* Baba Banda Singh Bahadar - The Great Sikh Jarnail *
Banda Singh, the warrior-disciple of Guru Gobind Singh, was known as Lachhman Dev in his childhood. He was born on Katak Sudi 13, 1727, Bikrami (27th October, 1670 CE, OS), at Rajauri in the Punchh district of Western Kashmir. His father Ram Dev was an ordinary ploughman. As is the case with all such persons as are born in poor circumstances and rise to historical importance in the later years of their lives, nothing is known of his early childhood except that the child Lachhman Dev developed into a youth of very active habits, full of energy and fond of shooting and hunting. It seems that he received no regular schooling in the early days of his life and like most of the young men of his age he spent his time in ploughing and hunting. He was very tender and sensitive of heart and was yet a raw youth when his life had its first dramatic turn. It is said that during one of his hunting excursions, the pitiable looks of a dying doe, shot by him, struck the tender cords of his heart. His feelings were further affected by the sight of its two young ones, falling from its womb and fluttering to death before his eyes in a few minutes after their unnatural birth, of which he himself was the main cause. Something latent moved him from within. His sense of penitence grew so strong that in an instant his mind had an ascetic's turn and was turned away from everything mundane.
Wanders as an ascetic
He left his home and household at the age of fifteen and assumed the role of a rolling stone. He moved from place to place on the mendicant excursions of his first preceptor Sadhu Janaki Prasad. At the Shrine of Ram Thamman near Kasur he entered into the discipleship of a Bairagi Ram Das and assumed the name of Madho Das Bairagi. But he did not stay with him for long and after some years of wandering settled down in the historic Panchbati woods near Nasik. Here he formed the acquaintance of an old Yogi, Aughar Nath, who instructed him in the secrets of occultism. Being thus accomplished, he left the Panchbati woods, after the old Yogi's death, and established a monastery of his own at Nander (in present day Maharashtra) on the left bank of the river Godavari. With the increase of his fame as a Yogi and an occultist, a sort of pride entered into his head. He was, perhaps, too raw for the life of a saint. He would practise his occultism over his saint visitors and guests and would take pleasure in ridiculing his less gifted brethren. He was undoubtedly a mine of energy and enthusiasm but they were directed in wrong channels. The ore was there in an inexhaustible abundance but was waiting for a Refining Chemist to separate the dross from the pure metal and to clean and polish it with his chemical solutions. It was in this state of suspense that Madho Das spent about sixteen summers of his life at Nander. At last the warrior-saint Guru Gobind Singh appeared on the scene, in September 1708, to reclaim the misdirected energies of the ascetic Bairagi and make them flow through the channels of the Khalsa Brotherhood, strenuously working for the emancipation of humanity suffering under the inequities and oppressions of the age.
Becomes a Sikh
After the battle of Jajau on the 8th June, 1707, Guru Gobind Singh had accompanied Emperor Bahadur Shah to Agra, where on the 4th of Jamadi-ul-awwal, 1119 AH (July 23,1707), a dress of honour including a jeweled scarf, a dhukh-dhukhi, an aigrette, etc., worth sixty thousand rupees were presented to him by the Emperor as a mark of his gratitude. It appears from the Guru's letter of the Ist of Katak, 1764 Bk, October 2, 1707, addressed to the Sikhs of Dhaul that the old negotiations that had brought him from the Punjab were then in progress and that he soon expected to return to his country. But as the Emperor had to leave for Rajputana soon after (November 12, 1707), and then had to the Deccan to crush the threatening rebellion of his younger brother Kam Bakhs, the Guru accompanied him southwards. Finding no prospect, however, of any satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations, he separated himself from the royal camp at Nanded. It was here that on September 3, 1708, he met Madho Das Bairagi and transformed him into Banda Singh.
On his way to the Deccan, Guru Gobind Singh had heard of the Bairagi's unsaintly behaviour from the Dadupanthi Mahant Jait (Chet) Ram of Dadudwara (Narayana, Jaipur State), whom, like many others, he had insulted and ridiculed. On his arrival at Nanded, the Guru went to see him. Madho Dass was not then present in his monastery. The Guru, seeing a cot lying there, lay down to rest and wait for the Bairagi, while the Sikhs busied themselves in slaughtering and preparing goats for their meal. Being informed of the goings on in his monastery by his disciples, the proud and infuriated vegetarian Bairagi at once hurried to his place to wreak his vengeance upon the intruders for this irreligious act in the precincts of his hermitage. But he came, he saw and was conquered.
