General Zorawar Singh: Did he shape India’s map?

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Last Updated on December 30, 2021 by asoulwindow

Who is General Zorawar Singh Kahluria

General Zorawar Singh ji of Jammu, the Napoleon of India who was known for being a fierce warrior, had changed and shaped the Indian history several times in the 19th century. Not only was General Joravar Singh one of the greatest Indian military commanders of all times, but he was also a strategic Commander of forces, a courageous fighter, an able administrator and planner.

General Zoravar Singh ji was one of the greatest generals in the history of Indian subcontinent. I learned about this fierce Dogra warrior only when I visited Taklakot or Purang in Tibet during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, the epic Hindu pilgrimage.  

Why is General Zorawar Singh world famous?

General Zorawar Singh,who served as a military general of the famous and powerful Dogra Rajput ruler known as Shri Gulab Singh of Jammu in North India, rose to fame, due to his fierce personality and courage. But what did Zorawar Singh ji, the Napoleon of India do?

It was under Gulab Singh ji that Joravar Singh ji displayed the best of his war abilities. The list of achievements of Zorawar ji is a long one. Not many attempt what General Zorawar Singh had made possible.

He later worked under governor (wazir-e-wazarat) of Kishtwar and was celebrated for conquering new territories such as Ladakh and Baltistan, thereby expanding the existing territories.

His last war turned out to be fatal for him. General Zorawar Singh was determined to win the war over Western Tibet (Ngari Khorsum) but unfortunately, he was killed during the battle of To-yo at the peak of Dogra-Tibetan war. But not before defeating the Tibetans in their own homeland.

Zorawar Singh ji had also conquered and established forts at Reasi in Jammu & Leh in the Ladakh region. He had also constructed Mata Chandi Temple at Machail belt of Kishtwar district.

Stamp on General Zorawar Singh ji

The Government of India had released a Rs. 3 postal stamp on General Zorawar Singh ji on December 31, 2000. This stamp is much in demand with numismatics enthusiasts. A Rs. 5 postal stamp on Maharaja Gulab Singh was also issued in the year 2009 by Indian postal service.

Nomenclature of Zorawar Singh ji

Zorawar Singh ji is also mentioned and spelt as General Zorawar Singh ji, Zoravar Singh ji, Jorawar Singh ji and Joravar Singh ji. All of these names are used in this blog and they all mean the same thing.

Zorawar is a Punjabi word which means brave and strong. General Jorawar Singh ji truly lived up to his name.

Me in present day Taklakot aka Purang during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Jorawar Singh history

What is the history of Gen Zorawar Singh? Zoravar Singh ji has left behind a rich legacy. He not only changed history of India but also shaped it. It is because of him that Ladakh is still in India.

The Rajputs of Himachal Pradesh as well as Jammu have a natural flair when it comes to mountain fighting. Traditionally they excelled in war activities such as crossing the high-altitude Himalayan Mountain ranges and entering inhospitable lands such as Ladakh through the source of the voluptuous Suru River.

Even today the army men of modern China and India find it difficult to negotiate these dangerous and cold High-altitude rivers.

Zorawar Day: When was General Zorawar Singh born?

General Zorawar Singh birthday is not known clearly. While some say General Zorawar Singh was born in the year 1784, but his date and month of birth is unknown. Others believe that he was born on 15th of April, 1786 in the Ansara Village of modern Kangra district of the present Himachal Pradesh.

His village was located in Kahloor, which is now known as Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh. His surname Kahluria was also derived from his residential place Kahloor.

In fact, 15th of April every year is celebrated with much fanfare as Zorawar Day by ex-servicemen and combatant units of JAK RIF or Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. Revered as the architect of modern-day Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (erstwhile J&K State Force), it is but natural to commemorate the birth of general Zoravar Singh ji with respect and love.

This is a befitting tribute to the Napoleon of India.

Where was General Zorawar Singh born

He was born in Ansar, Kahlur aka Kahloor Riyasat, of what was then Punjab. This region now comes under the hilly Himachal Pradesh of North India. Kahlur is also known as Bilaspur State and it was a Kingdom of Punjab (697-1849) and had later become a princely state (1849-1948) of Punjab. Kahlur Fort can still be visited even today. Other famous forts of this region include Bachhretu Fort and Kangra Fort.

Zorawar Singh age

Unfortunately, due to his untimely death, General Zorawar Singh was only 56 when he last took breath on 12th December 1841.

Early Life of General Zorawar Singh

General Zorawar Singh was born in a Hindu Rajput Dogra family of Kahlur, Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh in India more than 200 years ago.

