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Babu Kunwar Singh aka The Forgotten Hero of 1857

August 31, 1857
Mirza Firuz Shah
Bahadur Shah II 1837–1857

Babu Kunwar Singh aka The Forgotten Hero of 1857



Kunwar Singh (13 November 1777 – 26 April 1858; also known as Babu Kunwar Singh and Kuer Singh) was a leader during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He belonged to a family of the Ujjainiya clan of the Parmar Rajputs of Jagdispur, currently a part of Bhojpur district, Bihar, India. At the age of 80, he led a selected band of armed soldiers against the troops under the command of the British East India Company. He was the chief organiser of the fight against the British in Bihar. He is popularly known as Veer Kunwar Singh or Veer Babu Kunwar Singh.

Early life

Kunwar Singh was born on 13 November 1777 to Maharaja Shahabzada Singh and Maharani Panchratan Devi, in Jagdispur of the Shahabad (now Bhojpur) District, in the state of Bihar. He belonged to the Ujjainiya Rajput clan. A British judicial officer offered a description of Kunwar Singh and described him as "a tall man, about six feet in height". He went on to describe him as having a broad face with an aquiline nose. In terms of his hobbies, British officials describe him as being a keen huntsman who also enjoyed horse-riding.

After his father's death in 1826, Kunwar Singh became the taluqdar of Jagdispur. His brothers inherited some villages however a dispute arose as to their exact allocation. This dispute was eventually settled and the brothers seemingly returned to having cordial relations.

He married the daughter of Raja Fateh Naraiyan Singh, a wealthy zamindar of the Deo-Munga estate in Gaya district who belonged to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs.

Role in the 1857 rebellion

Singh led the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in Bihar. He was nearly eighty and in failing health when he was called upon to take up arms. He was assisted by both his brother, Babu Amar Singh and his commander-in-chief, Hare Krishna Singh. Some argue that the latter was the real reason behind Kunwar Singh's initial military success. He gave a good fight and harried British forces for nearly a year and remained invincible until the end. He was an expert in the art of guerilla warfare. His tactics left the British puzzled.

Singh assumed command of the soldiers who had revolted at Danapur on 25 July. Two days later he occupied Arrah, the district headquarters. Major Vincent Eyre relieved the town on 3 August, defeated Singh's force and destroyed Jagdishpur. During the rebellion, his army had to cross the Ganges river. Douglas' army began to shoot at their boat. One of the bullets shattered Singh's left wrist. Singh felt that his hand had become useless and that there was the additional risk of infection due to the bullet-shot. He drew his sword and cut off his left hand near the elbow and offered it to the river Ganges as tribute.

Singh left his ancestral village and reached Lucknow in December 1857 where he met with other rebel leaders. In March 1858 he occupied Azamgarh and managed to repel the initial British attempts to take the area. However, he had to leave the place soon. Pursued by Brigadier Douglas, he retreated towards his home in Ara, Bihar. On 23 April, Singh had a victory near Jagdispur over the force led by Captain le Grand (le gard in Hindi). On 26 April 1858 he died in his village. The mantle of the old chief now fell on his brother Amar Singh II who, despite heavy odds, continued the struggle and for a considerable time, running a parallel government in the district of Shahabad. In October 1859, Amar Singh II joined the rebel leaders in the Nepal Terai.

Death of Kunwar Singh

Death of It has always been assumed that Kunwar Singh was in a boat, crossing the Ganges, when he was wounded by artillery fire. But there is another suggestion. The unpublished manuscript report of a
certain Major Edward Michell, contains the following statement: ..'we overtook them in the act of crossing the Ganges. Our fire caused them a considerable loss, among the rest being that of Koor Sing himself, who received a wound from a shrapnel shell as he was crossing on his elephant, of which he ultimately died.' From the Report to his Artillery superiors of Captain and Brevet Major J.E.Michell, R.A.,dated Soraon 20th July 1858, in archive collection MD/147 in the Royal Artillery Institution at Woolwich, S.E. Lon


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


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