All his efforts in overturning the Guru's cot, by his yogic incantations and occultism, ended in failure, and thus baffled, he was convinced of the spiritual superiority of the Guru. Madho Das now came nearer and respectfully addressed him. The following dialogue is recorded in Persian Zikar-i-Guruan wa Ibtida-i-Singhan wa Mazhab-i-Eshan by Ahmad Shah of Batala :
Madho Das: Who are you ?
Guru Gobind Singh : He, whom you know.
Madho Das : What do I know ?
Guru Gobind Singh : Think it over in your mind.
Madho Das (after a pause) : So you are Guru Gobind Singh !
Guru Gobind Singh : Yes.
Madho Das: What have you come here for ?
Guru Gobind Singh : I have come so that I may make you a Sikh.
Madho Das : I accept it, my Lord. I am a Banda (a slave) of yours.
The erstwhile proud Bairagi Madho Das submissively fell down at the feet of Guru Gobind Singh and accepted his creed without a word as a changed man. He was now no longer an ascetic Bairagi. He had become a full-fledged Sikh, a disciple of Guru Gobind Singh and a member of the Khalsa brotherhood. His monastery was in no time dissolved and he followed his Lord to his camp to prepare for his new militant mission.
Leaves for Punjab
At Nanded Guru Gobind Singh was stabbed by a Pathan of Sirhind, deputed in all probability by Wazir Khan, the faujdar of that place, for it was he who had to suffer the most if the negotiations between the Guru and the Emperor were to reach a successful conclusion. He was the same man under whose orders the younger sons of the Guru, betrayed into his hands by a Brahman servant named Gangu of village Saheri, near Morinda, were bricked up alive and mercilessly done to death at Sirhind, in the last week of December 1704. This added fuel to the fire of Banda Singh's fury against that dreadful city and its murderous governor. He waited not for the recovery of the Guru from the wound and begged to be allowed to proceed to Panjab. The Guru entrusted the military command of his people to his charge and commissioned him to the Panjab as soldier of the Khalsa. A council of five piaras, consisting of Binod Singh, Kahan Singh, Baj Singh, Daya Singh and Ram Singh, was appointed to whom he was made accountable, and some twenty other Singhs were sent to accompany him to the theatre of their future warlike activities.
Thus raised to the position of a Commander of the forces of the Khalsa, and equipped with the Guru's Hukamnamas, letters to the Sikhs allover the country, to join in his expeditions, Banda Singh Bahadur left for the Punjab.
In a few months, he arrived on the frontier of Delhi province. Here he slackened his speed and moved very leisurely and cautiously. For want of men, money and ammunition, he was not yet prepared for collision with the Mughal government. For some time he stayed near the villages of Sehri and Khanda in the pargana of Kharkauda. From here he despatched the Guru's letters to the Sikhs calling upon them to join him in punishing Wazir Khan, the faujdar of Sirhind, and his Hindu Peshkar, SuchaNand (called Sachidanad in Qasim's lbratnama), who had been responsible for the merciless execution of Guru Gobind Singh's young innocent sons. The council of five Sikhs sent along with him from Nanded, also wrote a large number of letters to the leading Sikhs telling them that the Guru himself had deputed Banda Singh and that it behoved every Sikh to collect under his banner. There was a stir among the Sikhs, and they flocked to him from all quarters. Bhai Fateh Singh, a descendant of Bhai Bhagtu, Karam Singh and Dharam Singh of Bhai Rupa, and Nigahia Singh and Chuhar Singh were among the first leading persons who joined him with men and money. Ali Singh and Mali Singh with other Sikhs of Salaudi were the next to follow. And, later on, his successes drew to his standard the whole body of the Sicque nation (Forster Travels, i. 263). Chowdhris Ram Singh and Tilok Singh of the Phulkian family liberally contributed to his resources and rendered all possible assistance in the accomplishment of his mission.
Ransacks Samana, Kapuri and Sadhaura
In a few months he found himself at the head of a considerable force of Sikhs with whom he marched upon the town of Samana which rankled in their hearts as the residence of Saiyid Jalal-ud-Din, the executioner of Guru Tegh Bahadur, and of Bashal Beg who had volunteered to decapitate the Guru's sons. Early on the morning of the 26th November, 1709, Banda Singh and his men suddenly rushed upon the town from a distance of about ten kos and, before night fall, its palatial buildings were a heap of ruins. About ten thousand lives are said to have been lost in the attack and an immense amount of monies fell into the hands of the Sikhs.