Due to a family feud which involved a property dispute after the death of his father, Jorawar Singh ji had left his village and had travelled all the way to Haridwar (in present day Uttarakhand) in search of employment.

He then served under Rana Jaswant Singh of Marmethi (present day Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir) and Hindu Dogra King Raja Gulab Singh.

Zoravar Singh ji of Jammu was barely 16 years old when he served Rana Jaswant Singh of Ramnagar. He was also a jagirdar or feudal lord of Galian.

It was here that his formal traditional training of art of swordsmanship and archery took place. It was common for brave Rajput youth to undergo such traditional training sessions. After some times, he served as sepoy of Kiladar of Reasi.

This was when the intelligence, enterprising nature and courage of Zorawar Singh ji was noticed and appreciated. Impressed, he was given bigger roles by Kiladar such as carrying messages to Raja Gulab Singh. Little did he know that this would change his life.

Soul Window facts

I am a Shrinet Rajput from Uttar Pradesh (previously Uttarakhand) myself and have grown up listening to stories of inimitable Rajput bravery from different regions such as Rajasthan.

I have visited places like Udaipur, Bundi, Jaipur, Haldighati, Chittorgarh etc and have studied the Rajput history closely.

You must read my blogs on these at A Soul Window – Ranked as No.1 travel blog of India.

General Zoravar Singh biography: the Napoleon of India

This comprehensive biography of Zorawar Singh touches all aspects of his illustrious life.

General Zoravar Singh was so courageous that the enemy army not only offered their prayers on his death but also built a chorten like memorial or samadhi in his honour. During my visit to Taklakot aka Burang in Ngari Perfecture of West Tibet for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, I realised that the Samadhi of Zorawar Singh exists even today. I was honestly surprised!

Soul Window Observations

No other such examples exist in the world and this is why General Zoravar Singh is so famous across the world. It is not every day after all that defeated army honours and venerates a General of the enemy army. Such was the reputation of fierce Zorawar Singh that the best of warriors used to fear him.

No wonder, the name of Zoravar Singh is taken with great respect even today by the people of Tibet whose land he invaded almost 2 centuries ago.  No other warrior has been able to achieve this be it any continent of the world. He incited fear in the hearts of his enemies and yet he was revered by them.

Despite facing so many challenges on multiple fronts such as political relations, harsh weather conditions, lack of oxygen, food scarcity, heavy snow fall and conspiracies by enemies, General Zorawar Singh ji always won even in adverse conditions.

Who was Maharaja Gulab Singh Ji?

Impressed by his work and loyalty towards Lahore Darbar, Maharaja Ranjit Singh declared Raja Gulab Singh ji as a King of Jammu in the year 1822. In fact, Raja Gulab Singh ji was the first ruler of the brave Dogra dynasty. Father of Raja Gulab Singh ji was Mian Kishor Singh Jamwal who was also the Dogra ruler of Jammu.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh ji applied the Raj Tilak to the then General Gulab Singh near Akhnoor fort, located near the famous Chenab River.

The claim to fame of Akhnoor is that it is the last of Indus Valley Civilisation in the North. Located in the foothills of Himalayas, Akhnoor is still a town in Jammu district.

Gulab Singh ji was the Dogra General of Sikh Army back then. He was already a participant in all the major campaigns. A statue of Gulab Singh ji sitting on a horse is located at the Amar Mahal Palace of Jammu in India.

Maharaja Gulab Singh ji was a very intelligent and wise man who never took rushed decision. He always calculated risks and opportunities before taking any decision.

Soul Window Facts

Did you know that the original Dogra Pradesh or the Dogra land is not limited to just Jammu? But the real places where Dogras rule included entire present Jammu region along with many places in Himachal Pradesh, Hoshiyarpur in Punjab, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and many places in Pakistan occupied Kashmir etc.

In those times there were no states but small principalities, which was later united by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel ji.

How Zoravar Singh ji joined Gulab Singh ji?

It is no secret that General Zorawar Singh was one of the most dependable Dogra Rajput military General who served the powerful Maharaja Gulab Singh Ji.

Zoravar Singh ji had joined the young Gulab Singh ji in the year 1817. This was the first stepping stone to what changed the history of Indian subcontinent and South Asia.

Maharaja Gulab Singh Ji, before he became Maharaja was credited with organising the state of Jammu under his supervision while he served Maharaja Ranjit Singh. There used to be immense leakage and pilferage in the supplies which were transported from Jammu to Reasi and Kishtwar. Ironically, this happens even today.

