In 1808, when the Sikh army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded Jammu, the 16-year-old Gulab Singh fought alongside his clansmen in the unsuccessful defense of Jammu. Following this defeat, the Raja of Jammu had internal autonomy of the principality, which became a tributary of the Sikh Empire
In 1816, following another conflict, Jammu was annexed by Ranjit Singh. Raja Jit Singh, who was expelled, found refuge in British India, and later received in appendage the estate of Akhrota. Ranjit Singh appointed a governor to administer the newly conquered area which was expanded in 1819 with the annexation of Kashmir by a Sikh force. In 1820, in appreciation of services rendered by the family, and by Gulab Singh in particular, Ranjit Singh bestowed the Jammu region as a hereditary fief upon Kishore Singh. Apart from their sterling services, the family’s intimate association with the region commended Kishore Singh’s candidature to the Lahore court.
In 1821, Gulab Singh captured conquered Rajouri from Aghar Khan and Kishtwar from Raja Tegh Muhammad Singh. That same year, Gulab Singh took part in the Sikh conquest of Dera Ghazi Khan. He also captured and executed his own clansman, Mian Dido Jamwal, who had been leading a rebellion against the Sikhs.
Kishore Singh died in 1822 and Gulab Singh was confirmed as Raja of Jammu by his suzerain, Ranjit Singh. Shortly afterwards, Gulab Singh secured a formal declaration of renunciation from his kinsman, the deposed Raja Jit Singh. The declaration, drafted in Persian, reads:
“I, Raja Jit Singh, grandson of Raja Sahib Ranjit Devji, on this occasion and out of internal inclination and dignified favors, in my own lifetime, and as a token of intrinsic love and heartfelt affection, hereby renounce proprietorship to all the protected territories of my ancestors, and my own inheritance, in favor of my prosperous barkhurdar, Raja-i-Rajgan Raja Gulab Singhji, and Raja Sahib Dhian Singhji and Raja Suchet Singhji, by way of dharam and niyam, mutual agreement and on oaths of my predecessors and Thakurs and Gurus.”
This declaration transferred the headship of the Jamwal Rajputs to a junior branch of that clan. But, is it voluntary or induced?