Passing through Kurham, Thaska, Shahabad and Mustafabad, which all fell before him without much resistance, he attacked the town of Kapuri. Its Faujdar Qadam-ud-din was a moral-wreck of the worst type and stories of his profligacy are still, after the elapse of over two centuries and a half, current in Kapuri and its neighbourhood. There was hardly a handsome Hindu woman there, whose chastity had not been attacked by this depraved ruler. His sowars prowled over the territory, waylaying Hindu marriage parties and snatching away young brides, and thus Qadam-ud.din was a terror to the non-Muslims of the illaqa. Banda Singh, therefore, decided to attend to no other business till he had chastised him. He attacked Kapuri, set fire to the stronghold of Qadam-ud-din's debaucheries and scattered his immortalizing wealth to the four winds.
He next turned his attention to Sadhaura which was a notorious centre of oppression. The Hindus of this place were not allowed to burn their dead. Osman Khan, the ruler of the place, was a great bigot and he had tortured to death the great Muslim saint Saiyid Badar-ud-din Shah, popularly known as Budhu Shah, simply because of his having helped Guru Gobind Singh in the battle of Bhangani. Here it was mostly the infuriated local peasantry that wreaked its vengeance upon the tyrant.
It may be mentioned here that Banda Singh was following this circuitous route so that the Sikhs from Doaba and Majha, whose passage across the Satluj had been blocked by Sher Mohammad Khan of Maler-Kotla, could join his force before his attack upon Sirhind.
While he occupied Chhat, the Sikhs from the north defeated the Maler Kotla contingent near Ropar and joined him between Kharar and Banur on the Ambala-Ropar road.
Conquers and Occupies Sirhind
The Jaipur news-writer at the Imperial Court in his report written some time before the battle of Sirhind says that the Sikhs had a deep-rooted hatred for Wazir Khan, the faujdar of Sirhind, for the murder of the young sons of Guru Gobind Singh, and therefore, there was a great discord and confusion in the whole area.
While preparations for the attack upon Sirhind were in progress, a Hindu officer of Sirhind, a nephew of Peshkar Sucha Nand, appeared in the Sikh camp with a thousand men to play the part of a traitor. Banda Singh believed his false story of desertion from Sirhind and allowed him to join the camp. In addition to the Sikhs who looked towards the happy prospect of a holy war against the condemned city and its governor, a large number of plunderers joined the Sikhs to prey upon the countless riches of the city. Wazir Khan came out to meet them with a large force and an innumerable host of crusaders. The battle was fought on the plain of Chappar-Chiri on the 24th of Rabi-ul Awwal, 1122 Hijri (May 12, 1710). The plunderers and the Hindu officer were the first to take to flight. It was feared that this would cause confusion in the Sikh ranks, but the position was soon brought under control when Banda Singh Bahadur came forward to lead his men on to a bold attack. Wazir Khan fell under the sword of Fateh Singh and the battle was won. The city was entered and occupied on the 26th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1122 AH, May 14, 1710. According to the same news-writer, the Sikhs after their occupation of the city issued strict orders not to kill a single animal there.
The Ram Raiya Masands of Ghudani were the next to be punished for the insult of a Sikh musician Bulaka Singh. At Maler-Kotla the town was spared, for Sher Muhammad Khan, its Nawab, had appealed for mercy for the sons of Guru Gobind Singh at the time of their execution at Sirhind. It was under this sense of gratitude that, even later on, the Sikhs did not touch Maler-Kotla, although the whole of its neighbourhood was trampled under their horses' hoofs.
Rai Kot and other places of importance offered no resistance and the whole of the province of Sirhind fell into the hands of Banda Singh. Baj Singh, a member of the council of five, was appointed the Subedar of Sirhind, with Ali Singh as his Naib. Fateh Singh was confirmed in his appointment at Samana, and Ram Singh and Binod Singh were given the joint charge of Thanesar and the surrounding territory.
"In all the parganas occupied by the Sikhs, the reversal," says Irvine, "of the previous customs was striking and complete. A low scavenger or leather dresser, the lowest of the low in Indian estimation, had only to leave home and join the Guru [referring to Banda Singh], when in a short time he would return to his birth-place as its ruler, with his order of appointment in his hand. As soon as he set foot within the boundaries, the well-born and wealthy went out to greet him and escort him home. Arrived there, they stood before him with joined palms, awaiting his orders...Not a soul dared to disobey an order, and men, who had often risked themselves in battle-fields, became so cowed that they were afraid even to remonstrate."
