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- The raids of Ahmed Shah Abdali
- The formation of the Dal Khalsa and the Misls
- The Eighth Afghan Invasion, 1766
- Persecution of the Sikhs (1739–46)
- The Temerity of Bhai Bota Singh
- The Martydom of Mani Singh Shaheed 426 |
- The Golden Temple and Massa Rangar
- The Martyrdom of Bhai Taru Singh
P a g e
Jassa Singh Ahluwalia
Sultan ul Quam Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was born at a village called Ahlu.
Hence, the name Ahluwalia stuck to him. Mata Sundari instructed him to study the art of
sword and Sikh scriptures. He studied Sikh scriptures under Bhai Mani Singh. Later,
Mata Sundari asked Nawab Kapur Singh to take charge of the promising youth. Nawab
Kapur Singh was pleased with Jassa Singh's supreme devotion to the faith and a sense
of duty and humility. He appointed him as a storekeeper with his forces.
In 1739, Nadir shah the Turkic ruler of Persia, attacked north and northwestern
India, including Punjab. He defeated the Mughals in the Battle of Karnal in 1739. He
plundered huge wealth and robbed peacock throne, Kohinoor diamond and Darya i noor
diamond and massacred 20,000 Mughals in the old Delhi city(Shahjahanabad) and was
taking Mughal slave to his country. Meanwhile, all the Khalsa bands got together and
passed a resolution that Nadir shah had plundered the city of Delhi and now he is taking
Indian women as slaves to his country. Sikhs made a plan to free all the slaves. Jassa
Singh Ahluwalia was 21 years old at that time, he planned raids to free all slaves. He
along with other Sikh bands attacked Nadir shah forces, freed all slaves and send those
slaves back to their families safely.
Ahluwalia participated in many battles as well where he proved himself to be a
natural leader. In a 1748 meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa Nawab Kapur Singh appointed
him as his successor. His followers awarded him the title Sultan-ul-Qaum (King of the
Ahmed Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah's seniormost general, succeeded to the throne
of Afghanistan, when Shah was murdered in June, 1747. He established his own
dynasty, the Sadozai, which was the name of the Pashtun khel to which he belonged to.
Starting from December, 1747 till 1769, Abdali made a total of nine incursions
into the northwestern India. His repeated invasions destroyed the Mughal administration
of the Punjab and the rest of Northwestern India. At the Third Battle of Panipat, he along
with Nawab of Oudh and Rohillas, defeated the Marathas, who after treaty signed in
1752 became the protector of the Mughal throne at Delhi and were controlling much of
North India, including Punjab and Kashmir. Thus he created a power vacuum in the
Punjab, which was filled by the Sikhs.
P a g e
The Sixth Afghan Invasion, 1762
On February 5, 1762, the Sikhs were especially the target of Ahmad Shah
Abdali's sixth invasion into India. News had reached him in Afghanistan of the defeat of
his general, Nur-ud-Din Bamezai, at the hands of the Sikhs who were fast spreading
themselves out over the Punjab and had declared their leader, Misldar Jassa Singh
Ahluwalia, king of Lahore. To rid his Indian dominion of them once and for all, he set out
from Kandahar. Marching with alacrity, he overtook the Sikhs as they were withdrawing
into Malwa after crossing the Satluj.
The moving caravan comprised a substantial portion of the total Sikh population
and contained, besides active fighters, a large body of old men, women and children
who were being escorted to the safety of the interior. Surprised by Ahmad Shah, the
Sikhs threw a cordon round those who needed protection, and prepared for the battle.