Once, while performing his duties of conveying messages to Maharaja Gulab Singh Ji, Zorawar ji, who was still very young, gave some intelligent ideas to save cost. He identified and informed Raja Gulab Singh of the wastages in his supply department. He came up with an alternative plan which helped avoid wastage and bring down the cost. This had impressed Gulab Singh ji and stature of Zorawar Singh ji grew manifolds.

Impressed by ideas of Zorawar ji which were implemented and resulted in low costs, King Gulab Singh ji promoted him to inspector of the commissariat of supplies for all the forts which were located north of Jammu.

Later, he was given an even bigger role as he was appointed as Hakim of Kishtwar after Kishtwar was occupied in the year 1821. It was a major turning point for him.

What’s more? Stature of Zoravar Singh ji as well as Gulab Singh ji continued to rise with time. Later, after Raja Gulab Singh ji ruled Jammu, Joravar Singh ji was promoted as Hakim of Reasi, Arnas and Kussal. Impressed with his performance and intelligence, Zorawar Singh ji was also awarded the title and appointment of Wazir.

What followed next is history. Zoravar Singh ji led many ambitious military campaigns under the patronage of Gulab Singh ji.

How Zoravar Singh ji shaped borders and map of India

It is common knowledge that the valiant Zorawar Singh is the reason why Ladakh is still an integral part of India. Today’s line of actual control or LAC, which Indian claims is based on the times of the region which was established by General Zorawar Singh ji.

Soul Window Observations

Did you know that the Kingdom of Raja Gulab Singh spanned 1.35 lakh sq. kilometres and it included far off regions such as Punjab, Sinkiang (or present-day Xinjiang Province in West China) and Tibet?  Needless to say, the British invaders had an evil eye on this region. The Dogras also fought in Batalik (Ladakh), Gilgit, Chitral (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) etc.

With the help of valiant warriors such as General Zoravar Singh, new lands were conquered such as Principalities of Bhimber (in present Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), Rawalpindi (present North Pakistan), Ladakh, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Bhadarwah (the last 3 are located in present day Jammu and Kashmir). It is an extraordinary story very few know about!

Today, if Indians are able to visit Ladakh without any Visa it is because of the efforts of our brave Hindu ancestors. It was because of Raja Gulab Singh and General Zorawar Singh ji that Ladakh was brought under the Jammu kingdom. It was their solid team which shaped and changed the destiny of much of the region around Jammu.

General view of Skardu Fort in 1850. Courtesy: Wiki Commons

Not many know that Maharaja Gulab Singh had founded a vast empire in North India which was spread across a whooping 1.35 lakh square kilometres. It included Ladakh, Iskardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Western Tibet & other principalities of Dardistan. The proud achievements of the Dogra dynasty have few parallels in the world.

It was General Zoravar Singh of the great Dogra Army, also known as the Napoleon of India, who with his sword drew the international borders in the Himalayas and included Ladakh, Skardu and Baltistan as integral parts of India.

The new border lines drawn by them exists to this date. Unfortunately, much of this region is now occupied by Pakistan and China since independence due to weak Indian leadership in those days.

This makes me have a hard look at the massive pieces of land which were snatched away from India. I was surprised to know that some of the legacy of General Zorawar Singh include Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunwa region of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Xingxiang in China, Karakoram, Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan, India-Tibet border etc.

Map of India would have been different had Zorawar Singh ji not consolidated the above-mentioned lands as one entity. India would not have been able to claim the lands which it does today.

Napoleon of India: Conquests of General Zorawar Singh Kahluria

Some of the regions he conquered in the tough terrains of Himalayan ranges included Tibet, Iskardu aka Skardu, Baltistan (in present day Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and Ladakh (present India).

This story dates back to 6 September 1841 when Zorawar Singh and the defeated Tibetan army did the unthinkable. While traveling across West Tibet, I realised that the Samadhi of world-famous Dogra General Joravar Singh is located in Taklakot in Tibet and not India.

Around 180 years ago, Zoravar Singh Kahluria, the Napoleon of India, created history! Name of Zorawar Singh is still treated with great respect by people of Tibet.

The British Invasion

When the British invaded India through the East India Company, their sole aim was to loot and plunder a prosperous India and strip it of all its incomparable wealth.

The mere fact that So many Islamic attacks and European invasions by Portuguese, Dutch and British people happened in India is testimony to the fact that India and much of South Asia such as the Island nation of Sri Lanka were way more powerful in those times.

What else nations and armies invade for? Mostly the invasions are done (even today) for wealth, natural resources, expansion of territory and sometimes, ego!  

The British didn’t want Dogras to go to Tibet and join hands with Nepal. The British already didn’t get along with the Gurkhas of Nepal. The British had already had a fight with the brave Gurkhas.