Converts Hindus and Muslims into Sikhs
While at Sirhind and other places, Banda Singh inspired many a Hindu and Mohammedan to faith of Sikhism. "The authority of that sect [of the Sikhs] extended to such an extent," wrote Yar Muhammad Qalandar, the then Subedar of Shahjahanabad, in June 1710 "that many Hindus and Mohammedans, finding no alternative other than obedience and submission to them, adopted their faith and manners. And their chief Banda... captivated the hearts of all towards his inclinations, and, whether a Hindu or a Mohammedan, whosoever came in contact with him, he [Banda Singh] conferred upon him the title of Singh, initiated him into the Sikh faith." Accordingly, Dindar Khan, a powerful ruler of the neighbourhood, was named Dindar Singh, and Mir Nasir-ud-Din, the news-writer of Sirhind, became Mir Nasir Singh. In the same way, a large number of Mohammedans abandoned Islam and followed the misguided path [of Sikhism], and took solemn oaths and firm pledges to stand by him."
At his Capital
With the establishment of his power, Banda Singh assumed something of a regal state. He repaired the old Imperial fort of Mukhlispur , occupied by him at the time of his conquest of Sadhaura, gave it the name of Lohgarh and established his capital there. He had become a king all but in name. He had conquered many a territory and governed it through his deputies. He commanded a large army of devoted followers and had a capital and palaces to live in. He now struck a coin in the name of Gurus Nanak-Gobind Singh with the Persian inscription :
Sikka zad bar har do alam Tegh-.i-Nanak wahib ast,
Fateh Gobind Singh Shah-i-Shahan Fazal-i-Sacha Sahib ast.
'Struck coin in the two worlds, by the grace of the true Lord,
Victory to Gobind Singh, the King of Kings;
The sword of Nanak is the granter of desires.'
On the reverse were the words :
Zarb ba aman-ud-dahar, masawwrat shahar,
Zina t- u- takht-i-mubarak-bakht.
'Coined at the refuge of the world, Model (painting) of city, the
Ornament of the Fortunate Throne.'
These were the titles and epithets assigned by him to Lohgarh, just as each imperial city had its appropriate honorific name. He also introduced an official seal for his Hukamnamas and Furmans or letters and orders. It bore the inscription.
Deg-o-Tegh- o-Fateh Nusrat-i-bedirang,
Yaft az Nanak Guru Gobind Singh.
'Kettle (the means to feed the poor), Sword (the power to protect
the weak and helpless), Victory and Unhesitating Patronage (are)
obtained from Nanak Guru Gobind Singh.
This inscription was later on adopted by the Sikh Misaldar Sardars and rulers for their coins.
Like the Sann-i-Jalus or the regnal year of the Mughal Emperors, Banda Singh introduced his own Sammat or year, commencing with his victory at Sirhind. It is related in some of the recent Sikh histories that Banda Singh, at this stage, introduced certain innovations and was, therefore denounced as a heretic by Mata, the widow of Guru Gobind Singh, and that he was deserted by most of the Sikhs. There is nothing in contemporary or the earliest available records to support this contention. It is true that a new salutation, Fateh Darshan, is to be found on a couple of his letters, but this find favor with the Khalsa who continued to use the old, Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Wahiguru ji ki Fateh." There is no truth, however, in the allegation that he had tried to set himself up as a Guru. Nowhere in his documents is he mentioned as Guru like the earlier and later pretenders. He is only referred to as Sacha Sahib in the same way as the later Sikh leaders were referred to as Singh Sahib, Khalsa Bahadur, Sarkar Bahadur, etc., etc. Banda Singh always declared himself to be a banda or slave of the Guru, says Ganesh Das. His coins and seals, and subsequent history are the living monuments of his unflinching devotion to Gurus Nanak-Gobind Singh, whom he declared to be his guiding spirits and from whom he proclaimed to have received all his Tegh and Degh, power and prosperity.
Invades the Gangetic Doab
The tide of religious zeal and political victory bore Banda Singh and his warrior Sikhs across the rubicon of Jumna at Rajghat and they marched upon and occupied the town of Saharanpore. Behat was the next to be taken. On the 25th Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 1122 AH (July 11, 1710), Banda Singh arrived at Nanauta, where crowds of needy Gujjars, styling themselves as Nanakprast, the worshippers of Guru Nanak, inflated the ranks of the invading Sikhs.
At Ja1alabad, the Faujdar Jalal Khan lost very heavily in men, particularly in Jamal Khan and Pir Khan, his nephews. But as calls upon the Sikhs from the Punjab were then more urgent, 'they raised the siege and went off to reduce Sultanpore and the pargana of Jullundur .'
