PHŪLĀ SIṄGH AKĀLĪ (1761-1823), Sikh hero and an eminent religious figure of the time of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, was born in 1761 at the village of Shīhāṅ, now in ruins, about 5 km west of Mūṇak, in present-day Saṅgrūr district of the Punjab. His father, lshar Siṅgh, an associate of the Nishānāṅvālī misl, died in 1762 fighting Ahmad Shāh Durrānī in Vaḍḍā Ghallūghārā, the Great Carnage, leaving his infant son to the care of Bābā Naraiṇ (Naiṇā) Siṅgh who belonged to the Shāhīd misl. Bābā Naraiṇ Siṅgh brought him up and instructed him in the Sikh texts as well as in the methods of warfare. He also administered to him the initiatory vows of Khaṇḍe dī pāhul. As he grew up, Phūlā Siṅgh joined the jathā of Bābā Narain Siṅgh at Anandpur and took part in many an expedition. After the death of Bābā Naraiṇ Siṅgh, he was elected leader of the jathā.

         In the midst of soldierly occupation, Phūlā Siṅgh showed concern about the manner in which the Sikh shrines were being administered, and denounced some of the prevalent usage. In 1800, Phūlā Siṅgh; along with members of his jathā, moved to Amritsar. When in January 1802, Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, attacked Amritsar to wrest control of the city from the Bhaṅgīs, Phūlā Siṅgh mediated between the clashing groups and averted bloodshed. He took charge of the holy shrines there and began levying charges on the sardārs and officials of the Sikh court for their maintenance. As provost of the Takht Akāl Buṅgā, he once imposed punishment on Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh for infraction of the Sikh code.

         Phūlā Siṅgh's Akālīs distrusted the foreigners Afghāns as well as Feringhees. In 1809, they were involved in an attack on the Muhammadan escort of Charles Metcalfe, the British envoy to the court of Raṇjīt Siṅgh. The same year Lieut F.S. White, a British officer, who was proceeding through the Sikh country with 80 troopers to survey the cis-Sutlej region on the authority of the Phūlkīāṅ chiefs, was challenged by Akālī Phūlā Siṅgh's jathā at Patto Kī. Timely intervention by the Nābhā chief saved the life of Lieut White.

         Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh appointed Phūlā Siṅgh commander of the Akālī troops in his service. These troops, not fully subservient to the Mahārājā's authority, were the most daring of his soldiers. In February 1807, Akālī Phūlā Siṅgh and his jathā fought valiantly at Kasūr and helped the Lahore forces subjugate the Pāṭhān governor, Qutb ud-Dīn Khān. As a reward, the Mahārājā gave Phūlā Siṅgh's force regular barracks at Amritsar which later developed into the headquarters of the Nihaṅg sect and became known as Akālīāṅ dī Chhauṇī or the Akālī Cantonment.

         In 1816, when Raṇjīt Siṅgh's armies made their sixth attack upon Multān, Phūlā Siṅgh led a storming party of his Akālī zealots. The Akālīs fought with reckless courage and took the Fort in the final assault they launched in 1818. Phūlā Siṅgh and his band of Akālīs also participated in the Peshāwar (1818) and Kashmīr (1819) campaigns. In January 1823, Amīr Muhammad 'Azīm Khān marched from Kābul with a strong host bent upon occupying Peshāwar and chastising the Sikhs. A Sikh army under Prince Khaṛak Siṅgh rapidly moved northwards and converged on Naushehrā, midway between Attock and Peshāwar. In the fierce action fought at Naushehrā, the Akālī contingent, 1500 strong, made a desperate charge and was soon in the thick of the battle. Suddenly, Phūlā Siṅgh's horse was struck by a bullet and died. Phūlā Siṅgh was also hurt, but he shifted on to an elephant and pressed forward. The Afghān militia made him their main target and he fell under a heavy shower of bullets. Although Phūlā Siṅgh and most of his men had been killed, the battle was won and the Afghāns had to flee Naushehrā.

         Akālī Phūlā Siṅgh had met with a hero's death on 14 March 1823. He was cremated at Pīrsibāq, 6 km east of Naushehrā, with full military honours. A samādh was built on the site and the Mahārājā attached to it a jāgīr for its maintenance. Another monument in Akālī Phūlā Siṅgh's honour stands at Amritsar in the form of Burj Bābā Phūlā Siṅgh.


  1. Sūrī, Sohan Lāl, 'Umdāt-ut-Twārīkh. Lahore, 1885
  2. Latif, Syad Muhammad, History of the Panjab. Calcutta, 1891
  3. Hasrat, Bikrama Jit, Life and Times of Ranjit Singh. Hoshiarpur, 1977
  4. Prem Siṅgh, Bābā, Jīvan Britānt Bābā Phūlā Siṅgh Akālī. Amritsar, 1914

Mohinder Siṅgh