The British invaders were worried of these developments. Had they joined hands, it would have been difficult for British to stay here.

In those days, a British was on his regular vacation in Leh. The King of Leh, perturbed by the advance of Jorawar ji asked the British vacationer to intervene.

The King of Leh pressurized the British man to convey to Jorawar Singh ji that he was sent by the East India Company to help Ladakhis. Misled briefly by the British man, Jorawar Singh ji was convinced for some time, till he sent across the message to Maharaja Gulab Singh ji. On receiving the message from Maharaja, that the British man is only misleading and it is far from reality, did he go ahead.

In the next 5 years, the Kashmiris or Baltis conspired many revolts in Ladakh. The way to Ladakh was easier from Kashmir but Jorawar Singh ji and his army always took the Kishtwar route despite it being a dangerous route. Even today, it is not an easy route. Mihan Singh (d. 1841), the Sikh governor of Kashmir from 1834 to 1841, didn’t get along with either Maharaja Gulab Singh ji or Joravar Singh ji. This is why they took the Kishtwar route.

The Ladakh battle

Who led the Dogra Invasion of Ladakh? Ladakh was never a part of Jammu until this episode. No other Kings had the guts or ability to even head towards the tough terrain of Ladakh. Even today, Ladakh is a touch region to travel to. Joravar Singh ji under the guidance of Maharaja Gulab Singh ji did the unthinkable.

Zoravar Singh ji led many difficult wars towards the East of Kishtwar. Arranging for logistics, food, weapons etc for a huge army of 5,000 soldiers is not easy.

Before he conquered Tibet, under the rule of Raja Gulab Singh, Jorawar Singh ji had waged several battles in other regions. The high-altitude, snow-clad mountains and valleys of upper Himalayas didn’t deter him.

His victory in Ladakh (Tibet-i-Kalan or the greater Tibet) is considered to be his greatest achievement. It was also his first target. Ladakh used to have strong trade ties with Kashmir, Sinkiang (present day Xinjiang) and Tibet.

Many principalities of the Ladakh region were tributary to the Gyalpo of Ladakh. There were some disputes between the Kings of Ladakh in those times. Due to this, the King of Timbus looked for assistance from Raja Gulab Singh in 1834 against the Gyalpo.

Gulab Singh ji agreed and the most intrepid and trusted Zorawar Singh ji was chosen for the hard task. This fearless general had achieved victory over the local Botis with his 5,000 strong army. To make it happen, he had entered Ladakh region via the source of Suru River

It was 15th April 1834,when Zoravar Singh ji, the Napoleon of Indiahadlaunched the Ladakh campaign from Kishtwar. The route Zorawar ji took was Kishtwar to Ladakh via Zhanskar. We all know that not much grows in Ladakh. When he and his army reached Ladakh, Zorawar ji decided that they will not loot the locals as already there was very few resources available to local people. Impressed with this, the local wealthy people started feeding the army of Jorawar ji daily.

This is the kind of goodwill Jorawar Singh ji had generated. Such principled attitude had also helped the army in future as well. More than a great fighter, which he was, Jorawar Singh ji was great administrator and planner.

He had his 5,000 strong army had arrived in Suru Valley and Purig (present day Kargil) or the estate of Thi Sultans in the then Ladakhi Province via Bhot Khol pass.

General Banko Kahlon was sent by Tsepal Namgyal, the Gyalpo (King) to cut off lines of communication for General Zoravar Singh ji. The intelligent man that he was, he and his army moved back to Kartse. This is where they stayed during the harsh winters.

During the spring of 1835, things turned in favour of Gen Zorawar Singh ji. He was finally successful in achieving victory over the huge Ladakhi army of General Banko Kahlon. General Zorawar Singh ji marched towards Leh.

The powerful General Banko Kahlon and the Gyalpo surrendered to Zoravar Singh in 1835 in Ladakh, despite boasting of a huge army. This was a decisive victory!

They even paid Rupees 50,000 as war-indemnity and Rupees 20,000 as an annual tribute. It was a huge sum back then and is thus seen as a landmark victory of Jorawar ji.

This is also around the same time he constructed the famous Zorawar Fort of Leh in present day India, which I visited several times during my Ladakh trip.

General Zorawar Singh with the Gyalpo (King) of Ladakh. Courtesy: Wiki Commons

Battles in Baltistan

After conquering many lands, including Ladakh, Zorawar Singh ji moved to Baltistan (in present day Pakistan occupied Kashmir) in West, which he attacked during the harsh winter months of 1839 and 1840. He and his 8,000 strong Dogra troop entered Baltistan via Hanu and Chorbat passes, won the war and annexed all of Baltistan (Tibet-i-Khurd, or the little Tibet.)

