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- Persecution of the Sikhs (1746–62)
- Jassa Singh honored as Jassa Singh Ramgarhia
- Fighting the tyrannical Government
- Conflicts between Misls
P a g e
Ahmed Shah Abdali came again in October 1759 to loot Delhi. The Sikhs gave
him a good fight and killed more than 2,000 of his soldiers. Instead of getting involved
with the Sikhs, he made a rapid advance to Delhi. The Khalsa decided to collect
revenues from Lahore to prove to the people that the Sikhs were the rulers of the state.
The Governor of Lahore closed the gates of the city and did not come out to fight
against them. The Sikhs laid siege to the city. After a week, the Governor agreed to pay
30,000 rupees to the Sikhs.
Ahmed Shah Abdali returned from Delhi in March 1761 with lots of gold and more
than 2,000 young girls as prisoners who were to be sold to the Afghans in Kabul. When
Abdali was crossing the river Beas, the Sikhs swiftly fell upon them. They freed the
women prisoners and escorted them back to their homes. The Sikhs took over Lahore
in September of 1761, after Abdali returned to Kabul.
The Khalsa minted their coins in the name of Guru Nanak Dev. Sikhs, as rulers
of the city, received full cooperation from the people. After becoming the Governor of
Lahore, Punjab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was given the title of Sultan-ul-Kaum (King of the
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 constantly opposed by the Mughal Empire. Through much of the early
eighteenth century, the Khalsa were outlawed by the government and survived in the
safety of remote forests, deserts, and swamplands of the Punjab region and
neighbouring Kashmir and Rajasthan.
In the eighteen years following the first great carnage, the Punjab roiled with five
invasions and several years of rebellions and civil war. Under these unsettled
circumstances, it was difficult for any authority to carry on a campaign of oppression
against the Sikhs. Instead, they were often sought out and valued as useful allies in the
various struggles for power.
In times of relative calm, however, the Governor at Lahore and his Afghan allies
resumed their genocidal campaigns against the Sikhs. These were characterised by the
desecration of Sikh places of worship and the organised capture, torture and execution
of tens of thousands of Sikh men, women and children.
P a g e
The Governorship of Mir Mannu
Mir Mannu (shortened from Mu'in ul-Mulk) became Governor of Lahore and the
surrounding provinces in 1748 through his exploits in battle against the Afghan army.
His first act as governor was to storm the Sikh fort at Amritsar, where 500 Sikhs had
taken shelter. Mir Mannu then stationed detachments of troops in all parts of Punjab
with any Sikh inhabitants with orders to capture them and shave their heads and
beards. His oppression was such that large numbers of Sikhs moved to relatively
inaccessible mountains and forests. The governor ordered the apprehending of Sikhs
and to send them in irons to Lahore. Hundreds were thus taken to Lahore and executed
in the horse market before crowds of onlookers.
Partly through the influence of his Hindu minister, Kaura Mall, who was
sympathetic to the Sikhs, and partly because of the threat of another Afghan invasion,
Mir Mannu made peace with the Sikhs the next year. This truce was to last until the
passing of Kaura Mall in battle against the Afghans in 1752 and the surrender of Lahore
to invader Ahmad Shah Durrani.
In his new role as Governor for the Afghans, Mir Mannu was able to resume his
persecution of the Sikhs. Moreover, he had arranged for new artillery to be forged and a
unit of 900 men assigned especially to the hunting down of the "infidels". In the words of
an eye witness: ―Muin appointed most of the gunmen to the task of chastising the Sikhs.
They ran after these wretches up to 67 kilometers (42 mi) a day and slew them
wherever they stood up to oppose them. Anybody who brought a Sikh head received a
reward of ten rupees per head."
According to that same account: ―The Sikhs who were captured alive were sent
to hell by being beaten with wooden mallets. At times, Adina Beg Khan sent 40
captives from the Doab. They were as a rule killed with the strokes of wooden
Mir Mannu did not refrain from visiting torture and death upon the Sikh
womenfolk and children. According to a Sikh account, the women were seized from
their homes and ―put to grind grain in the prison. Many were given merciless lashing...
