Atop the rooftop of the world – standing before serene waters of Lake Mansoravar on the Himalayan plateau, band of warriors, bloodied and battered a thousand miles from their homes in the Jammu kingdom looked with grim satisfaction on the culmination of a successful campaign of war under the leadership of their inspirational leader General Zorawar Singh
Brief History of Gen Zorawar Singh
Zorawar Singh (1786-1841) was born in a village of Kahlur State (also called Bilaspur from its capital) in modern Himachal Pradesh, India, in a Hindu Rajput family of Kahluria clan, they migrated to the Jammu region where, on coming of age, Zorawar took up service under Raja Jaswant Singh of Marmathi (modern Doda district).
In 1817 he joined the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, as the state of Doda had become part of the Sikh Empire after a campaign against its Afghan rulers. Zorawar Singh was employed by the ambitious Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu and was placed under the commandant of the Reasi fort (Bhimgarh fort). While delivering a routine message to the Maharaja, Zorawar told him of the financial waste occurring in the fort administration and boldly presented his own scheme to effect savings.
Gulab Singh was impressed by Zorawar’s sincerity and appointed him commandant of Reasi. As promised, he fulfilled his task and his grateful ruler made him commissariat officer of all forts north of Jammu. He was later made governor of Kishtwar and was given the title of Wazir (prime minister). Like Kashmir, the Kingdom of Kishtwar was formed by a river valley (the Chenab flowing from Himachal Pradesh as the Chandrabhaga)—-the kingdom’s ancient name was Kashtavat and it remained under Hindu rulers until the 17th Century when Raja Gairat Singh converted to Islam and received the title of Raja Sa’adat Yar Khan from the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Some of the people had also converted with their king but many remained true to their ancestral faith. Even though it was a newly conquered region Zorawar had no trouble in keeping the peace; many of the local Rajputs were recruited into his army. In 1835 the nearby region of Paddar was taken from Chamba (now in Himachal Pradesh) in the course of a battle. Paddar later became known for its sapphire mines. But this was a mere sideshow to General Zorawar Singh’s more famous expeditions, on which he had already embarked in the previous year.