New book reveals how Sikh warrior Hari Singh Nalwa got his name | books | Hindustan Times
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New book reveals how Sikh warrior Hari Singh Nalwa got his name

A new book by the seventh-generation descendant of 19th century Sikh warrior, Hari Singh Nalwa, reveals many interesting things about his life.

books Updated: Feb 25, 2018 16:52 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Hari Singh Nalwa,Dr Vanit Nalwa,Hari Singh Nalwa: Champion of the Khalsaji
During the seven years of her research to author the book,Vanit Nalwa said she had consulted over 2,000 records of archives, Persian and Gurumukhi manuscripts and accessed first-hand reports of 19th century travellers.(Wikimedia Commons)

The 19th century Sikh warrior, Hari Singh Nalwa, got his surname after Maharaja Ranjit Singh uttered the words “wah mere Raja Nal, wah” comparing the warrior’s bravery as a child with that of King Nal of Mahabharat.

This and other interesting pieces of information were shared by the seventh generation descendant of Hari Singh, Dr Vanit Nalwa, during a presentation of her book Hari Singh Nalwa: Champion of the Khalsaji (1791-1837) at National Archives of India in Delhi.

Vanit Nalwa said some historians suggested that Nalwa did not mean “tiger killer” as has been assumed by many, but the surname comes from the words of appreciation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh when he learnt that child Hari Singh had single-handedly killed a tiger .

“King Nal, who is known for his love for his wife Damyanti, too as a child had killed a tiger and saved his father. The story linking a tiger with King Nal is only mentioned in Dhola, which is an oral epic widely sung and performed right into the late 19th century in Jat villages of Braj region of western UP and eastern Rajasthan,” said the author.

Vanit said some historians suggested that Nalwa did not mean “tiger killer” as has been assumed by many, but the surname comes from the words of appreciation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh when he learnt that child Hari Singh had single-handedly killed a tiger .

“Ranjit Singh would have heard this many times,” she said, adding she sourced the information from an American anthropologist who has specialised in tales surrounding King Nal.

“Born in 1791, Hari Singh became a Sardar (leader) at the age of 13 and headed an army of 800 men.

“In 1804, when Ranjit Singh learnt about Hari Singh killing a tiger during a hunt, he said ‘wah mere Raja Nal, wah’. In some archives, the name is mentioned as Nalwah,” Vanit said, adding that this connection between the tiger and King Nal remained a mystery till now despite attempts by historians to study its origin.

Vanit said Hari Singh had personally confirmed the event of killing a tiger to an Austrian nobleman Baron Hugel who visited him in 1836. When asked about the descendants of Hari Singh after his death in 1837 in Battle of Jamrud, Vanit Nalwa said his jagirs (lands) were taken away and his family was reduced to poverty.

“One of his sons, Jawahar Singh, was a hero in one of Anglo-Sikh wars. In records found in Haridwar, Jawahar Singh thanked the God for reversal of fortunes of the family.

“At the time of India’s independence, they migrated to Delhi and my father’s greatest regret is he could not bring his transistor and a gun which was left behind,” she said.

During the seven years of her research to author the book, she said, she had consulted over 2,000 records of archives, Persian and Gurumukhi manuscripts and accessed first-hand reports of 19th century travellers.

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First Published: Feb 25, 2018 16:52 IST