Each of the detainees was given 450 kilos (half a ton) of grain to grind in a day.
Exhausted from thirst and hunger, they plied their stone-mills. They plied their stone-
mills and sang their Guru's hymns. The Hindu or the Muslim, or in fact anyone who saw
them and listened to their songs was utterly astonished. As their children, hungry and
thirsty, wailed and writhed on the ground for a morsel, the helpless prisoners in the
clutches of the tyrants could do little except solace them with their affection. Wearied
from crying, t
he hungry children would at last go to sleep.‖
P a g e
History recalls instances of Sikh children being hacked to pieces in front of their
mothers. The bits of flesh would be thrown around the mothers' necks like garlands. Still
the brave women chanted and toiled on.
Mir Mannu's cruel reign (1748
53), however, had little effect on the spirit of the
Sikhs. From their suffering and sacrifice, they gained in strength and numbers. A
common saying of that time went: ―Mannu is our sickle, We the fodder for him to mow.
he more he cuts, the more we grow.‖
The Martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh
In 1757, Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded India for loot and plunder a fourth time.
This time, he was so harassed by Sikh fighters who several times slew his guards and
pillaged his baggage train that he determined to take his revenge on them. Since
Durrani could not lay his hands on the elusive bands of Sikhs, he determined to vent his
fury on their holy city of Amritsar. The Harimandir Sahib was blown up and the
surrounding pool filled with the entrails of slaughtered cows.
Hearing of the sacrilege, Baba Deep Singh, an elderly scholar of the Sikhs living
at Damdama Sahib, 160 kilometres (99 mi) south of Amritsar, was stirred to action. As
leader of one of the Sikh divisions entrusted with care of the temple, he felt responsible
for the damage that had been done to it and announced his intention of rebuilding the
Harmandir Sahib. He then set out with a body of Sikhs toward the holy city. Along the
way, many others joined, so there were about 5,000 as they reached the outskirts of
Amritsar. In the nearby town of Tarntaran, they prepared themselves for martyrdom by
sprinkling saffron on each other's turbans.
When word reached Lahore that a large body of Sikhs had arrived near Amritsar,
a general mobilisation was ordered. Two large forces were sent. Approaching Amritsar,
Baba Deep Singh and his companions encountered them and a fierce battle ensued.
Wielding his double-edged sword, the sixty-nine-year-old Sikh sustained many
wounds. According to tradition, his head was nearly severed. Baba Deep Singh still
pressed on in his determination to reach the holy shrine, until he made the precincts of
the Harmandir and expired. A legend grew that it was Baba Deep Singh's headless
body holding his head on his left hand and wielding his great sword in his right that had
fought on until he redeemed his pledge to reach the holy temple.
The Holocaust of 1762
When Ahmad Shah Durrani returned for a sixth campaign of conquest (his fifth
being in 1759
61), Sikh fighters were investing the town of Jandiala, 18 kilometres
(11 mi) east of Amritsar. The place was the home of Aqil, the head of the Nirinjania sect,
a friend of the Afghans, and an inveterate foe of the Sikhs.
P a g e
Aqil sent messengers to Durrani pleading for his help against the Sikhs. The
Afghan forces hurried to Jandiala, but by the time they arrived the siege had been lifted
and the besiegers were gone.
The Sikh fighters had retreated with a view to taking their families to the safety of
the Hariyana desert to the east before returning to confront the invader. When the
Afghan leader came to know of the whereabouts of the Sikhs, he sent word ahead to his
allies in Malerkotla and Sirhind to stop their advance. Durrani then set about on a rapid
march, covering the distance of 240 kilometres (150 mi), including two river crossings,
in less than forty-eight hours.
In the twilight of dawn, Durrani and his allies surprised the Sikhs, who numbered
about 50,000, most of them noncombatants. It was decided that the Sikh fighters would
form a cordon around the slow-moving baggage train consisting of women, children and
old men. They would then make their way to the desert in the south-west by the town of
Barnala, where they expected their ally Alha Singh of Patiala to come to their rescue.