Rising in the Majha and the Haidri Flag Crusade
The victory of Sirhind had served as a signal for a general Sikh rising throughout the country. They felt providentially raised to the position of conquerors and rulers. 'The entire Khalsa from Majha and other sides collected at Amritsar and, having consulted and counseled together, overran the territories of the Punjab. After the occupation of Batala and Kalanaur, the main force marched towards Lahore and carried their arms to the very walls of the city, while a detachment of the Sikhs of Sithala and Butala went as far as to occupy the town and Pargana of Pathankot. Saiyid Aslam Khan, the Subedar of Lahore, was seized with terror. The Mullahs, therefore, took the lead. They appealed to the sentiments of the Mohammedan population and proclaimed a Haidri Flag Jehad against the Sikhs. The Sikhs slowly retired from Qila Bhagwant Rai and Kotla Begam, and inflicted so heavy a defeat upon the crusaders at the village of Bheelowal, that excepting Lahore proper, practically the whole of Majha and Riarki tracts fell into their hands.
Rising in the Jullundur Doab
Being on the border of the province of Sirhind, Doaba Bist Jullundur was also electrified with the spirit of rising and freedom from tyranny and the Sikhs of this ilaqa as well embarked on a career of conquest. They turned out the Mughal officials and appointed their own Tehsildars and Thanedars in their places. Encouraged by their petty successes they addressed a letter to Faujdar Shamas Khan and called upon him to submit. With a large army and a host of crusaders Shamas Khan came out to meet the Sikhs. They retired upon the fort of Rahon, which had been previously occupied by them. The fort was invested for several days, and as the number of the besiegers was too large to be thinned or driven away by small sorties, the Sikhs turned to tactics peculiar to themselves and in the darkness of night slipped away from their entrenchments. The following morning, finding that Shamas Khan had left for his capital at Sultanpur, a thousand Sikhs rushed upon and attacked the garrison, placed by Shamas Khan in the fort of Rahon, drove them out and re-established themselves therein. This happened on the 20th Shaban, 1122 AH (October 3, 1710).
Bahadur Shah's Expedition * Escape of Banda Singh
In addition to their successes to the east of the Jamna and the north of the Satluj, the Sikhs had, by the middle of September 1710, become supreme from Machhiwara to Karnal, and, according to Iradat Khan. 'there was no noblemen daring enough to march from Delhi against them.' 'If Bahadur Shah had not quit the Deccan which he did in 1710, there is every reason to think,' says Malcolm, 'the whole of Hindostan would have been subdued by these ..[Sikh] invaders. '
On receipt of the alarming news of the Sikh conquests in the Punjab, Bahadur Shah called upon the Subedars of Delhi and Oudh, the Faujdars and Nazims of Muradabad and Allahabad, and the Saiyids of Barha to march towards the Panjab. On the 4th December, 1710, he arrived at Sadhaura near Lohgarh, accompanied by his sons, the imperial and provincial forces, and the contingents of Udait Singh Bundela, Chattarsal Bundela and Churaman Jat. Lohgarh was invested and the besieged were reduced to extremities for want of food and fodder. The last faint hope left to them was the desparate chance of cutting through the enemy. One Gulab Singh, "resolved to sacrifice his life for the good of his religion," dressed himself in the garments of Banda Singh and seated himself in his place. And, Banda Singh made a determined sally on the night of 10th - 11th December, 1710, and breaking through the royal lines, made off to the mountains of Barfi Raja (of Nahan).
At this time, with failure staring him in the face, Emperor Bahadur Shah, according to the Akhbar-i-Darbar-i-Mualla, told, on Shawwal 29, Bahadur Shahi 4, December 10, 1710, Bakhshi-ul-Mumalik Mahabat Khan Bahadur to write to the faujdars in the neighbourhood of Shajahanabad to kill the worshippers of Nanak -the Slkhs-wherever found-Nanak prastan ra har ja kih ba-yaband ba qatl rasanand.
This edict for an indiscriminate wholesale massacre of the Sikhs was repeated by Emperor Farrukhsiyar when he came to power ( 1713-19) and was acted upon for over forty-four years with more or less rigour. Bahadur Shah was very much perturbed over the escape of the Sikh chief. . 'An iron cage,' says Khafi Khan , 'became the lot of the Barfi raja [Bhup Prakash] and of the Sikh who so devotedly sacrificed himself for his Guru, for they were placed in it, and were sent to the fort of Delhi.' And the Emperor himself leisurely marched off to Lahore, where he died on the night of February 17-18, 1712.
It may be stated here that the royal anti-Sikh edict brought about no change in Banda Singh's attitude and policy towards the Muslims. His was a political struggle for the emancipation of the people from the tyranny of the government. He, therefore, allowed fullest religious liberty to them in the Sikh camps and they flocked to him in large numbers. It was reported to the Emperor on his way to Lahore in April-May 1711 that as many as five thousand Muslims of the neighbourhood of Kalanaur and Batala had joined Banda Singh and that they were at liberty to shout their call-bang-and recite their prayers and Khutba in the army of the Sikhs. This speaks volumes for the religious tolerance of the Sikhs.