This was also when many Ladakhis joined his army and helped him annexe the entire region of Baltistan. Located in the Northwest of Ladakh, Gulab Sigh ji’s rule in this new territory was consolidated, thanks to the able war skills of Zorawar Singh ji.

Baltistan is a strategic location as trade routes across the famous Karakoram Mountains pass through here.

Dogra Tibetan War: Fall of Taklakot

Dogra rulers and their run-ins with China is not unheard of. After winning the battle of Baltistan, Jorawar Singh ji eastward, towards Tibet. Here is the story of the famous Dogra Tibetan battle. The famous Dogra Tibetan War happened just after a year of the Baltistan victory. Ladakhis had long claimed these regions of West Tibet as their own. Since Jorawar ji had already captured Ladakh, so he also laid Dogra Army claim on Western Tibet.

Soul Window Facts

Much like how Zorawar ji recruited Ladakhis to wage battle in Baltistan after conquering Ladakh, he also recruited the defeated Baltis to wage war in Tibet. Soldiers from Jammu hills, Kishtwar, Ladakh and Baltistan comprised of his army when he attacked Tibet.

Zorawar Singh ji had marched in to Tibet in the summer month of May in the year 1841. It was an alien land for him and his 6,000 strong army. Many of them were naturally Dogra warriors. Not many know that he had even marched up to the holy Kailash Range which is located towards south of the world-famous Indus River. The Hindu devotee that he was, he even took a holy dip in the sacred Mansarovar lake later.

The strategic warrior that Zorawar Singh ji was, he had spread his men in various contingents. This plan of action helped him launch several attacks from different directions. He was able to crush any resistance from the Tibetan army and was able to pass the Mansarovar lake and converge at Gartok. This is how General Zoravar Singh defeated the Tibetan warriors.

After the commander of Tibet army fled to Purang aka Taklakot, Zorawar Singh ji successfully attacked the fort in the month of September in 1841. Much of how like present day international armies negotiate via means of a dialogue, the erstwhile Maharaja of Nepal and Emissaries of Tibet rulers had met him in Taklakot, seeking a reconciliation.

After winning the Tibet war, Zoravar Singh ji, the Napoleon of India, went on the epic Hindu pilgrimage of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra with his forces.

No wonder, he is still known as ‘Conqueror of Ladakh’, ‘Napoleon of India’ or ‘Napoleon of the East’. He had also captured places like Hanle, Tashigong, Rudok and Gartok during his mission.

Why did the Tibetan Army fail?

As per the official records of the Tibetan General who was defeated by Joravar Singh ji, there were several reasons why they had failed to stand up to the invading army of Zorawar Singh ji. When the Tibetan General reached Taklakot, only 1,000 local troops were stationed as guards at various posts to defend the 6,000 strong army of Zorawar Singh ji. The aim of setting up a special guard post at a strategic pass near Taklakot was to stop the invading army in their tracks.

However, this was not meant to be because the local Tibetan troops could not stand up to the Dogra army, who were locally known as Shen-Pa. When the army of Zoravar Singh ji started to approach, the Tibetans didn’t even give them a tough fight and instead fled the spot. The distance between Taklakot, (which is tucked away at a corner in West Tibet) from the powerful Central Tibet was several thousand kilometres.

All of the above-mentioned unfavourable circumstances left the Tibetan Army with no option but to withdraw to the foot of the Tsa Mountain near the Mayum Pass. The fall of Taklakot is clearly mentioned in the report of Meng Pao, the Chinese Imperial Resident, at Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

The weak point of Tibet war victory

The great administrative giant that Zoravar Singh ji was, he had commissioned several check points and small forts across the hostile terrain of Tibet.

These forts not only helped in defending the land but also helped in facilitating the network of communication and supplies. In fact, the Dogra Fort of Chi-T’ang near Taklakot was also commissioned by him.

But the victorious army had a tougher enemy to fight: the intense Tibetan cold, heavy snowfall, torrential rain and lightning. The Rajput General and his troops waited out the bad weather in Tirthapuri which is located northwest of Kailash Parbat.

As we know that the passages get blocked during winter months in inhospitable terrains of places like Tibet, Ladakh, Spiti etc., this posed a serious problem. Most places in Tibet got inaccessible due to heavy snowfall.

Unlike today, there were no frequent helicopter rides and airplane services in mid-19th century. This resulted in a loss of food supply chain. While many army men of Zorawar Singh ji perished due to starvation, others lost their toes and fingers to frostbite due to extremely cold winter weather of Tibet. They even burnt ammunition for some warmth.

