahamat Ali, The Sikhs and Afghans. Patiala, 1970
  2. Harlan, Josiah, A Memoir of India and Afghanistan. London, 1842
  3. Burnes, Alexander, Cabool. London, 1843,
  4. Ganda Singh, Ahmad Shah Durrani. Bombay, 1959
  5. Sūrī, Sohan Lāl, 'Umdāt-ut-Twārīkh. Lahore, 1885-89

B. J. Hasrat