An eye witness account describes the Sikhs. "Fighting while moving and moving
while fighting, they kept the baggage train marching, covering it as a hen covers its
chicks under its wings." More than once, the troops of the invader broke the cordon and
mercilessly butchered the women, children and elderly inside, but each time the Sikh
warriors regrouped and managed to push back the attackers.
By early afternoon, the large fighting cavalcade reached a big pond, the first they
had come across since morning. Suddenly the bloodletting ceased as the two forces,
man and beast, resorted to the water to quench their thirst and relax their tired limbs.
From that point on, the two forces went their separate ways. The Afghan forces,
who had inflicted terrible human losses on the Sikh nation, and had in turn suffered
many killed and wounded, were exhausted, having not had any rest in two days. While
the living remainder of the Sikhs proceeded into the semi-desert toward Barnala,
Ahmad Shah Durrani's army returned to the capital of Lahore with hundreds of Sikhs in
chains. From the capital, Durrani returned to Amritsar and blew up the Harimandir Sahib
which since 1757 the Sikhs had rebuilt. As an act of intended sacrilege, the pool around
it was filled with cow carcasses.
It was estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 Sikhs were killed on 5 February 1762. As
it is doubtful their entire population would have numbered 100,000, it means one third to
a half of all Sikhs perished. The Sikhs were not the only people who were targeted; the
Mughals also captured Punjabi Hindus and Muslims, especially intellectuals and those
who sheltered the Sikhs.
Ahmad Shah Abdali, fearing Sikh retaliation, sent messages that he was willing
to assign some areas to the Sikhs to be ruled by them. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia rejected
his offers and told him that Sikhs own the Punjab and they do not recognize his
authority at all. Abdali went to Amritsar and destroyed the Harmandir Sahib again by
P a g e
filling it up with gunpowder hoping to eliminate the source of "life" of the Sikhs. While
Abdali was demolishing the Harminder Sahib a he was hit on the nose with a brick; later
in 1772 Abdali died of cancer from the 'gangrenous ulcer' that consumed his nose.
Within a few months the Sikhs attacked Sirhind and moved to Amritsar.
In 1764 the Sikhs shot dead Zain Khan Sirhindi Durrani Governor of Sirhind, and
the regions around Sirhind were divided among the Sikh Misldars and monies
recovered from the treasury were used to rebuild the Harmandir Sahib. Gurdwara
Fatehgarh Sahib was built in Sirhind, at the location the two younger sons of Guru
Gobind Singh were martyred. The Sikhs started striking Govind Shahi coins and in 1765
they took over Lahore again.
In 1767 when Ahmed Shah Abdali came again he sent messages to the Sikhs for
their cooperation. He offered them the governorship of Punjab but was rejected. The
Sikhs using repeated guerrilla attacks took away his caravan of 1,000 camels loaded
with fruits from Kabul. The Sikhs were again in control of the areas between Sutlej and
. After Abdali‘s departure to Kabul, Sikhs crossed the Sutlej and brought Sirhind
and other areas right up to Delhi, the entire Punjab under their control.
Shah Alam II, the Mughal Emperor of Delhi was staying away in Allahabad,
ordered his commander Zabita Khan to fight the Sikhs. Zabita made a truce with them
instead and then was dismissed from Alam‘s service. Zabita Khan then became a Sikh
and was given a new name, Dharam Singh.
Qadi Nur Mohammed, who came to Punjab with Ahmad Shah Abdali and was
present during many Sikh battles writes about the Sikhs:
They do not kill a woman, a child, or a coward running away from the fight.
They do not rob any person nor do they take away the ornaments of a woman,
be she a queen or a slave girl. They commit no adultery, rather they respect the
women of even their enemies. They always shun thieves and adulterers and in
generosity they surpass Hatim
Peace in Amritsar
Ahmad Shah Abdali, fearing the Sikhs, did not follow his normal route through
Punjab while he returned to Kabul. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia did not add more areas to his
Misl. Instead, whenever any wealth or villages came into the hands of the Sikhs he
distributed them among the Jathedars of all the Misls. Ahluwalia passed his last years in
Amritsar. With the resources available to him, he repaired all the buildings, improved the
management of the Gurdwaras, and provided better civic facilities to the residents of
Amritsar. He wanted every Sikh to take Amrit before joining the Dal Khalsa.
