Kunwar 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.
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.
To honour his contribution to India’s freedom movement, the Republic of India issued a commemorative stamp on 23 April 1966. The Government of Bihar established the Veer Kunwar Singh University, Arrah in 1992.
In 2017, the Veer Kunwar Singh Setu, also known as the Arrah–Chhapra Bridge, was inaugurated to connect north and south Bihar. In 2018, to celebrate 160th anniversary of Kunwar Singh’s death, the government of Bihar relocated a statue of him to Hardinge Park. The park was also officially renamed as ‘Veer Kunwar Singh Azadi Park’.
Birth and Early Life of Kunwar Singh
Singh’s birth took place on November 13, 1777, in Jagdishpur of Shahabad, commonly known as Bhojpur, Bihar. His parents, Shahabzada Singh, and Panchratan Devi, belonged to the Ujjainiya Rajput Clan and had a family of four children: Amar Singh, Dayalu Singh, Rajapati Singh, and Kunwar Singh.
Raja Shahabzada Singh, his father, was one of the descendants of the rulers of Bhoj. After he died in 1826, Kunwar Singh took over the position of taluqdar (aristocrat) Jagdishpur, and his brothers inherited the villages. The brothers soon found themselves in conflict over the inheritance, but they eventually resolved it and restored cordial relations. He married the daughter of Maharaja Fateh Narayan Singh from the Gaya district. He descended from Maharana Pratap of Mewar and belonged to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs.
Kunwar Singh was the military commander in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was 80 years old during that time and had the same dedication and courage as a young soldier fighting for his country. He was the leader of the soldiers along with his brother Amar Singh and commander-in-chief, Hare Krishna Singh. Kunwar Singh is not only known for his bravery but also for the genius tactics that he used to puzzle the British army.
In 1857, the battle spread across western regions of India. Many rebels in nearby towns like Danapur, Chota Nagpur, Manbhum, Singhbhum, and Palamu fought along with Singh against the British forces. He led the rebellion in Bihar and was in charge of the soldiers stationed at Danapur on July 25, 1857. Two days later, he fortified the district headquarters at Arrah. He laid siege there till August 3. Major Vincent Eyre, a British officer, took Arrah back from Singh and raided Jagdishpur.
Singh also proceeded to other parts of India to rebel against British forces like Rewa, Gwalior, Lucknow, and Kanpur. In 1857, Singh failed to enter Rewa and continued to move toward Kalpi with Nishan Singh. In Gwalior, he joined Nana Saheb Peshwa II’s troops in the Siege of Cawnpore, but they weren’t successful. Kunwar Singh took over Azamgarh, now part of Uttar Pradesh, in 1858 by attacking the weakest British positions. It caused the Britishers to send Lord Kerr and Sir Edward Lingard to retrieve the control. Singh evacuated the area immediately and went towards Ghazipur.
While on the way to Jagdishpur, one of the British forces shot Singh in the wrist. But this injury did not stop Singh from fighting; instead, he cut his hand so that the wound in his wrist did not spread in the body and continued walking to the other side of Ganga. He also won a battle near his hometown, Jagdishpur, against Captain Le Grand and his troops. This battle killed many soldiers, including Captain Le Grand, and seriously injured Singh. Even in his fragile condition, he fought against the British soldiers and succeeded in hoisting a flag in Jagdishpur. The people of Jagdishpur made Singh the king and placed him on the throne on April 23, 1858.
Three days after the battle, on April 26, 1858, against Captain Le Grand, Kunwar Singh died because of his injuries in Jagdishpur, Bhoj, Bihar. He passed his mantle to his brother, Amar Singh II.
He is one of the rebels against the British in the 1800s who is not as well known. In 1966, the Government of India issued a postage stamp to commemorate the freedom sacrifices of Kunwar Singh.
The Arrah Chhapra Bridge, also known as Veer Kunwar Singh Setu, was inaugurated in the year 2017 that connects North and South Bihar.
And in 2018, Singh’s statue was shifted from the public roundabout to the historic Hardinge Park to celebrate the 160th death anniversary of Babu Kunwar Singh.