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Firozpur district, Punjab

Firozpur district, Punjab, Firozpur district is one of the twenty-two districts in the state of Punjab located in the North-West of the Republic of India. Firozpur district comprises an area of 5,305 km2 (2,048 sq miles). Prior to split of Firozpur district with the addition of Fazilka district, it comprised an area of 11,142 km2.

Firozpur is the capital city of the district. It is situated inside ten gates — Amritsari Gate, Wansi Gate, Makhu Gate, Zira Gate, Bagdadi Gate, Mori Gate, Delhi Gate, Magjani Gate, Multani Gate and Kasuri Gate.

History of Firozpur district, Punjab

The old town of Ferozepore, known more for its cantonment, was once an important trade centre. The town, which occupied pride of place in the British Empire, is today sidelined as it has lost all its commercial value with the closing of the border at Hussainiwala after Independence. Moga, Muktsar and Faridkot were earlier part of Ferozepore district that is believed to have got its name from Feroz Shah Tughlaq or a Bhatti chief, named Feroze Khan.

The Manj Rajputs say the town was named after their chief Feroze Khan, who lived in the middle of the 16th century. The principal traders were Bhabras. When the place was struck by a pestilence in 1543, traders moved to Kot Isa Khan.

The influence of the Sikhs on the region started from 1758, when they defeated Adina Beg, Mughal Governor of Lahore. Three years later, when Hari Singh, chief of Bhangi misl, captured Kasur and nearby areas, one of his sardars, Gurja (Gujar) Singh, along with his brother Nushaha Singh and his two nephews – Gurbakhsh Singh and Mastan Singh – took possession of Ferozepore. Later, Gurja (Gujar) Singh gave Ferozepore to his nephew, Gurbakhsh Singh. The Ferozepore territory then contained 37 villages.

In 1792, Gurbakhsh Singh, while dividing his possessions among his four sons, gave the fort and territory of Ferozepore to his second son Dhanna Singh. In 1819, Dhanna Singh died, leaving his widow Lachman Kaur. In 1820, Lachman Kaur went for a pilgrimage to the shrines of Haridwar, Gaya and Jagannath after having placed her father-in-law, Gurbakhsh Singh, in charge of the territory. During Lachman Kaur’s pilgrimage, her husband’s nephew, Baghel Singh, gained admittance to the fort under the pretext of visiting his grandfather, and occupied it.

After about three years in 1823, on her return from the pilgrimage, Lachman Kaur made an appeal to the British authorities against the occupation by Baghel Singh. Capt Ross, the Deputy Superintendent of Sikh Affairs, represented her case to the Lahore agent. Maharaja Ranjit Singh recalled Baghel Singh, and allowed Lachman Kaur to rule Ferozepore. When Lachman Kaur, who was issueless, died in December 1835, the estate came under the possession of the British Government. In July 1838, Chanda Singh and Jhanda Singh, the two brothers of Baghel Singh (he died in 1826), made a claim to inherit the estate. But the case was decided against them.

The economy of the town was on the decline at the time of the British annexation. In 1838, the population of Ferozepore town was 2,732. In 1841, it rose to 4,841, mainly due to efforts of Sir H. Lawrence, who built a market place towards the east of the old fort, which is now no more. The main market was also completed under his supervision.

There was a time when the town was used surrounded by a wall, which had 10 gates, namely Delhi Gate, Mori Gate, Baghdadi Gate, Zira Gate, Makhu Gate, Bansanwala Gate, Amritsari Gate, Kasuri Gate, Multani Gate and Magzini Gate, providing protection to people living inside. Five of the gates are now no more, while the existing ones – Kasuri Gate, Multani Gate, Baghdadi Gate, Makhu Gate and Amritsari Gate – are in a state of utter neglect.

Rani-ka-Taalab, named after Lachman Kaur, is now a dry tank. Situated on a campus of an educational institute, it has the samadhis of Lachman Kaur and her husband Sardar Dhanna Singh on its side.

The temple of Radha-Krishan and Lord Shiva are also situated near the samadhis.

Old records state that Moti Bazar and Hira Mandi in the town were once big markets selling pearls and diamonds, respectively. Before Partition, Hira Mandi was the abode of singing girls. Most of the town’s markets and lanes do not bear any number. They are named after eminent local personalities and philanthropists. For instance, some of them are called Gali Dugglan, Mohalla Sodhian, Mohalla Baurianwala, Basti Shekhan, Basti Balochan, Hata Khuda Bakhsh, Kuchha Harnam Das and Gali Kumrianwali.

Once the town was surrounded by gardens, including Tulsi Ram Bagh, Gole Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Ram Sukh Das Bagh and Kanshi Ram Bagh. Gole Bagh was the only garden, which was under the supervision of the municipality. The remaining gardens were either the property of individuals or trusts. Around 1960, these individuals and trusts started disposing of the garden land as it became difficult for them to maintain it.

Saragarhi Gurudwara memorial

Firozpur has another historical memorial, the Saragarhi Gurudwara, commemorating the sacrifice of 21 Sikh soldiers who perished at Saragarhi in Baluchistan. On 12 September, every year, people gather here to pay tribute to the soldiers and celebrate Saragarhi Day. The memorial service also provides an occasion for ex-servicemen to have a reunion.