Me in modern Taklakot aka Purang during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Battle of To-Yo: How did General Zorawar Singh die?

When the Tibetan army and their Balti (who were already defeated) and Chinese allies noticed the vulnerable situation of Zorawar Singh ji and his army, they joined hands and attacked him when he was at his weakest. The enemy troops regrouped and bypassed Chi-T’ang fort. This is when Battle of To-Yo began!

When Did General Zorawar Singh die?

How did Zorawar Singh ji die? On 12th December 1841, the Army of Jorawar Singh ji came face to face with the joint armies of China and Tibet. What predictably followed next was exchange of fires.

During the battle of Toyo, the right shoulder of Zorawar Singh ji was badly injured because a bullet had hit him. As a result, he fell from his horse.

But he had not given up till his last breath. And this is why he is still seen as a great warrior in India and even in Tibet. Toting a sword in his left hand, he did not stop fighting.

It was then that Tibetans attacked the Dogra position. As the fight ensued a Tibetan commander Migmar thrust his lance (a long wooden shaft with a pointed metal head) in the chest of general Zoravar Singh ji. This was his final moment!

Unfortunately, he could not survive this attack in the Dogra Tibetan War. This is how the brave General Zoarwar Singh ji died in Tibet. And with him the inimitable military adventures of Dogra warriors came to an end.

Revenge

Untimely death of General Zoarwar Singh sent shockwaves in Jammu. What followed was a successful revenge plan.

Not many know that barely 6 months after the death of General Zorawar Singh ji, the enemy General was killed by a combined army of Dogras and Sikhs during the battle of Chushul in the month of August in 1842.

Peace treaty of Chushul

The Tbetans knew that this was not the end of the war. They had anticipated that the Dogras will attack them again. The adversary thus had no option but to sign the peace treaty of Chushul. It took one year after General Zorawar Singh ji was martyred to sign this treaty of Chushul.

The peace treaty of Chushul stated clearly that Jammu, Kashmir, Tibet and China will honour the traditional boundaries in the coming years. It is the same boundary on which India claims its line of control or LoC today.

Soul Window Thoughts

I am not sure if it’s just a coincidence that I am writing this blog on General Zorawar Singh in the same month which he died, which is December. I am writing this blog on 23rd December and General Zorawar Singh passed away on 12th December 1841.

Zorawar Singh Samadhi in Toyo, Tibet.

I can’t wrap my head around this lesser-known story ever since I heard about it. Most of the Indians are unaware that one of their own Indian army men, lies buried atop a monochromatic 300 feet high hill in Toyo near Taklakot is West Tibet. This was where General Joravar Singh ji was slain.

The samadhi or memorial of General Zorawar Singh Kahluria (1786-1841), shaped as a Buddhist chorten is one of its kind. People still come and pay their respects at this mound of rock. Colourful Buddhist prayer flags surround the samadhi of Zoravar Singh.

It is not every day that the defeated army honours the General of the attacking army. In fact, I can’t think of any other such events which happened in the battlefields of past or present. This rare event unfolded nearly 2 centuries ago on the soil on historically rich Taklakot.

Did you know that this General Zoravar Singh was buried respectfully by Tibetans forces with military honours? What’s more, the Tibetan also raised a memorial or samadhi in the honour of Zorawar Singh, the Napoleon of India!

I must also add here that after the Tibetans killed Zorawar Singh ji, they had taken his severed head to Lhasa in order to establish the end of the war and to honour the victory of Tibetan army.

Toyo is located just 4 kilometres away from Taklakot in East direction.

Soul Window Facts

The Tibetans even made their kids wear taviz made with bones of general Zorawar Singh, thinking that the kids will grow up to be as strong and brave as general Zorawar Singh ji. Enemies used to shudder with the mere name of Zorawar Singh ji after all.

Zorawar Fort, Leh, Ladakh

Not many tourists who visit Zorawar Fort each year know that apart from small forts in Tibet, Zoravar Singh ji had built a fort outside Leh as well.

This historic destination is also the top place to see in Leh, Ladakh. It is located at walking distance from the Leh market and the Leh Palace.

I have visited Zorawar Fort many times during my several Ladakh trips. You can read about Zorawar Fort in detail in my travel blog at A Soul Window. The more we learn, the more we appreciate our collective history.  

General Zorawar Singh Auditorium Jammu

General Zorawar Singh is not only a national hero of India but also of Jammu, which was his karmbhoomi. It is but natural that a public facility in Jammu is named after him. The General Zorawar Singh Auditorium of Jammu is named after his memory.