We quote below the following original reports from the Akhbaral-i-Darbar-i-Mualla preserved in the Rajasthan Archives at Bikaner:
* 2Ist Rabi-ul-awwal, 5th regnal year [28 April, 1711]-
Bhagwati Das Harkarah, through Hidyatullah Khan, presented to His Majesty a news-sheet reporting that the wretched Nanak-worshipper [Banda Singh] has his camp in the town of Kalanaur up to the 19th instant. During this period he has promised and proclaimed: 'I do not oppress the Muslims.' Accordingly, for any Muslim, who approaches him, he fixes a daily allowance and wages, and looks after him. He has permitted them to recite Khutba and namaz. As such, five thousand Muslims have gathered round him. Having entered into his friendship, they are free to shout their call-bang-and say their prayers-namaz-in the army of the wretched [Sikhs].
This is also mentioned in another news saying:
* The wretched Guru [Banda Singh], having established himself in the town of Kalanaur, is taking into his service any Hindu or Muslim who goes to him. Five thousand Muslim horsemen have gathered and are daily increasing. Let us see what God wishes.
* 13th Rabi-us-Sani, 5th regnal year [20 May, 1711]-
Bhagwati Das Harkarah through Hidayatullah Khan, presented to His Majesty a news-sheet saying that the wretched Guru [Banda Singh] is encamped at two kos from the town of Batala up to the 9th Rabi-us-Sani, 5th regal year. Ram Chand and other Sikhs, with seven thousand horse and foot, have come from the direction of Jammu hills and have joined him. Whosoever from amongst the Hindus and Muslims comes to him for service is looked after and fed. He has granted the right of booty to them. It is decided that if the [imperial] forces come, he will oppose them; if not, they [the Sikhs] will move towards Ajmer, via Lakhi Jungle, and go to Shahjahanabad.
The period of struggle for the Imperial throne, and the disturbed state of affairs at Delhi, from February 1712, wheh Abdul Samad Khan laid siege to Sadhaura, was very favourable for the re-establishment of the Sikh power. Banda Singh had appeared in the neighbourhood of Raipur and Bahrampur, killed Shamas Khan and had mortally wounded his uncle Bayzeed Khan. The Sikhs had taken hold of the parganas of Batala and Kalanaur before the arrival of Bahadur Shah at Lahore where he died on February 17-18, 1712, and had pushed on as far as Pasrur. Sadhaura was taken soon after, and Lohgarh once more enjoyed the dignity of the Sikh capital. Many of the Hill states were reduced to subjection and their rulers paid tribute into the Sikh treasury. But all this was destined to be of a very short duration and was rolled up with the siege and fall of Gurdas Nangal.
The Siege of Gurdas Nangal
Abdus Samad Khan Diler-i-Jang was appointed the Subedar of Lahore on 22 February, 1713, with orders to exterminate the Sikhs. But he could not accomplish much till a sharp rebuke was administered to him by the Emperor Farrukh-siyar on 2Oth March, 1715, and the third Bakhshi Muzaffar Khan, Raja Gopa1 Singh Bhadauriya, Qamar-ud-Din Khan, son of Muhammad Amin Khan, Afrasyab Khan, Udait Singh Bundela and many other Muslim and Hindu nobles were sent to reinforce him. Banda Singh and the Sikhs were besieged in the small village of Gurdas Nangal near Dhariwal (Gurdaspur), 'where they performed prodigies of valour. So bold and indomitable were the Sikhs that they impressed their adversaries with the greatest respect for their fighting qualities. It was feared that the garrison might, by a sortie en masse and by sacrificing themselves, secure the escape of their leader. But their close confinement for eight long months exhausted their provisions, 'not a grain being left in their storehouse,' and they were reduced to great extremities. 'The Sikhs were not strict observers of caste, they slaughtered oxen and other animals and, not having any firewood, ate the flesh raw. Many died of dysentery and privation. when all the grass was gone, they gathered leaves from trees. When these were consumed, they stripped the bark and broke off the small shoots, dried them, ground them down and used them instead of flour, thus keeping the body and soul together. They also collected the bones of animals and used them in the same way. 'In spite of all this, the infernal Sikh chief and his men,' says Kamwar Khan, 'withstood all the military force that the great Mughal Empire could muster against them for eight months.'
