The Kanhaiya Misl was founded by Jai Singh, a Sandhu Jatt of the village of Kahna, 21 km south-west of Lahore on the road to Firozpur. His father Khushhal Singh sold hay at Lahore. Jai Singh received the vows of the Khalsa at the hands of Nawab Kapur Singh and joined the derah or jalhd of Amar Singh Kirigra.
It is commonly believed that the name of the misl, Kanhaiya, was derived from the name of Jai Singh’s village, Kahna, although another explanation connects it with the Sardar’s own handsome appearance which earned him the epithet (Kahn) Kanhaiya, an endearing title also used for Lord Krsna. The Kanhaiya misl under Jai Singh became the dominant power in the Punjab. He seized a part of Riarki comprising the district of Gurdaspur and the upper portions of Amritsar. He first made his wife’s village, Sohiari, in Amritsar district, his headquarters from where he shifted to Batala and thence to Mukcriari. His territories lay on both sides of the Rivers Beas and Ravi.
Jai Singh extended his territory up to Parol, about 70 km south-east of Jammu, and the hill chiefs of Karigra, Nurpur, Datarpur and STba became his tributaries. In 1778 with the help of Mahan Singh Sukkarchakkia and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, he banished Jassa Singh Ramgarhia to the desert region of Harisi and Hissar.
In 1781 Jai Singh and his associate Haqiqat Singh led an expedition to Jammu and received a sum of 3,00,000 rupees as tribute from its new ruler, Brij Raj Dev. On Jai Singh’s death in 1793 at the age of 81, control of the Kanhaiya clan passed into the hands of his daughter-in-law Sada Kaur, as his son Gurbakhsh Singh had died before him. Sada Kaur whose daughter Mahitab Kaur was married to Ranjit Singh was instrumental in the Sukkarchakkia chief’s rise to political power in the Punjab.
In July 1799, she helped Ranjit Singh occupy Lahore defeating the Bhangi chiefs, Mohar Singh, Sahib Singh and Chet Singh. Supported by Sada Kaur, Ranjit Singh made further acquisitions and assumed the title of Maharaja in April 1801. In the campaigns of Amritsar, Chiniot, Kasur and Kangra as well as against the turbulent Pathans of Hazara and Attock, Sada Kaur led the armies side by side with Ranjit Singh. Their entente however did not last long and the two began to drift apart.
The marriage of Sada Kaur’s daughter to Ranjit Singh did not prove a happy one. The differences came into the open when Sada Kaur started secret negotiations with the British through Sir Charles Metcaife and Sir David Ochterlony to secure herself the status of an independent chief. Ranjit Singh started making inroads into the Kanhaiya territory and confiscated their wealth lying at Atalgarh (Mukeriari). Batala was made over as a jagir to his son Sher Singh, while the rest of Sada Kaur’s estates were placed under the governorship of Desa Singh Majithia. Sada Kaur died in confinement in 1832.
The leader of another section of the Kanhaiya misl was Haqiqat Singh, son of Baghel Singh, a Siddhu Jatt, hailing from the village of Julka, near Kahna, the birthplace of Jai Singh. A friend and associate of Jai Singh in many of his campaigns of conquest, Haqiqat Singh was also his rival. Emerging an independent chief, he occupied Kalanaur, as Kahngarh, Adalatgarh, Pathankot and several other villages.
In 1760, Haqiqat Singh destroyed Churiarivala and founded another village naming it Sangatpura and constructed a fort at Fatehgarh. Haqiqat Singh died in 1782 and his only son Jaimal Singh, then a minor, succeeded to his estates. Haqiqat Singh’s granddaughter, Chand Kaur, was married to Prince Kharak Singh, eldest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Jaimal Singh died in 1812, leaving no son. Ranjit Singh seized his wealth stored in the fort of Fatehgarh, allowing the revenue of the district as a subsistence allowance to his widow. All the remaining Kanhaiya territories were conferred on Prince Kharak Singh.