Originally published in 1954, Kirpal Singh’s research centres around the historical figure and founder of the Patiala Kingdom, Baba Ala Singh; also referred to as Maharaja Ala Singh. This particular second edition, published in 2005, begins with prefaces by the author himself, Kirpal Singh and a foreword by S. P. Singh and Bhai Vir Singh. It is often assumed that Baba Ala Singh is one of the lesser known figures of the 18th century, however his impact on the rise of Sikh power throughout the century is instrumental in working towards long term stability and rule.
Kirpal Singh sets out the chronological order of Baba Ala Singh’s life, from his birth in 1691 AD, his initiation into the Khalsa in 1731 AD, the founding of Patiala in 1753 AD and his death in 1765 AD. This is particularly useful to understand the time period in which Baba Ala Singh is active. Following the outline of key life events for Baba Ala Singh, Kirpal Singh introduces the context behind his rise and the relationship between his ancestors and Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh.
“Baba Ala Singh, the founder of Patiala Kingdom, was one of the greatest Sikhs of 18th Century. He rightly understood Guru Gobind Singh’s maxim that Deg (Symbol of service to humanity) and Teg (Symbol of political power) must go hand in hand.” - Foreword by S. P. Singh, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar - Vice Chancellor
Following the introduction, Kirpal Singh sets out the details of the early life of Baba Ala Singh and discusses how he steadily rose to power, establishing a settlement at Barnala with the aid of the Khalsa Dals. This was significant in building Baba Ala Singh’s reputation as a powerful chief within the Cis-Sutlej territory and also saw the initiation of Baba Ala Singh into the Khalsa, at the hands of Nawab Kapur Singh.
This period is followed by an unsettling and difficult period for Baba Ala Singh and the chapter ‘Dark Days’ details the complicated relationship between Baba Ala Singh and Ali Mohammed Khan, Faujdar of Sirhind. Baba Ala Singh played a key role during the invasion of Ahmed Shah Abdali, where he would continuously raid their loot. This resulted in his reputation becoming stronger amongst the political landscape of the region.
Prior to the Ahmed Shah Abdalis next invasion in 1756, Baba Ala Singh continued to expand his territories and Kirpal Singh goes into further details as to how he did this. He also covers essential details to the key events during this time, including the Battle of Rampur and the occupation of the Sunam fort by Baba Ala Singh, which was seen as a sign of sovereignty.
Kirpal Singh also dives into the relationship between Baba Ala Singh and the Marathas, which was essential to establishing stability during the Abdali’s invasion. Furthermore, Kirpal Singh does not shy away from the controversial aspects of Baba Ala Singh’s life. During his time, the Khalsa did not always align with Baba Ala Singh due to his association with the Ahmed Shah Abdali. Kirpal Singh explains how this association was for the betterment of the Khalsa and the likes of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia would intervene to help others understand the political standing of Baba Ala Singh.
Additionally, Kirpal Singh explores the type of administration, statesmanship and physical character of Baba Ala Singh. He puts emphasis on the secular policies of Baba Ala Singh, for example the commander of his army was muslim. This was vital in preventing revolts from those residing within his territories.
This book is recommended to anyone who wishes to understand more about the political landscape of Punjab during the early 18th century and how Baba Ala Singh contributed towards the stability of the region.