Thanks to the then Chancellor of the University of Jammu, retired Lt. General Shri S. K. Sinha, PVSM, who had suggested this name for the auditorium after our legendary Rajput General.

Inaugurated on 28th March, 2007, General Zorawar Singh Auditorium complex even has an art gallery and museum of its own. A visit here will also help you understand and appreciate the rich rich history of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions and how they are interconnected. The rich cultural heritage and diversity of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh is also on display here.

One of the first of its kinds in India, the General Zorawar Singh Auditorium complex also boasts of Art Studio for children, Heritage Museum, Media Centre, Exhibition Halls, TV Studio, FM Radio Station, Art Gallery, Photo Gallery, Conference Halls and even a Cafétéria. It is a must visit place when you are in Jammu.

Zorawar Singh not to be confused with

Zorawar Singh ji, son of Guru Gobind Singh

How was Son of Guru Govind ji martyred?

There are many such famous personalities of India who have the same name as Zoravar Singh ji of Jammu who conquered Ladakh, Baltistan etc. Sahibzada Zoravar Singh ji, the 3rd son of 10th Sikh Guru known as Guru Gobind Singh ji is one of the most famous personalities who existed much before General Zorawar Singh ji of Jammu.

Their story can be traced back to Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, which I visited during Hola Mohalla festival.

Do you know about the Mughal atrocities on the family of Guru Govind Singh? Zorawar Singh and his brother Fateh Singh were bricked alive by cruel Mughals when they were barely 9 and 5 years old.

After being captured by Mughals deceitfully, when the brave hearts Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh ji refused to convert from Sikhism to Islam, they were tortured and finally killed by Mughals.

The innocent yet courageous boys attained martyrdom on 26th December, 1705 after Battle of Chamkaur. The courageous boys were brutally murdered by Wazir Khan the Mughal Governor of Sirhind by burying them alive in 4 walls that were constructed around them.

Aurangzeb, the debauched Mughal plunderer controlled the land in those days. The insecure man that Aurangzeb was, he used to always be scared of the valour of courageous Sikh community as he saw the two young boys as a threat in future. This is why, they were not spared his wrath. Much like how Kans wanted to nip Krishna ji in the bud!

Here is another co incidence. I am writing this blog on 26th December. And no, I had not planned it this way. It is amazing how all my blogs are so interconnected and related to each other, without me trying too hard. Do read all my blogs at Asoulwindow, which has been ranked as best travel blog of India many times. A Soul Window is also mentioned as No. 1 Indian travel blog frequently.

Zoravar Singh of Delhi

Zorawar Singh of New Delhi is known for making a very unique Guinness world record. The modern Zoravar Singh did 147 skips, while he was still wearing roller skates, in only 30 seconds. This was an unprecedented performance.

He broke the Guinness World Record by being the first person to do most skips on roller/inline skates within thirty second. I am not sure, if it is the name which made the modern Zorawar Singh perform the impossible. Setting a new world record, Singh lived up to the name of General Zoravar Singh. Who know, the 21st century Zorawar Singh might even be an incarnate of the 19th century Zorawar Singh?

There have been many famous people with the name of Zorawar Singh. The brother’s name of Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh is also Zorawar Singh.

Zorawar Singh Religion: Sikh or Hindu?

Was Zorawar Singh Religion a Sikh or Hindu? It is a very commonly asked question.

Zoravar Singh ji was a Hindu Rajput. The courageous Rajput warrior General Zorawar Singh was a great devotee of Bhagavān Shiva and had even made sure that he had darshan of Kailash Parbat and Mansarovar lake, both of which are known as abode of Shiv ji. Do read my detailed blogs on these holy Hindu pilgrimages.

Some people spread rumour and misinformed views on the religion of General Joravar Singh Kahluria because of his turban. Since Sikhs also wear turbans, therefore many people mistake him as a Sikh warrior which is as true as saying that the British came to India to civilise its people.

It is in fact a real Dogra turban, which general Jorawar Singh ji dons. Very few people know how to tie the Dogra turban. It is clear that Gen Joravar Singh did serve the Sikh army but he was a Hindu.

Mr. A.J. Raina, who has authored 16 books has a better understanding on the religion of Zorawar Singh ji. He is a renowned Military Historian and founding trustee of Military History Research Foundation (R) India. You can check out his books here.

According to Shri AJ Raina,

General Zorawar Singh ji was a Dogra from Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh. As a young soldier in Sikh Army, he assaulted his commander when checked for smoking. He ran away to Haridwar before coming to Jammu and rest is history.

