DHIĀN SIṄGH, RĀJĀ (1796-1843), the second son of Mīāṅ Kishorā Siṅgh Ḍogrā and the middle one of the three brothers from Jammū serving Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, was born on 22 August 1796. He was presented before Raṇjīt Siṅgh at Rohtās in 1812 by his elder brother, Gulāb Siṅgh, and was given employment as a trooper on a monthly salary of sixty rupees. Dhiān Siṅgh by his impressive bearing, polished manner and adroitness, steadily rose in the Mahārājā's favour and, in 1818, replaced Jamādār Khushāl Siṅgh as ḍeoṛhīdār or chamberlain to the royal household. In this capacity, he had ready access to the Mahārājā and became a man of influence at the court. He was at times assigned to military duties as well. He took part in the battle of Nausherā in March 1823. As Raṇjīt Siṅgh, following the death on 30 April 1837 of Harī Siṅgh Nalvā, hastened towards the northwest frontier, Dhiān Siṅgh marched with his force in advance.

         Dhiān Siṅgh received from the Mahārājā endless favours. He was granted a large number of jāgīrs in the hilly country of Jammū and created Rājā in 1822. On 20 June 1827, he was given the title of Rājā-i-Rājgan Rājā Kalāṅ Bahādur. He became the principal minister of the Mahārājā and the most powerful person in the kingdom after him. The highest distinction came on 21 June 1839 when Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh proclaimed in the presence of the entire court and the army stationed in Lahore that he had granted full powers to Prince Khaṛak Siṅgh, the heir apparent, over all his dominions and troops, and that the Prince had chosen Rājā Kalāṅ Bahādur to be his Wazīr, principal minister or counsellor. The Mahārājā also conferred upon Dhiān Siṅgh the title of Nāib-us-Salatnat-i-'Āzamat Khairkhwāh-i-Samīmī-i-Daulat-i-Sirkār-i-Kubrā, Wazīr-i-'Āzam, Dastūr-i-Mu'azzam, Mukhtār-i-Mulk.

         On the morning of the funeral of the Mahārājā, 28 June 1839, Dhiān Siṅgh expressed his intention to immolate himself on the late monarch's pyre and had to be dissuaded by the queens and courtiers. Mahārājā Khaṛak Siṅgh himself begged him to continue to steer the State. Dhiān Siṅgh agreed that he would remain in the service of Khaṛak Siṅgh for one year and proceed thereafter on a pilgrimage to sacred places. But he soon found himself at the centre of courtly intrigue. He set afloat the rumour that Khaṛak Siṅgh and his favourite, Chet Siṅgh, were soliciting British protection and were going to compromise the sovereignty of the Punjab. He summoned Prince Nau Nihāl Siṅgh from Peshāwar, and won over the Sandhāṅvālīā sardārs to join him in a plot to kill Chet Siṅgh. The scheme was carried out and Chet Siṅgh was assassinated on 9 October 1839 by Dhiān Siṅgh in the presence of the Mahārājā who was himself placed under restraint, Prince Nau Nihāl Siṅgh running the affairs of the State on his behalf. Death, however, removed from the scene Nau Nihāl Siṅgh returning from his father's cremation on 5 November 1840. Dhiān Siṅgh now chose to place Prince Sher Siṅgh on the throne. He concealed the fact of Nau Nihāl Siṅgh's death for three days, till Sher Siṅgh had arrived at Lahore at his summons. But his plans were upset by his rivals, the Sandhāṅvālīās, who decided to support Khaṛak Siṅgh's widow, Chand Kaur, as a regent for Nau Nihāl Siṅgh's child yet to be born. On 2 December 1840, Chand Kaur was proclaimed Mahārāṇī. Sher Siṅgh went back to his estate in Baṭālā the following day, and Dhiān Siṅgh retired to Jammū a few days later. This was, however, only a tactical withdrawal by the astute Rājā Kalāṅ. Even while on his way to Jammū, he wrote to army commanders at different levels and to other government officials to render obedience and assistance to Prince Sher Siṅgh upon his return to Lahore. Sher Siṅgh arrived at Lahore on 13 January 1841 and the bulk of the royal army then in Lahore went over to him. Rājā Dhiān Siṅgh returned from Jammū on 17 January. Sher Siṅgh was proclaimed Mahārājā of the Punjab on 18 January with Dhiān Siṅgh as his Wazīr. On 15 September 1843 the Sandhāṅvālīā Sardārs, Ajīt Siṅgh and Lahiṇā Siṅgh, assassinated Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh and Kaṅvar Partāp Siṅgh, the heir apparent, on the outskirts of Lahore. As they were returning to the Fort with the heads of Sher Siṅgh and Partāp Siṅgh hung on spikes, they were met on the way by Dhiān Siṅgh who was lured into the Fort. As he advanced his claim to be Wazīr to the succeeding Mahārājā, Ajīt Siṅgh fired a shot and killed him on the spot.


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K. Jagjīt Siṅgh