History of Barnala
Although a thriving civilization inhabited in Punjab even before the Aryans came here, not much is known about the history of the region we now call Barnala. It came into prominence only with the advent of Baba Ala Singh in early eighteenth century. Until then it was hidden behind a veil of obscurity.
The Story of AnahadgarhIn those days, Barnala was known as Anahadgarh; Bhadawath Rungarh was one of its neighboring villages. Unfortunately, there was a constant friction between these two villages. It is said that the residents of Rungarh, who were mainly Muslims, plundered the surrounding villages, stole their cattle and destroyed their crops. The villagers at Anahadgarh felt helpless against such onslaught and ultimately decided to seek help from Baba Gama Singh of Bhadaur. However, God willed otherwise. At that time Baba Gama Singh was away and so, his younger brother Baba Ala Singh came along with them.
However, another narration says that Baba Ala Singh came to Barnala when he heard about the execution of Banda Singh Bahadur in 1716. He left Bhadaur to his brother Duna Singh and set out with a band of daring Sikh soldiers to end the political confusion that had engulfed the area. Nonetheless, the mute point is that he set up his headquarters at Anahadgarh and started expanding his territory from there. At the time, he was a young man in his early twenties.
Life History of Baba Ala SinghBaba Ala Singh was born in 1691 in the family of Phulkian Misl in Phul, which is the present day Bathinda. His father’s name was Bhai Ram Singh and his grandfather was Baba Phul. While the later was blessed by Guru Hargovind Singh Ji when he was a child Bhai Ram Singh along with his brother Trilok Singh received initiation from Guru Govind Singh. The Guru also honored their commitment to the Sikh cause by a panegyric called “Your House is My Own”.
As was the custom those days, Baba Ala Singh got married at an early age to Fateh Kaur and had three sons and one daughter. All his sons died young while Baba was still alive. His daughter Pradhan Kaur however survived him.
How Anahadgarh turned into BarnalaIt is said that on coming to Anahadgarh Baba Ala Singh established a settlement (dera) by planting a tree. By and by he conquered the surrounding villages and strengthened his position. He then built a fort at Anahadgarh and started living there. It is said that there was a deep well with stairs going down inside the fort. Such wells were called ‘bahuli; but in Malwai they were known as ‘baain’. Over the time, the ‘Baainwala’ fort began to be known as Barnala.
However, some are of the opinion that the name Barnala was actually derived from Vaaran or Varna – a place where storms are frequent. At the same time, another group of historians believe that the name may have been derived from Baba Ala’s name. It cannot be denied that because of him an obscure hamlet like Anahadgarh shot into fame.
Barnala at its Nascent StageEarlier, the Barnala Township was confined to the fort area only. The rulers lived inside the fort; but the nobles had their houses built outside its four walls. The farmers lived in places such as Sandhu and Bajwa Patti. Unfortunately, the fort is no more. However, an oven or chulla that was used to cook food for langur in the days of Baba Ala Singh still exists today.
In all probability, the Dera Baba Gandha Singh is the first significant religious place to come up in Barnala. It is said, Pandit Nika Singh came to Barnala on invitation of Pradhan Kaur, daughter of Ala Singh. He immediately started holding sangat from his home, which over the time became famous as Dera Baba Gandha Singh.