The 12 Misls of Ranjit Singh’s Era


Misl is a word that means “alike” and is akin to a fighting clan.  Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s ability to get the 12 misls to cooperate was a critical factor in the ascendancy of his becoming the ruler of Northwest India.


To westerners, the Sikh Misls were akin to the Scottish clans. Every individual voluntarily gave of his loyalty to his Misldar (clan commander) and could depart at any time. The clans minded their own business in their territories, and were independent entities, but when necessity required, they came together under the appointed leader of all misls, to fight as a single army.

                                                Ranjit Singh's Punjab

An Indian Posts & Telegraphs stamp issued in 2001 to honor the Maharaja


The Sikhs are important in Indian history because they almost broke the back of British power in India, in an increasingly ferocious series of battles. Chillianwallah is considered the most grievous defeat ever suffered by the British cavalry, and the British are generous enough to say so, and to tell how the Sikhs almost stopped British expansion. So severe were British losses, that had the Sikhs been able to regroup and resume the offensive, they would have pushed the British back to Delhi, at which point the scores of other defeated kings in the East, Center, West, and South would have risen against the British, ending their time in India.


Misldar Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, the greatest of the  Misldars.


This redoubtable warrior is said to have suffered 64 wounds on his body in a battle on February 5, 1762 as his misl and others tried to protect Sikh women and children from a massacre by the leading Afghan king of the time. Despite the fall of 7000 Sikh soldiers in this battle, the Afghan king managed to slaughter between 11 and 13,000 women and children. 



Misls were clans of differing military power. Together they could field 70,000 seasoned soldiers, but the smallest misls contributed just a couple of thousand men, whereas the largest could field 10,000 or more.


The Misls[1]


Shaheed [Martyrs of the Faith]

Ahuluwalia [its commander became the leader of all the Misls]

Fyzulliapura [also called the Singhpura Misl]


Sukerchakia [the misl of Ranjit Singh]

Nishanwalia [Nishan = mark = flag; the flag bearers of the joint Misls]

Bhangi [The Dhillon Sikhs]



Karora [The Dhalliwal Sikhs]





Tis Hazari, Delhi: The Origin of the Name


Fighting Strength[2] (only cavalry)


Shaheed                 5,000

Ahuluwalia               10,000

Fyzulliapura             5,000

Ramgarhia               5,000

Sukerchakia             5,000

Nishanwalia             2,000

Bhangi                    10,000

Kanhya                   10,000

Nakai                     7,000

Karora                    10,000 [plus over 20,000 foot and irregulars]

Dhallewalia              5,000

Phoolkia                  ?










[2], which cites the Encyclopedia of the Sikhs, by Harbans Singh.