In this formation and continuing their march, they fought the invaders and their Indian
allies (The Nawabs of Malerkotla, Sirhind, etc.) desperately. Sardar Charhat Singh
Sukerchakia (the grandfather of Maharaja Ranjit Singh), Sardar Hari Singh Dhillon and
Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia led their forces with skill and courage. Jassa Singh
sustained sixty-four wounds on his body, but he survived. Kalamala (30 kilometer far
away from Kup) Sikh Sangat worked like hospital to the injured Sikhs, there were full
darkness during daytime. The injured Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was admitted here for
treatment. Sardar Charhat Singh rode to exhaustion, five of his horses one after
Ahmad Shah succeeded, in the end, in breaking through the cordon and carried
out a full scale massacre. His orders were for everyone in native dress to be killed at
sight. The soldiers of Malerkotala and Sirhind were to wear green leaves of trees on
their heads to distinguish themselves from the Sikhs. Near the village of Kup, in the
vicinity of Malerkotla, about 20,000 Sikhs died at the end of a single day's action
(February 5, 1762) and round about 35,000 in total during The Great Holocaust. This
battle is known in Sikh history as the Wadda Ghalughara (The Great Holocaust).
Battle of Amritsar
Despite the Ghalughara disaster, by the month of May, the Sikhs were up in
arms again. Under Jassa Singh, they defeated the Afghan faujdar of Sihind at
Harnaulgarh. By autumn, the Sikhs had regained enough confidence to foregather in
large numbers at Amritsar to celebrate Diwali. Abdali made a mild effort to win over
them and sent an envoy with proposals for a treaty of peace. The Sikhs were in no
mood for peace and insulted the emissary. Abdali did not waste any time and turned up
at the outskirts of Amritsar.
P a g e
The Battle of Amritsar (1762) was fought in the grey light of a sun in total eclipse.
It ended when the sunless day was blacked out by a moonless night with the
adversaries retiring from the field: The Sikhs to the fastness of the jungles of the
Lakhi(the forests of a hundred thousand trees located in Central Punjab) and Abdali
behind the walled safety of Lahore.
The formation of the Dal Khalsa and the Misls
Until now, the Sikh forces were divided into 65 jathas (bands). Baron Nawab
Kapur Singh reorganised them into twelve bands, each of with its own name, flag and
leader. These Armies or jathas, which came to known later on as Misls (literally "equal",
also "an example") together were, however, given the name of the Dal Khalsa (or the
Army of the Khalsa). Baron Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was nominated as the Supreme
Commander of the Sikh Confederacy in addition to being Baron of the Ahluwalia Army
The Eighth Afghan Invasion, 1766
In November 1766 Abdali came to the Punjab for the eight time with the avowed
object of "crushing the Sikhs". The Sikhs had recourse to their old game of Dhai-phut
('hit, run and turn back to hit again') tactics (later made famous at the Battle of
Chillianwala against the British). They vacated Lahore, but faced squarely the Afghan
general Jahan Khan at Amritsar. The Sikhs inflicted a humiliating defeat, and forced him
to retreat, with five thousand Afghan soldiers killed. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with an army
of about twenty thousand Sikhs roamed in the neighbourhood of the Afghan camp,
Jassa Singh continued with his campaigns. After Abdali's ninth and last invasion
in 1769, Jassa Singh wrested Kapurthala in 1774 from Rao Ibrahim Bhatti and made it
his headquarters. Jassa Singh died in Amritsar in 1783 AD. Being issueless, he was
succeeded by Bhag Singh, whose son, Fateh Singh became a close collaborator of
Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Government College (NJSA Government College)
in Kapurthala, established in 1856 by Randhir Singh of Kaputhala is named after him. A
commemorative postage stamp on 'Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was issued by
Government of India on April 4,1985.
P a g e
Chhota Ghalughara (The Lesser Massacre)
Origins of the 1746 Ghallūghārā
Sikhism began in the days of Guru Nanak (1469
1539) and grew to be a
distinctive social force especially after the formation of the Order of Khalsa in 1699. The
Khalsa was designated to oppose the tyranny of the Mughal Empire and any other form
of injustice. Through much of the early eighteenth century, the Khalsa was outlawed by
the government and survived in the safety of remote forests, deserts, and swamplands
of the Punjab region and neighbouring Kashmir and Rajasthan.