At last on the 7th December 1715, Gurdas Nangal fell into the hands of the besiegers and everyone found in it, including Banda Singh, was made prisoner. The Imperial force fell upon the half-dead Sikhs like hungry wolves and some two or three hundred of them were bound hand and foot and executed, under the Nawab's orders. Their dead bodies were ripped open in search of gold coins supposed to have been swallowed by them, and their heads were then filled with straw and mounted on spears. About 740 of the Sikh prisoners were at first taken to and paraded in the streets of Lahore, and were then sent to Delhi under the escort of Zakariya Khan, son of Abdus Samad Khan.
Massacre of the Sikhs at Delhi
On Thursday, the 17th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1128 AH (27th February, 1716, OS), the Sikh prisoners were conducted to the city of Delhi. The ceremonial on this occasion was copied from that observed after the capture of the Maratha Chief, Sambhaji. 'First came the heads of [two thousand] executed Sikhs, stuffed with straw and struck on bamboos, their long hair streaming in the wind like veil.' Banda Singh himself came next, seated in an iron cage, placed upon an elephant, and dressed, out of mockery, in a gold embroidered red turban and a robe of gold brocade, a mail-clad officer standing behind him with a drawn sword. After him came 740 Sikh prisoners in sheep-skin dresses and foolscaps, tied two and two upon saddle less camels, with one of their hands pinned to their necks between two pieces of wood. Nothing could rob the brave disciples of Gobind Singh of their natural dignity and they bore all the insults and abuses of their enemies with perfect equanimity, without any sign of fear or dejection. They rode on calm and cheerful, singing their sacred hymns, anxious to die the, death of martyrs.'
By Farrukh-siyar's orders, Banda Singh, Baj Singh, Bhai Fateh Singh and a few other chief men were sent to the Tripolia prison, inside the Fort while the remaining 694 were made over to Sarbrah Khan, Kotwal, for execution.
The execution began on the 22nd Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1128 AH (5th March, 1716) and, one hundred of the Sikhs were executed every day at the Kotwali Chabutra. After their decapitation, their bodies were thrown into a heap and at night they were taken out of the city in carts and hung upon the trees. Life was offered to anyone who would renounce his faith, but to the last, wrote Surmon and Stephenson, in their letter of the 10th March, 1716, it has not been found that one apostatized from the new formed religion of Sikhism. The Sikhs welcomed death with cheerful faces, and, with the words Waheguru! .Waheguru ! on their lips, they joyfully gave up their lives. And, at the time of suffering, their constancy was wonderful to look at, and "Me Deliverer! kill me first !!" was the joyful prayer that constantly rang in the ears of the executioners.
The story of a Sikh Youth
Among these was a Sikh youth whose widowed mother obtained the order of his release through Sayyed Abdulla Khan saying that her son was only a prisoner in the hands of the Sikhs and was not a follower of the Guru. But the boy refused to be released, says Khafi Khan, and loudly cried out: "My mother is a liar. I am heart and soul the Guru's follower. Send me quickly after my companions." With these words, he bowed his head before the executioner and met his death with unshaken devotion.
The execution of Banda Singh
The fate reserved for Banda Singh is too excruciating to be described. On Sunday, the 29th Jamadi-ul-Akhar, 1128 AH (9th June, 1716) Banda Singh, his son Ajai Singh, Sardar Baj Sjngh, Bhai Fateh Singh and a few others were led out of the fort under the escort of lbrahim Khan Mir Atish, and Sarbarah Khan Kotwal. The Sikh chief laden with fetters was dressed in a gold embroidered red turban and a robe of gold brocade, as on the day of his first entry, and was taken on an elephant through the streets of the old city to the tomb of Khwaja Qutb-ud-Din Bakhtiyar Kaki, at the Qutub Minar, where, to add insult to injury, he was paraded round the tomb of the late Emperor Bahadur Shah. After he had been dismounted and seated on the ground, Banda Singh was offered the usual choice between Islam and death. But, the 'chosen disciple of Guru Gobind Singh,' as Tarikh-i-Muzaffari calls him, preferred to lay his life like a devoted follower than to abjure the faith of Sikhism 'to save his muddy vesture of decay.' His young son, Ajai Singh, about four years old, was then placed in his arms and he was told, to take the boy's life. He refused. The executioner then hacked the child to pieces with a long knife, dragged out its quivering heart and thrust it into the mouth of his father.
His own turn came next. First of all his right eye was removed by the butcher's knife, his left foot was cut off next, then his two hands were severed from his body, his flesh was then torn with red hot pincers, and finally he was decapitated and hacked to pieces limb by limb. Banda Singh stood calm and serene amidst these tortures, completely resigned to the Will of God and Guru, and died with unshaken constancy, 'glorying' says Elphinstone 'in having been raised up by God to be scourge to the inequities and oppressions of the age.