P a g e
Ahluwalia died in 1783 and was cremated near Amritsar. There is a city block,
Katra Ahluwalia, in Amritsar named after him. This block was assigned to his Misl in
honor of his having stayed there and protected the city of Amritsar.
Jassa Singh Ramgarhia
Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was born in 1723. According to W. H. McLeod, his
birthplace was the village of Ichogil, near to Lahore, whilst H. S. Singha refers only to
Lahore and Purnima Dhavan mentions origins in either Guga or Sur Singh, both near to
Amritsar. There is agreement among the sources that he was of Tarkhan origin and was
originally named Jassa Singh Thokar (Jassa Singh the Carpenter), but Dhavan also
refers to Jat ethnicity. He had four brothers - Jai Singh, Khushal Singh, Mali Singh and
Tara Singh - and became head of the family when his father, Giani Bhagwan Singh,
Jassa Singh rose to command the Sikh misl that became later known as
Ramgarhia and built a mud fort called Ram Rauni at Amritsar. He joined forces with
Adina Beg, who appointed him a risaldar (commander), but switched sides when asked
by him to attack the fort during the Siege of Ram Rauni. He defended it against Adina
Beg's siege and, in 1752, rebuilt the damaged fort. The edifice was renamed Ramgarh,
from which he took his new name.
Jassa Singh's policies were in contrast to those of other misl leaders and he
eventually lost his lands north of Amritsar to that of the Kahnaiya. Thereafter, he turned
his attention to the area around the Jamna river and Delhi, briefly holding control of the
Purnima Dhavan says that "Jassa Singh Ramgarhia appeared to have a shrewd
grasp of realpolitik, relying equally on diplomatic persuasion and martial prowess to
accomplish his goals. ... [His] supporters appear to have valued his political acumen,
plain-spoken behaviour, and simple if rough ways".
He died in 1803 and was succeeded by his son, Jodh Singh who ceded his
territories to Ranjit Singh.
In 1733, Zakaria Khan, the Governor of Punjab, needed help to protect himself
from the Iranian invader, Nader Shah. He offered the Sikhs an estate and a royal
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robe. The Sikhs in the name of Kapur Singh accepted it. After the battle Zakaria
Khan gave five villages to the Sikhs in reward for the bravery of Giani Bhagwan Singh,
father of Ramgarhia, who died in the battle. Village Vallah was awarded to Ramgarhia,
where Ramgarhia gained the administrative experience required to become a Jathedar
(leader) of the Sikhs. During this period of peace with the government, the Sikhs built
their fort, Ram Rauni, in Amritsar. Zakaria died in 1745 and Mir Mannu became the
Governor of Lahore.
Jassa Singh honored as Jassa Singh Ramgarhia
Mir Mannu (Mu'in ul-Mulk), the Governor of Lahore, was worried about the
increasing power of the Sikhs so he broke the peace. Mir Mannu also ordered Adina
Beg, the Faujdar (garrison commander) of the Jalandhar region, to begin killing the
Sikhs. Adina Beg was a very smart politician and wanted the Sikhs to remain involved
helping them. In order to develop good relations with the Sikhs, he sent secret
messages to them who were living in different places. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia
responded and agreed to cooperate with the Faujdar and was made a Commander.
This position helped him develop good relations with Divan Kaura Mal at Lahore and
assign important posts to the Sikhs in the Jalandhar division.
The Governor of Lahore ordered an attack on Ram Rauni to kill the Sikhs staying
in that fort. Adina Beg was required to send his army as well and Jassa Singh, being the
commander of the Jalandhar forces, had to join the army to kill the Sikhs in the fort.