Zakaria Khan, the Governor of Lahore, offered lucrative rewards for the discovery
and killing of Sikhs. A blanket was offered to anyone who managed to cut off the
distinctive mane of a Sikh or Khalsa. A substantial monetary reward was offered for
information on the whereabouts of a Sikh, and a larger sum for the delivery of a Sikh
scalp. The plunder of Sikh homes was made lawful and anyone giving shelter to or
withholding information about the movements of the Sikhs was liable to themselves
being executed. Zakaria Khan's police scoured the countryside and brought back
hundreds of Sikhs in chains. They were publicly executed at the horse market of
Lahore, since renamed "Shahidganj", "place of the martyred".
The Temerity of Bhai Bota Singh
In those days of dire persecution, Bhai Bota Singh lived in the forest by day and
would come out in search of food from sympathizers under the cover of darkness.
Occasionally, he would visit Amritsar by night and take a dip in the sanctifying waters of
the holy pool around the temple. One day, he was noticed from afar by some people
who thought he was a Sikh. But a member of the party objected he could not have been
a Sikh, for had he been one, he would not have concealed himself so.
Vexed by the observer's remark, Bhai Bota Singh set on a plan whereby he and
his companion Bhai Garja Singh took up a position on the main highway. There, they
proclaimed the sovereignty of Khalsa and collected a small toll from each passerby. For
maximum effect, he sent a notice with a traveller for the governor. One hundred
horsemen came to apprehend the two Sikhs, but they spurned the offer to surrender
and died instead fighting.
P a g e
Bhai Mani Singh was a respected Sikh scholar and teacher who lived in the city
of Amritsar, founded by Guru Ram Das and holy to the Sikhs. For many years, Sikhs
had customarily gathered at Amritsar in the spring and fall for the holidays of Vaisakhi
and Diwali. Under the persecution of the Mughals, these festivals had been disrupted.
Bhai Mani Singh sought and obtained Zakaria Khan's permission to hold the
Diwali celebration in Amritsar on payment of a tax of 5000 rupees. When Mani Singh
found out that the governor had dispatched a large number of soldiers to annihilate the
Sikhs gathered at Amritsar, he sent word out to the Sikhs in their forest and desert
hideouts, forbidding them from coming.
In consequence, no money was collected and Bhai Mani Singh was prosecuted
for not paying the stipulated sum. After a summary trial, he was given the choice of
embracing Islam or facing death. Bhai Mani Singh chose the latter and as his
punishment was to cut him to pieces, joint by joint.
The Golden Temple and Massa Rangar
To prevent the Sikhs accessing the holy shrine of Amritsar, built in the time of
Guru Arjan, and known as the Harmandir Sahib or the "Golden Temple", a Mughal
military officer named Massa Ranghar was stationed there. Massa Rangar was
physically very strong, a fit man, 5'11" tall. Ranghar not only occupied the holy place,
but committed sacrilege by carousing with dancing girls and consuming meat and
alcohol in the Sanctum Sanctorum situated in the midst of the sacred pool.
This offence continued until news of it reached an isolated band of Sikhs in
Rajasthan. Of them, Mehtab Singh and Sukkha Singh set off to cross the distance to
Amritsar. Finding the city strongly guarded, the two disguised themselves as revenue
officials. In this guise, they entered the Harimandir, cut off Ranghar's head and escaped
before the Mughal soldiers could realise what had happened. This took place on 11
Sukkha Singh was wounded in the defensive action involving the first Sikh
massacre and later died in battle with the invading Afghan army of Ahmed Shah Durrani
The Martyrdom of Bhai Taru Singh
Zakaria Khan, the governor of Lahore, experienced great frustration in his effort
to decimate the Sikhs. He once asked his men, "From where do the Sikhs obtain their
nourishment? I have debarred them from all occupations. They realize no taxes, they do
not farm, nor are they allowed to do business or join public employment. I have stopped
all offerings to their Gurdwaras. No provisions or supplies are accessible to them. Why
do they not die of sheer starvation?"
