About Gulab Singh
Around 1808, Jammu became part of the Sikh Empire, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh in 1820, bestowed the place as a jagir on Gulab Singh’s father Kishore Singh, who belonged to the Jamwal Rajput clan that ruled Jammu. As a jagirdar (governor) for the Sikhs, Gulab Singh extended the boundaries of the Sikh Empire to western Tibet with the help of his fine General Zorawar Singh. The Sikh rule was then extended beyond the Jammu Region and the Kashmir Valley to include the Tibetan Buddhist Kingdom of Ladakh and the Emirates of Hunza, Gilgit and Nagar.
In the turmoil for succession of the Sikh empire that followed Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, two of Gulab Singh’s sons Udham Singh, and Sohan Singh were killed in the feuding between the Sikh heirs. His youngest brother Suchet Singh, was killed by his own nephew Hira Singh, the Vizir (prime minister) of the Sikh empire. Hira Singh, was a great favourite of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Gulab Singh once even aspired to have him installed as the Sikh emperor. Hira Singh had become prime minister aged 24, after his father and Gulab Singh’s brother Vizir Dhian Singh was assassinated in his blotched September 1843 coup d’état against Sikh emperor Sher Singh in Lahore. During the regency of Maharani Jind Kaur, Hira Singh was killed by the Sikh army in December 1844.
Gulab Singh, came into possession of the Koh-i-noor diamond, after Maharaja Kharak Singh’s mysterious death in prison in 1840, and had previously presented the famous stone to Maharaja Sher Singh to win his favour.
After the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1846, Sir Henry Lawrence was appointed British Resident and Vizir Lal Singh on behalf of infant emperor Duleep Singh was asked to surrender Kashmir.Vizir Lal Singh was also a Dogra, and along with Gulab Singh colluded with the British to deliberately break the Sikh army and facilitate the British victory.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar that followed in March 1846, the British government sold Kashmir for a sum of 7.5 million Nanakshahee rupees to Gulab Singh, hereafter bestowed with the title of Maharaja. Thus the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir came into being under Gulab Singh, as per the treaty of Lahore, signed between the British and the Sikhs.
Maharaja Partab Singh (enthroned in 1885) saw the construction of Banihal Cart Road (B.C. Road) mainly to facilitate telegraph services. During WWI he provided one Mountain Battery and three Infantry Battalions to fight for the British in East Africa, Palestine and Mesopotamia. For the services of his troops the state was awarded a hereditary 21-guns salute.
One of the main residences of the maharajas was the Sher Garhi Palace in their summer capital Srinagar.