Chain Singh: 24 Year Old Rajput Who Led an Army of 50 against Huge British Force in 1824
“Kunwar Sahib, why do you wear two swords?” asked Maddock, the in-charge of British cantonment in Sehore near Narsinghgarh in Madhya Pradesh.
“One of the swords is for cutting down the throats of those Indians who prove to be traitors and the second is for severing the heads of the Britishers who are treacherous,” replied Kunwar Chain Singh.
A startled Maddock looked at the prince. The reply was harsh for the British officer. He pretended not to be offended. But his intentions were dire.
Who was Kunwar Chain Singh? What was the occasion of the meeting between Maddock and the Rajput prince? History text books will not enlighten you with the valorous saga of this brave Rajput warrior who led an army of 50 soldiers against a huge British force at the battle of Sehore in Madhya Pradesh in June 1824! He never surrendered to British supremacy and always held his head high in front of them. At a young age of 24, he fought until his last breath killing 25 British soldiers while fighting lonely after all of his 50 accompanying soldiers were martyred.
It was the year 1824. There were uprisings against the British across India. James Grant in his book Cassell’s Illustrated History of India, has given a detailed description about the war of Independence of 1824. According to this book, the major areas of revolt were the Bundelkhand region, Rajpootana, Kutch, Saharanpur, Roorkie, Dehradun, Kittoor, and Kolhapur. Grant writes, “At this time a strange impression prevailed in the upper provinces of India that the British were preparing to evacuate the whole country.” During this time, Chain Singh, the prince of Narsinghgarh secretly held meetings with the rulers of neighboring princely states, strategizing to drive away the British from India.
Narsinghgarh, located near Bhopal in Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, was a princely state. The rulers, who established this kingdom in the 17th century, were descendants of Raja Bhoj of the Parmar clan of Rajputs. Before the principality was founded, it was a part of a bigger Rajgarh kingdom. The rulers of Narsinghgarh were famous for their Rajput pride, valor and honor.
Kunwar Chain Singh, aged 24, took a lead in the administrative affairs of the kingdom of Narsinghgarh after his father Rawat Sobhag Singh fell ill. His mother was from the royal family of Mewar. The prince was married to Rajawati, daughter of the Rajput chief of Muvaliya, a jageer of Narsinghgarh.
During that time, while few of the princely states were directly under British dominion, respective rulers of few kingdoms continued their rule against certain terms and conditions laid down by the British. Few kingdoms were independent though the British interfered in the internal affairs. Narsinghgarh belonged to the third category. The British were looking for ways to annex Narsinghgarh to the British empire.
The above conversation took place between Maddock and the prince in a meeting at Sehore in the British cantonment. It was their second meeting. Date: 24th June 1824. The first meeting took place a few days ago at Bairasia, another place near Narsinghgarh.
It is but a fact that during Mughal and British rule, many Indians themselves were traitors. Had these traitors not existed there would have been no Mughal or British rule. It is because of these traitors that Mughals and British ruled India for a long time. And traitors led to the interference of the British in the internal affairs of Narsinghgarh, further leading to a battle between the two forces and martyrdom of the prince and 50 Rajput soldiers. Even after independence, the legacy of traitorhood continues till today with many joining the break India forces to divide and break India!
Chain Singh held regular secret meetings with neighboring kings and princes. They strategized and planned to collectively drive away the British. Anand Ram Bakshi, the Chief Minister of Narsinghgarh court secretly leaked the information to the British. When Chain Singh came to know of this treason, he killed Anand Ram Bakshi despite his father’s repeat requests to spare him. For the Rajput prince, traitors had no place in his kingdom. Meanwhile, another minister Roop Ram Bohra also sided with the British, providing all information about the secret meetings and future plans of Narsinghgarh. Chain Singh, who kept spies to check traitors besides himself keeping a strict eye on treacherous activities in his kingdom, came to know of this. He immediately killed Roop Ram Bohra.
The members of the families of the dead ministers approached the British Governor General for help. The general entrusted Maddock to investigate and solve the matter. In this context, a meeting was organized at Bairasia.
