Punjabi by nature: Punjab’s Game of Thrones

  • Khushwant Singh, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Jul 24, 2016 11:21 IST
“Perfect title for the upcoming Punjab elections, I thought. And surely enough, I got my chance to post it when Navjot Singh Sidhu announced his resignation from the Rajya Sabha.” (HT Photo)

To state that the Sector 2 residence of the chief minister is an epitome of modern democracy will be a bit off the mark. Except the architecture, since it’s a PWD design, the home has assumed the uncanny characteristics of a palace over the decades. A palace from where a king runs his Punjab kingdom. And that the CM’s mighty chair is not the chair as envisioned in the Constitution but a throne is a thought that struck me after many of my female friends on Facebook went gaga about a television series by the name of Game of Thrones.

Perfect title for the upcoming Punjab elections, I thought. And surely enough, I got my chance to post it when Navjot Singh Sidhu announced his resignation from the Rajya Sabha. Thus, begins the game of thrones in Punjab. The game is not exactly about integrity. Often played under the garb of strategy, the rulebook says the closer you are to melodrama, intrigue, lies and religion, the better your chances of grabbing the throne.

The two dynasties

Lo and behold! It was minutes when someone commented, “It’s between two dynasties: the Dhillons and the Sidhus.”

So where was this Facebook post headed given the fact that one has never bothered about what’s in the last name, even though my wife is a mix of this deadly combo. Nevertheless, the comments kept swelling and fuelled this urge to explore the history that who exactly are the Dhillons and the Sidhus.

Seated on the throne for the past nine years are the Dhillons. Before that, it was with the Sidhus. However, it is the Dhillons who’ve had the maximum run since Kingdom Punjab was slashed to a little Subi in 1966. They have largely been able to outmanoeuvre all competition, and every aspirant who has dared to even look at the throne.

So who are the Dhillons? The Dhillons are of the Jat race, almost a precondition to rule Punjab, and scattered all over Punjab, mostly in Majha and Malwa.

They pride themselves on being the founders of the Bhangi misl that ruled a significant part of Punjab, though their Bhangi Top or Zam Zama cannon couldn’t do much to protect them from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s onslaught.

The Sidhus were shrewder and took British protection. The Dhillon Jat Sikhs derive their ancestry from the Rajputs like all Jats, and they, as per Denzil Ibbetson, the author of Punjab Castes, are descendants of Saroha Rajputs hailing from Sirsa. Another story makes them descendants of a Surajbansi Rajput named Lu, who lived in Malwa and held some office at the Delhi court. Sources claim that Delhi derives its name from the Dhillon clan. The Dhillon Sikhs have kept their legacy of rule alive, though their role and impact in Punjab’s modern history is yet to be recorded objectively.

The other contender

Turning to the Sidhus, the other contenders for the throne, they trace their roots from Bhatti Rajputs and have a history of being rulers of princely states of Patiala, Nabha, Jind and Faridkot. Well documented in the book Rajas of the Punjab, author Lepel H Griffin traces their lineage to Jesal, a Bhatti Rajput and founder of Jaisalmer.

Griffin has also documented how they came to be known as Sidhu Jats.

According to him, the tribe got its name in the early 13th century when one of the ancestors Khiwa, unable to have a child from his first wife married a Jat zamindar’s daughter. A child was born, but the first wife substituted it with a girl after bribing the midwife. The midwife, unable to keep the secret, soon revealed it and after a long search the boy was restored to the father who named him Sidhu.

It is from him that the tribe takes the name as, according to Rajput custom, one was reckoned as of the caste of his mother.

How Captain Amarinder Singh’s ancestors came into the Sikh fold has been recorded well in history. The family joined the Sikh fold in 1702 after two of his ancestors, Rama Chand and Tiolkha Chand, became followers of Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru baptised them at Damdama Sahib after he called them via a hukumnama (edict) to join him with men and horses, and the Patiala Sidhus take their legacy from Rama Chand.

It was Rama Chand’s third son, Ala Singh, who founded Patiala.

Since anything is possible in the game of thrones, it will be hard to ignore the Kejriwals. I must admit that I haven’t researched about Kejriwal, but he is hell bent on creating a legacy for himself in Punjab’s history.

(E-mail the writer at singhkhushwant@hotmail.com)

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