There are few who genuinely call him a Sikh because Raja Gulab Singh was part of Sikh Army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Even when he was made a Raja in 1822, his ultimate boss was Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Technically, therefore, Raja Gulab Singh and General Zorawar Singh were Sikh subjects.

However, if religion or faith is seen, Jorawar Singh ji was a Dogra Rajput. During recent times, some self-styled Sikh historians have tried to twist the narrative, forgetting the fact that even Dogras traditionally wore turbans and Zorawar’s indulgence in a fag too told us something. In short, he was a Dogra Rajput Warrior…period!”

Do also check out the books on General Zorawar Singh ji.

Zorawar Singh Movies

Unfortunately, no significant feature film or movie is made on the life of Jorawar Singh ji. Filmmakers from India must make Zorawar Singh Movies so that our current generation know about the glorious past of Hindu warriors.

There is only one animation which has been made on the life and times of Zorawar Singh ji. First ever 3D Animated film of J&K “Veer Yodha General Zorawar Singh” which is a biography of great Dogra Warrior was screened at Sangeet Hall of Shri Ranbir Model Higher Secondary School in Jammu.

It was also screened at Hotel Taj Vivanta in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Devinder Singh ji who is the Chairman of General Zorawar Singh Trust.

Soul Window Thoughts

I had tears in my eyes while just writing on Zorawar Singh Kahluria and his great sacrifice. It is a pity that the mediocre Hindi film industry which keeps aping the western movies have failed to make movies on the legendary heroes of India.

Some of the famous Sikh and Hindu heroes include

  • General Zorawar Singh
  • Maharana Pratap of Rajasthan
  • Chatrapati Shiva Ji Maharaj of Maharashtra
  • Mangal Pandey from Nagwa in Uttar Pradesh
  • Lachit Borphukan of Assam in North East India
  • Chandra Shekhar Azad of Badarka near Unnao in Uttar Pradesh
  • Jaswant Singh Rawat whose memorial I saw on the road to Tawang from Bomdila and Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh of North East India.

Do read my blogs on these real heroes of India. Instead of glorifying the Mughals, we must acknowledge the valour and sacrifice of such brave Hindu and Sikh warriors. Unbridled courage was always the prominent character of most Hindu heroes.

Descendants of Zorawar Singh Kalhuria ji

Devinder Singh ji, Sushma Kalhuria ji and their daughters Diksha Kalhuria and Riya Kalhuria who belongs to 5th and 6th generation of the great Dogra warrior General Zoravar Singh ji have also written the script of the film, “Veer Yodha General Zorawar Singh”. I am sure they are proud of their legacy. They are also a trustee of General Zorawar Singh Trust.

Bhim Singh ji, the great grandson of General Zorawar Singh ji is an Indian politician, author, lawyer and activist. His wife’s name is Mrs. Jay Mala. He is also the founder and president of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP).

General Zorawar Singh UPSC exams

Questions on the life, achievements and history of Zoravar Singh ji, the Napoleon of India is often asked in UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam for for IAS, IFS, PCS. If you are preparing for UPSC, then you must read this detailed guide on General Shri Zorawar Singh ji. It will answer all your exam questions.

I have shared here, all you wanted to know about General Zorawar Singh ji. All the commonly asked question and frequently asked question about Zorawar Singh ji have been answered in this article in great detail.

Conclusion: Why Zorawar Singh ji is important?

It is a pity that modern Indians, both young and old know little or nothing about the huge contribution of General Zorawar Singh ji, the Napoleon of India! He after all has been credited with unprecedented victories in and around North of India.

Though the united map of Jammu and Kashmir as shaped by General Jorawar Singh has been broken and altered many times, including the recent developments, the stories of the past still echo in the Himalayan terrains.

Much of what Indians call home towards Northern part of India has remained in India due to the conquests of General Jorawar Singh ji and King Gulab Singh ji.

It is unfortunate that such fearless Dogra emperors and warriors such as the valiant General Zorawar Singh ji were denied their due space in the annals of Indian history.

Due to this while crores are spent on the tombs of Delhi, numerous heritage sites which were built by the Dogra rulers lie in shambles. To summarise, the youth must learn and appreciate the Dogra history and their contribution to Bharat. You must also share this blog so that more and more people are aware of the hidden Dogra history.

People who forget their heroes have no option but to see their civilization come to an end slowly. It is unfortunate that I was not taught about Jorawar Singh ji in school. It was only in my mid 30s when I visited Taklakot aka Purang in Tibet during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra that I learned about the rich history pf Dogras, especially that of Zorawar Singh ji and Maharaja Gulab Singh ji.

This should be taught to school children in school text books so that they know about the sacrifices their ancestors did.

The view from my Soul Window is courageous!

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