Maddock laid three conditions for Chain Singh in the meeting:
1. He should leave Narsinghgarh for good.
2. The state of Narsinghgarh to be subjected to British rule for three years
3. Only the British will have the right to buy opium in Narsinghgarh.
Chain Singh did not agree to any of the three conditions. A prolonged argument broke out between the Rajput prince and Maddock. Ultimately, Maddock proposed for another meeting scheduled for 24th June 1824 in Sehore to which Chain Singh agreed. Maddock agreed that he would moderate his terms.
It was in the second meeting that the conversation, aforementioned in the beginning, took place. Chain Singh came wearing armor and well prepared for any possible fight. He wore two swords. He was accompanied by fifty of the bravest soldiers and his faithful dog Sheru.
Responding to the harsh reply by Chain Singh, Maddock said that the British and the rulers of Narsinghgarh were friends and that no question of treachery by the British would arise.
“Will you show me the sword that you are carrying to severe the heads of the British?” asked Maddock.
Chain Singh had confidence in his abilities as well as those of his soldiers present at the meeting. Though he smelt something fishy and could read the secret intentions of Maddock, he gave one of his swords to the British officer. Maddock started inspecting the temper of the sword. He waited for an opportunity to strike at Chain Singh as soon as the latter’s eyes would fall elsewhere. But Chain Singh’s eyes were fixed at Maddock and the sword. For not a single instance did he divert his attention.
This time, the clever Maddock asked for the other sword that Chain Singh was carrying. The Rajput prince understood that this was Maddock’s trick of disarming him completely.
“The waist of a Rajput is never left unadorned. I cannot give you my second sword,” retorted Chain Singh.
“You have given me the sword which severs the heads of the British. I will show you how it severs the head of an Indian,” replied a vexed Maddock.
The British officer was about to strike when Chain Singh moved back to a safe distance. He drew out his other sword from the scabbard to strike at Maddock. But before the Rajput price could attack, Sheru, his dog jumped towards the British officer. The dog’s blood-shot eyes and sharp teeth frightened Maddock and he ran for his life out of the room. Sheru pursued him. Meanwhile, the British soldiers at the cantonment were alerted. While swords of both the forces clashed, Chain Singh ran after Maddock to save Sheru. He feared the British shooting at his loyal dog.
Both parties reached a crossing while continuing to fight. The British had fixed some of their canons there. In the words of Srikrshna Sarala, author of Indian Revolutionaries A Comprehensive Study, 1757-1961, Volume 1, “When Kunwar Chain Singh saw that an artilleryman was about to put the fuse to the cannon, he sprang forward and struck a fierce blow on his neck. It was completely severed and his neck fell off. After cutting off the artilleryman’s head, Kunwar Chain Singh’s sword struck the cannon and a part of it was also chopped off.”
A fierce battle ensued between the huge British forces and the Rajput army of fifty soldiers led by Chain Singh. Sheru injured many of the British forces in this battle until it was martyred. In the course of the battle, Chain Singh lost all of his soldiers except two until they reached the Dussehra Garden while fighting. At last only the Rajput prince was left and the rest were martyred. Before breathing his last, a heavily wounded Chain Singh could kill 25 British soldiers!
It is said Maddock took away Chain Singh’s swords to England. Rulers of Narsinghgarh later built cenotaphs in memory of Kunwar Chain Singh at Dussehra Garden in Sehore. Today, Sehore is a tourist spot and people from all over the country visit Sehore to relive the valor of the brave Rajput prince Chain Singh.
Do you know Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi sought help from the king of Narsinghgarh to fight against the British? Lakshmibai had heard about the valorous saga of Chain Singh and she was confident of getting help. The ruler of Narsinghgarh sent a force to Lakshmibai’s aid towards Gwalior but before they could reach her, the Rani breathed her last.
Salute to Kunwar Chain Singh! Jai Hind!
1. Indian Revolutionaries A Comprehensive Study, 1757-1961, Volume 1, Srikrshna Sarala
2. Cassell’s Illustrated History of India, James Grant.
Featured image courtesy: ibiblio.org and Facebook.