After about four months of siege, Sikhs ran short of food and supplies in the fort. He
contacted the Sikhs inside the fort and joined them. Jassa Singh used the offices of
Divan Kaura Mal and had the siege lifted. The fort was strengthened and named
Ramgarh; Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, having been designated the Jathedar of the fort,
became popular as Ramgarhia.
Fighting the tyrannical Government
Mir Mannu intensified his violence and oppression against the Sikhs. There were
only 900 Sikhs when he surrounded the Ramgarh fort again. The Sikhs fought their way
out bravely through thousands of army soldiers. The army demolished the fort. The hunt
for and torture of the Sikhs continued until Mannu died in 1753. Mannu's death left
Punjab without any effective Governor. It was again an opportune period for the Sikhs to
organize themselves and gain strength. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia rebuilt the fort and took
possession of some areas around Amritsar. The Sikhs took upon themselves the task of
protecting the people in the villages from the invaders. The money they obtained from
the people was called Rakhi (protection charges). The new Governor, Taimur, son of
Ahmed Shah Abdali, despised the Sikhs. In 1757, he again forced the Sikhs to vacate
the fort and move to their hiding places. The fort was demolished, Harmandir Sahib was
blown up, and Amrit Sarovar was filled with debris. The Governor decided to replace
Adina Beg. Beg asked the Sikhs for help and they both got a chance to weaken their
common enemy. Adina Beg won the battle and became the Governor of Punjab. Sikhs
rebuilt their fort Ramgarh and repaired the Harmandir Sahib. Beg was well acquainted
P a g e
with the strength of the Sikhs and he feared they would oust him if he allowed them to
grow stronger, so he led a strong army to demolish the fort. After fighting valiantly, the
Sikhs decided to leave the fort. Adina Beg died in 1758.
Ramgarhia Misl Estate
Jassa Singh Ramgarhia occupied the area to the north of Amritsar between the
Ravi and the Beas rivers. He also added the Jalandhar region and Kangra hill areas to
his estate. He had his capital in Sri Hargobindpur, a town founded by the sixth Guru.
The large size of Ramgarhia's territory aroused the jealousy of the other Sikh Misls.
A conflict between Jai Singh Kanhaiya and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia developed
and the Bhangi Misl sardars also developed differences with Jai Singh Kanhaiya. A big
battle was fought between Jai Singh, Charat Singh, and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia on one
side and Bhangis, Ramgarhias and their associates on the other side. The Bhangi side
lost the battle.
Later, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, one day while hunting, happened to enter
Ramgarhia territory where Jassa Singh Ramgarhia's brother arrested him. Ramgarhia
apologized for the misbehavior of his brother, and returned Ahluwalia with gifts.
Due to mutual jealousies, fights continued among the Sikh Sardars. In 1776, the
Bhangis changed sides and joined Jai Singh Kanhaiya to defeat Jassa Singh
Ramgarhia. His capital at Sri Hargobindpur was taken over and he was followed from
village to village, and finally forced to vacate all his territory. He had to cross the river
Sutlej and go to Amar Singh, the ruler of Patiala. Maharaja Amar Singh welcomed
Ramgarhia and who then occupied the areas of Hansi and Hissar which eventually
Ramgarhia handed over to his son, Jodh Singh Ramgarhia.
Maharaja Amar Singh and Ramgarhia took control of the villages on the west and
north of Delhi, now forming parts of Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. The Sikhs
disciplined and brought to justice all the Nawabs who were harassing their non-Muslim
population. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia entered Delhi in 1783. Shah Alam II, the Mughal
emperor, extended the Sikhs a warm welcome. Ramgarhia left Delhi after receiving gifts
from him. Because of the differences arising out of the issue of dividing the Jammu
state revenues, long time friends and neighbors Maha Singh, Jathedar of Sukerchakia
Misl and Jai Singh, Jathedar of the Kanheya Misl, became enemies. This resulted in a
war which changed the course of Sikh history. Maha Singh requested Ramgarhia to
help him. In the battle, Jai Singh lost his son, Gurbalchsh Singh, while fighting with
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