The story started with the death of Thupstan Namgyal, who died of small pox at a small age of 24. To ensure continuity of dynasty, his brother, a lama, Tsepal Namgyal was married to his brother’s widow and put on the throne. He is not an energetic ruler and left the government to his ministers. The Raja of Sanku and Pashkyum occupied some lands of Raja Giapo-cho of Timbus, who complained it to his superior, the Namgyal. However, the Namgyal did not take any action. Zorawar Singh, monitoring the situation from Kishtwar was approached by the Raja of Timbus to get help from the Dogra kingdom of Kashmir. This was an opportunity which the Dogras were waiting and Zorawar Singh marched into Ladakh. Before the attack, message was sent to both the Lahore Durbar and the East India Company. Morecroft, sent by the East India Company to Ladakh in 1820-22 reported the kingdom is barren which means that East India Company is not going to support Ladakh. Zorawar Singh immediately advanced towards Purig along the Dachin-Marwah-Warwan from Kishtwar in April 1834 with ~5000 soldiers.

The Dogra army entered Ladakh through the Bhot Kal Pass opening to Suru Valley. The Ladakhi Governor of Kartse fort in Suru Valley, Barka Sis, collected 200 men hastily and blocked the pass. Concurrently, he sent the information to Leh about the invasion. He held the pass for two days before being killed, along with his son.

On hearing of the news of invasion, the Namgyal declared an emergency and ordered a general mobilization. Since it’s a conscript army with one man from each family, the army was to be potentially 22000 but was just short of 20000 due to sickness and guarding of Leh.

A 5000 strong contingent was sent under Dorje Namgyal, the minister of Stok to Sanku to halt the Dogras. The battle with the Dogras at Sanku on 16 August 1834 saw the defeat of Ladakhis in the day long battle where they lost about 30 before withdrawing towards Shergol in the night. The Dogras lost 12, six dead and six injured. Suru was occupied and the Dogras stayed there for eight days. Zorawar Singh forbid pillage due to which the local Zamindars switched sides. After effecting land settlements, he placed 35 men at Suru Fort and 10 to guard the Suru bridge and advanced to Lang Kartse which fell without a fight. The Dogras stayed there for a month before being attacked by the Ladakhis. Dorje, instead of waiting for winter and the reinforcements on the way, attacked the Dogras during a snowfall and killed about 60 before the Dogras retaliated. The Ladakhis fled across Pashkyum before destroying the bridge on the river.

Colonel Basti Ram crossed the Indus with 500 men on inflated goat skins as boats. The surprise was absolute and there was no opposition to landings. The chief of Pashkyum, who became the commander on the death of Dorje, who died before, fled to the force of Sod with his force with the Dogras on their heels. The Dogras wanted to finish off the army before the arrival of the reinforcements. After ten days of intense bombardment, which did nothing to the moral of the Ladakhis, the fort surrendered under the Chief of Pashkyum with 600 men. Dogra losses were 40 killed and many wounded. But the goal of avoiding linking up of both the armies was achieved.

By the time Banka Kahlon came with the reinforcements, Zorawar Singh had reached Sod. Banka Kahlon was waiting for an opportune attack and the Namgyal, for the onset of winter. To achieve his goal, the Namgyal forced a British citizen, Dr. Henderson to act as the envoy of East India Company and that he had come to Leh with an offer of support. The information was leaked to Zorawar Singh and from then to Jammu and to Lahore when the British were asked to involve. This whole process took a month and winter has come by the time.

Banka Kahlon has sent men for negotiations which Zorawar Singh, eager to avoid fighting in winter, responded by sending the negotiators to the Ladakhi camp. This is just a ruse to divert the attention, and the Ladakhi army was on it’s way to attack the Dogra camp from the rear. The Dogra negotiators were killed and thrown into the river. The Dogras were defeated and retreated to Lang Kartse. The captured with their hands and legs tied, were dumped into the river along with the dead. The Ladakhis did not pursue, mindful of their capabilities. The peace lasted for the next four months of winter. In the meanwhile, the Ladakhis were reinforced by fresh mobilization. Banka Kahlon advanced on Lang Kartse in April 1835 but was counter-attacked before the Ladakhis were ready for the battle. Around 1200 were captured and atleast 400 were killed. The Ladakhi remnants fled towards Mulbekh and then to Leh with the Dogras two days behind them, helped by the Purig Chiefs. The Dogra Army halted at Mulbekh for consolidation for 15 days and then advanced to Lama Yaru where they met envoys from the Namgyal suing for peace. A meeting between the king and Zorwar Singh was held at Basgo where the Namgyal agreed to be a vassal of the Dogra kingdom and pay Rs 20000 as indemnity. Zorawar Singh stayed at Leh for four months before returning.

On his return, he learnt that the Chief of Sod rebelled and massacred the complete Dogra garrison of 55 in Suru. By the time Zorawar Singh came, the rebels dispersed. He caught up with the rebels near Suru through a forced march where 13 were captured. Later, 200 were captured by placing booty on their head. All were beheaded and hung. This broke all dissent in that area.

When the Dogra forces left Ladakh, the Dogras in Leh were expelled and the tribute was held off. Zorawar advanced again via Zanskar in November 1835. The Namgyal sued for peace. In the meanwhile, a delegation left for Bussahr to solicit British help, which was turned down. The king was deposed and sent to Stok, while Murup Stanzin was set up as the king with an annual tribute of 18000. He took with him, the son of Murup to keep the ruler in line. In 1839, he marched again via Zanskar to depose Murup and reinstate the old king Tespal Namgyal again. While returning back to Leh after the invasion of Baltistan as a part of Dogra force, Tespal Namgyal and Banka Kahlon died due to small pox and the king’s grandson, Jigment Namgyal was then enthroned.

The Dogra army attacked Tibet and after initial successes, were defeated in 1841. Zorawar Singh was killed and his army was captured. The Ladakhis took this opportunity to rebel and solicited the help of Tibetians. Pishi Shata advanced from Gartok to Leh with Ladakhi reinforcements pouring in. Jigment Namgyal was declared the ruler. Baltistan rebelled at the same time as well. Gulab Singh sent a 7000 strong force under Diwan Hari Chand in face of which the Tibetians fled taking the king with them. The Tibetians were defeated at Chemrey and Tangtse and a treaty was signed between Lhasa and Jammu where the current Indian border is charted. The king was left with Stok Jagir which they held till independence.

Course of Action

Ladakh

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