P a g e
A sworn enemy of the Sikhs directed the governor to the village of Puhla, where
lived a young Sikh named Taru Singh. According to the informant,
There are Sikhs in the world who would not eat until they have fed their brothers.
They may themselves go without food and clothing, but they cannot bear their
comrades' distress. They would pass the winter by fireside and send them their own
clothes. They would sweat to grind grain and have it sent to them. They would do the
hardest chores to earn a small wage for their sake... (Taru Singh) tills his land and pays
the revenue to the officials. He eats but little and sends what he saves to his brothers in
the forest. His mother and sister both toil and grind to make a living. They eat sparingly
and wear the coarsest homespun cloth. Whatever they save, they pass on to the Sikhs.
On hearing this, the governor sent a detachment of soldiers to Bhai Taru Singh's
village to arrest him and bring him to the provincial capital of Lahore. The year was
1745. When the Sikh heard of their approach, he came out of the village. Wishing to
spare his neighbours any sort of hardship, the 25-year-old Taru Singh surrendered
peacefully to the governor's men.
When Mehtab Singh, who had dispatched Masse Khan Ranghar at the
Harimandir with Sukkha Singh, heard of Bhai Taru Singh's arrest, he surrendered
himself so that he might die by his side. The two Sikhs had their bodies broken on the
wheel of torture. When only Taru Singh survived, he was given the choice of Islam or
death. When he refused to convert, his distinctive long hair was painfully scraped from
his scalp and the young Sikh left to die. Young Taru Singh was given over to a gracious
Sikh family who tended to him for his remaining days.
It was in this atmosphere of persecution that the Chhōṭā Ghallūghārā took place
in 1746. Early in that year, Jaspat Rai, a military commander was killed in an encounter
with a roving band of Sikhs. Jaspat's brother, Lakhpat Rai, who was a revenue minister
at Lahore, vowed his revenge.
With the help of the new governor, Yahiya Khan, Lakhpat Rai mobilised the
Lahore troops, summoned reinforcements, alerted the dependent rulers of the kingdoms
in the Himalayan foothills, and roused the population for a genocide of the "infidel"
Sikhs. The Sikh inhabitants of Lahore were first rounded up, then executed on 10 March
Lakhpat Rai next set out for the swampy forest of Kaahnoovaan, near the town of
Gurdaspur, about 130 kilometres (81 mi) to the north-east of Lahore, where Sikhs were
reported to have concentrated. Lakhpat had with him with a large force of mostly
cavalry, supported by cannon, with which he surrounded the forest and began a
systematic search for their prey.
P a g e
The Sikhs held out for some time and struck back whenever they could. Heavily
outnumbered and under-equipped, they decided to escape to the foothills of the
Himalayas to the north. The Sikhs crossed the River Ravi and came in sight of the
foothills, a 65-kilometre (40 mi) trek with the enemy in pursuit, only to find the armies of
the hill rajas arrayed to oppose them.
Caught between these two armies and running out of food, the Sikhs suffered
heavy casualties. At last, they managed to break through the encirclement and to
recross the River Ravi in a desperate attempt to reach the safety of the Lakhi Jungle,
near Bathinda, some 240 kilometres (150 mi) to the south. In the river crossing, many of
the weakened Sikhs were swept away by the current. With Lakhpat Rai's forces still in
hot pursuit, they crossed two more rivers, the Beas River and Sutlej, before finally
arriving at the sanctuary of the Lakhi Jungle.
An estimated 7,000 Sikhs were killed and 3,000 captured during this operation.
The captives were marched back to Lahore, paraded in the streets and publicly
beheaded. Given the small numbers of the Sikhs in those days of persecution, the
losses will have been a very substantial proportion of their population, perhaps a quarter
to a third of the total.
Lakhpat Rai went on to order Sikh places of worship destroyed and their
scriptures burnt. He went so far as to decree that anyone uttering the word "Guru" be
put to death. Even saying the Punjabi language word for sugar, "gur", which sounded
like "Guru", could be cause for the death penalty.
