Bhai Maharaj Singh
Bhai Maharaj Singh(d. 1856), a saintly person turned revolutionary who led an anti-British movement in the Punjab after the first Anglo-Sikh war, was born Nihal Singh at the village of Rabbon, in Ludhiana district. He had a religious bent of mind and came under the influence of Bhai Bir Singh of Naurangabad. After the latter’s death in 1844, he succeeded him as head of the Naurangabad dera and was held in high esteem by a vast following, including most of the Sikh chiefs and courtiers.
Maharaj Singh’s revolutionary career started with the Prema conspiracy case involving him in a plot to murder the British resident, Henry Lawrence, and other pro-British officers of the Lahore Darbar. Maharaj Singh, whose movements were restricted to Naurangabad by the British, went underground. The government confiscated his property at Amritsar and announced a reward for his arrest. Bhai Maharaj Singh intensified his activities against the British when he came to know that Diwan Mul Raj had in April 1848 raised a standard of revolt against them at Multan. He left for Multan with 400 horsemen to join hands with Mul Raj. But soon differences arose between the two leaders, and Maharaj Singh left Multan for Hazara in June 1848 to seek Chatar Singh Atarivala’s assistance in his plans to dislodge the British.
In November 1848, he joined Raja Sher Singh‘s forces at Ramnagar and was seen in the battlefield riding his black mare and exhorting the Sikh soldiers to lay down their lives for the sake of their country. Thereafter he took part in the battles of Chelianvala and Gujrat, but, when Raja Sher Singh surrendered to the British at Rawalpindi on 14 March 1849, he resolved to carry on the fight single-handed. He escaped to Jammu and made Dev Batala his secret headquarters. In December 1849, he went to Hoshiarpur and visited the Sikh regiments to enlist their support. Bhai Maharaj Singh, who carried on his head a price of 10,000 rupees was arrested on 28 December 1849 at Adampur.
“The Guru is no ordinary man,” wrote Dr Vansittart, the Jalandhar deputy commissioner, who had arrested him. “He is to the natives what Jesus is to the most zealous of Christians. His miracles were seen by tens of thousands and are more implicitly believed than those worked by the ancient prophets.” Vansittart was so greatly impressed by Bhai Maharaj Singh’s personality that he recommended special treatment to be accorded him, but the government did not wish to take any risks and deported him to Singapore, along with one of his followers Kharak Singh where, after several years of solitary confinement, he died on 5 July 1856. He had gone blind before the end came.