The 12 Misls of Ranjit Singh’s
Misl is a word that means
“alike” and is akin to a fighting clan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s ability to get the 12 misls to cooperate was a
critical factor in the ascendancy of his becoming the ruler of Northwest India.
To westerners, the Sikh Misls
were akin to the Scottish clans. Every individual voluntarily gave of his
loyalty to his Misldar (clan commander) and could depart at any time. The clans
minded their own business in their territories, and were independent entities,
but when necessity required, they came together under the appointed leader of
all misls, to fight as a single army.
An Indian Posts & Telegraphs stamp
issued in 2001 to honor the Maharaja
The Sikhs are important in
Indian history because they almost broke the back of British power in India, in
an increasingly ferocious series of battles. Chillianwallah is considered the
most grievous defeat ever suffered by the British cavalry, and the British are
generous enough to say so, and to tell how the Sikhs almost stopped British
expansion. So severe were British losses, that had the Sikhs been able to
regroup and resume the offensive, they would have pushed the British back to
Delhi, at which point the scores of other defeated kings in the East, Center,
West, and South would have risen against the British, ending their time in India.
Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, the greatest of the Misldars.
redoubtable warrior is said to have suffered 64 wounds on his
body in a battle on February 5, 1762 as his misl and others
tried to protect Sikh women and children from a massacre by the
leading Afghan king of the time. Despite the fall of 7000 Sikh
soldiers in this battle, the Afghan king managed to slaughter
between 11 and 13,000 women and children.
Misls were clans of differing
military power. Together they could field 70,000 seasoned soldiers, but the
smallest misls contributed just a couple of thousand men, whereas the largest
could field 10,000 or more.
Shaheed [Martyrs of the Faith]
Ahuluwalia [its commander became
the leader of all the Misls]
Fyzulliapura [also called the
Sukerchakia [the misl of Ranjit
Nishanwalia [Nishan = mark =
flag; the flagbearers of the joint Misls]
Bhangi [The Dhillon Sikhs]
Karora [The Dhalliwal Sikhs]
Fighting Strength (only
Karora 10,000 [plus over 20,000 foot and irregulars]