In 1747 Salabat Khan, a newly appointed Mughal commander, placed police
around Amritsar and built observation posts to spot and kill Sikhs coming to the Amrit
Sarovar for a holy dip. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Nawab Kapoor Singh led the Sikhs to
Amritsar, and Salabat Khan was killed by Ahluwalia, and his nephew was killed by the
arrow of Kapur Singh. The Sikhs restored Harmandir Sahib and celebrated their Diwali
Reorganization of the Misls
In 1748 all the Misls joined themselves under one command and on the advice of
the aging Jathedar Nawab Kapoor Singh Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was made the supreme
leader. They also decided to declare that the Punjab belonged to them and they would
be the sovereign rulers of their state. The Sikhs also built their first fort, called Ram
Rauni, at Amritsar.
Khalsa side with the Government
Adina Beg, the Faujdar (garrison commander) of Jalandhar, sent a message to
the Dal Khalsa chief to cooperate with him in the civil administration, and he wanted a
P a g e
meeting to discuss the matter. This was seen as a trick to disarm the Sikhs and keep
them under government control. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia replied that their meeting place
would be the battle ground and the discussion would be carried out by their swords. Beg
attacked the Ram Rauni fort at Amritsar and besieged the Sikhs there. Dewan Kaura
Mal advised the Governor to lift the siege and prepare the army to protect the state from
the Durrani invader, Ahmed Shah Abdali. Kaura Mal had a part of the revenue of Patti
area given to the Sikhs for the improvement and management of Harmandir Sahib,
Kaura Mal had to go to Multan to quell a rebellion there. He asked the Sikhs for
help and they agreed to join him. After the victory at Multan, Kaura came to pay his
respects to the Darbar Sahib, and offered 11,000 rupees and built Gurdwara Bal-Leela;
He also spent 3,000,000 rupees to build a Sarover (holy water) at Nankana Sahib, the
birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev. In 1752, Kaura Mall was killed in a battle with Ahmed
Shah Abdali and state policy towards the Sikhs quickly changed. Mir Mannu, the
Governor, started hunting Sikhs again. He arrested many men and women, put them in
prison and tortured them. In November 1753, when he went to kill the Sikhs hiding in
the fields, they showered him with a hail of bullets and Mannu fell from the horse and
the animal dragged him to death. The Sikhs immediately proceeded to Lahore, attacked
the prison, and got all the prisoners released and led them to safety in the forests.
Harmandir Sahib demolished in 1757
In May 1757, the Afghan Durrani general of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Jahan Khan
attacked Amritsar with a huge army and the Sikhs because of their small numbers
decided to withdraw to the forests. Their fort, Ram Rauni, was demolished, Harmandir
Sahib was also demolished, and the army desecrated the Sarovar (Holy water) by filling
it with debris and dead animals. Baba Deep Singh made history when he cut through
20,000 Durrani soldiers and reached Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar.
Adina Beg did not pay revenues to the government so the Governor dismissed
him and appointed a new Faujdar (garrison commander) in his place. The army was
sent to arrest him and this prompted Adina Beg to request Sikh help. The Sikhs took
advantage of the situation and to weaken the government, they fought against the army.
One of the commanders was killed by the Sikhs and the other deserted. Later, the Sikhs
attacked Jalandhar and thus became the rulers of all the tracts between Sutlej and Beas
rivers, called Doaba. Instead of roaming in the forests now they were ruling the cities.
The Sikhs started bringing more areas under their control and realizing revenue
from them. In 1758, joined by the Mahrattas, they conquered Lahore and arrested many
Afghan soldiers who were responsible for filling the Amrit Sarovar with debris a few
months earlier. They were brought to Amritsar and made to clean the Sarovar (holy
water). After the cleaning of the Sarovar, the soldiers were allowed to go home with a
warning that they should not do that again.
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