Qila Gujjar Singh – Who and Where?

One of the readers of the blog requested if I could write something on Qila Gujjar Singh area in Lahore as he is a native of the region but has not been able to find any historical information on where this Qila was and who Gujjar Singh was. I hope this post will answer some of the questions. Just to clarify, much of the information in this post is not my own writing but is collected from a number of sources.

So, who was Gujjar Singh? Simply put, about 30 years before Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to power in 1799, Lahore and its environs were ruled by a triumvirate of Sikhs which included Gujjar Singh Bhangi as one of the chieftains. That thirty odd year period is also known as the reign of three hakeems.

The rule of these three Sikh chieftains started when Ahmed Shah Abdali began to lose ground inside his own base and decided to give Lahore to a Bhangi sardar named Lehna Singh. Lehna Singh teamed up with two other Sikh chieftains to secure the environs around Lahore in 1765 and that is how the triumvirate of Lehna Singh, Suba Singh and Gujjar Singh came to occupy power in and around Lahore.

Gujjar Singh was the son of a cultivator of modest means, Nattha Singh. Strong and well built, Gujjar Singh received the vows of the Khalsa at the hands of his maternal grandfather Gurbakhsh Singh Roranvala, who presented him with a horse and recruited him a member of his band. For thirty long years he, along with Lehna Singh and Suba Singh, ruled supreme and kept paying the Afghan invader and his offspring an annual sum to keep them at bay.

The Lahore Fort and the Walled City and its gates went to Lehna Singh. He was, for formal purposes, the governor of Lahore, and was so recongized. To Suba Singh went the area to the south of the Walled City, and he resided in the garden of Zubaida Begum in Nawankot, where he built a small fort for himself. The area between Amritsar and Lahore, or more correctly between the Shalamar Gardens and Lahore, went to Gujjar Singh. Gujjar Singh erected that part of the city, then a jungle and invited people to settle there. He also dug wells to supply water. A mosque was also built for the muslims in the area. He also built himself a small fort called Qila Gujjar Singh. Today, a few walls of that old fort can be seen in a street between today’s Nicholson Road and Empress Road, and the area is still called Qila Gujjar Singh.

As for how these three came to be known as hakeems, there is another interesting story behind that. The three chieftains cooperated very closely with one another, and often they would have parties in which dancing women, or ‘nautch girls’ as the British liked to call them, entertained them. In these sessions, opium smoking was the norm. When asked why they used this drug, they laughed it off as a medicine recommended by hakeems. Thus they began to be called the three hakeems, a name that stuck to them.

On a final note, their rule ended when Ranjit Singh beseiged the Lahore Fort in 1799 and the three chieftains fled, leaving the city firmly in the hands of the young man from Gujranwala.

2 Comments so far

  1. sheepoo (unregistered) on July 22nd, 2006 @ 12:52 am

    Very Very Interesting!
    Thanks Raza

  2. Saad (unregistered) on July 22nd, 2006 @ 2:25 am

    Nice review and informative article.
    My father used to live in killa gujar singh and he took us to see his old house once. Man we were lost there… If you want to see old lahore, go there.

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