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Kunwar Singh

Kunwar Singh (1778 - 1858 )

Kunwar Singh belonged to the Parmar branch of Rajputs. Originally belonging to he Ujjain area, they had migrated eastwards in the fourteenth century and settled at different places in Bihar-Dawa, Matila, Bhojpur and Jagdishpur (all in Shahbad district). They were locally known as Ujjainya Rajputs because of the place of their origin. Kunwar Singh belonged to the Jagdishpur branch of the family. He was the eldest son of Sahabzada Singh and was born probably in 1778. Spirited and adventurous by nature, Kunwar Singh was more inclined to strenuous, martial sports and to outdoor life than to education.
Kunwar Singh married the daughter of Raja Fatah Narain Singh of Deo, a wealthy zamindar of Gaya district. He had a son named Dalbhajan Singh, who predeceased him.

The great moment of Kunwar Singh’s life began with the revolt of the Indian Regiment stationed at Dinapur on 25 July 1857. Marching
on to Arrah, where they were joined by Kunwar Singh, they besieged the European district officials and some civilians in the ‘Arrah - and beat back a relieving force sent from Patna under Captain Dunbar. But the besieged garrison was relieved by Major Eyre on 23 August and Kunwar Singh withdrew to Jagdishpur. Subsequently, he marched out of Bihar and made earnest efforts to organize the anit-English forces at some places in the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Passing through Mirzapur and Rewa, he arrived at Banda in September with a view to joining Tantia Tope. He was joined by the Gwalior forces at Kalpi, and fought in the battle of Kanpur in December. Subsequently, he arrived in Lucknow, where the King of Oudh awarded him a robe of honour and a farman for the area comprising the Azamgarh district. During the next three months Kunwar Singh fought a number of engagements against the Government forces and occupied Azamgarh for some time. Pressed by the Government forces, he decided in April 1858 to return to his home district.
Fighting a careful rearguard action, he crossed the Ganges at Sheopur Ghat, ten miles below Ballia, and re-entered Jagdishpur on 22 April 1858. He was greviously injured during the retreat and lost his right hand. The next day a force under Captian Le Grand proceeded to attack the old, injured veteran, but it was repulsed. Three days later, Kunwar Singh died of injuries and exhaustion.

A man of generous disposition, Kunwar Singh gave numerous grants to individuals and for the maintenance of shrines, including a Muslim shrine in the Patna City. On the establishment of the Arrah Zilla School in 1846, he not only donated the land for the building but also gave a cash donation of rupees one hundred. He got a Shiva temple and a tank constructed at Jagdishpur. He was an admirer and a patron of men well versed in martial sports, such as riding, shooting, archery etc. He invited such experts to Jagdishpur and retained them for long periods to train his men in those arts.

Paying a tribute to Kunwar Singh, a contemporary English writer described him as a man “who at eighty years old…inflicted on us a defeat complete and tragical; who exacted from the unruly mutineers as obedience which they paid to none other; who led his force in person to Lucknow and took a leading part in the struggle which decided the destines of India,” and expressed relief over the fact that “ it was uncommonly lucky for us that Coer Singh was not forty years younger” (George O. Trevelyan -‘Competition Wallah’, 1866).


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