Banda Singh : The man and His Achievements
In personal appearance Banda Singh, according to the Mirat-I-Waridat of Muhammad Shafi Warid, resembled Guru Gobind Singh. Thin of physique and of medium stature, he was of light brown complexion. It was, therefore, that those, who had seen him only from a distance or had only heard of him and had not the opportunity of knowing him personally and closely, had taken him to be Guru Gobind Singh himself and had recorded him as such -as Guru Gobind Singh- in their writings. The nobleness of his features, with sharp and shining eyes, impressed his greatness even on the minds of his worst enemies like Itmad-ud-Daulah Muhammad Amin Khan who praised him for 'so much of acuteness in his features and so much of nobility in his conduct.' Though not a giant in his build, he was very active and would keep at bay far stronger men in the field of battle. He was a good marksman, a matchlock being his favourite weapon. He was equally fond of sword and bow. He was a good horseman and would ride on for days without being fatigued. The scanty records of the contemporary writers give little information about, the many qualities he possessed, 'but he is allowed, on all hands,' says MGregor, 'to have been a man of undoubted valour and bravery, and the coolness with which he met his death, has elicited praise from men like Khafi Khan. He was not exclusively devoted to the military command of the Khalsa. His zeal for the propagation of the Sikh faith was second to none. Besides a large number of Hindus, he inspired many prominent Muslims like Mir Nazir-ud-Din and Dindar Khan to come to Sikhism and gave them the names Mir Nasir Singh and Dindar Singh.
Like his Master, he was a champion of the persecuted and downtrodden and raised the lowest of the low to the highest positions under his government. He carried on a relentless war against the Mughals, no doubt, but he never allowed it to be reduced to an anti-Muslim communal strife. His was a political struggle for the emancipation of the common folk and he was able to draw a line between religion and politics of the oppressor. He made no distinction between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Whosoever suffered at the hands of the oppressor received his sympathy and help.
Within a month of his conquest of Sirhind, he appointed one Jan Mohammad, Zamindar of Gulab Nagar, as the administrator of the Pargana and he also desired him to bring in Sardar Khan of Choondla. His programme of liberation of the oppressed peasantry attracted as many as five thousand Muslims to join his army and it was reported to Emperor Bahadur Shah on the 21st of Rabbi-ul-Awwal, 5th Bahadur Shahi (28 April, 1711), from the neighbourhood of Kalanaur that the Sikh leader had allowed his Muslim adherents fullest religious liberty of recitation and prayer-bang, Khutba and namaz-in the Sikh military camps. This speaks volumes for his attitude towards the Muslims and contradicts all allegations of an anti-Muslim bias leveled against him by interested writers.
The allegation that he had contravened any injunction of Guru Gobind Singh, or that Mata Sundar Kaur, the widow of the Guru, had called upon the Sikhs to dissociate from him,, have no historical basis and are, evidently, the creations of the poetical imagination of the nineteenth century writers like Giani Gian Singh. The only parting injunction of Guru Gobind Singh which can be traced to the earliest available record is 'Langot-band rahio,' i.e., lead the life of chastity, [Mehma Parkash, ii. 884; Suraj Prakash 6225, 11-12], to which Ratan Singh has added 'Live at peace with the Khalsa' [Prachin Panth Parkash]. It is only Giani Gian Singh who multiplied this injunction by his own additions of spurious matter.
It was in keeping with the tenets of Sikhism that he had discarded the life of an ascetic and had joined the fold of the Khalsa through the ceremony of Khande da Amrit. He remained scrupulously true to the rules of conduct prescribed by the Guru and led a chaste life, devoted to his wedded wife. His relations with the Khalsa were always cordial, and with the solitary exception of Bawa Binod Singh, who left Gurdas Nangal with his consent owing to difference of opinion on strategy, not a single Sikh left Banda Singh throughout his struggle against the oppressors. There is also no truth in the allegation that, owing to her negotiations with Emperor Farrukh-siyar, Mata Sundar Kaur had called upon the Khalsa to dissociate from Banda Singh. There is not the slightest hint to this effect in the contemporary historical works of Kamwar Khan, Muhammad Assan Ijad, Shiv Das, Rai Chatarman, Khafi Khan, Muhammad Harisi, Yahiya Khan, etc., etc.
Banda Singh had much greater promise in his political career than what could be effected. But the vast Mughal Empire was yet too strong for his tiny power. The Khalsa had to stand the brunt of the struggle single-handed. The Rajputs, the Jats and the Shivalak Hill Rajas were all arrayed against them. But the fire of independence ignited by Banda Singh, though smothered for a time, could not be extinguished. And in less than half a century the Khalsa was able to free the Punjab from the Mughals and the Afghans in 1763-64.
Source : Sikhpoint.com