A BRIEF NARRATION OF THE GENEOLOGY, MIGRATIONS AND VICCISITUDES OF THE SURI CLAN’S NURPUR BRANCH
1. Lala Pindimal Suri, a minor functionary at the Court of the Moghul Governor at Lahore in 1790, is the earliest known ancestor of this branch of the family (vide record with the Purohits, Ramchand in 1936, Badridas in 1946, at the Surya temple at Martand in Kashmir).
2. Pindimal’s 25 year old son, Jaspat Rai, emigrated to Behrampur and then Kalanaur (Distt Gurdaspur) along with a male child (Moti Ram, son of Jaspat Rai)* during the winter of 1798 – 99 to escape the unsettled conditions caused by intrigues and conspiracies in the Moghul Governor’s Court. He was implicated in an invitation jointly extended to the then rising star of Punjab, “Raja” Ranjit Singh Shukarchakia, by a number of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh residents of Lahore as a result of which he ultimately took over the Lahore Fort on the 7th July 1799.
3. Moti Ram grew up as the only surviving son of an impoverished courtier. Jaspat Rai had used his remaining influence and connections to introduce his son to the new surzerain of the area, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who was then consolidating his hold on the Kangra Valley, having concluded a treaty of friendship with the Trans-Sutlej British power on 25th April 1809. In 1810, Moti Ram was granted revenue and magisterial powers in a group of villages around what is now called Nagrota Suriyan, 40 kilometres from Pathankot (not to be confused with the much bigger town called Nagrota).
4. Moti Ram was survived by two sons – Jwala Dass and Hukum Chand. They are the “patriarchs” whose families are the subject matter of the subsequent narrative.
5. Jwala Dass (1815 – 1865) was among the young retainers of Maharaja Ranjit Singh when the Sher-I-Panjab met the British Governor-General Lord Bentinck** on the banks of the Sutlej River at Rupar on 26th October 1831. He crossed over to the British side, visited Bombay and eventually established a small link between the East India Company at Bombay and the trading firm of Parmeshari Das Jagannath Talwar of Lohgarh (Amritsar).
6. His brother Hukum Chand was his main supplier, having set up a Pashmina shawl manufacturing business, first at Nagrota Suriyan and later at nearby Nurpur.
7. Here at Nurpur, Lala Jwala Dass built himself a house (around 1860) where he lived for the rest of his life with his surviving sons Mahesh Das (1835 – 1869) and Narain Das (1845 – 1898).
8. Parabh Dial Suri (1869 – 1963), only son of Mahesh Das, was born in November 1869 at Dhilwan (District Jullundhur) in his maternal uncle’s home. His father had passed away a month earlier at Bombay. Isher Das, only son of Narain Das, was born a few years later and died at the age of less than thirty.
9. Parabh Dial’s mother, Soma (Formal Name after Marriage: KIRPA DEI) brought him and his elder sister Janaki to Nurpur to live under the guardianship of her late husband’s younger brother Narain Das, then about 22 years of age and, by Hindu custom, head of the family after his brother’s death. Lala Mahesh Das had left a handsome amount with the Amritsar firm for the support of the family and the marriage of his daughter. But the uncle withdrew the whole of the amount by and by for his own purposes. In about 1880, he turned the family out of the ancestral house, which he later mortgaged and sold to pay off his debts.
10. Lala Shankardas, a cousin of Narain Das (and eldest of the four sons of the other “patriarch”, Lala Hukum Chand) provided shelter and support to the ousted family. Parabh Dial’s mother pulled on for the bare necessities of life with her ornaments. As luck would have it, the box of ornaments kept with L Shankardas for safe custody was said to have been stolen out of his house. In keeping with the then tradition of the community relating to the loss of a daughter’s ornaments, part of the loss was made good by him, and he continued to support the family. Janaki and Parabh Dial grew up with his son Hari Kishan who was about a year older than Janaki.
11. The close relations between these branches of the clan lasted well beyond the partition of India 70 years later.
*Vide record with the Martand Purohits
**See “Umdat-UT-Tawarikh” by the Court Chronicler, Lala Sohan Lal Suri, translated and published by VS Suri of the Department of Archives, Patiala. Pindimal Suri and Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Court chronicler Sohan Lal Suri both boast about our ancestors having close intimacy with Dara Shikoh. It was by chance that a Muslim friend of mine showed me copies of The Muslim Review. My attention was drawn to the biodata of Chandar Bhan Brahman who was (both as poet and courtier) a favorite of Dara Shikoh. This man mentions Sher Khan as one of his “admirers and protégés.”