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Baba Ala Singh (1691-1765), Sikh misl leader who became the first ruling chief of Patiala, was born in 1691 at Phul, in presentday Bathinda district of the Punjab, the third son of Bhai Ram Singh. His grandfather, Baba Phul, had been as a small boy blessed by Guru Hargobind, Nanak VI. Ala Singh's father and his uncle, Tilok Singh, had both received the rites of initiation at the hands of Guru Gobind Singh who conferred on their family the panegyric, "Your house is mine own."
Ala Singh was married at an early age to Fateh Kaur, popularly known as Mai Fatto, daughter of Chaudhari Kala of Khana, a zamindar of the village Kaleke, now in Sangrur district of the Punjab, and had three sons, Bhumia Singh, Sardul Singh and Lal Singh, all of whom died in his lifetime, and a daughter, Bibi Pardhan.
Ala Singh's career of conquest began soon after the execution of Banda Singh Bahadur in 1716 when central Punjab lay in utter confusion. Ala Singh was living at Phul about 40 km from Bathinda. He gathered around him a band of dashing and daring young men. In 1722, he set up his head quarters at Barnala, 32 km farther east, and his territory comprised 30 odd villages. At Barnala, Ala Singh defeated in 1731 Rai Kalha of Raikot, an influential chief with a large force at his command. Aided by roving bands of the Dal Khalsa, he ransacked and annexed several villages belonging to the Bhattis. He also founded several new villages such as Chhajali, Dirba, Laungoval and Sheron. For a period Ala Singh remained in the custody of All Muhammad Khan Ruhila, Mughal governor of Sirhind from 1745-48, and was released only when the latter fled his capital at the approach in February 1748 of the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Durrani. In the battle fought on 11 March 1748, near Manupur, 15 km northwest of Sirhind, between the Mughals and Ahmad Shah Durrani, Ala Singh sided with the former. He cut off Durrani's supplies and captured his camels and horses. In 1749, Ala Singh defeated and repulsed Farid Khan, a Rajput chieftain, who had sought the help of the imperial governor of Sirhind and stopped the construction by him of a fort at Bhavanigarh. Three years later, Ala Singh, captured the district of Sanaur, called chaurasi, lit. eighty-four, from the number of the villages it comprised. One of these where he built a fort in 1763 and which was thence forth his permanent seat, became famous as Patiala. At the end of 1760, Ala Singh possessed 726 villages including many towns. On the eve of the battle of Panipat (1761) when the Marathas camp was blockaded by Ahmad Shah Durrani, Ala Singh helped them with food grain and other provisions. In the Vadda Ghallughara or Great Carnage of February 1762, Ala Singh remained neutral. Ahmad Shah punished him with the devastation of the town of Barnala. Ala Singh, who presented himself in the Shah's camp, was ordered to shave off his head and beard. This he declined to do and offered instead to pay a sum of one and a quarter lakh of rupees. The Shah accepted the money but had him taken to Lahore where he secured his freedom by paying another five lakh of rupees. Ala Singh took the pahul in 1732 at the hands of Nawab Kapur Singh, leader of the Dal Khalsa. He was an ally of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia in the attack on Sirhind in 1764. Later he purchased this town from Bhai Buddha Singh to whom it had been assigned by the Khalsa. On 29 March 1761, Ahmad Shah Durrani had already recognized by a written decree the sovereignty of Ala Singh over the territories held by him. At the time of his seventh invasion of India, he confirmed him in the government of Sirhind (1765) and granted him the title of Raja, with the robes of honour as well as with a drum and a banner as insignia of royalty.
Ala Singh died on 7 August 1765 at Patiala and was cremated in the Fort, now inside the city.
1. Kirpal Singh, Life of Maharaja Ala Singh and His Times. Amritsar, 1954
2. Griffin, Lepel, The Rajas of the Punjab [Reprint]. Delhi, 1977 3. Latif, Syad Muhammad, History of the Panjab. Delhi, 1964