TARUṆĀ DAL, army of the youth, was one of the two main divisions of Dal Khālsā, the confederated army of the Sikhs during the eighteenth century, the other one being the Buḍḍhā Dal (army of the elders). These Dals came into existence in 1734 when, during a truce with Zakarīyā Khān, the Mughal governor of the Punjab, different roving bands of the Sikhs were concentrated in Amritsar.

        Taruṇā Dal was subdivided into five jathās or fighting groups of approximately 1300 to 2,000 men each, mostly mounted. The first was commanded by Bhāī Dīp Siṅgh, commonly known, after he met with a martyr's death, as Bābā Dīp Siṅgh Shahīd. It was called Shahīdāṅvālā Jathā. The second, commanded by Bhāī Karam Siṅgh and Dharam Siṅgh of Amritsar, came to be known as Amritsarīāṅ dā Jathā. The third led by Bābā Binod Siṅgh and his son Bābā Kāhn Siṅgh was called Sāhibzādiāṅ dā Jathā or Gurū-Aṅsi Jathā. The fourth Jathā was commanded by Bhāī Dasaundhā Siṅgh of Koṭ Buḍḍhā and the fifth by Bhāī Bīr Siṅgh Raṅghreṭā. Both Buḍḍhā and Taruṇā Dals accepted Nawāb Kapūr Siṅgh as their overall commander. It was determined that while Buḍḍhā Dal remained at Amritsar to look after the shrines, Taruṇā Dal would be available for action where needed. However, Zakarīyā Khān ended the peace pact in 1735 and resumed his repressive policy against the Sikhs so that both Dals had to abandon Amritsar and seek safety in distant hills and forests. Taruṇā Dal retired into the Sivālik hill states of Kahlūr, Hiṇḍūr and Sirmūr which fell within the jurisdiction of Sirhind sarkār in the Sūbah of Delhi. From there it launched out intermittantly to raid the territory of Manjh Rājpūts of Jalandhar Doāb. Once during 1736, crossing into the Mājhā country, it defeated the gashtī fauj (roving army) sent from Lahore, and pillaging the Riāṛkī area (present district of Gurdāspur) went back to its hilly haunts. During the summer of 1739, the Taruṇā Dal harassed and plundered the richly laden baggage train of the Persian invader Nādir Shāh who, while returning home after a hearty plunder of Delhi and the Punjab, was keeping close to the hills with a view to avoiding the heat of the plains. The Sikhs followed the invaders up to Akhnūr on the River Chenāb where they rescued from their hands a large number of Hindu girls and safely restored them to their families. This chivalrous act and their daring attacks on Nādir Shāh, contrasting with the abject surrender of the rulers of Delhi and Lahore, endeared the Sikhs to the general populace. The two Dals now returned to the Punjab and started assembling at Amritsar on the occasions of Baisākhī and Dīvālī. At the Sarbatt (lit. entire) Khālsā meeting on Baisākhī, 29 March 1748, a major reorganization of the Dal Khālsā was put in hand. The entire force was divided into 11 misls or divisions. Six of these misls were assigned to the Buḍḍhā Dal while the rest formed the Taruṇā Dal. The latter comprised Sukkarchakkīā misl under Sardār Chaṛhat Siṅgh (grandfather of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh), Bhaṅgīs under Sardār Harī Siṅgh; Kanhaiyās under Sardār Jai Siṅgh; Nakaīs under Sardār Hīrā Siṅgh; and Rāmgaṛhīās under Sardār Jassā Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā, as distinguished from his namesake of the Āhlūvālīā clan, who was chosen as commander-in-chief of the Dal Khālsā as a whole. Taruṇā Dal continued to participate in joint expeditions of the two Dals, but its specific sphere of operation lay to the north of the Rivers Sutlej and Beās.

        After the conquest of Sirhind in January 1764, the misls divided the territory among themselves and started adding to their respective domains. From among the Taruṇā Dal only one Sardār of the Bhaṅgī misl, Rāi Siṅgh had participated in the partition of Sirhind territory. He had occupied 204 villages around Būṛīā and Jagādhrī. The remaining sardārs of the Taruṇā Dal had their eyes fixed on the northern Doābs of the Punjab proper. The Bhaṅgīs controlled a major part of the city of Lahore and extended their hegemony over Multān and subsequently occupied Jhaṅg, Khushāb and Chinioṭ in the West and Siālkoṭ and Gujrāt in the east. The Kanhaiyās ruled over the area comprising a major part of the present Gurdāspur district and Mukerīāṅ tahsīl of Hoshiārpur district. The territory of the Rāmgaṛhīās lay on both sides of the River Beās and included villages around Miāṇī and Urmuṛ Ṭāṇḍā in Jalandhar Doāb. They also held sway over the hill states of Chamba, Nūrpur, Jasvān and Harīpur. In 1776, they were defeated by the combined forces of the Kanhaiyā misl and Rājā Saṅsār Chand Kaṭoch of Kāṅgṛā.

        The Sukkarchakkīā misl under Sardār Chaṛhat Siṅgh established itself around Gujrāṅwālā which they made their headquarters and extended their territory up to Rohtās beyond the River Jehlum ; Chaṛhat Siṅgh's grandson, Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1780-1839) subdued the other misls and became the ruler of the entire Punjab from the Satluj to the Khaibār.


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Gulcharan Siṅgh